How to Brew Step-by-step
Select your brewing vessel
Heat the water to the recommended temperature
Warm your vessel by pouring heated water in, letting it sit for about 10 seconds, and pouring it out again
Get the right amount of tea - while weight is the most accurate way to measure how much leaf to use, you can also use teaspoon/tablespoon measurements provided on all Athena Teas packaging (these refer to the regular teaspoon/tablespoons you use to eat with, not specific measurement spoons)
Add the water. Adding the tea leaves first ensures each leaf is fully immersed and doesn’t float up
Start your timer
When the tea is ready, drain the vessel completely. This helps preserve maximum flavor in the leaves for any subsequent infusions.
Once you are finished drinking, clean your vessels and cups. While it is okay to use detergent on porcelain and glass, clay items should be cleaned with only hot water and left to air dry. This helps preserve the seasoning of the pot (to find out more about how to season a teapot click here).
All Athena teas come with brewing instructions based on Western style brewing. However, it is possible (and very rewarding!) to brew our teas ‘Eastern’ or ‘gong fu’ style.
Western style brewing is characterized by using more water, less leaves, and longer brewing times (typically 2-5 minutes). Its simplicity makes it an economical and practical way to brew tea for everyday drinking, work, and travel.
Eastern style brewing is characterized by using more leaves to less water, a smaller brewing vessel, and short infusions (typically 10-50 seconds). This method allows the drinker to sample many small cups of tea made from the same leaves to and appreciate the subtle developments in the flavor and aroma over time. Similar to wine tasting, the goal in Eastern style brewing is to savor the tea drinking experience.
If you would like to experiment with brewing tea Eastern style, there are many helpful guides online, although personal experimentation is always the most helpful. If you would like specific help brewing any of our teas, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brewing Factors – An In Depth Guide
So you already know how to make a decent cup of tea! For those interested in learning more, it is possible to break down the art of brewing tea into its various components. The ones we will explore here are:
1) Leaf Quality; 2) Water Purity; 3) Water Temperature; 4) Leaf to Water Ratio; 5) Steeping Time
Leaf quality is the most important factor in brewing good tea. Quality issues can result from farming methods (eg; unhealthy plants or pesticide use), production issues (eg; over-roasting, rough machine handling), or storage (damage from light and moisture). Most tea bags in the U.S. are made with ‘CTC tea’ which are chopped pieces of older tea leaves that infuse quickly and give a strong color. While color is strongly correlated with taste in most people’s minds, the actual flavor of the tea is usually flat and may be slightly bitter. By comparison, all teas sold by Athena Teas are high quality, single-origin pure teas picked and processed by hand. Our packaging is light resistant and air tight, to ensure freshness.
Tea is mainly water, so the natural taste of the water you use is very important. Fresh spring water is the best for brewing tea, but not many of us are lucky enough to have access to a natural spring. If you live somewhere with neutral-tasting tap water, then a simple pitcher or faucet filter such as a Brita® is your best choice. The filter removes the aroma and taste of chlorine, which is added to tap water to prevent contamination.
If you have tap water that is too 'hard' (mineral-rich) or too 'soft' (mineral-poor), then you may want to consider using bottled spring water. You can tell if you have hard water by checking the inside of your kettle. The presence of white scale indicates an excess of minerals in your water, which brews tea that tastes metallic. Soft water is too close to pure water and brews tea that tastes flat. If you prefer not to use bottled water, there are filtration systems that can soften hard water, and even certain rocks that can be heated with soft water to increase its mineral content.
The best water for tea starts cold and fresh. Warm water taken from the tap may be drawn from a boiler where it has been sitting for a long time, absorbing unwanted aromas and minerals. Water sitting in a kettle after being boiled also loses oxygen, which is necessary to extract tea flavor.
A temperature control electric kettle (or digital thermometer) is very affordable and a great investment. The temperature is important to get right, as too hot and the tea will be bitter, and too cold and the tea will be watery.
If you don’t have a way of measuring temperature to hand, the Chinese have a system for estimating the temperature of water visually. To use it requires you to be able to see the water while it is being heated, such as in a steel pot with a glass lid.
Tiny, pin-sized bubbles appear - 160F. Suitable for young green teas.
Slightly larger bubbles with first wisps of steam - 175F. Suitable for most white and green teas.
Pearl-sized bubbles with rising steam, slightly audible - 180-185F. Suitable for most oolong teas and some white and green teas.
Bubbles stream to the top, audible boil - 200-205F. Suitable for black teas and some oolongs.
Raging boil - 210F. Suitable only for pu'er tea.
Leaf to Water Ratio
All our teas come with recommended leaf to water ratios. Once you know what vessel you will be using, scale the amount of tea to fit the volume of water. A small kitchen scale is the most accurate way to know how much tea you are using, but judging by eye also works if you follow our guidelines. Some of our instructions refer to teaspoon measurements (rolled oolongs, Darjeelings, fine tea leaves) while others refer to tablespoons (large leaves and bulky teas).
The ideal steeping time for tea can fluctuate according to room temperature and how much heat your brewing vessel retains. In a cold room, try putting a coaster under your pot to prevent heat loss. If you intend to reuse your tea leaves, drain all liquid completely and remove the lid between steeps so that the leaves are not left to 'cook' in the residual heat. Subsequent infusions are best made as soon as possible, but can usually be brewed anytime within an hour of the first infusion. Wet leaves left overnight should always be thrown out.