When we talk about anything that involves personal taste, fashion, books, films, food, or drink, for example, there is no standard set of rules and this guide is no different. Take what you can from this, from one tea lover to another.
I will try to keep this as interesting as possible but don’t hesitate to tell me if I’m failing and I’ll try to do better the next time.
“Why should I listen to you Ken?”
Probably because I’m a Brit!
In Britain, according to the University of Northumberland, on average, we prepare our first cup of tea at the age of seven and a half years old. This is the part of the reason that in the UK, we consume a staggering 165 million cups of tea per day (not each of course).
Now there are many ways of making tea but it needn’t be a complicated matter. It will differ slightly, depending on the method you choose to infuse your tea, but in my experience, this is a simple way to make your perfect cup of tea.
The following is a 10 point check-list that you can use in its entirety or just select the parts you like:
1. Use the best quality tea
You can ruin a quality tea if you are not preparing it correctly, but no good infusion technique can improve a bad tea. Use a good tea merchant who will always provide the best quality tea and you too can enjoy your tea as much as this young lady.
Also, always keep your tea in a container to protect it from light and odours, otherwise you could end up with a tea that smells of last night’s fish and chips, or worse if it is near the cat litter … not good!
Obviously, this is not a concern if you buy your tea at Steeping Times 🙂
2. Always use fresh water
The largest ingredient in a cup of tea is water, so always uses the best quality available. If you are using tap water, then let the tap run for a short period to avoid drinking horrible things that lurk in the pipes or better still, use a filtration system. This is especially important if you live in a hard water area.
For the best quality, however, do what the Queen of England does for her Earl Grey tea in the afternoon, use bottled water. How do I know this? I’ve searched through the trash at Buckingham Palace, of course!
Keep in mind that boiling water for too long makes it very flat and bland, and do not boil water twice.
Try to get a good quality teapot and always heat it with hot water before you use it. This can make a great difference because when you pour in the water, it will remain hot for contact with the tea. Thick teapots retain heat better than thin teapots.
If you brew tea for one person because you have no friends, think about buying a mug infuser instead of using those useless ball infusers; tea needs space to open up, allowing for a better brew.
4. Amount of tea
One rounded teaspoon of loose tea, or one tea bag, per person, is the norm, but that may be different for some teas, so make sure you check your tea merchants recommendations. There are brewing instructions for each tea on the Steeping Times site obviously.
If you are using a teapot it may help to measure its capacity in terms of cups, so you can add the right amount of tea to the pot. It is also a good idea to be fairly accurate when you first start brewing a new tea, then you will know whether to alter the amount of tea according to your personal taste.
5. Bring the pot to the kettle
Strange? Not really when you consider that the water will cool down by the time you reach the pot and the water should be boiling, not simmering!. If brewing black tea, pour boiling water directly over the tea. For other teas, white, green, oolong, etc, the water temperatures need to be lower so check out the chart below for a guide.
In addition, it can be dangerous to transport hot water around the house, especially if for some strange reason, you keep your teapot in the shed at the bottom of the garden.
6. Stir the tea
This is an important step; A gentle stir helps separates the tea leaves which
allows them to infuse fully using all the available space. A British ritual!
7. Cover the pot
Just to be clear, this isn’t to hide it from the frequently visiting neighbours you are trying to discourage. Covering the pot keeps the temperature up. If you do not possess a good tea cosy, using a folded towel or a woollen hat. Don’t use dirty socks! Remember tea is like a sponge for odours.
Another alternative is to keep the pot warm on a special hotplate that is heated by a tealight. A word of warning though, the tea will stew and taste extremely bitter if you don’t remove the tea leaves from the pot that you are keeping warm, so make sure you remove them first.
8. Be patient
Good tea takes time to fully infuse. The colour comes first, then the strength and finally the flavour. A good sign of a great quality tea is that you can let it steep longer without it becoming bitter to taste. The exception to this is for green tea, which usually is better infused for no longer than 3 minutes.
The steeping time depends on the type of tea but you should start with 4-5 minutes for black teas. You can always change the infusion time slightly for the next brew to find your personal preference, so don’t be afraid to experiment. As a side note, often it is a better strategy to increase the amount of tea for a stronger taste.
Tea bags take less infusing, 2-3 minutes, as they are generally produced using lower quality dust and fannings (smaller pieces) of tea to enable faster infusions.
9. Pour the tea
When the tea is ready, remove the leaves immediately, or use a tea strainer if there is no filter in the teapot, and pour the tea half into each cup from left to right and then fill the cups from right to left. This ensures that each cup will have the same strength and the same heat.
In addition, thinner cups and mugs are preferable to thicker ones.
10. Add milk, Honey, Sugar or lemon or anything else if desired
Personally, I always drink my tea without anything added, but it is a matter of personal preference and there is nothing wrong with adding milk, sugar, lemon, etc; nobody will laugh at you.
As I previously mentioned, you should try different ways to make your tea, so do not be afraid to experiment with these additions too. Honey can be very good, but onions are a no-no; although for centuries the Chinese would flavour their teas with sweet onions or salt!
11. Other Considerations
Yes, I know I said 10 steps, but there are also a few other considerations:
Milk First Or Last?
If you are using teabags directly in a cup, always add the milk once the tea bag has been removed otherwise the milk cools the water too much for the tea to brew properly.
Do You Need To Be Cool?
White teas, green and oolong require cooler water, so boil the water normally and then as a rough guide, let it sit for 2 minutes before pouring it onto green tea and 1 minute for oolong teas and white teas.
Herbal teas are not technically teas because they come from completely different plants, but you can infuse them in exactly the same way. These can often be infused for much longer, according to your taste of course.
What About You?
How do you brew your favourite tea? Did this guide help you achieve a better tasting brew? Do you have any tips or ideas you’d like to share? Please leave a comment or at least rate this guide using the stars below. In fact, why not show me some real love and share this with your tea-loving friends using the beautifully infused buttons below?
Don’t hesitate to contact me for any further information or advice… not about marriage though, I never give marriage guidance, oh no no.
Now go and make some tea and have a Steeping Time!