Perfect cup of tea? Settle for a pleasing one


Little did I know there are so many ways to make a perfect cup of tea. Just do a quick search of the internet—as I did—and you’ll come upon screen after screen of individual reports about the perfect cup of tea.

The reports contradict. Some tea enthusiasts calculate to within a degree the optimum temperature for heating water for a loose leaf organic black tea, while others slosh boiling water in a cup with a tea bag and call it good. And call it “perfect,” actually.

It is enough to make a person cynical about perfection. At the very least, it calls into question the nature and function of taste buds. Perhaps they are just vestigial body parts that, in their heyday, actually could discern the difference between an exquisite taste and a pedestrian one.

My taste buds still can detect sweet and sour, as well as astringent and saccharine, so perhaps I am qualified enough to suggest a few rules about making a pleasing cup of, say, oolong Chinese tea. I say “pleasing” because that is the only criterion that matters: If it pleases your palate, it is perfect… for you.

Two basic rules should be followed:

First rule: Choose a quality tea leaf. You know the old saying: Garbage in, garbage out. If you use clear water, heat it properly in a clean teapot, and then add it to insipid tea leaves, you will have produced insipid tea. All the flavor and aroma of tea come from the leaves. If they are tasteless, so will be your tea.

Second rule: Follow the rules. If a tea maker says an oolong Chinese tea should be heated to just below the boiling point, heat the water to just below the boiling point. If a Gongfu brew in a yixing pot is recommended, go Gongfu. If a wuyi black tea is best brewed at 90 degrees centigrade for one minute, don’t steep it for two minutes.

If you are perfect in following the rules, you will brew a pleasing cup.

(Want to stay connected to other tea lovers? Check the Tea Twitterati 100, a list of the 100 most active tea industry social media users. The regularly updated list is posted on the website of premium quality tea supplier Wild & Bare Co.

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