From ancient Chinese pagodas where Emperors savored jasmine green tea to surfing online tea shops, tea is a universal beverage with endless variety: black tea peppered with cinnamon, cardamom and anise; Red Rooibus grown in the mountains of Southern Africa; smoky Russian Caravan, and Assam – an amber hued brew of delicate, creamy maltiness – truly the Bordeaux of teas.
When one hears the word “tea”, the most prominent image that springs to mind is of an old English manor in some lush green county, and of the Lord and Lady sipping Earl Grey tea in hand-painted cups while maids bear silver trays piled high with Devonshire Cream Scones.
Yet brewing tea is a delicate art, as delicate as one of those hand-painted cups it is poured into. In a word, brewing the perfect cup of tea requires precision – and these simple steps will lead to mastering it.
Just as the artist selects the right color for his sunset, so the tea drinker must select the right flavor for his enjoyment. For a morning stimulant nothing sets the day in motion better than a steaming cup of brisk English Breakfast while the delicate, floral flavor of Pearled Oolong tones down a busy afternoon. And for a dessert treat: Victorian Earl Grey laced with fragrant lavender buds and pink rose petals. October morns are a delight when curled up on a sofa sipping a robust, earthy tincture; and in January, when ice ferns are etched on glass window panes, nothing warms the body better than a cup of pale green tea. Though these teas mentioned are just a few selected choices, there are many, many more flavors in the booming tea market to pique the interest of any avid tea drinker.
Once the desired tea is chosen, place approximately one teaspoon of tea leaves in a tea strainer – (if tea leaves aren’t handy just plop a tea bag in a favorite cup.) Put in cup and set aside. Add fresh cold water to the tea kettle. Put it on the stove top burner and turn heat to high, being careful that the flames do not expand beyond the kettle’s base.
“ssssSSSSWWWEEEE!” When the kettle sings the water has boiled. Slip a potholder over the handle and carefully pour the boiled water into the cup, leaving an extra space at the top to add milk or water. If covered with a saucer or lid, the tea stays hot longer and retains the aromatic flavors stronger. Below are some steeping guidelines:
Black Tea : steep for 3-5 minutes. If left longer the tea releases bitter tannins.
Green Tea: steep for 3 minutes or less after boiled water cooled somewhat. Like black teas, this tea also releases bitter astringents.
Rooibus and Herbal: steep as long as desired. These teas actually taste better when steeped for 10-15 minutes or longer because it adds body as well as medicinal properties.
When the tea has steeped strain it and stir in some milk or cool water. If feeling a trifle adventurous try adding one ore two drops of Stevia SweetLeaf, a natural sweetener. Or the traditional spoon of sugar or honey is just as good. Taste. Mmmm! What palatal perfection!
Now that the steps have been completed retire to a favorite chair, relax with a favorite book, and relish that colassal feat: a perfect cup of tea.