Tea should be enjoyed for its flavor and aroma, where brewing tea can be as casual as dropping a tea bag into hot water or as formal as a Japanese tea ceremony.
The quality of the cup you brew depends on how you extract the sweetness (theanine), in other words, how well you control the bitterness by adjusting the water temperature. This is particularly true from green teas.
An elegant yet simple beverage, tea has only two ingredients; tea and water. Some considerations for both are:
Tea: Use fresh good quality tea that has been stored properly. Light has an adverse effect on tea so avoid glass containers. Once your tea has been opened, store it in airtight containers and keep it in a cool dark place.
Water: If you have available to you, use bottled, filtered or spring water. Soft water is best as it is easily absorbed by tea leaves and extracts the rich contents of the tea to the maximum level
In addition to the two ingredients, the other factor affecting the quality of your brew is water temperature and steeping time. For teas, high water temperature often produces a cup of tea that is aromatic but slightly bitter and low water temperature will produce tea that has a mild aroma and a sweeter taste. A higher temperature is always recommended for herbal or fruit teas
Storing tea correctly is key to extending the shelf life and preserving the quality of opened teas. Unopened, packaged tea can last a year beyond any “best by” date stamped on the package. The tea will eventually lose flavor, but dry leaves will last a very long time.
Unopened tea can be stored in a pantry or freezer to extend its shelf life. When properly stored the shelf life of packaged tea past its expiry date is approximately:
Packaged Tea lasts for
Loose Leaf Tea lasts for
Powder Iced Tea Mix lasts for
Prepared tea Lasts for
Opt for a stainless steel container in most cases
Loose leaf tea keeps best in a stainless steel container as this easily blocks sunlight. Many loose leaf teas are actually sold in stainless steel containers, so if your tea came in one continue to store it in that. Make sure the container you choose is seal-able. It’s very important to seal loose leaf tea.
Try a colored glass container as a backup
If you don’t have a stainless steel container, a glass container can work as a substitute. However, make sure the glass container is colored. This will prevent your tea from being exposed to light. Do not use a clear glass container to store tea
Use a paper bag only for temporary storage
If you bought your tea in a paper bag, and don’t have any storage containers handy, it’s okay to leave your tea in the bag. Tea can be kept in a paper bag if you intend to consume in the next couple of months. Just make sure to transfer the tea to a different container after a couple of months
Make sure the container is airtight
After placing your tea in your chosen container, make sure you seal the container. Keep the lid on as tightly as possible. The less exposure your tea has to outside air, the better.
Store tea at room temperature
Loose leaf tea should be kept in a room that’s consistently room temperature. Fluctuations in temperature can damage loose leaf tea, so store it in a room where the temperature remains relatively stable. Avoid storing loose leaf tea near heaters, air conditioners, or windows
Keep tea in the dark
Loose leaf tea should not be exposed to much light, especially not direct sunlight. Store your tea somewhere that’s not exposed to light. For example, you can store your tea in the back corner of a cabinet in your kitchen.If you do store your tea in a kitchen cabinet, make sure it’s a cabinet that’s away from heat sources like ovens and toasters.
Store your tea away from water
Humidity can adversely affect loose leaf tea. Keep your tea away from water that could cause humidity. Tea should be stored away from refrigerators, areas were you boil water, and any other places in your home near sources of water
Keep tea and spices separate
Many people throw their loose leaf tea in with their spices. This is generally not a good idea. Tea can actually absorb aromas very easily. Storing your tea near spices can affect its taste
Do not use plastic
Never store your tea in plastic. Plastic absorbs odor and is generally clear, leaving your tea vulnerable to sources of light
Do not put tea in the refrigerator
Never store tea in your refrigerator. The refrigerator will not help tea keep longer and the moisture can damage your tea. Remember, loose leaf tea holds up best when it’s stored at room temperature
Adjusting water temperature without a thermometer:
The best method to reach the desired temperature is to bring the water to a boil then let it cool to the desired temperature. One way to do this without a thermometer is to pour boiling water into the teacups to be used. The temperature of boiled water cools to approximately 83C when you pour it into a cup at room temperature. If you transfer the water to another cup, the temperature cools down by another 10C to approximately 73C. By continually doing this you have water at 100C, 83C, 73C and 63C
This method also warms the teacup so the tea will stay warm longer. We also recommend that you warm the teapot with hot water prior to brewing.
The following chart shows “traditional” guidelines for water and tea measures and brewing temperature and steeping times. Make changes to suit your own preferences.
There are 3 traditional methods to brew tea
Gentle brewing: (Using a small teapot)
Gentle brewing is used for teas where flavor is slightly more important than the aroma. The goal is to draw out the taste from the leaves by using water that is not too hot. This technique for any tea that uses water below the boiling point.
Step 1: Boil the water
Step 2: Pour the boiling water into the tea cups
Step 3: Measure the tea into the teapot
Step 4: Pour water from the teacup into the teapot
Step 5: Let the tea steep for the required time
Step 6: Pour the tea into each cup little by little. No liquid should remain in the teapot
Robust Brewing: (Using a small teapot)
This type of brewing is used for more aromatic teas. Here the aroma is an important part of enjoying the tea. Water is boiled and poured directly onto the tea in the pot
Step 1: Measure tea into teapot
Step 2: Pour boiling water into teapot
Step 3: Let steep for the required time
Step 4: Pour the tea into each cup little by little. No liquid should remain in the teapot
Brewing Matcha powdered tea is very different to steeping tea leaves. You should have at least one special tool, a bamboo whisk called a chasen. (see tips if you don’t have this).
Step 1: Start with boiling the water and two teacups
Step 2: Pour boiling water into one of the cups
Step 3: Measure Match into the other cup. Use one bamboo scoop or half teaspoon
Step 4: Pour 3 oz water from the cup into the matcha cup
Step 5: Whisk the Matcha with the water
Matcha is a fine powder made from tea leaves. The powdered leaf doesn’t dissolve in the water, but it is suspended in the liquid. Consequently, it is important to enjoy this drink before the tea powder settles to the bottom of the cup. To prevent lumps, we recommend that you sift the matcha through a fine strainer before whisking.
Teapots and Infusers
English tea pots:
An English teapot is much larger than the traditional Japanese teapot. It may hold up to 2 liters of water and is designed for brewing black loose tea and tea bags. For these teas the suggested measure is one teaspoon of leaves or one tea bag per 150ml – 230ml of water. Some people suggest adding an additional tea bag for the pot. ……look up how to brew so that it aligns to previous articles
Tea pots with infusers have become very popular probably due to their convenience. An infuser is usually a metal mesh basket that keeps the tea from spreading throughout the teapot. They are used in all sizes of teapots. You can use teapots with infusers to brew all loose leaf teas using the brewing methods discussed above (except Matcha). Several notes of caution when using infusers for green tea:
As you brew green tea, you will notice that it expands. Consequently, make sure the infuser basket is large enough to let the green tea expand during brewing. Confining the tea to a small area will not allow all of the tea leaves to come in contact with the water.
Since infusers may not let the tea expand fully, our experience is that the steeping time should be longer, up to twice the time used in a regular Japanese teapot to get the same strength of cup.
Choose an infuser made from good, non-reactive material. Stainless steel is a good choice here. Clean the infuser after brewing to remove any residue
Any variety of green tea will make a good glass of iced tea. To add to the refreshing taste, we suggest a tea with a strong aroma. For Japanese teas, Genmaicha, Bancha, Houjicha and flavored Senchas are great choices. The brewing method is relatively simple. For one cup, use 50% more tea leaves than recommended in the Brewing parameters. Steep as directed for hot tea. Now, this is the important part, once brewed, immediately pour the tea into a cup filled with ice. The rapid cooling locks in the aroma.
For high end green teas, you can generally get two infusions from each pot. Be sure to empty the pot of all liquid after the first brewing. This will help avoid the second cup becoming too bitter.
Keep your teaware clean. Remove any stains that start to appear. If necessary use bleach to clean hard-to-remove stains. (Be sure to thoroughly rinse the pot after using bleach). The spout of the pot is often neglected during cleaning, so pay special attention to it.
Try using matcha in recipes, much like seasoning. It is especially good in desserts. Have several different teas in your draw for drinking throughout the day. For example, start the day with Sencha, enjoy flavored teas at tea breaks and end the day with a comforting caffeine free brew like Rooibos
Take time for tea. One or two tea breaks during a busy day will lift your spirits