Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Celebrate Hot Tea Month with our expert tips!

January is National Hot Tea Month, and we couldn’t be more excited. At this very moment, our town has had a record snowfall. Are you cold, too? Put the kettle on – but first read these tips from our guest blogger Bruce Richardson, tea expert and author of several books about tea, including The New Tea Companion (co-authored with Jane Pettigrew) and Tea and Etiquette (co-authored with Dorothea Johnson). Bruce kindly allows us to share these words from his blog. Thanks, Bruce!

Six Steps to Better Tea

1. Clean out your old teas
Yes, tea does have a shelf life. That tin of tea you bought at Harrods in 1995 is past its prime. Toss the tea leaves on your garden and keep the tin as a memory of your London experience, or better yet, fill it with new tea and reach for it more often. Old tea won't hurt you but it will taste flat and flavorless.

2. Invest in a kettle
I am amazed at the number of people who ask me how long they should microwave their tea water! Let's get down to basics - if you want to make good tea you have to have a proper kettle. You can invest as little as $20 for a simple electric model or $35-$75 for a solid stove top kettle. There's even an Asian kettle that sells for under $50 and doubles as a kettle or teapot. A good kettle will change your life!

3. Filter your water

I wrote a story about good water for tea in a previous blog. It boils down to this, get the chlorine and iron out of your water. In most instances, a simple counter top filtered pitcher will suffice. I use an under-the-counter two-stage filter for my water at home that cost under $100. Don't use bottled distilled water because it has no minerals and avoid most spring waters because they have too much mineral content. Bottled drinking water usually has the best balance of minerals for tea.

4. Buy a teapot or two
Your tea will taste better if you brew it in a pot rather than a cup or mug. I suggest a small porcelain or iron pot for single users and a larger 4-6 cup pot for sharing tea with friends. After all, tea is the universal beverage that brings people together. There is no better way to show hospitality than to share a pot of tea on a cold day in January!

5. Switch from teabags to loose tea

Americans have fallen in love again with great loose teas. The taste is far superior to bagged teas. Plus the proliferation of so many infuser baskets, brewing sacks, and other infusing devices has made steeping easy. Anyone can steep tea at home or in the office. It's not rocket science!

6. Water temperature matters
Every tea family has a optimum steeping temperature and time. It's easy to remember that the darker the tea leaves, the hotter the water. Here's a simple guide to the four tea families:

* Black tea: 4-5 minutes at 212° F
* Oolong tea: 2-4 minutes at 195°-205° F
* Green tea: 2-4 minutes at 175° F
* White tea: 3-5 minutes at 165° F

My benediction for you during these cold days of winter is to go forth and make good tea!


  1. I borrowed a book one time on brewing tea and it talked about looking for "fish eyes" and "string of pearls" in the nearly boiling water to guard against too-hotwater for green tea.. I like that. Not gonna measure my water temperature after all, what am I a scientist?

  2. Good idea. Another one way to wing it: If you're boiling water for green tea, take the kettle off when you just start to hear the "Shhhhh-shhhhhh" sound, before it really gets boiling.