Brewing the Perfect Cup of Tea
Methods of preparing tea are a matter of personal choice and preference. There is
no "right" way to prepare and serve tea, however, there are many customs and rituals
that are associated with drinking tea that have stemmed from many cultures primarily
China, Japan and the UK. Those who wish to follow these customs and rituals, can
often discover new experiences associated with the long history of drinking tea. The
Japanese tea ceremony is one of strict practices that takes years to master. Whether
you're planning a tea party, or simply love a good cup of tea yourself, here are some
helpful tips on brewing the perfect cup of tea.
How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea
Choose the Best Water
Use fresh water each time you prepare tea. Artesian spring water is preferred over
tap water. Tap water should be avoided due to municipal water treatments which add
chlorine and fluoride and can greatly affect the true flavor of your tea. Not all bottled
waters are created equal. Purified and spring waters differ in mineral content, and
therefore must be chosen based on personal taste. Never use hot tap water to speed
up the boiling process. This adds additional impurities from your homes water heater.
Choosing your water is the best place to start if you want to improve the flavor of your
teas. Prepare cups of tea side by side using different sources of water and taste the
Choose the Best Tea
Choosing the best tea is not always easy. Grocery stores generally only carry tea
bags filled with low quality tea leaves. Although they might seem like a bargain, these
"name brands" are not worthy of being consider tea. Health food stores are more
likely to carry teas marketed as gourmet but typically have a limited selection of
average tea. These teas are an improvement to that of your local grocery store,
however they are lacking true quality. When it comes to buying quality tea, visiting a
tea house is a great place to start sampling different teas. This try before you buy
method of discovery is always fun. However, until recently, tea houses were only
found in major cities. But with the ever growing demand for quality teas, new ones are
spreading throughout the west. Choosing a reputable supplier is important. Imperial
Tea Garden carries a wide selection of teas in all price ranges. Buying rare and
exotic teas from around the globe has never been so easy. Choose Imperial Tea
Garden and taste the difference.
How much tea should I use?
As a rule of thumb - - use 1-2 teaspoons per 8 ounce cup and gradually add more
tea to achieve the briskness and body of your choosing. For best results, be sure to
allow room for the water to circulate between the leaves for best results regardless of
which brewing apparatus you choose.
Aside from choosing the best water and tea leaves possible, Water temperature is the
most critical element in preparing the perfect cup of tea. Regardless of which
apparatus you choose to boil your water, remember to follow these guidelines when
starting out. Heat the water in a glass, ceramic or clay teapot until it reaches a boil
(212 degrees Fahrenheit) then allow the water to cool before brewing your tea.
Guideline: 180 degrees for green tea, 190 degrees for Oolong tea, 200 degrees for
This is especially important when preparing delicate green teas. These temperatures
can be increased following successive brews. Quality teas can often be steeped 2-3
Loose leaf in a teapot – This method of brewing tea allows for maximum freedom for
the leaves to unfurl. This makes for a stronger, more flavorful cup. The
disadvantages are removing the leaves, and cleaning the teapot after brewing. If the
tea is not served and allowed to infuse longer than necessary, the tea can become
The tea ball – Most tea balls are made from aluminum or stainless steel mesh to hold
the tea in place. This allows for easier cleanup of the leaves. However, there is
usually insufficient space for the tea leaves to expand and prevents water from
circulating freely around the tea leaves. Tea balls vary in sizes from one to three
Stainless-steel mesh infuser – This method is similar to the tea ball, however,
handles were added for easier handling and cleaning. The same disadvantages hold
true for the mesh infuser as do for tea balls.
Basket filters – Basket filters that fit most teacups and mugs can be used to make
individual cups of tea. They are made from plastic, stainless steel, or decorative
ceramics. Basket filters are also available to fit inside teapots. This method of
brewing tea allows the leaves to circulate freely. It also makes cleanup and disposal
easy. The downfall is that not all baskets fit all teapots.
Tea socks – Tea socks are a fabric enclosure and perform similar to the basket
filters. The disadvantages are that they stain and can retain the flavor and odor of
previous batches. If you switch between green tea and black tea this would not be
Tea press – The tea press is a glass enclosure with a mesh plunger that allows the
leaves to circulate freely while brewing and allows for compacting them to the bottom
before pouring. Tea presses are available in 2, 4, and 6-cup sizes. Be sure to size
correctly for your needs.
Brewing machines – Most coffee-brewing machine’s heat the water temperature
near boiling. Although this works well for coffee beans it’s not suited for brewing fine
tasting green tea or oolong tea. Specifically designed tea brewing machines are now
coming onto the market but at a premium cost.
After gauging the proper water temperature, the tea leaves are steeped in the water
using one of the methods listed above. Steeping tea leaves should be allowed to set
still during this process because excess motion can cause the release of more tannins
which can lead to bitter tasting tea. Do not steep tea for to long before serving when
brewing in a teapot. Many newer teapots have basket filters that can be removed
after the tea has steeped for the recommended time. Start with 1-3 minutes and
gradually increase the time to your preferred likeness. This is especially important
when preparing delicate green teas.
Host a Tea Party with assorted tea sandwiches and other snacks prepared ahead of
time. Use a tea warmer to keep freshly prepared tea warm for refills and be sure you
have mastered your preparation techniques. This is no time for guessing.
Enjoy your perfect cup of tea!
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