How to Brew a Perfect Cup of Tea
If you believe the TV commercials, you may think that it takes a combination chemist and magician to make a decent cup of coffee. Tea is much easier, but a few tips may still help. Start with freshly-drawn cold water, and boil till the water rolls, but no more, or you'll boil away the oxygen, making the water flat. For best results, porcelain or earthnware teapots and teacups should be used because they do not distort the natural flavor of tea. Scald the teapot with hot water, swish it around and empty it before adding the tea and more water. Some tea packages recommend using one teaspoon per cup, but the Chinese generally prefer lighter teas, using only one or two spoonfuls per pot. You should experiment and decide what's best for you. After pouring the freshly-boiled water over the tea leaves, allow them to brew for three to four minutes.
In authentic Chinese restaurants, you won't find a sugar bowl or milk served with the tea. For one thing, mainland Chinese aren't accustomed to milk and have difficulty digesting it, and they prefer their tea "black." For that matter, green oolong and scented teas are best appreciated with nothing added that might mask their delicate flavors. Black teas, however, are more robust and may be enjoyed with milk or lemon and sugar. At home, of course, you are free to do as you please; but in a Chinese restaurant, don't be surprised if your waiter gives you a funny look if you ask for sugar.