The Biggest Mistake People Make When Preparing a Cup of Tea

Hint: How you heat the water could impact the flavor and quality of your mug of tea.

Boiling water in a kettle is the most traditional way to brew tea, but sometimes waiting by the stove for almost 10 minutes can seem like forever when you just need a soothing cup at the end of the day. So maybe you've resorted to popping a mug of water in the microwave for a minute instead. It's the same task, right? Heat some water, add a tea bag, and wait for it to steep a few minutes before sipping. Apparently microwaving your tea is a method that stirred up some controversy, though some still swear by it. Despite the debates, how you heat the water could impact the flavor and quality of your mug of tea. And after hearing from a tea master, we'll skip the microwave for this kitchen task.

woman holding a cup of tea and a tea bag
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According to tea master and owner of J'enwey Tea Co. Lisa Marie Gennawey, bringing water to a boil in a tea kettle or a water boiler produces a circular motion, allowing the water to evenly heat and reach the desired temperature. "Microwaves have no way to recreate this beautiful rolling boil, so they often leave a cup of tea unevenly heated," she says.

How to Brew Tea the Right Way

Since we've determined microwaves aren't the best water heating method, here are some tips to ensure your cup of tea will be its best.

1. Boil Fresh Water

According to popular tea company Twinings, always start with freshly drawn, filtered water. Re-boiling old water left over in your kettle causes it to lose oxygen, which is important in allowing the tea's flavor to develop. Fill a tea kettle with the fresh water. If you don't have a kettle, a small pot will also do the trick.

2. Make Sure Your Water Is the Right Temperature

The water temperature for steeping depends on the type of tea you have, but no tea turns out well with scalding hot water. Pouring boiling water on your tea can burn the leaves and bring out unwanted bitterness. In general green and white teas need a temperature of 140°F to 185°F. Black or herbal teas should be 208°F to 212°F. If you don't have a thermometer handy, don't worry. Allow the water in your kettle or electric water boiler to come to a boil and take it off the heat. Then wait 2-3 minutes for the water to cool slightly before pouring it into your mug or teapot.

3. Pay Attention to the Tea's Brewing Time

For novice tea makers, the timing of your brew is also important. Follow the directions on the packaging, as the various types of tea require different brewing times. Once time is up, remove the tea from the water to prevent over-brewing, which can cause bitterness.

Since you'll be making even more delicious cups of tea now, don't forget to make up some scones or cucumber tea sandwiches to go with your afternoon sips.

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