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blog - tea history

To Boil or Not to Boil?

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If you order tea from Oliver Pluff, you know our labels come with a guide for how long and at what temperature water to use to brew your tea. We have had several people ask if they need to boil the water or just get it to the minimum temperature recommend?

When it comes to traditional tea, the answer is: yes, you always boil; whether you are making a delicate steamed green tea or a hearty herbal concoction; boil then cool to the desired temperature. While boiling water helps the flavor of tea this process also helps eliminate harmful bacteria and germs in the water. Never use pre-heated water from the tap or double boiled water, this will add an unwanted flat taste to your tea. If you find that your cold tap water is not suitable for your own palate, try using a bottled water like a spring water or a nice purified water, never use distilled as it will give a flat taste as well. Water should have a neutral 7 pH and be low in minerals. Whichever water you chose to make your tea with is up to you but the key thing to remember is the temperature you steep your tea at.

So, why is the temperature of the water so important? There are so many different types of teas that don’t involve heating water to a high temperature, like Cold Brew and Sun Teas. These low temperature options make light and delicious teas that don’t require much heat for the steeping process, but a higher steeping temperature makes for a quicker and more robust flavor of the tea. The method of heating water to a boil is the traditional way of making tea.

This boil-cool-steep method of making tea started in 2737 BC when emperor Shen Nung was sitting in a garden when his servant was boiling water. While the servant boiled water a gust of wind blew a few stray leaves into the boiling water. Emperor Shen Nung was a renowned herbalist and tried the infusion his servant had made and decided the beverage had rejuvenating properties and decided to keep the drink and named it tea. Now there are many different stories about how tea began but most follow the same guide lines. These leaves drifting in the wind were Camellia Sinensis leaves, tea leaves we use today.

While heat and time are very important in making tea, the drinker of the tea is the one who has the final say in the outcome of their tea. Experimenting with the amount of tea you use or the length of time you steep it are great ways of finding what works and doesn’t work for you, because in the end it is your tea and your experience. If a tea is too weak try adding extra leaves. If you not as flavorful as you want, try steeping for an extra 10 or 20 seconds and keep moving up the times till you find the right time for you. Just change one thing at a time so you know what works. If the leaves have a highly astringent (think mouth pucker) feel, consider lowering the temperature you use to steep it. The same goes for if the tea is too strong, take away the amount of leaves you steep. If the tea it overly bitter, cut back on the amount of time you steep it until you find a taste that fits you. Experiencing a great cup of tea is about what you like. Just because the packaging says ‘steep for 3 minutes’, that is just a guide line for a great starting point, but you should experiment to figure out what works best for you. Enjoy!

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