Chapter XII. How Shall We Make Tea?
How shall tea be drawn or infuses? Is there but one standard method for all teas, or all persons ? Certainly not. A method which will suit very many delicate tastes may be briefly stated: Use water as free as possible from impurities, from earthly matters like lime. If water is boiled too long its contained air is expelled and the tea will have a " flat " taste. Use an earthen teapot by preference; one which is never applied to any other purpose. A preliminary warming of the dry teapot is advised. Drop in your tea leaves, and pour on the whole quantity of water required, while at boiling temperature. Set in warm but not very hot situation to steep, avoiding so far as practicable, loss of vapor and aroma from the teapot.
Now, as to the length of time tea should steep: - it will vary with different teas and different tastes. Some steep tea but three minutes; others double the time; while still others extend the time to 15 minutes. In any event, as soon as the characteristic flavor is extracted from the leaves, known by the loss of an agreeable tea-odor in the withdrawn leaves, the beverage will be improved rather than impaired by pouring it off into a clean teapot, in which the tea may then be preserved for a long time without injury.
To some tastes, a little of the tannin is agreeable, and its absence would be missed. Then as to sugar or milk: it is evidence of exaggerated personality (conceit, some call it), to declare that milk or cream or sugar injure the flavor of tea. As well insist upon a special spice being used for all viands because the critic likes it. To hold the Chinese up as examples of what is proper in tea drinking is to offer a limit to human progress. As milk or cream neutralize the tannin to a considerable extent, they are so far desirable, without regard to taste.
Over my Tea Cup.
This homely can of painted tin
Is casket precious in my eyes;
Its withered fragrant leaves within,
Beyond all costly gems I prize.
For in those crumpled leaves of tea,
The sunbeams of long summer days,
The song of bird, the hum of bee,
The cricket's evening hymn of praise,
The chatter of contented toil,
The merry laugh of childish glee,
The tonic virtues of the soil,
Were caught and gathered with the tea.
Lifeless those withered leaves may seem,
Locked fast in slumber deep as death,
But soon the kettle's boiling steam
May rouse to life their fragrant breath.
With sigh of deep content we breathe
The sweet mists rising lazily,
With eager, parted lips receive
the first ambrosial taste of tea.
Are now transmuted into thrills
Of sense or feeling, echoes faint
From peaceful perfumed tea-clad hills,
From placid Orientals quaint.
And fancies born in other lands,
Which dormant lie in magic tea,
Dream-castles fair not made with hands,
By some mysterious alchemy
Bring rest to wearied heart and brain,
Kind nature's soul to us reveal,
Enlarge the realm of Fancy's reign,
Renew the power to see and feel
The radiance of the rising sun,
The sunset's glow, the moon's pale light,
The promise of a dat begun,
The rest from toil that comes with night.
And as I sip my cup of tea,
Though not a friend may be in sight,
I know that a brave company
Is taking tea with me this night.