Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Isn’t it nice to have an “addiction” that isn’t bad for you? Mine is fruit tea, which I buy by the pound at McNulty’s Tea and Coffee Company, a New York institution. At McNulty’s, most fruit “teas” don’t contain any tea. They’re all-natural, caffeine-free blends of rose hips, hibiscus, and various pieces of dried fruit­. Dozens of flavors include apple, blueberry, lemon, mint, raspberry, wild cherry and tropical fruits (coconut pieces with pineapple).

The difference between high-quality loose tea and supermarket-brand teabags is in the leaves. Teabags generally contain ground leaf bits called fannings that don’t hold in the essential oils that gives tea flavor and are quicker to release tannins that make tea bitter. To compensate, manufacturers of low-end teas often add artificial flavorings.

To brew a proper cup, says David Wong, a tea expert at McNulty’s, measure a heaping teaspoon of the loose tea mixture into an infuser, put the infuser in a cup, and then pour boiling water over it. Let it steep 3 to 5 minutes for fruit or black teas, 5 minutes for oolongs.

For green and white teas, turn off the water when it has come to a boil and let it stand 3 or 4 minutes before pouring it over the tea; then let the tea steep 1 to 3 minutes only. “The boiling water draws out bitterness, and green and white tea can be bitter if they steep too long,” says Wong.

McNulty's Tea & Coffee Co., Inc.
109 Christopher Street