Loose-Leaf vs. Bagged Tea
Among tea lovers, this is a common debate—are tea bags okay to use? When tea is picked, it is processed to create different types of tea—white, green, oolong and black—but no matter which process the leaves undergo, they are always dried. When the leaves are steeped in hot water, they rehydrate and expand, releasing the flavors, antioxidants and other minerals we love.
The benefit of brewing tea in a wide infuser rather than a tea bag is a better taste and more nutrient-rich cup. The more room the leaves have to rehydrate, the fuller the flavor and more complex the brew. Tea bags you buy from the grocery store will either have tea that has been chopped very finely to keep the shape uniform or have been reduced to mostly powders. Because of this, it may take longer to steep a strong enough cup without making it bitter.
Bagged tea is also often sold in cardboard boxes, and while these may keep light away from the leaves, they allow air to invade. Tea is very sensitive to air and light, and exposure to either will deplete the flavor and nutrients of the tea.
Reduce, Reuse, Re-steep
There are dozens of way to use tea and used tea bags around your home or for craft projects. Cold tea brewed from used tea bags can be used to soothe sunburned skin, flavor meat as a marinade or cut through grease and grime on mirrors and wood or linoleum floors. Hold onto the bags to use as cold compresses for puffy, red eyes, as the tannins work to relieve them.
Tea stains can be used to give an antique look to clothes or even paint with. Tea (and coffee as well) help to repel fleas, so add some leaves to your pet’s shampoo next time they need a bath. Tea baths are not just for pets, either—bath salts mixed with tea leaves make great gifts for those who need to be pampered. If your house needs deodorizing, tea bags will do the trick; stick them in shoes, dresser drawers, the refrigerator, even litter boxes.
Brewed tea also makes a good conditioner for dried hair, especially if you’ll be in chlorine pools in the summer. Tea can be a gardener’s best friend. Further enrich your compost and soil, as strongly brewed tea will speed the decomposition process and draw acid-producing bacteria. You can also mix the tea leaves in with the soil or put tea bags at the bottom of potted plants to help the soil retain water and add valuable nutrients. Some houseplants, like ferns, love acidic soil, so feed them tea instead of water occasionally to make their soil richer.
Traveling abroad can be a wonderful, eye-opening experience, but it also presents a unique set of challenges. From packing the right clothing and handling jet lag to familiarizing yourself with local customs, it pays to do a little research and preparation before booking a ticket. Here are a few tips for making the most of your time away:
– Make copies of your itinerary and passport: Leave these items with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
– Check your overseas medical insurance coverage: Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.
– Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs: The U.S. State Department website (travel.state.gov) has useful information about various laws applicable to your destinations. Also try to learn a few basics (“Please,” “Thank you,” etc.) in the native language.
– Pack sensibly: Especially on longer trips, try not to overpack. Depending on the weather, layering clothing is always a good option, and you can always re-wear items or wash them in your hotel room.
– Avoid being a target of crime: Nothing can ruin a trip faster than being pick-pocketed or losing something valuable. Do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. Invest in a money belt to wear under your clothes.