There is no Code of Tea Brewing (save for Douglas Adams' guide to English Tea Brewing), but there are indeed general guidelines which are worth knowing even if you choose to modify or ignore them. While we try to follow most guidelines, we know what we like, and if that means changing things a bit we see no harm therein.
The first guideline is the most obvious: use good water. Whether you have tap water from a municipal water company or use water from your own well, your water has contaminants (some added on purpose and for good reasons). Water can include chlorine (added to keep water supplies safe) or fluoride (which drastically improves the health of our teeth) or both of those. But it also comes with mineral and elemental contaminants, such as copper and calcium. Regardless of whether all these things are good for you, they don’t belong in tea.
We filter all the water we use to make tea, every drop. We use a filter that uses activated carbon (similar to the filters used in Brita water filters) to remove contaminants from the water. As a result, the water we start with is crystal clear – and it has no off tastes!
The amount of tea you use will have an impact on the strength of your final delicious cup. A good rule of thumb is to use about one gram, or one teaspoon of tea per cup, although the best amount of tea will depend on the type of tea, and your personal preferences.
The optimal temperature for brewing tea varies among types.
White Tea (such as Bai Mu Dan) is brewed with water boiled and then allowed to cool to a temperature between 160ºF and 180ºF.
Green Tea (such as our Jasmine Green, Green Eyebrow and Gunpowder Green) also benefits from brewing in a water temperature less than boiling. Boil water and cool to temperatures between 170ºF and 180ºF.
Black Tea (Wuyuan Black) should be made with water that has boiled and settled. Once the kettle has reached a rolling boil, remove from heat, wait a minute, and then pour over your tea. If you’re looking for a temperature guideline, somewhere between 190ºF and 200ºF is a good range.
The question of how long to steep your tea needs a caveat. While the guidelines that follow are in general sound, you need to be led by your own preferences. If you like a stronger, bracing cup of tea, brew for a longer amount of time – but if you prefer a more delicate flavor, brew only for one or two minutes. The right way is going to be the way that produces a cup of tea that suits your taste.
Always add water to tea, not the other way around. Put your tea in your cup, mug or teapot, and then add water. To optimize temperature, however, it’s best to first add a little hot water to your cup or teapot, dump it out, add the tea and then finally add hot water. This allows the water to stay hot and steep the tea at an optimal temperature, rather than having the water temperature immediately brought down, cooled by the need to heat the teapot or drinking vessel.
Remember that all Little Red Cup Teas may be steeped at least twice. We often steep Bai Mu Dan three times or more. If you are using a teapot (rather than a mug or cup) to make tea, and if a subsequent steeping seems a bit on the weak side, don’t start over, but rather add just a bit more fresh tea to the pot.