Tea is, of course, the UK’s favourite tipple. In fact, it’s thought Britons go through 165 million cuppas every single day. That’s over 60 billion each year. Yet not many of us know quite how to make the very most of a cup of tea. I sat down with the Rare Tea Company’s Henrietta Lovell, star of TRULY’s tea tasting experiences, to get some pointers from an expert on how to go tea tasting.
How Much Tea?
Of course, the first port of call is what tea to use. Many Brits today use teabags. Lovell is clear about this: teabags do not provide the best quality tea. They tend to be mass-produced with low quality tea, resulting in a bitter taste that it requires more sugar and milk to mask.
Instead, quality tea leaves work better. Adjust to taste, but a good rule of thumb is one teaspoon of tea and one cup of water per person.
Brewing the Tea
With high quality tea leaves, you can infuse the same leaves several times. In each brew, different subtleties of the delicate flavours will be tasted.
Find your desired strength and enjoy. Don’t leave the tea to stew – this will affect quality. Think of it like cooking a steak. Having reached your desired taste, you wouldn’t be likely to leave it cooking in the frying pan.
On the first brew, white teas generally take 1-3 minutes and green teas 1-2 minutes. On subsequent infusions, less time will be needed. Oolong is best made in small portions, with high leaf to water ration and quick, 30 second infusions. Black tea tends to vary more depending on preference. Lovell tells me 45 seconds to a minute works well if you want to drink the tea without milk. To bring out the stronger, tannic flavours, 2-3 minutes might be needed.
Another tip is to strain the tea completely between infusions. This ensures the leaves don’t become bitter in taste. Lovell tells me it’s the second and third brews that tend to be the best.
Henrietta Lovell, on her travels to local tea farms
Often, water is boiled before making a cuppa. Lovell explains this process was born out of the rise of tea bags. With quality tea leaves, the temperature should be lower than boiling. This is because the amino acids – which produce the tea’s flavour – dissolve at lower temperatures than tannin. Lovell explains tea made at 100 degrees celsius will typically taste less sweet and more astringent.
When using a kettle, stop it just as the rolling boil begins – that is, when small bubbles appear along the sides of the kettle. If you’re able to measure the temperature, white and green teas are best enjoyed at around 70 degrees, and black and oolong at about 85 degrees.
How to Make the Perfect Brew
Two Tea Pots Method
1. Use the first teapot to brew the tea
2. Warm a second teapot
3. Once steeped to perfection, strain into the second teapot
Warm Cup Method
1. Pour freshly boiled water into as many tea cups as are required
2. You can then return the water to the teapot
3. The water is therefore measured precisely for each infusion