All of the writeups above deal almost exclusively with black tea
*, and mostly English tea
What about the magnificently healthful and possibly tasty green tea
? What about the glorious oolong tea
of the gods? These excellent teas, also obtained from the camellia sinensis
plant, require a somewhat different procedure - both Fortnum & Mason
seem to print exactly the same instructions on all their teas, but this is lunacy
. To make a decent cup of green tea
or for that matter jasmine tea
- Use less tea than you would for black tea. Just a pinch or two of green tea is enough for a pot; I use about half as much oolong tea as I would use black tea, a teaspoon or so between two. How much you need will depend on taste and the kind of water you use. If you're using bags of plain green tea or jasmine tea, which tend to include several times as much tea as you need, it's usually a good idea to remove them after less than a minute.
- Do not use boiling water. This will scald the tea, and spoil the flavour. If I'm making a pot, I'll warm it with the freshly boiled water and slosh it out - that takes about long enough for the water to reach the perfect temperature. Green tea in particular is ruined by boiling water.
- It is quite possible to make green tea or oolong by chucking the leaves straight in the cup, dispensing with pots and bags entirely. The leaves should all sink by the time the tea reaches its ideal strength - this usually takes about three minutes, maybe less for green tea. You may find you still get the occasional leaf in your mouth; you can either spit these out or just eat them. Tea is eaten as a vegetable in some parts of the world.
- Never, ever use milk.
If you want to get serious about making good oolong or green tea, you may find it worthwhile to learn about traditional Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies. Also, it's worth investing in a pot and some of those tiny oriental tea-cups - not just because they are pretty and elegant, but because they also cool the tea much faster than western-style mugs. This is very helpful in the absence of milk to quickly bring the tea down to a drinkable temperature; of course, another possibility is just to add a splash of cold water before drinking.
Note also that with a good green tea or oolong, it should be possible to make at least a couple of brews from each set of leaves; subsequent brews will tend to bring out a subtly different range of flavours in the tea. If you might want to make another brew, make sure you drain all the water from the pot or cup as soon as it's finished - otherwise the flavour will keep leaching out. You might like to increase the steeping time and/or the brewing temperature with each infusion.
*In the sense of tea that is fully oxidised, not in the sense of tea without milk.