Brewing tea can be as simple or as complex as you like. To many, the ritual is as important as the final cup. To others, the final cup reigns, regardless of how they got there. Although there are a few general guidelines to follow, you should explore and find a brewing method that suits your style.
Tea should be treated like a delicate food, similar to coffee. Tea maintains its peak freshness and flavor when stored in a dry, airtight container. If it is not kept in an airtight container, it will loose its aroma quicker, or it may even pick up other nearby odors.
Tea Pot & Utensils
Tea pot, infuser, & cup add a great deal to the overall experience of your cup of tea. Try different methods and utensils, to find out what works best for you. A word of caution: If you are using a tea ball or similar infuser, don't fill it more than half full. The leaves will double in size as they retain water; If they don't have room to expand, allowing water to flow through and around them, there will not be an efficient extraction.
Always use fresh, cold water. If the tap water where you live is distasteful due to hardness or treatment, consider using bottled water or a filter system. Never use softened water! Remember, if the water doesn't taste good, the coffee won't either.
Tea is different than coffee, in that it needs a hotter temperature to get an exact extraction. When brewing black teas, bring water to a full, rolling boil (always preheat the cup or the pot by filling with hot water for a few minutes, then pouring it out), and pour it directly into the cup or the tea pot . For oolongs, bring the water just to the boiling point. For green tea, water below the boiling point is used. The greener the tea, the more delicate it is, and thus the lower temperature.
Proportion of Tea to Water
The amount of tea used will vary depending on the method of brewing, as well as difference in individual taste. An standard amount we reccomend is 1 teaspoon of tea to every (8 oz.) cup of water.
Brew Time & Leaf Size
The main variable you have to take into account when fixing a great cup of tea, is the size of the leaf. The larger the leaf, the longer you must steep it; the smaller the leaf, the more surface it exposes to the water, and the more quickly the priceless liquid is drawn out. Dust, which is only used in tea bags, and is the very smallest grade of leaf, yields an infusion almost instantly! Being so fine, dust also releases virtually all the tea's tannin (it can be overpowering) if the tea is steeped too long.
Here is a guideline of brewing times for different types of teas:
|Tea Bags and
Small Leaf Teas:
|All other Loose
and Black Teas:
Here is a brief glossary of tea-related terms to aid in your search for that beautiful, calming, thought-provoking, stimulating, reflective, magical, perfect cup of tea...
- Agony of the leaves:
- Tea taster's expression, descriptive of the unfolding of the leaves when boiling water is applied.
- High grade India tea, grown in the Assam Province, in northeast India.
- Denotes that both the tea leaf and infusion have one of a certain number of smell, which are highly valued. Such aroma is connected with flavor and is highly fragrant.
- An undesirable taint found in both the dry leaf and the liquor of teas withered on inferior hessian (cloth used for bags).
- A pleasant aroma found in the leaf or liquor of well fired Assam tea.
- Not a taste, but the astringent puckeriness that gives black tea its refreshing quality.
- Black Tea:
- Any tea that has been thoroughly fermented before being fired (also see Green or Oolong tea - below).
- A mixture of two or more different teas.
- Signifies the weight of the liquor in the mouth. A good body has both fullness and strength, as opposed to a thin Liquor.
- An unpleasant tang created by underwithering (see Processing Tea).
- Sparkling liquor characteristic of all fine teas.
- A "live," not flat liquor. Usually of pungent character.
- Both black and green teas are made in Sri Lanka, but the blacks predominate. They are known by the name of the district, and are further identified by marks from specific gardens (plantations).
- Chinese word for "tea."
- Original tea package; usually made of wood and aluminum lined. India and Ceylon teas are packed in "chests" and sometimes in "half chests".
- color of liquor which varies from country to country, and district to district. Liquor color will also vary according to type of tea - green, oolong, or black (see Tea Types).
- A general term used to describe all China Black teas, irrespective of district.
- Tea liquor with certain undesirable characteristics resulting from coarse leaf or irregular firing.
- The finest and most delicately flavored of the India teas. Grown chiefly in the Himalaya Mountains at elevations ranging from 2,500 - 6,500 feet.
- Liquor not clear and bright, as applied to the infused leaf. Also used to apply to dry leaf which is dull in appearance due to faulty processing (see Processing Tea).
- The smallest siftings resulting from the sieving process, being leaf practically reduced to a fine powder. It is used mostly in tea bags.
- A liquor taste found in tea which was stored under damp conditions.
- English Breakfast:
- A name originally applied to China Congou in the United States. It is now used to include blends of black teas in which the China character predominates.
- A property or holding, which is comprised of a garden or plantation under one management or ownership.
- Poorly processed leaf that is flat and easily broken (see Processing Tea).
- Piquant quality characteristic of good oolongs, Keemuns, etc.
- Green Tea:
- Tea that is fired and dried immediately after the leaves are plucked from the plant. This is uniquely different than both oolong and black teas, which are both fermented to different degrees before firing.
- A fine grade of black tea from Central China; also imitated with considerable success in recent years in Formosa. Keemun is a fine quality China Black, hand rolled and basket fired, in contrast to the common Black China types which are machine rolled and machine fired.
- Oolong Tea:
- Tea that is partially fermented before firing and drying. It is processed in a manner which gives it characteristics of both green and black teas (see also Black or Green teas - above).
- The steaming and heat-drying of the tea leaves after they are fermented (black and oolong teas), or immediately after they are plucked from the plant (green teas). This process kills the enzymes which cause fermenting, and remove all but about 2% of the moisture from the leaves(see Processing Tea).
- Astringent; it's what gives tea its bite.
- Gives tea its pungency and much of its aroma and flavor. Not the same as tannic acid.
- Smokey flavor associated with Lapsang Souchong, because it is withered and dried over pine fires.