Anatomy of Good Tea: Spilling Teabag Recommendations

Okay, so I admit: I have a real obsession with good tea.

It honestly came out of the blue near the start of the pandemic, but it’s been a balm for the stressful times as well as the ingredient to good times for me.

However, I’ve noticed I tend to laud the excellence of loose leaf tea, predominantly.

Is it just me or does loose leaf tea also just seem to come in better packaging, though?!

Teabags may not have the room to make the original tea flavour fully unfurl the way traditional tea blooms with its loose leaves, but you can still sip a measure of pleasure within a bags steep. So, today I’m here to celebrate the goodness that can exist within teabags.

Take Notes!

#1 – Teabags are useful beyond your cuppa.

Beyond just ageing paper or being a marker of good memories, there are a handful of really practical, zany, and interesting uses for teabags, including:

  1. Hydrating your skin – try re-brewing another cup of tea, cooling it, and then spraying that onto your face with a squeeze or spray bottle.
    • PRO TIP: Green Tea, in particular, brings the antioxidant power!
  2. Polishing wood surfaces – The tea has to be weak, and the rag used has to be soft or a microfiber cloth one.
  3. Elevating your food grain cooking – enhance your rice or quinoa dish without additional spices, by dropping in a leftover tea bag into your boiling water, for subtle flavour enhancement.
    • Remember to remove said tea bag before adding your grains to the water.
  4. Repelling rodents – The key is Peppermint tea, a drop of dishwashing liquid, and which corners you spray.
  5. Protecting plants from Fungus – Chamomile tea is apparently a really good natural remedy; Who’d have thunk, huh?!
  6. Relieving gum swelling – As a fan of Black Teas primarily, I can attest to the fact that black tea bags make for a temporary remedy, as they:
    • help stop bleeding
    • shrink swollen blood vessels
    • AND kill some bacteria. 
  7. Soothing a sunburn – Seriously! It can reduce inflammation.
  8. Starting a fire – okay, the old bags will have to be dry first!
  9. Feeding your Compost Pile – Turns out tea bags, as well as brewed tea, is fantastic to help with the decomposition of your compost pile.
  10. Combatting garbage odours – Just drop a few dried tea bags at the bottom of your garbage container

#2 – Teabags don’t have to be expensive to be good.

Just because I import some of my teas, does not mean I only favour pricey choices on the market.

There are some really lovely options out there – both loose leaf and bagged – that satisfy in different ways. For example:

On the usual occasion in which I feel a bit out of sorts – particularly when my tummy is feeling poorly – I rush for either fresh ginger and lemon, or settle in to sip the tea-bagged versions. I have recently discovered that the reasonably-priced Woolworths Infusions Selection pack (R39.99) is a boon of teabag flavours for these occasions.

Additionally, I’m not above the comfort of a cup of Freshpack (R19.99) or Five Roses tea (R37.99) when there’s at least the presence of a slice of lemon and some honey. Those brands have stood the test of time for a reason, and it’s not just because they’re economical.

#3 – Tea deserves to be brewed right, to be enjoyed well.

Like I consistently state: For me, tea is rapturous!

Its making is a process of peace and devotion to scent, flavour, and travel.

I want tea to take me places

…and I want for its various iterations to find new ways of getting me to ‘peace’, ‘pleasure’, and ‘passion’.

I won’t lie: the bar for tea excellence is set high by the gradually growing body of knowledge I’m accumulating regarding:

  • My personal tastes and preparation preferences
  • The brands which are yielding tea of high-quality consistently
  • local vendors importing loose leaf teas one is able to blend themselves
  • And the tools and hacks that make tea taste better from the start.

Here’s what I recommend for your next brew of a teabag cuppa:

  • Check whether you actually have good quality and fresh water
  • Have entirely pristine cups, pots, kettle etc.
  • Pour in water first – it warms up the pot/cup first (that affects steep time and flavour, trust me!)
  • Realize tea labels like “Oolong”, “black”, “green” etc. are different varieties, which mean different brewing times, colours and tastes
  • Decide whether you prefer sugar or honey or neither – both evoke different flavour profiles in teas
  • If a brand offers a line of Iced Teas, rather buy those for your Ice Tea-making
  • Remember what YOU like, not just preparing and drinking what experts say is good
  • Choose your tea tools carefully – Experts (and me) truly can tell you that even the teaspoon affects the tea’s flavour
  • Have more than 3-5minutes to make the cup of tea
  • Re-boil water
  • Go near the microwave
  • Immediately pour boiling water into your cup – YOU ARE ‘BURNING’ YOUR TEA!
  • Immerse tea leaves in hot water for a long time – it honestly mutes the teabag leaves natural sweetness while extracting the tannic and more bitter compounds
  • Drink a cup of tea not brewed in front of you – for safety and for taste
  • Judge a steep being done, by colour alone – check that flavour
  • Re-steep using teabags you know cannot remain intact, nor retain flavour for a second or third brewing
  • Store your tea in anything that isn’t airtight and away from heat and sunlight.
  • Put milk into your cup before you’ve assessed how much will work with the steeped tea and your sugar or honey additions – the exception is if you know your exact ratios already, which also means you get your tannins developing their flavour if the milk is poured before.

“The best cup of tea is the one you like the most.” – Twinings USA (2022).

By Recommendation:

These are the teas I’m currently getting acquainted with – which I recommend, having consumed them all in their teabag forms too:

Ronnefeldt: Rooibos Vanilla

Marks & Spencer: Strawberry & Rasberry Infusion

TWG: 1837 Black Tea, Singapore Breakfast Tea

Enmasse: Naartjie, Hot Cross Bun

Woolworths: Vanilla Chai, Lemon & Ginger

Twinnings: Earl Grey Tea

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