Like coffee, the flavor in tea comes mostly from volatile oils. As the name would imply, these oils evaporate over time, causing tea to lose its flavor with age. Unlike, coffee however, the oils in tea begin to evaporate as soon as the teas are picked or processed. Because it can sometimes take months for teas to reach the market, you are already behind in the race against time.
We select the finest, freshest, highest quality teas available. And, because you have done everything you could to ensure you’re getting the best available tea, we offer these tips and suggestions for ensuring that each cup of tea you enjoy is a fresh and flavorful as possible.
In order to maintain the volatile oils in tea for as long as possible, loose tea should be stored in an airtight container, kept away from air, moisture, and light. A tight-lidded tin works well. Also, make sure that you keep your tea away from things that have strong odors like garlic and spices; tea will absorb the odors of whatever is around it and Apricot-garlic flavored tea somehow doesn’t sound that appealing.
The perfect cup of tea must be brewed properly. The two most important things to remember when brewing tea are to leave enough room for the leaves to expand and to make sure that the water is allowed to completely circulate around the tea. The quality of the final pot of tea is dependant on the amount of water that is able to contact the leaf, as well as the temperature of that water. Also, allowing the tea to remain in the pot or cup for too long results in over brewed tea stew with flavors that are bitter, too strong, and overpowering.
Always start with a warm pot. Pour boiling water into the pot and let stand for a few minutes. Then remove the water and place the tea into the pot. If you are using a wire mesh ball, only fill it half way as the tea will double in size as it fills with water. We have found that a tea pot with a removable steeping chamber works very well. Do not use commercially available perforated metal “eggs” as they do not permit enough contact with the water.
Tea from a Bag
Teabags were another accidental innovation in the history of tea. A tea merchant by the name of John Sullivan began distributing his loose tea samples in small, hand-sewn cloth sacks. His customers discovered that they could place the entire sack into boiling water, thus brewing a serviceable pot of tea. They enjoyed the convenience of pre-measured tea and the ease with which the leaves were removed. Thus one of the most damaging inventions to quality tea was created.
Despite their convenience, tea bags contain some of the lowest grade tea available. In order to infuse quickly and correctly at lower than boiling temperatures, the tea must be very small. Quite often, the tea found in commercial tea bags is the fannings or dust. Much like in the coffee industry, the demand for quick brewing, easy to use, and economical tea has led to the overall decrease in the quality of tea.
Following are general guidelines for brewing each type of tea. As the enjoyment of tea is subjective, you may find that you will need to increase or decrease the steeping time to suit your tastes.
Black & Flavored Tea
1 tsp. of loose tea per 8oz. of water. Allow the water to come to a rolling boil and pour immediately. Let infuse for 3-4 minutes.
Green, White & Herbal Tea
2 tsp. of loose tea per 8oz. of hot water (approx. 85°). Allow the water to cool down slightly after boiling. Infuse for 3-5 minutes.
2 tsp. of loose tea per 8 oz. water that is just before the boiling point. Infuse for 8-12 mins. The leaves can be reused; in China the second infusion is considered the best as the leaves have “awakened”.