Guidelines for Preparing Tea
I've gotten to know countless individuals who hate how tea tastes, but I tend to believe that in most cases, they just have never tried tea that had been brewed the correct way. With each kind of tea in essence having its own unique way of preparation, it's not difficult to see why people often do not know the best method to brew their tea. And when you make a key mistake, you'll have a terrible cup of tea. Luckily, you can generally use almost any method for pretty much any type of tea. Taking care of a few critical points is really all you need to do and I'll cover those below.
Why don't we start with the easy one. Black tea doesn't usually present any problems for most folks. Basically, you pour 100 ºC water onto the leaves and let them steep for 2-3 minutes. This process will work well for Assam tea and pretty much all of the widely consumed Chinese teas, Ceylon teas or Nepalese teas. Darjeeling tea, though, is brewed using a different method. Owing to the fact that it is much less oxidized, it must be made with colder water (80-90ºC or 180-194ºF), not unlike an oolong tea.
Green teas are a little more difficult to prepare properly and there is a great variety in the way of brewing between the different varieties. But anyone who has had a perfect cup of Japanese sencha tea, knows it's worth the trouble. The things you must look out for before anything else, are the steeping times and the water temperature. Almost all green teas should ideally be brewed using a temperature of around 80°C (176°F). For more on sencha try the wikipedia page.
That temperature is too high for the Japanese tea gyokuro, though, as its delicate leaves require much colder water of 50°C–60°C (122°F–140°F). The roasted tea houjicha is one additional exception. Perhaps the toughest tea to brew incorrectly, it can simply be prepared using boiling water. Check the instructions printed on the packaging for a good steeping time to use. Should you not have the packaging or if you can't find any instructions given there, simply try a steeping time of two minutes for other teas and 90 seconds for gyokuro.
You can forget all that I wrote above, when it comes to Matcha green tea powder; it is very different from all other green teas. Due to it being a powder, it calls for a unique and very complex brewing method, including distinct implements. If you have ever witnessed a Japanese tea ceremony, you have seen the preparation of matcha. I prefer not to ramble on for the length of a major novel, so I'll postpone getting into any details on the method of preparation for this top quality tea.
White tea is another kind of tea that is a bit more challenging to make the correct way. The leaves are extremely delicate, so it calls for an even lower water temperature than green tea. 75-80°C (167-176°F) is ideal for both White Hair Silver Needle and White Peony teas. When it comes to steeping times, begin with 2-3 minutes and modify it according to individual taste. If you prefer a stronger cup of tea, bump up your steeping time; if you prefer your tea less astringent, decrease the steeping time.
The hardest type of tea to make the correct way, excepting matcha, is oolong tea. The traditional gongfu style of brewing requires a large number of quick infusions using a heaping amount of leaves. Not to worry, however; you can brew oolong teas by employing regular methods and they will taste great. Take care to watch the water temperature: it needs to be just slightly under the boiling point.
I'm sure you're thinking the guidelines I've provided are somewhat watered-down. It goes without saying, to brew the best cup, you'll want to get the instructions for the specific type of tea. Most persons are lacking the correct guidelines or the specific utensils they need and if that describes you, following my instructions will give you a good cup of tea, no matter the kind you have. Tea is the most loved drink in the world, not counting water and hopefully you will give it one final taste, if you are one of those people who have heretofore made up their mind that they can't stand it. You will not regret it.
For more information on brewing teas: http://www.letsdrinktea.com/