It might seem like a simple brew, but there are many factors that influence the taste of your morning cuppa. Vitika Bhatia looks at tips to take your cup from standard to sensational
Tea will always be the favourite beverage of the intellectuals. While there are some reliant rules to be followed, at the end of the day, a cup of tea is so very personal but a perfect cup of tea can be so much more. The right amount of warmth, aroma and flavour moulds the mundane act of having tea into an act of self-care, healing and a multisensory experience.
The “just add water” mentality can make people think that tea is a no-brainer of a beverage, but it truly is an art. Ironically, it’s all down to science to get it right. When true tea aficionados make tea, they are well aware that it’s all in the details.
We bring you ways to perfect that imperfect cup.
1. It all starts with water
Always use freshly drawn filtered cold water in the kettle. Tea loves oxygen as it helps the flavour develop. Most of us are guilty of reboiling water that’s already in the kettle. This is a big no!
If you keep boiling the water in the kettle it loses all of its oxygen and then you are left with a really flat cup of tea. If you boil the kettle with fresh water you will be left with a full cup of oxygenated tea that tastes just divine.
2. Get the right water temperature
Boiling is responsible for the oxygen level in water and the right amount brings out the best flavours of the tea along with containing its natural aroma. Most black teas need around 96°C, and green teas around 70°C. Tea needs oxygen, so don’t reboil water as this takes a lot of the oxygen out and will leave your tea tasting a bit metallic.
3. Pick the best tea leaves
Most tea connoisseur will tell you that loose leaf tea is better quality. That’s because tea bags often contain broken or partial leaves in the bags. These bits and pieces are tea fannings and dust. Loose tea leaves contain less of the potent polyphenols and antioxidants that make it a better choice and good for your health. When it comes to buying quality tea, visiting a tea house is a great place to start sampling different teas.
4. The formula for a perfect brew
Brewing the perfect cup of tea is fairly simple. You will extract the most pleasure from fine tea, steeped with care. But how to brew the perfect cup of hot tea?
The way a cup of tea is brewed plays an enormous part in how the tea finally tastes. The optimum brewing time is two minutes. According to experts, the longer a tea is brewed for, the higher its caffeine and antioxidant content. A tea brewed for 30 seconds contained 35 milligrams of caffeine, while a five-minute brew increased the figure to 50 milligrams.
Take the lid off. Taking the lid off while brewing or steeping gets more oxygen to the tea leave. The more the oxygen, the better the taste.
5. A good tea cup
If you are going for the style instead of the type, you are doing it wrong. Choosing the right tea cup is a personal preference but it plays a major role in how your tea is going to taste. Porcelain, glass and bone china are best choices for tea ware as they won’t alter the taste of the tea. Stainless steel is a big no as they leech iron and nickel into your drink. Size and shape matters too! Traditional tea cups are small, holding just 40 ml-80 ml for a few sips which is a perfect amount for strong infusions.
Size and shape effects the texture of the tea. The wrong shape, type and size does not allow heat to fritter evenly. Tea cup should be wider at top, even in angle at bottom so that your tea cools precisely.
6. Add milk the right way
We’ve also developed the practise of adding milk after pouring the tea in a cup. It’s not the right way!
The order depends on how you are brewing your tea. If you are using a teapot, (which is recommended choice as tea needs space to brew and teapot provides that), add the milk first and then the tea. Milk will get heated to the same temperature as the tea and it will break down all rich proteins at the same level ensuring great aroma and taste. Milk should be room temperature or chilled for best taste.
7. Remove the leaves
We allow the tea leaves to rest in the hot water for more than three minutes, as we believe that it will help us in extracting the maximum flavour and the aroma of the tea leaves.
It is recommended to remove the tea leaves after three minutes. The tea leaves, if from a premium brand or high-quality, can be re-used with the help of tea infusers as they have higher levels of oxidation. Tea leaves on an average can be re-steeped three to four times after the first brew. By contrast, low quality tea leaves cannot maintain its best features as well as premium, high grade teas.