Making Tea? You're Probably doing it wrong.

Not a fan of Java? I know quite a few who are not. I personally don't have a problem with it. Especially if it can get the job done, and if it's done with excellence and in the right context, it doesn't matter what medium you're using.

But I'd like to talk about tea today. Tea is my drink of choice. Pound for pound, tea has more caffeine than coffee by a long shot. Try making matcha. Use enough of it to be as thick as a peanut butter smoothie and you'll know what I mean when I say tea has more caffeine.

But tea also has L.Theanine, which is a sedative. This means tea has uppers to keep you awake, but downers to keep you grounded and calm. It's a great drink to help with tasks like debugging, which require plenty of alertness, but will not suffer impatience.

All tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Unless it's herbal tea like peppermint or chamomile, but we won't speak of such here. Black tea, green tea, oolong, white and pu-erh are only different by how they are harvested and cured. Well, pu-erh is a little different, its a wilder varietal of C.Sinensis, but generally speaking, it all springs from a single source.

But many don't know the proper way to make a good cup of tea. Don't get me wrong, if you really enjoy that sour astringent caustic taste, be my guest. But for those who'd like to try tea as it could be, sweet, subtle, energizing, with hints of fruit or flowers, read on.

Don't boil the tea.

Tea leaves have, besides caffeine and theanine another important chemical called tannic acid. That's the ingredient that makes tea tart, and too much of it can make a cup bitter and sour all at once. The thing is, the hotter the temperature, the more the acid is drawn from the leaves, so if you want a sweeter cup of tea, use lower temperature water.

Black tea should be steeped for no more than 3 minutes at 90 Celsius.

Green tea is more tender and should stay in for no more than a minute at 80 Celsius.

Some special kinds of green tea, like Gyokuro, cant take more than 30 seconds at 65 or 70.

Obviously you won't have time for a thermometer, so a good trick is to add a splash of cold water after the hot. This not only cools the water to a good temperature for the leaves, but the cold water rushing downward over the hot rising water creates natural turbulence in your cup and can help draw out the leaves best qualities more efficiently.

Finally, the water itself. Tea is 99% its water. So low quality water makes 99% low quality tea regardless of the quality or expense of the leaves you use. Make sure the water tastes good by itself, and if you do that, even cheaper leaves can surprise you with their subtlety.