There is more to real tea delight than just the quality of the tea leaves. The choice of the suitable equipment and the best possible storage conditions are decisive for your tea pleasure.
The teapot – form and material are decisive
The ideal teapot is bulbous because tea needs space in order to develop its flavour when steeping. The opening of the spout however should be rather small to allow only little air to enter and to better conserve the heat.
Whether you prefer a teapot made of glass, china or ceramics is a question of your personal preferences. Glass teapots have the big advantage not to take on the taste of the tea and are easy to clean. This is why you may prepare different sorts of tea in the same teapot.
China teapots mostly have beautiful ornaments which - particularly in the Japanese tradition - are indispensable for tea ceremonies. The Chinese tea tradition however imperatively expects the use of a ceramics teapot. This pottery should not be glazed in order to allow enough oxygen to enter the pot when the tea is being brewed. But unglazed ceramics strongly take in the taste of the tea and do emit it again when preparing other tea sorts. There is the patina which remains in the pot and which can hardly be removed, even using hot water. Still you should not use any detergents for cleaning teapots, the rests of these tending to infiltrate the flavour of the tea even more.
Those of you being really accurate about tea should take a different teapot for every grade they drink. You may thus leave the patina inside the teapot - and tea experts confirm that only the patina is creating the ultimate flavour when it comes to brewing a delicious tea.
The filter – a separate filter for every tea grade
Tea is traditionally being brewed by putting loose leaves into the teapot. Once the tea has steeped for the proper amount of time, the leaves have to be separated from the liquid. The use of sieves will avoid the need to filter the tea. You should however take into consideration that tea tends to absorbe external smells and flavours. A cotton sieve will therefore very soon have taken in the aromatic mixture and colour of your favourite tea sorts. This is why we are recommending to use a separate cotton sieve for each tea family.
Stainless steel is a suitable material for sieves and tea eggs as stainless steel is flavourless and can easily be cleaned. They should be selected so large that the tea has sufficient space to swell. Only in this way the fine aromas develop properly. It may however be laborious to remove the patina from stainless steel filters. Therefore better equally choose separate filters or sieves for every tea grade even for the stainless steel option.
Tea fans who love many different grades will best be served by paper filters. After steeping these can easily be disposed of into the compost together with the tea leaves.
No matter which option you will choose – be sure of always leaving enough room for the leaves to swell so that the flavours can develop to their best.
The water quality – fresh water for fine flavours
The water quality is decisive to transform simple tea into a pure tasting experience. As a general rule tea should always be made with fresh water due to the contained oxygen influencing decisively the final taste of the tea. When boiling the water it looses oxygen and that is why it should not have been in the pipe or the water boiler for too long or should not have been boiled already once before.
In Europe tap water is a strictly inspected good and can be used for brewing tea almost everywhere without any hesitation. It is however worthwhile checking the hardness of your drinking water as lime binds the bitter substances of the tea and affects its aroma and colour. Water as from a lime content of 10° eH (approx. 14 g lime/100 l water) should be filtered. We recommend the usage of a current commercial water filtering system, e.g. from Brita (http://www.brita.nl).
Storage – tea can in place of paper bag
It is essential to assure a proper storage of the tea so that the precious leaves can conserve freshness and flavour. Once purchased you should take the leaves out of the paper bags used for the shipment and pack them into suitable receptacles.
Tightly closed cans are the ideal storage mode protecting the tea from humidity, light and external smells. The cans should stand away from sun and warmth, i. e. neither next to a heating nor to a sunny window.
Tea leaves do easily take up external flavours. This is why a spice cupboard or the fridge should equally be avoided for the storage of tea cans as too many different flavours could be soaked in by the tea. You should stick to the principle: rather buy small quantities and enjoy your freshly delivered tea.
Preparing Tea – amount of leaves and infusion time
The variety of tea grades implies that there are quite a range of different ways to prepare tea. The correct water temperature, the exact amount of tea and the infusion time - the connoisseur knows how to celebrate the perfect tea brewing. But you can do it just as well in a simple way and test out which amount of tea and steeping time you will need to obtain your individually favourite tea. And very soon you will know exactly how to prepare it and you will not have to ponder over it any more.
Find some basic information concerning the different tea grades here:
To prepare a Black Tea pour freshly boiled water over the leaves. Basically you should take one level teaspoon per cup and add a further teaspoon for the teapot from five cups upwards. The pot should be covered during infusion. The lighter the tea the shorter the infusion time. Darjeeling e. g. needs 2 to 4 minutes. Malty powerful Assam however will need easily 5 minutes to brew.
As a general rule: A shortly brewed black tea is stimulating because of the contained caffeine. After a longer infusion time the caffeine is more and more tied by the tannines and therefore less and less stimulating. After more than 5 minutes infusion time the tea can take in a bitter note.
Green Tea / Japan Tea / White Tea
For this tea we recommend a brewing temperature of 80° to 90°C, for some sorts (e. g. Sencha) even lower. Please boil the fresh water shortly and let it cool down before pouring it over the leaves. Depending on the grade and strength you will generally need 3 to 5 tablespoons of tea leaves for 1 litre water. Infusion time is 2 to 4 minutes.
Green Tea can be brewed up to three times. You should however not let the leaves dry out in the meantime. As per the Japanese saying: "The first infusion is as bitter as life, the second one as strong as love and the third one as mild as seniority".
Place 1/2 teaspoon (2 bambo scoops) of Matcha into a Matcha bowl. Boil the water and let it cool down to 80°C. Pour about 80 ml and whisk with a bamboo whisk ("Cha-sen" in Japanese) for about 15 seconds resulting in a solid foam on top of the bowl which is characteristic for Matcha Tea.
Prepare an Oolong by shortly boiling the water and pouring it over the leaves as soon as the bubbling has stopped (corresponding to 75° to 90°C). Infuse 3 to 5 minutes.
Those tea fans wanting a perfect Oolong brewing will pour the non bubbling water over the loose tea leaves and then immediately pour off the water again. Then let the leaves rest for 1 minute and pour water once more. Infuse 2 to 4 minutes and filter the tea.
To obtain 1 litre of tea you should brew 15 to 20 g of the fruit melange. Depending on the sort and your personal tasting preference infuse 5 to 10 minutes. After a longer infusion time the tea tends to turn slightly sour. The fruit melange may usually be brewed several times leaving however some of their flavour on the way.
Herbal Tea is quite easy to prepare. For 1 litre tea you will need 12 to 18 g Herbal Tea leaves, somewhat more or less depending on grade and taste. Pour boiling water over the leaves and infuse 5 to 8 minutes. Cover the tea during infusion to keep the etheric oils inside and avoid letting them escape together with the water vapour.
Boil 1 litre of water in a sauce pan. Add one tablespoon of Lapacho bark and boil during 5 minutes at low temperature. Then cover the pan and infuse during 20 minutes. You may sweeten with sugar or honey as you like.
If you like to use a mate bowl made of wood or pumpkin you should do the following: Leave the very first mate in the mug for a whole day and then pour it away. This brings the bowl to loose its wooden flavour and closes the pores of the wood. You may well repeat this procedure once more if you wish to.
Now you can start brewing a nice mate. Fill half the bowl with mate leaves, pour some cold water and leave for 2 minutes helping the air to escape from the leaves. Then fill up with hot water of about 80° C. Put the mate drinking bar (bombilla) into the bowl and leave it inclined with the sieve touching ground. The caffeine in mate is stimulating when infused up to 5 minutes. A longer infusion reinforces the calming effect of the tannines.
You may brew mate tea the number of times you wish. Flavour and the caffeine effect will gradually attenuate. The beneficial effect of the tea however will remain.
The brewing of Rooibos Tea is an easy one. Use boiling water to brew and steep 7 to 10 minutes. As rooibos only has a low content of tannines it keeps its typical sweetness even after a longer infusion time. Drunk hot or cold, you will like its taste either way. It is thirst-quenching either way as well.
Pu Ehr Tea
Before preparing a Pu Ehr Tea please bear in mind that the leaves should be "washed" before really getting brewed. For one litre of tea take 10 to 12 g of leaves and pour about 1/4 litre of hot water, best through a sieve. Then shortly shake off the water from the leaves. Now you are ready to brew the tea in a teapot pouring boiling water. Infuse 3 to 5 minutes. You may brew Pu Ehr Tea leaves several times.