Tea preparation is an art. For the best tea, start with a ceramic teapot with a lid. Rinse the teapot with hot water to warm it, then add one teaspoon of tea or one tea bag for each cup (250mL) of water. In a tea kettle, bring water to a full boil--water at a bubbling boil agitates the tea leaves and causes them to open, for the full extraction of flavor. Pour boiling water over the tea bags or tea leaves in the teapot, and steep for a full three to five minutes. Flavor and caffeine are dissolved earliest, and the longer the tea is allowed to brew, the more tannin--the compound that gives tea its pungency and body--is allowed to dissolve into the brew. After steeping, remove tea bags or strain tea through a fine mesh tea strainer. Serve tea piping hot with sugar or honey and milk or lemon, or straight.
Preparation methods also add character. Try yerba mate--the potent Argentinean favorite--with a touch of vanilla and milk to soften the vigorous flavor. Karkade, a traditional Egyptian tea, consists of brewed hibiscus flowers and copious quantities of sugar. Moroccan mint tea--a strong, heavily sweetened brew of spearmint leaves--is traditionally served after meals in the Middle East. White coffee, a Lebanese favorite, is a tea-like concoction made with orange flowers and sugar, and served hot in demitasse glasses.