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“This may be a stupid question, but how do I brew this?”

“This may be a stupid question, but how do I brew this?” - Tea For The Underground


     We get this a lot! It’s (A) not a stupid question, and (B) one of the cool aspects of switching out your commercial tea bags for loose leaf. High quality loose leaf gives you some options, and playing around with water temperature, steeping time, and brewing method is a great way to explore the characteristics of your tea haul.


    It’s finally getting cold in the South, so let’s kick it off with our very first ** Black Tea Brewing Guide**, featuring conventional wisdom and some tips from our own trial & error. First, the basics. Generally, you’ll use one heaping teaspoon of black tea per 6 to 8 ounces of boiling or almost boiling water (180 to 212 degrees).

   The biggest factor in determining how to brew your tea is the level of oxidization. For a fully oxidized black tea, say Waterloo Sunset Earl Grey or English Breakfast in America, near-boiling water and a 4-7 minute steep will give you a full-bodied, full-flavored cup. These stronger black teas work  just as well in an infuser, tea ball, or paper / linen tea bag.

    A slightly less oxidized black tea, say The Darjeeling, can get bitter if it’s over-brewed or brewed with actively boiling water. Waiting just a few seconds after the water is removed from the heat can make a difference here and get you a smoother cup that preserves the delicate flavor of the tea. Same with In the Middle Oolong – steeping 3-4 minutes in not-quite-boiling water (~195 degrees) prevents the semi-fermented tea from becoming overly bitter. 

    No matter what the experts say, one thing we’ve noticed is that “recommended” steeping time is often significantly longer than we like. We’ve yet to see a black tea that tastes better after 10 minutes than 5. And it can be tempting to over-steep a flavored or blended black tea to try to, say, get the juiciest mango flavor out of your Tropicalia or highlight the currant in the Oh Ontario! Icewine.

    If you keep ending up with an overly-tannic cup, try switching up one of your variables. One option is to just increase the amount of loose leaf you use instead of increasing the steeping time. This is a great choice for a flavored tea, a chai, or one blended with fruit. You can also try a different brewing method – an open infuser allows the water circulate more freely, and can bring out new characteristics of a more delicate or complicated tea. We don’t recommend this for chai, however, because the finer powdered spices need a fairly fine straining method.


That's all for now! As always, Peace up, pinkies down.


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