Recently I was asked to tell how to make the Perfect Cup of Tea on twitter of all places. I found the constraints of the format a bit daunting. It is as simple as pouring hot water over tea leaves. But if you want perfection, rather than dishwater or bitter over-steeped tea, it can also be really complex. So I am going to try to do a step by step recommendation of how I like to prepare the perfect cup of tea. There are as many ways of making tea as there are tea masters. So I know some out there will have issues with what I am about to say.
My Perfect Cup of Tea
Step 1: Get some water. Should be cold/cool water that is filtered but not distilled. Minerals help enhance the flavors in tea. Tap water, not so good for making the perfect cup of tea.
Step 2: Boil the water. If you are lucky enough to have a variable temperature kettle, select 208 degrees (Fahrenheit) for Black, Pu'erh and Tisanes (Herbal, not true teas, but I will include them.). White and Oolong Teas need a lower temperature water to bring out the best in the teas. I set the variable temp. kettle to 195 degrees for these types of tea. You don't need a fancy kettle, so put your kettle on the stove boil the water & let it sit for a couple of minutes. If you have really good hearing you can listen for the water when it just starts to make noise and bubbles form in the water, this should be the perfect temp. for Oolong & Whites. Green Teas need the lowest temperature water, 175 on the variable temp. model or boil the water and let set for about 4 minutes. If you are observant you can start the kettle on the stove and when you see a puff of steam come off the water that should be the right temperature for Green Teas.
Step 3: Measure your tea and put it into your teapot. We use 3g per 6 oz. of water. To make consistently great tea you really need to weigh it. The rule of thumb is half the number of grams for the oz. of water in the pot. If you can't weigh it, then we give Tablespoon equivalents on our packages. The problem is that unless you weigh the tea, if you use the old method, one teaspoon for each cup and one for the pot, you will get very different results. White tea is very light and you need quite a bit of it for a cup. The least amount needed is rolled Oolongs or pearled teas, then Black Teas, then Green, then more for twisted Oolongs and the most of White Teas. These are just some of the problems with using a teaspoon. Once you make lots of tea you can guess, but I still use a scale and I drink tea everyday, all day!
Step 4: Add the correct temp water to your weighed out tea in a teapot.
Step 5: Steep the tea. Now here are recommended times for steeping. White Teas are 2-3 minutes. Pan Fired Green Teas (Chinese Style) 1-3 minutes. Steamed Green Teas (Japanese Style) 30 sec. to 1 minute. Oolong Teas 2-3 minutes. Black Teas 3-5 minutes. Pu'erh Teas 45 seconds to 1 minute. Tisanes are 3-5 minutes. The steeping times I use are usually the shorter end of the range. The Pu'erh tea recommendations are different than what I had been doing, but after taking a Pu'erh class through the Specialty Tea Institute, I changed my recommendations. The old method was the same as Black Teas. This produces a nice flavor & dense cup, but the subtle notes of the tea are lost. The shorter steeps, and numerous resteeps give a wider range of flavors in the tea.
(Remember that if you are using a teapot that doesn't have an insert or a way to remove the leaves, you need to pour out all the tea, so you don't over steep the tea. This will lead to bitter tea.)
Step 6: Drink your perfect cup of tea. Take a moment to really taste the tea. Relax and savor it.
Step 7: Resteep. Here is another area that I will part with the majority of tea experts. The rule of thumb is add 30 seconds on to the time for your 2nd steep. I do a shorter second steep. I feel the leaf has opened up and I judge by color more than time for the second steep. Using this method it is usually shorter than the 1st steep. The 3rd steep I also judge by color & it is sometimes longer or the same as the 2nd steep. I keep resteeping until there is not enough flavor. That way I am getting all the leaf has to offer and I am limiting the amount of total caffeine I am consuming.
Tea is an amazing drink and I hope this gets you excited to experiment on your own with times, temps and weights. Remember this is My Perfect Cup. Yours might be something all together different, just take a moment and siptea...