Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Perfect Cup

How to begin a tea blog? How about with instructions for brewing the perfect cup of tea? This is a rewrite of an article I published online.

Drinking tea regularly is great for your physical and mental health, but many people don't like tea because it tastes weak or bitter. It doesn't have to. You can control your tea's strength depending on how you steep it to make the best and most flavorful cup with the tea you've got.

First Things First: Never use soap on any dishes you use in association with tea. Because tea is so delicate, the “flavor” of soap can taint your tea quite easily. Always rinse your tea dishes in scalding water to keep them sanitary.

Steeping Mechanism: Don't use paper tea bags! The biggest thing people dislike about tea is how it can taste dry - after you swallow your mouth puckers and dries out a little bit. That taste is the result of tannic acids, which are found in most vegetable products, especially paper. If you have a tea you love that only comes bagged, remove it from the bag and put it into an infuser with very fine holes or mesh. If your tea comes in silk bags, those don't have as much tannic acid, but are still not preferable compared to a glass or plastic infuser. Metal infusers will work, but some people notice a slight metallic taste in using them. If you don't mind dregs at the bottom of your cup, the best thing to do it brew your tea loose.

Steeping Time: The following are guidelines - trial and error can help you more than anything. Herbal, white and green teas should steep for 2-4 minutes. Black, pu-her, oolong and rooibos should steep for 3-5. Another telltale marker is when the color of the water ceases to increase in intensity. Tea can and should be steeped up to three or four separate times, and the best of those is almost always going to be the second steeping, when most of the tannic acids are gone, but the leaves are still strong.

Additives: The best way to enjoy tea is to add nothing to it. Take a sip and hold it on your tongue. Try to distinguish the different flavors. Is it sharp, earthy, sweet or smooth? If you find a tea is too bitter you may want to add sugar to it. If you find it weak, milk may be a better choice. Remember not to add milk to any tea with lemon or other citrus fruits, or the milk will curdle.

Making the Tea: Use one teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup of tea you plan to make. If this is the first cup you've made with these leaves, rinse your tea briefly in cold water to wash off the tannic acids. Bring water to a rapid boil and let it cool to just below boiling. Always pour the hot water over the tea, and never just stick your tea in the water. Let it steep for time appropriate to your type of tea. Remove the infuser after time has elapsed, drain it, and drink up!



Pat said...

I brew my tea loose in the cup, then strain it with a nylon cloth strainer. No off flavors and no loose leaves in the bottom of my cup.

Samantha said...

I'd never heard of nylon being used before -- I'll have to try it!

Thanks for commenting!