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Help Me Make the Perfect Cup of Tea

Hello. I'm somewhat embarassed to admit this, but I'm not sure I make tea correctly. Can someone please tell me:

-The correct method to make a single cup of tea (I can't bother with brewing or teapots since I'll be doing this at work with minimal gear at my disposal).

-Some good breands of loose tea or bags (preferably earl grey)

-Also, what's the etiquette with milk, lemon sugar? Can you put milk in tea while it's brewing? Are there certain teas that should not have milk?

Thank you for your guidance!

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  1. If your office coffeemaker has a hot water dispenser, I'd use that as your hot water source. You'll get much better results that way than if you microwave a cup of water.

    I like Harney's Earl Grey Supreme, both because of its excellent flavor and and because it is available in sachets, which seem the perfect compromise between the convenience of tea bags and the richer flavor of loose tea.

    I would not add milk to Earl Grey. I generally don't like milk in my tea, but I will use it sometimes for stronger teas than Earl Grey. Earl Grey, however, seems like it would be overwhelmed by the addition of milk.

    6 Replies
    1. re: silverbear

      i like milk in earl grey, at least the milder ones.

      1. re: silverbear

        i was born and reared in the south, and am not familiar (at all) with a practice of adding baking soda to tea, or overbrewing due to not using enough tea. the worst criticism we get is about sweet tea that is too sweet.

        anyway, you should use boiling -- not just hot -- water. tea leaves should be pummeled with it by pouring from some height above the leaves (in the pot). steep no more than 5 minutes, and remove the tea off the leaves then. otherwise, it is bitter.

        i know you want to make it in a cup, but that will not taste the best -- even if it is a sachet rather than a bag.

        1. re: alkapal

          Speaking of sweet tea...
          I live in Vegas (land of the tourist) & I always chuckle when someone asks me for tea. I always ask hot or iced & they look @ me like I'm crazy & stupid.
          I guess in the south when you say tea, you mean sweet tea.
          Is this a proper assumption?
          They look at me even funnier when I tell them our tea is unsweetened!

          1. re: dbug31

            because it is generally hot in the south for a greater length of time than it is cold (if at all), people generally drink cold drinks. thus, iced tea is the norm. though usually, i hear an order for "iced tea" -- not just "tea". also, there are enough "imports" from other places (i.e., non-south) that servers are savvy enough to ask when it might be in question. your customers may be from the "deep south" where it is traditionally "sweet," though that is changing, too. maybe vegas is their first trip away from home.....(ps you cannot make sweet tea from unsweetened iced tea at the table -- no amount of sugar or sweetener will change that tea's essential nature!) ;-)

            1. re: alkapal

              I guess it's just one of those things. Kind of like the majority of my customers here on the west side that want ranch to dip everything in.

              Yeah, I've tried that "you can add sweetener" bit, it never works.
              Generally, it's followed by a yucky face! : )

              1. re: dbug31

                dbug, now you know why the yucky face! (although.......some higher end resto may offer sugar syrup to get the sweet tea effect with plain iced tea...but often resto iced tea is bitter no matter what. --- and it STILL ain't the same!)

      2. PG Tips is a good, strong English tea that comes in pyramid-shaped bags. Given the strength, I'd only recommend it for a single cup if you have a mug that's bigger than 8 oz., closer to 16, in fact. I recently found PG Tips decaf (DCaf) here in the States for the first time, and it's just as good. Because tea does its best steeping in very hot water, I recommend not adding milk until the tea bag comes out, unless it's warm milk. Whether you add milk at all is simply your own preference. I'd let the bag sit in the hot water for 2-3 minutes.

        1. Forgot to mention...Cook's Illustrated recently did a tea taste test and found that some teas do indeed taste better with milk, while others are at their best "black." PG Tips is one of the teas they liked better without milk.

          1. I think I may have posted this before, but it's great. It may help you, it may not, but it sure is entertaining: http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/essa...

            1. My english husband says:

              You'll want to have boiling water for this, as earl grey is simply flavored black tea.
              We'd think it best to let it sit for just a few seconds to not scorch the bergamot.
              Invest in a small electric kettle. Bodum makes a $20 model, called the mini ibis.
              He uses this all day long @ his desk & it's quiet too...

              Use the water for your kettle from the water cooler though, as pure water makes all the difference in the world.

              You may want to look into Serendipitea: http://www.serendipitea.com/Category....

              Once again according to my hubby, he says no to milk, but I disagree. Milk is a matter of taste. As far as when to put it in, it depends again on your taste. Yes, it will obviously lower the water temperature, so I suppose it depends on how much milk you use...

              Here's a few guidelines for time & temperature, from Alton Brown's Tea show:
              *Note: For Oolong and Green tea, water should simmer at 200 degrees F. and 180 degrees F.
              *For Irish and English tea bring water to a full boil.
              *Black tea should soak for 3 to 5 minutes. Oolong tea should soak for 4 to 7 minutes. Green Tea should soak for 2 to 3 minutes.

              Best of luck & happy tea drinking!