I have brewed thousands of cups of tea. Always: 1. heat water. 2. add to cup. 3. add tea. 4. wait fixed duration (e.g., 5 minutes). 5. remove tea. 6. drink. Sometimes I put the tea in the water then heated both in the microwave. After getting tea education at Slow Food Nation, I started making sure the water was about 165 degrees F when I added the tea.
My Tsinghua office has a source of hot water. Now I do this: 1. add water to cup. 2. add tea. 3. drink. (I’m using green tea. This wouldn’t work so well with teas that need higher brewing temperatures.) I don’t worry about length of brewing. Much simpler. I bought a cup with a cover but while taking off the wrapping dropped the cover and broke it. You don’t even need a cover (at least for some teas).Â The secrets are (a) as the water cools, it stops brewing the tea — you don’t have to worry about timing and (b) the leaves sink to the bottom so you don’t need to take them out to avoid drinking them.
The interesting question is why nobody told me this. I have heard tea experts talk six or seven times. It certainly means their expertise is less necessary — the cynical explanation. The less cynical explanation is that most people don’t have access to hot water of the right temperature and/or most people don’t drink green tea.