If you missed my first installment of the guide to tea, you can check it out here.
Different types of tea need to be brewed different: temperature and steeping times make a big difference in the flavor of you tea. So where do you start? Water temperature if the first step to great tea.
What temperature is my heated water?
Using 8 oz. of water, either microwave it or heat it on the stovetop. I use a microwave because that’s what I have available to me in my room.
Use a kitchen thermometer (borrow one from home or buy a cheap one at the grocery store) to measure the temperature of the water after different times in the microwave. Start with 1 min. and go up by 30 second intervals. Take note of what times get you close to what temperatures. For me, when brewing white or green teas, I microwave for 1:30 and for black tea or herbal tea I microwave for 2:00. I find these temperatures brew the best cup!
One thing to remember: the water for your tea should never be boiling! If it boils, let it sit for one minute so it can cool down to a proper temperature. This is especially important for black and herbal teas when the temperature needs to be closer to boiling.
Ok, so now that you’ve got your hot water it’s time to steep! Steeping is the time your tea leaves are in the water, and it is crucial process. If you steep some teas too long, they can get bitter, which is basically the worst thing ever. At least when it comes to tea.
How long should I steep my tea?
Delicate teas like white and green teas only need to steep a short time. If they are steeped too long, they’ll get bitter, so keep an eye on them. At first, use the time guide in the chart above, but as you become more comfortable, you’ll find the steep times that brew your prefect cup of tea.
Sturdier teas like black teas can still get bitter. Be sure not to steep them much longer than 3 minutes. If you want a stronger cup, use more tea!
Herbal teas are the one type of tea you can rarely mess up. They can stand up to longer steeping times, so if you walk away and forget about your tea for 5 minutes, your cup will still be tasty!
What do I use to steep loose tea?
Tea bags are easy: you just pop the bag into the water and take it out when its been steeped to your liking. Loose tea is another question. You need some tools to steep your loose teas effectively!
You don’t need a fancy tea spoon to measure your tea. Any old teaspoon measure will do. Both of these spoons were gifts, so I use them for tea. 1 tsp. of tea will brew a standard cup of tea, but the nice thing about loose tea is that if you like it stronger you can add more.
This is the device that you put your loose teas into to steep them. I love the Perfect Tea Ball from Teavana because the holes in the infuser are tiny, so you don’t get any tea leaves in your cup! You can find tea infusers online or in tea stores, so do some research and see what you like best.
These mugs come with an infuser basket that twists onto the lid so you can steep directly into the mug:
Another really awesome tea infuser I have is the Tovolo TeaGo.
All of the parts come apart:
Once your tea is steeped, the green press goes into the tube to push the water out of the wet tea leaves.
The green top of the TeaGo even twists off so you can store your dry tea leaves in there. Then you place the cap on the bottom to store the wet tea leaves until you can dispose of them. Such a neat tool!
There are a lot of other ways to brew tea. Some tea infusers are placed on top of your mug to drain into your cup, while tea pots usually have infuser baskets you can remove when the pot is brewed. Just find an infuser that works for you. Consider how you want to wash it (by hand, in the dishwasher) and how much tea you plan to make at a time.
How do I store my loose-leaf tea?
This is another important part of loose-leaf tea. You can’t just store it anywhere! It needs to be in air-tight containers in a cool, dry place. Tins are usually the best way to go:
These tins are great for storage and keep your tea well protected, but they are a bit pricey. I do like that they offer a citrus tin, because teas with citrus oils (like my Earl Grey Green) make the lid of the tin expand so it’s hard to get it open.
For a more cost-effective option, I really like these ones from Adagio:
They come in a set of 3 for only $9. The lids are UV-blocking so they won’t ruin your tea, but you can see what’s in each tin. You can buy tea tins at home goods stores, like this one I picked up at World Market: