I want to remind all novices about the simplicity of brewing tea. I typically find that new comers to tea feel a bit overwhelmed by the process and I’d like to demystify it. Here’s the abridged version for the formula W+3T to the perfect cup.
W = water. If you don’t use good water, it’s impossible to make a delicious cup of tea. Please don’t underestimate the value of delicious, pure water: tea is 97% water. Remember that tea is hydrating, so don’t hesitate to use that bottled water that you’re consuming throughout the day.
The 3T’s are; Tea, steeping Time, and Temperature.
Again, the quality of the tea is extremely important. Look for fresh, whole leaf tea from a reliable source. Steeping time is provided by many sources. At T Ching, we use the suggested brewing times from the Specialty Tea Institute (STI.) We do note that steeping times are personal. We each have our preferences and mine aren’t better or more right than yours. Always, when trying a new tea, experiment with different times. It never hurts to begin with 30 seconds. It’s also a way to get to know about that particular tea. You’ll find each subsequent sip with increasing brew time will significantly change the flavor of the tea.
Temperature is another factor that demands your attention – specifically for whites and greens. Again I’d start with the recommended temperatures as set by the STI. Remember that it’s important to avoid the boil for the delicate greens and whites. Some tea drinkers will allow the water to boil and then cool it to the desired temperature. Remember, though, that boiled water is water that has lost some of it’s vital oxygen and those with experienced palates will note a flat-tasting cup of tea.
I’ve written more extensively about each aspect of this formula W+3T= the perfect cup of tea, but I hope this condensed version will inspire you to read further as you continue your education on the leaf. I’m still surprised when I meet someone who considers himself or herself to be a tea drinker and when I ask what tea they’re drinking, it’s typically a fruit blended tea from Tazo or Republic of Tea. While both of these are good tea companies, consumers drinking their delicious fruit blended teas have no idea what orthodox tea actually tastes like. The fruits and other flavors in Tazo tea allow it to be placed directly into boiling water, where the fruit will disguise the resulting (unwanted) cooked flavor of the green or white tea, if it was used. And, if black tea is used, the bitterness will also be hidden by the fruit. If you want a hot fruit drink, this works just fine. If you want to discover the sweet and subtle flavors of fresh green or white tea, you must use whole leaf, orthodox tea from a reputable dealer, and attend carefully the steeping temperature and time. An analogy to wine might be the comparison of “wine coolers” or wine sold in a box, to a fine, aged wine in a bottle, complete with cork. Setting aside the discussion of synthetic corks for the moment . . . there’s no comparison between the quality and experience of the two wine products.