10 Things I Learned Working At A Tea Shop

I spent a good chunk of last year working at a gigantic tea store chain. Since lots of great conversations happen over hot beverages, I’d associated tea with lots of special moments in my life, but I hardly knew anything about where it really comes from. From my first day on the job, I was given what was pretty much a tea intensive, complete with a little corporate-designed test I had to take before I could start selling the stuff. Those few days were interesting, but the real fun started when I was able to talk to customers about their tea preferences and make all kinds of combinations to try during my shifts. I will never be one of those people who partakes in a “tea tastes better than coffee” debate (is it really so novel to enjoy both!?), but I left that job a total tea addict and have never looked back. If you’re looking for something new to add to your routine, I highly recommend you take the plunge into trying new teas. There are hundreds of different flavors and variations to choose from, and unlike most yummy things, it’s actually good for you! Here are a few things I learned in my days as a tea girl to help you get started.

1. Loose tea is your new best friend. Loose tea includes more full tea leaves instead of the broken or shrunken leaves that often end up in tea bags. It makes for a richer flavor and puts you in control how many leaves you want to use. If you like tea bags better, you can buy paper filters for your loose tea. You’ll need to get a steeper and the clean-up takes a few more minutes, but it’s totally worth it.

2. All tea comes from the same plant. The leaves and leaf buds of the plant Camellia sinensis plant are the source of all tea. The flavor and type of the tea is determined by how the leaves are processed and oxidized.

3. Some types of tea aren’t technically real tea. White, green, oolong, black and pu’erh teas come from Camellia sinensis. Rooibos, mate and herbal teas do not, so while they can taste, look and act like tea, they’re not considered true members of the family. Rooibos is made from the South African Red Bush. Mate tea (my personal favorite in the whole wide world) comes from the Argentinian yerba maté plant. Herbal teas can consist of all kinds of blends of fruits, flowers and plants.

4. Some teas have enough caffeine to stand in for coffee. If you’re trying to cut back on coffee, opt for black or mate tea. The beauty of a tea-based caffeine high is that there’s no crash. Instead, you’ll experience a steady sense of alertness the steadily builds. If you’re looking for a low-caffeine tea, try a white tea or an herbal.

5. Loose tea allows you to experiment with combining different flavors in one serving. Ever tried green and black tea blended together? What about a black tea blended with a fruity herbal?

6. Tea has a billion health benefits. It’s known to boost your immune system and metabolism, give you a boost of antioxidants and help prevent cancer. It may also help prevent heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

7. Matcha is one of the better things to ever happen. This concentrated (and pricey) powder form of green tea is mind-blowingly refreshing and especially high in antioxidants. This is the stuff that usually shows up in green tea-flavored desserts. It’s usually blended with hot water in a small bowl using a mini whisk, sometimes with milk or sweetener added to the mix. You can get the matcha-prepping goods for yourself and drink it at home.

8. Some tea leaves can be re-steeped over and over. Leaves from green, white, black and oolong teas can be re-used for another cup of tea within a few hours after you’ve already steeped them — how’s that for a money saver? Some teas can also steep for much longer than the time suggestion on the box and turn out even more delicious. Green and white teas, however, can over-steep in just a few minutes and become bitter.

9. To make iced tea, just double the concentration of loose tea that you’d normally use. Brew it hot with the same amount of water you normally use, then put it over ice!

10. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Lots of us have heard this fact before, but stop and think about how amazing that is for a second. People reach for tea more often Diet Coke, coffee, beer, or Pumpkin Spice lattes. That many millions of people can’t be wrong!

[Image via Shutterstock]

Tags: food, health, tea