There are those tea aficionados who claim that there are no “shoulds” in tea. I beg to differ. No, I’m not going to tell you that you should ditch your grocery store bagged tea and spend a lot of money on the many pricey and special teas out there. Nor would I ever tell you that you should only drink pu-erh or green tea. I am trying to say that there are some things that can improve your tea experience.
A few “shoulds” for when you first try a tea that is new to you:
- Know the tea – learn a little something about it. This will help you get some idea of what to expect in terms of taste and aroma (but you “should” bear in mind that your experience may be vastly different from what the vendor describes – nevertheless, a bit of foreknowledge is good).
- Follow the vendor’s infusing recommendations (which, of course, leads to the “should” of the vendors supplying such guidance to their customers).
- Taste the tea liquid before even thinking of adding anything to it (milk, sweetener, lemon, honey, mint, etc.). And when I say “taste” I mean not just a mere sip, but probably a nice cupful. Often, you will probably find that nothing needs to be added. And that could lead you to even more forays into the world of fine teas.
Some “shoulds” for preparing and enjoying teas, whether new to you or not:
- Use the best water quality you have available to you. (Don’t use distilled or sterilized water.) Many municipal water systems use chlorine/chloramine to kill bacteria in the water. It can adversely affect the taste of your tea, though. There are filters that will remove the smell and taste, or you can use bottled water.
- Whether you are using a gaiwan, a steeping glass, a Yixing teapot, or some other style of teapot or other vessel, cleanliness is important. Despite the old adage of merely rinsing a teapot (usually referring to a Brown Betty or other style of teapot popular in the UK and other European countries), I find that it is better to clean these vessels between uses.
- Take your time – don’t rush things. I know that sometimes our lives seem hectic, that we’re being pulled this way and that. But these teas took time to grow, time to harvest, time to process, and time to package and ship to you. So, you might as well add a little time to the preparation and enjoyment of that tea. Let each sip sit for a moment on your tongue. In fact, if you can slurp the tea in, bringing in air with the liquid, you will get an even better impression of the tea’s flavors and aroma. Swallow and pause before taking another sip so that the aftertaste of the tea can set in.
And the reason you “should” do any of the above? Because, as they said in those cosmetic commercials on TV, you’re worth it!