My husband has been posting about his coffee roaster, and while I'm sure if you like a good cup of coffee it's the way to go, but I am not a coffee lover, so in turn I'm going to talk about my love for good tea. Not those bags you buy at the grocery store, but really good loose-leaf tea.
I would recommend you buy your tea from a good tea shop. My favorite is the Perennial Tea Room, in Seattle. Now I don't have a tea shop anywhere near me, so I have to stock up when I'm traveling, or order online.
A tea shop will have their teas in large containers, and should be able to answer questions about the different teas, and allow you to smell them before buying. You pay by weight, so it's easy to sample different teas by just buying an ounce at a time if you like.
Stored properly loose leaf tea will keep for quite a while. (I've seen it reported anywhere from six months up to two years.) I keep my tea in tins to keep the light and air away from the leaves.
Now I've tried all the brewing methods out there, and this is, in my opinion, the best way to brew your tea. Unlike the balls, it gives the tea plenty of room to unfurl. These baskets work on most of my tea pots and mugs. Something like this, or this also works well.
I'm sure any of you that are actually interested in this have already heard the proper steps to brewing a good cup of tea. Always start with fresh, cold water. Bring to a rolling boil. (For black teas, which is what I usually drink, you want to use boiling water. For more delicate teas such as green or white, you want the water not quite boiling. The rule is for black teas bring the tea to the pot, and for others bring the pot to the tea. Make sense?)
I like my black teas to steep for 5 full minutes. Green teas steep less. Part of it is personal preference. I also like my black tea with just a little sugar, and a splash of milk. (Make a note of this for the next time I pay you a visit!)
In a perfect world I would enjoy a traditional English high tea everyday, complete with finger sandwiches of cucumber or salmon, and scones with Devonshire cream. (If you've never had a scone with strawberry jam and Devonshire cream, you are missing out!)
I hear someone snoring now, and since I can't stand that sound, I will take a hint and stop here. I'm sure I'm leaving things out. We'll see if Michele has anything to add to this...