In news that is bound to divide tea obsessives, Nigella Lawson has revealed she likes to leave the teabag in her mug while she drinks it.
Cue: tea purists everywhere dropping their fine bone china cups in horror!
While the food guru likely leaves the bag in the mug because she likes her brew as strong as it comes, tea experts have revealed that leaving your teabag in while you drink isn’t the greatest idea if you want a really great cuppa.
“The perfect tea is all about the art of timing,” explains Gwen Hustwit, General Manager, Creative and Marketing at leading luxury tea company Newby Teas.
“There may be slight variation according to taste, but each tea does have an optimum brewing time. Chinese tea ceremonies, perfected over centuries, are very precise across the entire process. By contrast, many offices, hotels and restaurants today leave tea in cups and pots far too long,” she adds.
Gwen goes on to explain that the length of time you leave the bag in needs to vary according to tea type.
“Black teas should be left in for between two to three minutes. Five minutes is the absolute maximum. Going over that will make any tea become strong, horrible and bitter. Tea should not be over-brewed and teabags should never, ever be left in the cup when drinking.”
Are you reading Nige?
With that in mind, we wondered what other faux-pas we might be making in our quest to make the perfect cuppa? So here’s our expert at-a-glance guide to brewing the very best cup of Rosie.
Storing tea correctly is essential. “The perfect cup begins well before the water has been boiled,” explains Gwen Hustwit. “Tea leaves are fragile and easily corrupted by heat, light, moisture and air pollution, so once the seal has been broken, certain steps must be taken to preserve the integrity of the leaf.”
Gwen suggests using a re-sealable pouch or a caddy with an airtight lid to store the tea, and keep it at a neutral temperature away from light.
“The quality of the water used can make a big difference to the taste to your tea,” advises Gwen. So choose either filtered water or natural spring water with low or medium mineral content. And always use freshly boiled water for the perfect cup, as re-boiled water will have lost much of its oxygen content.
“Certain teas infuse best at certain temperatures. Black teas flourish with freshly, fully boiled water, but extreme heat scalds lighter, more delicate white and green teas. For these teas, let the water cool to between 70°C and 80°C before infusing,” says Gwen.
When it comes to making the top-notch cuppa, quantity as well as quality counts. “When preparing one cup (approximately 250ml) of loose leaf tea one heaped teaspoon, or two grams of loose leaf, will suffice,” says Gwen. “Depending on the desired strength of a tisane, often two teaspoons are recommended. For brewing a teapot, we recommend one for the pot and an additional teaspoon for every person.”
Length of infusion
Of course the length you leave your tea to brew can be a matter of personal taste, but often the optimum length of infusion depends on the type of tea and leaf you’re using. “Teabags require less time as the leaves are smaller, and the increased surface area lends itself to quicker infusions,” explains Gwen. “Loose leaf teas require slightly more time, with black teas and tisanes requiring the longest length of infusion.”
So there you have it. But remember there’s no right or wrong way to make tea as long as you enjoy it that way.
Strong, milk, half a sugar if you’re asking?
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