Cusa Tea

Over the years of camping, backpacking and overnight SUP trips, I have developed a habit of having a hot drink in the morning. As the outdoor industry has grown, coffee has developed from cowboy coffee to French press to instant brews and elaborate pour-overs. But coffee is not always my drink of choice. However, carrying around tea bags is inconvenient. They have exterior packaging to be packed out, and once your tea has steeped you are left with a soggy wad of tea to stow in your bag and carry back to civilization. Enter Cusa Tea, a premium instant tea. My mornings in the backcountry just improved infinitely.

Tea is nothing new; it’s been brewing for close to 4,000 years. So I found it hard to believe that Cusa Tea had reinvented the wheel using modern-day methods. They use what they call a Cold Steep Technology, something similar to cold-brewing coffee. This process uses room-temperature water and pressure to “brew” the tea over 8 hours to extract all the flavor. Then they vacuum dehydrate the cold brew to concentrate the tea until it will instantly dissolve in hot or cold water.

I’m not sure what I expected instant tea to taste like. My experience with instant coffee has been: “Well, that tastes like coffee, but not good coffee,” and I drink it because it’s all there is. This is not the experience with Cusa Tea; it tastes like the bold flavors of the loose-leaf tea I steep and press at home. But instead of waiting for the boiling water to work its magic, Cusa Tea is brewed to perfection in just 3 seconds.

Cusa Tea uses organic ingredients with no additives, fillers or sugar. They have six organic flavors, including English Breakfast, Oolong and Green Tea, but my personal favorite is the Spicy Chai, which combines cinnamon, cardamom, spicy black pepper and ginger for a real wake-me-up flavor and the spices that are so cozy in fall.

The perfect pairing for Cusa Tea is their 12oz double-walled vacuum insulated travel mug. The copper plating on the inner wall slows temperature transfer, keeping the heat in or out, depending on if your tea is hot or iced. Cusa Tea claims that the mug keeps drinks warm for 8 hours, though I can’t confirm, as I drink my tea long before that. The handle makes it easy to clip onto any backpack and ready to travel. My one complaint is that it doesn’t fit in a cup holder in my car, making me drive more carefully for fear of pouring boiling tea all over myself.

The packet is 4 inches by 1 inch and folds up flat once it’s empty. It’s a minimal amount to pack out, unlike traditional tea bags. To make the tea, tear open the tea-stick, pour it into a cup, add 12-14 ounces of water and watch it dissolve. A slight variation for iced tea: Dissolve the tea with a small amount of warm water, then add cold water and ice. It’s impossible to oversteep; you get a perfect cup every time.

Available online or at City Market and Clark’s Market.