Tea is nought but this; First you heat the water. Then you make the tea. Then you drink it properly. This is all you need to know. 


What are T Ching’s Tea Basics?

We often hear from tea lovers who feel challenged by brewing tea leaves vs. teabags. It can feel overwhelming. So I always like to begin with this quote from Rikyu. Brewing tea leaves doesn’t have to be difficult. And to that end, T Ching has published many different articles about tea basics. Here are a few excerpts from our archives. 

Babette's white tea poured from glass teapot into small white cup

We would also like to respond to your questions. Submit your “tea basics” questions. We’d love to have you inspire a new article on T Ching. 

How do you know the amount of dry tea? 

by James Norwood Pratt; Originally published on T Ching, Sept. 8, 2009

“One teaspoon of tea per person and one for the pot” is not graven on stone anywhere outside the tea companies’ prescriptions.  You alone can decide what’s too weak.  I go in dread of a Deadly Underdose myself and tend to err on the strong side, which means I use approximately 2.5 grams of dry black tea per cup.  With lighter-bodied teas – Darjeelings, say – I often use somewhat more, with thick-liquoring small-leaf teas somewhat less.  The only way I know to judge such fine gradations is by using a particular Francis I dessert spoon I’ve employed for the purpose these many years. 

Always use the same measuring spoon, I say, and you will pretty exactly know what you’re doing.  If not, not.  The tricky part of measuring tea is remembering that volume and weight are not identical.  A rounded teaspoon of small-leaf tea will weigh more than an identically-piled-up spoon of large-leaf tea.  It takes what looks like a mighty mound of white tea, for instance, to make a single cup.  Experience seems to be the only teacher.

weigh black tea on scale

Weighing Dry Leaf Tea 

As Norwood said in the previous tea brewing tip, measuring dry leaf with a spoon can be tricky because the shape of the all tea is not the same. Some large, twisty leaves take up more space than tightly rolled “pearls”. So one easy way to be consistent, especially when you’re comparing two different kinds of tea or when you’re brewing a new tea for the first time is to use a small gram scale like the one pictured.  (by Babette Donaldson)

My Favorite Tea Strainer

by Michelle Rabin (originally published on August 19, 2011)

Although I do most of my everyday brewing in small pots, I fell in love with the Tea Nest.  The craftmanship is impressive, with unexpected details that delight the user.  The underside of the base as well as the underside of the lid are examples of such details.

Tea Vine Tea Strainer

The wood is lovely to look at and feel, but most importantly, the basket strainer is large and provides an optimal amount of space for the leaves to unfurl.  This creates an unexpected aesthetic experience that can only enhance a delicious cup of tea.

Water Temperature

by James Norwood Pratt (Originally published on August 25, 2009)

Water that is just coming to a boil (212 degree Fahrenheit), or just off the boil, is ideal for black tea or most oolongs, though greener oolongs prefer lower temperatures.  Boiling water is much too hot for white and green teas, however.  Most green teas seem to taste best when steeped in water 30 to 40 degrees below boiling, which is to say, in the 170 to 185 degree Fahrenheit range.  At this temperature, the steam from the kettle rises in lazy, curling wisps rather than in a vertical column: let this be sign unto you.  If you acquire a taste for rare green teas, even this is too hot. 

The Chinese distinguish five stages of tea water as the boiling point is approached: “shrimp eyes,” the first tiny bubbles that start to appear on the surface of the kettle water, “crab eyes,” the secondary, larger bubbles, then “fish eyes,” followed by “rope of pearls,” and finally “raging torrent.”  Green teas require fish eyes or cooler; in fact, the Chinese think water too hot to pour into your palm is too hot to brew Biluochun, the finest Longjing, and their peers.  The rule to remember is the lower the temperature of the water, the longer the time you allow for steeping – not that green teas ever require very long.

green teapot and cup with green tea

Making Great Green Tea

by: Susan McKeen.  (Originally published March 19, 2007)

Green Tea continues to be the focus of media reports about its myriad benefits ranging from anti-cavity and anti-cancer to weight reduction and lower cholesterol. Consumers get excited about drinking it and most will sample at least one cup of green tea. Unfortunately, many find the flavor extremely distasteful. For some, it is truly a case of not liking green tea. However, many others have been subjected to a poorly made cup of stale green leaves that did nothing to display the true character of green tea.

A perfect cup of green tea starts with high-quality tea. The selection in Asian specialty stores, tearooms and on the internet is mind-boggling. If this is your first foray into green teas, start with an ounce or two of fresh green tea from a local teashop or international farmer’s market. Newcomers to green tea find Jasmine Green and Moroccan Mint pleasing. For a more seasoned tea drinker, try Lung Ching (Dragonwell) or Genmaicha.

No matter which green varietals you choose, the best way to test for freshness is to gently crush a pinch of tea in the palm of your hand and breathe in the aroma that is released. If the odor is faint or non-existent, the tea is most likely not fresh enough. Discard it. Another test for freshness is the color of the steeped tea. Dark gold or orange liquor is often an indication of low quality or old tea.

After selecting a fresh green tea, the second most important component is water. Quality and purity are essential. Tap water may be acceptable in some areas but often the chemicals added by water treatment facilities obscure the delicate taste of green teas. Use filtered or spring water whenever possible.

The most common mistake made while steeping is using water that is exceedingly hot. While black teas steep well in water at 200°F or higher, greens are scorched at these temperatures and yield a bitter beverage. For best results use water no hotter than 175°F. Some teas reach the peak of their taste at temperatures as low as 145°F. Experiment to see what suits your palate.

Steeping time for green teas ranges from one to three minutes. Three minutes is typical. Let your palate be your guide while you experiment with various infusion times. Good quality loose-leaf green tea can be re-infused three or more times.

Here Are Some Reasons To Consider Using An Electric Tea Kettle

by Kei Nishida (an excerpt from the original article published on April 3, 2019)

One great option for making tasty Japanese green tea is by using an electric tea kettle.  There are a couple of reasons to use an electric tea kettle.

Microwave Brewing is Not Exact and It Takes More Time

Microwaving your water to brew Japanese green tea takes more time than most electric tea kettles.  This is because you must keep swirling the water as it heats to get even temperatures.

Also, with microwave heating there is no easy way to ensure that you are getting the right temperature for brewing your tea.  For example, most Japanese sencha green tea is best brewed at 175 degrees Fahrenheit (79 degrees Celsius). Herbal teas taste best when steeped at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius).  Oolong teas are best brewed at 185 – 205 degrees Fahrenheit (85 to 95 degrees Celsius). (See a list of proper temperature by tea type here.)

Stovetop Brewing Is Not Exact for Proper Brewing Temperatures

Stovetop heating your water in a kettle may be a fast way to get hot water. However, much like microwave heating, it is difficult to ensure the correct temperature.

When you use the stovetop, the entire heating kettle becomes hot, including the handle.  This can lead to a burn. The conventional kettle can also pick up flavors and aromas from previous uses, impairing the pure green tea aroma and flavor.

OXO Electric Kettle Sitting on a Kitchen Counter

What Do I Use For Boiling Hot Water?

Readers often ask me what teapot I use to brew my tasty Japanese green tea.  For those who wonder, the tea ware that I currently use is the OXO BREW Cordless Glass Electric Kettle, Stainless Steel.