Tea lovers are notoriously pedantic about their tea-drinking habits, and I know this because I am one of them. As obsessive tea drinkers our customs, rituals and tea habits are likely to be annoying to others. Although it is human nature to create habits and both coffee and tea drinkers consider their daily rituals as obligatory and without compromise.
People who feel anxious at the thought of a bad cup of tea have a phobia called Tepidophobia -a fear of having a poorly made cup of tea. I read about tepidophobia on https://tealovers.com and agree that as far as phobias go this one is quite valid. There are so many things to consider when perfecting a cup of tea like; teabags or teapot, milk in first or last, green or black, Oolong or Assam, strong or weak. Not to mention the myriad ways of serving tea; cups or mugs, fine china or earthenware, glass or ceramic, paper cup or eco cup.
Perhaps the safest way to always enjoy good tea is to make more tea at home or search out really good cafes that make tea perfectly. Talk about the perfect way to make Tea, hold tea parties and spread the word on the correct way to look after, store and perfect the art of tea making.
Tea is a rich and complex drink; as author and Tea enthusiast Mary Lou Heiss says in the quote above -Tea is far from a simple matter. Tea made well allows the flavours of the Tea to open up and reveal their full flavour. By following these simple steps Tea will always be perfect.
A Good Cup of Tea
Always use fresh cold water Once the water has been boiled once, always add fresh water to the kettle to ensure maximum oxygen is in the water. The tea flavour will be vibrant and lively. Why cold water? Because hot water from a hot water system does not taste as good and also will lack oxygen.
Bring the water to the right temperature and use a kettle with temperature control for differing types of Tea- as a guide;
Black Tea is best at 100 C
Darjeeling is a bit lower at 94 C
White Tea at 65 -70 C
Green Tea at 75- 80 C
Pu’erh Tea at 90 C
Oolong Tea 80-85 C The leaves can be steeped several times
Herbal Tisanes at 100 C
Choose a Good Teapot When choosing a good teapot, find one with a large chamber for the tea, so there is plenty of room for the tea leaves to move around, and the water can circulate easily. Generally, short wide teapots are best. There are numerous types of teapots, and some are made specifically for the different types of tea. Perhaps you have a family heirloom Teapot in silver or a fine porcelain one, a dainty cast iron teapot, a traditional Japanese teapot or a tea for one pot?
Whatever your favourite Teapot is, make sure it is large enough for the number of cups of tea you are making. The main aim is to balance form and function when choosing a teapot as there are so many beautiful designs, shapes and styles, but some may not be as practical as others. Some teapots will hold the heat and others will cool off too quickly because various metals, china, ceramics and porcelain give different heat distribution.
There is a particular cafe Bake Table Tea in Bathurst that I frequent when I can, where tea is served in glass teapots with an infuser and burner underneath to keep the tea hot. The glass chamber allows you to watch the Tea brewing, and then the infuser can be taken out when the tea reaches the desired strength. Glass teapots will stain and are easily broken which is why I don’t have one at home. I prefer the old Robur silver ‘perfect teapot’ style with an infuser inside.
Heat the Teapot before making Tea. Simply pour boiling water into the empty Teapot swish it around and empty to warm the pot. This will keep the Tea hot for longer.
Add loose leaf Tea leaves Tea made in a Teapot with tea leaves will always be superior to tea made from a teabag. Good quality loose leaf Tea leaves are whole leaves and not crushed or broken, so they will release more flavours, oils, and aromas than tea bags made with lower grade tea called ‘Fannings.’ One teaspoon for each person and one for the pot.
Pour the required temperature water onto the leaves in the teapot, put the lid on and leave to steep. The brewing or steeping times will vary depending on the type of Tea being made. Most Tea should brew for 3-5 minutes. Remember that if tea leaves are left too long steeped in a pot they will over brew and become stewed, strong and bitter. Here is a guide
- Black teas 3 to 5 minutes
- Pu-erh tea 2-4 minutes
- Green tea 2 to 4 minutes
- White tea 2 to 3 minutes
- Oolong tea 5 to 7 minutes The experts say Oolong can be re-steeped several times.
- Herbal tisanes 5 to 7 minutes depending on the type of herbs, flowers or blends so steep to your liking.
Add milk to the cup when the tea is ready to pour first, so the milk is gently heated as you pour, rather than all of a sudden and it will also protect your good quality fine china from cracking.
Strain the tea and pour the hot tea into fine china teacups.
A Bad Cup of Tea
Bad tea will also vary greatly from one person to another depending on individual tastes, likes and dislikes but maybe
- Too much milk
- Too weak so has no flavour
- Too strong and bitter
- Too floral
- Not hot enough
- Tea that tastes stale and has not been stored well.
- Tea made with metallic tasting water
- Tea in heavy earthenware cups
- Tea served as a teabag on the side with tepid pot of water
- Tea with a Teabag still in the cup or paper cup
Tasting the Tea
Taste or our perception of flavour is naturally about the tongue but also closely linked with aroma and sight. There are five taste areas on the tongue sweet, salty, acidic, bitter, and savoury but we most likely notice aroma first which is a signal to the brain to tell us if we want to taste something.
Tea is a subjective experience just as in wine tasting, and according to The Tea Curator
- Store Tea away from direct sunlight in an opaque tin or tea caddy.
- Store in a dry, still space away from air, mould and humidity
- Store one tea flavour separately from any other teas, spices or coffee
- Only Pu’er tea should be stored in wooden boxes
- Store tea in a cool space and not near the stove or oven
Content Di Baker 2021 Images Di Baker or as cited
Title quote By Mary Lou Heiss