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Journal FortKnox's Journal: To UK /.'ers (and others): How to make Tea? 49

I'm american... a yank. The only tea I know my (italian) grandmother showed me. Get hot water, apply some random teabag from the grocery store, dunk it a few times to let it steep, throw away and sip until you can tolerate anything greater than a sip.
Well, today my throat hurt (a little bit cold, a little bit talking all day in a full day meeting), so I made myself a cup. Since I've been adventuring in cooking and trying to learn how to do things from scratch[1], I must ask someone who truely knows what they are doing:
How do you make tea? What's the best ingredients I can get in an american stores (is teabags sufficient? What brand?)? Any help is mucho appreciated.

[1] - I'm finding more and more that almost everything made from scratch is worth it. The only definate 'not worth it' I've encountered was baking a cake. Took all day and still tasted like a box cake. Won't ever do that again.
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To UK /.'ers (and others): How to make Tea?

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    1. Boil kettle
    2. Fill mug with hot water. Let sit a minute to bring mug up to proper temperature
    3. Empty mug
    4. Put teabag in mug. Put teaspoon on top of teabag to hold it down
    5. Fill with water
    6. Go check email while it sits a minute or 2
    7. Dump teabag
    8. (optional) milk, cream, surgar, honey, etc.

    The important part is pre-heating the mug. Same if you're using a teapot. Preheat, dump the water, then fill again.

    • So getting the simple teabags at my grocery store will do? I always heard most teabags pretty much suck.

      • Try Twinings or Bigelow - they're supposed to be the better brands.
      • Depends on the brand but IMHO some teabags are pretty damn good. There are tons of different brands and flavours, so you have to find the right one for you. I generally have a couple of packets of Twinings Earl Grey and/or Orange Pekoe tea at home. Depends on my mood as to which tea I'll reach for... Twings and Tetley are the two brands I would recommend for starters.

        Of course, the Hitchhikers Guide has a couple of articles on making [] tea. There's also a thread on Everything2 on making the perfect cuppa [].
        • Oops - forgot the second H2G2 link [].
        • Another vote for Twinings here. That's what I usually drink unless I go to a special tea store. I don't use bags though. I buy and use my tea loose. (Don't really know what term to use.)
          • Another vote for Twinings. I keep a box of Twinings English Breakfast and a box of Earl Grey anywhere I spend any fair amount of time.

            How I make tea:-

            0. Boil kettle.
            1. Pour hot water into mug (don't fuck around with cups, you want a mug)
            2. Carefully dunk the teabag in until the tea is pinkish.
            3. Strain bag with a back of a spoon against the side of the mug.
            4. Add sugar, but no milk.
            5. Drink.

            • I usually make a whole can of tea. My way is:
              1. Boil water in kettle.
              2. Prepare a "tea egg" with a two spoons of loose tea.
              3. Pour a bit of boiling water in tea can.
              4. Shake it a bit around to rinse the tea can.
              5. Throw away water you used to rinse the tea can. Now the tea can is a bit warmed up.
              6. Put the "tea egg" in the tea can.
              7. Add boiled water.
              8. Set timer to 5 minutes.
              9. When timer rings, remove tea egg and dispose its contents
              10. Pour freshly made tea into big mug
              11. Add nothing at all.
              12. Enjoy the tea! :-
      • This is one case where the time taken to prepare it is more important than the quality of the tea.

        Orange pekoe just means a "low-grade" tea, in the sense that its not some "fancy-pants" tea. And you know something? The fancy-pants ones are an acquired taste, which makes me wonder just what you're paying for in something you have to learn to like.

        Stick with whatever's your bag (pun intended :-)

      • Alton Brown has an episode on buying/steeping tea. Hop on IM and I can send it to you if you want. According to Alton, teabags are NOT good, no matter the brand. This has nothing to do with the quality of tea, but the size of the tea leaves that they use in the bags.

        Also, if the water is boiling, it will destroy the tea. Depending on the tea (black, green, oolong), you want the water to be between 150 and 190 degrees.

    • To amplify step 5, it must be boilING water, not boiled water (otherwise there wasn't much point pre-heating the mug!) If the water is not at a rolling boil when you pour it over the tea bag it won't taste right. If you live significantly above sea level you're a bit out of luck, because the water will boil at less than 100 degrees celcius. I think there are certain things in the tea that will only dissolve in water at boiling point.

      Milk (preferably full fat) takes any bitter edge off and makes the tea real
      • Absolutely. I pour water into the mug while the kettle is still plugged in. then, when I dump the water out of the mug, I unplug the kettle and refill the mug. Just be careful doing this - if you're not quick AND accurate, the boiling water will make quite a mess. For most people, I'd say unplug the kettle and replug it.
      • Don't do this with green tea. Green tea should be soaked in temps around 80C, depending on the type.
    • I generally don't pre-heat the cup, but the main thing is to pour the water on the tea while it's boiling.

      Purists (such as George Orwell []) drink tea without anything at all; personally I like a bit of brown sugar in it.

      As for bags, depends on the bag. Twinings, Typhoo and PG Tips bags are good. Lipton's are so-so, depending on the type. Loose tea is generally better, though, and you should use a good tea ball out of stainless steel (other metals leech their flavor into the tea). If I use loose tea, I nor

      • Tea is one of thse magic thing you cannot reheat. The only thing worse than reheated tea is accidently pouring some milk into tea with some lemon in it.

        For a different taste, instead of using milk try some grape juice. Sounds strange, but it works (btw - it only works in a mug; its the same as drinking wine out of your old coffee cup - it really improves the taste)

  • But when you use the right recipe, they are MUCH better than a box recipe. *Particularly* chocolate cake.

    • True. I have made exactly one scratch chocolate cake (from the New Best Recepie cookbook) and it was amazingly, shockingly good. (And not all that hard or messy.) This is not a testament to my baking prowess, but a testament to the skillful writing of the fine folks over at Cook's Illustrated.
  • I'm not British, but I did learn how to make some good British tea. And being originally from East India, the family prides itself on its "tea-making" skills.

    So, the first step to making good tea is to buy good tea. If you want smooth flavored tea, Tetley or Earl Grey are nice. If you want strong and rich flavor, East Indian teas are quite nice - personally, I prefer this brand called Taj Mahal, that can be obtained at most stores that sell East Indian food items. In terms of flavor and richness, the differ

    • Personally I don't like Taj Mahal, but I brought back Assam and Darjeeling from my travels. Lovely.

      I would actually like to know how to make the real Indian tea, Masala Chai. It rules!
      • Masala Chai is black tea with cardamom, milk, and various other things. Lots of recipes on the net. My wife and I found a recipe ages ago and went out and bought cardamom seeds (about the size of small chickpeas) and all the other stuff, and it does truly rock. But it's a big nuisance to keep the specialty ingredients on hand unless you make it all the time. Here's the top of google's hits: [] and that looks pretty close to what we used (though I don't think we did the
        • For a quick-n-dirty masala chai, use a bag/teaspoon of Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice and one bag/teaspoon of black tea and add milk. It's not bad with some spiced rum added.
          • It's probably going to be considered gauche, but I'm actually kinda partial to Stash's black chai spice. Not real Masala, but yummy and kinda close.
  • oke. Basics of tea for one.

    Regular black tea works, but there are also some REALLY yummy herbal blends, and you might want to try something like mint tea, of which you'll find several kinds in the tea section of the grocery. REad the ingredients. If you want regular herb tea, no caffeine, you want stuff that has "mint" but doesn't say "tea" in the ingredients list. "tea" in the name, like "mint tea" refers to method, "tea" in ingredients refers to tea plant itself. We'll use mint for this example, you can t
    • Earl Grey I had the other night... I tried cream in it, but it just made it taste 'wrong' in my opinion. Maybe I'll try cream with just straight black tea. Any fav brands you like?
      • stash or twinings. Twinings has a lady grey, which besides having my name on the box, has citrus added and is pretty good.

        Try irish breakfast or english breakfast, for something with a more robust, unadulterated flavour. If you're a coffee drinker, you might prefer those.

        Darjeeling was nice, if i recall, but it's been awhile since i had it.

        By the way... loose tea can be put in a thing called a "tea ball" which is a little cage-like thing that holds the tea so you don't have to strain it. Rdewald is right- t
        • Ma'am, I think I love you. Take this as a second for Twining's of London, their English Breakfast is excellent, as well as their Earl Grey, Lady Grey, and Darjeeling teas. Oh, and you can get it delivered! []
          • delivered, you say??

            I may have to adopt you after all!
            • Oh!!! And before I forget, the Schlafly brewing company (a St. Louis micro) is making a seasonal Gluten-Free lager that's planned to be released in May. The release date is still to be determined though, I imagine that making gluten-free beer is more difficult than it looks.

      • I buy tea loose but one brand of bagged Earl Grey which I adore is Tazo. You can find it in many (most?) coffee/tea shops.
      • One of them articles that arb linked to says no cream! Milk, not cream. Whole milk, though.

        But aren't you supposed to be coding Unread and not spending all your time in the kitchen making tea? ;)

        Seriously though, good question, Josh. I had no idea there was so much to making tea. But I'd wager that most US houses don't have ceramic teapots, like those that are talked about when making tea. And if they do, I'd wager that they're decorative in nature and not used much, if at all.

        Maybe I'm just talking a

    • there are some great herbal teas out there. i am a huge fan of rooibos (sometimes called "red tea"). it's naturally caffeine free and it tastes fantastic. my wife recently picked up some tea that is a green tea/rooibos blend, and it's pretty good, too.

      hot, i like rooibos with a little sugar and some milk (or cream if i have it on hand). iced i like it with just a little sugar. sometimes you find it with a little vanilla added, which is also really tasty.
    • Cover with a plate and let steep four minutes. Yes, really. Four minutes. Use a timer or something, a few extra seconds won't matter, if you want strong tea leave it longer. But cover it with a plate as this keeps the essential oils from leaving with the steam.

      That would be where the teapot comes in handy...

      Mostly a matter of personal taste, of course, but I'd recommend mint tea and Earl Grey - although since I have a pack of Earl Grey behind me on the shelf and a large Starbucks coffee in hand, you can

    • My random input for this thread:

      One teabag of Twinings English Breakfast with about 2 spoons of sugar (yes, sweet) into a mug of water microwaved for 2:30. I drink at least a cup a day.

      That, and hot cocoa. I haven't found anything I'm 100% satisfied with (as with the tea), but for now, it's 1 mug of milk microwaved for 3:30 with 1.5 packets of Swiss Miss French Vanilla. The bottom half of the cup is always noticeably thin, though... might need something to make it creamier, methinks.
  • They are right here []

    no, i don't know if they are really the best instructions ever. but it is douglas adams. how can it be bad?
  • So titled because it isn't very exciting.

    1. Get out your favorite mug.
    2. Fill to an appropriate water level (I leave about 3/4 inch at the top).
    3. Microwave for 2 minutes.
    4. Remove from microwave and drop in tea bag. (Try Earl Grey Orange flavored sometime, but your favorite brand will do.)
    5. Let steep until desired darkness. The darker it gets, the stronger the tea flavor.
    6. Remove tea bag and add sweeteners, milk, etc for desired flavor.
    7. Drink.

    No fancy-pants tea here, but it's nice and simple.

    • When I lived in the US, due to the lack of kettles at work (savages!) I used to do it in this way. Some caution though:

      1. Microwave for as long as the water needs to be at a rolling boil, otherwise the tea won't taste good.
      2. Make sure you vigorously pour the water into the mug when filling it, because otherwise the water will reach boiling temperature without any bubbling. As soon as the tea bag touches the water, it will erupt and possibly scald you. (I actually used to boil the water in a separate vessel
  • Don't let black tea steep too long, it brings out the tannins too heavily. You're lookiing for a crisp taste, but not something that makes you pucker.

    Also, if you like milk in your coffee, you're probably going to like milk in tea.
  • There may be (and probably are) better teas out there, but for my money I like PG Tips teabags. It's much, much better tea than Lipton or Tetleys, and I like it at least as much as Stash or Twinings. It can be hard to find, though... go to a high-end grocer.

    I have heard several basics for making good black tea: Start with a kettle of fresh cold water, bring it to a full boil, and pour it over the teabag into a preheated cup. (I don't follow any of these but the full boil and I still get acceptable results.
    • I've developed asbestos fingers :-) I can grab the PG tips pyramid bags out with my bare hands (usually one corner of the pyramid floats about 2mm above the surface, just enough to make a quick grab before the water burns you!)
  • Play around with water temperature, add some stuff to it, switch up steeping times, find something you like.

    I've been messing around with real-deal chinese gunpowder tea (so called, because the tea leaves are hand rolled and look like gun powder); I just can't get it right.

    That being said, Good Earth's green tea blend in a baggie and Stash's Licorice Spice in a baggie come out fine.

    Screw how its supposed to be done; find out the way you like it done.
    • I am an engineer, but I'm a COMPUTER engineer...

      I've done too much software lately... its all about being lazy and automating everything for me. I'd rather experiment with cooking with stuff I know how to make than to screw around with tea. But so many british people get practically an orgasm from drinking tea, so I wanted to see what the big dealio was. Will try some different techniques I've read here tonight, though.
      • Computer engineer; meaning you iterate through build after build, tweaking things here and there, because you aren't actually consuming up an raw materials (other than time). So ? go iterate. Water is cheap, and tea won't break the bank.

        Same with Coffee. In fact, one of my very british peeps (*lives there, works there, served in the RAF) drinks coffee. Go figure.

        P.S.- use filtered water!!

        Speaking of which, I've got some badass coffee waiting for me in a thermos right now. booyakka.
        • Gave up caffeine, but I have done this with coffee. Not only filtered water, but always add COLD filtered water into the pot. Dunkin Donuts makes the best coffee when lightly lightened with just a touch of heavy cream. Have a couple cups every morning.
  • No, leave it in. For the entire time you're drinking the tea.

    (I like my tea STRONG.)

  • My TiVo recorded an episode of Good Eats tonight - True Brew 2 - How to make the perfect cup of tea. :)
  • that stuff tastes horrible.

    Absolutely awful.

    Then again what do I know, I prefer fruit flavored herbal teas.

    Actually Vietnamese style tea (and I would imagine coffee) is good.

    1/2 tea, 1/2 cream. :)

    Same with their coffee, but I think you have to use sweetened condensed milk instead. About the only way I could stand coffee I think, heh. Then again just give me the sweetened condensed milk and I'll be happy!

    Oh and decaf chai is good, but hard to find. Err, am I being heretical if I mention Oregon Chai? ^_^
  • I saw a program once where a group of tea-tasters from various upmarket brands of loose tea tried to tell which of a group of teas were loose teas, and which were from teabags. And the conclusion was that they couldn't, so don't worry about going to the hassle of loose tea... I think tea bags used to be a lot poorer quality, but that was quite a while ago.

    As for making it, get your mug, put the tea bag in it, wait for kettle to boil, pour water in, stir a couple of times to get the tea bag moving, leave f

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