Catgory: Cooking for one.
One of the few culinary delights of my life... probably can't really be considered a culinary delight at all. Oh, tea... That wonderful herb and chemical flavored broth that enriches life as we nerds know it... How all the exotic flavors of the earth can be bundled into one little paper packet that magically comes alive as water is added is completely beyond me. However, I don't necessarily have to understand a thing to appreciate it.
What I would caution the prospective tea-drinker, however, (other than the obvious, "beware, this tea may scald you" that is written on the outside of the cups, except for cold teas, obviously...) is that certain teas have certain connotations and can brand you with a label that you don't necessarily want.
For example: Take black teas, for instance. To me, a drinker of white teas and green teas, black teas are comparable to the coffee of teas. Not like... a mocha latte cappuccino kind of coffee - more like straight black strong coffee with no sugar. Black teas are the macho, very strong teas. They are what Rambo would drink - if indeed Rambo drank tea. It would be something along the lines of, "excuse me, can I get some red-hot nails to eat with my black tea? Thank you." And still never forget that when in doubt - pinky out!
Next, there's the chai tea. This is the tea of sophisticated people. This tea wears a scarf, those black, square-ish glasses, and attends poetry readings. The slight spicy tinge to the tea seems to give the brain a little bit of a jump-start, or so chai drinkers would have you believe. It's something that you would drink while pondering the works of Picasso or Michaelangelo or perhaps while reading "Love and War," or "Atlas Shrugged."
Next come the green teas - the teas of spiritual and healthy people. These include herbal teas used for remedies, as well. Green teas are environmentally friendly, and best partaken of while actually out in the environment. Drinkers of green teas are very proud of the fact that THEIR tea has natural anti-oxidants while other teas don't. (To which the rest of us say, "whatever... you nerds.") It's healthy, and it's what those little Tibetan monks drink, so it's got to be spiritually enhancing, too, right? Drinkers of green teas can often be found scaling mountain peaks and kayaking across oceans. Totally environmentally awesome! Which is why the cold kind comes in convenient 20 oz. plastic bottles which can be neatly tossed so as not to slow you down on your way up Everest.
White teas are more like the soda-pop of teas than anything else. They're more like a comfort tea or a pleasure tea. They're for people who come out of the cold and think to themselves, "well... I need something hot. But it's gotta taste fantabulous, and I'm not in the mood for hot chocolate." They're a starting point into tea, and for the casual tea-drinker. White tea flavors usually come with flamboyant flavor names like "Snazzy Strawberry!" or "Voluptuous Vanilla!" They're oftentimes fruity, and could be easily imagined with a dollop of whipped cream on top to facilitate the image of the white tea as a dessert tea. Beware the label of "tea sissy" while drinking white tea.
Then there are the iced teas - flavored or non, these teas are the social butterflies. Honestly, who drinks iced tea all alone? It's like alcohol! You drink with other people, and it's okay. Drink it by yourself... you've got a problem. Evidenced by the fact that it's hard to find iced tea in small, one-cup sized packets. They come in sizes for gallon jars, usually created by the means of placing these packets inside a large glass jar of water and leaving it out in the sun for a day or so. This method produced iced-tea that - once iced - is affectionately referred to as "sun tea." Because supposedly the tea now tastes of the little bits of light it soaked up. Once the tea is sufficiently iced (and in the south, sweetened) it is ready to serve at dinner parties, church functions and luncheons.
Finally, there are the instant teas, which can range anywhere from a chai latte mix to a Crystal Light pop-top canister, or those little "just-pour-this-in-your-water-bottle" mixes. These are for people who are thirsty - but hate the taste of their water. As such, I have a difficult time classifying them as real tea. However, in the interest of fair and objective representation, I will say that chai latte mixes are yummy.
Now that you have been briefed in the various types of tea and their inherent dangers of labels, it's time to get to the real nitty gritty: how to make tea.
Step one: Heat water. This step is necessary - unless you are making sun-tea. Depending on the amount you are attempting to prepare, there are a few ways to do it. For just one, you can simply fill a mug with room-temperature water and microwave it for a minute or so, depending upon the power of your microwave. If no room temperature water is available, cold water will do, or you can melt snow. Beware the repercussions, as cold water and melted snow are slower to heat.
Step two: Ready your selected tea. For tea-bags, be sure to remove the outer wrapper. For instant teas, rip open the packet or ready the correct measurement of said mixture.
Step three: Apply tea. Drop the tea-bag into the water or pour in your mix. For mixtures, stir. Generally with a spoon. For tea-bags, use the provided string to dip and dunk the tea-bag to help the flavor soak into the water. Steep for however long you like your tea strong.
Step four: Add whatever confections you may drink with your tea. Common tea-condiments include sugar, honey, and cream.
Step five: Check the temperature of your tea to be sure it will not burn your taste buds off, and enjoy.
Now that you have discovered the many joys and benefits of properly nerdly tea, go forth and share the good news!