How to Get That Perfect Cup of Tea
- To make a tea stronger, don’t steep it for longer. Unless it’s an herbal, steeping a tea for too long will make it bitter rather than strong. Instead, add more tea leaves or bags!
- As a general rule, use one level teaspoon or 2 grams for every cup (8 oz) you’re making. Fluffier ingredients like mint and chamomile, or teas with larger leaves like green tea or oolong could use an extra teaspoon.
- Tea bag teas are usually one per cup (8 oz) of tea, though you can always double-up when you want it stronger!
- Spring water is ideal for brewing, but not necessary for making a good cup of tea. If possible, use fresh cold water. Never use water from the hot water tap. Let the tap water run for a few seconds until it is quite cold; this ensures that the water is aerated (full of oxygen) to release the full flavor of the tea leaves.
- Try not to let your water reach a rolling boil, as that will release oxygen and result in a flat-tasting cup of tea.
- If brewing with loose leaf tea, there are several different types of infusers available; sometimes you’ll need to experiment a little until you find the perfect one for you.
- Many teas are good for a second (even third!) steeping. Multiple steepings can bring out more subtle flavors and notes. Commonly, oolong, green tea, white tea and pu-erh fall into this category. Give it a shot—you might end up liking the second infusion better than the first!
In order to understand what constitutes "higher" and "lower" in water temperatures, it helps to familiarize yourself with the traditional Chinese method of describing boiling water. There are essentially five identifiable stages in the boiling of water that relate to brewing good-tasting tea:
- Shrimp Eyes: The first, tiny bubbles that appear.
- Crab Eyes: Slightly larger bubbles.
- Fish Eyes: The temperature of the water will be in the range from 160° to 180° F. Good size bubbles will form; this is the temperature where delicate green, white and some of the yellow teas will brew well. Some oolong lovers (of the Dan Cong style) prefer to brew their leaf for longer steep periods in this temperature range.
- String of Pearls: In this stage, the water is at a temperature between 180° F and 195° F and bubbles are beginning to break the surface and cling to the sides of the pan. Everyday green teas, many higher grade teas and some black teas do very well at this temperature.
- Dragon Eyes: The last stage is a rolling boil. Here the temperature is between 195° and 210° F and large bubbles are breaking the surface. Very few green teas will yield positive results at this temperature, but black teas, oolongs and Pu-erhs can be steeped with this water. One note, if you choose to brew at this temperature, you will bring the taste of the tea out quickly. The leaves will release much of their flavor early in the steep and as a result provide a full taste while probably knocking off or blunting some of its more subtle notes.