In Japanese tea master Sen no Rikyu’s words, preparing tea is a simple exercise of boiling water, making tea and serving. While it might be that simple back then, today the large variety of teas makes it a different ball game. It is an art to make your tea just right. So are you making your tea the right way? Read on and find out for yourself!
Before we get into the details, it is important to get some behind the scenes information on teas. All teas, primarily come from the same plant. What differs is the location, time of plucking the leaves, the withering times and oxidation processes. These are then blended with each other or mixed with plant extracts to create a larger range of teas.
In principle, there are only six broad categories of teas. These are based on the withering time and oxidation process and are White Teas, Green Teas, Black Teas, Yellow Teas, Oolong Teas and Pu-erh Teas. These are then further classified by the area they are grown in for example Ceylon Black Tea or Darjeeling Green Tea or in the manner they are mixed together to create blends such as Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea.
Now that you know the different types of tea, lets find out the correct way to brew that perfect cup of tea. Well the correct way to brew your tea depends on which tea it is besides other factors! So let’s get to it.
Water is the most important element of a good cup of tea and the Golden rule is to use freshly drawn cold water to brew your tea. Although some people suggest that distilled water should be used, it is generally suggested that this should be avoided at all cost. Distilled water lacks the important mineral that enhances the flavors of your tea! Also, using pre-heated water and re-heated water should be avoided. This usually causes water to lose its oxygen content and alters the taste of your tea for the worst.
So what is the best water to use? Well as we said cold freshly drawn water is the best. It should be heated only until a steady stream of air bubbles start to rise to the surface. This is when you turn off your stove and add your tea leaves for them to brew!
Temperature is very critical to the taste of your tea, overcooking the water (yes it is a thing) or heating it to a fierce and rolling boil can leave tea tasting dull and flat. So what is the best temperature to cook your tea? Here is a quick guide:
- White Tea: 65–75°C
- Green Tea: 75–85°C
- Black Tea: 85–95°C
- Oolong Tea:85-95°C
- Pu Erh Tea: 100°C
- Fruit Tea Infusions: 100°C
- Tea blends: 100°C
Well now the biggest problem is keeping a track on the temperature of water without the thermometer. Here is our trick to figure out what temperature the water is at:
Using an Electric Kettle
- When the kettle begins to vibrate and you see first vapors of steam that is 65-75°C. Count till 3 after that and the water will be at 75-85°C.
- When the water in the kettle starts to bubble it is at 85-95°C.
- Kettle cuts off at 100°C.
Using a Gas Stove
- When you begin to see the first bubbles form you are at 65-75°C. These will be tiny pinhead bubbles.
- When these bubbles grow a bit in size and are accompanied by light vapors, the temperature is 75-85°C.
- When there are massive bubbles with large quantizes of vapors, the temperature is at 85-95°C.
- When the water begins to appear like rapids in a river, the temperature is over a 100°C. Extra care must be taken as too long in this stage can rapidly de-oxygenize the water and affect the flavors!
There is one important question in all our minds when we make tea; milk first or tea. This has been a hot topic of discussion in recent times as well but there has been no clear answer just yet. According to us, whether you add milk first or tea depends on what tea you are using and how you are brewing it. Here is why:
Add Milk first to your cup if you are brewing in a teapot.
If you are brewing your tea in a teapot, it is advised that you add milk to your cup first and then pour tea on top. This is because if you pour tea on the milk it heats up the milk evenly and at the same rate. This results in a better tasting tea and there is no buildup of cream on the rim!
Add milk last if brewing in a cup or using tea bag.
If you are brewing your tea in a cup or using a tea bag, you need to give tea leaves time to breathe and brew. Milk will cool down the water and not let the tea brew at the right temperature. This is why it is advisable to add the hot water to the leaves and letting it brew for the allotted time before adding milk.
This seemingly unimportant aspect is in fact the most important factor in brewing that perfect cup of tea. The material of the teapot plays an important role in the brewing process. Iron and clay teapots retain heat over long periods of time; this means teas which need higher temperatures for brewing taste best if brewed in such tea pots. On the other hand glass or porcelain quickly releases heat; cooling the water fast. This makes such tea pots more suited for brewing tea which require lower temperatures such as green teas and white teas.
So now that you know the science behind brewing tea, it is time go and try your hand at making yourself that perfect cup of tea by Teaffaire!