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Tea is a work of art and needs a master hand to bring out its noblest qualities
- Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea
A great speciality leaf tea can be ruined by making it badly, so make sure you take the time to make your ‘expensive tea’ properly. In summary when making tea you need to consider the following:
Unfortunately when it comes to tea, you do get what you pay for. But more important is to make sure you get tea that is not only as fresh as possible, that means in season but also stored properly. To store tea it needs to be kept in an airtight container, away from the light and strong odours. Kept airtight tea can last a long time but once exposed to air it will start to lose some of its original freshness. We have specially selected the Chateau Rouge tea caddies for the very reason that they are airtight and perfect for making sure your tea stays fresh.
Trying to make too much tea at once can mean you get the mixture wrong and get too little or too much tea in the water and possibly leave it to stew for too long or not enough time. Its often easier to make tea in a small tea pot, the Chinese for example have traditionally always used a small tea pot and tea set and prefer to make multiple cu0ps off of the same tea leaves as opposed to make a bigger pot. Don’t overcook it! If you prefer a stronger cup of tea, use more leaves.
There are general guidelines for different teas, but as a rule of thumb the more black a tea is the hotter the water can be, but even black tea can go bitter if left too long in the water. Get yourself an egg timer or stopwatch if need be, but don’t spoil your tea by leaving it too long in the water. Also to consider is making sure you use good quality water. Filter your water or use bottled water if you really have to, but don’t expect tea to make the water taste better, it won’t – all that will happen is your tea will taste bad.
All quality leaf teas can be re-infused. As a general rule the greener the tea the more infusions you can get out of it. Again that all depends on how well you made the first cup and did not damage the leaf i.e. water the right temperature and not infused for too long. A good cup of tea is like a good relationship, courting takes time but if you build a good foundation and treat your tea like a princess (or prince) it will be kind to you in return. Remember that with each subsequent infusion the leaves can be left longer in the water as most of the flavour has been diffused the first few infusions.
Enjoying a coffee on a loverly sunny London afternoon... Wondering whats your best coffee shop moment?
The enjoyment of tea drinking is shared by many around the world whether as a connoisseur of tea, delighting in delicate infusions, or preferring more humble brews with hug-a-mug comfort. I’ve come across tea lovers who have elevated preparation and imbibing to the point of ritual; all well and good if you have the time for such practices. For others an appreciation of tea exists in the choice of tea bags available on the supermarket shelf.
I indulge in both aspects of tea drinking, the fine and the functional, which I would argue can be enjoyed in equal measure if your expectations are managed in direct proportion to the ingredients you use. Personally, I prefer to drink the stuff rather than enter into debate about the subject. For me, the telling difference between a good cup of tea and a great cup of tea depends on how it’s brewed. There’s no doubt in my mind that the method of brewing contributes to taste, which is why I try, when I have the time, to make tea in a teapot rather than a mug.
In fact I’d go as far as to say that in my experience different teapots can create unique flavours; my excuse for having more than a few, china, pottery and several made of various metals. Such is my teapot collection that I’ve had to steel myself to be hard-hearted towards those that haven’t been favoured in a while. Every now and then I donate one or two teapots to our local charity shop, telling myself they will be probably be better used by a new owner. These charity donations also help free up valuable space in my cupboards. Of course, as you probably know yourself, it’s difficult to drop off unwanted stuff at a charity shop without discovering at least one item you “can’t leave without”. In my case this is especially true if I spot a teapot which looks like it could brew the ultimate tea experience, or, more typically, I just find particularly attractive.
So which teapot is the best teapot? I’ve test-brewed many over the years and for me it’s a metal one, given to me by by husband as an anniversary present (read on before you scoff). Last year, as we wandered around a lovely antique centre near Oxford, hand in hand of course, I turned down the offer of the expensive decorative item my husband wanted to buy me. Instead my present of choice was a teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl and tray with which, when first my eyes fell upon it, I instantly fell in love. (OK, scoff now if you like)
I lovingly brought my anniversary present home, not forgetting husband, and set the kettle to boil before I’d taken off my coat. I proudly arranged my new collection, filled the milk jug and poured the boiling water onto the tea in the pot. I waited with excited anticipation! The long drive home had no doubt sharpened my appreciation of the resulting cuppa. To my taste buds the combination of tea and pot delivered a flavour that was simply ... Mmm, heavenly cup of tea.
Was my experience more fanciful than factual? How much does a particular teapot influence the flavour of the tea? What’s your experience? Tweet us: @chateaurougetea