No matter how costly the tea, if you brew it incorrectly, the flavor and texture can be ruined. This is an unfortunate lesson that many tea newbies learn the hard way. The majority of people who claim they don't enjoy tea, most likely prepared their Tea or Tisane incorrectly. This can lead to a damaging perception of tea that can last a lifetime. Fortunately, with a better understanding of the brewing processes, this nightmare can be averted.
The trick to steeping tea correctly is made up of five parts: water, weight, temperature, time, and equipment.
Although perfect water isn't required, if your water "tastes strange," your tea will as well. Ideally, your brewing water should start out without flavor. The mineral content should be around 150 parts per million (PPM). Hard water with too many minerals will extract extra astringency from a brew and give it a harsh flavor. To correct hard water and balance the mineral content, at home tea brewers can simply use a carbon filter to remove any extra minerals and contaminants like chlorine. On the flip side, soft water with too little a mineral content will not extract enough of the polyphenols that deliver astringency, health benefits, and taste. To remedy this situation, repeatedly re-boil your water before adding your tea.
The "golden ratio" for tea or insane is one teaspoon tea leaves (approx. 2 grams) per 8 ounce cup of water. If the ratio is off, too much tea can leave your brew bitter, and too little may provide a weak one. With this said, everyone has differing flavor preferences, and finding your golden ratio is all that matters.
The perfect temperature for brewing tea depends on the type. For Black, Dark Oolong, and Herbal Teas, a temperature of 212° Fahrenheit is ideal. They require great heat in order to break down the leaf and release the flavor and antioxidants. For Green, Green Oolong and White Teas, a cooler temperature of around 180° Fahrenheit should suffice. These brews are delicate, and if the water is too hot it can cause the flavor to turn bitter or astringent. No matter the tea, if the water is too cool, the taste produced will be weak and unsatisfying.
Steeping time for each tea may vary. For Black Teas, the general rule is 5 minutes at most. Any longer, and your brew may become overly astringent. Dark Oolong and White Teas taste best when steeped for 3-5 minutes, but will still hold a nice flavor if steeped longer. For Light Oolong and Green Teas, a maximum steep time of 3 minutes is suggested. Though, if you are looking for a smoother sip, 2 minutes will be best.
Wether you are brewing in a tea bag or an infuser, a quality ceramic tea pot or glass tea pot will do the trick. If using an infuser, it is important to remember that tea leaves can unfurl up to 5 times their dry size when hot water is added. Using an infuser with a broad and deep basket is suggested.
Which brings us to our final perquisite to making a perfect cup of tea: The quality of your purchase. Consuming fresh, organic tea with real ingredients and limited additives will make all the difference in the world. And keep in mind, the flavor of your favorite tea can only be preserved from 6 months to a year. So drink up!