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Tea Basics 101

Brewing tea is one big experiment, and the kitchen is your lab. There are so many options you can take from beginning to end, with even more outcomes, but there is one certainty...When it's all said and done, it's all about what "YOU" like. What we mean by that, is brew your tea to your palate.While on our journey of tea blending and brewing here at Solstice, we have learned a lot and also had many questions posed to us. There are a lot of commonly asked questions, such as...

 

"How much tea should I use?"

"What kind of water is best?"

"How long do I let it steep?"

"How hot should my water be?"

"What can I sweeten my tea with?"

"How do I make Iced tea with hot tea?"

These are all great questions, that once answered, will have you on the path of enjoying your very own cup of tea. 

How much tea do I use? 

You can ask a dozen different people, and they will give you a dozen different answers, all because it comes down to how you like it. Here at Solstice, we enjoy full bodied flavor from our tea, so we typically use a tablespoon(TBSP) when brewing our tea. Different teas will also display different flavors depending on quality, the way the leaf is prepared, and in the case of herbal teas, what's even in it. Below is a quick reference chart of suggested serving sizes to start out with until you find what works for you:

 

 

What kind of water should I use?

This is a pretty easy question to answer. Simply put, the best water to use is going to be the cleanest, fresh water you have available. This allows the tea to garner it's full flavor as intended. If you have access to the most exquisite artisanal waters in the land, free of chemicals and contaminates, then that's gonna brew up a mighty fine cup of tea. If you only have access to the tap water from the kitchen sink, then fret not because that will work also. Tap water does contain chemicals making it safe for consumption, such as chlorine and fluoride, so this may affect the taste to some degree.
A helpful suggestion is that you do not need to spend a lot on a fine water for your tea. You can actually purchase a gallon of spring water from many grocery stores. If you have any form of filtration system or water purifier in your home, then this works fine also. Again, any clean water will work but you ideally want as clean as possible.

 

How long do I steep? How hot should my water be?

Steeping is the soaking of the tea to extract it's flavors. You can guess that the longer you extract, or steep, the more flavor you're going to obtain. This is where it gets really fun now, and again largely comes down to what you like. Every tea has a recommended minimum amount of time to steep, and every second after, the tea continues to change and bolden in flavor. If you'll reference our tea steeping times here you will see some general time frames that we recommend. 

Water temperate plays an important part in your tea experimentation. Too high of temperature and you can scald the tea causing it to taste bitter, or even charred, and also release all the caffeine at once causing quite an odd experience while drinking. Not getting the water hot enough does well...pretty much nothing to the tea. You want to aim for the ideal temperature for your tea whether using an electric kettle, a thermometer of sorts, or the classic Chinese method of water temperature described below.

Shrimp Eyes - Those little tiny bubbles you start to see as the water starts to warm on the bottom of your chosen vessel. Your water is currently around 160°.

Crab Eyes  - The same bubbles, but now slightly larger than before. Steam is also now starting to form. Your tea is now around 175°F.

Fish Eyes - The bubbles are now noticeably larger than before and your water is now hot enough around 185°F. 

String of Pearls - The bubbles are now like pearls on a string, breaking and rising to the top. Your water is now 195°F to 205°F.

Raging Roil - A rolling boil is now occurring with your tea reaching temperatures of 212°F. 

 

What can I sweeten my tea with?

Hot Tea has been around for centuries. Iced Tea has been around for decades. Purist drinkers will compare a fine tea to the likes of a fine steak. "If you have to add anything to it, it wasn't meant to be consumed to begin with." Hey, if that's what you like, then go for it. After all, at Solstice it's all about what works for you,  but you know sometimes we just need a little extra punch of flavor. Sometimes we're curious how the tea profile may change with a touch of milk, or maybe you scalded the tea slightly and need a quick fix with sugar. Whatever the case, adding "additives" or sweeteners can give a fresh take on a favorite tea. Below are a few commonly used tea sweeteners.

Sugar - The easiest go to for that sweet pinch of flavor. Sugar is guaranteed to sweeten up any cup. The unfortunate downside to utilizing sugar is that sugar is present in many of our daily food and drinks, further raising several health risks.

Milk - Milk has a natural sweetener present in the form of lactose, giving the tea a sweet creamy flavor enjoyed by many. 2% Milk is suggested as the ideal milk due to its fat balance. If you're intolerant, try a milk alternative in place such as soy or almond milk as these also have hints of sweetness present in them. 

Honey - Honey is one of the most beneficial natural sweeteners in the world offering several health benefits, just be sure to let your tea slightly cool before adding. Honey while containing natural sweeteners within, does not have as much an impact as sugar flavor wise, and adding too much honey can cause your tea to thicken and become sticky. 

"How do I make Iced Tea with hot tea?"

Making Iced tea really is an easy process, and one that's certainly worth it on a hot day. 
Use 1 tsp per 8oz of Iced Tea, using more or less for desired flavor.
Place into a disposable or reusable tea bag, or other tea infuser & pour 4oz of hot water.

Allow tea to steep for 2-5 minutes, again for desired strength. When creating a larger batch, your steep time will stay the same.

Add any sweeteners, pour over a glass of ice, and enjoy!

*Cloudy tea is 100% natural to occur due to the rapid chilling of the hot tea over ice. This does not affect taste and is simply an appearance quality.