More than just an alternative to coffee, good tea rivals the complexity of wine — the tea genome is four times as complex as that of coffee or cacao, with an almost boundless capacity for flavors ranging from magnolia to roasted hazelnut to petrichor. 

Tea also contains potent compounds for human wellness; in addition to its abundance of antioxidants, tea is also the only place where both caffeine and L-theanine can be found in nature. 

Perhaps this is why tea has become a part of the human story; its history spans 4,000 years of flavor, craft, and culture, and that story only continues to unfold.

Learn how to harness the limitless potential of tea in 3 steps: selection, preparation, and service. 

Index

  1. Selection: How To Choose Good Tea

  2. Preparation: How To Brew Good Tea

  3. Service: How To Elevate Good Tea

Selection: How To Choose Good Tea

Like all good food, good tea starts with the best materials possible.

  • For better flavor, choose loose-leaf teas over teabags. Loose-leaf teas retain higher amounts of polyphenols, amino acids, and flavorful volatiles, the compounds responsible for flavor and health benefits in tea.

  • The best teas require no additives. Choose pure, unblended teas. Flavored teas are enhanced with natural or artificial additives in order to boost flavor in an otherwise weak or defective tea. 

  • Instead, opt for pure, single origin teas. Pure teas offer a culinary experience on the same caliber as good wine or whiskey, with flavors driven completely by terroir and teamaking skill; an incredible feat when considering the unmistakable cherry-like character in Scarlet Honey, or the natural milky texture of Golden Lily.

Good tea is worth the investment. If you choose whole ingredients to stock your pantry or bar, opt for the same for your the tea cupboard.

Selecting Tea By Type

White

Green

Oolong (light)

Oolong (Dark)

Black

There are 5 main types of tea: white tea, green tea, oolong, black tea, and fermented tea. 

All teas are made from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The tea bush occupies a unique position in the culinary world, containing a complex blend of polyphenols, amino acids, sugars to a degree found nowhere else in nature.

To make tea, the leaves and tips are harvested, then processed or cooked in various ways to create distinct flavor profiles. Choose teas based first on flavor rather than health benefits, as all pure teas will contain significant amounts of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds.

Tea Guide
Type Profile Common Notes Processing Example Food Pairings
White Delicate cucumber, dried fruit, hay Dried and baked for a simple, pure character Starlight White red sauces, seafood, cured meats4
Green Vibrant fresh grass, rice, vegetables Pan-fired or steamed to lock in fresh character Spring Spiral Green creamy sauces, chicken, grains
Oolong (Light Aromatic and cool magnolia, honey, cream, Complex process to create layered profile Sky High Oolong herbs, seafood, chicken
Oolong (Dark) Aromatic and warm stonefruit, nuts, smoke Complex process to create layered profile; often roasted Crimson Oak mushrooms, spicy foods, red meats
Black Bold malt, red fruit, cocoa Deep oxidation to develop rich, robust character Red Jade rich pastries, red meats

To maintain tea’s potent aromas and flavors, store in airtight containers with minimal exposure to light or strong odors. Store separately from other spices and food items, as tea will quickly take on other aromas.

Caffeine

Pure teas are a variable agricultural product; the caffeine content of each batch will vary based on the climate, soil, and other seasonal conditions during harvest. 

The effects of caffeine are also heavily reliant on the L-theanine content in the tea leaves. L-theanine is an amino acid that interacts with caffeine to balance its effects, resulting in a more balanced stimulation without the jitters. 

Many people who are sensitive to caffeine in coffee may be surprised to find that the caffeine in tea has a much more positive effect. 

In general, white teas and green teas offer long-lasting, steady energy, ideal for long periods of deep work or mindfulness. Black teas offer a quick boost of energy, ideal for mornings or during the afternoon lull. Oolong teas play an all-around role, ideal for general enjoyment throughout the day.

Preparation: How To Brew Good Tea

The ideal cup of tea maximizes flavor, texture, and aroma, while limiting bitterness, astringency, and sourness

This is accomplished by balancing three main variables: the ratio of leaves to water, the temperature, and the time of infusion. The target parameters will vary based on the type of tea, and also for specific teas within each category.

Tea Brew Guide
Type Temperature Ratio Time Brewing Tips Common Problems
White 185°F | 85°C 3 grams / 250mL 2 minutes Ensure that all leaves are submerged in water; leaves may want to stay on the surface too weak: increase temperature
Green 185°F 3 grams / 250mL 1 minute Avoid oversteeping too bitter: decrease time
Oolong (Light) 195°F 3 grams / 250mL 3 minutes Apply a strong pour to open up the leaves too weak: increase temperature
Oolong (Dark) 205°F 3 grams / 250mL 3 minutes Apply a strong pour to open up the leaves too dry: decrease time
Black 205°F 3 grams / 250mL 3 minutes Avoid oversteeping too bitter: decrease time
Cold Brew Room temperature water poured over leaves, then left refrigerated 3 grams / 250mL 12-36 hours Shake before refrigeration. too weak: increase leaf amount and time

Tea & Water

For all teas, it is important to select good water for the brewing process. Tea is made of 99% water, so the water used for brewing plays an unmistakable role in the final outcome of the tea. Just as certain ramen-ya will import specific brands of bottled water from Japan to make their broth, some tea experts insist on specific waters for specific teas.

For everyday use, filtered tap water or reverse osmosis water with added minerals will perform well with tea. Bottled waters with a low mineral content, such as Aquafina, Crystal Geyser, will also produce good results. 

Avoid waters with excess mineral content; many delicious mineral waters, like Evian and San Pellegrino, make for good drinking but poor brewing for tea. 

Teaware Use

There is a vast array of tools that can be used to brew loose leaf tea. Here are the 4 most common:

Teaware Guide
Teaware Type Ideal For Typical Volume
Infuser Modern Convenience 250mL
Western Teapot Modern, Traditional Balanced flavor; Brewing large amounts 300mL – 750mL
Chinese Teapot and Gaiwan Traditional Complex flavor; exploring flavors over multiple steeps 100mL – 250mL
Cold Brew Bottle or Mason Jar Modern Cold brew 500mL – 1 L

For hot tea preparations, pre-heat the teaware as you would an oven to better achieve the ideal temperature. Simply pour boiling water into the vessel, and wait for the body of the vessel to come up to temperature.

For cold tea preparations, chill the teaware with ice water to maintain a cooler temperature.

Service: How To Elevate Good Tea

The tea experience does not end after brewing. Take these additional steps to elevate the tea experience, or explore the use of tea as a versatile ingredient in other preparations. 

 

Tea Tasting

Conduct a focused tea tasting, as modeled after wine or whiskey tastings. A worthy experience both alone and with friends; meant to develop the palate, explore new flavors, and offer a platform for meaningful debate and conversation.  

 

Step 1: Prepare teas for brewing, a neutral brewing vessel, and multiples of identical cups for a consistent tasting experience.

Step 2: Examine the dry leaves. Note the aroma, appearance, and overall impression of the leaves. Optional: Discuss details about origin and processing.

Step 3: Brew the tea leaves in a pre-heated vessel.

Step 4: Decant into cups. Note the aroma, appearance, and overall impression of the liquor. 

Step 5: Taste slowly. Note the flavor, texture, and aftertaste of the liquor. Discuss objective qualities. 

Optional: As in wine, aerate the liquor on the palate for increased perception of volatiles.

Step 6: Make a judgement. Evaluate the tea on a more personal, subjective level. Determine the tea’s strengths and weaknesses, overall likeability, and potential for other preparations such as cold brew, tea cocktails, and other tea-infused recipes. 

Optional: Start a comparative tasting by brewing another tea with similar parameters.

 

Tea as an Ingredient

Utilize tea as a component in cooking, baking, and as part of other beverages. Pure tea is a delicate but richly aromatic ingredient that, when incorporated correctly, can add a unique and compelling layers to a dish.

 

Additional Resources (coming soon!):

Tea Mixology

Pairing Tea with Food

Cooking with Tea

Baking with Tea 

Find the tea that fits you best

Use the tea picker below; choose your preferred type, flavour and profiles and we will suggest a tea for you.

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