Fine tea should be drunk without milk or sweetener. Photo by A.G. Photographer | CSP.
Updated January 2009
How To Make Tea
Page 2: Brewing The Tea
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Measuring The Tea
A scientist would tell you that the amount of loose tea needed varies among types of tea because because of density. Look at the different leaves you own: some are large and unfurled, others are dense and tightly-packed. A teaspoon of each will not weigh the same.
However, unless you’re set on measuring out your tea in grams, it’s easiest to measure with a regular flatware teaspoon—not your measuring spoon. Use a rounded teaspoon of tea per 8-ounce cup, and add “one for the pot.” The amount of tea may look meager, but it expands three-fold once it is infused.
Some people prefer to use tea bags because they are neater; and today, there are beautiful silken tea bags filled with lovely whole-leaf teas. We wish we could say that we have found a brand that consistently works for us across all flavors. Perhaps it’s that we prefer a stronger infusion. But, we always find tea bags to be too weak for us—and we drink our tea straight, without milk or sugar that would further dilute the flavor.
Brewing The Tea
Perfectionist brewers like to pre-heat the ceramic or glass pot by boiling some boiling water in it, swirling it around, and pouring it out before adding the tea and the brewing water. This helps to keep the tea hot longer. We use a microwave-safe pot and prefer the modern way of pre-warming the pot: 40 seconds on high.
After you put the leaves in the pot, pour the boiled water over the leaves and put the lid on the pot to retain the heat as the water infuses the leaves (if brewing in a cup, put the saucer or a second saucer over the top of the cup).
Set a kitchen timer and let the tea brew per the schedule below, to extract the maximum amount of flavor from the leaves without extracting bitterness (which can happen when the leaves are infused for an excessive amount of time). The reason there are ranges is that within a preparation of tea (white, green, oolong and black refer to how the tea is treated after it is plucked), there are many varieties (Assam, Ceylon, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Jasmine, Lapsang Souchong are all different black teas). Some have large leaves, some have small leaves.
- 4 to 6 minutes for black teas @ 200°-205°F
- 3 to 4 minutes for green teas @ 180°F
- 4 to 5 minutes for oolong teas @ 190°F
- 2 to 3 minutes for white tea @ 200°F
- Herbal teas, which are not made from the tea plant Camellia sinensis but from other plant leaves, roots, and berries, require longer steeping time to infuse their flavors—depending on the particular tea:
- 5 to 7 minutes for most herbal teas @ 212°F
- 10 minutes for with rooibos (red bush) teas @ 212°F
In general, tea bags should be steeped for less time because they do not contain whole leaves, and broken pieces brew more quickly. However, some brands of gourmet tea bags do contain whole leaves, so determine what you are brewing.
The strength of tea cannot be judged by its color. Some varieties of tea produce a lighter liquid (called the liquor) than others. If you are want a stronger tea, use more tea rather than brewing it for a longer period, which won’t add taste but can add bitterness.
Many people like the neatness of brewing loose tea with a tea ball. This works on an individual cup basis, because not much tea is needed and the leaves can unfurl and move around to achieve maximum infusion while constrained within the ball. The largest of the balls, however, don’t provide enough room for an ideal infusion of tea for eight people.
- Stir the contents with a spoon a few times during the brewing period. This allows the tea to unfurl and move freely in the water.
- At the end of the brewing period, stir the pot one last time and pour the tea into cups.
- if your pot does not have a built-in straining mechanism, use a fine tea strainer to catch the leaves.
- Don’t allow tea to remain in the pot, sitting on leaves. The tea will brew too strong and often gets bitter. Either use an infuser basket or a tea press. A true tea lover will find a solution to the “mess.” Two that we prefer for individual servings are the Adagio IngenuiTea infuser and the Aladdin Essential Infuser.
- Strain the remaining tea into a second pot for refills: It can be reheated in the microwave or refrigerated for iced tea. The wet leaves in the first pot can be re-used for a second brewing (also known as an infusion).
Continue To Page 3: Tea Bags, Samovar, Iced Tea, Sun Tea
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