We’re creatures of habit here at Bite Me More. We start our day by discussing the things we dread (exercise), what we’re excited about (testing the new cookie recipe) and share a laugh (often at each others’ expense). After that, we get down to the business of beverages. Lisa has her shot of espresso, Jane drinks from her jug of iced coffee and me, I’m all about a perfect cup of tea.
According to dictionary.com, a ritual is “any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.” Ok then. My tea prep is a tad ritualistic (read: rigid), but the results are incredible when loose, dried leaves are transformed into aromatic, full-bodied thrills for my tongue and taste buds.
Here’s what I do to ensure the perfect cup of comfort:
1. I BREAK LOOSE
Though I enjoy Mighty Leaf and Taylors of Harrogate boxed teas, there’s no question that loose leaf is more flavorful than these string-and-tag teabags stuffed with finely ground tea dust. Seek out a teashop (ours, without hesitation, is DAVIDs Tea) that stocks dozens of varieties of quality tea in airtight, opaque containers. Ask for help to determine your tea tastes, say Assam and Oolong as many times as possible and most of all, follow your nose because there’s nothing like inhaling the scent of hardy chunks of cinnamon and orange spiced tea.
2. I RAISE MY MUG
We’re only as good as our tools. Grab a speedy electric kettle, a ceramic or cast iron teapot and rid yourself of the dainty, shallow, wide-mouth bone china cups. Why? First, it’s impolite to drink out of the saucer (so I’ve been told many times), but, more important, a tall, cylindrical ceramic mug will keep your tea hot longer and have a large enough handle to accommodate at least two fingers.
3. I BRING IT TO A BOIL
Be sure to fill your kettle with fresh, cold water. If you’re thinking of using the water previously boiled or distilled water, don’t. These have less oxygen than fresh water and as a result, will compromise the flavor of the tea. Second, while waiting for the water to come to a boil, I suggest running steaming hot tap water in my mug and teapot – this preheating helps the tea stay hotter, longer.
4. I CREATE A TEMPEST IN THE TEAPOT
After preheating the pot, I add the tealeaves (1 heaping teaspoon: 1 cup water), leaving them loose in the pot. Why don’t I use a tea ball or infuser? The more the leaves can spread out and the more the water can circulate around them, the better. When the water is rolling (for green or white tea, catch it before the boiling point), pour it directly overtop the leaves and wait for it to steep. Note that one of the most common tea making mistakes is brewing it for too long, leading to bitter-tasting tea. The guidelines I follow are: green tea 2-3 minutes, black tea 3-5 minutes and herbal tea 5-10 minutes. Steeping time is finite and the longer it sits, the more bitter it will become. Once the time is up, pour the tea through an infuser or strainer into your preheated mug.
5. I TOTALLY TEETOTAL
I’d take Earl Grey over Jack Daniels, any day. Though this process of making a simple cup of tea might sound slightly nuts, tiresome and excessive, I assure you that there’s method to the madness. One sip and you’ll see that, along with George Orwell (wrote a dissertation of the top 10 ways to brew the perfect cup of tea), I think there’s such a thing as comfort in a cuppa.