|Tea Time (Photo credit: Maia C)|
My current loose-leaf tea collection includes seven berry, kiwi colada, spiced apple, pumpkin spice, red chai, hibiscus punch, honeybush vanilla, and several other herbal varieties. What I don't buy are most true teas: they are too difficult to get right without a lot of attention to details.
Maybe my tastebuds are too sensitive. Few people care if their teas are a little bitter or "off" in some way, but I can tell when a green, black, or white tea has gone wrong. Too much heat or steeped too long, teas are ruined. I can't drink ruined teas.
Teavana provides a basic guide to brewing teas, "How to Make Tea" [http://www.teavana.com/tea-info/how-to-make-tea]. When you boil a kettle of water, it is 212 degrees F. Herbal, rooibos, and maté teas should be steeped in 208F water for five minutes, so getting the temperature right isn't a problem. But, white and green teas work best at 175 degrees, for only a couple of minutes or less. White teas can be steeped for four minutes, but I've found they work best at two or three minutes.
I have had bad tea at several major coffee and bakery chains. It's disgusting to me, yet others seem unfazed by the bitterness. The problem is that the teas sit too long or are brewed too hotly in machines designed to brew coffee. Filling a coffee filter with green tea in a commercial brewer? The result shouldn't be served to anyone.
Just because you use "real" high-end tea doesn't mean you've brewed a good cup of tea.
Recently, we saw the Breville One-Touch Tea Maker at Teavana. Not that I'm going to spend $250 on a tea brewer, but this thing is cool: select the tea type and it does everything else: set the initial water temperature, steep the tea, and maintain the proper resting temp.
Since I'm not going to test water temperatures and I respond slowly to the beeping of our kitchen timers, I'll stick to herbal teas for now.