George Sowden shares some thoughts about making tea
So how do we get to that perfect cup?
1. The first consideration for any self-respecting tea drinker has to be, forget about teabags. They are the leftovers of the crop and do not offer the quality of real loose-leaf tea. Even if the bags are easy when it comes to cleaning up, they do not match the functionality inherent in my design of SoftBrew™ teapot – a large spacious filter that gives the tealeaves room to breath and infuse to fully release all the taste. Add to this the convenience with which the leaves can be removed from the pot, whenever you want, by simply taking out the filter and swilling it under running water.
2. Making the tea starts with the choice of one of the many varieties that have been developed through the centuries. All tea, originally from China, comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, but depending on the way it is processed, the resulting teas vary. They can generally be classified into six main groups: white, yellow, green, oolong, black and post fermented, of which white, green, oolong and black are the most common.
Shopping for different varieties of teas, and the pleasure of discovering the tastes, is not time wasted.
3. The very best tea is brewed using loose tealeaves. Do not use a small filter, or paper tea bags, as they will affect the taste, trap the tealeaves and restrict proper infusion.
4. Whichever tea you choose it should be brewed in a teapot. A tea aficionado will have more than one. The best materials are porcelain or Zisha clay (sometimes called Chinese terracotta).
Stainless steel, glass or earthenware pots are very much cheaper, but cool quickly and do not give the same satisfying results. Considering that real tea-lovers will treasure their teapots for a lifetime, the expenditure on a good one is money wisely spent.
5. When you buy an unfamiliar tea, ask advice about the temperature of the water recommended for the infusion.
Black tea should normally be brewed with boiling water, but white, yellow and green teas are delicate, so be careful with the water temperature.
Warm the teapot before with hot water in the traditional way: it usually helps to give a richer flavoured tea.
6. One question you will need to ask yourself – how strong shall I make the tea? The great thing about a teapot is that it is a very simple and adaptable tool.
The number of ‘rules’ on how to use it is few – you really can please yourself. If the tea is not strong enough for your taste, simply add more leaves next time around.
7. To make good tea, the water has to be very good. This is difficult in modern cities, but for the lucky ones that have access to soft spring-like water, the tea will be better.
8. A point to note: the stainless steel Sowden SoftBrew™ filter is permanent and can be rinsed out easily in cold water.
It does not need to be put in the dishwasher, or require soap to clean it.
And it is non-reactive to food, so it will not affect the taste of the tea. Sometimes the paper used for teabags can be noticed on tasting and teabags create unnecessary waste.
With the SoftBrew™ teapot you will throw nothing away except the used, organic tealeaves.
If you have the opportunity, put them on the garden, they are a great fertilizer.