Tea is one of my favorite beverages all day long and all year round. It’s so versatile. I drink caffeinated tea in the morning and herbal tea in the afternoon and evening. I cradle a hot mug of tea all winter long, it sits next to me when I’m working or relaxing. There’s nothing like hot tea on a cold day to warm your insides when you’re chilled to the bone. On the other hand, in the summertime, iced tea in an ice-filled glass really hits the spot. I brew it by the pitcherful so I always have some handy to bring out on my deck (my “summer office.”) Whether I’m drinking it hot or iced, I often bring it with me in a travel tumbler that maintains the correct temperature for hours.
So, whether you brew by the pot, the pitcher, or the cup, what do you need in order to make the perfect pot of tea every time? Always start with the directions printed right on your box, bag, or tin of tea. Any tea should include instructions for water temperature, proportions, and brew time. But if it doesn’t, or you want some additional tips, keep reading.
Start with great tea: bagged or loose leaf?
Whether you prefer bagged or loose leaf tea is up to you. Bagged tea is convenient and can be purchased inexpensively at any grocery store. Loose leaf tea tends to be a little bit more expensive, but you can find an incredible variety of loose leaf teas in gourmet stores and online. You can even get a tea subscription box so you have a regular supply of excellent, fresh teas coming to you. In my Free Your Tea subscription box review, I note how you can share your tastes and preferences to get a box tailored to you each month, which is why I’m a big fan.
If you’re using loose leaf tea, you’ll need a tea strainer or tea infuser in which to place the tea while it brews. I like the HOUSE AGAIN Extra Fine Mesh Strainer, with extra-fine holes to minimize debris at the bottom of your cup.
HOUSE AGAIN Extra Fine Mesh Strainer
This simple stainless steel mesh strainer is large enough for the tea to move around freely as it brews and sized to fit most mugs, cups, or teapots. The collapsible arms keep the infuser stable; the included silicone lid keeps the tea warm as it brews and acts as a saucer when you’re done brewing.
Free Your Tea Subscription Box
The Free Your Tea Subscription Box is designed to help you find teas you’ll truly love, using your own preferences and ratings of every tea they send.
Boil your water
Obviously, to make the perfect pot of tea you’ll need to boil some water to steep the tea. I prefer filtered water, but spring water or tap water is fine too. Avoid distilled water or reverse-osmosis purified water, which can impart a bitter taste.
Of course, you can boil water on a stovetop, but an electric teapot is quite convenient. I particularly like the Yabano Electric Gooseneck Kettle, because you can control the temperature to the precise degree.
Yabano Electric Gooseneck Kettle
Set the temperature you want and monitor it in real-time on the LCD display. The Yabano Electric Gooseneck Kettle will boil your water fast, and keep the water at your ideal temperature for up to 30 minutes. The gooseneck gives you more control over where you’re pouring.
|Tea Type||Black and Herbal Tea||Oolong Tea||Green or White Tea|
|Brew temperature (Celcius/Fahrenheit)||100°/212°||90°/194°||80°/176°|
The right proportions
Tea proportions are highly individual, but as a general rule, you want to use one to two teaspoons of tea for eight ounces of water when using loose tea. For bagged tea, one bag for eight ounces of water generally works. To make the perfect pot of tea, I’d recommend starting on the strong end, as you can always add more water. You can’t rescue weak tea.
How long do you steep?
Different kinds of teas require different brew times, plus you may prefer to brew longer or shorter for stronger or weaker tea. Here are some general guidelines.
|Tea Type||Black and Herbal Tea||Oolong Tea||Green or White Tea|
|Brew time||five minutes||five minutes||three to five minutes|
Iced tea, fast or slow
You can make the perfect pot of iced tea the same way you’d make a pot of tea, only in a pitcher. You may want to make it on the stronger side, because even if you’re drinking from the pitcher in the fridge, you’ll probably be adding ice which will melt eventually.
If you’re in a hurry, steep your tea with half the recommended amount of water and then fill the pitcher the rest of the way with ice. Does your iced tea get cloudy? If you’re making caffeinated tea, don’t place it in the refrigerator or add ice right away. Rapid cooling causes a chemical reaction with the caffeine and the tannins in the tea that causes cloudiness. Let it sit on the counter for an hour to allow it to cool to room temperature before cooling it further. If the cloudiness doesn’t bother you, you can skip that step; cloudiness doesn’t affect the taste.
Another way to make iced tea, if you have time, is the cold brew method. Just place your tea and water in the fridge for six to twelve hours. Cold-brew will taste different than heat-prepared tea, so experiment to see what works best for you and your preferred teas.
Sun tea is another option. Put your tea and water in a clear, glass container and place it outside in the sun for three to five hours. Bring it in, remove the tea, and refrigerate.
The sweet spot
You can sweeten your tea with sugar or the artificial sweetener of your choice, to your taste. Honey is a popular sweetener for tea; the smooth flavor counterbalances the bitter tannins in tea beautifully. Plus, it dissolves easily in both hot and cold tea.
Nature Nate’s 100% Pure, Raw & Unfiltered Honey
Nature Nate’s partners only with beekeepers who share their vision to protect and care for bees and their hives. The honey is gently warmed and strained to remove the undesirable stuff and keep the good stuff, like pollen, in.
Keep your tea fresh with a tea storage container. You’ll want something that seals air out, like the Airscape Storage Canister.
Airscape Storage Canister
Planetary Design’s Airscape Canister has two lids. The interior plunger lid presses down to the level of your tea to squeeze out all of the air and then locks into place. An integrated two-way CO2 valve within it keeps your tea fresh. The outer lid is really just cosmetic. You can choose from a variety of sizes and colors.
Keep it warm or hot
Keep your teapot warm with a tea cozy, like this adorable sheep-themed design from Ulster Weavers.
Ulster Weavers Dotty Sheep Tea Cosy
This nice, padded 100% cotton tea cozy (or cosy, if you’re British) from UK-based textile company Ulster Weavers is too cute. It’s got sheep on the outside and a complementary black speckled interior and hanging loop. Measuring 13.8-by-10.6 inches, it should fit most teapots.
If a cozy’s not enough, keep it hot with a teapot warmer. The Yeosen Beverage Warmer works great for cup or mug as well as a small pot of tea.
Yeosen Beverage Warmer
While this is a general beverage warmer, not designed for teapots per se, it’s worth checking out. With three temperature settings, you control how hot your tea will stay. The Yeosen Beverage Warmer shuts off automatically when you remove the pot, or after four hours.
Tea to go
Do you love to drink your tea on the go as much as I do? You’ll definitely want a portable tea tumbler. Some of them let you brew your tea right inside. I like a vacuum-sealed, double-walled tumbler that keeps my hot tea hot and iced tea icy cold, like this one from Contigo.
Contigo Autoseal West Loop Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug
This vacuum-insulated stainless steel mug keeps your tea hot for seven hours and your iced tea cold for up to 18 hours. You won’t need two hands to drink; just press the button and sip. The leakproof auto-seal lid is dishwasher-safe. Choose from a variety of colors and sizes.
Other useful accessories
If you’re using bagged teas, you might want to pick up a tea bag holder so to prevent any mishaps. I like the Primula Tea Bag Buddy, which is great when you’re brewing by the cup.
Primula Tea Bag Buddy
This handy gadget holds your tea bag securely while your tea brews. Since it covers the mug like a lid, it also helps keep your tea warm as it brews. When you’re done brewing, use it to squeeze the bag, so you don’t waste a drop of tea. Then set it on your counter with the tea bag on top; it’ll hold it neatly until you’re ready to clean up.
Learn more about tea
I’ve just scratched the surface of the world of tea here. If you want to take a deep dive, check out The Tea Book: Experience the World s Finest Teas, Qualities, Infusions, Rituals, Recipes.
The Tea Book: Experience the World s Finest Teas, Qualities, Infusions, Rituals, Recipes
A treat for the eyes, this beautifully photographed and illustrated book covered everything you’d want to know about tea. From the history of tea to detailed steeping notes and recipes, you’ll find a tour of the world’s teas between its pages.