How To Make Decaf Tea That Doesn’t Taste Like Dishwater

Okay, okay, this is an off-the-wall topic for many people.  Its raining (a good thing), and hot tea is right there at the top of my list after an hour’s vigorous exercise at the Fallbrook Community Center’s Fitness Fusion Class.  Actually, a cuppa is often on my mind.  In fact, whenever I hear someone mention tea, I crave it.  Hot, with honey.   If I’m sick, then honey and lemon. If I’m REALLY sick, then honey, lemon and a shot of whiskey.   If I’m feeling low, honey and fat-free half-and-half.  If I’m REALLY low, then honey and cream.  (Rice milk can do the trick, too.) 

My sister and I used to brew up herbal teas when I was in my teens, reading about the medicinal value of each plant, then mixing and matching and wondering what it was doing to our systems.  I remember how Shephard’s Purse was particularly soothing. 

Since I never liked the taste of coffee (it makes me gag!), I took to black teas.  A few years ago my dentist commented on how overly developed my jaw muscles were, and said that I probably ground my teeth when I slept.  It turned out that the caffeine in my one or two cups of tea a day acted like an amplifier for the usual stress and worry that comes with being alive.  Like an alcoholic in denial I boasted that I could do with or without caffeine.  Any ol’ time. 

Sure.

I went off caffeine and for several days had the jitters, was even crankier than normal, and went through withdrawl.  From a twice-a-day cuppa habit!  It worked.  When the caffeine was flushed from my system, the clenching stopped, the grinding stopped, and I became more stable in my energy levels during the day.  That two o’clock droop disappeared.  That was about three years ago, and now if I have caffeine I can feel it speeding up my heart rate, prickling along the back of my neck, and making my jaws clench.  Yes, I’m sensitive to drugs of any kind, so perhaps this isn’t the normal person’s reaction, but for some I think it’s significant.

But what about my treasured cuppa?  My daughter (who was also lectured by the dentist) and I switched to decaf tea.  Ick.  Brown sweetened water.  We tried bulk decaf tea with better success, but it still was ick.  Then my brilliant daughter came up with the most important part of the secret of a decent cuppa decaf tea, and I figured out a little more.  And finally, here it is:

Whether you use a teabag or bulk decaf tea, make sure that it is fresh.  Use freshly boiling hot water.  If you use water that has already been heated and cooled, the oxygen has mostly bubbled out of it and the tea will be flat.  Swish hot water in your cup to warm it, just like you’d do with a pot of tea, and dump it out.  (This also removes any dust that may have settled, or creatures that have taken refuge there.) (I’m only partially kidding.)  Put in your tea or teabag and pour just enough boiling water in to cover the tea.  DO NOT FILL IT UP YET.  That’s my daughter’s brilliant trick. Somehow the steeping in a small amount of boiling water intensifies the brewing and really imparts flavor.  Here’s my addition: cover the cup to keep the heat in.  You can used one of those teacups that comes with a strainer and lid, or use the saucer, or any borrowed lid. 

The cover keeps the heat in, and keeps the tea brewing at the same rate; if water cools, it doesn’t brew very well.  After all, you aren’t making Sun Tea here.   Steep for about three minutes this way.  Then reboil some water.  I have a Proctor Silex electric water pot with a thermostatic shut-off that I bought at K-Mart and I love it.  I just turn the switch back on.  Its amazing how cool water gets when sitting for just a few minutes.  Fill the cup up with more boiling water, re-cover the cup, and let it steep for a few more minutes.   Then, voila!  Uncover a pretty decent-flavored cup of decaf tea.  At this point add in anything you want in it: sweetener, cream, whiskey, lemon….  Don’t add anything during the steeping time because it inhibits the steeping.

So, in a nutshell, use fresh, boiled water.  Just cover the tea with water.  Cover the cup and steep for a few minutes.  Pour in the rest of the water which is boiling.  Cover the cup and steep for a few more minutes.  Uncover and add in stuff or don’t add in stuff.   Enjoy and give up clenching forever.  Of course, tea goes better with toast smeared with some of that lemon curd from the previous post.

Why couldn’t I have said all that right at the beginning?  Geez….. 🙂

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