How to Steep Your Tea

IngenuiTEA (ETS image)
IngenuiTEA (ETS image)

There are many resources nowadays that claim to tell you the secret of preparing perfect tea. I remain skeptical that such a thing exists. But if you’re willing to settle for a great cup of tea, I’d suggest that you focus on a few key factors – the quality of the tea, the time spent steeping it, and the temperature at which it’s steeped.

But let’s talk steeping. In addition to the time you spend steeping tea, the method you use is important. There are any number of methods you can use to steep tea nowadays, including automated gadgets that take care of most preparation steps and which will do your windows in their down time. But to simplify this discussion, we’ll focus on a few steeping methods, such as teabags and some of the assorted and sundry infusers on the market.

First, the teabag – the old tried and true. It’s a fairly well-known fact these days that the “two dollars for a 100” type teabags that you buy in a grocery store might not necessarily contain the highest quality of tea. Even if they did, they did the construction of the teabag is not such that it would allow the tea to steep properly. One of the primary concerns when steeping tea is that the water should be able to circulate freely among the tea leaves to be able to make maximum contact with those leaves and release the greatest amount of flavor. When the tea is scrunched tightly into a tea bag this is not the optimum situation.

Which can also be the case with many tea infusers. The first one that comes to mind is that small metal strainer type tea ball that still seems to be quite popular these days. But the same advice can be applied any type of infuser that’s so small that it constrains the tea leaves and doesn’t allow the water to circulate properly.

A better choice – though one of many – might be the infusers that are shaped like a cup and have a lip around the top that allows them to rest inside your tea cup. Or simply a teapot that allows the water and tea to circulate and contains some mechanism for separating one from the other. My own preference is for a gravity type infuser that I pour the water into. When steeping is complete, place it on top of your tea cup and the tea is released.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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