Tea is one of the oldest beverages known to man, and many believe it contains extraordinary health benefits. According to a study published in 2001 in QJM, an International Journal of Medicine, the antioxidant polyphenols present in tea may be beneficial for overall cardiovascular health. Whether you're enjoying the beverage for its antioxidants or simply for the pleasurable taste, the process isn't difficult. However, there is a bit of skill required to get it just right.
Tea must be steeped in fresh boiling water for the best taste. Begin with freshly drawn cold water. Do not use water which has been previously boiled or allowed to stand for any length of time. Instead, turn on the tap and allow the water to run for a few moments. Measure about eight oz. of cold water per cup of tea. Alternatively, you may use spring or distilled water if your tap water has an undesirable taste.
Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat in an earthenware or glass pan or teapot. Metal pans or teapots may slightly alter the flavour of the water. Although this alteration is barely noticeable, tea connoisseurs may be able to taste a difference. If this doesn't matter to you, use any old pan available to boil your water.
Preheating your tea cup is recommended, as pouring hot tea into a cold cup can reduce the temperature and lead to flavour loss. Simply pour some hot water into the cup and swirl it around, or fill to the top and allow it to stand. You may also cover the cup with a saucer to retain heat, and discard the heating water prior to adding the tea.
Once the water is heated and the cup is warmed, you're ready to brew a cup of tea. Use one tea bag or one scant tsp loose tea leaves per eight oz. of water. Place the tea into the cup, and then pour the boiling water over the top. Stir well, cover with a saucer and allow the mixture to stand for 3 to 5 minutes. For darker black teas, steep the leaves for around five minutes. For lighter green teas, around three minutes of steeping time should be sufficient.
Steeping for too long can result in a bitter taste, so be sure not to exceed the times mentioned above. Longer steeping does not equal stronger tea. Instead, more tea leaves or less water should be used, and the steeping time should never exceed five minutes. Using a kitchen timer will help ensure that you don't over-steep your cup of tea.
Remove the tea bag or tea leaves from the mug with a spoon. If using a tea bag, do not squeeze it into the cup, as this can result in a bitter taste. Just remove it gently and discard. You may also strain the cup of tea through a tea strainer if desired, but do not squeeze the tea bag. Serve with cream, milk, sugar or lemon on the side. If the tea is too strong, add a bit more boiling water.