Tea leaves (Camellia sinensis) undergo a diverse range of treatments and processes after the initial harvest to obtain the varieties we enjoy. Some of the leaves are rolled or tied, while others are simply picked and dried. Each tea type also have specific requirements for proper steeping, in order to extract the best flavor. If you pay attention to these simple rules, you'll be able to perfect the craft of tea steeping!
#1 Timing is (almost) everything!
Proper steeping time is one of the most essential components to brewing a delicious cup of tea. All tea leaves will begin to release tannins after a certain amount of brew time, which varies depending on tea type. Some are more resilient and can be steeped for up to five minutes, while others must be removed after 45 seconds. Herbal teas and rooibos are the exception; They don't contain true tea leaf, so they can be left to steep indefinitely. To avoid a bitter flavor, steep tea according to suggested brewing time. Just set a simple kitchen timer (or the timer on your phone) and remove the tea when the time's up!
#2 Some like it hot... but don't burn it!
Similar to steeping time, each variety of tea has a unique steeping temperature as well. Using water that is too hot can "burn" your tea. Burning the tea leaves will result in a quick release of tannic acid and caffeine, resulting in a bitter, astringent, or acrid flavor. Temperature variables kettles are a tea drinker's best friend, as they completely eliminate the guess work of water temps.
#3 More isn't always better (and less isn't always more.)
When steeping tea, a proper teaspoon of leaves per 6 ounces of water will suffice. If you don't use enough tea, the result will be a weak brew. Conversely, using too many leaves will result in a bitter or overbearing flavor. Make sure to pay attention to the size of your vessel, and simply divide by 6 to find the amount of teaspoons necessary for a perfect pot, cup or mug of tea. The result with be like Baby Bear's porridge... just right!
#4 (Don't) have it in the bag!
Loose leaf teas will provide you with a more flavorful steep. Tea bags usually contain "dust and fannings," which is lower quality, broken pieces of the tea plant. Though loose leaf teas will require a steeping apparatus, the extra step will be worth it in the end. High quality loose leaf tea will have a noticeably rich aroma and appearance compared to a supermarket tea bag. To keep your tea delicious, store it in a container that keeps out air, light, and moisture!
#5 Soak it all in!
Congratulations! You brewed a delicious cup of tea! Now, take the time to sit back and savor all of the subtle flavors and tones that properly steeped tea has to offer. Whether you are drinking a caffeinated black tea to invigorate you, or a soothing oolong to wind down in the afternoon, the most important part of a good cup of tea is being able to relax and enjoy it. :)