How to Brew Tea – Properly

August 13, 2009 / Daily Life / 13 Comments

As a child, my mother would tell me that I would learn to appreciate coffee once I became a grown-up, and that I would slowly move away from drinking tea. I’m now 23 – and that didn’t happen.

I became a tea nazi, instead. I need to have my tea brewed a certain way to get my “fix” every morning. And it’s gotta be English Breakfast – no wussy fruit infusions, no strange spices, and certainly no milk, although sometimes I like to drink juices since I found some easy healthy juice recipes online. Good tea should taste amazing alone.

So today, I’m going to teach you plebeians how to brew black tea bags. I’m being specific here because different type of teas are brewed differently, and since I only drink English Breakfast, which is part of the black tea family, I don’t know know how to brew anything else. (This is also why I call myself a tea nazi, not a connoisseur. But I digress.)

Tip #1: Use fresh tap water

It must come directly from the tap. Mineral water has um…minerals in it; these minerals tend to interfere with the brewing process. Also, water that has been still for a while will make the tea taste flat. So this also means you can’t use electronic water boilers.

Tip #2: Use boiling water only!

While the water is being boiled, put your tea bag in the mug. And wait. The moment your (electric) kettle goes off, run like you’ve seen Sadako and quickly pour the water into your mug! Even one second too late is no good; the tea will taste sour and flat. It’s gotta have that loud boiling noise as you’re pouring into your mug. This heat brings out the aroma and richness from the tea leaves.

Tip #3: Don’t touch! Let the tea brew!

Don’t stir. Don’t put your spoon in there. Just don’t touch! Let the bag sit for about 30 seconds – 1 minute, and then take it out. Higher grade teas will rarely over brew, so you can let it sit for a bit longer. I like my tea bitter so I sometimes leave the bag in the mug. But I doubt most people would enjoy that kind of bitterness. Haha.

Tip #4: Add milk and sugar later

If you insist on having sugar and milk, only add it after the tea been brewed. Adding milk before will prevent the tea from brewing. Although whenyou put sugar in your tea has tea doesn’t have a substantial effect, sometimes I find that the tea tastes a little chemical-like when I put sugar before adding in the water. So just to be safe, add it only after the tea has been brewed.

Et voila! You can now enjoy a good cup of tea!

Misc. Tip: Don’t export teas on your own!

I learned an important lesson when I moved from Malaysia to Canada: teas are heavily dependent on local water. While living in Malaysia, I used to drink Boh tea. It somehow complemented the less-than potable tap water there. The tea tasted very full-bodied. Then when I moved to Toronto, I decided to bring some Boh with me. But no matter how I brewed it, it was just horrid with Toronto’s tap water. There was a distinct piercing metallic taste. I couldn’t find the right tea… until I went to local supermarket to pick up Red Rose tea. It was no way as aromatic as Boh tea, but it tasted like tea, at least.

And now that I moved back to Singapore, nothing has come close to 1872 Clipper Tea Co. (not to be confused with Clipper Teas.) This is really how all tea should taste like! According to 11872 Clipper Tea Co., it’s also gourmet tea. And being gourmet, it’s a pain to find it. Lucky for me, it’s served at the Five Foot Way in my office building. So I get my frequent fix, but at a premium price (even after staff discounts!).

Hope you found this entry useful! All this talk about tea is creating a craving. Time for me to pay Five Foot Way a visit!

Are you a tea or coffee person? What kind of teas or coffees do you like?

  • One of my favourite tea is the Boh Tea Seri Songket Collection in Lychee and Rose flavour. I like to drink it with sugar 🙂

  • Hi, I’m a fan of tea too and I bumped into your site. Should note too that the water should only be boiled once. I prefer Chinese / Japanese Tea though.

  • I have temporarily stopped drinking tea until the wedding as it has been turning my teeth lovely shades of brown.

  • I love tea too.. but I only like black and green Asian teas.. like the super bitter kind. I’ll drink Earl Gray if I’m at Caucasian restaurants though.

  • At work I’ll drink coffee , but I love drinking tea. For black , yes freshly brewed tap water ( my tap water has no distinctive taste although it’s fairly hard.
    I like English breakfast ( I have that Twinings mix of Ceylon and Assam tea) , but also Irish Breaksfast, Lapsang Souchong (smoky!), Earl Grey ( the one with the purple flowers ) and others , Pu Er from Yunnan ( red) , green teas ( Japanese ), macha ( the more bitter, the better 😉 and chinese white tea (if only it weren’t so horribly expensive )
    Und jawohl, ich bin ein tea Nazi ! I warm the pot with boiling water , beore pouring the water in, so the water won’t cool when poured in and cover the pot with a tea cozy to keep it from cooling down too quickly. And when it has been in there long enough, before the tannines come out, I squeeze a fresh lemon to add lemon juice to the pot ( Aaargh! but only for black tea ! Sometimes )
    And for macha , well I have the proper gear to do a little tea ceremony to prepare it.
    Very relaxing.

  • I like tea, but I couldn’t be arsed to do all that O_O;; I just grab a tea bag and stick it in a mug. Then I fill it up with hot water from the water dispenser (which is the best thing in the whole world). And while . . . it might not taste the same as a properly brewed cup, I’ll just do it the faster way since I don’t have the patience to do all that O_O;;

    But this is good to know when I do want to brew a proper cup! 😀

  • I can always take my time to steep tea and to make it in the best way properly. I also like the natural leaves rather than the bags themselves… 🙂 Very interesting post! 🙂

  • Ivy

    @Michelle: Boh tea is so good!!! <3

    @Hong Aun: Thanks for dropping by! Yes, that’s right fresh water is important so it’s no good to double boil. 🙂

    @Lissy: LOL! Good point. I should think about that before I get married too. :S I don’t think I would be able to quit drinking tea though. :S

    @Katy: I like the Oolong family of Asian teas. Not sure what they are. They’re kinda green / black mixed. Haha.

    @Walter: Wow, you’re definitely more of a tea nazi than I am. Warming the pot before brewing is a great idea! I usually drink tea at work so I don’t have the equipment or time to get too fancy. 🙁

    A Japanese tea ceremony eh? Sounds fun! I’ve yet to delve into Asian teas. I have the equipment for a Chinese tea ceremony but haven’t touched it yet. Reading the instructions is painful since I’m not that proficient in Chinese. So the only Asian teas I consume are in Chinese and Japanese restaurants. LOL.

    I have the Twinings English Breakfast as well. But I’m not sure why I haven’t been able to get the aroma out from Singapore’s tap water. Not sure what I’ve been doing wrong. 🙁

    @Tara: Just try to brew it once… and you’ll be amazed. 😀

    @Destiny: LOL. I haven’t heard the word “steep” in a while… at least not after I left Toronto. Steeping leaves is definitely the ideal for drinking great tea.

  • Interesting post! I actually like tea and coffee equally. I prefer to drink coffee in the morning and have tea at night or while snacking on sweets. My favorite tea would have to be Japanese green tea, the one with the brown rice and I enjoy it on its own with no sugar.

  • Ivy

    @Chrizta: I love the Japanese green tea with brown rice too. It smells really relaxing!

    • ah you mean genmai–cha … i love it too :3….

  • Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    • Ivy

      I’m using WordPress actually. Maybe you’d like to try Tumblr or Posterous. If you’re good with code, perhaps try Movable Type, Habari or Toto. I really liked Sweetcron as well but the creator has stopped updating the code.