How to Make Tea

In the last few months I’ve started learning about, and tasting lots of different international teas. I was inspired by Kevin Rose, from Digg.com who has been talking about tea a lot online.

Tea is pretty awesome – it has no calories, doesn’t contain much caffeine, is cheap, tastes good and when you’re ready for something to perk you up it only takes a few minutes to make. I also love the fact that there’s so many different types of tea out there you can really try a lot of different types.

I barely used to drink tea. Generally I just drank very infrequent packaged teas. Once I switched to loose leaf tea I couldn’t believe the difference. I was making my tea the wrong way (generally putting the teabag in for far too long). With good loose leaf teas you don’t even need sugar or milk. Its all about having the water temperature exactly right and steeping the tea for the right amount of time (steeping = the length of time you leave the tea in the hot water).

How to get started:

1. Get a teastick: http://gamilacompany.com/tea/teastick.html
This is what you use to steep the tea in the hot water

2. Get a package of teas to try. I’ve found I like Rishi teas a lot, and their oolong teas are great. This is a great sampler pack to start with: http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/sample-set-osthmanthus-huang-guan-yin-wuyi-oolong-iron-goddess-of-mercy-bao-zhong.html

Once you’re more serious:

1. You should get a variable tea kettle. This is pretty important. Different teas should be made at different temperatures.

http://www.amazon.com/Breville-BKE820XL-Variable-Temperature-Kettle/dp/B001DYERBK/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1241211937&sr=8-4

This kettle is pretty expensive for just a hot water kettle, but it rocks. It lets you set the temperature exactly right for the style of tea you are drinking.

2. Get a timer. Each tea should be steeped for the right amount of time. So you take the hot water from the kettle and put it with the tea for a specific length of time – the timer makes this easy to do. This one should work fine:

http://www.amazon.com/Component-Design-TM15-Extra-Large/dp/B0000W4MYI/ref=sr_1_28?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1241212123&sr=8-28

3. Get a bigger infuser. The teastick is ideal for making tea for yourself while you’re working during the day – but if you have a few people to make tea for, you need a way to prepare tea for everyone at once. This prepares tea for 2 people; I often make 3 small cups with it:

http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/Glass-Teapot-with-Infuser-Two-Person.html

This is similar but bigger:

http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/large-glass-teapot-with-infuser.html

The great thing about an infuser is you can watch the colors from the tea swirl through the water while its steeping. Sounds silly perhaps, but its pretty cool!

4. Pick up a bunch more of the rishi sampler packs, so you can find out which teas you like the most. Here’s some good ones to get:
http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/green-tea-sample-set-jasmine-pearl-ancient-emerald-lily-orange-blossom-jade-cloud.html

http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/white-tea-sample-set-silver-needle-premiun-white-peony-peach-blossom-white-tea-rose-m-lange.html

http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/black-tea-sample-set-earl-grey-darjeeling-2nd-flush-keemun-mao-feng-golden-yunnan.html

http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/pu-erh-tea-sample-set-ancient-tea-flower-loose-pu-erh-ginger-pu-erh-classic-ancient-pu-erh-tuo-cha.html

Once you’ve tried a bunch of teas you will find out which ones you like. Many do taste quite similar. But some are very different. These are my favourites, in order of most preferred:

http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/iron-goddess-of-mercy-medium-roasted.html

http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/plum-oolong-organic-oolong-tea.html

http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/citron-oolong.html

I order these in 1 pound bags now, which last forever. You can put those into smaller tea containers like these:
http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/tea-storage-vessels/

I have about 30 different tea varieties and its been a great thing to do.

If you’re interested in other tech guys and how they are into tea, you may want to read this article:

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/04/tech-millionair/

Samovar is a tea house right near Moscone in San Francisco; there’s a lot of conferences in the area such as adtech. Their website is: http://samovarlife.com/ They do charge $8-$10 per cup of tea, but its a pretty awesome place. We saw Tim Ferriss there when we were having tea.

If you get really serious about tea, there’s a tea conference you can go to:

http://www.worldteaexpo.com/

And its worth following Kevin Rose’s tea twitter account:
http://twitter.com/goodtea

This is a pretty concise blog post with a lot of links; it represents 4 months of research (and misteps) about tea and is pretty much everything I know. 🙂 If you follow these steps you’ll be on the right track. I drink 2-4 cups of tea every day and love it – its even great in hot climates like the Caribbean!

  • I see a large emphasis on gear and expense here and I’d like to point out it’s just not necessary. I can take a bus ($1) to my local rundown Korean market and buy a Pu’erh tea brick for $7 and the tea tastes about the same with hot or warm water. If I really care about temperature I can use a candy thermometer ($4) to make sure the temp is just right. I have an oversized tea ball that was a splurge at $4. To summarize, there is no need for expensive gear or much gear at all. If the goal is to buy gear to show off to friends well, the money’d be better spend on a shrink, that’s what I say.

  • Adrian Bye

    Interesting feedback, thanks for posting. I do like to make my tea at the right temperature and notice a big difference between properly heated and tea steeped for the right amount of time. Overall I don’t see $200-$300/year on tea as a major expense, but perhaps we see things differently.

  • I would additionally comment that I’m not a complete tightwad and that I’ve contemplated buying a $70 Pu’erh disc, in lieu of the $7 disc, which is roughly the same mass & size. I may ultimately do that just for the experience… after all Pu’erh contains anti-cancer EGCG, plus it lowers LDL cholesterol, so it’s worth getting the good stuff.

    As regards temperature, a less cheap approach might be to buy an infrared thermometer like chefs use, which is multipurpose and starts at $50 on Amazon. One could work out a technique to ensure that the tea water is always within a certain range when removed from a microwave oven. For instance cold tap water is usually around ground temperature, so zap that for let’s say 4:30 (depending on the microwave oven) and it may be just right.

    Personally I would try to borrow the infrared as I don’t need it otherwise.

  • Adrian Bye

    I thought about your initial post afterwards — I actually originally bought another kettle which just shows the temperature on it. And I gladly changed for this one I have now — because its much easier. I just put the water in, set the temperature I want for the type of tea i’m drinking and I can come back once it’s ready. With the other methods you have to stand around waiting for it to boil to the right temperature. That caused me to use it far less because I had to keep checking on it – not even a noise to tell when the water is the right temperature. My current kettle makes a noise and switches off automatically.

    I’m in China right now and have been in Beijing and Shanghai for the past 10 days drinking a lot of local tea in restaurants, and I think my tea using the above info is orders of magnitude better.

  • I know what you mean. I once bought and rarely used a $30 juicer because it was so hard to clean, whereas the one I have now ($60) is quite easy to clean & I use it several times a week. Our devices shouldn’t discourage us from using them. I read a very good book some years ago by Donald Norman that elaborates on this point.

    In addition, I noticed that on Amazon there’s a variable temp kettle that sells for only $50. This might be better for people who are newer to tea. There’s no audible beep but it’s cheap.
    http://www.amazon.com/Adagio-Teas-UtiliTEA-Variable-Temperature-30-Ounce/dp/B001A5NFQA/

    Anyway enjoy your time in China.

  • disconetworks

    apropos

  • disconetworks

    apropos

  • Excellent post – I am a fanatical tea drinker – Oolong, Violet Pouchong and China Caravan being amongst my favourites, and latest and greatest, the new Fortmason aromatic blend – from London’s Fortnum & Mason! No milk or sugar needed, but a dash of pink grapefruit juice really sets this one off! Mmmm 🙂

  • Excellent post – I am a fanatical tea drinker – Oolong, Violet Pouchong and China Caravan being amongst my favourites, and latest and greatest, the new Fortmason aromatic blend – from London's Fortnum & Mason! No milk or sugar needed, but a dash of pink grapefruit juice really sets this one off! Mmmm 🙂

  • IdeaDay

    I love the hint to the Carribean (wrting a blog from abroad, living life as it was meant to  be) thrown in at the end of the article 🙂

  • IdeaDay

    I love the hint to the Carribean (wrting a blog from abroad, living life as it was meant to  be) thrown in at the end of the article 🙂