Source Tim Smith, "chief leaf"/owner of The Tea Smith in Omaha

Start with fresh loose-leaf tea and good water

You can't make a great cup of tea with stale or poor-quality leaves. Because tea is 95 percent water, the water quality is paramount. Tim recommends spring water or filtered tap water. The water should be free from chemical smells and tastes. It should not be hard, but should contain minerals so that the tea has something to cling to.

Boiling water

Tim says to skip heating water in the microwave, it results in flat tasting tea because there's less oxygen in the water. Bring the water to a full boil for 30 seconds.

The amount of tea leaves to use varies by type, and your tea smith will be able to recommend that amount. Use about 1 teaspoon green or black tea or 1 tablespoon herbal tea for every 8 ounces of water.

Experiment with your favorite tea to see what happens when you tweak the variables.

Tea time

Water temperature and steeping time varies by tea and should be marked. Here are Tim's guidelines:

White tea 140°-175° for 3-5 minutes
Japanese green tea: 160° for 1-2 minutes
Most other green teas 160°-180° for 3 minutes
Oolongs 180°-208° for 3-4 minutes
Black teas, herbals, fruit tisanes 208° for 4-5 minutes

Any tea can be steeped more than once, but oolong is the clear choice. Its tightly rolled leaf opens more with each infusion, imparting a different flavor for each cup. Steep longer for each subsequent infusion.

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