The secret ingredient in a perfect cup of tea is in the steeping process, so let’s understand how to master your steep! Tea leaves were initially chewed and used medicinally in ancient China for the invigorating feeling they produced. As the brewing process was gradually developed over the centuries, the beloved beverage we know as tea was perfected.
The process of “brewing” one’s tea is actually known as steeping, and when you are instructed to steep your tea it means to soak your tea leaves in water to draw out the delicate flavor and aroma of the ingredients. Steeping tea in hot or cold water allows the unique flavors, aromas, and health-promoting compounds to be extracted from the dried leaves and other additions so start with the freshest ingredients possible.
Tip One: The tastiest and healthiest cup of tea starts with a fresh, cold, filtered water base. It is an element we can easily control, and creates a better brew of tea. Tap water, and the pipes used to carry it, contain minerals and chemicals that can negatively change the flavor.
Fill your tea kettle and heat your water to a rolling boil—unless you’re making green tea or white tea. In that case, stop short of boiling to avoid “cooking” the delicate tea. Pour your hot water over the freshest tea leaves available, and let them soak for a few minutes. Proper steep times allow you to experience the best flavor profile your individual tea has to offer. You might also cover the teacup with a saucer during the steep, because doing so will help retain more of the aromatic compounds.
Tip Two: Ultimately, the amount of time that you steep your tea is going to depend on the type of tea you’re using, and of course your individual taste. The following recommendations are useful for determining the correct amount of steep time, however the art of steeping is also a personal preference, and one should experiment with your own steeping methods to find what tastes best to you.
Tea Bag: 30-60 seconds
Loose-Leaf: 2-3 minutes
Tea Bag: 1-3 minutes
Loose-Leaf: 2-4 minutes
Tea Bag: 3-5 minutes
Loose-Leaf: 3-5 minutes
Oolong Tea / Rooibos Tea
Tea Bag: 3-5 minutes
Loose-Leaf: 5-7 minutes
Tip Three: Due to some resulting acidity or bitterness, do not steep your tea for too long. It is generally agreed that you should not steep most teas longer than five minutes, but steeping a bit longer is not going to hurt your beverage depending upon the variety. Brew at 160 degrees or less for white tea or green tea, and stop your steeping before the rolling boil to avoid stewing the tea leaves, because the longer boil is not necessary.
If Ice Tea is your springtime drink of choice, a good jug takes about 12 hours to brew because of the room-temperature steeping process, and while it can be a time consuming beverage to create, it is a calorie free and refreshing alternative to chug-a-lugging plain water when quenching your thirst.
So practice your steep with Whidbey’s fresh organic ingredients, and enjoy what can be with a delicious cup of tea!