Loose tea may have been around for thousands of years, but there's more to brewing than just hot water and something to strain it. Bob Holcepl, owner of the Tea Lab, helps us achieve the perfect cup.
Using 1 teaspoon per cup of water, place the tea in an infuser — preferably fine mesh or stainless steel, says Holcepl — that fits onto the top of a cup or pot. "Choose an infuser that's big enough for the tea leaves to expand," he advises. "People will get a small mesh ball and jam it full, but tea needs to expand. We have some [teas] that look like a salad when it's done."
Bring the heat
For heartier teas such as black, herbal and rooibos varieties, water should be just under boiling. "Let it go to boil, then take it off the heat and let it cool a touch," says Holcepl. But greens and whites are more delicate and can actually burn, making the tea bitter. So the water should be cooler. "After the boil, let it cool 3 or 4 minutes," he says.
Steep, baby, steep
For darker varieties such as black teas, steep 3 to 5 minutes to draw out their robust flavor. Lighter teas such as whites or greens only need 1 or 2 minutes. But Holcepl cautions making sure you remove the leaves to end the steeping process after the recommended amount of time. "Once you get beyond that you start picking up nasty overtones you don't want," Holcepl says.