YOU probably think you know how to make a cup of tea. Stick the bag in a cup or the tea in a pot and pour over boiling water.
How wrong you are.
Making tea is not like some fast fling in the back of a car. That’s what coffee is for. Tea is a slow, meaningful seduction. At least that’s the thinking of 10th generation tea man Stephen Twining.
In town to roll out a new boutique range of premiums teas, Mr Twining took time out to demonstrate the fine art of making a perfect cup of tea.
Mr Twining said the most common mistake was not recognising there are three separate components to the perfect cup: colour, body (also known as ‘mouth feel’) and flavour.
Most people are tricked into thinking that when they get the colour right they’ve got the whole thing covered. Wrong again.
Jiggling the tea bag or swirling the pot until you get that deep, burnt caramel colour is all well and good. But just because you get the colour right, doesn’t mean you have the right flavour or body.
The bottom line is there is only one way to make a great cup of tea, and that is slowly and patiently. Seductively. And it all starts with boiling the kettle.
• Step One: Always use fresh tap water. The oxygen in the water is really important to creating a good cup of tea because it releases the flavour.
• Step Two: Start boiling and don’t walk away. You want to pour the water the moment it finishes boiling. If you walk away you will forget and come back to a cooling kettle. And that’s not cool.
• Step Three: If you do come back to a cooling kettle it is still probably better to use that (unless you’ve been gone for hours then you need to start again) than reboil, says Mr Twining. Or at least it’s the lesser of two evils. If you boil again you boil off the oxygen (see Point One).
• Step Four: If you are using a tea pot, pour some hottish water from the kettle half way through the boil and swish it around so it’s not stone cold when you pour in your tea. Empty the water out properly after warming so your tea doesn’t drown in that lukewarm water.
• Step Five: Put your tea in. Make it good quality. Life is too short for sad, bad tea. So use the best you can afford. If you are making a pot, generally put one teaspoon for every person and one for the pot. This can mean playing around with the amount of water you put in because if it’s a really big pot and you fill it up, you will need more than a couple of spoonfuls.
• Step Six: Always keep your tea somewhere airtight. A ceramic container is good. So is a tea tin. If you are storing the tea in glass make sure it’s kept in the cupboard because light can affect the freshness.
• Step Seven: If you are drinking black tea pour the boiling water over and brew for 2.5 to three minutes. It’s important to give it time to brew because it needs this long to properly develop the flavour. This is the bit where you need to be patient. Don’t jiggle. Just wait. For green tea don’t brew longer than two minutes because it gets bitter. And gross.
• Step Eight: If you are using a pot give it a tiny stir with a spoon or turn the pot a few times to bring the deeper flavour from the bottom.
• Step Nine: Pour and add milk if you have it. It is historically correct to pour the milk in first, but acceptable and ultimately a better method to pour the milk in afterwards so you can adjust it to your liking. Sugar and honey are frowned upon – at least by Mr Twining, a tea purist. But ultimately he is also a tea lover and wants you to love your tea. So do what you want and enjoy your cuppa.