The Perfect Cup of Tea Every Time!

I once hosted a virtual lunch and learn seminar for a large hospital. I made sure to include as much bite-sized information as possible, from tea’s origin story to how different types of teas are grown and processed, tea blending, caffeine levels, health benefits – you name it. All that prep, and most audience questions were about the simple act of preparing tea. And that is why in this piece I’m stepping, or steeping, back to the basics – how to steep the best cup of tea every time.

Getting an optimal cup of tea is not that complicated. You just need to follow a few simple rules and have the right implements at hand. Again, nothing fancy. You probably have everything in your kitchen already. I liken it to a tried-and-true French recipe. It’s not the number of ingredients. It’s how you use them that counts. Let’s get started! 

1. Choosing the tea. Focus on fresh, high-quality tea, whether loose-leaf or in plant-based single serve pyramid sachets. It takes a teaspoon of tea to make a tasty cup, and most teas are sold in 25 – 57g loose-leaf pouches, which makes a lot of tea. If you’re looking for convenience, choose a 15-sachet box. Stay away from the supermarket shelf stuff, as it’s either tea dust and fannings, or has been sitting on that shelf for a long time.  
temperature controlled tea kettle, teapot, tea filters with tea   
2. The right water temperature and steeping times. Nothing ruins a great cup of tea more than water at the wrong temperature. This is especially true for green, white, and oolong teas. Boiling hot water will scald the leaves, offering you nothing more than a bitter cup of tea. To avoid this simply follow the instructions on the tea package. If you do not own a temperature-controlled kettle, here’s a quick guide to how long you should let boiled water sit before pouring it over your tea leaves:

Oolong tea: 3 minutes – 80 – 85˚C

Green tea: 5 minutes – 70 – 80˚C

White tea: 6-7 minutes – 70 – 75˚C  tea filter and tea infuser

3. Infusing tea. You can infuse your tea leaves any number of ways. If using sachets, drop one into your cup and add water. If using loose-leaf tea you can go a few ways. Add the tea leaves to your teapot and add hot water to the tea. If brewing a single cup, use either a paper tea filter (look for filters that are unbleached and compostable). If using a tea infuser, choose an infuser that will give the tea leaves some room to unfurl and move around while steeping. Stay away from a tea ball, as it compacts the leaves, leaving you with much less flavour than you’re anticipating.  

4. Steeping time. Easy-peasy. Just follow the instructions on the tea package. With green, white and oolong teas you can often get a few extra cups of tea from the same leaves. Just add one minute to each subsequent steep.  
5. Tea accessories. A tea scoop will ensure you get the right amount of loose-leaf tea for a delicious and fragrant cup. There are no real rules for teapots other than to choose something to your personal taste and is easy to clean. A temperature-controlled kettle is a good investment as you can use it to heat water for any kitchen use.                                                                                                                  
6. A few more tips. Pour water over tea leaves; do not add tea leaves or a single-serve sachet to a cup of hot water or teapot. Never, ever squeeze a tea sachet or the tea leaves when removing from water, as this releases bitter tannins back into your cup (all that work for nothing). And while we’re at it, add sweetener or milk after you’ve removed the tea from the hot water.

There you have it. Six simple rules to getting the best cup of tea every time. Your mindful tea moment will never taste better!