6 Steps to the Perfect Cup of Tea

“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
if you are too heated, it will cool you;
If you are depressed, it will cheer you;
If you are excited, it will calm you.”
― William Ewart Gladstone

Hot or iced, there’s just something about a cup of tea that hits the spot. It’s the perfect go-to to kick off your day, or to wind it down. It’s poetry in a cup. And regardless of what some of the more haphazard among us might think, there is a right and a wrong way to brew it.

Perfect tea starts with perfect water. If there’s one thing all tea experts agree upon it’s this: The secret to tea perfection lies within your water. The best cup starts with cold spring water. Always begin with an empty kettle and fill it with fresh H2O. Re-boiling water can reduce the oxygen content in the liquid, which will add a bit of a metallic taste to your otherwise perfect cup. It’s the oxygen in the water that opens up the tea leaf and pumps up the flavor.

There is a Goldilocks of water temperature. Darker-leafed teas (oolong, herb and rooibos tea) brew best when the water is hotter. As soon as your water gets up to a rolling boil, pour it over the tea. Lighter-leaf varieties, such as green and white tea, require the temperature to be a little bit more on the warm side (as opposed to hot). When the water in your kettle begins to form tiny bubbles, pour it over the tea.

Read the package for brew times. If your tea is prepackaged, the label likely gives you an idea of how long you should steep your tea for the best cup. If your tea doesn’t come with such instruction, the rule of thumb is 2-4 minutes for black leaf teas, depending on how strong you like it. Green teas should steep 1-3 minutes and herbal tea for up to 4. If you like a real deep, strong flavor to your cup, don’t steep it longer, just use more tea.

If you’re brewing loose tea, think 1 to 1. You’ll find a delectable variety of teas by opting for loose tea varieties. Going this route, however, begs the question: how much do I use? Plan on using one teaspoon of tea per cup. Of course, if you like your tea stronger, add more.

Milk, lemon, honey, sugar. Take your pick. How (and if) you sweeten your tea is up to you. Different tea varieties pair better with different add-ins; so, experiment. Feeling under the weather? Try some black tea with a little honey and lemon. Want to savor the flavors of the herbal tea? Try it without adding anything else in or sweeten to taste.

Sit back and savor. In a world of go, go, go, tea is the perfect excuse to just sit still for a moment. Hold that cup in both hands, inhale the steamy scent of it and then enjoy.

Bonus: Prefer your tea iced? The steps are quite similar. The biggest difference is how much tea you use. You can measure the same amount of tea into the cup or pitcher, but only fill it about half way with hot water. Once it’s steeped, remove the tea and fill the container the rest of the way with ice. Let it sit until the ice is mostly melted and the iced tea is your preferred temperature.

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