In the Eastern World, tea brewing is a spiritual and artful experience. Apart of those cultures, that requires respect and reverence, depicting the quality of the person and the family that is serving the beverage. Undoubtedly, brewing a cup of tea for one’s morning or evening cup of tea is an experience of preference.
Each tea presents it’s own unique flavors and medicinal qualities, and the brewing of each tea has everything to do with the quality of those particular facets. Whether one enjoys commercially packaged teas, in bag form, or freshly stored tea leaves, in their natural state, following the directions helps to insure a refreshing cup of tea.
If your tea is commercially packaged follow the directions on the package. Most teas purchased in bag form direct one to steep from 1 to 5 minutes, per 6 ounce cup of tea. The package will also offer suggestions as to the use of appropriate additives, lemon, sugar and milk, to properly enhance your tea experience.
Now that your love for tea has led you to the more exotic or medicinal uses of tea, lets explore the basics. If you have begun to purchase your tea in leaf form there are specific measures to follow, to get the best out of your tea experience.
First things first. You have probably bought a tea infuser or at the least a tea ball. These things need to be cleaned for each brewing. The water and the tea itself leaves a residue on your tea service pieces that will effect each successive cup of tea. Cleaning your tea service is quite easy. Your tea service pieces, the pot, cups, spoons, ball or infuser should be cleaned with basic soap and water. Many prefer to cleanse their tea service pieces with baking soda and water, which scours the pieces, nicely, leaving no acidic deposits behind.
To brew a great cup of tea, regardless of your preference of tea, begin with cold and filtered water. Bottled or filtered tap water is best, as there is very little in the water itself to effect the flavor of the tea. If tap water is what you use, this is fine, simply run the tap for about 10 seconds, until it is cold. These measures will insure that what you experience is the best of the tea you have chosen for that cup.
A cup of tea is approximately 6 ounces, so one should begin with 6 ounces of water. Each type of tea is brewed slightly differently. Covering the cup or closing the infuser lid assists to retain the heat when steeping.
White tea, brand new to the Western world, is the least processed of the popular teas. Comprised of immature leaves and buds, white tea processed just until leaves turn from silver to white. White tea requires the shortest and coolest steeping. The water temperature should only be 106 to 175 F (Fahrenheit). Steeping time is only 2 to 3 minutes, creating a smooth and light, sweet flavor. The lower temperature also enhances the antioxidants within the young leaves and buds, for optimal medicinal value.
Green tea, all the rage in the Western world these days, is also a barely processed tea. Steeping should begin with water heated to just below boiling, 165 to 185 F, for 3 to 5 minutes. Green tea is enjoyed by most in it’s black form. However, organic honey and a drop of lemon enhance the flavor of this medicinally potent brew nicely.
Oolong tea falls between green and black teas. Partially processed, the fermentation process is stopped as soon as the leaves begin to change color. Used primarily for medicinal purposes in it’s native China, Oolong tea is brewed with 185 to 200 F water for 3 to 5 minutes. Brewing in this manner enhances the calming effects that Oolong tea is renowned for. Brewing properly allows one to enjoy the unique aroma and the essence of fruit that flavors this health enhancing tea.
Black tea, enjoyed in Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast and other enticing blends, is the teas that we Westerners are most familiar with. Brewed on many levels according to preference, this tea is steeped for as long as five minutes. The water temperature should be boiling and your cup should steep covered for 3 to 5 minutes for a bold flavor and color.
Another rule of thumb for teas in leaf form is to measure correctly. Western tea lovers are spoiled by the invention of tea bags. However, spoiled may not be a good thing. Tea bag packaging allows for staleness to set in. Now, black teas being partially fermented have the longest shelf life in bag form. Another issue is that the Western teetotalers would have to learn how much tea in it’s natural form makes a good type of tea.
Different teas, measure differently. White and Green teas are denser teas, requiring a teaspoon and a half to make a proper 6 ounce cup of tea. Oolong and Black teas come in smaller, curly form of dehydrated leaves and often only require a teaspoon to brew a strong cup. Then there is Pu-erh (poo-air) tea, which we did not describe in detail here. This comes completely fermented, aged and packed into small bricks and blocks. For a proper cup of tea one would shave just a bit from the brick, not even a teaspoon is needed to prepare this unique, medicinal powerhouse tea. A teaspoon of Pu-erh tea makes an entire pot of tea.
Another interesting fact, one that you’ve probably heard from your grandmother, is that tea can be re-brewed from the same tea leaves. Knowing that you are probably sitting back in your seat appalled, you know one of your grandparents has told you this. Well, it is a fact. It is not necessarily encouraged to make two and three cups of tea from the same commercially packaged tea bag, but fresh tea leaves are a different story.
Tea leaves, obviously more costly that tea bags, can be reused up to about 3 times, stored properly. In fact all of the teas mentioned her can be reused. Each brewing will bring out different nuances of the tea, in your cup, making for some interesting tea times. The second and third cup will also vary in strength and caffeine content.
These examples, being just a few, do not include herbal teas, as they are not teas in the purest sense of the term. Generally having no tea in them their steeping directions do not bare mentioning in this article.
Of course your favorite cup of tea, is your favorite, because of the way you have chosen to brew it. The above guidelines do, though, give one the best possible brewing techniques to insure that your tea is able to do the work within your body that it was meant to do. Proper brewing allows all of the poly-phenols and antioxidants to work at an optimal level. As each tea is touted for different medicinal possibilities, the brewing directions for that mechanism should be followed. As for flavor, clean water and proper steeping makes a perfect cup of tea each time.