You might think that brewing tea is as simple as dropping a tea bag into a cup of hot water, but there are more than a few ways to brew tea properly. Just like brewing coffee, the ancient art of brewing tea is often more involved than you’ve been led to believe.
How Brewing Tea Was Discovered
These days, we are so used to going to the store and buying premade tea bags that make instant tea. It’s not so common that you’ll find any packages that include loose tea’ in regular stores, which is why specialty outlets still sell varieties of tea. If you’re really into herbal tea, Chinese pharmacies were the go-to location to find rare and exotic variants of tea.
While the Chinese would like to take credit for discovering tea, there is very little proof or documentation that proves this. Tea trees indeed grew in southwest China, it also grew abundantly in Tibet and north Burma. More often it was found growing just as much in northwest India. China just likes to take credit because of its rivalry with Burma and the people of India.
To be clear, the actual act of brewing tea is our main focus here as with many other wonderful discoveries that clearly become evident by mistake. Both tea and coffee beans were often consumed by chewing them. It wasn’t until crude experiments through boiling actually revealed that something interesting happens when you put these elements into a pot of boiling water.
Both the origin of brewing tea and coffee do have slight differences however they both come to the same conclusion. They both taste a lot better when boiled. It just so happens that, the origin of how tea was discovered was completely by mistake. It wasn’t until centuries later that many avid tea drinkers would try experimenting with different methods when brewing tea to get a different taste.
This often included letting tea leaves dry out at various stages before it was brewed. This is what led to the discovery of black tea, green tea, and yellow tea through many steps of fermentation and drying of tea leaves. These days, we don’t need to rely on experimentation to brew tea at home, but the mixtures and tea blends are often combined to create defined tastes that can enhance the tea-drinking experience.
How To Brew Tea
If you have never brewed tea before it can be quite disappointing to find out that you could be making serious mistakes in the steps while brewing it. Just like brewing coffee, some rules include the right temperature, steep time, and of course, the amount of tea that you add to each cup. Here are the selective steps that will become part of your tea ritual.
Boiling your water
It all starts with the water and is the most important part of your tea brewing process. You want to have a reliable tea kettle or something that can warm the water in. These can be placed on a traditional stovetop or use an electric kettle. As long as you’re comfortable with the kettle and aren’t too concerned about appearances, as long as you reach your ideal temperature is what counts the most.
You don’t want to use ordinary tap water for brewing tea since this type of water has too many minerals and additives. These don’t help with the taste of your tea and can even counter or spoil the taste of your tea. Stick with filtered water that removes unpleasant flavors that often come with certain types of tap water. If you live in an area that doesn’t treat the water too much, this might enhance the flavor if you have fresh spring water.
With that being mentioned, filtered water or bottled water is perfectly fine as long as you like the taste of this water before it’s boiled. The next target is reaching the desired temperature. Just like coffee, the temperature is important for your tea depending on the type of tea that you’re brewing. Black tea, herbal tea, and Pu-Erh tea need to reach 190-210 degrees Fahrenheit before they can be used for brewing.
Green tea, white tea, and Oolong tea are different and will be lower with 170-180 degrees Fahrenheit being the best temperature to shoot for. You can also use this guide for extra tips on water temperature. It’s good to have a thermometer that can check the temperature of your water, so if you have an electric kettle that already has a digital display, you don’t need a separate thermometer.
One tip is to make sure that your water warms slowly and doesn’t reach a rolling boil. What happens if this occurs is the amount of oxygen that’s released from your water. The water can end up tasting flat and doesn’t help your tea to release complex flavors. This is why using filtered water is excellent to add oxygen into the water as it goes through the filters. If you’re using bottled water it likely has added oxygen up to 40x the amount as tap water.
Use a good tea filter
A tea filter is used for loose tea and is a simple wire mesh that holds your tea leaves while you’re brewing. Many of the tea filters simply keep loose sediment from floating or getting lost in your tea, though it’s normal that smaller bits that are too small will no doubt sink to the bottom of your brewing vessel or teacup. You can find a variety of filters that will help reduce the amount of loose tea depending on the fineness of the filter you choose.
A great tip is to wrap your loose tea in a piece of coffee filter that’s been wet out so the minute bits don’t end up in your finished tea.
Brewing time is essential
Tea also needs a certain amount of time to steep which is going to enhance the flavor and how strong the tea will be. The general brewing time is no less than one minute and can take up to 5 minutes for the best results. This brings the issue of making a second or third steep for more delicate flavors that you might not have noticed before. This is done by taking the filter out of your tea and then adding it to a new batch of hot water.
With some types of tea, you can steep up to 15-20 times, especially with Pu-Erh, green tea, and white tea. The brewing time is the same for each additional steep, but some people may find that longer brewing time is needed after the initial flavors are starting to fade. Stronger tea starts with adding more tea to your filter. If you try to extend the brewing time, you end up with bitter tea, though this doesn’t apply to herbal teas!
For the most part, most tea will take 3 to 5 minutes to steep while green tea takes less time with only 1-3 minutes. This is why green tea is a good choice if you’re just starting out with home brewing tea at home. You only need 1 or 2 teaspoons of tea per 8 ounces of hot water unless you decide to go full retard< and switch to tablespoons instead of teaspoons!
Best Methods For Brewing Tea
If you’re thinking about using a larger brewing vessel, you should also know that your ratio of water to the amount of tea is adjusted. Some brewing vessels will tell you right away how much tea to add per the amount of water. When it comes to the best brewing methods, you will need to experiment to see what suits your tastes. Since there is no definite recipe for making the best tea, you really have to stick with the basic ratio of tea and water.
Some tea including ice tea is often sweetened and allowed to cool down for several hours to gain a signature taste. In the case of Sweet Tea’, this southern classic is put into plastic bottles and sealed for 1 or 2 days, and allowed to sit in direct sunlight to develop natural flavors. You can place the tea into glass bottles but these will need to be burped’ to release the buildup of oxygen that forms due to the sugar that’s added.
Keep in mind that tradition plays an important role in serving tea, so don’t discount adding classic snack sandwiches and assorted pastries with your tea. You’ll find that drinking tea is a highly social activity and unlike coffee drinkers, will have its own sense of creativity that you add to your brewing methods.