Tea really is a multi-faceted gem. It is so very versatile, not only in the many different types of tea but also in the many possible infusions of the same tea leaves. We are often so used to builders’ tea bags that leaf teas can be a little baffling in their diversity and are considered daunting to prepare. In this series of articles, I will briefly explore the spectrum of teas from white through green to black – but first let me demystify the making of a cup of tea.
If you are using a tea bag, carry on doing exactly what you are doing. Industrially processed teas need boiling water and long steeping to bring out the flavour. Short infusion and lower temperatures will give you grey, tasteless water.
Hand-crafted leaf tea is an altogether more delicious undertaking. It’s like comparing a fish to a fish finger or a fillet of beef to a frozen hamburger. They need more precise cooking but are so much more rewarding.
Making good tea is a little like making a cake; you need to follow a recipe not just mix together some flour, butter and a few eggs and throw them all in the oven for an unspecified amount of time at any old temperature. There are three main criteria to pay attention to. Once you have mastered these, you can explore each tea in all its complexity and enjoy each one just the way you like it. The temperatures and times I have suggested are just guides. You are in control. And the way you like it is right.