Making a Great Cup of Tea

I've been drinking an abnormal amount of tea lately.  I used to not enjoy tea very much, until I finally learned some of the secrets of making a great brew.  Here are a few of the greatest things I learned:

1. Steep Time: #1 in importance, most people I see with tea steep their bag until they are finished with drinking the tea.  I am tempted to do so as well, because it looks cool to have the tea bag line hanging out of your cup or mug, but this can ruin a good cup of tea.  Tea is meant to steep for 3-5 minutes max (3 minutes minimum).  I literally set a timer now.  Think of coffee sitting in the grounds until you are done drinking it - nasty, huh?  Likewise, tea tastes best (according to the gurus in England who know way more than we do) when it gets just a few minutes of brew time.  You can play around with the times and see what you notice about difference in flavor.  Steep time actually even effects the caffeine content as well.  Surprisingly, the longer you steep the tea bag in hot water, the less caffeine content will be in the drink.

2. Fresh Water: Because water is 99% of tea, it is vital what source you are using for this.  Use a water source that provides fresh, great tasting water (this is also important with coffee).  If possible, use purified water as well for a great brew.  When heating up the water, make sure to remove just after it starts to boil.  Boiling water, although great for french press coffee, negatively affects most tea by damaging the leaves.

3. Types of Tea: Next to water type, the tea you choose it crucial to a great cup of tea.  Many people have only experienced cheap tea from hotels or events.  Using this tea is like comparing folgers to Starbucks with coffee.  Great tea can be found with some careful research.  A year or two ago I discovered two types of tea: a black which claimed to be the #1 tea in England, and a gold which claimed to be the #1 in Ireland.  They have been phenomenal, and have transformed my tea experience.  I recommend looking for teas that Europeans enjoy to start, then moving on from there.

4. Additives to Tea: black tea goes great with sugar and a touch of milk.  Other teas can pair nicely with honey or lemon.  It is important never to add milk and honey together or the milk will curdle.  It is also best to add the milk to a cup first and pour the hot water on top.  Experts say the milk scalds if you add it after.

5. Storing Tea: similar to storing coffee, tea is best stored waiting in an airtight container removed from exposure to sunlight.  Like coffee, most teas are best when freshest, however some tea leaves are known to get tastier with age.