Tea traditionalists are generally adamant in saying that the best way to boil water for tea is in a kettle on the stovetop. While this is certainly a tried-and-true method, there’s no escaping the fact that the times are changing. Today, we have choices in tea-water-heating methods. Typically you can choose from:
- Boiling water on a burner in a traditional kettle or pot
- Using an electric kettle
- Using your microwave
Which is best? In this article, we will explore all three methods and provide advice to help you make the smartest choice. Read on to learn more.
An old-fashioned whistling kettle on a gas stovetop heats up quickly and adds a touch of comfort and coziness to your tea ritual. If you don’t have a gas burner, an electric burner makes a good substitute, but it’s not quite as quick. If you like cutting-edge tradition, an induction burner will heat your water safely and in record time.
Convenient electric kettle
At work, in the dorm room or in a busy kitchen where all the stovetop burners tend to be occupied, an electric kettle is handy and efficient. A stainless steel electric kettle will deliver the best taste and most durability. If you do get a plastic kettle, be sure to get one that is BPA-free to avoid harmful toxins in your tea.
Remember to clean your electric kettle by filling it with filtered water and a half cup of white vinegar and bringing it to a full boil about once a month. Follow up by boiling a kettle full of plain filtered water to rinse the vinegar taste out. Doing this will help prevent mineral buildup. (This is a good idea for your traditional kettle, too!)
Whether you heat your water on the stovetop or in an electric kettle, follow these tips to make a great single cup of tea:
- Start with cold, fresh water.
- While the water is coming to a boil, fill your cup or mug with hot water from the tap and let it warm.
- When your water has boiled (or attained the temperature you desire) empty the warming water from your mug or cup and pop in your teabag.
- Pour hot water over the teabag and put a cover on the cup.
- Let your tea steep for 3-5 minutes (unless it is a medicinal herbal tea in which case more time may be needed).
- Remove the cover, dunk the teabag a dozen times, squeeze it and remove it from the cup.
- Discard the teabag.
- Enjoy your tea!
Heating water for tea
The controversial microwave
Many tea aficionados shun use of the microwave to heat water for tea because they say the water heats unevenly and negatively impacts brewing. This is a minor concern that can be alleviated with stirring or teabag dunking.
When you use your microwave to heat and brew a cup of tea, you’ll enjoy much greater health benefits and caffeine content. Tea contains catechins, which are very beneficial for cardiovascular health. When you brew your tea in the microwave, about 80% more catechins are extracted. Simultaneously, about 90% more caffeine is extracted from tea via microwave brewing than traditional steeping.
To brew your tea in the microwave, follow these steps:
- Place your teabag(s) in your cup or mug and add water.
- Place the cup or mug in your microwave uncovered.
- Heat for the amount of time needed to achieve the desired temperature.
- Remove the cup or mug from the microwave and dunk the teabag about a dozen times.
- Put a lid on the mug and let it steep for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove the lid, lift out the tea bag, squeeze it into the cup.
- Discard the teabag.
- Enjoy your tea!
If you don’t want to brew your tea in the microwave, you can always just heat the water to boiling in the microwave, pour it over your teabag in your teacup, cover it and steep it the old-fashioned way. The act of pouring will counteract the problem of uneven heating.
What kind of water is best?
Quality of water makes a big difference in quality of tea. Generally speaking, you are best off using filtered tap water. It is fresh, and with proper filtration, free of most chemicals. It is an affordable, earth-friendly choice.
Bottled water is dead water. It has been stored in a plastic bottle for an indeterminate period of time and may have had carcinogens leach into it from the plastic. Furthermore, bottled water is usually just tap water from somewhere else put into a bottle, so it may actually be worse quality than your local tap water. It is a costly and dangerous choice.
Don’t use distilled water for tea or for any consumption by humans, animals or plants. Distilled water is flat water that has had all the goodness removed from it. It is good for ironing clothes and putting in car batteries.
Additionally, it can be dangerous if you heat it in the microwave. It’s complete lack of cohesive structure prevents it from bubbling when it reaches the boiling point, so if you microwave it to boiling temperature and then jostle it even a bit, it may explode splattering scalding water all around. Distilled water is a costly and potentially dangerous choice.
So which method of boiling water is best?
Your choice will naturally depend a great deal on your circumstances. When you are at home and you have plenty of time, there’s a lot to be said for a traditional, comforting tea time. When you’re at work or school or you are pressed for time, using the microwave provides lots of advantages. The bottom line is, all water boiling methods are good and you have only to choose the method that suits you and your situation best.