Stand on Ceremony
Tea, much like coffee, has an air of custom to it. Whether you envision a Japanese tea ceremony like this from The Karate Kid Part II or a British afternoon tea like this at The Ritz London or just a relaxing cup and some cookies with a friend, drinking tea is a way to refresh yourself morning, afternoon, or evening.
Brewing the Perfect Cup or Pot
When brewing tea, there are a few things to take into consideration. Each type of tea—black, white, green, oolong, or herbal/tisane—has different needs when brewing. From how hot the water should be to how long the leaves should steep will be determined by which tea you are brewing. There are no hard and fast rules for brewing any of these teas, however here are some guidelines. And remember to make sure your water tastes good as it will have an effect on the flavor of your tea.
Black – Black teas—English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Darjeeling are some examples—are called such by Westerners due to the color of the fermented leaves. The Chinese call it “red tea” for the color of the liquid. When brewing black tea, the water should be boiling and you should steep your black tea for around three to five minutes. The general rule of thumb for the amount of loose leaf tea to use is one teaspoon per cup. If you are brewing a pot of tea, use one teaspoon per cup plus one for the pot. Of course, this is based on your taste. If you want a stronger tea use more leaves or if you prefer a weaker tea, use less.
White – White tea is a very delicate tea which tends to be a little intimidating to some tea drinkers. When brewing, the ideal temperature for white tea is just off the boil, anywhere between 160°F to 180°F. Without a thermometer, you can get close enough to this temperature by boiling your water then allowing it to sit for a couple of minutes. Once you have the right temperature, allow the tea to steep from one to five minutes. Some white teas take up to ten minutes, so keep this in mind and adjust the time according to your taste. Depending on how your tea comes to you will determine how much to use. If you have buds only, use two teaspoons per cup. When it is fluffy leaves, two tablespoons is more appropriate. If it is a mixture of the two, buds and leaves, somewhere between the two amounts would likely give the best flavor.
Green – Green teas like Gunpowder or Tencha are from the same plant as the black teas. Instead of fermenting them, they are steamed and dried (Japanese) or roast/fire dried (Chinese). The flavor of green teas is light and a little bitter. This bitterness can be overpowering if the leaves are left to steep too long. For most Japanese green teas, steeping them for 30 seconds to two minutes will be plenty of time. If you choose to reinfuse (use the leaves a second time) an even shorter steep would be appropriate. For the Chinese green teas, you will get the best flavor when you brew them for two to three minutes. Depending on your taste, up to four minutes on some of these teas would be fine. Like the white teas, the temperature of your water should be somewhere between 160°F to 180°F. One teaspoon of tea per cup is ideal.
Oolong – Oolong tea is a partially fermented tea with large leaves. Like white tea and green tea, oolong has a delicate flavor. For this tea, boiling water is best. The amount of tea you will need depends on what type of tea you have. For rolled tea use one teaspoon while leaf tea may need up to two tablespoons. Due to the flavor of oolong tea, steeping times will vary. They taste best after steeping somewhere between one to five minutes. You may want to start tasting the tea around one minute and then check every thirty seconds until you find the right strength for you.
Herbal/Tisane – Because herbal teas and tisanes are made from different plants, each requires its own brew time. You should always follow the instructions from the manufacturer or supplier and adjust according to your own taste. Use boiling water to extract the flavors from the herbs. Like the other teas above, you should measure one teaspoon to two tablespoons of tea per cup. Unlike the other teas, herbal teas can take quite some time to steep. You will see times of anywhere from ten minutes to twenty minutes. You may want to taste test around the eight-minute mark and keep tasting every minute until you get to the flavor that is perfect for you.
Making tea is fairly easy, as you can see. There are not many strict necessities in order to make a great cup of tea. Some tools that may be useful are the following:
- Teapot – Although not necessary, a teapot is a great way to make more than one cup of tea at a time. Remember, when measuring out your tea, the general rule is one teaspoon per cup and one for the pot.
- Kettle – You can boil your water in a saucepan, but a kettle is a little quicker. Electric kettles are faster still.
- Thermometer – If you are a stickler about the temperature of your water, make sure you have one of these.
- Cup or mug – Of course! Any one will do.
- Infuser – Though not entirely necessary, an infuser is an easy way to steep your tea without finding a strainer. NOTE: A strainer would work just fine. Also, a French press would do in a pinch.
There are some tea purists who don’t wish to add anything to their tea, but for those who prefer to sweeten or otherwise flavor their teas, here are some options.
- Sweetener – You can sweeten your tea with just about anything. Honey is an ideal choice, but any of the sugars (refined, coconut, etc.) or some flavored syrups would do just fine. Agave syrup is surprisingly tasty as a sweetener.
- Milk – Yes, there are people who add milk to their tea. When making a black tea that you are planning on putting milk (and possibly sugar) in, make sure you make it a little stronger so you still get the flavor of the tea.
Speaking of making your tea stronger, it is not advised to steep your tea for a longer period of time. This will only add more bitterness to your tea. Instead, use more tea leaves (or less water) and steep for the same amount of time as suggested above.
What Tea Should I Use?
That is entirely up to you. As mentioned above, there are many teas to choose from at Parker’s Cup. Whether you prefer a black tea, a green tea, or an herbal tea, we are sure to have something you love. Check out our Gourmet Tea section today.
Remember, how you drink your tea is a personal choice. You may like a strong and slightly bitter tea or a weaker and sweeter tea. There really are no rules. Do a little experimenting and find your perfect combination.