HOW TO MAKE GOOD TEA
If you think making tea is not rocket science, think again! I say it takes tea science to make good tea.
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of tea brewing let us quickly review how the four types of teas produced from the Camellia sinensis bush are processed. This is important since you may be making tea from either one of these types. See more details at...
White tea: the newest shoots of the tea bush are picked and allowed to wither dry. If the weather condition is poor, the leaves are placed in a dryer with very low heat and a mild tumble. Leaves are not rolled, or shaped like the other teas.
Green tea: the young tea leaves are picked and wilted for a short time, then heated by placing then in the sun or in a cool airy spot to pull out additional moisture, and to stop any enzyme activity. Finally, the leaves are rolled.
Oolong tea: the same basic process as green tea, except the leaves are wilted for a longer period, then mixed up to bruise them which initiates enzyme activity. Finally, the leaves are pan-fried, then rolled and dried by heating them at a high temperature.
Black tea: the first two processes mentioned above are followed, but with a slight variation. The tea leaves are withered, then rolled several times. This rolling process breaks up the cells and facilitates more enzyme activity. The leaves are then air-dried at high temperature. The increased enzyme activity in Oolong and black tea causes some of the phenol molecules to convert into larger molecules, and this produces more subtle flavours.
This first and most important ingredient required to make a great cup of tea is the raw tea. Whether you are using loose-leaf tea or a tea bag, if the raw material is not of a good quality, your tea will be lousy. It also goes without saying that, even if you buy expensive tea, if you brew it the wrong way, it will be lousy too.
The second important item is your utensil. It matters not how intricate or expensive your teapot or tea maker is it must be of a quality that does not affect the brewing process. (we have covered this at )
The final important item is the actual brewing process which covers five key areas:
1.Water: Good tasting water is required; if your water tastes funny, your tea will too. Great water should have about 150 parts per million (PPM) of balanced mineral content. In places with hard water, a diligent tea shop will usually use a good reverse osmosis filtration system and a calcium carbonate cartridge to input the correct amount of mineral content into the water. You can do a similar thing at home by using a carbon-filter water pitcher to remove excess mineral and contaminants like chlorine from your water. Both too hard or too soft water has an impact on tea—if it is too hard (too many minerals) it will remove extra astringency from your tea and produce a harsh brew; if it is too soft it will not extract sufficient polyphenols which provides astringency, good taste, and ultimately health benefits. Finally, you need to use freshly boiled water because it releases oxygen. According to the Chinese (the tea kings!) water that is boiled is "dead water". Tea will never be the best if you use re-boiled water.
2.Temperature: The perfect temperature depends upon the tea you are using ( hence the refresher information stated above). Boiling water (212°F) should be used to prepare Oolong, Black, and Herbal teas. These teas are tough and require very hot water to break down the leaves in order to release the flavour and antioxidants. On the flip side, if you are brewing more delicate teas—white, or green—slightly cooler water should be used. Delicate tea will taste overly bitter or acerbic if the water is too hot, or it will be weak and flavourless if the water is too cool.
3.Amount of tea: The amount of tea you use per cup is important since too much will
make tea bitter while too little tea will make a weak cup of tea. The amount that is considered ideal is one teaspoon (about 2 grams) of most tea leaves, to 8 ounces of water. For larger mugs, a bit more tea leaf is required. Again, be reminded that the type of tea you use may require variations to these guidelines. For example, you will need to use about two teaspoons of large open leaf teas like White tea or some Oolong tea. Of course, you can vary this based on your taste preference.
4.Brewing Time: If you allow tea to brew for too long it will turn bitter. The general
guideline is about 3-5 minutes for most black teas. Oolong and White teas can be steeped for a similar time, however, they can be steeped a bit longer, and still taste good.