Today is Tea Class 101. For anyone that doesn't know how to prepare high quality teas, here is your first lesson. We will be preparing my favorite breakfast tea, Keemun First Grade from Upton Teas.
Here is the arsenal: a decent tea kettle to boil the water in, a teapot with an infuser basket (or a strainer), cup and tea.
Keep your tea in an airtight, light tight container so that it doesn't lose quality. This container is made by Bee House. They are expensive, but I think worth it. The latch has never bent in 7 years, the seal hasn't worn out even with vigorous usage, and all of mine have remained chip and crack free!
After filling the kettle and putting it on the burner, measure about 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of tea per normal 'coffee cup' sized cup into the infuser basket. The directions will usually tell you one teaspoon per 8oz cup, but I think coffee cups are a little bigger, and I like a pretty stiff cup of tea anyhow. Adjust to whatever fits your taste. Then remove the infuser from the teapot if it is in it. I use my teapot to hold the basket still while I fill it, but take it out right after.
As the water begins to approach boiling and makes noise, pour a small amount into the EMPTY teapot, and replace the kettle so that it can reach boiling. This process is called 'warming the pot' and helps the water used to make the tea retain heat, and hopefully draw more flavor from the leaf. After swirling the heated water around a bit, and as your kettle gets noisier, pour off the water in the teapot and replace the infuser basket.
When your kettle is at full boil you may now finally introduce water to the leaves. Take notice of how much water goes into the kettle in relation to how much leaf is in the infuser basket. After using your pot many times, you can get a good idea how high the water level has to be to fill your cup and not leave you with thin tea. Replace the teapot lid.
Cover the teapot as soon as possible with a tea cosy or a thick kitchen towel to help the pot retain heat as it steeps. This tea is going to steep for about 4 minutes. You don't have to be real accurate with black tea, it will not likely go bitter from minimal oversteeping.
Use the rest of the water to warm your cup, it will help to keep your tea hot and sippable! Pour the water out of the cup right before filling it with tea.
After steeping, pour into your empty cup. If you like milk in your tea, putting the milk 'in first' is a somewhat popular method in the tea world. Pouring the slight drizzle of milk into the hot cup before the tea may scold the milk slightly, a desired effect by some.
I usually like to observe the color of the tea as I pour the milk in and stir so that I won't overpower the tea with the milk or get it too thin. I also prefer a level teaspoon of demerara in my tea.
Finally, all that work pays off!
So, any questions? :-D