Is There a Perfect English Tea?

Start with the right tea! (ETS Image)
Start with the right tea! (ETS Image)

The idea of perfect tea and being able to make that ideal cuppa seems to be all pervasive. We have featured several articles on this blog by fellow writer Bill Lengeman on this topic (see list at end of this article). Nevertheless, I am diving into the topic with gusto and adding to the huge mass of information currently out there. But with a bit of an added focus on the other use for “tea” — an actual meal.

Steeping the Perfect Cuppa

“Perfect” is highly subject here. A perfect cuppa tea is in a class with such fabled items as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and the EZ-form tax return. Only your own tastebuds can tell you if your goal of such epitomized steepage has been achieved. There are, however, some basic steps toward finally achieving what for you is that perfect cuppa.

  • Select the right tea, the one that will produce the flavor you are seeking. Malty, jammy like an Assam or black Ceylon tea. Fruity like a Nilgiri black tea. Floral like a jasmine tea. Grassy like a Japanese Sencha (green tea).
  • Look into the best ways to steep the tea. Black teas are usually steeped for 3 to 5 minutes in boiling water. Green teas use a cooler temperature (about 160° F) and a steeping of 1 to 3 minutes. Oolongs are steeped using water heated to about 180-190° F for about 1 to 3 minutes. And so on.
  • Explore different options such as steeping in a different style of vessel. Gaiwans have been used for centuries and are still a simple and effective steeping tool. Various teapot styles exist, some better for certain tea types than others. English Breakfast and other strong black teas are great when prepared in a Brown Betty, for example. Blooming (or flowering) teas are great when steeped in a glass teapot.

Hosting the Perfect English Tea

That’s “tea” as in the meal. Whether you call it Afternoon Tea, High Tea, Cream Tea, or something else. Here it depends on how authentic you want to be and how far back in the history of British teas you want to go. Personally, I like to keep things fairly modern and not have to heat my tea water on the fireplace hob. (Our new home doesn’t have a fireplace, so we’d have to barge in on a neighbor or fire up the little charcoal grill which would mean having to buy charcoal.)

Some items to include:

  • Bone china, including the teapot, teacups, saucers, and dessert plates. There is just something so British and classy about this type of china.
  • Real silverware.
  • Freshly baked sponge cakes with sugary icing.
  • Toast and various jams.
  • The tea, of course.
  • Sugar, milk, honey, lemon, or whatever your preferred additives are.

It may not be “perfect” in a universal sense, but for you and your guests it will be!

See Bill’s articles on this topic:

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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