Mastering the Art of Tea
Ready for a cuppa tea and a lie down? We're here to help, with a quite to making the perfect brew.
Whether it’s an aromatic French Earl Grey or something a little punchier like matcha, a steaming hot cup of tea ticks all of the sensory boxes. And, it’s the perfect excuse to put your feet up and relax for just a few minutes.
An ancient beverage traditionally made from the cured leaves of the tea tree (camellia sinensis), tea is now the catchword for all sorts of exotic blends and infusions of dried fruit, herbs, spices and foliage. Black, green, white and oolong teas are classics made the traditional way from brewing tea tree leaves; the level of processing and oxidisation that they go through determines which colour category they fall into. Herbal and fruit teas aren’t really ‘teas’ but are made by infusing dried bark, flowers, seeds and fruit extracts in boiling water. Chai teas are traditionally black teas spiked with a mixture of fragrant spices like cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, but you’ll also find plenty of modern milky takes on chai.
As any tea pro will tell you, preparing tea is an art form in itself, in many cultures, a serious ritual. And, while it’s not hard to pop on the kettle and make an ok cuppa, if you want to create something a little more special for yourself and your guests, you’ll need to master some fundamentals. Here are our top tea hacks that will have you on your way to preparing the perfect brew:
- Quality is tea. Tea bags are an easy option, but if you’re serious about producing a top-notch brew you’ll want to invest in some fresh loose tea leaves. When purchasing tea leaves that are already packaged, price point is a good indicator of quality, but if you can touch and smell the tea leaves before buying, even better. Good quality, fresh tea leaves will be slightly thick and rubbery to the touch, won’t be broken, dusty or crumbly, and they should give off clean, pungent aromas.
- Point of infusion. If you want to avoid the grit of tea leaves floating around in your cuppa, get yourself a good infuser, which will allow the tea to brew gently without any dregs spilling over. For a single cup of tea, a small infuser or tea ball is all you need (we love the Fred Purr Cat Tea Infuser), but if you’re making more than one cuppa, a classic teapot, a teapot with an infuser, or a French- or Assam-style tea press is essential.
- Warm it up. The simplest tip for keeping your tea hotter for longer is warming up your pot and cups beforehand. Simply fill them with freshly boiled water. Let them sit while you make your tea on the stove, then give the water a swill around and empty the cups just before pouring your tea.
- Use ‘fresh’ boiled water. It’s tempting to top up the jug and reboil the same water that’s been sitting there all day, but stale water won’t help your tea game. Take a moment to empty out any old water and refill the jug with just as much fresh water as you need (you don’t need to fill it to the top each time). Pour your freshly boiled water over your tea leaves (not the other way around), cover with a saucer or pop the lid on, and wait for the magic to happen.
- Let it steep. Brewing time will depend on the type of tea you’re making and personal preference, so be prepared for some trial and error. As a basic guideline though, black tea leaves like English Breakfast tea and Ceylon need 5 minutes to steep, green and white teas need 2 to 3 minutes, and milder teas like chamomile, rooibos or lemon can brew for up to 7 minutes. Once your tea is done steeping, remove the tea bag or leaves or you’ll find your brew goes bitter.
- The ultimate cup. You wouldn’t drink a nice wine from a styrofoam cup, so why settle for an average cup for your tea? Invest in quality cups or mugs that look elegant, feel comfortable to hold and sip from (hint: the finer the lip of the vessel, the nicer it will feel), wash well, and are made from either non-porous quality materials like Bone China, porcelain or glass, or finely glazed stoneware (we love the Bayly & Collis Original Mug collection, $19.99). Quality tea cups and mugs make all the difference to the aromas and flavours of your tea - and they’ll still be in the cupboards, getting regular use, for years to come.
- A little something extra. Classic black teas and chai teas lend themselves nicely to a splash of milk, while green teas and tisanes are usually best served with hot water - and maybe a small squeeze of lemon to taste. There’s no hard and fast rules about how much milk to add, but the milk should go in after the tea has steeped and the leaves or tea bag have been removed. If you can’t resist sweet tea, pop in a small spoonful of sugar or honey and stir gently until dissolved.
- Sip and savour. Tea is best enjoyed in slow, delicate sips, among good company, or beautiful surrounds. It’s the slowness of tea that makes it one of life’s greatest simple pleasures. But if you absolutely have to enjoy tea on the go (who’s not busy these days?!), decant it into a quality Thermos flask and keep it toasty for several hours.
- Share the love: Tea leaves in lovely packaging make great gifts.