Tips on selecting leaf tea and how to make a perfect cuppa
Like the world of wine, there are a myriad of different types of tea from various parts of the world (even Cornwall!) – each with their own special qualities. Trying out different teas is a most civilised hobby and if you’re used to sticking to just one rather predictable type of tea, you’re missing a trick.
Ceylon Orange Pekoe blends are some of the best quality teas in the world and perfect to pair with food. Again, think ‘wine’ – as different leaf teas can be matched with different meals, moods, moments and lifestyles. The term Orange Pekoe doesn’t denote an orange flavour, by the way, but instead the tea quality and refers to the different grades and leaf size of Ceylon tea, ie:
- Orange Pekoe – the best (uses whole leaves)
- Broken Orange Pekoe (broken leaves)
- Orange Pekoe Fannings (crushed leaves)
- Pekoe Dust (what’s left of the leaves)
- Dust 1 (the sweepings!) – sorry to say, this is what is put in most cheap paper teabags!
Apart from ensuring you buy good quality tea, it’s also lovely to enjoy a variety of blends during your day. For example, a perfect cup of tea in bed when you wake up, is Earl Grey (ideal with its fresh citrus notes). However, don’t be tempted to dumb down these delicious uplifting tones with milk! Then, at breakfast time, a perfect leaf tea choice is Ceylon English Breakfast Tea (bold, bright and refreshing). During mid morning when you need a boost, an aromatic cup of Orange Pekoe leaf tea blended with whole Ceylon spices like our (‘Christmas’ Ebony Chai) does the trick – especially when enjoyed with some dark chocolate!
The whole leaf Orange Pekoe tea pairs well with both sweet and savoury teatime treats, Earl Grey goes with lemony treats and fruity cakes, and Green Tea with vanilla creamy treats. Finally, for late afternoon and evening, green and white teas are perfect as these are naturally low in caffeine, with white tea having only a trace. Again, do consider drinking these teas black to taste them at their best. The only reason we have to add milk to ‘normal’ tea is to soften the harsh taste – but when you are using delightful premium leaf tea, it’s just not necessary! In fact, these Ceylon teas are grown close to the equator so they are naturally high in antioxidants and bright and smooth on the palate – with no bitterness.
Finally, how to make the Perfect Cup of Tea…
In truth, we all enjoy our teas differently according to our individual tastes. There are however four things to consider when making a really good cup, mug or pot of leaf tea…
1. Water quality – Use freshly boiled water and do not re-boil water as this removes oxygen which results in a dull cup of tea. Your tea is only as good as your water – if your water tastes good then your tea will. If it doesn’t, filtering your water should help.
2. Water temperature – Contrary to popular belief, quality leaf teas should not be scalded with boiling water (much the same as coffee beans). Black tea leaves are best infused just off the boil. Green and white tea leaves are more delicate so should be infused ideally at 80 degrees. This means leaving the freshly boiled water for about 5 minutes to cool down before infusing the tea. Scalding the green or white leaves can create bitter notes.
3. Brewing times – People differ when it comes to how strong they like their cup of tea. However to enjoy drinking your black leaf tea black, don’t brew it for too long. Over-infusing can create bitter tannin notes and the longer the tea is infused the greater the caffeine content. Green and white leaf teas need only be infused for 1-2 minutes as these are delicate light teas that should always be drunk without milk. The leaves can then be re-infused 2 or 3 times.
4. Milk and sugar? – Perhaps as a result of scalding tea leaves, or using inferior tea bags or over brewing we have as a nation historically drunk our tea with both milk and sugar. Quality whole leaf teas do not need milk and sugar and milk tends to dumb down a leaf tea’s character. The benefits of drinking your teas black are not only to enjoy a better tasting brew but they are better for you too. You are drinking a cup full of antioxidants known to be beneficial to health with no added fats or sugars. Black and green teas contain zero calories so no matter how many cups of tea you drink a day they won’t add to your overall calorie intake.
All excellent news, don’t you agree? So put that kettle on right now… the scones are freshly baked and awaiting!