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6 Things I’ve Learned About Tea

Tea Filters (Photo source: The English Tea Store)
Tea Filters (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

It’s taken a while but I’ve come to a point where I’ve been writing about tea just about long enough to realize how little I know about tea. In spite of all that I’ve managed to pick up a few nuggets of something like wisdom along the way.

Here they are:

1 Some Teas Are Not For Me
I’ve tried to like Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong, Masala Chai and a few others. I really have. I’ve tried enough times to have come to the realization that it’s probably not going to happen.

2 Don’t Believe Everything You Read – I
For whatever reason there are a lot of myths, legends and old wives tales about tea. Some of my favorites are the one about decaffeinating tea leaves by “rinsing” them for 30 seconds. Or the one about the Chinese emperor who discovered tea when some leaves accidentally blew into a kettle he was boiling. More myths and legends here.

3 Don’t Oversteep Black Tea
This is a great piece of advice for any tea. Not overheating the water is a good one too, especially for green tea and various other of the more delicate varieties. I single out black tea because the consensus is that it should be steeped for as much as five minutes. As a dedicated fan of this type tea, it’s very rare that I ever steep it for more than two minutes.

4 Don’t Believe Everything You Read – II
Some questionable advice on tea preparation, like the aforementioned instruction to steep black tea for as much as five minutes, often comes from tea merchants. The moral of the story is don’t necessarily believe what you read at a merchant Web site or on a package of tea and don’t be afraid to experiment until you find out what works best for you.

5 The Silk Purse and the Sow’s Ear
You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and, by the same token, no matter how perfectly you prepare lousy tea, you’re still going to end up with lousy tea. On the other hand some of the best tea in the world can be rendered into a sow’s ear by poor preparation. If you don’t believe it, trying boiling the water for Gyokuro (a delicate Japanese green tea) and steeping it for five minutes.

6 All Things Must Pass
It’s like death and taxes. Sooner or later that beloved teacup or other piece of teaware that you like so much is going to end up on the floor, in pieces. Or in the sink, as with my latest teacup mishap, where the cup collided with a heavy Pyrex measuring cup and met its end.

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3 responses to “6 Things I’ve Learned About Tea”

  1. […] 6 Things I’ve Learned About Tea, By William I. Lengeman, III […]

  2. As a black tea fan myself, I have to agree that ideal steeping time will vary from 2 minutes to 5 minutes depending on the blend and the quality of the tea leaves. Cheap dregs will oversteep quickly and taste bitter. Premium teas seem to have a sweet spot between 3 & 3.5 minutes but can handle a little less and a little more without getting nasty bitter. And my latest favorite Irish Breakfast blend from Adagio seems just perfect at 5 minutes (no sign of bitterness or oversteeping at all! total surprise to me and my hubby because 5 minutes tends to be on the high side from our experience with black teas!).

  3. These things are so true!
    The only thing I disagree on it’s a simple matter of taste… I love Lapsang.
    But the post is really good… I had many loved cups fall into pieces, too.

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