Use whole leaves. “Whole leaves retain their essential oils and flavors better than torn ones.” Give the leaves “a gentle rinse” with cold spring water. That not only removes residue but “primes them for maximum release of flavor and aroma.”
Mind the temperature. Heat kettle water to a boil, but don’t overboil: That will deoxygenate the water, “resulting in a flat-tasting final cup.” While your tea is steeping, keeping the water at a consistent temperature is “crucial,” so a double-walled teapot is recommended. The temperature should be just below boiling for black teas, but cooler for green teas.
Know your steeping time. Since optimal steeping times “vary widely”—from one to eight minutes—ask the salespeople at your tea shop for guidance on the leaves you pick out.