So try this: go to Google and type “how to prepare the perfect cup of tea” (without the quotes). Or better yet, I’ll save you the trouble — I did so, and Google was happy to supply me with a little more than two million results. Which tells me that there’s a lot of interest these days in making a cup of tea of the best possible quality. That’s a good thing.
Whether or not any of us will ever achieve the fabled “perfect” cup of tea might be a matter best left to the philosophers and other hair-splitters. But there are obviously a number of variables that we have to address if we’re going to achieve anything even close to perfection.
Some of the most critical of these are the all-important T’s — time and temperature. While tea should certainly not be understeeped, the biggest problem, as far as this particular variable is concerned, is often oversteeping your tea. Many a cup has been ruined by leaving the leaves in the water long enough to coax forth the bitterness we try so hard to avoid.
Water temperature is another critical factor and another one where a potentially good cup of tea will often go astray. A good cup of black tea is best with water made at or very close to boiling, but the same water temperature is almost certain to spoil more delicate teas such as green, yellow, and some of the oolongs.
There are other factors that contribute to “perfect” tea, but perhaps the most critical one and the one that many advice columnists tend to overlook or gloss over is the quality of the tea itself. You’ve probably heard the saying “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” and nowhere is that more applicable than to tea. Because when it comes to your quest for the perfect cup, you can follow all of the steps to the letter, but if you haven’t started with good tea, your efforts will be in vain.
The moral of the story — start your journey to perfection with the best possible tea. If that sounds daunting, remember that even the priciest tea is often quite affordable when you break it down to the price per cup. Consider that many teas can be steeped more than once and the price per cup falls even further and makes high-quality tea even more of an imperative.
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