The art of making a cuppa tea can get pretty complex. Different types of tea require different methods of preparation. You need to think about the leaf to water ratio, water temperatures, steeping times, what kind of vessel to use, the quality of the leaves, the quality of the water, filtered or non-filtered, milk or no milk? (FYI – the correct answer is no milk). All this can make tea a pretty intimidating subject for beginners. "I don't know anything about tea" is a phrase we've heard often.
But really, what's there to know? When you think about it, next to water, tea is perhaps the simplest beverage out there. It's leaves steeped in water for a short amount of time. That's it. Leaves + water = tea. How easy is that? No fancy machinery or complex extraction methods needed to get the flavour out of your tea.
The machines are taking over!
However, that's not to say that there aren't any fancy contraptions out there for making a simple cuppa tea. Take the Breville "Tea Maker" for example which retails for $299.95 here in Aus. It's got a motorised basket that lowers your tea leaves and removes them afterwards at precisely the right time. It has 15 pre-programmed settings, full water temperature controls and a programmable start feature so that you can have a fresh pot of tea waiting for you when you wake up. All stuff I didn't realise I needed.
Image courtesy of Breville
Or, if you want to get really serious about tea, check out this doohickey – the Alpha Dominche Steampunk. This contraption looks like a prop ripped straight out of a sci-fi movie and I have to admit, it certainly looks pretty cool. It uses steam to heat water, has something called "steam agitation" to help release flavours quicker and finally, has a vacuum extraction because...reasons. It also comes with a sexy user interface panel that lets you have full control over all the different parameters (temperature, time, volume etc).
The Steampunk, image courtesy of Alpha Dominche
Does all this hi-tech machinery really make a better cuppa tea? I'll admit, I haven't tried tea made from these machines yet so I can't really pass any final judgement on this yet. However, even if they do result in a really great cuppa, I still think that all these contraptions do is add unnecessary complexity to what is essentially a simple beverage.
We're all so preoccupied with doing things the best way or the "right" way that we forget that part of what makes tea great is the brewing process. The ritual of tea making is a very calming experience and can allow us to get our minds into a state of focus and concentration. Leaving that process to a machine takes away a lot of the beauty that is inherent in tea.
Don't think, just do
So to those that say "I don't know anything about tea", I say "you're over thinking it." Take some tea leaves, chuck it in some hot water and see what happens. If you want to get into it a little more, play around with water temperatures, steep times etc. Don't go out and buy a $300 contraption that claims to give you the perfect cuppa. Use that money to invest in better quality tea leaves. You can get a heck of a lot of great quality tea for $300, and brewing that any which way will taste infinitely better than anything you would've put into a fancy complicated machine.
In the end, tea is as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Don't be intimidated by it. Don't be concerned that you "don't know anything about tea." Discovering how to brew different teas to your liking and tastes is a fun and rewarding journey. All you need to do is just dive in and give it a crack.