How to make the perfect cup of tea
You may think that making a cup of tea is simply boiling water but the PERFECT cup of tea needs a bit more explanation.
Start with your choice of tea
You will always achieve a better tasting cup or pot of tea using full leaf tea leaves. This often manes you will be using loose leaf tea. Although you can buy tea bags of full leaf tea (they are often pyramid shaped tea bags). Loose leaf tea tends to be fresher and more flavourful.
Often with tea bags you buy in a box or canister at your grocery store, the tea filling those bags are the clippings, dustings, and remains of lower quality tea from the processing room floor. The leaves are mostly ground into a powder, their surface area is tiny and they become stale and musty much quicker. When you loose full leaf / loose leaf tea you are getting the actual leaves of tea and you will find the quality much higher. Therefore, it should taste better!
Decide how you will steep the leaves
So if you've decided on loose leaf tea you'll need a way to steep the tea and seperate the leaves from the steeped water. You can simply pour the hot water over the leaves and then use a seive/strainer to remove the leaves. Or you can put the leaves in a mesh ball, a disposable tea bag or sleeve, or a stainer BEFORE you add water. All of these methods allow you to remove the bloomed leaves from the hot water before consuming. The bloomed leaves can either be put in the compost (or garbage) or even re-used for your next cup of tea!
Tea Balls: Some tea experts discourage these because they do not allow the tea leaves room to expand which gives tea its best flavour. If you do use the ball, only fill it only half way with your tea to allow for complete saturation and expansion of the tea leaves.
The great thing with loose leaf tea is that you get to control the strength of your tea by measuring out your loose tea leaves accordingly (vs. a tea bag that is always pre-measured).
We recommend one teaspoon of loose leaf tea or one teabag per one cup of water (8 oz) you plan on using to brew. More tea per water will lead to a stronger brew, while more water per tea will lead to a milder one.
Water and steeping
Some experts say to use only freshly drawn cold water but we often re-boil water with little effect to taste. Ensure that kettles or water boilers are de-scaled regularly and that teapots are clean.
Teapots can be warmed with hot water, which is then poured away before you make your tea. Steep your tea according to your taste. As a general guideline, the steep time for all teas for 2-3 minutes. Depending on the tea variety (green, black, white etc.) and your preference you may choose to steep for longer or shorter lengths of time.
A good hostess will ask her guests how they prefer their tea, and those who like weaker tea, should have their tea poured first. If the tea is a little weak, add more tea to the pot and allow to steep for another minute or so and if the tea is too strong, top up with more boiling water.
Adding milk and sweetners to your tea
Taste the tea so you can see if you want milk or sweetener. Some teas are sweeter than others and you may not need to add anything at all. And every cup or pot of tea you brew will be different from the last--you may have added a pinch more or less tea, or let it steep for a few more seconds. These factors will change the taste. If you already know you want milk because you always do - some say that the milk should be added to the tea cup before the hot tea is poured over it. To each their own!
Water temperature and steeping time, by tea type
Here is a general guide on temps and time but this all depends how strong or weak you like your steep!
Steep for about 4 minutes and remove tea leaves.
Rooibos is a red herbal tea from South Africa is very hardy stuff and should be prepared with fully boiling water, just like black tea. Let is steep for about 5 minutes.
Use cooler water about 180°F and steep for 3 minutes. If the water is too hot, it will “cook” the leaves and make the tea taste bitter.
There are many opinions on how to steep white tea. Start with 5 minutes and use 180°F water. Experiment and see which way you like it best.
Oolong tea falls between green and black. The best temperature is around 190 F. But oolong should be steeped longer than black tea, for around 5 to 8 minutes.
Herbal and tsanes
These are not true teas but are infused like tea. Use boiling water and steep 7-9 minutes to fully bloom the fruits.