4 Tips For The Perfect Cup Of Tea
This is a surprisingly contentious issue, and no we’re not talking about the Boston Tea Party! We’re talking about something quite personal. How the average tea drinker views the perfect cup of tea. Some of these facts might surprise you.
Should I squeeze my teabag?
Most scientists say that you should actually not squeeze the tea bag after it has steeped. This is mainly because tea leaves are home to polyphenols, micronutrients that also exist in various vegetables, plants, and fruits. The tannic acid found in abundance in tea means that the number of polyphenols is also substantial. Yes, polyphenols can be useful in fighting inflammation and cancer; but no, they don’t make for a great taste if squeezed out from the dregs of your teabag.
You are, therefore, increasing the bitterness of your cup of tea if you squeeze out excess tannic acid that has remained within the bag. The taste will be more acidic and sourer than it ought to have been. You also jeopardize the integrity of the teabag lining, which isn’t that strong. If loose leaves spill out in your cup of tea, it’s going to be a less enjoyable drinking experience.
Can you brew tea too long?
In short, yes. Well, according to some UK scientists, anyway, and we all know how much the Brits love a cuppa. The consensus nowadays is that 5 minutes is the magic number. This is to harness the potential benefits of the antioxidants present in tea and to minimize the potential bitterness that might emerge from the tannin, as discussed above. It is true that the longer you leave it in, the higher the amount of caffeine and number of antioxidants. However, it is up to you; would you rather the taste were better or that slightly higher benefits were present?
First things first; use water from a water filter, if possible. It takes out the calcium and magnesium residue which can cause scum to form in your electric kettle, or stove kettle depending on the water quality where you live. A pour-over kettle is usually used for coffee but can be used if you’re using loose leaf tea; it gives the water more specific directionality.
Never brew tea in a Styrofoam cup unless it’s an emergency; it sucks up the flavor, leaving less for you. Apparently, drinking from a pink or red mug seems to make the tea taste all the sweeter. Lemon, honey, milk (milk frother), or sugar are added extras; pure tea is best, though, for the raw, natural taste (if brewed properly) and all the health benefits. A tea brewer can be used and is useful for loose leaf tea for a number of people, not just tea for one.
What temperature should you brew tea at?
Unlike with your coffee machine when you just pour in the coffee and press the button, there is a certain art and mystique to making tea. In fact, it might depend on which tea you’re talking about; various teas have different combinations of amino acids, flavor compounds, tannins, and aromas.
Water that is too hot can have a detrimental effect on tea, destroying various properties, burning some of its tender leaves. Water that is too cold will mean that those compounds won’t be dissolved properly, and your tea won’t have enough balance or taste. These are the recommended temperature ranges of various teas:
- White teas: 160–185°F
- Yellow teas: 175°F
- Green teas: 140–190°F
- Oolong teas: 180–200°F
- Black teas: 190–200°F
- Pu’er teas: 200–212°F
Feel the heat
You can, if you want, purchase a special thermometer designed to measure water temperature; or you could buy a teakettle with in-built thermometer. If push comes to shove, just leave your electric kettle for a few minutes after it has reached boiling point, and that should suffice for the average black tea tea-bag.
Another point is never to re-boil the electric kettle in order to make another cup of tea. Simply pour in more filtered water and start over again. Re-boiling once boiled water apparently depletes the oxygen and nitrogen from the water. If you’re a slow drinker and want to re-heat your tea, it is far better to reheat it in the microwave rather than pour in re-boiled water from a kettle. This is because microwaving just shifts the molecules around and has no impact on the flavor.
Lastly, it is always preferable to use porcelain and bone china when drinking your tea. Porcelain is non-porous; the specific glaze means it is non-reactive. Bone china is similar but is made from clay combined with bone ash. Both materials stop tannin from sticking to the edge, and so maintain the body of the tea.
There is much more to learn about tea etiquette, tea houses, tea culture, tea growing, and a whole host of interesting anecdotes from famous tea drinkers of the past. But this should be enough to help you enjoy your daily cuppa.