The only method of making tea I’ve ever heard of being used is, (1) boil water in teakettle, and (2) add boiling water to tea in cup or teapot. Why is the second step necessary? Does it come out wrong if you just, well, put the tea in the kettle?
Well, then you’d have to wash the kettle. If you just boil water in it, then you don’t need to wash nasty tea residue out of it.
I’ve always heard you shouldn’t boil the water, but bring it to nearly that temperature.
Also, I am thinking that tea cooked for too long won’t taste as good. You can only drink tea one cup at a time, so making larger amounts that you just have to re-heat to less effect might not be as good.
On the other hand, my first experience with chai tea <and my favorite, so far> was at the Saturday Market in Eugene, Oregon; the seller had two kettles always going. One was filled with the black tea itself, mixed with spices, and the other had goat’s milk cooking with honey <and probably more spices> He mixed the tea to your liking, and it was wonderful. I miss that place a LOT on rainy Saturday afternoons.
It’s worse than that even. The temperature and steeping time is supposedly dependent upon the type of tea as well as explained in this Wikipedia article:
The strength of the tea “should” be controlled by the amount of tea leaves rather than steeping time (more tea = stronger, not longer steeping = stronger). I use quotes around ‘should’ and the word ‘supposedly’ because as with all things of this nature I am sure that personal preferences can and do vary greatly.
I have always heard that boiling tea itself (as opposed to steeping in water that has been boiled or is boiling) makes it bitter- something to do with the tannins and reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen, but I have no idea how that is supposed to work or if it does indeed create a bitter taste.
The article linked above also gives some sort of explanation for why the water is poured into the teapot then the tea into the cup as opposed to using a single vessel. Whether or not any of this will make your tea taste better or worse to you is debatable.
Many teapots are stoneware, china, whatever and probably not made to withstand prolonged exposure to a burner. Of course they still have to be strong enough to hold the hot tea . . . .
Take a large pot of water to a boil and pour it into an empty tea pot to heat it up. dump the water out and use the remaining water in the kettle to make the tea. This puts a lower temperature water on to the tea and it keeps the tea pot from absorbing the heat so the water is too low a temperature.
There is another advantage to using a teapot. The spout pulls the tea from the bottom of the pot and thus any impurities from the water that float to the top are avoided.
Whether boiling out the oxygen tastes better is a matter of taste and may also remove or concentrate impurities in the water. I’ve noticed the difference in coffee but I always boil water for tea (to pre-heat the pot) so never really tried to use it before boiling. by infusing the tea after I’ve heated the pot I’m using kettle water that has cooled slightly. For ice tea I never boil it as it greatly affects the taste but in that case I have the tea directly in a large cooking pot.
Chai is traditionally made all in one vessel.
The fun thing with masala chai is that you get to thumb your nose to all kinds of tea-snob rules and be completely in the right. Boil the tea? Certainly! Flavour the hell out of it with all kinds of spices? Of course! Add heaps of milk and sugar? It wouldn’t be masala chai otherwise, would it? My favourite recipe comes from Anjum Anand, who puts in a pinch of salt as it does bring out the flavour, though I’ve fixed up the original with black pepper and allspice.
Sure, I like my greens, good for four steepings that all taste different (and at a lower temp than black, because otherwise it tastes like boiled hay), and you’ll get my Keemun Congou out of my dead cold hands. But masala chai warms you up and revives in a different way than just ordinary tea.
vifslan: I just wish I could remember the name of the Indian tea I’d get when I lived in L.A. (There was an Indian market on Venice and Motor, not far from where I lived.) The tea was shaped in little ‘pills’, smaller than a BB. It came in a yellow cellophane bag, and was very cheap. I want to say it was ‘Flower’ brand Assam tea, but when I look online Flower cones in a green bag.
Anyway, that was a good tea for chai. Or just a nice, robust cuppa with milk and sugar.
I’ve had gunpowder tea that was rolled up in little balls. That’s a smoked green tea.
This is a black tea, and not smoked.
A watched pot never boils, a watched kettles just keeps on boiling
CTC tea is almost certainly what it was. Machine-picked/processed into those little pellets (it stands for “crush, tear, curl”). It’s intended to be boiled in the pot.
Keeping oxygen in the water improves the taste of water, generally, though it may not make much difference for tea (I usually use fresh water but I don’t know if I could pass a blind test on it; it’s more a ritual for me).
In addition to tannins, one effect high temperature has is on caffeine content. Caffeine only dissolves above about 160º F or so, so the hotter the water is to start with the higher the caffeine content. That’s one reason green and white teas are considered to be lower in caffeine - they’re traditionally steeped at lower temperatures.
Tibetan Yak Butter tea is boiled for hours in the pot. However, given that the altitude is usually between 6 and 12 thousand feet (2 to 4 thousand meters), then the water is not 212 degrees F. The tea comes in bricks, and is made of the leftover tea stems and other detrius that doesn’t make it into normal tea. After it’s boiled for “a while”, it’s put in a churn with the butter and salt, then mixed, and finally served. It’s an acquired taste but I really like it (although the first couple of times I had to choke it down).