Turkey. England. China.
Tea is such an integral part of so many cultures, it’s no surprise that there’s some debate over how the drink is best served. Turkish tea is brewed up strong, no milk allowed. English tea just wouldn’t be English tea without the milk. In China, tea is so sacred, it has its own ceremony.
If there is one thing all tea cultures agree upon, it’s that the brew process is vital. So, no matter how you take it, follow these tips to brew up a perfect cup of tea every time.
Selecting the Right Tea and Proper Tea Storage
The perfect cup of tea begins long before you put the water on to boil. True tea enthusiasts would never be caught with bagged tea in their cupboards, but tea bags are a perfectly acceptable tea option for busy tea lovers.
The downside of bagged tea is that using pre-measured bags takes away your control over how much tea you use in your brew, making it more difficult to get it “just right”.
Whether you use lose or bagged tea, though, storage is important. Store in airtight, non-clear containers in a cool, dry place to prevent smells from being absorbed and changing the tea’s flavor.
The Right Water for Tea
If you have quality tap water, there’s no reason not to use cold water straight from the tap. If you have hard water in your home, though, or funny-flavored water you don’t drink by itself, don’t use it for your tea. It will annihilate the flavor. Instead, use filtered water if you drink filtered tap water, or bottled water.
Water Temperatures by Tea Type
Different teas brew best at different temperatures. Brewing at the proper temp ensures that tea gets maximum extraction for fullest flavor without a bitter taste. For best results, follow the following rules for brewing:
- Black and Herbal –boiling water
- Oolong –water just below a boil (approximately 195 degrees)
- Green and White – water between 160 and 185 degrees
Tea Amounts & Steep Times by Tea Type
Using the proper amount of tea per cup is key to a perfect brew. When using bagged tea, this is simple. Stick to one tea bag per cup.
For loose leaf tea, one teaspoon per cup is the general rule. For strong tea, increase the amount to one tablespoon per cup.
Steep tea according to type:
- Black – 3-5 minutes
- Oolong – 3-5 minutes
- Herbal – 5-7 minutes
- Green – 2-3 minutes
- White – 1-3 minutes
Make Tea Your Own
Once you know the general rules for tea-making, throw them out the window. The perfect cup of tea is the one that best suits your taste, so don’t hesitate to increase or decrease the amount of tea you use per cup.
When working out your perfect tea amount/brew time, make alterations to the amount of tea you use, not the time you steep it.
Since ideal steep time and water temperature for teas are designed to bring about maximum extraction and flavor, its best to hold to those rules first.
Of course, in the end, the taste of the tea is all that matters, so steep as you see fit. Maybe you like a slightly bitter tang to your tea, and that’s quite all right. Don’t let anyone quash your personal tea pride.
Ultimate Tea Brewing Tips
A proper tea brewing method will bring your tea close to perfection. If you’re ready to take it to the next level, incorporate these tips into your process –
Tip 1: Get several small canisters, and mark them.
Keep one canister for each tea type, and don’t mix it up. Protect tea from moisture, air and light to retain its original flavor.
Tip 2: Use a thermometer.
Oh, yeah, it’s anal. Are you worried about OCD, or do you want perfect tea?
If you’re a full-time black tea drinker, you can do without it. If you drink green or white, a thermometer is the best way to get it just right.
Tip 3: Use a timer.
Stop trusting your own clock-watching. Get your steep time just right every time by setting a timer and staying by your brewing tea’s side. It’s only 3 to 5 minutes. Isn’t it worth the time?
Once you’ve got your perfect brewing technique down, it’s time to apply it to iced tea as well. Instead of making a full pitcher of tea and letting it sit in your refrigerator, start flash chilling tea for a freshly-brewed iced tea taste.