Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Zen for Writers, or How to Make Good Tea

A friend taught me the art of brewing good tea, and it's a skill that has helped me as a writer. There's something about the details of putting together hot water, tea, and porcelain or glass that soothes the mind. I'm not talking about dunking a little paper bag into a cup, mind you. Anyone can do that. I'm talking about real, honest-to-goodness tea, sold loose and brewed hot.

Rooibos tea.
To reduce stress, you'll want a tea that has no caffeine, so that eliminates most black or green teas. Herbal teas are excellent, and you can purchase them in stores or online. But there are other types of teas as well. Rooibos (pronounced roy-bus) is an African bush tea.  Its properties assist with nervous tension, may reduce allergies, and soothe digestive problems. It comes in red and green varieties, and is created by fermentation. It has a grassy, malted taste. To brew it properly, bring the water to just under a boil (208 degrees), pour it over 1.5 teaspoons of the loose tea in a cup, and allow it to steep for no more than 6 minutes (5 for less strong taste). Strain and serve with honey or rock sugar.

White tea.
White tea is free of caffeine. It gets its name because of the fine white filaments that show on the unopened buds of the plant (camellia sinensis). This tea has a delicate flavor and can be ruined by heat and overbrewing. For best results, use a candy thermometer to gauge water temperature. It should not be above 175 degrees. Steep 1.5 teaspoons of loose tea no longer than 5 minutes -- 4 minutes for the sweetest flavor. This tea can easily take flavorings because it is so mild. Try drops of lemon juice, vanilla syrup, hazlenut syrup, and milk. A popular blend of white tea is Assam. It can be mixed with other teas to give them a unique flavor.
Teavana's Infuser.

To strain tea, use a fine sieve or microfilter. The company Teavana makes a beautiful tea infuser. You add loose tea, pour in the hot water, and allow to steep. When the time is up, you place the infuser on top of a tea cup or mug, and the brewed tea drains out the bottom. You can order one of these from Amazon by clicking here.

Relaxing with tea is an art. Plan for fifteen minutes from beginning to last sip. Begin by heating the water. While it prepares, measure and add the tea to your infuser or cup. Place sweeteners or flavorings on the table, and remove any cream or half and half from the refrigerator. Why not use a pretty placemat for your relaxation break? The humblest cup is a treat when filled with delicious tea, so don't worry about having matching sets for tea. One local tea shop purposely mismatches sets when they serve, for an eclectic look.

Pour the hot water over the tea and set the timer. Lay out a few small cookies or sweetened crackers. A piece of fruit also goes well with tea. Sit down, fold your hands, and close your eyes. Listen for the timer. When it goes off, strain the tea and pour it into the serving cup. Take it to the table, sit down, and mix any sweeteners or flavorings into it. Stir with a spoon -- gently -- to allow the flavors to mingle. Sip. Let the tea rest on your tongue for a moment. Swallow it, and repeat.

Enjoy the break away from writing and hurry. Life takes time to live. Using some of the time you save to savor life guarantees you'll appreciate it more. Bon appetit!
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About the Author
Kayelle Allen is an award-winning, multi-published author. Her heroes and heroines include badass immortals, warriors who purr, and agents who find...well, the unfindable. And sometimes (shh!) make them disappear again. She is known for unstoppable heroes, uncompromising love, and unforgettable passion. You can find her on the web in these places:
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Images White tea: GNU Free Documentation License. / Teavana infuser (Amazon) / Rooibos (Copyleft_attitude) / teaball (Photoxpress)

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