How to Brew Tea
Brewing tea can be complex or simple. In China it has been taken to the level of an art form and in Japan, an expression of Zen Buddhism. When you brew a pot of tea, you share in a daily ritual for millions of people all over the world. Savor the moment, whether starting a pot of your morning brew, making a cup of green at your desk in the afternoon, or preparing a rare tea to be enjoyed with friends. Tea reflects the present -- your preferences, tastes, and mood. Be creative. Our guidelines are just that -- only guidelines, since you are the expert. It's your cup of tea.
Please remember the quality of any cup of tea is closely linked with water quality. No matter how skillful the preparation or spectacular the tea, bad water will make a bad cup of tea.
Simple Guidelines for Brewing Tea
1. Add water. 2. Serve.
TEAPOT: Choose a ceramic teapot, a covered cup, or a glass. Preheat with hot water. A teapot with a built-in strainer will prevent leaves from entering the spout.
LEAVES: To allow flavor to develop fully, brew tea loose, not in a tea ball or infuser. Different teas have different weights. With lighter-weight teas, be sure to add enough leaf. Use about 4 grams of tea per 8 ounces of water.
WATER: Start with good-tasting water. Tap water contains chemicals that affect the taste of the tea. Try different spring waters, or filtered tap water. Don't re-boil water as much of the oxygen will disappear, resulting in a flat brew. Do not use boiling water when brewing white or green tea. Overheated water will cook the leaves and destroy their flavor.
TASTE: Until familiar with a particular tea, steep for a minute or two and then try a sip. Pay attention to taste, rather than color. When the tea tastes right to you, serve or pour off all the liquid to avoid oversteeping. Most of our teas are meant to be infused several times. Add additional hot water as needed. Increase steeping time for subsequent infusions.
EXPERIMENT: Feel free to experiment with water temperature, brewing time, and proportion of tea to water. There is no right or wrong way to make tea. Let your palate be the guide.
ENJOY: A pot of tea should engage the senses. Slow down. Be part of the moment. Observe the beautiful colors and unfolding shapes of the leaves as they steep; appearance is very much a part of the experience. Notice the tea's unique aroma as it rises from your steaming cup. Taste. There are many flavors swirling in each cup. Try to catch each note. But most important, enjoy the tea!
STORAGE: All tea has a limited shelf life. Proper storage is necessary to prolong freshness. Store tea in opaque containers to avoid contact with light. Use a container with a tight-sealing lid.
The water used to brew tea should be carefully considered. Water imparts many of its qualities to the finished cup of tea. Bad water will make a bad cup, no matter how good the tea. Tap, bottled, and filtered waters are all different. Bottled water doesn't have to come from a mountain spring. It can be nothing more than city tap water in a fancy package. There are many types of filters -- some are excellent and others useless. People often find tea tastes different elsewhere than it does at home. Water is usually the culprit. In the past, tea merchants blended their tea to accommodate the water of a particular city. We provide only true teas, no blends. The brew is in your hands. We encourage you to experiment with filtered water and bottled water to find those you like best. And remember for great tea, don't re-boil water, because much of the oxygen will disappear, resulting in a flat brew. Do not use boiling water when brewing white or green tea. Overheated water will cook the leaves and destroy their flavor.
At the In Pursuit of Tea offices, we make our teas from Brooklyn tap water filtered through a Brita water filter. We often do taste tests with bottled waters and will be bringing you our thoughts on which we like best. The National Resource Defense Council published an interesting article on bottled waters in the summer 1990 edition of Amicus. Many bottled waters are less pure than you might think! One bottled water that we enjoy, and whose corporate philosophy we respect, is Keeper Springs, from Randolph, Vermont. The company gives all of its profits to the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international network of environmental groups dedicated to protecting one of our most critical resources.