Tea Brewing 101

February 10, 2014

Recently got into drinking tea? Or want to learn how to brew the perfect cup? Here are the basics on brewing tea...

During the colder months we’re all looking for soothing hot beverages that are tasty and healthy. Tea is an excellent choice and gaining in popularity in the past few years. If you are new to tea or are looking to expand your tea tasting experience it may be necessary to understand the vocabulary that goes along with the experience. Similar to wine, tea tasters have their own vocabulary to describe and evaluate various teas; (which can get intimidating) so here’s your 101 to tasting and trying new teas.

Tea Terms: aroma, the scent of the rising steam from freshly brewed tea; astringency, the puckering sensation or feeling of dryness, activating the salivary glands; body, tactile sensation or weight in the mouth; muscatel, characteristic found similar to grapes – and found most often in high quality. Darjeelings; full, possessing color, strength, substance and roundness; thick, has substance but not strength; thin/weak, lacking strength and body; toasty, caused by over-firing.

Brewing the perfect cup of tea is not as simple as it may seem; there are various ways to brew the perfect cup – involving the right combination of these six factors:

Tea Quality: use the best that is available to you, visit specialty shops and natural food stores to find teas without additives and natural flavors.

Water quality: water makes up 90 percent of the final product, so make sure it’s good quality. Tap water is fine as long as it tastes good by itself. Do not use distilled water.

Tea to Water Ratio: generally use 1 rounded teaspoon per 8 oz. water – but refer to specific instructions if available.

Steeping Temperature: this varies depending on the type of tea, usually being higher for stronger teas like black tea.

Steeping Time: varies with the different types ranging from 2-3 minutes for white teas to 7-8 minutes for Puerh teas.

Expansion: the leaf should expand 3-5 times in size, so the pot should allow for such expansion.

Remove the Tea: if the tea stands for too long in the water it will have a tendency to turn bitter. As soon as the tea is steeped for the suggested time, remove the tea leaves from the liquid.

Today, tea is grown in Kenya, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Turkey, Iran, Tanzania, Malawi, Zaire, China, Argentina and many other places around the world.

So now that you know the tea basics, go grab yourself a cup.

Stay tuned for part two on the different varieties of teas and infusions.