Tea Sommelier’s Guide to Getting Into Tea

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Want to get into tea but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Get tips and step-by-step guide on how to make and drink tea like a pro.

getting into tea

My favorite part of getting my Tea Sommelier certification was learning how to do a proper tea tasting and it’s really the perfect way to get into tea.

Here are my methods and recommendations on how to get into tea.

DRINK A LOT OF TEA

  • To understand and appreciate tea, you need to drink a lot of it.
  • By a lot, I mean at least a few times a week.
  • Spend a little time (everyday if possible) to properly make tea. For me, the joy of tea is in the ritual.

STOP USING TEA BAGS

  • Ditch the tea bags and go for the good stuff. And by good stuff, I mean loose tea.
  • Loose tea is the best quality, far better than tea in tea bags.

DRINK ONE TEA FOR A WEEK

  • The idea is to get to know the most well known teas by drinking just one for an entire week. Or two weeks. Or even a month.
  • You want to get to a point where if you drink that tea 6 months later, you’ll be able to recognize the taste and be able to identify it.
  • I do this when I’m trying to get to know a tea.

DON’T ADD MILK OR SUGAR

  • Milk and sugar mask the pure taste of tea so it’s best to drink tea without it especially when you’re trying to get to know it.
  • Milk and sugar will change the taste since they’re ingredients that can easily overpower.

What you’ll need

Mug with Infuser

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I’ve found that a small mug with a big infuser is the best way to make tea when you’re first starting.
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Electric Kettle with Temperature Setting

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Water temperature is key to brewing tea properly. This kettle is the one I use and recommend.
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Water Filter

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Water quality plays a huge part in how good your tea tastes. Always make tea with filtered water.
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HOW TO BREW TEA IN A mug WITH INFUSER

If you’re just starting to get into tea, I recommend brewing in a mug with an infuser.

It’s not as intimidating as using a clay tea pot or any other traditional tea brewing containers and it does the exact same job as long as you know the proper brewing steps.

Make sure the mug with infuser isn’t too big since you want to steep one cup (8 oz.) at a time. 

STEP 1: Boil filtered water.

Check your tea package to see what the water temperature should be and set the filtered water in the electric kettle to that temperature.

Make sure to boil extra water to warm up the mug and for the rinse.

STEP 2: Warm up mug.

This is a step that’s important in making tea properly. It’s to make sure the water temperature doesn’t drop drastically when you add hot water into a mug to steep tea.

Pour some hot water into the mug and swirl it around then discard the water.

STEP 3: Put 2 teaspoons loose tea into mug and add hot water.

Take a look at the tea before it get steeped. How are they rolled? How does it smell?

Tea professionals will use a tea scale to weigh out the tea instead of using a teaspoon but for starting out, you can just use a teaspoon.

I’m using a little more tea than usual (I usually recommend 1.5 teaspoons per cup) because we’re doing shorter steeps with this method.

After the tea goes in, add the hot water.

STEP 4: Steep for 10 seconds and discard water.

After the 10 second steep, take out the infuser and throw out the water in the mug.

We’re doing what’s called a rinse. It’s to wake up the tea leaves and give a quick rinse in hot water.

STEP 5: Add 1 cup water and cover teapot. Steep tea for 45 seconds.

After you add a cup of hot water, steep it for 45 seconds with the lid on the mug. Why only 45 seconds? Because we’re going to do two steeps and we want to a flavorful cup that’s not bitter.

With loose tea, you can brew it multiple times.

I suggest using a measuring cup to make sure you’re using 8 oz. of water. You can eyeball it the next time since you’ll know how much water needs to fill the cup to get to 8 oz.

Use your phone’s timer to set the steep time. 

STEP 6: Take out infuser and drink.

Don’t leave water sitting in the teapot with tea leaves after the steep time — this will make your tea way too bitter.

That’s why the infuser is great to have since you can take out the infuser and put it aside while you drink the tea.

STEP 7: Steep tea again in hot water for 1 minute and 15 seconds.

Once you’ve finished drinking your cup of tea, put the infuser with the tea back in and add another cup of hot water.

This time, we’re going to steep it for 30 seconds longer, totaling 1 minute and 15 seconds. Take out the infuser and drink again. 

Notice that the tea leaves have unfurled and they actually look like real leaves.

The flavor of the tea should also have changed a bit in the second steep. Flavors you didn’t get in the first steep may show up in the second.

OPTIONAL STEP 8: Steep tea again in hot water adding 30 seconds to the previous steep time.

I can usually only drink 2 cups of tea this way, but if you can, go for a third steep or a fourth. (Although a fifth steep is probably pushing it to get the best flavors out of the tea.)

Note the flavor changes and how the tea leaves have unfurled even more. Tea pros like to take a couple of tea leaves out of the infuser and take a look after each steep.

8 Teas to try first

Give yourself 8 weeks to try each tea for a week brewing it in a mug with an infuser. These are famous teas that every tea sommelier is familiar with.

  1. White tea: White Peony (also called Bai Mudan)
  2. White tea: Silver Needle
  3. Green tea: Dragonwell (also called Lung Jing)
  4. Green tea: Sencha
  5. Oolong tea: Iron Goddess of Mercy (also called Tie Guan Yin)
  6. Oolong tea: Oriental Beauty
  7. Black tea: Darjeeling
  8. Black tea: Assam tea

TEA Tasting Tips

  • Steeps are also called infusions.
  • If 8 oz. is too much for you to drink for each steep, use 1 teaspoon of tea and use 1/2 cup of water. This way, you can do multiple steeps without drinking too much tea.
  • You can keep steeping loose tea until the flavor is gone.
  • Once the tea completely unfurls, the flavor runs out soon after.
  • If you’ve only done 1 or 2 infusions of a loose tea, add a cup of water and cold brew it in the refrigerator.
  • Buy tea in smaller quantities and store them properly.

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