It seems only reasonable that since I am in England, I figure out what makes a perfect cup of tea. It is, after all, the stereotypical homeland of the perfect cup (let's not forget the Asian countries and beyond that also have pretty amazing tea histories). The English cup of tea is the stuff of novels--how can anyone escape a scene featuring tea while reading an Austen or Dickens' story? How can you survive an afternoon in London without searching for a marvelously fortifying cup of this magical elixir, for another matter?
While I go off in search of my perfect cup here, I offer you a few tips on making your perfect brew---advice straight from London tea connoisseurs!--at home. Enjoy!
1. Know your brew time. Each type of tea is a little different, so it helps to know the steeping time for the tea you are using--too little brew time equals weak tea, too long leads to bitter brew. Below is a list of the most common types of tea and their brew times.
Black = 3-5 minutes
Green = 2-3 minutes
Herbal = 5-7 minutes
Oolong = 3-5 minutes
White = 1-3 minutes
2. Have patience. Don't swish the hot water or stir the leaves as it brews--just let the leaves sit in hot water. Be civilized--don't rush!
3. Don't use a strainer. This is a tough one--especially if you are on the go--but strainers constrict the leaves, making it harder for them to unfurl, which then makes it more difficult for the leaves to bleed into the water. Now I'm not saying you should never, ever use a tea strainer again in your life (I will still use them!), but if you have time, pour the tea directly into the pot and let them stew.
4. Always use quality tea. I know it's hard, but you will have to give up the tea bags! Most tea bags use the dregs of the tea leaves and the tea bags themselves have harmful chemicals in them--yuck! So stick to good loose leaf tea from a supplier you trust--you can thank me later. ;) Then use 1-2 tablespoons of tea per 8 ounces of water to get a strong cup.
5. Start with cold, filtered water. If you don't filter the water, the tea can take on the taste of whatever minerals come through the tap. Cold water ensures that your water boils nicely without tasting flat.
At its very best, tea is a break from the world, a hug in a cup, a consolation, a celebration, a soother, and a pick-me-up--all depending on what the drinker needs. In any case, make sure that you treat your tea as a self-care ritual in the midst of your day. Take the time to brew a good cup--it is so worth it!
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