How do I brew the perfect cup?
The perfect brew is the one you like. There are no hard-and-fast rules. But, as with all things tea, knowing a little about the leaf you're steeping can help bring out the best in your tea.
Black teas are full-bodied and robust. They can be brewed with boiling water (212°F) and steeped for 3-5 minutes to allow their full flavor to saturate the water. If you plan to add milk, test whether a longer steep is to your taste.
Oolongs are the "special snowflakes" of tea, ranging in color, shape, intensity—and brewing needs. In general, use water that's a bit shy of boiling (say, 170-200°F) to protect the leaves from being scorched. Test steeping times until you find what you prefer. Most oolongs need 1-3 minutes for the first infusion. For resteeping, lengthen the time with each infusion. Note: some oolong drinkers "rinse" their oolong (applying hot water, removing it, throwing out that water, and only then steeping the tea) to "awaken" the tea leaves to release more flavor.
Like oolongs, green teas are best brewed with water that is not quite boiling (usually 170-180°F). Steep green for 2-3 minutes to draw out the flavor. Each green tea's nuanced flavor profile evolves with the length of steeping, so feel free to experiment. Many green teas can be resteeped.
White teas are the most delicate of teas and should be brewed with care. Use warm water (about 160°F) and limit the steeping time to 1-3 minutes to capture the full essence—and keep caffeine levels low.
Purple tea is a special tea variety unique to Kenya. To brew, use water heated to 175-190°F and steep for 2-4 minutes. For a special touch, squeeze in 1-2 drops of lemon juice to watch the color transform into a rich purple!
Like black tea, rooibos can tolerate boiling water (212°F). Steep for up to 4 minutes to draw out the full flavor. If you're considering adding milk (as many South Africans do!), go for a stronger brew. Rooibos teas can be resteeped.
Fruit teas can generally be brewed with boiling water (212°F). Adjust the steeping length according to the type of fruit and your personal taste.
And finally, the most important steps in brewing any kind of tea: sit, breathe, sip, enjoy!