Making the Perfect Cup of Hot Tea — May 21, 2021

Making the Perfect Cup of Hot Tea

Okay, so I realize that not everybody has had the privilege of growing up in the Deep South where people don’t even bother to take drink orders, but simply pass around huge glasses filled with ice tea as soon as your butt hits the restaurant dining table chairs…

 

 

So how do you make that Mississippi nectar that is the pride of the hospitality state?

Sure lots and lots of sugar is important, but many other factors are important also—such as the technique/process you will be using, the quality of the water used, temperatures, and time.

But there are many factors that go into making the perfect cup of tea, including…

 

 

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The Method

What method you use when making your tea is a personal preference, but here are a few options…

 

French Press…The same French press that you use to make coffee can also be used to make tea. Using a French press allows you to brew several cups of tea at one time. A French press also allows you to steep and serve your tea in the same vessel. However, you could easily over-steeping your tea since the tea leaves simply sit at the bottom of the press after you make the tea, instead of being taken out.

 

Tea Ball Infuser...Tea ball infusers are basically teabags that you fill yourself with whatever loose tea you would like and then steep in your tea until you get the strength of tea that you would like. These hinged mesh spheres are obviously more “environmentally friendly.”

 

Tea Brewing Strainers…Tea brewing strainers are small mesh baskets that you fill with loose leaf  tea and then pour hot water on top of the leaves. As the hot water passes over the loose tea leaves, your tea is “brewed,” but this is probably not your best option because you can’t is not very popular and control how long your tea brews.

 

Teabags...Of course you already know what a teabag is, and this is the most common method of making tea. This method is the most convenient, even though not the most “environmentally friendly.”

 

TeapotTeaposts are always a great choice, but not all teapots will deliver the same results. Two factors to consider when choosing a teapot are whether or not the teapost has a built-in strainer to help infuse the tea or requires use of a separate straining device….and what  material your teapot is made from so that you can know that the brewing temperature is ideal or not for the type of tea which you will most likely be making.

 

 

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The Temperature

Even though most of us would assume that in order to make tea, you must bring your water to a rolling boil, this is not always the case. In fact, different types of tea require different temperatures. Bringing your water to a rolling boil can actually keep your tea from reaching its fullest flavor potential.

As a general rule, white tea and green tea should be made with the lowest temperature, about 175 degrees. Oolong and black tea should be made with a medium temperature, about 200 degrees. And mate, rooibos, and other types of herbal tea should be made with the highest temperature, about 210 degrees.

Bringing your water to a full rolling boil and then letting the tea cool down to the ideal temperature also will negatively impact the flavor of your tea.

 

 

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The Time

Time can also affect the flavor of the tea. Different steeping times will create subtle flavor differences that you may or may not like. The best thing to do is to take the time to steep any new type of tea that you may be trying in thirty second intervals until you find the steeping time for that particular tea that you like best.

 

 

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The Water

Water is obviously a very important ingredient to a great glass of tea, almost as important as the sugar. Only use water that is fresh and cold.  Avoid using tap water that has been sitting in stagnant in your kettle for any length of time or that has already been boiled previously. Always use cold water instead of hot water. Hot tap water tends to carry more minerals—such as calcium and lime—and can mess up the flavor of your tea.

Herbal Tea…The What —

Herbal Tea…The What

Agave Nectar —

Agave Nectar

Once I learned that my husband had been diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes, my first thought…well, not my first…but anyway…I immediately felt like adding agave nectar to my instacart order from Sprouts…

But what I’ve been reading lately has made me wonder about adding this agave nectar to my Muffins and Magnolias Master Grocery List altogether…and to get consume any agave through tequila instead.

 

What is agave nectar anyway?!

The agave plant is native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States, and some tropical areas of South America. The plant is sometimes referred to as the “century plant” because the plants must grow to heights of about thirty feet before ever blooming. But once an agave plant does bloom, it will produce several pounds of edible flowers. After this, the plant will die.

When an agave plant has been growing from seven to ten years old, the leaves of the plant are cut off, revealing the core of the plant (called the “pina”). When harvested, the pina resembles a giant pineapple and can weigh in at 50 to 150 pounds.

There are many different species of agave, but the most common one is the blue agave. Blue agave is the species of agage used to make tequila. In order for a tequila to be classified as a 100% blue agave tequila, the tequila must be made only from the Agave tequilana ‘Weber’s Blue’ agave plant and only in certain Mexican states, according to an agreement made in 2001 between the Mexican Government and European Union.

The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods. The Aztecs and Navajo Indians have used every part of the agave plant—including the flowers, the leaves, the stalks, and the sap for just about everything–including meat, drink, clothing, and writing materials.

  • Flowers…The flower head can be baked and then boiled to make an edible paste used by itself or made into soup. The flower heads can be baked and sundried to extend the shelf life. Dried slices of the flower stem can be used to make all-natural razor strops.
  • Leaves…The leaves may be collected in winter and spring, when the plants are rich in sap, for eating and making sisal or hemp. The expressed juice of the leaves lathers in water like soap. The leaves are also used to make a tea that is used specificaxlly for treating constipation and arthritis.
  • Stalks…The stalks can be roasted and chewed right before the flower blooms to extract the sweet sap, called argamiel, much like sugarcane. The stalks can also be dried out and used to make didgeridoos.
  • Sap…The sap from the flower shoot is often collected, fermented, and distilled to make alcholic drinks called mezcal, which we Americans mostly know  in the shot glasses called tequila. The sap can also be boiled to make a sweetener that the Mexicans refer to as miel de agave.

Agave nectar is a sweetener derived from the sap of the agave plant

 

Agave Nectar—The Why or Why Not?!

Agave sweeteners come from the blue agave plant, the same plant that you get tequile from. Agave nectar is said to be about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar….and is often used instead of sugar, honey, or maple syrup. The taste of agave nectar is comparable, though not identical, to honey. Many people who do not like the taste of honey find agave a more palatable choice. It also has none of the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners.

Agave has about sixty calories per tablespoon, compared to forty calories for the same amount of table sugar. But you should be able to get the same effect from less agage nectar because the agave is sweeter.

Agave claims to be an especially good sugar replacement for diabetics because it is low on the glycemic index. But at the same time, agave nectar has an extremely amount of fructose. And the agave nectar that you find as a consumer has been highly processed, much like high-fructose corn syrup.

Sweeteners containing fructose, as opposed to those containing glucose, can claim to be “healthy” or “diabetic friendly” because they typically have a very low GI and do not  raise your blood sugar or insulin levels in the short-term.Yet the high amount of fructose found in agave nectar can be detrimental to your health. For one thing, the liver is the only organ that can metabolize significant amounts of fructose. Eating, or drinking, an extreme amount of  fructose causes the liver to work too hard, resulting in kidney disease and cirhossis of the liver seen in many alcoholics

The nectar made from the plant is known in Mexico as aguamiel, or “honey water.”

Even though Mexicans boil the sap to make a sweetener referred to as miel de agave, the agave nectar sold on American shelves has very little in common with this traditional sweetener made by the Mexicans because agave nectar that is sold on our shelves has been made by treating the sugars with heat and enzymes, which destroys all the beneficial health effects of the agave plant…resulting in a highly refined, unhealthy syrup–just as the processing does to any other fruit or vegetable.

In its original, natural form extracts from the agave plant contain strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but none of these beneficial elements are present in the agave that we see in the stores.

To make the agave nectar as we know it, sap is extracted from the pina, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars.

Even though agave nectar has been targeted as a healthy sugar alternative for people concerned about their blood sugar levels, agave nectar contains very high levels of fructose….and fructose, even though found in whole foods that are on my permanent shopping list, actually can have long-term effects on our health—including heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes.

Agave nectar is about 85% fructose, which is much higher than plain sugar.

Consuming too much fructose can also cause your body to become resistent to insulin, causing major increases in long-term blood sugar and insulin levels and strongly raising your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Agave actually contains more fructose than the supposed demon called high-fructose corn syrup that we all know that we should be avoiding

Agave is not healthier than honey, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or any other type of sweetener. Agave syrup (nectar) is basically high-fructose corn syrup masquerading as a health food.

So my verdict on using agave nectar as a substitute for table sugar, based on what I have been reading, is a definite no….

 

Let’s all just shoot blue agave tequila instead!!!

Sw

  • highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener on the market