Basic Guidelines for Brewing a Good Cup of Tea
It is very easy to spoil perfectly good tea. But the good news is that making good tea is not so hard either. Just follow the basic principles for brewing tea and you’ll be able to enjoy all teas at their fullest potential!
1. Brew loose whole-leaf tea
Needless to say that unless you are brewing loose whole-leaf tea, you aren’t really tasting the flavor of the tea. There are some exceptions, of course (many Japanese teas come in a powder or minced form), but teas that are sold in tea bags are just leftovers from a harvest and made from leaves that are otherwise undesirable. Think of it as instant coffee vs coffee beans. So we say that loose whole-leaf tea is the baseline starting point of brewing good tea.
2. Use good water
Think about it: a cup of tea is mainly water, so water does matter. Use your favorite filtered or spring water. Never let it over-boil. In fact, it is better not to let it reach the boiling point at all. In the boiling process, due to high temperature, the water loses Dissolved Oxygen (DO) as well as CO2 and pH.
3. Get the temperature of the water right
It is very important to brew tea using water of the right temperature.
Brewing tea with water that is too hot will damage the tea. Too cold, and the leaves won’t open to their fullest potential.
The optimal brewing temperature range varies from tea to tea, but when in doubt just follow this general guideline:
• White teas – 185ºF / 85ºC
• Green teas – 175-185ºF / 80-85ºC
• Oolong teas – 185-205ºF / 85-95ºC (often can endure and require an even higher temperature)
• Black (Red) teas – 195-205ºF / 90-95ºC
• Pu-erh teas – 200-210ºF / 95-99ºC
If you are using a regular kettle without water temperature presets – read our article on how to determine water temperature without using any additional devices.
4: Preheat the teaware and warm up the tea
Preheat the serving teapot beforehand. This will allow you to keep the temperature of the water at the desired level. Otherwise, when hot tea gets poured into a cold teapot, the temperature decreases and the experience loses value.
It’s best to gently "wake up" the tea first to avoid “shocking” it by rapidly changing its environment.
In order to do so, we recommend to first rinse the teapot with hot water to warm it up. Then pour out the water and place the dry tea leaves into the pre-heated teapot. Let it sit with the lid on for about a minute. Your tea is now ready for brewing.
5. Do not over-steep
This is the second biggest mistake people make when brewing tea (number one is damaging tea by pouring boiling water over it). Some people say they don’t like tea because it is too bitter or astringent. The tea should never be too bitter or astringent if you are brewing it properly and not over-steeping.
Don't leave your tea in the water for too long. Decant the water in a timely fashion and your tea will have a nice round and smooth mouthfeel.
The specific amount of time that is optimal differs according to the type of tea and the proportion of tea to water you are using.
6. Give your tea enough space to release its flavor
You are brewing a tea that has been well-cared for, groomed, carefully picked, artfully produced, thoroughly checked and shipped across the ocean to share with you its distinctive flavor and unique characteristics. So, when steeping tea, don't let the tea leaves squander in a tight space. Give your tea leaves the space they need to open up and release their flavor so you can enjoy everything that your tea has to offer. Don't put too much tea into your teapot. When using good tea even a small amount will suffice to acquire the full taste.
7. Do not put sugar in
You should know better. But it’s important to mention anyway... just in case. You want to taste the tea, don't you? Sweeteners are used to get rid of the taste of bad tea. Good tea deserves a chance to present itself on its own.
Good tea. Good water. Right temperature. These are the three core elements of making a good cup of tea.