If you want to get the best taste out of your tea then it’s important to follow a few basic tips. For general purpose every day tea drinking it’s not really necessary to worry too much about the exact preparation but it sure helps you to make a more tasty brew. If you like to buy expensive teas then it’s definitely worthwhile following these recommendations.
The first thing to consider is storage. If you buy good tea then you will want to look after it well. Although if you’re anything like me it won’t last too long! I tend to drink good tea fast. Storing tea is relatively simple; it needs to be in an airtight container and out of direct sunlight. So preferably in a wooden, metal, glass or ceramic container. Make sure the container is fully airtight. Obviously the tea needs to be kept dry and it can also be affected by strong odors and heat.
When brewing tea the next thing to consider is the water. For most people general tea consumption will occur using water from the tap. This can be a problem in areas where there is excessive chemicals in the water. So if you wish to use tap water it’s definitely better to filter it. The small kitchen filters available from companies such as Brita and Kenwood do a pretty good job. More expensive filtration systems can also be purchased if desired.
For the best brew use freshly drawn filtered tap water or bottled spring water. Do not use distilled water as the minerals have been taken out of the water and this will affect the taste. The water should be boiled then allowed to cool to the correct temperature for the type of tea you are brewing.
The temperature of the water can really affect the taste of the tea so following the guidelines for the tea you have purchased will help you to get the best from your brew. You can experiment with different temperatures to see if you can notice the difference in the taste.
To do the job properly it’s best to buy a water thermometer which will give you a fast and accurate reading. After a while you will get to know roughly how long to leave the water before adding it to the tea. This will save you from using the thermometer every time.
Steeping time is also very important to produce a fine brew. It is very much down to your own personal tastes how long you should steep. Having said that there are guidelines which you should follow and they are often provided with the tea you buy. Steep too long and you could end up with a bitter and very strong brew. Steep not enough and you will not get the best flavor out the tea.
As a rough guide the following timings and temperatures apply:
Green Tea and White Tea 1-4 mins 150-170 F
Oolong Tea 1-3 mins 165-195 F
Pu-erh Tea 2-10 mins boiling
Black Tea 2-5 mins 195 F
In order to fully appreciate the tea as it is brewing it is good to be able to watch the leaves as they open. Using a glass cup or tea pot enables you to do that very well. There are many choices of different brewing equipment including teapots, Guywans, infusers, filters and of course good old cups. It’s really up to you to experiment with all the different equipment which is on offer. If you are interested in high quality Oolong tea for example then an Yixing teapot is very desirable. For day to day drinking especially of green and Oolong teas the easiest and most common method is to simply add water to the leaves in your cup. Remember that good teas can be refilled several times and the second and third brews can often be the best!