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February 3, 2005

Expert's Expert: How to make tea


Tea, and the art of preparing it, is a recurrent theme here.

Those of you who happened to visit last December 28 may recall a discussion of various aspects of tea preparation, including whether or not to squeeze one's teabag (don't).

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal "Tricks of the Trade" feature by Sarah Tilton explored the subject of tea preparation with Ron Rubin, president and CEO of Republic of Tea.

His tips:

• Buy only tea leaves which are uniform in size and shape, not broken into tiny bits - these can lead to uneven infusion.

• To ensure freshness, make sure the tea comes in an air-tight container that doesn't let light in.

• Loose-leaf tea is always to be preferred to bagged teas. [Hey, I just realized the origin of the term "loose-leaf" as applied to notebooks. I'm slow, but I eventually get there...]

• Rubin starts his day with a cup of Darjeeling, which has the most caffeine; he finishes dinner with a cuppa white tea, which is at the milder end of the caffeine spectrum.


• When choosing your Darjeeling, considered the "champagne of teas," look for packages that carry the official "Darjeeling" logo, which indicates that the teas is certified by the Tea Board of India.

• Use filtered water to brew your tea - this improves the flavor.

• Steep it for precisely four minutes.

• When making green or white tea, don't let the water reach a boil - it can "create a bitterness."

Bitterness has no place here, either in our tea or our hearts.

Should you happen to wish a cup of tea while you're out and about, you should know that you cannot get a proper one at an establishment which also serves coffee.

That's simply a fact of life.


Perfect tea perfectly served only happens in a dedicated teahouse, of which there are a number in the U.S.

On an entirely different subject, the beginning of the headline of this post — "Expert's Expert" — is taken from a now defunct feature of The Financial Times called "Experts' Experts."

That particular feature is why I started buying the weekend Financial Times.

Then, about six months after I'd grown used to the paper, the column simply disappeared, without explanation.

But by then, as with anything powerfully addictive, I was hooked on the paper: I kept reading it and, finally, subscribed to the daily.

I made inquiries to the paper about why the feature — which in their incarnation polled, say, five or six experts on who they thought were the best spy fiction writers or race car drivers or what-have-you - was dropped, but never received an answer.

Now that Andrew Gowers, the editor of the paper, and an number of its writers return my emails, I just may, when things get a little slow around here, initiate a new round of inquiries.

Who knows?

I might get lucky.


You know the old saying: "Even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then."

February 3, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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