How to Get Started with Tea
There is so much variety in the world of tea and the best thing you can do is start exploring. If you are brand new to tea, start out with the bare necessities and continue upgrading along the way. We’re going to give you a basic guide to get started on your tea journey, sparing as many expenses as possible.
Fancy teaware is nice to have, but if you don’t have any at home that’s no reason to not experience good tea. Just get a gaiwan or a cup and a strainer and start preparing your tea. You should be able to find a tea strainer online for only $4 and a Gaiwan (lid and bowl) can be purchased for under $10. Then all you need is a glass to pour into, but this is the easiest part. As long as the glass or mug you have at home is heat resistant, it can be used to drink tea out of. There are subtle differences that occur as you get more advanced teaware, but it is almost imperceptible unless you are a true tea connoisseur.
An important thing to look for when you buy a strainer is that it gives the leaves plenty of space to open up. This will lead to dramatically better tea. The best tea strainers are the ones that have a wide, half dome shape to them. The second best is the tea strainers that are shaped like a cylinder, as those can ever so slightly constrain the leaves to a smaller area. The worst type of strainer is the small tea balls, as these really do not offer a whole lot of space to the tea.
The second important component to consider when beginning your tea journey is the heating of the water. The most basic way to do this is to heat it up in a pan, although it is likely worth the investment in an electric water heater. These can heat the water up a lot faster than a pan, and because they are so affordable, they will likely pay for themselves in no time. Once you start making tea everyday, it will probably be worthwhile investing in an electric kettle that has temperature control, otherwise you can simply use a cheaper thermometer and switch the kettle off when it gets to the right temperature.
If you have a water filter at home, definitely use filtered water when you brew your tea. Unfiltered water can contain minerals like calcium and magnesium that can really affect the flavor of the tea. You should notice a difference right away when you switch to using filtered water, and it will really allow you to pick up on some of the more subtle notes of the tea.
Finally, we come to the most important part of the equation and that is the tea itself. It’s best to save money on the teaware in the beginning and invest that into better loose leaf tea. If you are getting bad tea, there is not amount of brewing tips or fancy equipment that can make it taste good. When you are beginning your tea journey, it is tempting to buy some cheap tea, but that is likely going to lead to a bad experience. If you have a Japanese-owned grocery store in your area, you are likely to find some decent quality loose leaf tea here that is not too expensive. The same goes for Chinese-owned stores. Start by getting some loose leaf tea here and see how you like it. If you are used to preparing tea in a bag, you should notice a difference right away, even if the price is relatively similar.
When you are ready to upgrade and truly experience the world of tea, it is best to start with a sampler so you can try a variety of teas and see which you like most. We offer a few samplers on our website where you can experience all the different teas we have found during our travels around Japan. These are produced with love and care by the dozens of talented farmers we have the great privilege of working with.