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Tea Notes

Discover the world of tea, from the history of its cultural significance to the science of its benefits and the art of its preparation.

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Tea Notes

Discover the world of tea, from the history of its cultural significance to the science of its benefits and the art of its preparation.

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The Ultimate Guide to Tea Preparation

5 Min Read | June 04, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Tea Preparation

For the uninitiated, it may seem as though there’s only one way to make tea: add hot water and wait. But for tea lovers who appreciate the flavor profile of a perfectly steeped cup, the details are everything. Read on for a primer on tea preparation, from an overview of tea varieties to step-by-step instructions, along with a guide to popular tea accessories and how to use them.

DIFFERENCES IN WHITE, GREEN, BLACK, OOLONG, & HERBAL TEA

Tea can be organized into five varieties: black, green, white, herbal, or oolong. These distinctions are based on both the source and the process through which the leaves were dried, rolled, oxidized and otherwise prepared for consumption. All tea is made from the camellia sinensis plant except for herbal tea, which is technically called a tisane rather than a tea. White tea is made from young leaves, which are typically heated by steam, oxidized, and dried, while green tea is scalded before rolling and drying. Black tea is typically made from mature leaves, which are fermented or oxidized without steam before drying, and oolong tea goes through a similar process to black tea, but with less time for oxidation.

Many teas are blended with flowers, leaves, spices, roots, and other flavorings, opening up a beautiful range of notes and fragrances. As a result, the world of tea is wide and varied, with nearly infinite combinations to try.

To bring out optimal flavor in your tea, it’s important to follow several key steps: using fresh, clean water (filtered or spring is best); heating it to the correct temperature; steeping the tea for a specific amount of time; and choosing accompaniments that will enhance, not spoil, the taste. Read on for expert guidance to help you prepare it perfectly.

HOW TO MAKE HOT TEA

Timing and temperature are the two key components of proper tea preparation, and they vary based on the variety you’re enjoying. Without the right combination, tea can become too bitter, strong, or weak. Follow these instructions to bring out the nuance in every cup.

Kinto Mug
Kinto Carat Glass Teapot

STEEPING LOOSE TEA

To steep loose tea, a tea infuser is necessary. You may use a free-standing infuser inside the teapot, tea kettle, or teacup of your choice, or you might invest in a teapot with an infuser enclosed.

You may even wish to try a travel tumbler with an infuser integrated into the design to allow for quicker preparation.

STEEPING AN INFUSER OR TEA BAG

To steep tea in a pyramid infuser or bag, no extra accessories are needed. The fabric used to make the infuser or tea bag will keep the leaves from seeping into the liquid, which saves you from having to sieve them out before your first sip.

Regardless of the way your tea is contained, its variety – black, green, white, herbal, or oolong – determines the water temperature and steeping time.

Au Tea Infuser Glas Cup
Icon AU Gold Infuser

Explore Tea Types

Read on for a breakdown of how to prepare each variety.

HOW TO MAKE ICED TEA

In the United States, iced tea is one of the most refreshing ways to cool down on a hot day. It’s most often made with black tea, but can also be prepared from green, white or herbal tea if you’re in the mood for something less expected. Traditionally made in large batches and served from a pitcher with a generous amount of ice, it can be sweetened or unsweetened (simply called “sweet tea” and “unsweet tea” in the American south).

For generations, this refreshing beverage has been synonymous with hospitality and summertime relaxation. The drink rose to prominence when it was served at the 1904 World’s Fair and word began to spread. It’s been one tall, cool glass after another ever since.

Toi Desktop

Tea Over Ice Pitcher

Sun Tea

Sun tea is a fun twist on the classic summer beverage, and it’s literally warmed by the sun. Since the tea won’t get anywhere near as hot as it would on a stove, it takes much longer to steep, but when it’s ready, you may serve it over ice immediately without refrigerating it first.

To make sun tea, add eight tea bags, pyramids or teaspoons of loose leaf tea for each gallon of water in a glass pitcher. Cover it loosely and set it outdoors or on a windowsill under direct sunlight for two to four hours. For sweetness, you may wish to add simple syrup until you’ve reached the level you’re after.

Next, serve it over ice and garnish it with a traditional slice of lemon or however you choose.

COLD BREW TEA

To make iced tea without the sun or even a stove, consider cold brew tea. This newer method of preparation brews the batch over a period of hours in the refrigerator with no heat at all.

To prepare cold brew tea, combine a little more than one part tea to one part water in a glass pitcher – i.e., if you’re making an eight-cup pitcher of tea, use ten tea bags, pyramid infusers, or teaspoons of loose tea. Let it sit together for at least four hours in the refrigerator so the batch can reach its full flavor. To sweeten the batch, add simple sugar to taste once the tea has fully infused. Serve over ice, garnished as you like.

TEA PREPARATION ACCESSORIES

A world of helpful tools exist to assist you in preparing the perfect cup of tea. Whether you’re serving a group of people or enjoying tea for one, you can choose from a variety of accessories, each designed to bring out the best in your leaves of choice.

Tea Forte’s pyramid infuser offers a simple way to steep a beautiful and delicious cup on its own, and for those who wish to delve deeper and try different forms of teaware, some of the best tea accessories include the teapot, tea kettle, metal infuser, infuser mug, and French press.

Teaware Accessories

TEAPOTS & KETTLES

For many of us, teapots and tea kettles evoke images of tradition and comfort, from royal tea parties to cozy mornings in the kitchen. These classic icons of tea preparation are easy to use but often confused with one another. The difference is simple: a teapot is used for brewing tea once water has been heated in a separate pot or pan, while a tea kettle is made specifically for boiling water for tea on a stove.

If you’re using a tea kettle, fill it with six ounces of water for each serving you wish to pour. Place the kettle on the stovetop and heat the water to the appropriate temperature for the variety of tea you’re preparing. Once it’s hot enough, pour it over the tea you’ve already placed in each cup and let steep for the ideal amount of time.

If you’re using a teapot, follow the kettle instructions above using a regular kitchen pot. Once the water has reached the correct temperature, pour it into the teapot and close the lid. You may choose to steep the tea in the pot itself or simply use it for presentation, pouring the hot water into each cup for individual steeping.

Some teapots (like PUGG from Tea Forte) have infusing baskets built into them, or you may wish to use a standalone infusing basket that fits into your teapot’s opening. In either case, scoop one teaspoon of loose leaf tea into the infusing basket for each six-ounce serving, add hot water, close the lid, and let steep for the appropriate length of time depending on the variety of tea. Then, pour and enjoy.

TEA BALLS & METAL INFUSERS

Metal tea infusers -- the most common of which is the tea ball -- are some of the most elegant accessories for preparing tea. Typically made of stainless steel or aluminum, these infusers may be used to make a single cup or an entire pot.

To use one, scoop a teaspoon of loose leaf tea into the center for every six ounces of water you’ll be using. Then, for a tea ball, close it as you would a clamshell, and for a for a Tea Forte infuser, replace the silicone base to seal the bottom of the pyramid. Place it inside your cup or teapot, slowly pour hot water over it, and steep to taste.

INFUSER MUG

Hanami Kati Mug Infuser

HANAMI Kati® Cup Infuser Mug

Some mugs, like KATI from Tea Forte, are made with a double-walled design that serves as a built-in infuser. This revolutionary teaware makes it easier than ever to prepare loose leaf tea, and especially for tisanes which can steep indefinitely without becoming bitter, it offers a quick way to prepare tea on the go.

Using an infuser mug requires only four steps: scooping your loose tea into the infuser, pouring hot water into the cup, securing the lid, and letting it steep for the ideal amount of time, depending on your preferred tea variety. Essentially a teapot and cup all in one mug, the KATI is a favorite of many tea lovers.

FRENCH PRESS

French Press Lifestyle

French Press Glass

For a sleek European twist on tea preparation, a French Press is a must. While this tool is known for its use in coffee preparation, it can also be used to steep your favorite tea or tisane. Separate presses are recommended for tea and coffee since the oils left behind from coffee grounds can affect the taste of your tea.

To give one a try, pre-warm the glass or ceramic carafe by filling it with hot water and emptying it out. Next, scoop one teaspoon of loose leaf tea into the carafe for each cup you’d like to serve, and follow with your desired amount of water (six ounces per cup). Replace the lid, leaving the plunger all the way up, and let steep for the appropriate amount of time. Once time is up, slowly press the plunger all the way down until the tea leaves underneath won’t let you press any further. Keep the lid closed and the plunger down as you tip the carafe slightly, serve, and enjoy.

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