5 Easy steps to a great tasting cup of tea
February 22, 2013 1 Comment
Tea has been celebrated in the East as a beneficial medicinal drink for thousands of years, where drinking this aromatic beverage has long been considered imperative to good health and long life.
Modern Western research indicates that there may indeed be many health benefits associated with imbibing different types of teas. In fact, some studies show that teas may help protect the body against certain cancers, reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and even lower cholesterol. It has also been suggested that green teas contain polyphenols, antioxidants which may help neutralize those pesky free radicals that damage our bodies’ DNA.
“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”
And brewing tea couldn’t be easier! After sharing my thoughts about my lifelong search for the perfect cup, I was prompted to ask a British friend to reveal her tea-making tips. Here Sue Mason of Cheshire in the UK kindly walks me through her five simple steps to making her own perfect cup of tea.
Step 1. Choose your tea.
Now that we know that tea may actually be good for you, which kind do you choose? There’s green tea, black tea, white tea, or oolong tea, all of which are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub native to China and India. Or perhaps you have a craving for an herbal tea such as rosehip or chamomile, which aren’t technically “teas” at all, but infusions of other plants like fruits or herbs.
Sue tells me that “PG Tips and Tetley are beloved of Brits the world over,” but as you can see, she has a whole cupboard full of equally wonderful alternative choices. Today she’ll be making tea with PG Tips brand black tea teabags.
Step 2. Boil your water.
Sue was careful to identify this as the most important step, and insists upon using fresh water, as in water that is freshly drawn from the tap, and taking it quickly to a rolling boil. “Herbal tisanes and infusions are less fussy about temperature, but the water still needs to be very hot and near boiling,” she adds. An electric kettle accomplishes this job perfectly.
Correct water temperature is so important to Sue’s brewing routine that during her U.S. travels she purchases an inexpensive electric kettle for her hotel room to ensure having a great cup of tea wherever she goes.
Step 3. Pour the water immediately.
Pour the water over the tea as soon as it boils. “Boiling water causes a chemical reaction in black tea and is utterly essential,” Sue explains. “It can’t be just hot water or even very, very hot water, it must be boiling. And it can’t be water that boiled five minutes ago,” she insists, “and it can’t have been boiled one minute ago.” Fresh, boiling water is required.
Step 4. Let your tea brew.
A lot of questions remain about how long tea needs to be steeped for the most benefit, but my tea advisor lets her teabag steep for a total of five minutes. Sue explains, “When black tea is steeped for too long the tannins are released and make the taste bitter.”
It is widely suggested that oolong teas steep for about three minutes at 195°F, and green and white teas steep for two to three minutes at 165°F. Herbal teas may steep between five to seven minutes for fullest flavor.
Step 5. Add your extras.
Sue says, “This is where personal taste really comes in.” So, it’s up to you! You may prefer your tea plain, or want to add milk, sweeteners like sugar or honey, or even lemon. But, however you like your cuppa, be sure to sit back and enjoy, preferably with a nice biscuit or two as accompaniment (that translates to “cookie” for us Americans!).