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Tea

This article is about tea preparation.

Tea preparation

This section describes the most widespread method of making tea. Completely different methods are used in North Africa, Tibet and perhaps in other places.

The best way to prepare tea is usually thought to be with loose tea placed either directly in a teapot or contained in a tea infuser, rather than a teabag. However, perfectly acceptable tea can be made with teabags. Some circumvent the teapot stage altogether and brew the tea directly in a cup or mug.

Black Tea The water for black teas should be added at the boiling point (100C), except for very delicate Darjeeling teas, where slightly lower temperatures are recommended. This will have as large an effect on the final flavour as the type of tea used. The most common fault when making black tea is to use water at too low a temperature. Since boiling point drops with altitude, this makes it difficult to brew black tea properly in mountainous areas. The tea should not be allowed to steep for less than 30 seconds or more than about five minutes (a process known as brewing or [dialectally] mashing in the UK): after that, tannin is released, which counteracts the stimulating effect of the theophylline and caffeine and makes the tea bitter (at this point it is referred to as being stewed in the UK).

Green Tea Water for green tea, according to most accounts, should be around 80 to 85C the higher the quality of the leaves, the lower the temperature. Preferably, the container in which the tea is steeped the mug or teapot should also be warmed beforehand (usually by swirling a little hot water around it then pouring it out) so that the tea does not immediately cool down.

Oolong Tea - Oolong teas should be brewed around 90 to 100 C or 194 to 212 F. The brewing vessel should be warmed before brewing the tea as mentioned in the Green Tea section above. Yixing clay teapots are the ideal brewing vessel for oolong tea. For best results use spring water, as the minerals in spring water tend to bring out more flavor in the tea.

Premium or Delicate Tea Some teas, especially green teas and delicate Oolong or Darjeeling teas, are steeped for shorter periods, sometimes less than 30 seconds. Using a tea strainer separates the leaves from the water at the end of the brewing time if a tea bag is not being used.

Serving In order to preserve the pre-tannin tea without requiring it all to be poured into cups a second teapot is employed. The steeping pot is best unglazed earthenware Yixing pots are the best known of these, famed for the high quality clay from which they are made. The serving pot is generally porcelain, which retains the heat better.

Experienced tea-drinkers often insist that the tea should not be stirred around while it is steeping (sometimes called winding in the UK). This, they say, will do little to strengthen the tea, but is likely to bring the tannic acids out in the same way that brewing too long will do. For the same reason one should not squeeze the last drops out of a teabag; if you want stronger tea, use more leaves or bags.

Additives Popular additives to tea include sugar or honey, lemon, milk, and fruit jams. Most connoisseurs eschew cream because it overpowers the flavour of tea. The exception to this rule is with very hearty teas such as the East Friesian blend. Milk, however, is thought to neutralize remaining tannins and reduce acidity.

When taking milk with tea, some add the tea to the milk rather than the other way around. If the milk is chilled, this avoids scalding the milk, which leads to a better emulsion and nicer taste. The socially 'correct' method is to add the milk after the tea, but this convention was established before the invention of the refrigerator. Adding the milk first also makes a more milky cup of tea with sugar harder to prepare as there will be no hot liquid in the cup to dissolve the sugar effectively. Of course, if the tea is being brewed in a mug, the milk must be added after the tea bag is removed.

In the United Kingdom, adding the milk first is historically considered a lower-class method of preparing tea the upper classes always add the milk last. The origin of this distinction is said to be that the rougher earthenware mugs of the working class would break if boiling-hot tea was added directly to them, whereas the fine glazed china cups of the upper class would not. It is now considered by most to be a personal preference.

Tea Preparation

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