This is the first of two guides on brewing of tea and is followed at the end by Advanced brewing.
“your” perfect cup of tea – easily!
Many people want to enjoy the tremendous flavors of
loose leaf tea but are put off because they believe it is too difficult – it is
easy if you have a little knowledge and follow a procedure. Let me explain:
To make “your” perfect cup of tea you will need a good
quality loose leaf tea, a suitable cup, a basket infuser, a measuring spoon,
a timer and a source of hot water.
Place the infuser in the cup (say 8 oz capacity) and
add the tea (let’s use English Breakfast), around one and a half teaspoons,
using a measuring spoon. Then add the boiling water to the top of the mug and
set the timer for 4 minutes.
When the 4 minutes is up, remove the infuser and let
it drip in its tray. Wait until it is the correct temperature for your mouth
and drink. Easy!
Always initially use the times suggested on the pouch
of tea that will vary from one minute for the fine green teas up to 12 minutes
for the herbals.
What is great about tea brewing is that you can adjust
to your “perfect” taste by following different methods:
You can add more leaves to weaken or strengthen the
taste – the best way is to use as little as you need so the tea gives more cups
Change the brewing time to shorten or lengthen the
infused time to get a different flavor without going too long and making it
For fine leaf teas drop the brewing temperature by
adding 10 to 15% cold water over the leaves before adding the hot water –
removes any bitterness and gives a lighter smoother taste.
In some areas the water is pretty bad so use bottle
water to overcome this problem.
I hope you agree it is fairly simple and you can brew
larger quantities in teapots with infusers and just multiply the amount of tea
according to the size.
Brewing/infusing of Tea Part 2 – Advanced techniques
Don’t read this if you are just drinking flavored teas as it is a more complex brewing procedure, does not change the flavor that much and therefore not really necessary. Having said that you might find it interesting!
Tea flavor and strength can be adjusted by different methods, mainly amount of tea, infusion times, brewing temperatures, and water.
Although as a seller of tea I should not say this, you want to use the least amount of tea to get your “perfect” brew. Having said this it is always best to err on the more side to play safe and get the strength. The starting point is to use one and a half teaspoons for 8 to 10 ozs of water in a fine mesh infuser. To get this fairly close and repeatable you always need to use the same spoon and ideally one where the leaves can sit easily in the bottom. The measuring spoons with half a spoon increments and a square base are ideal, like the one shown in the photo that can easily be adjusted for larger amounts. Yes, we do sell them.
Some of the more expensive teas have different densities because of the leaf form, some being very dense like Japanese Sencha and others being much lighter and very ‘fluffy” like some first flush Darjeelings and are difficult to judge by volume. I drink a delicate first flush Darjeeling most mornings and use a digital measuring spoon (we sell them), shown below with a weight of 2.5 grams. Not keen on stating a metric weight, but far easier for small quantities. An example of the variations is that our English Breakfast weighs 2.6 grams for 1.5 tsps and my Darjeeling weighs 1.5.
Timing is critical for delicate teas and can vary between 30 seconds and up to 4 minutes. So use a timer to get the repeatability. Use the recommendations on the packaging to get the strength you prefer.
Water temperature can be boiling for many teas, black, blackish oolongs and some greens/white but some of these types can be enhanced by a lower temp to reduce strength and bitterness. Fine Japanese Sencha, Gyokuro, high altitude greens and some greenish Oolongs are much smoother and have more flavor nuances at temperatures of 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. For ex coffee drinkers (I was one of them 12 years ago) it takes a while for the taste buds to appreciate some of these teas, but amazing when you recuperate! If you brew at 160, remember that it will be ready to drink fairly soon and as I like really hot tea I preheat the mug!
There are several electric kettles on the market that offer digital controls for different temperature settings. I don’t use one, but for my Darjeeling put approx. 2 ozs of cold water into the 10 oz mug before filling with boiling water - drops temp to around 180 degrees.
Water can vary so much depending on where you live. Some is processed and produces a water that you don’t like to drink because of the chlorination etc. Most well waters are excellent. SO if you have an expensive delicate tea consider using bottled water or filtering may help.
The key to getting your perfect brew is to experiment and then remember how you achieved it. Keep trying and it will be worthwhile.
So for my Darjeeling I use 2.5 grams, 180 degree water and brew for two minutes 45 seconds. So if you calculate that even in a more expensive tea with a 2 oz bag, you should get at least 22 cups and for a 4 oz bag 44 cups.
As I stated in part one of brewing there is similarity between wine and tea in the cultivation but not in the drinking cost. Drink more tea as it is cheaper and healthier.