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Loose Tea Leaves vs. Powdered Tea in Bags (An Affair Steeped in Controversy)

Mary Murkin

By, Lady Mary

I am not here to incite any arguments between tea drinkers.  Goodness knows that is not productive, nor worth my breath.  I am purely going to share some information with you that will allow you to make INFORMED choices.

I got an early start with tea--I was raised in the 1960s on good old Lipton Tea in the bag.  I knew no other tea even existed.  It was what we had; it was what we could afford; it was delicious!

Fast forward fifty years and now I have a little more information about tea under my belt.   I am prepared to impart this information to you as we visit over a cup of tea. 

When loose tea leaves are picked from the tea plant, they go through a drying process that gets them ready for consumption.  After this oxidation process is complete, loose tea is stored in enormous containers until it is ready to be packaged and distributed.  Loose tea leaves contain many nutrients, natural oils and delicious flavors.  Great care is taken to carefully package the tea leaves to keep them as in tact as possible—thus, not losing their high quality properties.  After these highly prized tea leaves are carefully packaged and ready for sale, the tea dust from the bottom of the barrel is then scooped up and put into tea bags and packaged for grocery store distribution. 

Tea in this powdered form has lost most of its essential oils, aroma and healthful properties.   However, with the assistance of plenty of sugar and ice cubes, we then have the southern drink of choice—delicious SWEET TEA!

While no one is asking you to survive the North Carolina summers without sweet tea,  if you are wishing to get the full benefits of tea, whether for taste reasons or health reasons, loose tea leaves would be a great path to explore. 

Always remember, and never forget:  Bottoms up!!



Mary Murkin

By, Lady Mary

North Carolina’s allergy season is in full swing!  The tree pollen count is classified as HIGH right now.  The sneezes are all around us, as are the runny noses, congestion, and itchy eyes.  Just talking about this makes me want to rub my eyelids.

When my niece was recently having a particularly bad bout with allergies, it gave me an opportunity to research how teas and other herbals might be able to help.  My brother had tried all the usual medical strategies and nothing was working.  I hit the books to see if I could learn how natural remedies might be part of the answer.

I quickly learned that at the top of this combat list was Rooibos, also known as red tea.   In case this word is new to you, it is pronounced “roy-bus.”  It is an African herb with a fruity, sweet flavor.  The spikey leaves of this herb are picked and dried and readied for brewing in much the same way that tea leaves are prepared for distribution.  We brew it the same way as tea leaves.

As I explored how Rooibos can help fight allergy symptoms, I learned that Rooibos contains two bioflavonoids called rutin and quercetin.  These compounds block the release of histamine, a chemical the body produces in response to allergens.  A tea infusion can be consumed to prevent and relieve allergies, thus becoming an antihistamine.

Next on this list of herbal ammunition is ginger tea.  Ginger is also a natural antihistamine, so it relieves allergy problems in the sinus area.  It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can provide relief to any aches accompanying  allergies.  In addition, ginger tea is traditionally consumed for relief of digestive disorders and to calm the stomach.

So, there you have it---two possible tea remedies to drink regularly to help you get some natural relief from these really miserable allergies.  It can’t hurt to try, and besides that they are delicious!

Till next time:  Bottoms up!

Making a Fine Cup of Tea

Ben Peddycord

By, Lady Mary

The last time we visited, it ended with a promise to talk about how to prepare loose leaf tea. To honor Lewis Carroll, we will “begin at the beginning and go on till we come to the end and then stop.”

This time we will focus on how to make one perfect cup of tea. You will need a few items to begin. First, select a tea. Second, select a tea cup or a mug. Next, go to your junk drawer in the kitchen and find a tea infuser (that little wire mesh ball with a chain on it that you never knew what to do with). Lastly, you will need a method to obtain your boiling water (stove top, microwave oven, fancy coffee maker). 

Measure out one teaspoon of tea leaves and put it into your infuser. Close and lock the infuser. Place it into your cup and then pour the boiling water over it until the infuser is completely covered. Now you are steeping your tea. 

Steeping times vary by whether you are making an herbal tea (7 minutes), a black tea (5 minutes), or a green tea (3 minutes). Steeping times can vary with individual tastes. If you want your tea to have a more robust flavor, experiment with steeping it longer than the time suggested. Or if you want it milder, decrease the infusing time. This isn’t rocket science…….it is trial and error of what pleases the individual tea drinker.

After the steeping time is completed, remove your infuser and place it nearby. If you wish to add lemon, milk or sweetener, do so now. It is time to ENJOY your cup of tea. When this cup of tea is all gone, you can put that same infuser with the same tea leaves back into your cup and get a “second pour” out of it. Steep it again!

The last thing left to do is shake out and rinse your infuser. Leave it to dry and it will be ready for the next time you need it. You are now officially a STEEPSTER!

Leaving you with the tea drinker’s blessing: Bottoms up!