How to brew the perfect cup of tea

May 1, 2021

We’re going to chat about brewing the perfect cup of tea today, but first — because we’re friends — a few tidbits from my week!

My chagrin at discarding our old wooden casement windows was lessened by the arrival of Erica. Erica restores windows, and she came and took the old hardware off our unsalvageable windows. She’ll shine it all up and reuse the hardware on her projects. Yay for Erica and others doing similar good work!

a photo of a raised, white, wood planter in front of a gray building

Granddaughter Basil and Papa put together a raised planter for me this week. I painted it white and put it outside the back door, where it’ll serve as an herb garden. (It’s just a bit early to plant, so please use your imagination!) Pesto in the plans!

I’m finishing up my first knitting project. It took me over a year teaching myself, but I finally completed my lavender wrap. It’s pretty but awfully curly at the edges! Any tips for blocking it? 

Now let’s brew some tea!

I just love tea. It can be warm and comforting or cool and refreshing. Herbal teas are soothing and relaxing, while black (caffeinated) tea is energizing and invigorating! It can be sipped plain or accented with herbs, spices, sugars, and/or creams. It really is a drink for any occasion. And I love how pretty teacups are, too, and how they feel in my hand! (My cupboard holds oversized teacups that provide the aesthetic of a dainty teacup with a much higher capacity.)

I talked about how to store tea leaves in this week’s blog post. So today I’d like to talk about using those tea leaves to brew the perfect cuppa! One of the great things about tea is how easy it is to make! That being said, if you take the time to see to a few details, your tea will be even more delicious. And the perfect cup of tea is almost as easy to make as a ho-hum cup, so it’s worth doing right!

The right ingredients & tools

Before you start brewing, gather the right ingredients and tools. For the perfect cup of tea, you’ll need:

White text on a black background reads: "'Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book.' — Bill Watterson"

High-quality, loose tea leaves

I have a collection of go-to teabags for a quick and easy cuppa, but if you’re wanting the best possible tea, loose leaves is the way to go. Ideally, you want leaves that smell fresh and aren’t too broken up. Whole leaves aren’t necessary for high-quality tea, but you don’t want your leaves broken into a near powder, either. If you’re looking for a research project, there is a lot to learn about the shape, color, aroma, and taste of different types of tea! It’s a fascinating topic, with plenty of terrific resources! Here’s an excellent one. (This is an affiliate link, which means if you purchase a book through it you’ll support both Bookshop and CaretoKeep without any added expense.)

The right kettle & teapot

If you want to make a variety of different teas at the perfect temperature, you may want to invest in an electronic kettle that allows you to set the temperature. This is because different teas are best made at different temps. I use a metal tea kettle with a whistle that keeps me from over-boiling. (I prefer how it looks in my kitchen. And I love that it doesn’t contain plastic.) You’ll also need something to brew your tea in. A china teapot is the perfect vessel for this job! If you pour straight into a teacup, you’ll also want a strainer and something to cover the cup with!

Great-tasting water

Use filtered drinking water, not tap. (Unless you have high-quality and great-tasting tap water, that is. If you enjoy drinking water straight from the sink, you’ll likely enjoy it for your tea, too.) Also be sure it’s fresh and cool. (Don’t use previously boiled water.)

How to brew the perfect cup of tea

a white china teapot pours tea into a white china teacup on a saucer beside a silver spoon, sitting on a small wood table
  1. Check recommended water temperature and steeping times. The company your tea came from may have recommendations. Otherwise, here’s a guide for common types of teas.
  2. Boil water. If you’re not using a kettle with a pre-set temp, make sure to pour your water when it’s just begun to boil. You don’t want to over-boil your water! (Be sure to boil extra water for step 3.)
  3. Warm the teapot. (Fill the pot about halfway with boiling water, swish it around, and dump it out.) This helps the hot water not shock the tea leaves as much in step 4!
  4. Add the tea leaves to the pot and pour the boiling water directly over them. You can adjust the strength of your tea by adjusting the amount of tea leaves you use, but 2-3 grams per cup of water is a good place to start. (If you don’t have a kitchen scale, try 1 heaping teaspoon per cup.)
  5. Cover the pot and let it steep. See step 1 to learn how long to steep for, keeping in mind you can steep longer or shorter for a stronger or milder taste. Don’t over-steep, though, as this can lead to a bitter-tasting tea.
  6. Once the tea is done steeping, strain the leaves and pour into your cup.
  7. (Optional, but encouraged) Pair with your favorite scone, cake, or pastry.

Most importantly: don’t get too wrapped up in getting it just right. When it comes down to it, the perfect cup of tea is one that you enjoy. I often brew mine at a cooler temp than recommended, for example. (Otherwise I find myself forgetting about it by the time it cools off enough to comfortably drink!) What are your favorite kinds of tea? Do you have any of your own tricks for getting the perfect brew?

Take good care,

Headshot photo of Karen Mary with her signature in blue ink to the right

P.S. You can access all of the C2K weekly letters in the Newsletter section of the blog! Maybe there’s a topic you want to revisit or a link you want to find. Or maybe you just recently joined us and would like to catch up!

For the latest posts, be sure to stop by the blog every Tuesday — next week we’ll learn the best way to choose, store, and prepare pomegranates! In the meantime, here are some posts you might want to visit this week:

Tea Storage and Tea Types (new post!)

7 things to know about storing milk

Journey to a Non-Toxic Home book review

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