Making Life Beau-tea-ful: Meet Gabrielle Bagtas Living for the Aesthetic of Brewing Tea

After junior Gabrielle Bagtas cold brews Butterfly Pea Flower tea, she pours it into a plastic cup. She focuses on adding the right amount of flavors to enhance the taste of the tea. “I really love changing up traditional and herbal teas into drinks that are more modern,” Bagtas said. “I think out of all the tea experiments I have done, I love making the color-changing tea.” Photo Credit: Gabrielle Bagtas
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With the sweet aromas of herbal tea filling the kitchen, junior Gabrielle Bagtas brews her favorite blend. Colors swirl around in her French press as she pushes the strainer inside of the cup down, squeezing the cool toned colors out of the flower petals. Although Bagtas is in the culinary program, she doesn’t brew tea for a grade. The beauty and history of tea entices her to enjoy the process. 

My favorite part about experimenting with any food or drink is finding ways to improve something and comparing end products,” Bagtas said. “I feel kind of like a scientist, but I get to eat after each experiment. I’m also trying to get into aesthetics in the kitchen, and when I first ordered Earl Grey Loose Leaf Tea, I was infatuated by the smell. Teas are super colorful and versatile, so I started playing with them.”

Bagtas began baking cakes in her freshman year, where she first discovered her interest in experimenting with all kinds of food products, from pastries to coffee.

“I tried making coffee look pretty, but I found out real quick that latte art is difficult,” Bagtas said. “I got a super bad caffeine withdrawal from all the lattes and espressos I made, but I love to make it all look aesthetic.” 

After moving on from the coffee phase, Bagtas began exploring different teas. She usually settles for tea from Harney and Sons out of a wide variety of store brands. 

 “The grocery store brands I’ve found use weaker and duller flavors, so I get it off of Amazon,” Bagtas said. “I feel bad about it [though] because supporting the local economy is better, but there’s more of a selection from Amazon because there’s brands from different countries to choose from.”

Bagtas uses both classic and unique flavors in her tea such as Earl Grey and Passion Fruit tea. After her orders arrive, she places the loose tea leaves into her French press and pours room temperature or cold water into it to create a cold brew.

“I like brewing tea cold more than hot because the flavor is usually sweeter and more gentle,” Bagtas said. “Hot teas always have a stronger flavor because of the temperature, but heat actually scalds or burns the tea leaves. So, it releases bitter and burnt compounds.”

Among the teas that Bagtas has brewed, there have been some gross ones such as Green tea, Matcha, and Valerian tea.

“I tried to make my own Matcha tea a couple of times, but the color of it is so ugly,” Bagtas said. “It’s like a muddy green, but that’s because I only have culinary matcha and not the ceremonial one. The matcha I see online is super bright, vibrant and sharp, so I’m going to get some ceremonial matcha off of Amazon.”

One amazing find Bagtas made was Butterfly Pea Flower tea, which is one of her favorites to brew due to the change in colors. It’s a caffeine free herbal tea created from the decoction of flower petals of the Clitoria Ternatea Plant. 

“When I was like 7 years old I saw a YouTube video about this color changing tea. It looked really cool, but I never thought I would do it myself. Now here I am making it,” Bagtas said. “It has a really plain flavor, almost like Green Tea, but it can change tea from blue to purple if lemon is added. When I was trying to change the color, I didn’t use too much lemon juice, but it was really cool to see because all I added was lemon.”

After discovering the Butterfly Pea Flower tea, Bagtas doesn’t see herself stopping her experiments any time soon. Each week she tries out another new tea, trying to make it taste, look, and smell better with each time. 

“I’d like to get some high quality teas one day, since I have only tried a few,” Bagtas said. “To be honest, I’m trying to get into drinks of all kinds. I want to make my own kind of home cafe in the future, that way I can make everything aesthetic in my own home instead of having to go out and buy a drink.”
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