Though a perfect cup of tea requires only a few simple steps, getting each step just right is an art form. Keep in mind, the best tea is brewed from whole, loose leaves. Whole tea leaves are not only fresher and of higher quality than tea bags; they also produce a more complex beverage as the leaves unfurl during brewing.
Bring fresh, cold water to a boil. Once the water is boiled, remove from heat, and let it sit for a few minutes. Meanwhile, fill a teapot with hot tap water to warm it up. Do the same thing with your teacups.
Empty the pot (and cups), toss in a teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup you are making, and fill pot with boiled water. Let steep for 2 to 3 minutes for small-leaf black teas and green teas, 4 to 5 minutes for full-leaf black tea, and 7 to 10 minutes for oolong tea; pour the tea, using a strainer to catch renegade leaves. Don't over-steep or the brew will turn bitter. Loose tea will keep for up to a year if it's stored properly in an airtight container in a cool, dark spot.