Making a delicious cup of tea is a combination of the quality tea, the type of water, the temperature of the water, the infusion (or steeping) time, and the brewing vessel.
The Quality of Tea
With loose leaf teas, you are creating the opportunity for a better tasting tea. Tea bags typically contain the dust and fanning from broken leaves. When steeped, they release more tannins than whole leaf tea and can result in more bitter brews. The bags that these teas are sold in are often made with bleached paper material that can add chemicals and off-flavors to your tea. Loose-leaf teas are a higher grade tea, and like our Rishi teas for example, allow for more flavor and subtle nuances to expand fully in hot water. The Rishi Tea line available at Satellite Coffee is an award-winning, Fair Trade and Certified Organic line of loose leaf teas, fresh each season and direct from tea gardens around the world.
In general, most Rishi Teas require about 1 tablespoon (4-5g) per 8 oz of water. One of the other benefits of using loose leaf teas is that you can re-infuse the tea leaves several times during each brewing session vs bagged teas, which are typically designed for one use.
The Type of Water
Mineral water is too hard (mineral-rich) and may leave your tea tasting metallic or harsh. Distilled water is too soft (low in minerals) and will brew into flat tasting tea. Quality spring water is the optimal bottled water for tea. Aside from fresh mountain stream water and good-quality bottled spring water, filtered tap water is generally the best option for brewing tea. Aside from taste, filtered water is also better for your health, as it contains fewer impurities.
The Temperature of Water
Tea is prepared using boiling water. Boiling eliminates many harmful germs and bacteria and also helps to bring out the flavors in the tea leaves. The water should be heated to a gentle boil. Using water that has been held at a rolling boil can leave tea tasting dull and flat. Using water that is not hot enough will fail to bring out the natural flavors of the tea.
Infusion, or Steeping time, depends upon the type of tea and personal preference. Steeping tea for too long or with too hot of water can produce a bitter cup, while steeping tea too little or with water that’s not hot enough can make your tea bland. Delicate teas, such as green tea, need to be brewed for shorter times, while heartier black teas and earthy, fermented, pu-erh teas benefit from longer brewing times. Of course, the time also varies with culture and personal preference.
The material of the teapot also affects the quality of the infusion. When considering a teapot, it is important to consider the type of tea and the temperature at which it will be prepared. Materials like ironware are excellent at retaining heat over long periods of time, while glass or porcelain are more likely to release that heat. Therefore, iron and similarly heavy materials are better for teas that need to be prepared at high temperatures, such as black tea. A teapot made from iron would keep the water hot enough to extract the teas full flavor. Green and white teas, on the other hand, need a vessel that stays cooler, such as porcelain.
General Brewing Steps
So, to put it all together, here are the general guidelines for brewing tea:
- Bring cold water to a gentle boil.
- Remove water from heat.
- Pour hot water into teapot and teacups to warm the vessels.
- Add the proper amount of tea leaves, per cup, to the teapot.
- Pour water at an appropriate temperature, over the tea leaves. (you can also use either an infuser (or tea ball) or a tea filter bag in which to place the leaves while steeping)
- Steep for an amount of time appropriate for the type of tea and based on personal preference.
- Pour brewed tea into another pot or into serving cups (using strainer if the tea is loose)
Tea Steeping Chart
Here is a helpful temperature and steeping time reference for different tea types based on 6-8 fl oz of brewed tea: