Should you boil tea? A guide to making the perfect cup

Adding black tea leaves and a pinch of herb mixture to boiling water. Photo: iStock/SOMNATH MAHATA

Boiling tea can be a contentious topic among tea enthusiasts, as the ideal method varies depending on the type of tea and desired flavour. Whether to boil tea or not depends on the type of tea you are preparing. For delicate teas like green and white, avoid boiling and use slightly cooled water. For robust teas like black and herbal, boiling water is generally appropriate. By adjusting the water temperature and steeping time, you can optimize the flavour and enjoyment of your tea.

Representative image: iStock/ferrantraite

It is generally acceptable to use boiling water for black tea as it tea can handle higher temperatures, typically between 93 degree Celsius to 100 degree Celsius. However, green tea is delicate and can become bitter if steeped in water that is too hot. The ideal water temperature for steeping green tea is between 70 degree Celsius to 80 degree Celsius. Do not boil water for green tea. Instead, heat the water until it just starts to steam and then let it cool slightly before pouring it over the leaves. However, herbal teas can generally be brewed with boiling water, around 100 degree Celsius. Similar to green tea, do not use boiling water to make white tea as it is very delicate and should be brewed at lower temperatures, between 70 degree Celsius to 85 degree Celsius. Oolong tea falls between green and black tea in terms of temperature, ideally around 185 degree Celsius to 96 degree Celsius.

Should you boil tea for chai?
Yes, you should boil tea for chai. Boiling tea for chai is a traditional method in India that creates a rich, aromatic, and flavourful beverage. The process is essential to achieve the traditional, rich, and flavourful characteristics that define this beloved beverage. The process ensures thorough flavour extraction, spice infusion, and proper integration of milk and sugar, resulting in a richly flavoured and satisfying cup of chai.

Chai is traditionally made with a mixture of water and milk. Boiling both the tea leaves and the milk together helps to blend the flavours smoothly. It also creates a creamy texture and consistency, which is a hallmark of Indian chai.

How to make traditional Indian masala chai

2 cups of water
1 cup of milk (whole or any preferred type)
2 tablespoons of loose black tea leaves (or 2-3 tea bags)
2-3 teaspoons of sugar (to taste)
1-2 cardamom pods (crushed)
1 small cinnamon stick
2-3 cloves
1 small piece of fresh ginger (crushed)
A pinch of black pepper (optional)

In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the crushed cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, and black pepper if using
Let it boil for a few minutes to allow the spices to release their flavours
Add the tea leaves to the boiling water and let it simmer for 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea
Add the milk and sugar to the saucepan
Bring the mixture back to a boil and let it simmer for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching
Strain the tea into cups using a fine mesh strainer to remove the tea leaves and spices
Serve hot and enjoy your homemade chai

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