Saturday, February 14, 2015

Beginner's Guide to Loose Leaf Tea

Do you see loose leaf tea and think to yourself:  "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

Or maybe you have the time but have no clue what your doing.

First, there are like a million tea companies you could order from. How do you choose?
Second, you might not have the tools needed to 'properly' make loose leaf tea.
Third, you might not have bunches of money to blow on tea.

I'm going to help you with the basics - from selecting a loose leaf tea to how you should make it.

1) Select the tea you want

Not sure what tea is best for you? Here's a simple guide. Select what flavors you like - I've recommended teas to best fit your preferences.  

Sweet and Fruity - herbal blends 
Strong and Savory - black tea (also good substitute if you like coffee)
Mellow and Grassy - green tea and white tea
Earthy and Vegetal - oolong
Smooth and Nutty - rooibos (red tea)

You'll also want to keep in mind some simple things such as health benefits, caffeine levels, and potential allergies.

Here's a great article on teas and their health benefits:

Typically the stronger the tea, the higher the caffeine. Check out this chart to learn more about tea caffeine levels:

2) Select a tea company 

When selecting a company, keep in mind a few factors

-What kind of tea do they sell?
-How much does their tea cost?
-Is their tea good quality?
-Is their tea organic and fair trade? (and does that matter to you?)

I suggest reading tea reviews on before you decide. I am a reviewer for Teaviews and I love sharing tea information!

As a tea reviewer, here are some of my suggestions for a loose leaf tea novice.

For flavored teas :
This company has crazy tea flavors you won't find anywhere else. 

For very high quality tea:
This company sells high quality tea. If you're ready to spend some serious money on tea, choose Canton! 

For herbal teas:
Ambrosia Herb specializes in herbal teas. I've loved every one that I have tried!

If you're money conscious:
Tea & Tea has reasonably priced tea and ships world-wide

If you want to know where your tea comes from:
Eco Cha gets their tea from family-run, sustainable farms. 

For an amazing Darjeeling:
I currently run the Instagram account for TeaCampaign and I love their  darjeeling. 

I would also recommend doing some research on tea stores/companies located near you. It's much more fun to go into an actual store and pick out your loose leaf tea. Also, when you buy it directly, you can avoid shipping costs and having to wait for your tea.
I like to go to this lovely tea shop in downtown Ottawa called Tea Store. 

3) Get the right tools

You really don't need all the fancy tools out there to make your loose leaf tea. Honestly, I rarely even use a tea steeper (they are a PAIN to clean out). 
I typically put my tea leaves directly in the hot water and use a hand strainer to strain my tea. 

Here are the tools necessary for a nice, convenient cup of loose leaf tea. 

1) A thermometor or kettle that controls water temperature 

Water temperature, believe it or not, greatly effects the outcome of your tea. If the water is too hot, the tea can be bitter. If the tea is too cool, you might not extract all the flavor.  And don't worry- you don't have to spend bunches of money! 

here's what I use:
For a cheaper option:  (only $8!!!!!) 

2) A hand strainer or tea steeper

If you want to go traditional, get a cute little tea steeper. If you want to make your tea as quick as possible with little clean up, just get yourself a hand strainer.

Here are some nice strainers:

NOTE: I know the cute little animal shaped tea steepers are adorable and tempting to buy but don't do it. Often the holes in these rubbery steepers are too big and the tea leaves come out. Also, they are THE biggest pain to clean out. ever.
I use an adorable T-rex shaped strainer sometimes but only for large leaf tea.

4) Make the tea 

Now we've gotten to the fun part! Once you've selected a blend and acquired the correct tools you're all ready to make some tea!

1) Heat water to the correct temperature
In the picture below, you'll see the correct temperature for different kinds of tea. Notice that the stronger the tea, the higher the temperature. 

2) Measure the correct tea to water ratio
So...believe it or can't just throw some tea in some hot water and expect it to turn out perfect. The correct amount of tea in the correct amount of water is SO important.

3) Steep for the correct amount of time 
Surprisingly, leaving the leaves in for over a minute or under a minute can make the biggest deference! Though people have different preferences, you should stay around the suggested times below. I like my tea strong so I tend to over-steep rather than under-steep. 

Reasons to avoid bagged tea 

Last, I feel like I need to explain why you should even do loose leaf tea. Let's be honest- tea bags are convenient and easy. So why should you even try to switch? Here are five reasons. 

1) Paper tea bags contain pesticides
Yeah. You heard me right. You could be drinking pesticides. Paper tea bags often contain Epichlorohydrin, a compound used as a pesticide. This pesticide is known to cause infertility and can harm your immune system. This pesticide also causes cancer in animals. So....why are we drinking tea made in little pesticide bags? 

2) Plastic tea bags can leak toxins 
There is a certain point where, if put in hot enough water, plastic tea bags will begin to break down. When this happens, toxins are released into the tea. Though one cup of bagged tea won't do any harm, consistently drinking this could cause health issues. The more you drink tea in plastic tea bags, the more chemicals you put in your body - especially if you choose to re-steep the same tea bag. 

3) Some tea bags are chlorine-bleached
Chlorine-bleached. That just sounds bad. Why would I drink something in a chlorine-bleached bag? Drinking tea in a chlorine-bleached bag causes us to be exposed to dioxin which can be a health risk. Like I said before, drinking tea in a chlorine-bleached bag once won't really do anything - but doing it consistently could cause health issues. Dioxin is especially harmful to fetuses and infants. Dioxin also causes cancer. 

4) Most tea is not washed before put into tea bags
Most tea is sprayed with pesticides. So if the tea wasn't washed, this means all the pesticides go directly into your cup of tea. Great. Pesticides in the tea bag AND pesticides on the actual tea. Unless you are buying an organic, pesticide-free bagged tea, you are essentially drinking a cup full of cancer causing pesticides. 

If you want to go more in depth here, check out this article:

5) Tea bags alter the taste of your tea
It makes sense- if you put something in really hot water, it's going to break down. When a paper or plastic bag is put in hot tea, it breaks down and changes the flavor of the tea. After switching to loose leaf tea, I've realized how different bagged tea tastes. It ruins the freshness and purity of the tea. When tasting a bagged green tea next to a loose leaf green tea, I could swear I tasted the paper in the bagged one. 

Though it's fine to have a cup of bagged tea here and there, you should avoid having it on a daily basis. 


  1. Replies
    1. Hello! I purchased the blue tea here :
      It is made from dried butterfly pea flowers

  2. What a great guide, I need to read it again!

  3. Hello! I really enjoyed this post about tea, i'd like to link to it from my website (with credits of course) Also if you'd like to do a guest post on my page, you'd be most welcome to. It's all about the experience a cuppa gives you, so not just the tea, but what you eat with it, where you sit to drink it, what warm things you have to cuddle up to! I am looking for bloggers with a good eye for cosy content to create warming posts for the page. You can link to your site of course, and your name will reach a wide audience, let me know! You can reach me on

  4. You have some interesting observations, thanks! I am not too far from you in Kingston :)


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