I have gone to great lengths for a cup of tea before, but never have I spent over an hour traversing London for the promise of the perfect brew. My journey involved three tube changes, a brisk ten minute walk past some quirky art, a right turn at the ‘halo’, a left turn somewhere else along the way whilst keeping an eye out for wooden decking and pot plants. My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it now… I am directionally-challenged, I got a little lost, and ironically, I could have really done with a cup of tea.
When I finally arrived at Tea Studio there was no tsk-tsking at my tardiness, just a warm welcome from Kyle, a passionate tea connoisseur and my teacher for the evening’s Tea Brewing Masterclass. Oh yes, you can be a master at brewing tea… something which I definitely am not. Not by a certain someone’s standards (he claims my efforts are too weak) and as I learnt, not by Kyle’s standards either.
Making a good cup of tea requires a little more thought than throwing a tea bag into a cup, adding hot water, and stirring. I knew that. I did, truly. But exactly what that extra thought is, I wasn’t too sure… I’ve heard people get on their high horse about only buying ultra expensive tea or only drinking out of certain cups, but what really makes a difference between a good and bad cup of tea?!
Time Is Of The Essence
Too little brewing time and the tea is weak and tasteless, too long and it goes bitter. This sounds so obvious yet, we’ve all gone and brewed tea for much, much longer than we should have, leaving us with something which is slightly more pleasant than drinking paint stripper. Each type of tea has a different brewing time so stick with what it says on the pack, and when your time’s up, take the leaves out!
I have a lazy habit of leaving them in the pot which means they continue to stew and get bitter even when the water has cooled – breaking this habit will mean better tasting tea and I can steep the leaves at least once or twice more!
Some Teas Like It Hot, While Others Do Not
Water temperature is crucial in ensuring you get the best flavour out of your tea leaves. Most black teas can handle being bathed in boiling hot water, but do that to green or white teas and you’re basically burning those leaves and bidding farewell to the delicate flavours!
If you’re really dedicated to the cause you can buy kettles which will heat the water to a specific temperature, who knew such gadgets existed?! For those of us who are less technologically advanced, we can try transferring the water between vessels, which apparently will reduce the temperature by about 5ºc each time, or just stick a thermometer in the water and let it cool the old fashioned way.
Separation Makes a Brew You’ll Be Fonder Of
Tea leaves need a bit of personal space; they don’t like to be all jammed together in a little tea ball or tiny bag as they need room to unfurl and release their flavour. As so much of the tea we drink is already in bags, this was not something I’d really thought of but it made so much sense once I saw how much the leaves opened up during the brewing process.
If you’re really serious about keeping your leaves separate, invest in this ingenious (coincidentally called the IngenuiTea) gadget which lets you steep the tea in plenty of space then decant it into your teapot or mug while leaving the leaves ready for the next steep. Otherwise, just make sure you get a teapot with a large filter in the middle!
During our masterclass we went through all these dos and don’ts of brewing as well as discussing the history of different tea ceremonies and customs, sharing a few stories, and busting some tea myths along the way… Yes, all tea does have caffeine, and yes, matcha tea has great health benefits, even when you put it into your cookie dough! The world of tea is complex but I think if I keep in mind those three fundamental aspects, my tea-drinking experience is set to be much improved!
Are you a tea connoisseur? How do you make the perfect cuppa?
Tea Studio offer a range of tea classes, but also afternoon teas and tea inspired supperclubs which sound fantastic! Thanks to Kyle at Tea Studio for teaching how to make a truly good cup of tea, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!