When hot water is poured onto green tea or boiling water onto oolong or black tea, the tea solubles (caffeine, tea polyphenols, and various volatile components as essential oils) are released into the water at a rate of concentration which gradually decreases with time.
To draw out the full flavor from tea, it is essential that there is plenty of oxygen in the water being used to brew the tea. Black and oolong teas should be infused in water that has just come to a rolling boil so that it is at the correct temperature (203°F), but still holds its oxygen content. White and green teas generally prefer water at a temperature of between 158° and 203°F. For temperature recommendations, see individual tea entries in the directory.
Although there is a set of basic rules for making the perfect pot of tea, these do need to be adapted according to the type of tea and the equipment being used.
Brewing in a Traditional Teapot
To brew a pot of tea in the traditional British way, follow the Golden Rules.
If using good quality tea, it should be possible to brew a good second pot by adding more boiling water to the leaves after the first pot has been poured. When the tea has reached its perfect strength and flavor, pour into a bone china or porcelain teacup. Some people like to warm the cup first by pouring in boiling water, leaving the cup to stand for a few minutes, then emptying before pouring the tea into the hot cup. This ensures that the tea retains its heat for as long as possible.
If the liquor is brewed from leaf tea which is infused loose in the teapot, a tea strainer should be used to catch the leaves as the tea is poured into the cup. If an infuser is used no strainer is necessary.
Brewing Compressed Tea
Break off a scant 1 teaspoon of tea per cup and place in a warmed pot, an infuser in a warmed pot, or a warmed infuser mug or cup. Add boiling water and leave to infuse for about 5 minutes. Strain into a cup or tea bowl, or remove the infuser from the pot, and pour.
What Sort of Teapot?
For China black or green teas, a Chinese Yixing teapot is thought best to bring out the tea's full flavor, but each pot should be kept for use with only one sort of tea since the porous stoneware will acquire a lining of tea deposits which add a flavor to the tea.
Pewter, cast iron, silver, and terracotta are particularly good for strong teas such as Ceylon, African, and Assam tea. Porcelain and bone china are ideal for lighter teas such as Darjeeling, oolongs, and green teas. Ideally, you should have several pots, one for non-smoked black, one for smoked, one for flavored, and one for green tea.
To Clean a Teapot
Never put a teapot into a dishwashing machine or a bowlful of soapy water Remaining soap residue may contaminate the tea. Pour away the tea, rinse with dean water, and turn upside down to drain. Dry outside but not inside. To remove tannin from a glazed pot, or from glass or silver, fill with a solution of 2 tablespoons of baking soda and boiling water, and soak overnight. In the morning, empty, rinse, and leave to dry.
If using a Yixing unglazed pot, never wash or clean the inside. The pot will take a little time to "settle" into its use for a particular tea, and the lining it acquires is important to the success of the brew. The natural oils of the tea "season" the pot and intensify its color.