There is nothing quite as wonderful as a perfect cup of tea, but at times the journey to the perfect cup is fraught with peril. PERIL! Low quality tea that tastes like cardboard, accidental oversteeped bitter death, lost and forgotten cold sadness, spilled and scalded feet, and of course the most perilous; the cup made by a friend who has no idea what they are doing and you are too nice to say anything so you have to drink it all and hope they don’t offer more. Anyone who has any real interest in tea has at least once run into one of these perils, so here is a friendly adventurer's guide to achieving the treasure of a perfect cup and level up your tea game.
The first and possibly easiest of the dreaded perils to avoid is low quality tea. Look, I know that tea bags are super convenient but that is the only thing they have going for them. Usually made from tea dust and fannings, it is overpriced (especially for the quality) creates excess garbage, and usually doesn’t taste good at all. Especially once you have made the leap to loose leaf quality tea that often can get multiple steeps and has a wider variety of flavors. There is a little more cleanup, true, but in the end it is totally worth it. Now, brave seeker of tea, loose leaf does not always equal quality, there are some nasty teas out there in the world, but you are a lot more likely to find a spectacular treasure in a tin of loose leaf then you ever will in a tea bag.
So now you have your tea and it is time to steep it up into something wonderful, but be ready, because here is where it gets tricky! There are so many ways to prepare teas, usually they break down along the lines of cultural (thing English Tea, Chinese Gongfucha, Japanese Chado, and German Ostfriesentee) and type of tea. For example you don’t want to steep a cup of green tea in boiling water for any amount of time or you will not be having a good day, but if you steep a classic black tea at the temperature you would a green you will end up with weak and watery sadness. So the best advice is to read the instructions on the packaging and double check with the internet, it is a goldmine of advice for proper brewing techniques. After you have mastered the basics level up by experimenting, lower temperature and lengthen the steep time or vice versa, or try some other culture’s method of brewing. As for avoiding a forgotten cup that has long gone cold, carry that cup with you everywhere, it is a lot easier to forget about it if it is in your hand!
Now this next tip might seem obvious, don’t spill tea all over yourself, but there is a bit more to it. Always select function over form! There is a LOT of gorgeous teaware out there, and some of it just does not work, be it dribbly teapots or teacups with finger holes clearly made for four year olds. Go for what works for you, got Carpal Tunnel then try a side handled teapot, have small hands then get tiny cups, hands sensitive to heat then go for a double walled cup, the options are vast! Choosing tea gear that is compatible with your body is one of the easiest ways to avoid spillage...assuming you are not super clumsy, in that case just don’t fill the cup up very high.
As for that last peril, the best way to avoid that is carry your own tea with you, travel infusers and thermoses are your friend! Failing that, well, develop a good poker face and sit next to a potted plant.
Check out her amazing tea blog Rambling Butterfly Thoughts for some tea geekery and rambling.