Food: Learn to steep tea for ideal flavor

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 4, 2024

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Metro Creative Connection

Tea is an ancient beverage enjoyed for millenia. It is derived from the leaves of a plant called camellia sinensis. One theory regarding the origins of tea suggests it was accidentally discovered in China when tea leaves from a wild tree blew into Emperor Shen Nung’s pot of boiling water in 2732 B.C. and he drank the brew.

The tea information site Tea How says tea is the second most consumed beverage on the planet behind water. People throughout much of the Middle East and Asia have been drinking tea as a key component of their cultures for thousands of years. The Dutch East India Company first introduced tea to western countries, but tea remains more integral to eastern cultures than it is in the western hemisphere.

Cultures have embraced different ways of brewing and serving tea. For example, English afternoon tea is a tradition in Great Britain and is served between 3 p.m. am 6 p.m. If it is served any later than that, it is called “high tea” and more substantial food should be offered with the beverage. Butter tea is a popular tea in Tibet that is made using black tea, salt and yak butter. Some Japanese enjoy genmaicha, which is roasted brown rice and green tea mixed together.

All tea starts with water and tea leaves. How tea is steeped can affect how the finished product tastes. The Republic of Tea, a company that offers more than 300 premium teas, says that fine tea should be steeped with care. Here are some steps to follow.

• Start with fresh water, preferably filtered, spring or bottled.

• Fill a tea kettle with cold water and heat to a rolling boil for black teas. If making green or 100 percent white tea, stop just short of boiling to avoid “cooking” the delicate tea leaves.

• Use roughly one teaspoon of tea leaves per six-ounce cup. Six ounces is the size of a traditional tea cup. Coffee mugs tend to be larger than six ounces.

• If using full loose tea, place tea in an infuser into a teapot or cup; otherwise, you will later need to strain tea leaves if loose leaves are placed directly in the vessel.

• Pour the heated water from the kettle over the tea leaves. Cover and allow to steep to taste. Black tea should be steeped for three to five minutes. The time required to steep tea may change depending on the tea variety. Do not over-infuse or the tea may taste bitter.