…without resorting to Google :p

Tea is one of those things that I did not think I knew much about, until someone asked me. Next thing I knew, I had rattled off a list of facts, and surprised myself entirely.

I therefore thought I would share those facts with you. I did not even like tea until my second or third year of university; having become hooked on coffee by the time I was thirteen, tea just tasted too weak in comparison. The list that follows therefore, I hope, will enlighten any tea novices and set them on a road to discovering tea’s multiple subtleties of flavour. Of course, if you have more to add, please don’t hesitate.

1) Tea gets its colour before it gets its flavour. I can’t remember where I heard this but in my experience it’s true. Just because the tea has apparently turned an alarmingly dark brown, don’t be fooled and chuck out the tea bag/leaves in a panic.

2) To this end, follow the instructions on the pack. Whether buying tea bags or tea leaves, the packs usually come with instructions for brewing times, whether or not to add milk etc. Follow the instructions even if it seems to go against your usual way of making tea – there are so many different teas out there that what you do to serve one tea may not work for another.

3) Don’t obliterate the tea with milk. I like my tea with milk, but really, just a splodge will do.

4) Filtered water really does make the tea taste better. If you are going to get serious about tea, invest in a Brita filter or similar. Even if you only ever use it for tea and coffee making, you will be grateful. The taste difference really is apparent.

5) Don’t pour directly boiled water onto the tea. After the water has come to boiling point, leave it for ten seconds before pouring it onto the tea. This is so that you don’t scald the leaves.

6) There is so much more to tea than English Breakfast. There is a whole world of teas out there that may even be as complex as the world of wine. If you don’t like English breakfast, try chai tea, green tea, Lapsang Souchong, or any of the other myriad teas out there. Whittard is a good place to begin.

7) Tea leaves require longer steeping than bags. That’s why it’s even more important to follow the pack instructions.

8 ) Tea leaves do have a sell-by date! They won’t go off as such but there will come a point when they’re past their best, so once you’ve bought them, use them. You should also store them correctly (ideally in an air-tight container) once opened to stop their flavour contaminating other foods and to stop other foods contaminating their flavour.

9) There’s no real rule about whether you should add milk before or after. All over the internet you will find disagreements about this. I personally don’t care what you do; I prefer to add it after so that I can see the exact effects on the tea. I would only reiterate my above opinion: add milk if you like, but do it sparingly!

10) Tea is best consumed afternoon style. Not really a Tea Fact but a conclusion come to myself. Tea on its own is nice. Tea with a biscuit or some cake is very nice. Tea with a multi-tier tray piled high with cakes and sandwiches and pastries is just super duper omnomnom nice. A meal in itself, I think you’ll agree. On a sort of side note, plenty of websites detail possible matches between tea and other flavours, allowing such pressing questions to be answered as “what tea does go best with white chocolate mud cake?” (Answer: Dragonwell, Matcha, Oolong, Silver Needle, Sencha, Darjeeling, or Yunnan.)

Agree? Disagree? Answers on a postcard…