Freelance contribution by: Lucy Wyndham
Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, following water. All over the globe, it’s renowned as medicinal, spiritual, and nourishing. As such, it’s taken very seriously. In Japan, there are complex ceremonies that revolve around the brewing, serving, and consumption of tea. In Great Britain, tea is almost vital each and every day. The art of brewing tea has been honed over many years to produce a perfect cup every time. If you, too, are serious about the taste, quality, and nourishment of tea, a simple set of rules can help you achieve the same perfection.
Start With High Quality Leaves
No matter how you brew it, if you start with a poor quality tea, the results will also be of poor quality. Use all of your senses in selecting a good variety: Choose one with a pleasing aroma, good color, and leaves that aren’t overly dry. Look for the year it was harvested and when it was packaged. Loose-leaf teas are almost always superior because they are fresher, whereas bagged varieties tend to have spent a lot of time in manufacturing and transit. Just because it’s safe to consume doesn’t mean it will taste the best. In addition to the tea itself, how it’s stored is also vital. Climate control is especially important, as exposure to excessive heat and humidity can spoil the leaves, as can exposure to light. Keep your tea sealed in an air-tight container away from sunlight, moisture, and heat to maintain the quality.
Use the Simple, Old-School Technique
The elements aren’t the only thing that can ruin tea leaves: The very way you prepare it can also make or break your final result. You don’t need fancy, high-tech equipment for brewing a perfect cuppa. Many people consider microwaving your tea akin to a sin, plus it’s hard to control the temperature. What you do need is a tea kettle or pot, an infuser (for loose leaf tea; it should be roomy so the tea isn’t packed in tightly), water (of course), and a little patience. Start by measuring out the correct ratio of water to tea. The general rule for all varieties is 2 grams of tea for every 150 milliliters of water. It’s best to use a kitchen scale if you have one, as some teas are less dense than others. Before brewing, pre-warming your kettle/pot comes first; a cold one drops the temperature of the water and interferes with the process.
Temperature and Brew Times
Even though it’s not required, you may want to go ahead and invest in a kitchen thermometer for the best results. If you don’t care to, that’s ok too. You can get in an acceptable range by bringing your water to boil and then adding a splash of cold water (make sure your final amount follows the ratio mentioned before). If you do choose to use a thermometer, dark teas work best in approximately 100 degrees Celsius, whites and yellows do well in the 60-80 degree range, and green tea is best at around 60.
One of the most important rules for brewing tea is to never boil the tea leaves. Bring your water to boil or desired temperature as indicated above, add your tea, and remove from the heat during the steeping process. If the tea leaves are boiled, not only does it ruin precious nutrients, but it also destroys the flavor and often leaves a bitter, unpleasant taste. The length of time to steep your tea is between 3-5 minutes, depending on your personal taste. If you like strong tea, steep for a longer period.
Teas are available in a nearly endless array of types and flavors, but without proper brewing, you may not be having the full experience. If you’re going to brew tea, it’s best to do it right: Your senses will thank you.
Photo is copyright under Creative Commons Generic License to the photographer Marco Secchi and is being posted unaltered (source)