My Experience at the Mud House – Springfield, MO

Enjoy life sip by sip not gulp by gulp. – The Minister of Leaves

My girlfriend Kim & I went to Springfield, MO to catch a minor league baseball game (a pitcher-favorite of ours was making a rehab start, plus we wanted autographs and to see family) this previous weekend, only to end up on Sunday morning at The Mud House.

The Mud House seemed to me to be a small–but incredibly roomy–coffee/tea shop, serving pastries, muffins & the like. I of course let my eyes gaze the two giant bookshelves sporting their tea selection–anything from black to green to white & reds. Needless to say, I was pretty psyched.

With it being a Sunday, it narrowed my tea choices down to two–a breakfast variety, or my old faithful fallback, an Earl Grey. I analyzed the jars, checked out the leaves, and tried to avoid getting a cup full of crumb-leaves (leaves a bunch of gunk at the bottom of the cup, in my opinion), and settled for the jar nearly gooey with bergamot oil, the Earl Grey.

What struck my eye though, was that The Mud House sports two varieties of EG–a green, and a black. I had not experienced a green EG before Sunday (can anyone sense the foreshadowing?), so I elected for the black.

The behind-the-counter staff was more than accommodating, properly measuring out the leaves and boiling the water, before bringing me my cup & infuser. I of course set my stopwatch, and waited for 4 minutes to tick around. As the time passed, I waited for my sweet roll & played with their infuser, which happened to be a metal basket, cased in a plastic housing that conveniently straddled the cup, as to avoid my previous dilemmas with the tea leaves ending up at the bottom due to your clumsy host…

Once the steep was done, I quickly removed the infuser and pressed the leaves with my spoon as to get out the remainder of the water from the leaves, and lightly sweetened the beverage. I elected to use significantly less sugar this go around, simply because of my sweet roll, and me wanting to save some teeth for when I’m 70.

My roll arrived, I had the paper, and my tea beckoned for the first sip. I was freakishly surprised at how good the tea turned out, as most tea shops (in my area at least) use out-of-the-box teas, that cost 50 cents a bag to them, which means the consumer gets crappy leaves, and a weak cup. The flavor was light, but robustly awakening, which I attribute to it being (possibly) purely filtered water. I also noticed that in the infuser lay the leaves that gave the flavoring… The leaves opened up from being small & compact, to being wide, long & flavorful.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the cup, enough for me to spend a bit (about $12) to get two 2 oz. bags of tea–one 2 oz. black Earl Grey, one 2 oz. green Earl Grey.

Black & Green Earl Grey - The Mud House - Springfield, MO

Black & Green Earl Grey - The Mud House - Springfield, MO

I have tasted the green, and I must say it is rather awesome. I will be doing a review of sorts at some point in the very near future. If interested, one can purchase any coffee (Kim bought coffee)/tea product from their website, here.

Rishi Earl Grey Tea – Review n’ Brew

Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage. – Catherine Douzel

In today’s posting, I will take a look at a brand of Earl Grey tea, sold by Rishi, which is advertised to be both organic, and free-trade approved.

I’m a big fan of the Earl Grey varieties, as it is a good, potent black tea, as well as an aromatic (courtesy of the Bergamot citrus oils) and soothing tea. Earl Grey is not only applied to black teas, as it can be used with certain varieties of greens, as well.

I purchase my tea in loose leaf form, as I have found over the years that loose tea infuses better with the water, and freshness is a near guarantee when buying in bulk, especially with the popularity of Earl Grey. you can buy any tea in pre-bagged form (Lipton, Twinnings, TAZO, etc.), but I am a strong believer that bagged tea should only be used when you don’t have the time to use loose-leaf. Leafed tea is simply so much better, in a matter of freshness and quality of experience.

Each variety of tea has different steep times, and leaf amounts that should be used. When using loose leaf black teas, I use one teaspoon of measured tea per 8 oz (cup) of tea, steeped for 4-5 minutes. I say “4-5 minutes,” simply due to you may not be able to have a stopwatch on your wrist (I’m a bit picky on tea taste and bitterness, so I time it) to get the timing down just right. Also, a very important reminder about brewing tea, is the quality of water, as well as the heat of the water you are using.

Most black teas require a temperature of 210 degrees or more to properly infuse the tea. How do I know what 210 degrees is, without buying a thermometer? I’ve found, that a great rule of thumb is, if the water is boiling & bubbling heavily, you’re good to go with black, with green, as it requires a far “cooler” water temperature to bring out the best flavor, is that once the water is steaming, and tiny bubbles are starting to barely kick to the surface, it’s time to remove the kettle from heat/unplug from the wall*.

*I use an electrical kettle in my workplace, simply because I nearly burned my building down due to accidentally leaving my tea kettle on the heat, then taking a phone call. Safety first!!!

Water is very, very important. Think of it as using stale chips to enjoy chips & salsa. Who wants chewy, nasty chips? A good thing to do before you put the water to boil is to fill the kettle with enough hot tap water to be able to “swish” around, and basically give the inside a good swish-cleaning, let it sit a minute or so, and fill it with filtered water–tap water isn’t the best simply because of its hard water properties. These tend to linger around in boiled tea water, not allowing for good infusion of the water. I use water fountain water here at work, simply because I used tap water once, and could notice the difference. Yea, it’s that important!

Back to the Earl Grey:

In this picture, you’ll see my trusted tea mug (16 oz, so I will use two teaspoons of leaves), my loose leaf tea bulk-bagged, and my infuser. I use a metal-meshed infuser, simply by preference–plastic ones are available, but I don’t like how infusion stains the plastic meshing, plus the metal is a bit more hardy. I use a “basket style” infuser as opposed to a tea ball style, only because I couldn’t find a reasonably priced tea ball that would support more than 1 teaspoon of tea, and provide proper infusion. I do have a tea ball, but only for 8 oz cups–which is rare for me.

Mug, Tea, Infusor

Mug, Tea, Infuser

Now, when I go to boil the water, I have a bit of a routine that I follow, which nearly guarantees me (short of me dropping the basket into the water after infusion, and losing all the leaves into the water) a perfect cup of tea, every time:

  1. Clean out the kettle (hot water, swish, sit for a minute, swish again & pour).
  2. Clean out mug (if dirty for whatever reason) and fill with hot water and let sit until water is done boiling. This allows for the cup to stay warm while waiting on the boiling water, as it will allow the mug to stay hot when infusing, as to not allow the tea to get cold before consumption.
  3. Clean infuser with hot water, and dry with a paper towel.
  4. Measure out tea (1 tsp per 8 oz.)
  5. Fill kettle with filtered (or non-tap) water, and set to boil.
Kettle, Infuser & Measuring Spoon

Kettle, Infuser & Measuring Spoon

As you can see, with black tea, it makes the tea water a nice dark brown-ish color (yes, that is a binder clip holding my infuser to my mug) :

Infusion...

Infusion...

I steep my Earl Grey per the suppliers reccomendations, which call for a 4 minute infusion. After that, I remove the basket from the water, press a spoon to the leaves to get out any remaining water, and flavor it to taste–I do not use any sort of milk/dairy product, simply because it negatively effects the anti-oxidants that reside in the tea… I use about 1 tablespoon +/- of sugar, as I like just a little bit of sweetness. Stir in the sweetness (if preferred), set your basket aside, and enjoy your cup!

Early Grey (in my opinion) is one of the best teas out there… Mainly for its aromatic properties, but also its abilities to rejuvenate (I think they call that caffeine), and how it tastes, even when cold. A nifty trick that my father does when making iced tea, is to brew the tea with three bags per quart of regular black tea, and add one bag of Earl Grey, to give it an “late” aromatic taste on the palate.

Today’s Earl Grey tea brand was Rishi, a brand that I have frequently purchased in the past, for its affordability and freshness. You can purchase it online here, or if you live somewhere near a natural foods store, they most likely have it in bulk! My mug is courtesy of Kim, who purchased it at a Starbucks mainly because of its size, me stealing her other mug to enjoy tea in, and her luck that it was on clearance.

Four requirements for the perfect cup of tea:

  1. Good water.
  2. A good infuser.
  3. Fresh, quality leaves.
  4. A big mug, full of personality.

Next posting I will venture into the wide world of green teas, as I have some gunpowder, and decaf mango green that I’m anxious to try, thanks for stopping by!

Tea–A Brief “History”

“The extraordinary story of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy begins very simply, it begins with a man. An Earthman, to be precise. Who no more knows his destiny, than a tea leaf knows the history of the East India Company.” – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I start with that quote, for two reasons:

  1. I really like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  2. The quote itself contains something about tea.

It’s true though, about tea… Tea’s history is so incredibly complex, in both the discovery of it, and its commercialism. In today’s posting, I will try to give a (brief) about tea, where it originally came from, and where it’s ended up. I will skip a lot, as that will be reserved for future postings. :-)

Tea comes from a single type of “bush,” the Camellia sinensis. This bush can grow into a full-fledged tree, but is best used for cultivation in “bush” form. It’s first recorded uses come from around the time of the 10th century B.C., by the ancient Chinese. So, one could say–it’s been around awhile. In fact, it’s 2nd only to water in worldwide consumption.

By 600 A.D., tea had been introduced to Japan, by the Sui Dynasty, and by 760, tea drinking had a far reach… And by this time, tea “bricks” were being used as currency.

Fast forward about 1000 years, to the forming of the East India Company, and the spread of tea from the far East, to it now being part of everyday Western Civilization.

The British saw tea as a profitable venture, thus setting up the E.I.C, after the marriage of King Charles II to a Portuguese princess called Catherine of Braganza. Tea drinking was limited primarily to the Aristocrats (of course), and their love for tea (actually, sweet tea) was fueled by their owning of sugar plantations in Africa & the West Indies.

Today, tea can be found nearly in every restaurant, as sweet tea is quite popular in the south, as well as with artificial sweeteners.

Tea has many, many health benefits, which has most likely been a major contributing factor over the many, many years of its existence–all of which, we can owe to the Chinese.

Many use teas for the naturally occurring anti-oxidants, vitamins (C, E & K), caffeine, polysaccharides (complex carbs), and not to mention tea’s immune-strengthening capabilities (can help prevent intestinal disorders, as well as protection for cell membranes). Tea is well known for normalizing bloodpressure, prevention of coronary heart diseases and diabetes by reducing the blood-glucose activity. Both green and black tea varieties contain a number of antioxidants, mainly anti-carcinogenic and anti-tumor properties.

There are several, several different varieties of tea, from the blacks (Ceylon, Darjeeling, yunan-jigs, Irish & English breakfasts, Earl Grey’s, to name a few), greens (herbals, gunpowder, decaffeinated, etc.) reds, whites & the hybrids, that satisfy any & every palate. The great thing about tea? Each & every variety (save for the herbals), comes from the same type of bush. No tea bush produces only green, or only black… each does it all!

Each type of tea requires different temperatures & steep times to be “perfect,” in this blog I plan to line out as many types of tea–from the blacks to the reds & whites–that I can, supply & price permitting, as well as products that can be used to fully enjoy your tea, from loose-leaf to “bag & string,” cup-infused with a tea-ball, or open-air infuser.

I will also give a brief background of each type of tea, as each one has been discovered & utilized differently!

There’s a lot of really cool stuff that goes on with tea, and I look forward to providing all the information I can!

A Rundown…

I wanted to post a quick diddy about who I was, and what I am trying to do, as I feel it’s relevent to get the word out before I start shooting out content.

I am an IT Coordinator (fancy name for an IT Admin) who fancies tea. All types of tea, to be honest. I never took to coffee like my cohorts, I love the smell but can’t stand the taste, and lack of health benefits.

I have always considered myself a “connoisseur” of hot teas, and iced teas alike… There’s something about the fact that of all the varities of true tea (not the herbal, non-tea leaf varieties), they all come from the same breed of plant. I.e., you don’t need a different plant to get green, black, etc. the variations all come from the age of the leaf, when it’s plucked. To me, that is what makes tea, so interesting.

What I will try to do with this blog, is give geeks, and non-geeks alike, a place to come and get the low down on what is good to drink, why, and where it comes from. I’ve had the idea for a while, but never had the gumption of getting it off the ground.

I ran a blog since 2005, called pesosforpenguins.com, which I recently shut down after a long drought of content, as it was more of a personal site, and nothing was ever really getting done. i.e., nothing too terribly informative.

Like I said above, I will be writing posts, and giving the tech (and non-tech) world a look into the world of tea, from my perspective, as I try & provide reviews of types of tea, and accessories to make your tea-drinking experience all the better.

This will be an ongoing work-in-progress, but I think that it will turn out rather… awesome.

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