Tea in Five Minutes

A perfect cup of tea can be made in about five minutes, and that’s also about how long it takes to learn the basics of tea. The other sections of this guide will go into more detail, but here are the most essential points to get started.

Types of tea

  • All tea is made from the tea plant, which is called Camellia sinensis.
  • There are several main categories of tea, ranging from darker black teas to lighter green teas. These varieties are made by varying the way the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are dried and processed.
  • The exception to this rule is herbal teas. Herbal teas are made from a variety of other plants like chamomile and peppermint. A more accurate name for these is “herbal infusions”, but they are often called tea because they are prepared and brewed in the same way as tea.

How to make tea

“The Way of Tea is naught but this: first you boil water, then you make the tea and drink it.”

—Sen no Rikyu

You’ll need a few supplies to get started:

  1. Tea, either loose leaf or bagged.
  2. A tea strainer (if using loose leaf tea)
  3. A kettle (electric or stovetop)
  4. Tea cups
  5. A teapot

For the most common teas that you are likely to encounter, these steps are all that’s needed for a great brew:

First, prepare the container that you’ll be using to brew the tea. If you’re making a single cup of tea for yourself, this could be a small teapot or the teacup itself. If the tea is bagged, put the tea bag in the teapot or cup. If using loose leaf tea, put one rounded teaspoon of leaves into the tea strainer and then into the tea pot or cup. If you’re making tea for multiple cups and using a larger teapot, do the same but put one tea bag or rounded teaspoon into the teapot per cup you’re brewing.

Next, heat the water. For darker teas like black teas, the water should be boiling temperature, not just warm. For lighter teas like green tea, the water should be hot but not quite boiling. Light teas quickly become bitter when the water is too hot. It’s easiest to get the right temperature with an electric kettle with a programmable temperature setting, but you can also use a stovetop kettle and take it off the burner early or let it cool after boiling to get closer to the best temperature for the tea. A microwave is not a good tool for this because microwaves typically don’t heat the water enough and they tend to heat it unevenly.

When the water is hot, pour it over the tea. After 3-5 minutes for the darker teas (black, dark, herbal, and most oolongs), or 1-2 minutes for the lighter teas (green, white, yellow), remove the tea from the water. This is important. If the tea is left to brew for longer than this, it will quickly become bitter.

Finally, sit back and enjoy!

Contents | Tea, Big and Small »