You’ve heard the expression – it’s not my cup tea? Well, here are some tips on how to make what is your cup of tea. Decisions are very personal, and we are each the ultimate authority on what is the best tea in our own cup. The following recommendations are based on our personal experience and what has been the experience of many tea drinkers we know. The final arbiter of a good cup of tea is your own personal taste.

The universal requirements are time and attention. The essential ingredients are tea and water. The way a cup of tea is made is determined in large part by the leaves that are being brewed. The five types of processed tea leaves that you can buy are white, green, oolong, black, and pu’erh. The type of tea that the leaf will yield is determined by how the leaves are processed. Green tea leaves are allowed to wither and then are steamed or heated and not allowed to oxidize, the chemical process that turns the leaves brown or black. Black teas are allowed to fully oxidize. Oolongs are oxidized anywhere from 8 percent to 85 percent. White tea is sun-dried immediately after picking or taken indoors and heated on a low heat. Pu’erh leaves are truly fermented during the processing.

The ultimate goal of making a cup of tea is to make tea that is exactly what you like best. The secret of doing this is to be able to repeat your own method time and again. So once you choose your tea, measure it carefully, so that you can first determine how much to use, and then be able to use the same amount consistently. You can use the palm of your hand, a teaspoon, or a special tea scoop. If you have a scale, three grams is a good amount for most teas.

The best water to use is water drawn fresh from the spring in the early dawn hours, preferably from the same area where the tea was grown. Since that method isn’t available to most of us, we have to make some other choice. Many people prefer spring water even if it comes to us in a plastic or glass bottle. The minerals add body and can enrich the flavor of teas. Spring water also lacks the chemicals that have been added to the water that flows out of our faucets. Some filters take the minerals as well as the chemicals out. Distilled water is without flavor. Over time you may notice that some types of water taste better to you than others.

Once you decide what water to use, heat it up. Black tea likes to steep in water at 205 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Green teas give their flavors at about 175 to 185 degrees, in just 2 to 3 minutes. A fine green tea leaf will taste stewed if brewed too hot. White teas can be brewed at 185 degrees, for 2 to 6 minutes. Oolongs prefer to be brewed at temperatures between 180 and 195 degrees. The greener the oolong, the lower the temperature, and times vary widely, experiment. Remember, it’s your cup of tea.

Taken from Donna Fellman and Lhasha Tizer’s Tea Here Now.