Fresh tea leaf is plucked in an instant from the bushes and then rolled, shaped and dried with care under the supervision of a tea artisan. This process, if handled with appropriate control and observation, seals the flavour and aroma of tea, to be released directly into the cup. When it comes to steeping a perfect cup of tea, it is about intuitively knowing the flawless way to steep a leaf and how the tea should taste. Nonetheless, there are a few aspects of tea that should be highlighted before one initiates the process of brewing tea.
Tea and Water
China, the motherland of tea, considers water as tea’s best friend. According to Chinese tea masters, water, if heated at the right temperature, will yield a cup that brings out all the subtle flavours of tea. Too little or too much heating of water might suppress or ruin the flavours.
If one pays attention to the ideal steeping conditions, they can avoid the three most common mistakes that people make, that are:
Not using the right amount of tea
Improper water temperature
The Chemis- tea of a Cup of Tea
One cup of tea consists of many components, some soluble, while others insoluble in water. Most of us would not pay attention to these components because they are not visible to the eye. However, it is only through their presence that tea attains its perfect flavours. And paying careful attention to the tea steeping steps will keep these components in balance, resulting in a delicious and healthful cup of tea. Given below is the list of components that tea leaves contain:
Tea comprises approximately two dozen amino acids, the most essential of which is theanine, responsible for all the subtle flavours of tea. It is this component that contributes to the calming effect that tea leaves us with. Theanine is the primary reason why drinking several cups of tea does not bring on a caffeine overdose.
Alkaloids (Nitrogenous Compounds)
Caffeine, along with theophylline and theobromine, represents the trinity of alkaloids that give tea its remarkable quality. In premium quality, this trinity contributes to a pleasant effect and in low quality, it adds an extra pinch of bitterness.
Vitamins and Minerals:
Tea leaves contain a bundle of vitamins like, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin B2 that are ingestible in your cup and contribute to the healthful benefits of drinking tea.
Making Peace with your Great-Tasting Cup of Tea
Tip 1: Whole- leaf tea is manufactured in many different styles, shapes and leaf sizes. Thus, it’s difficult to mention the exact steeping time for all teas. As not all teas will respond quite the same way because there may be a difference among them depending upon the season or the time of the year they are grown in.
Tip 2: For tea enthusiasts, it’s almost like a nightmare to damage premium quality tea by stuffing it into some small metal balls, meant for brewing tea. Thus, one must always go for some easy-to-use stainless steel, gold mesh or nylon infusers designed to fit into some small teapots or right into our favourite tea mug.
Water Quality and Temperature:
Just like our bodies have a heart to help the body sustain, what helps a cup of tea to sustain is water. We all know that water holds the maximum proportion in a cup of tea. On this account, it becomes necessary for us to use the purest form of water to make that one perfectly delicious cup of tea.
The best water for tea is fresh, oxygenated and tastes sweet. The ideal water quality is one with a neutral pH value of 7 or the one that’s slightly acidic. It’s advised not to use distilled water, there is nothing that will spoil the taste of your tea than bad water.
Expert tip: Water should be boiled only once. Reheating water that has once been boiled and cooled down entirely, will give birth to flat- tasting, lifeless water.
When it comes to steeping tea, there is no “one temperature fits all”. Maintaining the right temperature for boiling water can be crucial. If the water is too hot, it can entirely scorch the tea leaves and take away the aroma, rendering the fragrance flat and dull.
It is easy to determine water temperature visually by watching the change in the motion of water and bubbles. If you are able to figure out that the water is too hot, then bring down the temperature instantly, or add a small quantity of cold, drinking water.
WATER TEMPERATURE FOR STEEPING DIFFERENT TYPES OF TEA
|1.||White Tea||160° to 170°F|
|2.||Green Tea||170°to 180° F|
|3.||Oolong Tea||180° to 200°F|
|4.||Black Tea||190° to 200°F|
|5.||Pu-erh Tea||200° to 212°F|
Before you start steeping your tea, remember that you have to coax flavour out of delicate tea leaves that might get spoilt even if one step goes wrong. The best way to find out whether the tea is perfectly steeped is by tasting it after two minutes first, and then again after every thirty seconds until the tea is perfectly steeped. Green and white tea are rarely left in water for more than two minutes. Oolong tea, on the other hand, takes up to 5 minutes to get perfectly steeped. CTC style teas usually only need two to three minutes to steep whereas, large-leaf black tea may need at least five minutes to fully develop.
Expert tip: Don’t forget to cover your tea while steeping it. This way, the leaves will unfurl more uniformly and the flavour of the tea will certainly enhance. Always remember that the steeping time ranges from 2 to 5 minutes only.
Following the above guidelines, without a doubt, you can make that perfect cup of tea that you crave for, first thing in the morning, after lunch or any time of the day. So, keep aside your lethargy and put in a little extra effort while you brew your tea because the aftereffects are anyway going to take that fatigue away.
“Fill your teacups only two-thirds full; leave the remaining space to collect the feelings and emotions of those who have gathered to drink tea with you.” – From the handbook of Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss.
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