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I’m looking to start drinking tea properly. Where do I begin?(r/tea)
This is my go to guide on enjoying tea.
A. Learn to brew.
This can be achieved in many ways, including asking the local tea shop how best to brew tea. Starbucks doesn’t count. Not hating on starbucks, but they are not taught how to really brew tea. There are a lot of great resources, and misinformation out there. Typically speaking, it is said that it is best to use fresh, cold filtered water from the tap. Bring it to a boil, and then let it cool down. The temperature depends on the tea and what it is in it. In addition, the steeping time is adjusted depending on the ingredients as well. But a general rule of thumb (I include herbals even though they are not “tea” in the traditional sense):
- Black/Mate/Rooibos/Most Herbals: Fresh off a boil (212° F), 5 min for black tea, 7-8 min for mate/rooibos and it varies depending on the herbal blend, but usually about the same time.
- Green: 180° F, about 2-5 minutes depending on the type of leaf
- White: 160° F, about 2-3 minutes
Again, this is all based on what is actually in it, so it is usually best to ask the tea shop what they recommend. If they sell more than just tea (and possibly coffee) you should go somewhere else and ask. If you like what the shop has and it doesn’t just sell tea (and coffee) you can buy from them, but they’re not going to have the knowledge that a tea bar/house is going to have.
B. Get good equipment
It is imperative that you buy good equipment. As often as I use my tea supplies if I didn’t have good equipment it would already be broken. If you plan on using it once or twice a month, I suppose you could get by with an old stovetop kettle, but if you’re going to drink it more than that, I suggest:
- A good single cup strainer. These range in quality and materials. It is typically mentioned wherever I go that a stainless steel mesh is good because it prevents flavors from being absorbed into the material, washes easy and is generally resistant to bacteria growth. Others prefer a bpa-free plastic mesh or other synthetic material, and some go with a fabric mesh (though I have yet to find one that isn’t essentially a one-time use bag). Examples include this (which I use).
- A good tea pot – this is different than a tea kettle for warming the tea. Typically you will want to prepare the tea in something other than you prepare the water in. Mostly because a lot of kettles cannot take direct heat, and even if they can, they would get very hot, be prone to warping and would collect minerals from the water. Plus pouring it aerates the water (as I have recently found out). I have a couple that I use, but I typically stick with a BPA-free polymer that is pretty much shatter proof and does not leave any taste. This is because I have a kid who likes to grab at it. Otherwise I’d use clay and/or glass. Metal pots are great, as they hold warmth and look amazing, are next to impossible to break, but also require some maintenance to prevent from rusting. You can get these at amazon, your local tea shop or, if you must, teavanna.
- A good kettle – you can get a stove top kettle if you wish, or you can purchase any variety of electric kettles. The ones with temperatures readouts and temperature selection are beneficial, but not required. My local tea shop advises you let boiled water stand for approximately 10 minutes for green tea, and about double that for white.
- A kitchen thermometer (meat, candy, etc..) to be beneficial in judging the temperature. There are stove top kettles that have thermometers built in as well. Teavanna and some online retailers offer a “tea” thermometer, some come with a built in timer. While the thermometer is not necessary, it is something that you might find useful.
- Glassware – it is important that you have the right cups. You can typically decide what is “right” by what your pot is. You don’t have to really serve any kind of tea in any kind of glass, but believe me – as you get more into tea, it becomes almost like a small tradition to you to prepare and consume it. An opportunity to relax, and if the glasses match the style and look of the pot, it leads to a more fulfilling experience. Granted, this is the least of your worries, as any mug will do – but it is nice to have matching glassware. The materials all run the same as the pots – and they all have the pluses and minuses.
C. Learn to spot good tea, and furthermore, where to buy the tea. Many people drink tea never realizing there is something better out there. They drink a bag of tea here and there when they’re sick or someone surprises them with it. Once they try good tea, prepared the way it is supposed to be, they wonder what they’ve been missing. Starbucks is a bad place to buy tea. Teavanna – while a great place to get “started” is bad b/c it is usually way over priced. I buy about 7-8oz of tea for about 11-13 bucks at my local shop. It is hand blended by the gal who runs the store and she comes up with her own blends, tests them and they really, really do taste amazing. She also has traditional teas of many different kinds. All the staff loves tea, and will happily answer anything they can about the tea. The way to prepare it is specific to the blend and you can always trust that it will turn out great if you follow the instructions. It also helps if it is a tea bar to where you can actually try it out before you take it home.
D. Try new things, enjoy yourself and never worry about what someone else thinks. Even with all the advice I’ve given you, you simply need to find your own spot. I love matcha, I love black teas and blends. I like my tea to be slightly sweeter than others at times. I hate bitterness. But I was a tea tasting with a guy one time who says he loves to let his black tea steep for 20 minutes as if it isn’t bitter he doesn’t enjoy it. It is all in what you enjoy. So enjoy yourself, ask questions, and find what you like. But don’t be afraid to try new things!
Oh, and if you ever find a tea shop that will bake with tea you need to try that stuff. It is a-freaking-mazing.