Lauryl Lane
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tea time | accoutrements

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Thanks to your comments, this installment in my new Tea Time column is a little how-to on brewing a cup of tea. Although I must admit I'm a little hesitant to share this right now. It's how I've brewed tea my entire life, but this coming weekend I'll be attending the International Tea Festival here in Los Angeles, and I'm a little worried that I'm going to have my mind blown. I'm actually taking a Tea Sommelier master class with Devan Shah and James Norwood Platt, and since I've never actually studied the art of tea before, I have to wonder if I've been doing it all wrong? I suppose we'll just have to wait and see. For now, here's how I do it:

First, I gather all of my accoutrements. I use a tea strainer like this one from the English Tea Store, and a teaspoon from this measuring spoon set from Williams Sonoma. If I decide to brew a bag of tea instead of loose tea, I make sure to have this tea bag squeezer from the English Tea Store on hand. I really do prefer loose tea, since I like my tea strong and American tea bags usually have to be doubled-up to get the strength I crave. But sometimes I use tea bags from Harney and Sons, as their silken bags hold nearly double the amount of tea as the grocery-store variety.

I also use this electric kettle with temperature controls, which has radically changed my tea-drinking experience. Not only does it heat up in minutes, the temperature controls really do make a difference for brewing different types of tea. I used to hate green tea, until I learned that I was using too-hot water and letting the leaves brew for too long. Always pay close attention to brewing times to avoid mussing with the flavors or releasing bitterness into your cup.

When making a single cup of black tea, I set my strainer on top of my tea cup and measure out 1 teaspoon of loose tea (in this case, English Breakfast, probably my very favorite!). This particular tea cup holds about 6 ounces, so the teaspoon will be enough for me, but if I'm using a larger cup, I adjust the amount of tea to keep it strong enough. When my water has reached 180 degrees, I slowly pour it over the tea, until the water level just covers the loose tea leaves. I let the tea steep for approximately 3 minutes, sometimes a little less time and sometimes a little more. I find that 5 minutes, which is usually recommended, is much too long and results in a bitter cup of tea. Even though I drink black tea the British way, with a little milk and sugar, the goal is to have a cup of tea that is delightfully palatable even plain.

And, well, that is that. If I discover something new in my class tomorrow, I'll be sure and let you know at a later date! Next week, I'll tell you about a yummy lavender tea I discovered... you know how I love lavender!

Images | Styling by Lauryl Lane.