A visit to your tea shop will probably lead you to a very reasonable question: what do I need to brew my loose leaf tea at home? Tea vendors generally cater to all kinds of customers, from the novice brewer to the veteran tea enthusiast. If you’re overwhelmed by the array of tea pots, kettles, tea service sets, and mysterious gadgets out there, know this: you don’t need all, or even half, of that stuff. With a few (wonderfully inexpensive) tools, you’ll be able to get the most flavor and enjoyment out of your loose leaf tea.
One of the most important tools, a decent kettle, probably already lives in your kitchen. Yes, decent: not top-of-the-line, not fancy, not high-tech, just decent. If you can fill it with water, put it on the stove, and pour hot water out of it safely, it’s sufficient. An electric kettle works just fine, too (in fact, you might find the temperature control on an electric kettle to be very useful). The only other really necessary tool is a tea infuser; these can be purchased for less than $10. Popular models include a mesh spoon that rests on the rim of your cup, or a mesh ball (or fun shape like an animal) on a chain that hangs in your cup. Any model, whether you spend a few dollars or a lot more, does the same thing – it allows the tea leaves to float in the hot water, steeping and releasing their color, flavor, and aroma into your cup.
Yes, a kettle and an infuser are all you need to make a fantastic cup of tea. You don’t need the kettle with the built-in infuser, or the decorative pot, or the collection of bamboo tea tools. And unless you’re hosting High Tea, you don’t need the pretty pot with the matching cups and saucers, either.
Now that you have your kettle and infuser, you’re ready to brew. Start with cold, filtered (if possible) water in your kettle. For the best flavor, you don’t want to actually boil the water; ideal temperatures are somewhere between 149° F and 210° F. Generally, the darker the tea, the hotter the water should be. Most kettles whistle when the water in them is boiling, so listen for hissing and remove it from the heat before you hear the whistle. While the water heats, prep your favorite cup; add about one teaspoon of tea to your infuser, and set the infuser in the cup. When the water reaches temperature, pour it gently over the infuser and let it sit for about 1-3 minutes, depending on the tea (generally, the darker the tea, the longer the steep). For stronger tea, start with more tea leaves, but don’t mess with the steeping time; increasing the steeping time will make your tea bitter, not stronger. Finally, remove the infuser and enjoy your soothing cup of perfectly brewed tea. Yes, it really is that easy!