Tea can be many things, a cup of comfort, an invigorating jolt of energy, or a daily ritual of relaxation. Rudyard Kipling even believed tea had the power to hold worlds together.
We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week…
The bottom is out of the Universe.”
All this from the simple Camella sinensis plant. Whatever tea means to you, making a perfect brew will help you keep your universe from bottoming out.
- You’ll need:
- fresh or bottled water
- tea kettle
- your favorite mug
- loose leaf tea
- milk, honey, sugar, or the sweetener of your choice
Always use fresh water in your kettle. If your tap water is particularly chlorinated or polluted, use filtered water instead. Start with cold water, as it retains the most oxygen.
Loose leaf is generally a better brew than ground tea bags, and almost always fresher. Use one teaspoon for every cup you want to brew. If you add a lot of milk and sugar, or are making more than two cups, add one extra teaspoon to your teapot.
There are four basic and distinct types of tea, black, green, oolong, and white. Black teas are oxidized, oolong are partially oxidzed, and greens and whites are not. Your brewing will depend on which type you’re using.
- Black, Red, or Oolong Tea
Black teas are oxidized (exposing the tea to air). This allows the tea to naturally chemically change from green to a red or brown, and intensifies the flavor. If you like full-bodied richness and complex flavors, these are the teas for you.
For darker teas, heat your water until it boils, or your kettle whistles. Immediately add the water to your tea and allow it to steep for three to five minutes, depending on how dark and bitter you like it.
- Green Tea
Green teas are not oxidized and instead are withered and dried. Green teas are a good choice if you like a fresh drink that will help clear your mind.
Green teas are better if you take your kettle off right before it boils, or add a small amount of cold water to quickly cool your water. Green and teas should be steeped for about three minutes. Any longer and the tannins will start to make it bitter.
- Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is only partially oxidized, making it somewhere between a black and green tea. Drink oolong for a digestive aid, or if you want a mix of the astringent and richness found in greens and blacks respectively.
You can prepare it either way, but the flavors are richer if prepared similar to green tea.
- White Tea
White tea is the most delicate of all teas. Similar to green tea, it is not oxidized and is instead simply steamed and dried. White teas are generally light and fragrant.
For full flavor, white tea should be made at a similar, cooler than boiling, temperature. White teas need a full seven minutes to bring out their full flavors.
One Lump or Two?
This is personal preference, but it will affect how you brew and steep your tea. Do you like your tea very sweet and creamy? Or do you prefer a hint of sweetness with bitter? Decide ahead of time whether you will take milk, sugar, honey, or anything else and let that guide your steeping times and amount of loose tea.
Ambiance also influences the perfection of your brew, so make yourself a comfortable space with a good book, or have a few teacakes on hand if you’re entertaining. Turn on some music, just hold that warm mug in your hands and let the scent waft into your senses. Once you feel covered in the sweet smell and feel, take a tiny sip. Feel it warm your whole being and bones. Repeat as necessary.
Now, put the kettle on and call some friends for an impromptu tea party.