Jennifer Commins, tea sommelier and president of Pluck Tea, tells us how to make a cuppa fit for a Brit.
Buy high-altitude teas. Up in the mountains, there’s less oxygen. Mosquitoes are not breeding as quickly, so fewer–if any–pesticides are required. And plants have to work harder to thrive at a height; slower growth gives them more time to develop complex flavours.
Smell your tea leaves for freshness; if exposed to moisture, they get a musty smell, like grandmother’s attic. Green teas should have a grassy scent.
Look at the your teas carefully too. Green ones should be brilliant emerald; herbs, fruits and flowers should be bright.
Buy teas loose and store them in a cool, dry, dark place in a tin, or in jars in a closed cupboard. Stored well, they should keep up to six months.
If your teas get a bit past it, you can make your own blends and use them as ice tea, then try them as a cocktail base or mixed with juices.
Always add your water to the tea, not the tea bag or strainer to the water–otherwise it just floats around on top. Filtered tap water is great.
Never use distilled water because there’s no mineral or salt component.
You can experiment with different bottled waters, if you’re a tea geek, as certain minerals will pull out different flavours. But don’t use reverse osmosis water: it just makes a bad cup of tea. It makes the tea crystal clear, which is beautiful, but it just doesn’t extract the flavours.
For black and herbal teas, use freshly boiled water right away.
Green and white teas should be steeped at about 180 degrees. If you don’t have kettle that shows temperature, boil your kettle fully and let it sit for five minutes, or pour from height, so the stream of water cools. If you’re in a rush, add a shot of cold water to green tea leaves then add hot water on top. If you use water at the wrong temperature, it brews yellow instead of green.
Black and herbal teas need 3-5 minutes of steeping for the flavours to develop.
Green teas need a maximum of 3 minutes. A subtle sweetness and freshness emerges between two and three minutes, but go further and the tea gets bitter. There’s a sweet spot.
For loose leaf teas you can buy sustainably harvested pulp teabags. Beware of tea pyramids: They often have plastic in them. Some companies have versions made from corn-based product, but by and large, they use nylon.
Metal strainers are great too, but they can rust if you get cheap ones: any orange discolouration means you’re getting extra iron!
Green teas pair well with Asian dishes. They also have an amazing relationship with chocolate.
Black teas pair well with creamy things, like crème brulée and even cheeses, which people don’t often think about. The tannins in black tea, just like in red wine, are mellowed by cheese. Heavy meats and grilled things are good with a brew too: Think about traditional deep south barbecue and iced tea.
To find out more about Pluck Tea and win your own custom-blended and -packaged tea–value: $100–follow this link.
Coffee more your thing? Follow this one!
And please do tell us how you like your cuppa in the comments section.