Anyone who knows me well will know that I’m a bit of a tea snob. As in, I am very particular about how I prepare and drink my tea, because there are a bunch of little tips and tricks that help make every cup absolutely perfect.
I don’t know how many people are like me, but I feel like sharing anyway:
#1: Don’t squeeze your tea bag. It’s a common mistake, but it will make your tea bitter, and more-or-less impossible to drink without sugar.
#2: Loose-leaf really is better than bagged – I know it seems pretentious, but I’ve tried both, and I do actually know what I’m talking about. But I won’t judge you for just not having the time or patience to deal with loose-leaf. I get it. It’s a pain in the ass. (Although, pro tip: if you clean out your French coffee press really well, it can double as a no-hassle way to steep loose-leaf tea, and tend to be easier to clean than most infusers/tea balls.)
#3: Heat your teapot. Because, believe it or not, pre-heating your teapot (or teacup, if you’re brewing one individually) actually results in better-tasting tea – it allows the tea leaves to steep at the proper temperature, rather than a slightly-lower one because the ceramic is soaking up the heat.
#4: Teapots are your friends. No, really. They brew better-tasting tea because THEY ARE MAGICAL. (Actually, I think it’s because they trap heat and keep the tea steeping at a more consistent temperature, but “magic” seems valid.)
#5: “Boiling” is not always the right temperature for your tea. White and green tea leaves are more delicate, and boiling water will scorch them. You actually need water that is just shy of boiling for white and green tea blends – though boiling is fine for black and red teas (reds often go by the name “rooibos”), and for most herbal blends (which are properly called “infusions”, because they don’t have tea leaves in them). If you’re not sure how to get the water temp right for green/white tea, you can do one of two things:
1) let the water come to a boil, and then wait three minutes before pouring
2) let the water heat until it is steaming hot enough to be uncomfortable when you pass your hand over the pot/kettle spout
#6: In much the same way that green and white teas have different optimum brewing temperatures, they have different ideal brewing times than red and black teas. Red and black tea typically need to steep anywhere from 2-5 minutes, with 3-4 usually being ideal. White and green teas, on the other hand, only take 1-2.5 minutes to steep. Longer than that, and they develop a grassy, muddy, or bitter taste.
#7: Dunk your teabag. I know, this sounds really odd, but by dunking your teabag while your cup of tea steeps, you force the water in and out of the bag, which releases more antioxidants and other healthy compounds into your tea. It also helps compensate for brewing tea in a cup rather than a pot.
#8: Not all green tea is created equal. Matcha is powdered tea made from the whole leaf, where other kinds are the dried leaf itself, in whole or in part. As a result, matcha is supposed to give a long-lasting, slow-release of caffeine and healthy compounds to help get you through your day. Additionally, there is a difference in quality and taste from brand to brand no matter what kind of green tea you drink – and which you like best will largely be a matter of personal preference. My only advice on this front is to go with a brand, any brand, over a no-name variety, because while the no-name versions are less expensive, they also tend to taste like lawnmower clippings.
#9: There are lots and lots of teas that do not taste good cold. I often see diet advice suggesting people brew and then chill different kinds of tea, and drink that instead of juice or pop. While the advice is sound on a dietary front, there are a number of teas that are 10x better hot than they are cold. If you want to try making an iced version, I suggest using any kind of plain tea, or a very, very simple one – teas with more complex flavours tend to taste “flat” when cold.
#10: Don’t use milk in green, white, or herbal teas. This one is really a matter of preference, but as a general rule, milk in these kinds of teas tends to taste really awful. Black teas are amazing with milk, and red teas are a little hit and miss – it depends on the blend. As a general rule, if the blend contains fruit, no matter what type of tea it does or doesn’t contain, you’re safer going milk-free.
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.