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How to brew a perfect cup of tea

If you want to drink a fine cup of tea, start by properly brewing your tea. Let’s take a closer look at the rituals of tea making, so you can bring out the subtle characteristics of each cup you brew.

We at PLAIN-T have found that the “art of making tea” is a passion that inevitably grows as you discover the subtleties that exist in fine tea. No artistic talent or expert knowledge is required! All you need to experience your first truly outstanding cup of tea is to observe the few guidelines we recommend below.

Chances are, once you start brewing, the search for your perfect cup of tea will begin! In fact, we think you’ll find the process of making tea as enjoyable as your first soothing sip!

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Tea

Use fine PLAIN-T loose tea leaves and brew in an appropriate cup, mug or teapot. The correct vessel lets the leaves open fully, so they can release their special aromas and flavors.

For compact teas, use 3 grams or 1 teaspoon for each 6 oz. of water.

For voluminous teas, use 2 teaspoons for each 6 oz. of water.

Water, The Mother of Tea

Believe it or not, the water you use, and how you use it, plays an important role in the taste of your tea. Use soft water such as bottled spring or filtered water. Avoid hard water such as tap water, which may contain too many chemicals. It will decidedly affect the taste of your tea.

Never over-boil your water, or it loses much of its oxygen; an integral element for enhancing your tea’s flavor.

Never pour boiling water over white or green teas—it burns the leaves and destroys their delicate flavor.

“A good tea is impossible without good water.”

Chinese writer and tea master Lu Yu

While there are many varieties and flavors of tea available, amazingly, they all derive from one tea plant—the Camellia Sinensis, which is an evergreen shrub. While all parts of the tea plant are used to make mass-produced and low quality teas, we use only the uppermost leaves and buds in our fine teas, as these are the youngest and tenderest.

Water Temperature

Start with cool water, to make sure it’s well oxygenated.

Making black or Oolong teas? Bring the water just to a boil—about 200 degrees Fahrenheit/93.3 degrees Celsius. Remember, don’t over-boil!

Brewing white and green teas? Keep the water well below boiling—180 degrees Fahrenheit/82.2 degrees Celsius.

Sampling Pu-erh teas? You’ll want to keep a full boil until your water temperature reaches 210 degrees Fahrenheit/98.9 degrees Celsius.

Your Tea Pot, Father of Tea

When it comes to choosing your teapot, look first at aesthetics: its shape and appearance. As you shop around, you’ll find that there is often one teapot that stands out—one that you like at your very first glance.

The Chinese believe you should follow your instincts, and we at Plain-T have to agree. If you don’t like the look of a teapot, don’t buy it—no matter how good a reputation it has. Since your teapot becomes your daily companion, the wrong choice will turn you off and make you uncomfortable. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a close English version of this same Chinese concept.

Teapots retain a tea’s flavor, so tea experts recommend that you use one teapot for each type of tea you prefer. If you want to experience the true flavor of your favorite teas time after time, use one teapot for non-smoked black, one for smoked, one for flavored, one for oolong, one for green and one for white. Pre-heating your teapot isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does keep your infusion from cooling off too quickly.

Tea experts believe that pre-heating helps you preserve the more subtle components of a fine cup of tea. For the same reason, some people also like to place a tea cozy over the pot while the tea infuses. Note that green and oolong teas benefit from slightly cooler water than black teas do, so we don’t recommend using a cozy for those varieties.

Never wash your teapot with soap or in a dishwasher! Just rinse with clean water, turn it upside-down, and let it dry by itself.

Suggest Teapots

Choose the Chinese Yixing for China Black or Oolongs.

Try cast iron, silver or terra cotta when brewing Assam, Ceylon and African teas.

Use porcelain, bone china or glass teapots for Darjeeling, Oolong, Green and White teas.

 

 

Steeping Time

Steep your Green, Black, Oolong, Pu-erh and White teas for different lengths of time. Most green teas need just a short infusion, from 1-3 minutes, while some Japanese green teas, such as Gyokuro, need no more than 1 minute.

For Black teas, steep for 2-3 minutes. Oolongs, 3-4 minutes. White teas need a longer infusion, from 5-7 minutes. For Pu-erhs, first rinse your tea with boiling water, then pour boiling water right after and steep for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

 

 

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Storing your Teas

Tea is relatively fragile, therefore it should be stored properly to keep its flavor and freshness. Green and white teas are best consumed within 6 months after harvest. Darjeelings, especially first flush are even more delicate, loosing their best notes within just a few months. Black teas in general can last for more than a year if well stored. Keemun and Pu-erhs are to exception to the rules as they both gain character with aging.

It is important to store tea in airtight containers, preferably metal or porcelain to protect them from exposure to light, high temperatures, humidity and alien odors. We suggest that you keep your tea in a dark, odor-free environment.

Green teas can be better preserved if stored in the refrigerator, as long as you make sure there is no moisture in the container. Small broken leaves and “Dust” used in tea bags have the shortest shelf life of all teas. They also contain virtually none of the healthful properties found in fresh loose-leaf tea.

 

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Milk, Sugar and Lemon

Milk, sugar and lemon are Western European inventions. Since they dilute and destroy the teas’ true flavor, these additives are considered “criminal” to tea connoisseurs. No matter how you like your tea, we recommend that you add NOTHING to green, white or oolong teas. Savor them straight—they taste best that way.

If You Must Add Milk

Only add milk to certain dark, full-bodied, strong black teas, like Assam. If you can’t help it, and must add milk to your tea, it’s best to follow British custom, which says to pour a few drops of warm milk into the cup, then add your tea. Why? It stops the hot tea from breaking fragile porcelain cups, and keeps the milk from curdling.

Sugar Anyone?

The British adopted the custom of adding sugar to tea, and it’s considered the mother of all crimes.

1984’s George Orwell says that adding sugar to tea is like adding pepper to salt. If you sugar your tea, he points out, you taste only sugar. If you’re compelled to sugar your tea by force of habit, try using neutral white rock sugar, which will spare you from utter disgrace in the eyes of tea purists, and won’t completely ruin the flavor of a strong average quality black tea.

Lemons

When Queen Victoria returned from Russia, she brought the Russian way of flavoring tea with her. Soon after, English folk began offering lemon as an alternative to milk. Like sugar and milk, lemon distorts the true flavor of your cups of tea.

 

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