1. Leaving Dry Tea Leaves Exposed
Dry tea leaves should be stored properly. If dry tea leaves are not stored “air-tight and out-of-light” then they will lose their own essence faster as well as take on unwanted aromas and flavors from the surrounding atmosphere.
2. Using Cold Teaware
This is the most frequent mistake that people make. It is imperative to heat your tea pot or gaiwan by pouring hot water in, letting the vessel heat up, and then pour out before adding tea leaves. This assures that the temperature of the water added with the tea leaves will not rapidly cool upon entering the vessel. Proper and stable water temperature is required for a smooth and elegant flavor extraction.
3. Using Boiling Water
While some teas can handle boiling water, no tea steeps best with boiling water. Remember:
212^F is boiling
205^F is ideal for most teas (oolong, red/black, Pu-erh, herbal)
<180^F is ideal for delicate teas (white, green, herbal flowers)
If using a stove top kettle, simply let the water rest for 1 minute after boiling before using. You can be more precise by using a thermometer or a temperature controlled electric kettle. These measures are to prevent “burning” the tea. Burned tea is bitter and/or muddied in flavor. Properly steeped, tea should be smooth and clear.
4. Using too much/little leaf
If you use too little leaf, your tea will be lacking texture and body. If you use too much leaf, your tea will be bitter and overwhelming. Begin to pay attention to the ratio of tea leaves to water being used. Over time you will develop an intuition for understanding the proper balance.
5. Filling the Cup
It is simply bad tea etiquette to fill yours or your guest’s cup to the very top. Practically, the cup will be too hot to pick up, and even if the cup has a handle, filling to the brim makes it very easy to spill. Always leave at least a lip’s distance between the rim of the cup and the surface of the tea liquor.