For centuries, tea has been used for a number of reasons. Different parts from plants and herbs are used on a daily basis to create warm decoctions or infusions used in rituals, ceremonies, medicinal purposes, and to satisfy the taste buds. This simple beverage has made a mark in history, being the second most widely consumed beverage throughout the world. From hot tea to iced tea to medicinal decoctions, who knew a bunch of leaves and branches could make such an impact in our daily lives, and that brewing a cup is even considered an art form?
So how does one go about making that perfect cup of tea?
As an herbalist in Traditional Chinese Medicine, I tend to turn to herbal remedies and simple teas for their healing properties and to keep the body in check. However, when preparing the teas there are a few steps I take to ensure I get a perfect cup every time. The preparation in making tea comes down to a few factors, such as the type of water used, the temperature of the water, the type of teapot, the time in which the tea will steep, would it be infusion or decoction, and which tea is being brewed.
Who knew so much would go into brewing tea? So let’s see what is needed.
The type of water used when preparing a satisfying cup of tea should always be cold water that is freshly drawn. Best choice to use is purified spring water to limit the amount of pollutants and other toxic substances that may affect the flavor of the tea. Distilled water is not the best option due to the lack of minerals. This can lead to the tea tasting flat or bitter. Pre-heated water, such as hot tap water, has a possibility to be overheated and can also bring toxic substances.
It is best to bring the water to a light boil. By heating gently, germs or bacteria can be eliminated. The water will be appropriately heated when small bubbles begin to rise to the surface. The bubbles signify that there is enough oxygen in the water that will aid in bringing out the tea’s flavor.
Temperature can play a huge part when brewing tea. The temperature will be determined by which variety of tea is being used. Different teas will have different temperatures in order to bring out the flavors. For example, green tea is more delicate so it would need a cooler temperature to produce a greater taste.
The material of the teapot is important. Some materials such as iron should be used for heavier and earthier teas, such as black or oolong. Iron is dense and great at retaining heat. So the temperature of the water will remain hot for a longer period of time, which is great for the heartier teas to really draw out the flavor. Glass or porcelain, on the other hand, should be used for lighter teas, such as green or herbal. Heat escapes through these thinner vessels, keeping the temperature cooler.
Depending on the tea, some will need a longer time to steep while others don’t. As mentioned before, the heavier or more earthly the tea, the more time is needed to bring out the right flavor.
Infusion or Decoctions
If you are using a loose tea, you can experiment with preparing your tea as infusions and decoctions. The method you use will depend on which part of the plant or herb you have. Infusions consist of more of the delicate parts of a plant such as leaves, flowers, buds, and seeds. These parts are typically steeped in boiling water. A decoction, on the other hand, is made up of more woody parts of the plants, such as roots or twigs and barks. During this process, these parts of the plant are placed in simmering hot water to allow their beneficial properties to be drawn out at a lower heat.
All the suggestions above will help to make a great cup of tea. However, in order to make the best tea possible, you’ll want to follow individualized instructions based on the type of tea being brewed. Once the tea bag or infuser is removed, enjoy the blend of natural flavors that have been celebrated and used for centuries.
Below are the more common teas, starting with the lighter to the heavier teas: