The first step to brewing the perfect cup of tea is using good quality water. Regular tap water often contains chemicals and trace metals which can affect the taste of the tea. Unless yours is very well filtered, stick to bottled. The water should be cold, because many heaters will reduce the oxygen content of the water, which cuts down on the amount of flavor that is extracted from the tea leaves.
Different types of tea should be added to boiled water at different temperatures. However, it's not really practical to measure the temperature of the water, so there are some simple guidelines we can follow to achieve the best-tasting tea. For white teas, bring water to a boil and then let it cool for 30 seconds before adding the tea leaves. For green teas, extend the cooling time to 60 seconds. Black and herbals teas, or tisanes, should be added while the water is at a rolling boil. Oolong tea should be added to water that has just boiled and been cooled for about 45 seconds.
While your water is heating you can warm your teapot with hot tap water, which should be drained completely after the pot has warmed up. When you prepare the tea, keep in mind that most teas need about 1 tsp. of leaves for every cup of water. If you are using loose tea in a mesh ball, be sure not to fill it much more than half way so that the leaves have ample room to expand. Before you add the tea to the pot, pour hot water over it to release the initial bitter tannins and drain this water.
The amount of time tea should be steeped again depends on the type of tea. In general, green teas take about 1-3 minutes, white teas about 4-6. Oolong and herbal teas should be steeped 5-8 minutes, and black teas about 3-5. Whether you like your tea weak or strong should also dictate how long you let it steep. If you are trying a new tea, feel free to take sips as it is steeping in order to find out how you like it. The leaves in tea bags tend to be cut smaller and generally do not need to be steeped as long as loose tea.
Tea leaves should be removed from the hot water once it is at its desired strength because the tea will begin to taste bitter. However, the same tea can be used 2-3 times, required less steeping each time.
You may add milk, sugar, and honey to your tea according to personal taste. Most people prefer low- or non-fat milk. Heavier creams such as those added to coffee contain more fat, which interferes with the flavor of the tea. How much sugar and honey you add is entirely up to you!
Finally, grab a cookie, sit back, and enjoy your perfectly brewed cup of tea!