Coffee seems to monopolize the world of warm beverages, but in reality, tea is the world’s most consumed beverage. Despite its global popularity, few Americans drink it. More so, very few of my peers drink tea and usually deem it as something for old people and Downton Abbey fanatics. Because I’m only one of those things and a self-proclaimed tea expert, I have devised a guide to tea brewing for anyone who is interested in joining those of us who opt for tea.
There are five main types of teas: white, green, oolong, black, and pu erh. Oxidation of the leaf is the distinguishing factor of what kind of tea it will be. For example, black teas are fully oxidized, making it black, whereas white tea leaves are barely oxidized and will stay soft and silvery. Each type of tea requires different methods for brewing in order to achieve the perfect cup.
White Tea: This tea is usually a light white or green shade. White tea contains little caffeine and has a very delicate, smooth flavor.
Start with cold water and bring it to just under a boil or about 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Teas can come in either a bag or loose leaf. For loose leaf teas, a general rule is for every 6 ounces of water, use 2 tablespoons of leaves. White usually steeps between 1 to 5 minutes, but no longer or else the tea will taste bitter. Steep longer if the package gives instructions to do so.
Green Tea: Green tea, like the name suggests, is typically a green color, but can also be yellow. There is slightly more caffeine in green tea than white. Green teas can have a grainy, grassy, or mild vegetable flavor.
Heat water from about 160 to 180 degrees, much like white tea. Steep for about 1 to 3 minutes or best results. Loose leaf teas have the same 2 tablespoons to every 6 ounces of water ratio.
Oolong Tea: Oolong tends to be a darker reddish-brown shade. The flavor is stronger and can have a rich flavor profile including a floral or fruity taste. Oolong tea has more caffeine than green and white teas.
Start with water and heat it to between 180 and 200 degrees, then steep for 1 to 5 minutes.
Black Tea: Black teas have dark brown or black color to them. Black tea is typically what comes to mind when one thinks of teas. Earl Grey, English Breakfast, and Assam are my personal favorites for their strong, malty flavors and higher caffeine content.
Water for black tea should be between 190 and 212 degrees for optimal steeping, which should take between 3 to 5 minutes. Black tea that has been steeped too long can be too tannic and taste bitter.
Pu Erh Tea: This tea is a fermented and is much different from the first four teas. It usually comes in a drink and when its brewed is a deep reddish-brown tone. It has a soft, earthy flavor.
Heat water to 195 degrees, but some teas may suggest a higher temperature. Pu Erh tea is fermented and the brick may have been made years ago, so the leaves require “waking up.” Place 1-2 tablespoons of the tea brick into a strainer and steep for 3 to 4 minutes.
Teas can come in bags or loose leaf. Bags are best for traveling, but can have unnecessary packaging. When using loose leaf, a tea strainer is required. These are typically little vessels made of stainless steel, sterling silver, china, or silicone. Some strainers come inside teapots, but other are loose.
Teas have many health benefits too. Teas can aid in digestion and contain antioxidants. Unlike coffee, tea has no calories, it doesn’t corrode teeth, and tea will not cause bad breath.
Please refer to this guide when you’re ready to join the millions of tea drinkers around the world. No rush, we’ll just be here patiently sipping our tea.