The Perfect Cup of Tea

“Nobody can teach you how to make the perfect cup of tea. It just happens over time. Wearing cashmere helps, of course”.

What is the perfect cup of tea? I think Tea is best made with fresh good quality tea leaves in a pre-warmed china teapot with boiling water and served in a fine lipped, bone china cup. Sometimes I do use tea bags for the convenience although, to perfect the art of a good cup of Tea requires a little more time and finesse.

There is no need to have any special attitude while drinking except one of thankfulness. The nature of the tea itself is that of no-mind. Pojong Sunim

The art of Tea is not just about the beverage but the sense of ritual, of conversation and stillness. A brief moment in the day to reflect as the kettle comes to the boil, to pause and think or let worries and ideas slip from the mind momentarily. Perhaps it is early morning and faint thoughts are beginning to form about the day ahead. The cup of Tea can be restorative and comforting, energising and invigorating. Here is how-

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company

  • Fill the kettle with fresh cold running water and always refill the kettle with fresh cold water before it is boiled again.
  • Bring the kettle to a rapid boil this will bring out all the flavour by adding oxygen to the Tea (this will not happen if the water is boiled more than once)
  • Heat the Teapot by adding some boiling water, swishing it around and rinsing it out before the Tea is added.
  • Take some fresh tea leaves from an airtight container that has been kept away from strong flavours and perfumes or other more fragrant teas. Measure the Tea with a scoop and add one teaspoon for each person plus one for the pot.
  • The Teapot should be left to ‘draw‘ for at least 3 -6 minutes before pouring the Tea to get full flavour.This is also called steeping the tea leaves and the time required to draw or steep the Tea depends on the type of Tea. See below
  • Whilst waiting for the Tea to draw collect a fine china cup and saucer or mug for each person, some cold full cream milk and for those that require a slice of lemon.

These instructions are a general guide for making the Tea that comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis. All Tea is from this plant and other herbal, fruit, or fragrant mixes are called Infusions or Tisanes. There are 5 types of Tea that vary in colour, taste, aroma, appearance and flavour dependant on ( just like viticulture for wine) the region, rainfall and climatic conditions of where the tea plants are grown. Tea is mostly categorised as to how much the Tea leaves have been oxidised or fermented. The farmers expose the Tea leaves to air to bring out particular flavours and aromas from the leaves.

“Dutch Woman” Marcia Oakes Woodbury, 1891

The essence of the enjoying of tea lies in appreciation of its color, aroma, and flavor, as well as the principles of its preparation: refinement, simplicity, and cleanliness.

Cai Xiang

Green Tea is a light, gentle and more delicate Tea than traditional Black Tea. The leaves are prevented from being oxidised by being heat-treated either by frying the leaves or steaming them. This destroys the enzyme responsible for the oxidising of the leaves. The Tea is a yellow, straw colour

White Tea is gentle, delicate and subtle in flavour and comes from immature Tealeaves picked just before the buds are open when a white fuzzy down known as bao hao is formed on the new shoots for the first few days of Spring. This down turns white when the Tea is dried. The Tea shoots are left to wither to prevent oxidization and carefully monitored by the Tea makers.

Black Tea is from the young Tealeaves that are picked before they wither. They are rolled, fully oxidised and fired to produce a strong flavour. Black Tea is categorised by region Assam, Darjeeling, Keemun, Yunnan, Ceylon, Niligri and Lapsang Souchan. Black Tea is popular blended with oils, fruits and spices to develop specific flavours as in Earl Grey Tea

Oolong Tea is semi oxidised and made from mature leaves that are oxidised in varying degrees to produce Teas with a wide variety of flavours and aromas.

Fermented Teas are called Pu’er and made from the larger leaves that are aged for several years similar to the aging process of wine. Aged fermented Tea is a connoisseurs Tea and highly valued by age and the flavour profile developed over time. Some Pu’er Teas are well over 30 years old. The Tea becomes a dark brew that is low in caffeine and is earthy and mellow.

Tea of different fermentation: From left to right: Green tea (Bancha from Japan), Yellow tea (Kekecha from China), Oolong tea (Kwai flower from China) and Black tea (Assam Sonipur Bio FOP from India)Wiki Media.org

Tisanes are not from the Tea plant Camelia Sinensis but are made from a vast array of herbs, plants, fruit and vegetable infusions. Tisanes are popular due to the low caffeine level, medicinal properties and are gentle to the nervous system bringing all manner of flavour and subtle benefits to the body and mind.

Steeping Times for Tea

Green Tea is best made with water just before boiling point, steep for 2-4 minutes 74-79 C

White Tea is best made with water just before boiling point and steep for 2-3 minutes so 65-68 C

Yellow Tea is best made with water before boiling point steep 204 minutes 71-85 C

Black  Tea is best made with boiling water and steeped for 3-6 minutes 98 C

Oolong Tea is best made with boiling water and steeped for 5-7 minutes 79-85 C

Tisanes are best made with boiling and steeped for 5-7 minutes 98 C

All content Di Baker 2020 all rights reserved

Images courtesy of Unsplash and Pixabay

Title quote by Jill Dupleix, “Old Food”, Allen & Unwin, Australia, 1998

Header Image is a painting “Women Taking Tea” Albert Lynch, 1851-1912 Wiki Media