I do not pretend to be a tea expert. More renowned, Englisher minds than mine have given specific guidelines for proper tea preparation and consumption. I drink tea like an American. An American who doesn’t let the English boss her around. An American who wants a moderate amount of caffeine, is nominally avoiding artificial sweeteners, and doesn’t have time for froufrou loose leaves, timers, and temperature control. These are my American Tea Tips.
- If you drink even one cup of tea a week, get an electric water kettle. Sure, you can use the microwave, but that appliance makes boiling water a chore. Is the water heated thoroughly? Who can tell? Is the water boiling over? Now you have sopping to do. Did you microwave your mug? Did you forget how hot the handle gets? Did you drop your mug on the ground? Did you curse the heavens? Electric kettles are foolproof. Also, microwaves beep, boop, chime, ding, etc. Electric kettles make two sounds: boiling and not boiling. Worth every penny.
- Green tea generally tastes like grass. To overcome this flavor with sweetener, you need levels that rival Coca-Cola. That’s why the bottled green tea at convenience stores or the kind Panera sells tastes so good. Instead of fighting the grass with sweet, I recommend leaning into the tang with sour. Add lemon or lime juice to green tea (hot or cold, but hot is better). The juice cuts the tannic, grassy taste and makes the tea pleasant to drink. The vitamin C in the juice supposedly enhances the positive antioxidant properties of the tea (if you believe in that business). Plus, as opposed to sugar, the caloric content of lemon juice is negligible. And you barely need to stir. It is a win-win-win-win situation
- Black tea, as Milo’s so delectably demonstrates, also needs a lot of sugar to become palatable. With regard to iced black tea, I’ll give the same instruction as green, for the same reasons. Lemon juice in unsweetened iced tea makes it instantly tasty. The amount of Splenda necessary to properly sweeten iced tea would make a lab rat cringe. (Disclaimer: The author finds Milo’s prepackaged tea with Splenda irredeemably delicious.) Either leave the sweetening to the professionals or take it unsweetened with lemon. Only a maniac takes it sweetened with lemon.
- I can drink coffee with no sugar, and I can drink a Frappuccino; I cannot abide anything in between. The same holds true for hot black tea. While I can drink coffee black, black tea tastes much better with cream. English people might tell you to use milk. I will tell you to use Silk creamer. It pairs very well and lasts longer than dairy. (Black tea and coffee differ on one noteworthy point: When hot coffee turns tepid it tastes like floor cleaner, but cold hot black tea is still highly drinkable. You may not want to drink it cold, but the flavor is pleasant and easy to finish off. No gags.)
- Things That Don’t Matter, Part I: How long you steep your tea. I practice the “set it and forget it” method of steeping, so mine usually steeps anywhere from 25 to 70 minutes. I’ll admit, on the later end of that spectrum it will start to taste a little funky, but the folks at fancy tea stores will recommend the steep time down to the second. This is a scare tactic to make their product seem important. Don’t give them your power.
- Things That Don’t Matter, Part II: How hot your water is. Boil + pour. Do you think the billions of Chinese and Indian tea drinkers over the millennia used electric thermometers? Who cares? Those fancy tea slingers will dictate your temperature. Tea is not raw chicken.
- Finally, a word of warning to those who use tea to lose weight. “Detox” and “slimming” on a box of tea is code for laxative. As a weight-loss measure, it will probably just upset your system and dehydrate you. Don’t drink a laxative tea unless you (and preferably your doctor) know what you’re doing.
For a long time I avoided tea because it was a hassle to prepare, didn’t taste very good, and was not preferable to other beverages. Tea is now a part of my daily routine. If tea hasn’t satisfied you in the past, I recommend giving it another shot.