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How to Make Great Tea from Home

Kathleen introduced me to tea, and 20 years later I served her tea at my shop.

I have heard a lot of people say, “I don’t like tea.”  I used to feel that way too until I had a really great cup of tea.  My first step into this tea passion was when I went to visit  Kathleen for mentorship during my college years.  She gave me my first Chai Tea Latte.  It was so good that I bought some tea at the grocery store and decided to try to make it at home but it was terrible.  I asked her why her tea was so much better and she showed me how to make a proper cup of tea.  Below are some of the things she taught me. You can also see the video at the bottom to see a demonstration.

1. Make sure that you have good quality water.  Water is the building block of your tea, so your water quality will affect the taste of your tea.  I recommend filtered tap water or spring water.  Unfiltered tap water has additives like chlorine and fluoride which will negatively impact the flavor of your tea.  I also don’t use distilled water because it is missing some dissolved solids like calcium and magnesium which the tea needs to bonds to for the maximum flavor experience.

A hot water kettle that has specific tea temperatures is not too expensive or hard to find & heats water quickly

2.  The right temperature.  Would you like your food undercooked, or burnt?  No way! It’s the same for tea.  Tea is an agricultural product and if it is under heated you will not get the full flavor, but if it is overheated it can be burned.  I do not recommend the microwave because there is no way to control the water temperature and it creates hot spots which can scald the tea.  (I do sometimes reheat an already prepared cup in the microwave).

If you are a regular tea drinker the best way of making tea at the right temperature is a hot water kettle that gives you the options for different temperature settings. A stovetop tea kettle is also a great choice.  If you have a thermometer to check the temperature for green, white, or oolong tea that is ideal.  If you don’t have those things I have written some guidelines on my summary sheet linked below for how to get the approximate temperature on the stove top in a pot. Link for printable summary sheet: https://somscafe.com/how-to-make-a-cup-of-tea-summary-sheet/

Steeping Time & Temperature Guide for Teas

3.  The right amount of tea.  The rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon of tea for 8oz. of water.  Most American mugs are larger than 8oz. so you will probably need more than one teaspoon.  Not having enough tea is what makes tea taste weak.  Too much tea will make it taste bitter. 

4.  Heat your cup or tea pot before you put the water in.  The simple way to do this is to pour a little bit of the heated water into your vessel, swish it around, then pour it out.  After heating it up then you pour the hot water into your vessel and put your tea into it.  If you skip this step, the temperature can drop as much as 10 degrees when you pour the water into the cold tea pot or cup.  Having the temperature too low will cause your tea to taste weak.

My cat tea cozy is covering my tea pot to keep it warm. I use a kitchen towel sometimes too

5.  Proper steeping technique.  To steep your tea correctly the vessel needs to be covered to keep the temperature constant.  For a cup, just put a small saucer over the top of the cup while it steeps.  For a tea pot, make sure you put the lid on.  I was the recipient of a homemade cat tea cozy from my husband’s grandmother “Emma,” that I put over my tea pot to keep it hot.  If I don’t have access to that I often put a kitchen towel over my tea pot while it steeps.

6.  Steep for the correct amount of time.  Taking it out too soon will cause it to taste weak,  leaving it in for too long can cause it to taste bitter.  The white, green, and oolong teas have a shorter steeping time of 1-3 minutes.  Black teas, Pu’erh, Rooibos, and herbal teas steep for 3-5 minutes.  I personally prefer to steep it longest for a stronger flavor.  I set my kitchen timer or phone timer to help me remember to get it out on time.

Squeeze the tea leaves to extract the flavor

7.  Extract the flavor from the tea leaves. After your timer goes off, make sure you get all the flavor out of your tea leaves by either squeezing the tea bag or agitating the leaves with a spoon in your tea diffuser.  A lot of flavor gets left in the tea leaves if you skip this step.

8. Enhance the flavor.  Finally, you can enjoy your tea as is or enhance the flavor of your tea with some sweetener, milk, or a bit of fruit like lemon or orange. 

9. Keep it hot. If I am using a tea pot, I love my tea warmer with a tea light to keep it warm all the way through the last cup (shown below). You can get a tea warmer or tea bag squeezer at https://somscafe.com/product-category/accessories/

Try these steps out and let me know how it goes. For a limited time I’ll send you a free sample if you post about trying these steps and tag @SomsCafe. 

Here is a video to show you these steps in action.

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