Outside of water, tea is the most widely consumed drink in the world. Since its legendary discovery in 2797 bce by Emperor Shen Nung, over its long history, tea drinking has been steadily on the rise globally because of its health benefits and its stimulating and relaxing properties. Today Industry experts estimate that just 21% of the US population considers themselves to be tea aficionados.
Ask any tea connoisseur, and they will tell you that there’s definitely an art to making a perfect cup of tea. Even when you have access to the best tea in the world, there are many mistakes you can make, which can potentially ruin your cup of tea. These mistakes can range from not using the right kind of water, heating tea water too quickly or too hot, to steeping tea bags too long or not long enough. Even having the correct type of teapot or teacup can either enhance or take away from a pleasurable tea-drinking experience.
Here are some ways that you can make tea time more relaxing and enjoyable every time.
Choosing the Best Water
A document dating back to China’s Ming Dynasty states,
“The inherent quality of tea must be expressed in water. When tea that is of a lower quality meets with water that is of higher quality, the tea is enhanced. When tea of a higher quality meets with a water that is of lower quality, the tea is also lowered.”
According to “The Classic of Tea” by tea master Lu Yu, mountain spring water is considered the highest quality, while river water is average, and well water is thought to be inferior. If you have hard water, the high mineral content can inevitably affect the taste of tea. For those who live in the city and have tap water that has been treated, this can also take away from the taste of your tea.
Tea Water Should Be Hot – But Not Too Hot
In China, the art of finding the right temperature for tea is described as Sheng Pen or the “Sound of Distinguishing.” This means that based on the sense of sound, you hear when water reaches the proper temperature. Rather than listening for the whistle on your tea kettle, which indicates your water is boiling. Instead, listen for a low hum or when small bubbles that are the size of fish eyes begin to rise inside the tea kettle.
Steep Your Tea for the Right Amount of Time
When the tea is not allowed to steep long enough, the taste of it can be watery and weak. If tea is allowed to steep for too long, it can end up tasting bitter, and all of the subtle flavors within it have been muddied or even lost entirely.
Of course, not all teas are the same when it comes to the perfect amount of time that bags or loose leaves should be allowed to steep. Some teas, such as white teas, are more delicate and take between one to three minutes to steep. Green tea takes about three to five minutes, and some teas like black or herbal teas may require five minutes or as long as 8 -10 minutes to get the best flavor.
Don’t Toss That Teabag Too Soon!
Many tea drinkers have been given the idea that a tea bag or tea leaves can only be used once. While that might be an excellent tactic for selling more tea, that isn’t necessarily the case. By using a teabag two or even three times, each brewing can offer a whole other realm to your tea in terms of taste experiences.
Pay Attention to What You Add to Your Cup of Tea
Turning to tea instead of carbonated or other sugary drinks can help you cut down on calories. However, when you add milk, cream, sugar, or honey, you’re also adding more calories. According to recent studies, such as one conducted at the University of Illinois between 2001 and 2012, the number of calories per cup can be increased by 69 calories or more.
You can lessen calories and still have a sweet cup of tea by adding a non-caloric sweetener such as stevia, or opting for low-fat milk in place of cream or whole milk.
Choose the Right Cup
Making the best choice of teacup is one of the most overlooked aspects of brewing the best cup of tea.
Many tea drinkers simply choose a readily available coffee mug and use that to drink their tea from. The inside of this type of cup may not always be completely smooth. Any inclusions or porous surface areas can absorb the tea and can affect future cups of tea.
Earthenware or ceramic can retain heat longer, and when they have been appropriately glazed, it can prevent the transfer of tastes from previous cups of tea. For many people, this type of cup is the most comfortable. Tea experts recommend that when choosing just the right ceramic mug, make sure that the rim is thin enough to allow the tea to roll off the edge of the cup and onto your tongue. That way, you can more fully appreciate the sophisticated tastes within your tea.
- Glass – When opting for a glass teacup, be sure to choose one that is thick enough. Because hot water or tea is being poured into the cup, it can crack if the glass is too thin.
- Porcelain –Tea experts have long regarded porcelain teacups as the best choice of all because it doesn’t absorb the taste of the tea. One disadvantage of porcelain or bone china cups is their tendency to cool quickly. If you are savoring your tea, you could find it has gone cold before you finish.
- Stainless Steel – If you have a daily commute, sometimes a stainless steel commuter mug is your only option. The problem with this type of cup is that stainless steel cups don’t allow for tea to cool so that you can take a sip without getting burned.
- Plastic – It’s a good idea to avoid using plastic tea cups, if at all possible. Some of the plastics used in the manufacture of plastic tea cups or mugs could leach chemicals into your tea. If you absolutely must use a cup made of plastic, make sure that it is BPA or Bisphenol A –free.
There are few things more enjoyable or relaxing than enjoying a cup of tea. By following these tips, you can turn the ritual of brewing your next cup into an almost meditative experience.
“The Way of Tea” by Master Lam Kam Chuyen, Lam Kai Sin and Lam Tin Yu, 2002, Barron’s Educational Series, NY
“The Tea Box” by Giles Brochard, 2001, Barron’s Educational Series, Hauppauge, NY
“Modern Tea: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage” by Lisa Boalt Richardson, 2014, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA
“The Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom from the Old Chinese Tea Masters” by Warren Peltier, 2011, Tuttle Publishing, Rutland Vermont
“Consumption of coffee and tea with add-ins in relation to daily energy, sugar, and fat intake in US adults, “by An R, Shi Y. et al, 2001-2012. Public Health. 2017 May;146:1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2016.12.032. Epub 2017 Jan 26