a) Not American
b) Not a coffee drinker
c) Capable of reading the title of this post and realize it's probably tea.
Yes, today we're going to talk about tea. I am a huge fan of tea. Honestly, coffee is probably my favorite if only for it's wonderfully caffeinating properties in the early hours of the morning. I take mine with a splash of milk and a good hit of sugar/sweetener. And, believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to make a cup of tea. We'll get to that in a bit. But first, some fun tea factoids.
1. All tea comes from one plant: Camellia Sinensis.
What makes a tea oolong, green, black, or white is the processing the leaves go through. Black tea, for example, is fermented and dried. So that herbal tea you're drinking? Not really a tea. More of a broth, I guess.
2. England is not the top consumer of tea.
Ireland is. Bam.
3. Tea time started with Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford.
She began inviting friends neighbors over for tea and sweets to prevent starvation between breakfast and dinner. What happened to lunch?
4. There is a high tea and a low tea.
High tea is served with the evening meal and served at a high dining table. Low tea is served in the afternoon with a light snack and served on low tables near chairs and sofas.
5. Green tea was the most popular tea in the US before WWII.
During the war, when tea sources were limited, the US began to import more teas from India which produce black teas. After the war ended black tea remained the most popular.
So, that's all great and fascinating but now on to the important part. The part a lot of my fellow Americans seem to be getting wrong: the proper way to brew a cup of tea. First, let us go over what NOT to do.
1. DO NOT BOIL WATER IN THE MICROWAVE, YOU HEATHEN.
I cannot stress this enough. It makes for a horrid cup of tea and we tea drinkers can tell when you've committed this heinous crime. Stop it. A kettle costs $5.00, an instant kettle maybe $10. Or, if you have a coffee maker use that! Just please, PLEASE stop boiling water in the microwave. Why is this such a sin? Because certain teas require water at a certain temperature. Green tea, for example, should be steeped at 176º F (don't boil it); tea kettles, on the other hand, are designed to heat tea to 212º F (which is boiling). Brewing your tea at the wrong temp makes it taste weird and flat.
2. Use milk OR lemon
Or use neither but dear God don't use both. What happens when you mix citric acid with milk? That's right, it curdles. Don't do this. It's bad.
3. DO NOT squeeze the tea bag!
This makes for a really bitter cup of tea and can rupture the bag and get tea leaves in the cup. Just pull the bag out, let it drip a bit, and toss it.
4. Don't over-steep the tea
The type of tea mandates the amount of time it should be steeped. Green and white teas no more than 2 minutes, black and oolong teas 2-3. If you're doing the herbal broth thing you can steep them 3-5 minutes.
5. Don't use "stale" tea
Loose leaf tea has a shelf life of up to a year. Bagged tea tops out at 6 months.
How do you brew a proper cup of tea? In a kettle, bring water to the correct temperature. Place tea bag (or loose leaf tea in a diffuser) into a cup or mug and pour heated water over tea. Allow to steep for correct time. Remove tea from cup, add sweetener and milk OR lemon to taste. Enjoy.
Biscuits (cookies) optional.