Monday, December 20, 2010

On, In, and Around Mondays: How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea

teacup w flowers

Start with a morning. Any morning will do.

Mine is cold.

I look out the window, see oak and maple leftovers strewn across dead grass. Two dark brown leaves, shriveled, hang from bent stalks in the rock garden. In summer, these were the orange tropical plants, with flowers that looked like pearly goldfish, mouths open to blue skies.

Where have they gone to now? What seeds, like silken-coated ambassadors, might be ushering them through darkness to find Spring on the other side?

Inside, I turn to the task at hand. Making the perfect cup of tea.

It is said that the Japanese emperors used special water for tea. I can't remember exactly what kind of water it was. Maybe something about dew gathered from cherry blossoms or water melted from snow, but I could be making this up.

My water comes from the tap. It will have to do. It's important to use this water only once. Reboiling reduces the oxygen content, makes the tea less tasty. And besides, I like the idea of drinking air with my favorite teas.

I used to think that all teas were created equal. Not so. Loose tea is far more flavorful. The larger the leaves, the greater the quality. (In general.) Even though I grew up as a Lipton teabag girl, I'll probably never go back. Not since the Creme Earl Grey from Kathleen's. Not since the French Bagatelle and Christmas teas, ushered through time zones for my sake. (Then there is Mariage Freres Wedding Imperial, which leans towards the flavor of coffee with its caramel and chocolate undertones.)

betjeman teas

Here is a list of what to do with beautiful tea...

tea steeper w hot water

1. Put hot water in the steeping container, while waiting for the water to boil. Measure out 1 teaspoon of tea leaves and set aside in the steeping basket.

tea pot boiling

2. Is the tea black? Bring the water to a rolling boil. Pour it over the leaves immediately. Steep for 5 minutes.



3. Keep the tea steeper cozy. Tea likes to stay warm through the whole process. That's why you gave it a head start by warming the container first. That's why you'll want to wrap it up. I use a towel. Not fancy, but it does the job.

tea cozied

4. Is the tea green, or herbal? Catch the water before it reaches a full boil. Pour. Cozy. 3 minutes. You're working with a more tender situation here.

Letting the tea steep too long makes it bitter. You won't do this though. You'll set a timer, gaze out the window for five minutes, or three. You'll get the cream from the fridge, think of orange tropical flowers, or Christmas which only comes in the season of dead leaves. And thinking of leaves, you will turn back to your tea, its leaves yielding to water, to the morning.



On, In and Around Mondays (which partly means you can post any day and still add a link) is an invitation to write from where you are. Tell us what is on, in, around (over, under, near, by...) you. Feel free to write any which way... compose a tight poem or just ramble for a few paragraphs. But we should feel a sense of place. Would you like to try? Write something 'in place' and add your link below.

If you could kindly link back here when you post, it will create a central meeting place. :)

On In Around button

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Anonymous Sandra Heska King said...

So you don't just boil a cup of water in the microwave and dump it over leaves or toss a tea bag in? And if a bag, go sit in the yard and drink with the bag still in the cup?

I have a lot to learn.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Tea Girl said...

Love this! You have just solved something I've overlooked. . . new water to boil. There is a difference when you boil the water again, but I had not put my taste bud on it! Thanks.

9:18 AM  
Blogger M.L. Gallagher said...

Ahhh, dead grass and leaves.

I look out on snow covered lawn, trees dusted with icing sugar, and a grey sky.

And... I sip my latte from my favourite mug.

Tea comes later.

Love this post -- it is filled with warmth and care.


10:18 AM  
Blogger Jeanne Damoff said...

This is lovely! I feel like I just shared a cozy cup with you.

My husband is the tea connoisseur in our family and has a pantry shelf full of little bags containing various loose tea leaves he orders from a specialty shop in Seattle. He probably knows all the tips you mentioned here, but I've somehow managed to live with him and miss some of the finer points. Probably because I drink a latte in the morning and enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon. Today when I make my tea, it will be a la L.L., and I have no doubt it will be perfect. :)

Merry Christmas!
Love, Jeanne

10:49 AM  
Blogger paper roads said...

So lovely, although I must admit to not having the patience for it. I never reuse the water though - it also concentrates the toxins to reboil - which means quite a waste of water as our kettle needs alot to fill to its minimum.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Melissa Campbell said...

There is nothing like a hot cuppa tea. Thank your for your delightful demonstration. Blessings!

4:54 PM  
Blogger A Simple Country Girl said...

Another tip: avoid yellow snow (or else you'll be drinking pee-tea) if melting your own water--oh, I know, my bad, this is a place of sophistication.

How about Seattle's Market Spice black tea? Oh my taste buds drool just typing about it...


7:47 PM  
Blogger Deidra said...

Oh my goodness, I've been doing it all wrong! The tea bag in the cup with water and the whole thing in the microwave for 1 minute and 50 seconds. Then, trying not to burn my fingers on the cup as I take it from the microwave. Sandra...I leave the tea bag in there. All day.

Is there a support group?

11:06 PM  
Anonymous HisFireFly said...

Again this week my link won't post --- odd.. here it is --

Now I must go boil water - tea instead of coffee to calm my nerves

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Ann Kroeker said...

Mmmmm....we need to schedule a virtual tea time, my friend.

Thank you for walking us through the steps. I use filtered water--after experimenting, I like how the tea tastes using filtered.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous children of eve said...

Hmm, sounds like someone on a "tea pilgrimage" to me!

7:42 PM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

Tea just makes everything better. Well made tea makes it the best! It really does make a difference what leaves and water you use. sigh. I love tea.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Monica Sharman said...

I need this kind of thing:

"You won't do this though. You'll set a timer, gaze out the window for five minutes, or three. You'll get the cream from the fridge, think of orange tropical flowers, or Christmas which only comes in the season of dead leaves. And thinking of leaves, you will turn back to your tea, its leaves yielding to water, to the morning."

...this kind of scripted thinking. Sometimes I am in such a gray space that this kind of tell-me-what-to-do and even -think is just what I need.

10:55 PM  

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