Tea 101… Practice Makes for YOUR Perfect Cup!

Last week we held an intimate class called Tea 101 at the fascinating, old-world styled spice / tea shop in Laguna Beach called Spice Merchants.  I posted about them last week here.  I hadn’t put on an “intro to tea” class in awhile; therefore, while pulling the materials together for the class, I was reminded of just how simple preparing a great cup of tea can be, and yet, how easily it can go all wrong.  Below are a few photos of our class set-up at Spice Merchants.  Our students were engaging and really interested in learning more about tea.  We had fun while tasting four different pure teas from the shelves of Spice Merchants, paired with a few tasty food bites.  Below are my tea making tips…it’s almost as easy as boiling water…a little practice will get you the results you desire.

Tea 101 ... ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach...an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

Tea 101 … ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

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In Tea With Betty, my tea manual, I include details of what key ingredients are needed to make a good cup of tea (there are 4)…along with steps about how to accomplish this fete :-).   While preparing a great cup of tea to your taste should be as easy as boiling water and tossing in some tea leaves….it’s often not…there are questions such as … what type of water to use? And at what temperature for which tea?  What type of tea to  use? Just how much tea for how much water?  And how long should the tea leaves sit on the water? Then, how do you effectively get the leaves off the water?  And finally, when do you add things such as milk (for black tea only plleeease!) …all these considerations go into the simple process of preparing a great cup of tea.  It sometimes feels like all the stars need to be aligned for the resulting brew to come out just the way you want it. Whew.

However, it is REALLY simple.  Here’s what you need.

1).  Good, clean, fresh spring or filtered water.  Tap water may have chlorine or other minerals which can distort or cover the lovely flavor of your delicate tea leaf as it exudes it’s liquor.

2). Use quality, leaf teas… tea leaves (not tea dust). I am careful to know where my tea leaves originated from…I primarily use teas from Harney & Sons, Mighty Leaf Teas, Adagio Teas, Tea Forte, Numi Organic Teas, Peet’s Teas, Steven Smith, Tazo, and a few others.  Spice Merchants teas are sourced primarily from these established tea purveyors.  It matters where your tea leaves come from…you are dousing them in water and ingesting the liquor these leaves leave behind…I want to know if these leaves are from a farm using sustainable practices and fair trade methods.

Variety of leaf teas on display

Variety of leaf teas on display – whole leaves, no tea “dust”…

Quantity of leaves to water ratio is where you will want to “test things out a bit to meet your preferred taste”; however, a rounded teaspoon per 8 ounce of fresh water is the place to start.

3). Water temperature makes a difference and varies depending of the type of tea you are brewing…just to boiling 212 degrees for black teas.  Greens and white teas scorch at this temperature, so go lower with these tea types (160 – 190 degrees).  Don’t boil your water to death, the oxygen in the water as it is coming to temp assists in releasing all the excellent flavor from your tea leaves as you pour the water over the leaves.

4) Brewing time matters.  Do not steep your tea longer than recommended or it will taste bitter.  The reason many Americans say they don’t enjoy tea is that they have experience leaf teas that have sat on the water too long and gotten astringent…not a pleasant thing to consume at that point.  Remove the tea (liquor exuded from the steeping leaves) as soon as they are done steeping.  Pour the tea into another warmed pot to serve or into your awaiting cup.

That’s it…not too difficult.  And practice a bit with a few steepings to determine what your favorite taste is…in the end, it is all about what you prefer.  Practice does make the perfect cup of tea for YOU!