Every tea drinker needs to learn two ways to make tea: the right way and the fast way. I’d like to think I practice the first way more often, but let’s face it: When it comes to early mornings, I’m usually in a competition with the clock and running around my apartment like a madwoman. For when I’m on the ball, though, I like to do it the right way.
THE PERFECT CUP
The key to the perfect cup of tea is attention to detail. At every step, you have to be attending your tea. The whole process doesn’t take more than 10 minutes, but your focus cannot waver.
1. Decide the tea.
Before you touch a tea kettle, infuser, or packet of sugar, you need to pick what type of tea you will be drinking. The different types have different steep times and temperatures, which will affect the process.
2. Heat the water.
The best way to heat water is with a tea kettle, although there are plenty of other ways that I discussed yesterday. The kettle, though, gives you precise control of how hot the water is, which is important because different teas need to be brewed at different temperatures. The numbers aren’t exactly agreed upon, but in general, water should be nearly at a boil for black and oolong tea and around 175-180°F for green and white teas. Art of Tea provides a good breakdown of these temperatures.
3. Prepare the tea.
For each cup, you will want one tea bag or one teaspoon of loose-leaf tea (hence the “tea” in “teaspoon.”) If you go the tea-bag route, try to get a pyramid-shaped bag, which gives the tea more space to expand as it brews.
Loose-leaf tea needs to be put in a strainer or infuser that allows water to pass through. I have a teapot with a nifty strainer in it that I can pull out when the tea is finished brewing.
The tea leaves or tea bag should always go in the cup first and the hot water poured over them. This will make the brewing faster and make your tea more flavorful. Like water temperature, brewing times vary based on tea type. Green tea has the shortest brewing time of only about 30 seconds to a minute. Black and oolong tea should be about three to five minutes. If you want to get it just right, use a timer. If not, you may over-brew your tea, and it will taste bitter.
Read the newspaper, go on your iPad, sit outside and listen to the birds. You’ve now made the perfect cup of tea. Enjoy it in all its glory.
THE FAST CUP
Now, everything I just told you—the patience, the attention to detail, the strict rules—throw that out the window. Instead of a calm, peaceful morning, you overslept and are rushing to get ready for work. (If you’re a night owl like me, this phenomenon is all too common). Sometimes you need to make tea the quick and dirty style. The process is much simpler:
- Fill your cup or mug with water.
- Put the water in the microwave or a water heater.
- Heat up the water.
- Put in a tea bag or loose-leaf infuser.
- Let it brew for a few minutes and enjoy.
In the world of tea, not all cups are created equal, but sometimes you just need to make one on the go. Join me tomorrow as I wrap up my “How To Tea” blog series with some key advice for tea drinkers.