By chance I had two tea tastings last week with Henrietta Lovell of the Rare Tea Company and Kate Gover of Lahloo. I’m still trying to digest all the information they gave me but three things stand out as making the difference between making an ordinary cup of tea and a great one. Apart from using loose leaves rather than teabags which I knew (though confess I don’t always put into practice).
1. Don’t use too much tea
Two reasons: it’s expensive and it’ll result in an unnecessarily strong brew. It helps to use a teapot that suits the number of people you’re serving. While you need a couple of generous pinches - or heaped teaspoonfuls - for two people you don’t need to add a pinch for every extra person you serve
2. Don’t use water that’s too hot
While black teas can take water that’s just off the boil but green and white teas benefit from cooler temperatures. Which means boiling the kettle (from freshly drawn water) then letting it sit for a minute or two. Old fashioned kettles seem better for this purpose than modern ones many of which switch off too quickly and don’t hold their heat well.
3. Don’t infuse the tea for too long
This was perhaps the most useful thing I learnt. Once you’ve infused the tea, pour it then refill the pot. But don’t then leave the pot standing for 7 or 8 minutes while you drink your first cup. Strain off the tea into a jug (or another teapot) then pour more water on the leaves again. You can reinfuse the leaves a number of times, depending on the tea (another reason for making a small pot rather than a huge one.)
More on tea later this week.