Category Archives: universi-tea

Universitea: Brewing Iced Tea

I decided a week or so ago that I really wanted to brew some iced tea from my current tea stores so I have a cool refreshing treat this summer.  Ideally, I’d like to brew a whole pitcher that I can keep chilled in the fridge and drink from over the course of a few days.  However, I was a little confused about whether I needed to brew the tea hot and then ice it or if it could be done entirely with cold brewing.  So now you get the results of my research!

I was particularly inspired to research this question by the last Republic of Tea catalog which featured a Double Infusion Ice Tea Pitcher:

Double Infusion Iced Tea Pitcher, Republic of Tea, $29.99


Aside from the reasonable price point, I really liked that this pitcher is heat resistant and comes with an insert so you can brew loose leaf tea right in the pitcher.  It also comes with an insert that allows you to freeze an ice core and chill the tea, as well as one that would allow you to infuse your tea with fresh fruit.  It’s also BPA free and dishwasher safe. What more could I want? I’m going to order the pitcher this week and I’ll let you know what I think.

Now for the tea.  It seems like everything I read encourages hot brewing a small amount of strong tea and then diluting it and chilling it at the same time.

For instance, one recipe suggested that you heat 1-3 cups of water to the correct temperature (for me that would be “HOT”) and then use 7-10 teaspoons of your loose leaf tea.  This will make a super strong brew, which you can then dilute and chill by filling the rest of the pitcher with ice, or cold water.

Several sites suggested that the cooling process should be done immediately, as it keeps the flavor and the scent of the tea more true.  I also found that most suggested adding sugar during the hot process, both to enhance the sweetness of the tea and for ease of dissolving the sugar into the hot water.

The final note was that when you’re brewing large quantities of tea, you can feel free to mix and match different teas to create your own unique flavors.  I keep thinking about which teas of mine I should combine.  I’ve also been giving some thought to making my more expensive teas last a little longer, but combining them with slightly less expensive teas.  The possibilities are sort of endless?



Universi-tea: Loose Leaf v. Tea Bags

When I started my tea journey, I mostly planned to buy loose leaf teas to taste and test.  I still do have some favorite tea that I purchase in bags from the grocery store, or other stores and before I started learning more about tea I didn’t know what the difference was.  So now I’ll share with you what I’ve learned.

In general, loose leaf tea is higher quality than tea packaged in bags.  Loose leaf tea contains larger pieces of tea leaves and other components and is generally less processed than tea found in bags.  This enables it to release richer, more complex flavors as well as stand up to multiple brewings. It also retains more of the antioxidants than tea bags.

Photo credit: André Karwath, Wikipedia

In contrast, tea bags are usually filled with smaller bits of tea leaves and what is referred to as tea fannings (also called dust).  Though not always, these smaller bits and dust can be leftovers of what is not sold as loose leaf tea. Tea in tea bags generally brews more quickly than loose leaf tea, but much of the dust is dissolved in the first brewing, meaning multiple brewings lose potency quickly.  Also finer bits of tea release more tannins which can make tea brewed from tea bags taste more bitter than that of loose leaf tea.

A few people have also brought this article from Food Babe to my attention.  While any company can hide chemicals, artificial flavors and ingredients in their tea, in general it seems easier for companies to place these in tea bags and finer dust than in loose leaf tea where you can see most of the ingredients right there in the tea.

I want to state again that I still have favorite teas that come pre-packaged.  A few of my old standbys include Twinings’ Lady Grey, Twinings’ Jasmine Green, Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime and the newer Celestial Seasonings’ Sweet Harvest Pumpkin.

Universi-tea: Caffeine

Instanbul Tea & Spice Market

Last week I was asked by several people to talk about caffeine in tea. Now I preface this by saying that I’m no expert and that I try to look to reputable sources for information.

There is lots of information out there, and a lot of it is put out there by the tea companies. While I’m finding that there are some tea companies that I really like, I haven’t done the real research yet, so I’m hesitant to place my trust in the information that they are providing.

The first place I found that had a bit of information that I trusted was the Mayo Clinic, in an article titled “Caffeine Content for coffee, tea, soda and more.”  They list a variety of beverages and include their caffeine contents, but the ones that are particularly relevant are:

  • Black Tea – 14-61 mg per 8oz
  • Black Tea Decaf – 0-12 mg per 8oz
  • Green Tea – 24-40 mg per 8oz

The same article suggests that adults should strongly consider cutting back on caffeine if their total daily consumption equals or exceeds 500 mg and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents get no more than 100 mg per day.  For younger children, they recommend that they should not consume caffeine on a regular basis.

Another article at the Mayo Clinic titled “Caffeine: How Much is too Much” recommends that adults limit their caffeine intake to 200-300 mg per day.

I also found a paper that was published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology titled “Caffeine Content of Brewed Teas” which came out of the University of Florida, College of Medicine.  This paper seems to validate the Mayo Clinic’s estimates of caffeine in black tea, both regular and decaffeinated.

Now for the other sources.

Part 4 of The Republic of Tea’s Tea 101 discusses caffeine and tea.  Technically all tea has caffeine because to be considered tea, the leaves must come from the Camilla sinenses plant.  Decaffeinated teas generally retain a small portion of the caffeine, but the amount is reduced considerably.  The amount of caffeine in any given tea really varies depending on the amounts of tea leaves used (as opposed to other things added to the blend) and the method and length of brewing time.  Generally the longer the brewing time, the more caffeine in the beverage, which does explain why black teas (at higher brewing temperatures and longer steeping times) usually contain more caffeine than white or green teas (lower brewing temperatures and shorter steeping times).

Adagio Teas has some nice information about caffeine and tea as well, and seems to agree with much of what is presented by The Republic of Tea.

I also found this really beautiful infographic on LifeHacker which tries to lay out the benefits of coffee versus tea.  While the format is impressive looking, I can’t necessarily verify the information presented.  I will say that the caffeine listed per cup of tea seems to match other sources, most notably those from the Mayo Clinic.

Ultimately, most of what I have read, in both the journal article and the tea sites listed above, suggests that if you are truly hoping to avoid caffeinated beverages entirely you must stick with the herbal blends and tisanes, because they don’t contain any actual tea (Camilla sinensis) leaves and therefore are naturally decaffeinated (barring adding another substance that normally contains caffeine like chocolate for instance).

In the future I’ll try to review decaffeinated and herbal (naturally caffeine free) options and I’ll add a “decaf” tag to the categories so anyone wishing to avoid caffeine can find only those reviews!