By Bruce Richardson • Photography by Mac Jamieson
Making tea is a serendipitous event. There is no manual that guarantees perfect tea if you follow five easy steps. Read 10 books by tea experts and you will find 10 different procedures and brewing times. The only constant is that your cup of tea will vary because of the freshness of the tea, the quality and temperature of the water, and the brewing time. Water temperature is very important in the brewing ritual. The general rule to remember is the more oxidized the tea, the hotter the water.
Use the following chart as a beginning temperature guide, and then experiment.
Black tea: 4 to 5 minutes at 212°
Oolong tea: 4 to 7 minutes at 195° to 210°
Green or white tea: 2 to 5 minutes at 165° to 175°
- Use fresh, whole-leaf tea from a reputable tea merchant.
- Keep tea stored in an airtight tin away from heat, light, moisture, and odors.
- Invest in a good-quality kettle (electric or stove top) to heat water to the proper temperature.
- Purchase a teapot that is heavy enough to hold heat. Porcelain is often best.
- Use a basket infuser or disposable paper tea filter to hold loose tea in the teapot. (A tea ball does not allow the tea leaves to rehydrate and fully expand.)
- Use a gram scale or measuring spoon. (A measuring spoon does not always work because some tea leaves are bigger than others.)
- Install a water filter on the cold water source, or use an inexpensive pitcher filter to remove chlorine and iron.
- Fill the kettle with filtered cold water, and heat.
- Warm the teapot with hot tap water.
- Discard the water in the teapot.
- Using an infuser basket or tea filter, add 2 grams of tea per cup to the pot. (For an English-style tea, simply place the loose leaves in the pot, then pour the brewed tea through a strainer into a cup. Be warned: The second cup of tea may be overbrewed and bitter.)
- Pour the hot or boiling water over the leaves in the pot. Agitate occasionally.
- Remove the infuser, and pour tea into cups. Taste the tea before making additions such as milk, lemon, or sugar. Milk is generally not added to white, green, oolong, or flavored teas.
Bruce Richardson is the owner of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas and the author of The New Tea Companion.