Saturday, December 11, 2010

How to Make a Good Cup of Tea

Recently I attended a meeting of the local Rotary Club where the guest speaker was a coffee and tea specialist. He planned to deliver a talk on a topic that seemed to me at the time to be a rather boring subject.

But it certainly was not and instead it turned out to be both interesting and instructive.

It was how to make a good cup of tea.

Above - A tea leaf (Image from Wikipedia Commons - click to enlarge)

Tea making goes back many centuries and was originally practiced in China, India, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Burma before later spreading to Russia, Japan and Korea. Tea itself became a valuable trade item with the West during the nineteenth century and now continues to be widely enjoyed in most countries.

A tea plantation in India (Image from Wikipedia Commons - click to enlarge)

The famous English vessel the "Cutty Sark" was a fast sailing ship specially built for transporting tea from China back to Britain and was one of several vessels of the time known as "tea clippers".

But according to our Rotary Club expert, despite our great familiarity with this drink it continues to be be prepared wrongly, producing a bitter taste that we have to mask by adding milk and sugar. He demonstrated by preparing a brew using the correct method and the result was transforming - a great taste with no milk or sugar required.

The "Cutty Sark" preserved at Greenwich, England. (Image from Wikipedia Commons - Atelier Joly - click to enlarge)

Here's how you do it.

Use leaf tea (not tea bags) - preferably from India, China or Sri Lanka as these tend to be the best quality. Measure out two or three teaspoons into your pot depending on how strong you want to make it. Then add boiling water, as soon as possible after reaching the boiling point. If you let it cool before addition the flavour is degraded.

And now the vital point - let it stand for 20 to 30 seconds BUT NO LONGER. After 30 seconds astringents are released from the tea leaves that produce an unpleasant and bitter taste.

You can then pour your tea into a cup - if possible through a filter - or you can separate it from the leaves into another pot. You'll find that a mild and smooth flavour is produced with no milk or sugar required.

The technique applies to all types of tea including the camomile, green and herbal varieties.

Common myths:

(1) Use a spoonful of tea for each person and add one for the pot - almost guaranteed to produce a strong and bitter brew.

(2) The pot should be heated with boiling water before the tea is added - this makes virtually no difference.

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