The Great Tea Debate

The Great Tea Debate

There's been a flurry of articles recently claiming to understand how to make the perfect cup of tea. Their claims are interesting to say the least so we've put the key points to the test with our team of tea buyers, blenders and tasting experts. Let's see what they say....

Add salt?

The Claim: Try sipping a cuppa with a pinch of salt. The recommendation made by American chemistry professor Dr Michelle Francl to bring tea back from the brink of bitterness.

Us: Interesting! We’d say, choose good tea, brew it properly and you will avoid bitterness.

Cup or mug? 

The Claim: A stoneware mug is best for heat, a teacup and saucer is best for loose leaf, and a porcelain cup with a thin rim is best for that delicate mouth-to-cup feel.

Us: It’s personal, we don’t mind. The thicker the mug, the more heat it will retain, but then again, a delicate cup and saucer is just the ticket for an authentic afternoon tea experience. Whatever the mug, beaker or cup, try warming it to the same temperature as your tea before using it to brew – it helps the infusion. 

Look out for our limited edition fine bona china beakers launching later this year! 

Loose leaf or bag?

The Claim : Most tea bags are made with ‘fannings’, essentially dust, the poor-quality ends of tea leaves crushed up. George Orwell also wrote: ‘The tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison [it].”’

Us: It’s true. Unfortunately, a lot of cheaper tea bags are made with poor-quality tea dust – but not Ringtons tea. We source tea that’s been grown with care, and blend it for flavour, whether it’s for a tea bag or a loose blend. We say it depends on your lifestyle and what you prefer. Tea bags are convenient; but loose tea feels special. You can recycle tea bags in your food waste and put loose-leaf tea straight into your garden compost bin.

Should you use a teapot?  

The Claim: Our friends at Fortnum & Mason say a teapot is essential for making the perfect cup of tea. But it’s also brilliant for when you’re entertaining. 

Us: We couldn’t agree more – teapots are perfect for a communal cuppa, or when you’re feeling too lazy to go back into the kitchen to get a top up. Just take the teapot, let it brew and make a cuppa from your couch. But then again, there’s nothing wrong with making tea in a mug either, it's all about what suits you.

The brewing process

The Claim: The lighter the tea, the lower the temperature. Most black teas need about 96C, and green teas need 70C. Never re-boil the water. 

Us: Yep, we agree. If you’re using a temperature-controlled kettle, the optimum temperature for brewing black tea is ideally 95-98 degrees Celsius. If your kettle shows temperature readings, we recommend using water that has reached 98 degrees, as it holds more oxygen than boiled water. 

Always use freshly drawn water for your tea, and if you’re serious about your brew, you can use a water filter to eliminate any flavours or impurities within the water. Hard water contains a higher mineral content, resulting in a darker, denser tea, whereas soft water makes for a more desirable flavour. Re-boiling water in your kettle isn’t ideal either - it will reduce oxygen levels, resulting in a blander-tasting tea.

Brew time

The Claim: Anywhere between two and three minutes with loose lea, Don’t stir and don’t squeeze it. For me, a two-minute brew is just the ticket.

Us: Brew for four minutes, trust us. Take a break, make it properly, and let the flavour reveal itself. However we understand the urge to dip, swish and remove the bag, especially when pressed for time; but give the four minute brew a try if you can.

Milk - first or last?

The Claim: Is this even a debate?... everyone puts it in last, right? 

Us: Historically, milk was added first to stop delicate china cracking from the addition of boiling hot tea to the cup. But it’s really a case of science, common sense, and how you’re making your tea. If you brew in your cup and add the milk first, you’ll lower the temperature of the boiled water, inhibiting the infusion of your tea, so it’s best to add it after you’ve removed the tea bag. If using a teapot, it’s your choice. 

The ideal colour

The Claim: The colour of toffee, caramel, bronze… 

Us: Golden and bright, every time. We even have a north-facing tasting room, so sunlight can’t influence our judgement of teas throughout the day; a consistently bright and golden tea is indicative of a quality product. 

Finally, any sugar? 

The Claim: Absolutely no sugar.

Us: Typically, no... but tea is emotional, right? We won’t judge you if you’re having a day when you need a little cup of comfort with an added spoonful of sugar. 

Source for ‘The Claim’ content:

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