It seems like such a simple task. Brew a pot of water, add to your teabag or tea leaves, sweeten, and enjoy. But did you know there are several factors that influence the taste of your tea? By following these four tips, you can expect the best cup of tea – every time you brew!
Tea originated in China, thousands of years ago, and is said to be the world’s most popular drink. All teas, with the exception of herbal tea infusions, come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Whether you get white, green, or black tea will depend on how the tea leaves are picked and processed.
If you are really serious about your tea, you should probably use dried tea leaves instead of bags. Teabags often contain lower grade tea leaves together with other cheaper fillers (also known as ‘tea dust’). Inside a teabag, there’s not much space to move around, so when you add the water, limited diffusion takes place, leaving you with a flat-tasting tea. If time is your biggest concern, then by all means use bagged tea. Just look out for a good quality tea, that won’t have too many fillers. Also consider the impact on the environment. Not all tea bags are 100% plastic-free, or biodegradable.
Tap water is completely safe to drink, but some say that the added chemicals such as fluoride, can influence the taste of your cup of tea. Some areas use water softeners that give off a salty taste, and other areas have water with a high mineral content, making water sweet. The water you choose will ultimately depend on personal taste. If you feel that natural spring water is no better than regular tap water, it would make financial sense to just stick with tap water!
To release the maximum amount of flavor from your tea, the water temperature should be just right. And the ‘right temperature’ will depend on the type of tea you are having. Green and white teas taste best with water at about 158°F (70°C), while black and oolong teas taste better with 185°f (85°C). If you want your tea to be sweeter and less astringent, it’s best to use water that is just below boiling point. You can either do this by using water just before it gets to boiling point, or waiting for boiled water to rest for a few minutes.
As with temperature, the timing will be determined by the type of tea you are brewing. For tea bags and white teas, the ideal steeping time is two to three minutes for green tea, the recommended maximum time is two minutes. Black tea and oolong tea have the shortest steeping times of one minute and 30 seconds, respectively. If you steep any tea too long, it will release more tannins, leading to a more astringent taste.
Are you a tea drinker? What’s your favorite?