Want to know how to make the perfect cup of tea? From tea cosies and porcelain cups, to water temperature and brewing times, our good friend Paul Onaih shows you how.
I think I have over 300 teas now, so you can imagine how much time I spend making sure I’m not without my favourite cup! People often ask me how to make the perfect cup of tea, and I always tell them the same thing: while there are some fail-safe rules to be followed, at the end of the day, a cup of tea is so personal. Really, there isn’t just one perfect way to make it – you should enjoy it just the way you like it.
To make your own perfect cup of tea, you’ll need:
- loose leaf tea
- an empty tea bag (you can buy bags from most loose leaf tea shops)
- a porcelain cup
- a thermometer
- a teapot
- a tea cosy
- MAKE YOUR OWN TEABAGS
Start by putting your loose leaf tea in the tea bag – I go by the rule of one teaspoon for me and one teaspoon for the pot. Loose leaf tea needs a lot of room to move about, so the bigger the bag, the better. This makes cleaning the teapot a lot easier, as you just lift the bag out with the tea when done and put it in the bin.
- GET THE RIGHT WATER TEMPERATURE The temperature of the water is really important, depending on which tea you’ll be drinking. Most black teas need around 96°C, and green teas around 70°C. You can buy some kettles that let you set the boiling temperature but if you don’t have one, it’s easy enough to measure with a thermometer. Tea needs oxygen, so don’t re-boil water as this takes a lot of the oxygen out and will leave your tea tasting a bit metallic. Once your kettle has boiled, pour the water into your teapot, then add your thermometer to check when the water has cooled to the appropriate temperature.
- CHECK THE BREWING TIME The time you leave the tea in the pot depends on the type of tea, so make sure you look for steeping instructions – most good-quality teas will tell you how long they need on the packet. Pop the bag in, and put your tea cosy over the pot to keep the water as close to the optimum temperature as possible. I take this time to pick out a healthy snack to have with my cuppa! The next step is really important. Before you serve the tea, remove the teabag from the pot. If you leave it in too long, it will over-steep and will taste really bitter. Don’t stir it and definitely don’t squeeze it. That will release the tannins (a bitter compound of tea), which will again make it taste too bitter.
- ALL ABOUT PORCELAIN Getting the right cup is really important. Don’t use plastic, as the tannins will stick to the side of the cup. Don’t use metal either, unless you want your tea to taste metallic. Lots of people think you should use ceramic but even that’s not perfect as it’s porous, so it will make your tea cool down too quickly. The best cup is porcelain. A porcelain cup will keep your tea super-tasty and was actually how tea used to be served when it first came over from China. Serving tea in porcelain cups is so wonderfully British. It’s become a part of our heritage and something that people travel hundreds of miles to come and enjoy. Taking the time to have tea like this is part of why I love drinking it so much. It doesn’t need to cost a lot. In fact, most of my cups are antiques from charity shops or flea markets ng and they have so much history to them. The vintage designs are beautiful and you can get whole sets for just a few pounds.
- CAREFULLY ADD YOUR MILK Now it’s time to add the milk. I like my tea milky, but it’s all personal preference. It’s only usually black teas that you add milk to, but be careful – too much calcium can cause a scum to form on the top of your drink. This can also come from hard water. If you live in a hard water area and really want to make the absolute perfect cup of tea, boil mineral water instead of tap water. Stirring usually gets rid of calcium too, but it’s a nicer experience just not to have it.
- SIT BACK AND RELAX
Finally, it’s time to relax. It’s such a beautiful experience to me to have a cup of tea and I make so many memories when I share it with family and friends. It brings people together, welcomes people into our homes and has long been a tradition in our hotel for that very reason. So cheers guys, hope you enjoy your cup today. And remember, only you know how you like your tea – just have fun making it!