With 165 million cups a day drunk in Britain, it’s little wonder that tea remains the staple drink in British life. With a renewed demand for artisan and niche teas from younger consumers driving the emergence of alternative providers, as well as a return to cool for afternoon tea, Britain has reidentified with its national drink.
So no surprise then that there is now a National Tea Day. And guess what? It’s today! So in celebration of the traditional English cuppa we consulted Sebastian Pole, medical herbalist and tea expert, on how to make the perfect brew. From filtering the water to achieving optimum temperature, follow these steps and you’ll be admired by your mum, her mates, and the entire congregation of your local WI, amongst many others.
Sebastian, Chief Herbsmith for Pukka Herbs, told us: “Just as selecting incredible organic herbs is important for a great cup of tea, so are the minute details of preparation such as the water temperature, the infusion time and the quality of water. Follow these simple tips to maximise the health-giving brilliance and delicate natural flavours of our botanical kingdom. Happy National Tea Day!”
Filter your water
Water should be fresh, pure, clear, odourless and low in minerals. So it’s best to use a water filter before making your tea.
Don’t overboil your water
Overboiling causes the minerals to escape the solution and collect as a film on the surface. This upsets the balance between the stronger tannins and some of the subtle volatile oils and amino acids in the herbs. Remember not to overfill your kettle (use only enough for the cups or pot) and use a renewable energy supplier like Good Energy.
Use freshly boiled water
Re-boiling water risks concentrating certain undesirable compounds including nitrates and salts that may be in your water.
Not too hot – or too cold
Really hot water extracts more bitter and astringent compounds, making the tea (especially green tea) taste harsh. Water that is too cool on the other hand lacks the power to entice the flavours out of the herbs, making the tea taste weak. Herbal teas should be made with freshly boiled water at a temperature of around 90–95OC/ 190–205OF.
Delicate teas such as chamomile, mint or green teas infuse in a lower water temperature. Oolongs (traditional Chinese teas) and fruit teas need a slightly hotter temperature whilst black teas infuse at an even hotter temperature.
As a guide:
– Green tea – 80-85OC / 175-185OF
– Oolongs (around) 85-90OC / 185-195OF
– Black teas (around) 95OC / 205OF
Infuse the tea for the right length of time
Delicate aromatic flowers, leaves and seeds need less infusion time; from five to 10 minutes. Harder fruits, roots and barks need a longer infusion time, from 10 up to 20 minutes.
The right cup or pot
There is no ‘right’ cup or pot to make and drink herbal tea from. If you’re brewing tea in a pot, then choose a sturdy one so it keeps your tea warm. The choice of cup is all yours – a good trick is to keep a lid on your cup when drinking aromatic herbs to prevent the valuable volatile oils from evaporating away. And of course, always drink your tea in good company or in a relaxed environment to full appreciate its taste and benefits.
To make A Cup of Love from Sebastian’s new herbal tea recipe book Cleanse, Nurture and Restore with Herbal Tea, follow the guide below:
‘A Cup of Love’ – serves 3 cups of love
· 3 grams Chamomile flowers
· 2 grams Limeflower
· 2 grams Marigold (calendula) petal
· 1 gram Rose flower
· 1 gram Lavender flower
· 1 gram Licorice root
Put all of the ingredients in a pot. Add 500ml/18floz freshly boiled filtered water. Leave to steep for 10–15 minutes, then strain and let the love flow. Happy National Tea Day!