Is there anything you need to do to prepare your tea leaves before you brew them? The simple answer is....
No - there's nothing you have to do to the tea leaves to prepare them. Just take out the right amount of tea leaves, put them in your pot or mug, add hot water at the right temperature and you're ready to go.
Some people swear by 'washing' the tea leaves. It's an important part of the traditional Chinese gong fu cha tea ceremony too - before brewing your tea leaves, you typically infuse them for 10-15 seconds with hot or boiling water and then discard the liquid (often called the 'first brew' or 'first steep').
The jury's out on whether you must or should do this. There's no clear reason why, but some speculate:
We're sceptical - generally a fine quality tea is a clean product and will have no chemicals sprayed on the leaves pre- or post-production, so you shouldn't need to wash anything off. Similarly, tannins are an integral part of the leaf's chemical composition and can't be washed off with a 10-15 second rinse. As for 'waking up' the tea, this seems to be more of an opinion or taste preference than cold, hard fact.
Our preferred explanation - dried tea leaves can carry a fair amount of 'tea dust'; fragmented pieces of other tea leaves. A quick wash clears away the 'dust' and leaves you with a clearer, purer brew.