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Published September 18, 2013, 10:00 PM

Steeping the benefits: More options give tea broader appeal

FARGO – A few times a week, Jenna Miller and a co-worker share a pot of loose-leaf green tea. They call their afternoon ritual “high tea.” “Pinkies up!” the 26-year-old Fargo woman says.

By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM

Fargo – A few times a week, Jenna Miller and a co-worker share a pot of loose-leaf green tea.

They call their afternoon ritual “high tea.”

“Pinkies up!” the 26-year-old Fargo woman says.

Miller drinks tea for several reasons – to cut back on coffee, to increase her water intake, to help her lose weight and to help her sleep at night.

She’s one of many tea drinkers in the area who are sipping more of the stuff and experimenting with new ways to use it.

Vicky Jo Bogart, known as “The Tea Lady,” is one of a few who say it’s increased in popularity.

“The closet tea drinkers have emerged,” she says.

In her public and private classes, she teaches that there’s more to tea-making than dunking a bag in a cup of hot water.

For some, it’s an art.

There’s a method to choosing the right blend and tweaking the amount of leaves, the temperature of the water and the steep time.

“It’s almost like wine or craft beer – people love the idea of trying different things and experimenting with it and finding their own particular blends that they like,” says Greg Danz, owner of Zandbroz Variety.

In the downtown Fargo boutique, ornate tins from brands like The Tao of Tea and The Republic of Tea line a back wall.

Tea drinkers are no longer limited to simple varieties. There’s green tea, red tea, dessert tea, tea made with the rooibos plant, thistle and carob.

“Tea has really kind of blossomed in the time we’ve been selling it,” Danz says.

A tea for everything

Bogart hopes to continue spreading the word about tea and its uses.

The Fargo woman has spent years researching the healing properties of tea, but she starts classes with a disclaimer: “Check your sources and check with your doctor.”

But Bogart has plenty of stories of improved health through tea drinking.

One woman repeated her class three times.

“At the end of three months, she said, ‘The only thing I’ve changed is I started drinking tea, and my cholesterol has been lowered,’ ” she says.

It has subtler effects, too.

Miller likes chamomile teas for relaxation, specifically Bedtime from Yogi, to help her wind down before bed. She uses green tea and spearmint tea to aid her weight-loss efforts.

She can’t make any specific claims because she eats well, exercises and uses other supplements, “But I do feel like the teas help with it, for what it’s worth,” she says.

Danz says tea shoppers pick up tins for all kinds of uses. The Republic of Tea makes it easy with its Be Well Red collection – Get Happy, Get Gorgeous, Get Some ZZZ’s.

“When we used to think of drinking tea, you’d either drink it as a replacement for coffee or you’d drink it for stress relief, but now teas run the whole gamut,” he says.

Gadgets and gizmos

In the north end of West Acres mall, Creative Kitchen carries every tool you need to fully enjoy the benefits of tea.

There, Judy Hannestad sells tea kettles, pots, cozies, balls, infusers and squeezers. You can even take tea to go with special travel mugs, also available at Zandbroz.

Danz says the mesh infusers included with the travel mugs make quality tea without a mess.

“With super-fine mesh, you get a full-flavored tea without any leaked tea,” he says.

Storage also has an impact on taste, much like coffee, wine or olive oil.

Bogart says there’s a reason high-quality teas are sold in tins.

“It’s like an herb – you want to keep it away from direct sunlight, away from heat and moisture, so not above your stove or next to foods that have strong flavors, and never in your refrigerator,” she says, adding that she won’t buy tea if it’s stored in a clear jar.

Tea won’t go “bad,” but its flavors and effects will diminish over time.

However, Bogart’s biggest pet peeve just may be the bag left in the cup.

“If you leave them in there, you will get a bitter tea, and that’s why most people don’t like tea,” she says.

Generally, the finer the leaf, the less time it needs to steep. She says white teas are particularly delicate.

White, black, green or red, there’s a tea for every taste, and with more varieties on the market and more ways to drink it, it’s become easier to find.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590

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