Founded by Thomas Twining in 1706, the original Twinings shop still stands on the London’s Strand today. Distributing tea to more than 100 countries worldwide, having held a Royal Warrant to every king and queen since the 18th century and with over 300 years worth of experience, Twinings is a true tea dynasty. So if enjoying a soothing cup of tea is in your daily ritual, there’s no one better to advise you on how to make the perfect cup than tea ambassador, Stephen Twinings.
“The current trend is about enjoyable health, so taste is paramount. Tea drinkers are more knowledgeable about the subject and the different flavours available, so prefer to choose different teas for different times of day. On colder days, I like to drink English Breakfast on my return home after a nice walk with the dog. On summer afternoons I drink more green tea, as I prefer the lighter taste.
“Brewing the perfect cup is about getting the full flavour from the tea, and the health benefits will naturally follow. At home, especially when entertaining I use loose-leaf teas, but in the office I always use bags, as they are much more convenient to dispose of. A good tea bag can make a great cup, as long as you treat it right.”
The Basics: Storage & Cleaning
Store your tea in an airtight container – never in the fridge, and if you use a glass jar, keep it out of the daylight. Clean the equipment regularly. Your teapot should not be stained inside, as this adds a stale and bitter taste to the next brew. To remove a stain, add several tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda/ baking powder and pour in boiling water. Soak for three hours, then rinse thoroughly several times. Never put your teapot in the dishwasher – all it needs on a daily basis is a good rinse.
Always empty the kettle first. Fresh cold water contains the most dissolved oxygen, so gets the most flavour off the leaves. Previously boiled water has less oxygen, which means less flavour.
Tea needs the heat of the water to brew thoroughly, so if you do not warm your pot, then it absorbs some heat out of the water. This drop in temperature means tea cannot give off the full flavour.
This is always the hardest area to give guidance. Tea is a very personal drink. However, the principle is the ratio between the amount of tea and the amount of water affects the strength of the resulting brew. I would call this the intensity of taste, rather than strength. As a rough guide, 10g of tea to a litre of water gives a good starting point, as it will be neither too strong nor weak.
Add the water just as it comes to the boil.* There is no point allowing your kettle to continue to boil the water, as it cannot get any hotter. So supervise your kettle, and just as it reaches boiling point add it to the tea. Allowing a rolling boil drives out the precious dissolved oxygen, which results in a flat, dull tasting cup.
*Green tea is an exception. If you add boiling water to green tea, it will almost certainly produce a bitter cup. Allow the kettle to cool for 5 minutes, having just boiled, before adding the water.
A good cup or mug needs to be fluted outwards, as then you are able to engage your sense of smell, which increases your ability to enjoy the full flavour and more delicate parts of the flavour. A thinner lip on the cup or mug helps to alert the body to what is coming, thus heightening the senses, so you can taste more in the tea.
Allow tea to brew, then stir. If you make tea in a cup or mug with a teabag, you will notice the colour washes off almost instantly. Colour is one of three components of tea and has nothing to do with flavour, so please do not be deceived by it. It takes 3 minutes to make a great tasting tea from a teabag, and longer with loose-leaf teas. As the leaf size increases, so does the length of the brewing time. Stir the tea before pouring, as flavour will sit at the bottom of the pot.
Serve. Pour and enjoy. Pair it with:
Earl Grey is perfect with a simple honey sandwich, sweet cakes, treacle tart, meringue pie, crème brûlée or a Red Leicester cheese.
Lady Grey with marinated venison, roast turkey, smoked cod, sherry trifle, or meringues.
English Breakfast works well with roast lamb, crumpets or a slice of rich dark chocolate cake!
Pure Green tea with a white fish or cream cheese.