One of my favorite weekend rituals is making loose-leaf green tea. Since I am not as rushed I can enjoy a quiet moment. To me, the best morning tea has a bright, cheerful flavor. My favorite green tea is Meyer Lemon. After searching for the perfect lemon and orange flavored green tea, this one strikes the right balance of grassy and citrusy with a slight sweetness, thanks to the green rooibos, lemongrass, and orange peel.
Why green tea?
Green tea is one of the oldest drinks in the world – and healthiest. Because it has been left unprocessed and unoxidized, it has one of highest antioxidant levels of any tea. While it does have caffeine, it is quite different than the amount and effect of caffeine in coffee. Due to the amino acid L-theanine in tea leaves (which balances the effect of the caffeine), drinking tea creates a calm yet focused effect.
Loose-leaf tea refers to the whole tea leaf. In its most common form (tea bags), tea is much smaller and essentially pieces of tea leaves, or “tea dust.” The smaller pieces allow the tea to expand in the confined space. While convenient, this can yield a more bitter cup because the small pieces produce more tannins when steeped. In its loose form, green tea has a better flavor and releases more antioxidants due to the higher quality leaves.
Where to find loose-leaf tea?
There are many online tea shops that sell loose-leaf tea. My favorite brands are Art of Tea, The Tea Spot, and Tea Forte. Many local grocery stores also sell loose-leaf tea, but the selection is usually more limited.
Why a French press?
There are a few ways to make loose-leaf tea, including pyramid tea bags, infuser cups, tea balls, and more. I enjoy using a French press because the tea leaves can adequately expand if I am making several cups at a time.* Once the tea has steeped, pressing the sieve down separates the leaves from the tea, making it easy to pour and discard.
How to make it?
In my experience, making a good cup of tea depends on consistency. Here are a few recommendations.
Basic supplies: French press, teacup or mug, thermometer, teaspoon, loose-leaf tea, quality water, kettle or pot.
Use filtered tap or spring water. Sometimes tap water can produce a good cup of tea, but if that’s not the case, bottled spring water is the best. Look for water that has a neutral pH, as water that is too hard or soft can make the tea taste flat. My favorite bottled spring water for tea is Deer Park.
Check the water temperature. The ideal temperature for steeping green tea is 160-180˚ F, depending on the type (check the tea’s label). This is much cooler than water for coffee or other types of tea since green tea leaves are not oxidized (hotter water will scorch the leaves and create a bitter cup). I use a food thermometer to make sure the water is the correct temperature.
Measure correctly. One 8 oz. cup of green tea usually needs 1 teaspoon of tea leaves. When using a French press, the measurements on the glass can be misleading: typically, 1 cup refers to 8 ounces, but for a French press it means 4 ounces. So, when adding water to the French press, fill it to the number that is double the amount you are actually making. For example, to make 3 cups of tea, add 3 teaspoons of tea leaves to the French press and fill it with hot water to the 6-cup mark.
Follow the recommended steep time. Steeping too long can make tea bitter. Steep green tea for 2-3 minutes. With a French press, press the sieve down after steeping and immediately pour the tea to serve.
If you prefer using herbal or decaffeinated tea, you can follow the same principles here. Just follow the tea’s labels to ensure the correct temperature and steep time.