Although a cup of tea is, at it’s most basic, just hot water and tea, the variations of flavor that can be achieved by properly or improperly brewing the tea can be amazingly diverse. As can be seen in Japanese Tea Ceremonies and British tea commercials, the act of brewing the perfect cup of tea can and should be considered an art.

While most people understand that good tea is essential to a good cup of tea, most don’t consider the taste and quality of the water that goes into the teapot as a key ingredient. The flavor of water directly impacts the taste of the finished cup of tea. If the water from your tap does not taste good enough to drink, it’s not good enough for tea. Replace poor water with filtered or bottled water.

Choose a good quality tea, experimenting with different varieties to find those that suit you best. While loose-leaf tea is undoubtedly the best, bagged tea has made rapid improvements in quality and is often nearly as good as loose tea, Tazo tea has a nice selection of both.  Disposable tea bags for use with loose teas are also an option that combines the quality of loose teas with the convenience of bagged teas.

Begin, always, with cold water, bringing it just to a boil. Allowing it to boil too long depletes the oxygen in the water and alters the flavor of the tea and the reaction of the tea in the water. If you are using loose tea, a good guide for amounts is 2 ounces per 8 ounces of water. This is also the equivalent to one tea bag per 8 ounces.

Prior to adding the tea to the pot, pour a small amount of warm water into your teapot for a few minutes to preheat your pot. This allows the tea water to retain its temperature and helps the tea to steep quickly. Pouring hot water into a cold pot drops the water temperature significantly, which can impact both the brewing time and the flavor of the finished tea.

Once the water has boiled and the teapot is warm, allow the water to sit for 30-60 seconds before adding it to the tea and the pot, this allows it to come to the correct temperature of between 160 and 190 degrees. Black teas such as English Breakfast or Darjeeling can be made with slightly hotter water than green or white teas.

Green teas and Oolong teas have the shortest brewing time at 1-4 minutes, longer times will bring out a bitter flavor from the tea. Black teas need approximately 3-5 minutes to steep, depending on the strength that you like your tea. And white teas and herbal teas or tisanes require a slightly longer brew time at 4-8 minutes to bring out their more delicate flavors.