Tea in the Wilderness
courtesy of Laurie Ann March

Tea is perfect for backpacking and canoe tripping because of its versatility. You can make tea to use as a hot drink or you can use fruit teas to make tea that brews in the sun to drink at air temperature.

I started dabbling with teas long before I ever had an interest in cooking. I drink tea, I use tea for health, I make my own blends and I cook with tea. To me tea has been a progression much like the journey that one goes through learning about wines. Just as wines vary from region to region, so do teas.

Here are some of the things I have learned about one of my favorite drinks.

Tea is an evergreen that grows in Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Taiwan, Nepal, India, Kenya, Malawi, Zaire, Tanzania, Turkey, Russia, Iran and now even Argentina.

Tea came about by accident in 2737 BC when the Chinese Emperor of time accidentally dropped a leaf into his water. Canadians started their love affair with tea in the very early 1700's when the Hudson's Bay Company brought the drink to Canada.

Tea has many health benefits. Tea boosts your immune system and is a natural diuretic. Black tea, green tea and rooibos are good anti-oxidants with the later two also being very good when it comes to preventing cancer. Tea is a natural appetite suppressant as well. Green teas and Rooibos have vitamins and minerals.

We all have had the cup of tea made with the little round bag that conjures up memories of the Tetley Tea Folk cartoon characters. I will never forget the day we were visiting our Sri Lankan friend. We got talking about tea shortly after I had enjoyed the most delicious cup of tea that I have ever had. He told me that his uncle was part of the Sri Lankan Tea Council and that the tea we drink out of those little bags, Orange Pekoe, is a medium grade of tea. He also told me that no matter how much the box costs, just is not as flavorful as loose tea.

So why is loose tea better you ask?

Well it all has to do with that little paper bag. The leaves in most tea bags are small pieces called fannings. These small leaves often loose their essential oils and give you a tea with less desirable taste. The leaf size, or lack of, is why these tea bags brew quickly. The other problem with the tea in the bags is the cramped brewing space. Leaves need room expand and come to their full potential and that just cannot happen in a tea bag.

Loose tea has a larger, higher grade, leaf and usually the leaves are whole. This means that the essential oils are more abundant. Loose tea takes longer to brew and requires space for the leaves. Brew time is usually 3 to 5 minutes at least. You end up with a fuller tasting cup and a wonderful aroma.

If you do not want to carry a tea ball or tea strainer on your wilderness trips, you can use a product called tSac*, which is a one-time use tea bag that you fill yourself. If you will make tea for a crowd use a cone shaped coffee filter to hold the loose tea. Just pre-measure the tea into the filter at home, roll down the edge and staple the filter closed. Store it in a freezer grade zippered storage bag until ready to use. I often use little cheesecloth bags for brewing my tea - that way I can rinse them out and reuse them.

For breakfast, my favorite blends are….

Blood Orange* - a naturally flavored black tea with the aroma of fresh oranges and strong orange flavor

Ginger Peach* - a naturally flavored black tea with hints of ginger and mellow peach flavor

President's Choice Masala Chai** - a traditional Chai, laced with spice

For dessert, my favorites are…

Ciao Amaretto* - a naturally flavored black tea that has deep cherry flavors and a harmonious balance of almond

Blue Lady* - a naturally flavored black tea with hints of passion fruit, pomegranate, grapefruit and orange

President's Choice Roobois Citrus Spice** - wonderful citrus notes with a hint of spice

Chai and spiced teas are also wonderful for spicing up pancakes, biscuits, cakes. Just brew some strong tea and let it cool. Then use it in place of the liquid in your recipe.

I urge you to start experimenting with tea and promise that you will be pleasantly surprised.

*Blood Orange, Ginger Peach, Ciao Amaretto and Blue Lady loose teas are available from the author and are among a selection of over 150 teas. tSac's and cheesecloth bags are also available in a variety of sizes. Contact laurie@wildernesscooking.com for more information on ordering these teas.

**The President's Choice line of loose teas is available in Canada at Loblaws stores.

© 2007 Laurie Ann March - courtesy of Outdoor Adventure Canada
use without the author's written permission is prohibited.

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