2 Secrets to Brewing Better Tea
People often ask “How do I brew tea?”
To answer that, let’s first answer the question “Why should I brew tea?”
The simple act of brewing, and sipping tea is a training ground for living better. The ability to focus on doing just one thing at a time, to be present, and to embrace and enjoy the basic actions of boiling water, steeping leaves and paying attention to the taste and aroma are valuable skills to living more effectively and fully. After all, if you can boil, steep, and sip tea fully aware, then you can take that same skill and apply it to writing a report, playing with kids, and hanging out with friends. If you can’t be present and aware with tea, then you probably aren’t as effective when doing work, or as loving when with your partner, or as fun when with friends.
Why brew tea? Brew tea to practice being focused and present. Focus and presence are keys to fulfillment and connection and delivering results.
How do you brew tea? It’s really simple.
1. Worry about the water, not the tea.
Virtually any tea (even tea bag tea!) will taste decent if brewed with good water. The best tasting water comes directly from a remote hole in the ground. Fresh from the earth. Second to that it’s from a flowing stream (filtered of course!). The key is that it’s best if you gather the water yourself. Next, let the water “sit” for some time in a clay or stainless urn in your home. If you want to be really hard core, don’t pour the water into your tea kettle. “Scoop” it using a bamboo ladle into your teapot. If you can’t gather water yourself, use filtered water over bottled. And if you really have to use bottled water, we’ve found that Fiji or Hawaiian Springs offer the best tasting water.
When heating water, it’s ideal to heat it old-school: over charcoal embers. It’s beautiful and dramatic and calming. And totally silent except for the sound of the simmering water, said to sound like “…wind in the pine trees…” If you aren’t into that process, then a good old-fashioned tea kettle over the open flame on a gas stove is good too. Electric stoves are less good. And even less good are the electric tea kettles. Yes, they are convenient, and yes we sell them and use them at homes. But if you want the BEST then open fire is best.When heating water, it’s ideal to heat it old-school: over charcoal embers.
2. Listen to the tea.
Seriously. Every tea and herbal infusion has a different offering. And to get the most out of each tea, you need to understand what that unique brew needs. Is it hotter water? Less water? More tea? Less tea? They’re all different. And here’s the key: Brewing tea is personal. There are no rules. Sure we can tell you that for a 16 ounce pot of tea, you need two heaping tea spoons. Rules are nice and easy and make for pleasantly mindless activity. But it wouldn’t be true! The way to brew one tea is totally different than brewing another tea. Wuyi Oolong, Tiequanyin Monkey Picked Oolong, and Phoenix Oolong are all oolongs and all entirely different. Try. Fail. Taste. Savor. Try again. And again. Fine tune the process. Depending on how you want to feel (caffeine), or what flavors you’re looking for (taste), or how many infusions you want to get (extraction longevity), the brewing details will differ. Do you brew in a guywan? A tetsubin? A coffee mug? An unglazed ceramic shot glass? A paper cup? A water bottle? So many variables and so many different outcomes. If you listen to what the tea wants, and to what the situation calls for – you will learn to adjust tea quantity, water quantity, brewing vessel, and water temperature accordingly. Just stop and listen.