Making a cup of tea takes 2 ingredients - tea leaves and water. In a recipe as simple as this what could possibly go wrong?! Ask anyone who's ever drank a cup of weak or bitter tea.... a lot.
If you're using quality loose leaf tea, a great deal of attention and effort has gone into producing the tea. Growth, harvest, processing - tea making is an art that tea farmers take great pride in preserving.
So what about the other ingredient? Water. A cup of tea is 99% water. So to say that water is one of the most important factors in brewing tea, is not an understatement. The good news is that besides selecting the tea leaves, water is the ingredient in the "recipe" we have the most influence over. Following, I’ll share 4 water tips sure to improve your tea "recipe."
If you don't like the taste of your water, you won't like the taste of your tea. For example, if you normally filter your tap water for drinking (and like it), go ahead and make tea with it! Of course, you CAN use bottled water, but you don't HAVE TO.
Different tea types should be brewed at different water temperatures. I rarely using boiling water to brew my tea - even black tea. Green & White teas undergo less processing than Oolong and Black tea's, so these tea types are particularly susceptible to becoming bitter in boiling water. A programable electric kettle is a great way to heat water to a desired temperature. In leu of this, our STEAPing chart gives times to cool water (from boiling) appropriate for each tea type. You could also use a cooking or candy thermometer.
Water/tea leaf ratio
Improper water to tea leaf ratio can cause too weak or too strong a cup. Our recommended ratios are for an 8oz cup. So if you're using a larger infuser mug, or teapot, be sure to increase the tea leaves used in correlation to the amount of water. When in doubt, measure how much water your brewing vessel will hold.
Leaving the lea leaves in the water too long can cause a brew that is too strong or astringent. Generally green & white teas don't steep as long as black teas. Set a timer and be sure to remove the tea leaves from the water. When I’m trying a tea for the first time I always start on the low end of the suggested steeping time. If I do a second infusion with the leaves (use the leaves again) I'll increase the steeping time depending upon what I thought of the first cup. I typically increase the steep time by 1 minute for a second cup. However, if the first cup was too strong I may only increase it 30 seconds, if I thought it was week I would increase it 1 1/2 minutes.
Our STEAPing chart is a great resource. It's available for download HERE.