Tea is only second to water when it comes to beverage popularity—so popular that it's consumed as much as coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol combined. There's always time for better tea, though, so here are ten tips and tricks to take your tea to the next level.
1.Temperature Is Key
When you ask someone why they do not like tea, often times the answer is Well, it just tastes bitter” What’s interesting about this response is that a lot of people do not realize that they are likely responsible for creating that bitter taste. To simplify steeping guidelines, ideally when you think black tea, it is safe to think boil. For all other tea (Green, Oolong, Pu’erh, White) you want your water to be under boiling. The reason for this, when you use boiling water, you actually risk burning the tea leaves, which can make your tea taste bitter or astringent.
Heating the water to the optimal temperature will also draw out the right balance of amino acids. This is what helps to create the optimal level of flavor, sweetness, and tannins. If the water temperature is too low, it may not extract the full range of flavors. If the temperature is too high, the tea will taste overly bitter and astringent.
2.Timing is Everything
Temperature is just as important as timing. Under steeping can result in a bland and boring brew while over steeping can produce an undesirable level of tannins, astringency, and too strong of a beverage. Generally, black tea and oolong should be steeped 4-5 minutes, green and white tea 3-4 minutes, and herbal blends 5-6 minutes. Of course, at the end of the day it’s all about preference.
3. Not all Green Tea Is Created the Same
When finding the right type of green tea for you, think about how green tea is processed. Two of the most popular styles of green tea are Japanese green tea and Chinese Green tea. What’s the difference and why does it matter? My mentor, Shabnam Weber (Tea Sommelier Educator & Owner of The Tea Emporium) explains it perfectly:
“Imagine you are cooking broccoli, and you choose to pan roast it on your stove top. What does that taste like? It tastes roasted, nutty, and charred. This is how Chinese green tea is generally procssed. It is pan fired. Now imagine you take that broccoli, but this time, you choose to steam it. The flavour is more soft, vibrant, grassy with a hint of sweetness. Japanese green tea is generally steamed during processing.
Not only will knowing these two primary key differences in the styles of green tea will help you choose what style is suited for your own preferences, though you will also look like a total pro next time you enjoy a cup at a restaurant and say with confidence in front if your company which country the tea you are tasting is likely from.
4.Warm Your Cup
Such a simple yet amazing life changer. Why warm your cup? When you warm your cup before steeping tea, you are retaining the temperature of your tea longer. Therefore, you can enjoy your tea at optimal flavour longer. It’s like serving food on cold plates. Just don’t do it, it makes people cringe.
5. Less Is More
General rule to not over complicate things: 1 heaping tsp per cup (8 oz) of water. That’s it, that’s all. Do not over stuff your tea filter or infuser. Doing so will not allow the leaves an opportunity to actually expand and grow or release their full flavours. Overstuffing your infuser constricts this process or emits too much flavour into your cup which can result in a tanic, bitter cup of tea. Plus, why would you use too much tea in one cup if you don’t have to?
6. You can re-steep many teas
Not only can you steep all tea except black tea, with each reinfusion, you will discover a new a whole new flavour profile unlike the cup you enjoyed previously.
What is tea technically? Tea is also known as Camellia Sinensis, and all black, green, white, oolong and pu’erh teas come from this one plant. Considering how vastly different each style is, this is surprising to many people. The difference of between each style comes down to mainly how they are harvested and processed. Think of it like wine. There are two grapes, white and red. From there you have hundreds of varietals. All from one plant.
7.Tea Is the Most Consumed Beverage on the Planet Next to Water
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water, and can be found in almost 80% of all U.S. households. It is the only beverage commonly served hot or iced, anytime, anywhere, for any occasion. On any given day, over 158 million Americans are drinking tea.
The economic and social interest of tea is clear and its consumption is part of many people’s daily routine, as an everyday drink and as a therapeutic aid in many illnesses. Today, there are more than 1,500 types of teas to choose from because over 25 countries cultivate tea as a plantation crop!
8. Tea is not just for drinking
If you’re not so much into drinking the stuff, there are other ways to benefit from its properties. Green tea particularly is good for your skin from inside and out, having antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-aging properties. It soothes skin inflammation, reduces acne and, apparently, it prevents hair loss! Read on to find 13 of our favorite homemade green tea beauty recipes.
9.Tea can be a Mood Stabilizer and Ultimate Focus Booster
Tea is known to be a rich source of flavonoid antioxidants. However tea also contains a unique amino acid, L-theanine that may modulate aspects of brain function in humans. L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness.
10. Loose Leaf vs. Bags - What's the Deal?
Tea bags are undoubtedly more convenient than loose tea, but what you trade in convenience you probably are giving up in taste and quality. Tea Muse explains it like this:
"There is, of course, a huge taste difference. Teabags generally contain bits of tea leaves (typically fannings and dust), not whole leaves, and these leaf fragments brew up a nice cup of blah tea. As any tea expert will tell you, one of the essential requirements of brewing tea is giving the leaves enough room to expand so that their flavor is properly extracted. Because space is limited in a traditional teabag, the size of the tea leaf is smaller to compensate. Thus, the quality of the flavor is decreased. Thus, loose tea reigns supreme."