Arts & Culture 
 Human Rights 
 U.S. Asian Policy 

Home > East Asia > 

The Perfect Cup of Tea
Quinn Seaton

 Related Articles
Traditional Culture: One Must Pay Back One's Debts
Acts Upon a Stage (Part 5 of 5)
Acts Upon a Stage (Part 4)
Acts Upon a Stage (Part 3)
Taiwan's Culture of Food
Acts Upon a Stage (Part II)
Chinese Dance in Ancient History
Acts Upon a Stage (Part I)
A Story from History: Jiang Balang Paid His Debt
China's Slavery Scandal Reveals Weaknesses in Governance

What makes a perfect cup of tea? There are numerous ways to make tea, but the increasingly popular and probably the most common method is using a tea bag. However, not much has been written about preparation techniques for contemporary tea-drinking methods using tea bags.

Tea ceremonies and methods of preparation have been instituted for hundreds of years in various cultures of the world, including the Japanese, Chinese and Arabian cultures, as well as British high culture. Tea making has become an art form in these cultures, as well as heightening the properties of the tea and transforming it into the perfect cup of tea.

But not all of us have the time for an elaborate ceremony involving tea pots and leaves and open flames to give us that tea injection that is so vital to our daily functioning. Some of us also need a method of tea preparation that is fast, yet stylised and technical, and most importantly caters exclusively to the use of tea bags.

First, you will need a cup (preferably warmed with hot water before you put the teabag in). The number of tea bags you will need is usually directly proportional to the number of cups of tea you are making. If you are brewing black tea, make sure you pour the boiling hot water directly onto the teabag in the cup. This will ensure that the tea brews as close to 100C as possible. If you are brewing green or white tea, which have lower oxidisation periods, the best temperature for the water is around 80C, so wait a little while after boiling the water before you pour it.

The stirring method is also important. The goal is to maintain a whirlpool in your cup.

This can get difficult when trying to jiggle the teabag at the same time. I've found that the best way is to briefly pull the tea bag out of the cup, give the tea a quick stir with a teaspoon to create a whirlpool, and then jiggle the tea bag in the centre of the whirlpool, letting it spin freely as you jiggle.

Leave the tea bag in for no less than 30 seconds and no more than five minutes if you are brewing black tea. The best tea is always in the teabag, so after withdrawing the teabag, place the heavy leaf-filled part on your teaspoon and squeeze the tea out using the string and the label so you don't burn yourself.

Add sugar and milk to taste, being sure to pour the milk into the centre of the tea after you've created a whirlpool. If this is done correctly, the tea will pick up any sugar crystals and milk particles and disperse them over a larger volume of water, which should prevent you finding a sickly sweet sugary lump at the bottom of your cup. Serve the tea (or drink your own) while it is still spinning and steaming.

© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR