The Perfect Cup of Tea
Photo Credit Above: Neda Khalilian
Being raised in a Middle Eastern family doesn't qualify me as a tea connoisseur, but it does give me an edge on making the perfect cup of tea.
It's really not that complicated although at first, one may be intimidated by the fact that a tea bag is not being used and there are loose tea leaves involved. There are no strict rules to making a good cup of tea, but some simple "tweaks" can make all the difference between a good cup of tea and a perfect one.
NOT ALL BOILING WATER IS CREATED EQUALLY:
When making tea, you need hot, boiling water. That component can make all the difference since boiling water is the main component in any cup of tea. For herbal and black tea, you can use a higher temperature of water (anywhere from 208 - 212 degrees Fahrenheit), where with a green or white tea, it needs a lighter, less intense boil (anywhere from 170 - 185 degrees Fahrenheit). Oolong tea which is a very popular, partially fermented tea known for speeding up your metabolism, fighting lipids, and high in antioxidants requires a mid-level strength of boiling (anywhere from 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit). Over-boiling water can "kill" the taste of any tea giving it a flat taste - so be careful.
STEEP YOUR TEA LIKE YOU MEAN IT:
I can write pages on steeping your tea and all the ways you can do it. I'll keep it simple. Here are some of my favorite items or similar items that I use when steeping tea:
Teapot with Infuser: When making tea for more people than just myself and my husband, I typically use a teapot that has an infuser that fits inside like this one. Mine in the picture above is from Iran, so unless you go to a Middle Eastern store, it's not as easy to come by. I just ordered this cute teapot but in white - it's perfect for having on the table for easy refills.
Single Cup Infuser: There are many different ways to make a single cup of tea, most often the tea bag. When using loose tea leaves for a single cup, it doesn't make sense to make a whole pot of tea. That's why an infuser such as this cutie, comes in handy.
Teapot Without a Built-In Infuser: There are many other ways you can infuse tea without a designated "infuser" in the tea pot. This is achieved easily by using either these mesh infuser balls or a tea strainer to strain the tea leaves out when pouring your tea or even using these tea filter bags which have been so helpful when I have big parties and need loose leaves ready to go.
NOT ALL CUPS ARE MEANT FOR TEA:
Call me a tea snob, but I can't seem to enjoy drinking tea when it is served in a mug. I feel like the beautiful color of the tea leaves needs to be displayed in the correct glass. In the Middle Eastern culture, tea is typically drank from clear glass cups that are smaller in size like these. Do I have glasses like these? Yes, but rarely use them unless I am entertaining formally. I use cups like these and these most often.
ADD ONE OF THESE TO KICK YOUR TEA UP A NOTCH:
As a child, my mother would always add a sugar cube to the extremely light tea she would occasionally allow me to drink. As an adult, I love drinking my tea black with something sweet to accompany it such as baklava, dates, figs, cookies, or cake.
Traditionally, Middle Easterners love holding onto a sugar cube in the front of their mouth as they drink the tea. This allows the tea to become perfectly sweetened. Two ways you can kick your tea up a notch is to:
1. Allow one of the following to steep along with your tea leaves:
- Cardamom Seed (make sure to break/crush the pod a little before you steep)
- Rose Petals (add a few petals with the loose tea leaves)
- Jasmine Tea Leaves (add a tiny bit as a little goes a long way)
2. Add one of the following to your cup of tea after pouring:
- Cardamom infused sugar cube (found in Middle Eastern markets)
- Rock Candy Stirrers - adds a slight sweet flavor
- Milk. There's nothing wrong with adding milk to your tea - the English do it all the time
- Lemon. Let's face it - lemon makes basically anything taste extra good and refreshing
- Honey - adds a delicious, smooth sweetness
TIP - feeling under the weather? Make yourself a hot cup of tea with honey and lemon. Add a few stirs from a rock candy stirrer and it helps ease your stomach too.
DOUBLE TIP: Feeling under the weather and have a sore throat? Make the above tea with honey and lemon and add some fresh grated ginger. Yep, it works wonders. How does it taste? Well, it depends on who you ask.
FOLLOW THESE STEPS FOR THE PERFECT CUP OF TEA:
I don't have an exact science of how much loose tea I use, etc, but this is a round about measurement as it depends on how strong you like yours. I like my tea on the darker side, so you may want to adjust accordingly.
- Boil about 4 cups of water
- Place a heaping teaspoon of loose tea leaves into infuser and place infuser into tea pot
- Add 2 cardamom pods that have been slightly crushed/broken right into the infuser with the loose tea leaves
- Once the water is at a boiling state, I pour the water directly over the loose tea leaves making sure I don't allow it to over flow. Once I have filled the tea pot to approximately 2/3 full, I cover the tea pot, and place a cloth or oven mitt directly over the top and spout to allow full steam to infuse the leaves.
- If you want to keep the tea warm, I usually create a double teapot by placing the teapot over the kettle that I used to boil the water. There are actual sets that are made for this concept.
- After about 10 min, it's ready to drink. I usually pour the prepared tea about 1/4 way in the glass cup, then add plain, hot water to balance the strong tea flavor.
Enjoy! Feel free to comment below with any questions, or suggestions on how you prepare your tea!
Hugs, Mama K