Matt Westenburg Talks Tea Brewing
If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, a cup of tea is a great alternative. Tea comes in a variety of flavors. Many tea leaves contain the caffeine you need to get through the day and have additional health benefits. Preparing a pot of tea was an art form in some cultures, so you’ll want to get it right. Although we generally don’t take tea as seriously today, here are some tips to help you brew tea like a master.
Tea brewing techniques
For the perfect cup of tea, use cold, purified or spring water to brew your tea leaves. This will make sure both the water and the tea are free from substances that could affect the final taste. The water should be slowly heated to a gentle boil. If you overheat your water or heat it in a microwave, the water will lose oxygen, which affects the tea’s flavor. Each different kind of tea tastes best when the water is heated to within a specific temperature range. Black tea, for example, needs very hot water to enhance its characteristic sweetness.
When making tea, pour the hot water into your teacups and your teapot before steeping the leaves. Heating them up prevents the temperature from fluctuating too much. Allow the hot water to cool to the correct temperature before pouring it over your tea leaves.
The amount of time your tea needs to infuse depends on what kind it is. Hearty teas with earthy flavors generally steep for longer than soft, green or white teas. If you’re brewing your tea from a tea bag, make sure to remove it after it steeps for enough time. What you brew your tea in will affect its flavor. Cast iron teapots keep the water temperature hot for longer than glass teapots.
White tea is the least processed kind of tea. The leaves are picked and dried in a delicate process that prevents oxidation. White tea is the most delicate with gentle flavors and fresh aromas.
Green tea leaves are unoxidized so they keep their green color. The flavor of green tea depends on how it’s processed. Traditional methods in China roasted the leaves, while in Japan they were steamed. Since steamed green tea leaves retain more moisture, they should be stored at cooler temperatures.
Oolong tea is semi-oxidized in an intricate process that allows for a wide variety of flavors. Oolongs keep their flavor after being steeped multiple times.
The oxidized leaves in black tea are blended into many different flavors. Originally cultivated in China, the popularity of this tea has spread and now people around the world are growing black tea. Teas that come from the same garden and the same year are called estate teas. Broken-leaf black tea leaves have been crushed into smaller pieces. These teas have a higher caffeine content because of the fragmented leaves. Full-leaf teas tend to be more gentle.
Herbal and floral teas capture the aromas and flavors from several different plants. These infusions are technically not tea but are commonly classified such. Herbal infusions are usually caffeine-free and more gentle than tea. One of the most common herbal teas is chamomile, known for its soothing affect on people.
The techniques for brewing a proper pot of tea have been refined over centuries of practice. With a little practice, you’ll become a master in no time.