How you brew tea can make all the difference between a great tasting cup and a mediocre one. The quality of the tea, the quantity of tea, the quality of the water, the water temperature and the steeping time are all key factors for a successful brew.
Here are five steps that will make a difference to tea that is brewed either Gong Fu style or Western style.
1. Use quality loose tea
The complexity in taste you get from using quality real leaf can’t be understated. The majority of tea found in most tea bags is dust and fannings from broken tea leaves. Even if higher quality leaf is used in a tea bag, the size of the tea bag can limit the ability of the tea to move freely and properly infuse.
While there is always the convenience factor that comes with a tea bag, using whole leaves allows the tea leaves to unfurl and slowly release their subtle flavour compounds.
2. Use an electronic scale
When you brew tea, you’re working with a ratio of a certain amount of leaves to water. Using too many tea leaves makes a more concentrated infusion and causes an imbalance in the compounds leaving a bitter taste. If too few leaves are used, the brew will be weak.
Using an inexpensive electronic scale to measure out the right quantity of leaves in grams helps to avoid any unpleasant experience. It’s also a good idea to measure the water in litres. For Western style brewing, a good benchmark is 2.5-3g of loose leaf for 250ml of water.
3. Use filtered water
The most common reason for an inferior cup of tea is the quality of the water used which isn’t surprising given a cup of tea is 99.9% water. Hard water and tea don’t go well together. Water that is hard has moved underground through soil and rock, picking up small amounts of minerals on the way namely calcium and magnesium.
Whilst these two minerals do not pose a health hazard, this “denser” water reacts with the compounds in tea to produce a cloudy film on top of the infusion. If you live in a hard water area, it’s best to filter your water before boiling. If you use bottled water, you should make tea with spring water and not mineral water.
4. Set the right temperature
Each different type of tea needs to be brewed in water at different temperatures. This is because the bitter components in tea (i.e. caffeine and polyphenols) are highly soluble in very hot water. Strong black teas can withstand higher temperatures such as our Assam New Day, but boiling water can burn the leaves and ruin the flavour of more delicate teas like green and white teas, as well as more delicate black teas (like Winter Frost or Silk Cloud). The optimal brewing temperatures are featured on all our tea packaging.
The best way to get the proper temperature is to use a temperature-controlled kettle. If you don't have one, you can either stop the kettle before the water has boiled or leave the water to cool for a few minutes once boiled.
5. Use a timer
The length of time you leave a tea to steep is critical, and like temperature not all teas have the same steeping time. The Gong Fu style makes tea that uses a lot of leaf and a short steeping time. For Western style brewing, tea brewed for a short time can be weak especially strong black teas, whilst more delicate green is bitter and astringent when over brewed.
Brewing tea is not an exact science, so you can either proceed with each step one at a time, or try all at once. Happy brewing!