Tea can come in loose leaf or tea bags, and can be served with milk or without. However, the perfect cup of tea is not hard to create if a few specific steps are followed. White, green and black teas generally come from the same tea plants, the Camellia sinensis plant. White tea comes from young tea leaves and buds. They go through very little processing. According to Celestial Seasonings, Green tea is “gently steamed or pan-fired” after the leaves are harvested. This process helps the tea to retain their color and taste. When the tea leaves are allowed to oxidize before drying, the rich, full flavor is allowed to come through.
There is a fourth classification which does not come from the Camellia sinensia plant. This is a herbal infusion. This beverage is made from herbs, spices, botanicals and other natural ingredients. They are caffeine free because there are not any tea leaves in the preparation.
The perfect pot of tea starts by boiling fresh water in a teakettle. When preparing the water for the kettle, let it run from the tap for a few seconds so that the aeration level of the water is at its best. The level of aeration helps tea to develop a full, rich taste. If not allowed to aerate the tea can end up tasting a little flat. For this same reason, the water that used for tea should only be boiled once.
Next, if preparing loose-leaf tea, place one teaspoon of tea per person into the pot, then, if a little more strength is desired, add a teaspoon of tea for the pot. After the water has boiled, pour water into each of the cups and then pour this water into the teapot. This helps the temperature of the water to cool enough so the leaves will not stew. By not stewing the leaves, they can be used for a second, and possibly third, infusion. It also helps the tea, and the cups, to be the correct temperature for serving, 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the tea steep for four to five minutes.
Tea bags, since they do not usually contain the leaf, release their taste almost instantly. Because of this they only need to steep for a minute or two. The longer that tea steeps the stronger it will taste.
A cup of tea is made in a similar manner to a pot of tea. The first step is to warm the cup by pouring the boiling water in the cup, then discarding the water. Place a teaspoon of tea, more if a stronger taste is desired, into a cup. One tea bag may be used instead of the loose leaf. Place the water in the glass and let it steep for four to five minutes.
There is a disagreement as to whether to place milk in the cup before or after the water. There is not a definitive answer, it usually depends on taste. Some believe that the milk will cool the water too much to create an adequately full-bodied cup of tea. The main guideline is, if the tea is a green or white tea, milk will water down the taste too much. It is appropriate to place milk in a cup of black tea.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter how tea is made, it is made the best way when it is made the way the consumer enjoys it.