7 Ways To Ruin Your Tea

Enjoy the best cup possible by avoiding these common tea brewing mistakes.

1. Using Water that is Too Hot

Many types of tea, especially some fine green teas, cannot withstand boiling water. In fact, some of the most delicate and refined teas are best brewed at temperatures no higher than 160°. Water that's hotter than that can actually "stew" the leaves, creating a brew that loses the subtleties of flavor and aroma.

2. Using Water that is Too Cold

Most black teas and oolong teas need water that is boiling in order to bring out the flavor of the leaves. Using water that is not hot enough will leave the tea tasting weak and insipid.

3. Steeping the Leaves for Too Long

Teas are best brewed anywhere from 2 - 5 minutes, (though some herbs are actually best brewed even longer). The longer a tea steeps, the more bitter the brew can become. Following the guidelines provided by your tea vendor will ensure that your tea is brewed to perfection.

4. Using Tea that is Too Old

Most teas are best when fresh, for this is when the flavor is at its peak. Old teas can lose flavor and almost have a 'dusty' flavor in the cup. Properly storing tea will help to lengthen it's shelf-life, but it's a good practice to only purchase tea that you'll be able to drink in the next 6 - 12 months.

5. Over Boiling the Water

The water for tea is that which has been freshly boiled, and used immediately when it reaches a boil. Allowing the water to boil for a long time removes valuable oxygen from the water and can result in tea that tastes flat and listless.

6. Adding Cream Instead of Milk

The proper addition to black tea is milk. Cream is far too heavy for the delicate brew. Not all teas can handle milk, however. Black breakfast teas can often hold up to the addition of milk, but it should never be added to green, oolong or white teas.

7. Using Utensils that Retain Scent from Other Teas

Many flavored teas have flavoring oils added to them, and these oils can remain on utensils and strainers even after being washed. The flavor will then transfer to other teas when they are brewed using the same equipment. It's a good practice to have one teapot for each type of tea, so that you maintain a consistent flavor and don't cross contaminate.