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How to Brew
Making tea isn't difficult; not at all. However, beyond the basics
of brewing, there are some fairly simple things that you can do to make
a better cup of tea. Here's how.
Equipment :: Water ::
For brewing bagged tea, you only need a
First, a way to heat your water.
There are several options: an electric kettle, a stove-top kettle,
a pot on the stove-top, and the microwave.
Electric Kettle - This is what I
use. It's faster, easier, and gets better results than the
microwave. All you have to do is put the water in and turn it on.
It'll boil in a few minutes, then turn itself off when it does.
It's the easiest of all the options, and I really recommend it.
You can get a perfectly nice one for only $20 or so. It's totally
Two things to look for when choosing one
are a detachable base, and a window. The detachable base makes the
kettle itself cordless, which is easier to maneuver when pouring.
The window is so you can watch the water; if you're making a type of tea
than requires less-than-boiling water, you can see when it gets to the
point that you want, and turn it off then. A meat thermometer
stuck down the spout of the kettle and into the water also works well.
Stove-Top Kettle - A step up from a
basic pot, but not by much. It's much easier to pour from, and
many of them will whistle when the water boils, so you can leave the
room if you like. I believe these also run for somewhere around
$20; no more, I'm sure, but maybe less. I don't own one, so I'm
Pot on the Stove-Top - If
you don't want to have to buy anything, you can always boil your water
in any old pot that you have. I don't recommend it, however.
It's hard to pour from one of these pots; you could hit a bowl easily
enough, but not a mug. And you don't want to spill boiling water
all over the place. So, try this at your own risk.
Microwave - I'd imagine that this
is how most people make their tea. I used this until I bought my
first electric kettle, and I'll say that while it's inferior to the
kettle, it's better than the stove. It's faster, and you can
microwave either the mug itself, or a measuring cup with a pour-spout on
it. There are some downsides, though.
One, microwave ovens vary. So, it
may take two minutes to heat your water in your microwave, but
six minutes in the microwave at work. And just try looking up
online 'how long to boil water in microwave' if you happen to forget;
all you'll find is a wide range of contradictory answers, and warnings
about the second downside.
Microwaves run the risk of superheating
water. This means that it heats up to a high temperature, but
doesn't boil. When you agitate the water (jiggling the cup, adding
the tea bag, etc), the water will suddenly boil, sometimes explosively.
People have been badly burned by this reaction. You can reduce the
likeliness of this happening by placing a non-metallic object in the mug
with the water (a wooden chopstick, for example). For more
information about superheating, see this
Next, you need something to drink your tea
from. I prefer ceramic mugs, but you can use whatever you like.
Ideally, I prefer something that has the capacity marked on it.
(My mugs from Starbucks all have the size in ounces on the bottom)
But don't worry if you don't have one like that. Just eyeball it,
and you'll be fine.
You'll also probably need a spoon; in case
you want to add sugar or milk, and to help in fishing out the teabag.
Okay, so you've got your kettle (or
whatever), and you're ready to add the water. There are a couple
of things to consider.
When making tea, the quality of the water
matters. If your water tastes bad, so will your tea. Most
people probably just use tap water; I know I do. If your tap water
tastes okay, then go ahead and use it. But if your tap water is
gross, then I'd recommend using bottled water. (For the record,
I've used both, and couldn't tell the difference. But, again, my
tap water tastes fine.)
Next, you have to decide how hot you want
your water to be. Different types of teas will usually turn out best at
different temperatures, so keep in mind what kind of tea
-- For black tea, go to a full boil.
-- For herbal tea, go to a full boil.
-- For rooibos tea, go to a full boil.
-- For green tea, go to 160-180 degrees. (Steam hissing, some bubbles
rising to the top)
-- For oolong tea, go to about 190 degrees. (Strings of bubbles rising
from the bottom)
-- For white tea, go to about 180 degrees. (Strings of bubbles rising
from the bottom)
Also, just a reminder, but it's good idea
to at least look at the instructions on the box. Sometimes they're
wrong, sometimes not. And sometimes, they work out when it seems
they shouldn't. I know I've used boiling water on at least two
bagged green teas with no ill effects, when you normally wouldn't do
that. So, it's something to keep in mind. If you're willing
to risk it, or if you've tried the normal means with less than stellar
results, give the instructions a shot.
So you've got your hot water, and you're
ready to brew. Here's what you need to think about now.
For bagged tea, you want to use 1 teabag
for every 6-8 ounces of water. This is why having a mug with the
size printed on it is handy. As for the variance of 6-8, well,
that depends on how strong you like your tea. If you want it
stronger, use 1 bag per 6 ounces. For weaker, use one bag per 8
ounces. (And, of course, if you want it still stronger/weaker than
that, feel free to tweak these numbers.)
Like with temperature, different kinds of
tea do best with different steeping times. There will be an
element of trial-and-error here, unfortunately, as these are usually
listed in ranges. And a word of advice: true teas (black,
green, and oolong) will turn bitter if steeped for too long. So
it's usually not a good idea to go over the listed times. However,
herbal teas do not turn bitter with increased steeping times;
they get stronger. So, it's safer to tinker with the times
-- For black tea, steep 3-6 minutes. (I
usually settle on 5)
-- For herbal tea, steep approx. 5 minutes (I usually do 5, but this is
-- For rooibos tea, steep 5-10 minutes (I usually go with 5, but this is
-- For green tea, steep 2-4 minutes
-- For oolong tea, steep 5-8 minutes
-- For white tea, steep 4-6 minutes
There are a few tricks that you can try
while steeping to help your tea brew better. One, you can cover
the cup. I just use a paper plate, and it works fine. Two,
you can try heating your mug by pouring in some hot water, letting it
sit for a bit, then dumping it out. (Before you put your water and
teabags in, of course.) And three, when it's time to remove the
teabags, don't squeeze them. The tea that is forced out
will be bitter, and that's not good.
Now, all that's left is to drink your tea!
Add milk or sugar as desired, and enjoy.
...Well, okay. So there's one more
thing you can try. I know that, for me, tea tastes better when
it's a little bit cooler. If I drink my tea straight away, all I
taste is hot, rather than the flavor of the tea. So I like
to let my tea sit for a bit
before drinking. Of course, some people do like their tea
piping hot. This is just my personal preference.