If your idea of the perfect cup of tea is tossing a tea bag into a cup of very hot or barely boiling water or-horrors!-microwaving a cup of water and a tea bag, then you are in for a treat. The perfect cup of tea takes a little more time and effort than either of the two aforementioned approaches, but the result is well worth it.
Believe me. If you don’t, just try it and you’ll see. Be sure, however, that you begin with a quality tea, whether it’s bagged or loose. Even the best preparation methods in the world will not salvage poor tea. Water makes a difference as well: pure filtered water is necessary.
Preparing the perfect cup of tea
Not everyone agrees on how to prepare the perfect cup of tea. In fact, scientists have even weighed in on the debate. There are similarities among the different approaches, so we will offer you several methods.
- You will need a kettle and a ceramic or clay teapot (for maximum heat retention). Warm the pot by pouring some boiling water into it and then pouring it out. Add the tea-either a tea bag, tea ball, or loose tea in another type of strainer–to the now warmed pot and pour in the appropriate amount of water.
- If you are making black tea, the water should be boiling.
- If you are a green tea lover, the water should be about 190° F.
- White tea lovers should aim for around 180° F.
- Allow the tea to steep for 4 to 5 minutes if you want a stronger tea; 3 minutes for a weaker tea.
- Serve tea in china mugs or cups; never use paper or plastic.
- If you add milk to your tea, it can be placed in the cup before adding the tea or after-both are considered to be correct.
Scientists have another perfect tea brewing approach. According to a 2011 study at the University of Northumbria, the best tea is made by:
- Adding 200 ml (7 oz) boiled water to a tea bag in a mug;
- Allowing the tea bag to steep for 2 minutes;
- Removing the tea bag;
- Adding 10 mL (0.3 oz) of milk to the tea;
- Waiting 6 minutes before drinking the tea so it reaches the optimal temperature of 60° C (140° F).
Preparing perfect herbal teas
If you are preparing herbal teas from fresh or dried herbs, the tea preparation process differs based on the herb and the part used (i.e., leaves, seeds, flowers, roots, berries, rhizome). A basic recipes is as follows:
- Place 1 to 3 tablespoons of dried herb in a tea strainer;
- Pour 8 ounces of boiling water over the herbs and cover;
- Allow to steep for 15 minutes or longer, depending on the herb;
- Strain and enjoy.
Some herbal teas require a stovetop approach. These typically involve herbs in the form of roots, rhizomes, and dried berries, which need a more aggressive technique to release the volatile oils and flavor.
- Place 3 tablespoons of dried herb into a small sauce pan;
- Add 32 ounces of cold water to the pan and heat the water to a simmer, then cover;
- Gently simmer for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the herb;
- Strain the tea and enjoy.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time for a cup of tea!
[Editor’s Note: Our partner Bigelow Tea offers a wide variety of delicious teas including traditional and herbal teas.]
Alleyne R. How to make the perfect cup of tea-be patient. The Telegraph 2011 June 15.
Morrissey-Swan T. How to brew the perfect cup of tea, according to the scientists.
Waverman L. What’s the trick to brewing the perfect cup of tea? The Globe and Mail 2018 April 3