I recently walked in on a water cooler discussion at the Tavalon office about the perfect way to steep a cup of tea.

One person suggested that she liked her tea to be full-bodied and “almost to the point of bitter.”

The other argued that they are missing out on the real flavors of the tea by letting the leaves steep so long.

the perfect cup?They then turned to me and asked, as the tea expert, what my opinion was.

“Since you make the steeping suggestions on the labels, what do you think?” they inquired.

Well, the long and short of it is this: different people enjoy tea in different ways, and for different reasons.  I created the steeping suggestions on the labels to be just that: suggestions.    I always encourage folks to take these as a starting point at which they then can adjust to their individual palates.

Reflecting on this quandary, I am reminded of a quote from one of the best books ever written on teaKakuzo Okakura’s The Book of Tea:

Tea is a work of art and needs a master hand to bring out its noblest qualities. We have good and bad tea, as we have good and bad paintings – generally the latter.

There is no single recipe for making the perfect tea, as there are no rules for producing a Titian or a Sesson.

Each preparation of the leaves has its individuality, its special affinity with water and heat, its own method of telling a story.

The truly beautiful must always be in it.