Monday, March 7, 2011

Brewing Tea - Hot Tea Enjoyment #3

On February 8th, I introduced a list of 7 suggestions for introducing or enjoying tea in all its forms both those made from herbs and those made with Camellia sinensis.   In this post, I will focus on item #3.

If you want to see the original list of 7 see this post:   or
Suggestion #2 which posted on 2/24/11

3. Learn how to brew the best tea. It’s not hard, but there are variations in time, temperature, and brewing equipment that can make a big difference in the quality of tea.

Now brewing tea is an important aspect of tea. You can easily turn the best, most quality tea into dishwater if you do not brew it correctly.  Just like a burned meal, you can overbrew your tea, which is called “oversteeping.”  It may seem confusing at first, but Black, green and Herbal teas are all brewed differently.

Brewing Traditional Tea

When you place your black tea in the hot water, this is called "steeping." As the tea steeps, it releases tiny particles called "tannins." It is these tannins that give tea its astringency.
As the tea steeps, tannins continually flow from the leaves. Tannins are not necessarily a bad thing as they are what make tea exceptionally healthy and they are prized by people who like a brisk cup of tea. But, like most things, you want to keep tannins at a moderate level. 

Have you ever had a really sour grape or a cup of tea that makes your gums dry up?  Well, that is caused by... you guessed it, tannins! This can be avoided by simply steeping your tea for the proper amount of time. Each tea has its own ideal steep time, but as a general rule you should steep your tea as follows:

- Small leaves like English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast and Assam teas should steep 3 minutes.

- Medium leaves of Ceylon Breakfast, Orange Pekoe should be brewed 4 minutes

- Large leaves like Oolongs, Jasmine, and Earl grey should brew 5 to 6 minutes. Or as My friend suggests 2 minutes, several times.

If you want stronger tea, add more tealeaves, not longer time steeping.  Never steep longer than 6 minutes, or you will reach the place of oversteeping.

If using tea bags, always steep them a shorter period of time, because they are comprised of lower grade tea, which brews quickly.

When brewing Black tea (and Herbal Tea) the water needs to be boiling.  If you don't use water that is hot enough, then you will never get it to taste right no matter how long you steep it for. 
Black tea has certain chemical compounds, or flavonoids, that green and white teas do not have. These compounds are not released unless the water temperature is near boiling.

Once you have brought cool water to the boiling point, in a non-aluminum kettle, warm your tea pot.  Place one teaspoon of tea for each cup plus one for the pot into the teapot.  You can place that tea in a strainer, infuser, tea ball or coffee filtered.  You want to stop the water just as it reaches boiling so it does not lose oxygen, then immediately pour it over the tea leaves. 

Brewing Green Tea

- Green Tea is like medium leaf black tea and should be steeped for 3 minutes
Green Tea does not need boiling water. In the most basic sense it is because green tea is not fermented as long as black tea. It is in this fermentation process that black tea produces the extra flavonoids that need the boiling water to extract. Which is why you steep green tea by stopping the water just before it reaches boiling point, then let it sit for 2 minutes before you pour it over the tea leaves.

Brewing Herbal Tea

Herbal tea can contain leaves, seeds, roots and fruits or flowers of herbs.  When you take these items and steep them in hot water it releases the essential or volatile oils of those plant materials into the water. The drinking of that water provides you with the taste enjoyment as well as the healing properties of those volatile oils.

There are two ways to create an herbal tea.  Tea by definition is a drink which includes Camellia sinensis -- real tea.  Herbal teas which do not contain this plant are actually known as tisanes.  You can make a tisane using one of two methods:
  1. Infusion – using just boiled water poured over herbs in a warmed tea pot or tea cup.  The herbs are then allowed to steep for 3 to 10 minutes, depending on the herb or your personal taste.
  2. Decoction – Used more with roots, seeds, and bark which need to be boiled to release their active ingredients.  Generally you add the herbs once the water has reached boiling, reduce the heat and simmer in the pan uncovered for about 10 to 20 minutes.  This boiling away of the water concentrates the herb’s flavor and potency.

Other tips for brewing:

Using an infuser – if using an infuser, you must leave lots of room for the herbs to move freely and release their oils into the water.  For large pots it is sometimes better to let the herbs float in the water and strain them as you pour into the cup or a separate tea pot for serving.
When using dried roots, seeds and barks they are sometimes crushed before brewing.

When sweetening herbal tea use honey instead of sugar as the sugar will mask the herbal flavors, while honey will enhance it.

For added flavor consider adding a little lemon and/or honey. Yum!


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  2. Great tips! I will definitely apply this at home. My parents should also love to know about this. Thanks for sharing.

    Herbal tea


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