Sunday, March 23, 2014

Brewing Tea in the Office

I drink a liter or more of tea per day, and keep 15 to 30 types of tea at my desk. Over the years, this habit has taught me some tips about brewing tea using a standard hot/cold water dispenser.

Brewing tea requires specific water temperatures and precise steeping times. While you can track steeping time using your smart phone, you cannot dip your smart phone into your cup to see how hot the water is. It's easier to interpret water temperature based on how your tea turns out, then apply what you learn to future cups of tea.

Black Tea
Most black teas are best steeped in near-boiling (195-210°F) water. A typical water dispenser doesn't make water quite this hot, but it comes close. When brewing black tea in the office, swirl hot water in your mug to heat the mug first. Dump that slightly-cooled water out, then immediately add your tea ball and pour fresh hot water right onto the tea. This helps ensure the hottest possible steeping.

Oolong Tea
Oolong is easy to brew in the office; most hot water dispensers produce exactly the right temperature water for it (about 185°F). You'll want to follow the same procedure as for Black Tea, but you can get away without heating your mug first.

White Tea
While a dispenser's water is slightly too hot for white tea, that's ok! You can get the extra heat to transfer to your room-temperature ceramic mug, creating water that is the right temperature; 160-175°F. So - pour the hot water in your mug, wait until the mug is hot to the touch, then add your white-tea-filled tea ball and steep away.

Green Tea
Green tea is difficult to brew even with the right equipment. I've ruined many a cup! Here's one way to avoid overcooking those delicate leaves in the office:
  1. Put your green tea in a tea ball in your room-temperature ceramic mug.
  2. Pour COLD water into your mug until it is about 1/6 or 1/5 full. Learning exactly how much cold water is right for your mug and your tea may take a few tries.
  3. Swirl the cold water around the tea ball, soaking the tea. This helps protect the tea against the near-boiling water you're about to add.
  4. Pour HOT water into the mug, filling it the rest of the way, making sure to aim the stream of water away from the tea ball.
  5. The green tea should now be sitting in roughly the correct temperature water (around 150°F, plus or minus). Remember to not oversteep.
These postings are mine alone, have not been reviewed or approved by any employer or company, and do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone but me.