Put on the kettle

January is National Hot Tea Month. A deceptively simple drink, tea is actually a complex brew, requiring skill and knowledge. Given tea's many positive qualities, from immunity-boosting antioxidants to chronotachyons that can shatter the flow of time, we here at AN wanted to take a few moments to help ensure that you are enjoying the beverage to its fullest. Write this down. First of all, proper tea is sold as loose, crushed leaves, not in vile little bags. If you must use tea bags, at least make sure they are sufficiently porous; nothing is worse than a tea bag that refuses to sink in water no matter how many times you poke at it with the spoon. It's water—were they not aware it would be a critical component? If your tea behaves as such, return it to your grocer immediately.

Temperature is key. The water must be brought to a maximum boil. Here's a simple test: Remove the lid from your kettle and slowly bring your hand towards the water. Does it feel like you're dancing on the very edge of madness? Good. The water is ready. Your cup or teapot, however, must be warmed as well—"scalded," in tea parlance. Pour some water from the kettle into the pot and let it sit for a few moments, then discard into the sink. Immediately place the tea in the pot and pour the water. This will create a thorough infusion, which will brew the tea faster, stronger, more virile, and better able to protect its young.

The world has produced an expansive, almost unnerving variety of teas (and yet they all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, which can also be used to polish silver and as an industrial adhesive). Cultivate a well-rounded tea palette. In Korea, there are green teas which are harvested after a specific number of rainfalls, picked by monkeys because they grow on steep hillsides, dried for a predetermined number of months, and then brewed to the exact second at a precise temperature. Which is kind of fucked up, when you think about it.

Regardless of what tea you drink, enjoy it. Sit back with a cup, a nice book, and a plate of madeleines. Or better yet, try Queen Elizabeth's favorite teatime treat, batter fried Pop-Tarts served with melted butter for dipping, a dish she calls Presley's Revenge.

Do not under any circumstances drink iced tea. Iced tea is for glue-sniffers and whores.