Let’s start with good, high quality loose leaf teas. The only time I use teabags is when I travel and I make them myself. At most Whole Foods as well as my favorite Teavana.com, you can buy organic tea bags, just for filling with your own loose leaf tea.
Tea Storage: Storage isn’t difficult. Leaf tea should be stored in a cool, airtight location, away from direct sunlight and things with strong odors.
A simple guideline for storing your different teas is:
Black teas, highly oxidized oolong teas and budset white teas should be consumed within one year of purchase.
Less-oxidized oolong teas, modern leaf white teas, and standard green teas should be used within six months to one year.
Fresh, spring picked green teas should be consumed within six months.
Pu-erh tea will keep for years if loose leaf, and may improve with age if it is a Sheng Pu-erh.
Remember, tea is harvested on a yearly cycle, so you want to maintain a fresh stock.
So, you’ve got your tea and are ready to brew a pot and enjoy. But exactly how do you decide how much tea to put in your cup or pot?
In general, black, oolong, and standard green teas are measured at the customary 2 grams per 6 fluid ounces of water. The “teaspoon per cup” is the standard for medium-long, moderately twisted-leaf black tea. Some teas absorb more water. You can measure with a scale and adjust to fit your own tastes.
Tea should be brewed using fresh, pure cold water. Since brewed tea is 99% water, you want it to be as pure and free of contaminants as possible. My rule of thumb is if I wouldn’t drink the water I won’t make tea with the water. Most tea brews best in moderate to soft water.
Some general guidelines
Black or Oolong teas 180-200 degrees
White tea, Japanese Green tea and many new or spring teas 160-170 degrees
Green Tea 170-180 degrees
Now you have your tea and your water at the correct temperature. So let’s brew some tea. Different cultures have different ways of brewing tea. It’s not difficult, and to me the most important thing is to make sure the leaves have plenty of room to circulate in the water. If you are using a tea ball, make sure you aren’t having to tear up the leaves in order to fit them in. If I’m making a single cup, a tea ball is perfect for most of my teas, but if I make a pot I toss the leaves in the pot and when finished steeping, strain the tea and serve. One of my favorite things is watching the “Agony of the Leaves”, which is the tea unfolding in the hot water. So how long should you let your tea steep? A general rule of thumb is:
Black tea 3 to 5 minutes
Oolong tea 90 seconds to 2 minutes
Green Tea 2 to 3 minutes
Spring, or new, green tea 90 seconds to 2 minutes
White tea 90 seconds to 2 minutes
When brewing green, yellow, white, and oolong teas, do not scorch the tea. These teas do not benefit from being blasted with boiling water. Pour some of the boiling water into your vessel to warm it, then add the leaves and then the slightly cooled down water.
Cover the tea when it is brewing. Tea always brews and tastes better when the brewing vessel is kept covered during steeping.
Now just serve and enjoy!