Some teas are best when steeped in a gaiwan. Others in a Yixing style teapot. And still others were specifically produced to be served British Style, that is, steeping up a strong and somewhat bitter liquid that reacts well to milk and sugar (these should enhance, not drown out, the tea’s flavor). Sure, you can steep up a weak version of these teas (infusing for two minutes or less), but you won’t get their full glory. Here are five of the better known ones:
1 CTC Assam
Let’s face it, this tea steeps up fast and strong. It is made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis var. assamica member of the tea plant family. The leaves are larger and heartier than many other tea plants. They are withered, rolled, fully oxidized to turn them black, then dried and ground into the typical CTC (crush, tear, curl) shape (sort of like smaller versions of Grape Nuts cereal). There are a number of options for this tea, including this one sold loose and bagged.
2 English Breakfast Blends
Usually in a very fine ground leaf form (often called “dust” or “fannings”) and a blend of the finest Assam, Kenyan, and other choice teas. A strong tea to start the day with a full malty flavor and a rich dark color that is best served hot with milk and a little sugar (or artificial sweetener). Several customers have remarked that they rely on this tea as their morning wake-up cuppa. Hubby and I enjoy it all day long, preferring our tea served British style. See a full selection here.
3 Irish Breakfast Blends
Usually in the CTC form (as described in #1 above) where the leaves are a stout robust blend of February Kenya BP1 and 2nd flush Assam in some brands, a blend of Ceylon and Assam in other brands, and leaves from Assam and Darjeeling together in other brands. They all have superb color (usually a rich ruby red), a delightful aroma, and a flavor that is described as rich, malty, and full of subtleties such as notes of prunes, cherries, hazelnuts, and honey. You will get some bitterness or astringency when steeped strong (usually 5 minutes using water brought to a full boil), but that’s where the British style of serving helps – the milk and sugar subdue those negative qualities and enhance those wonderful flavors. Some customer comments say this is not just a great wake-up tea but also a perker-upper in the afternoon. I heartily agree! See a full selection here.
4 Scottish Breakfast Blends
Ever been to Scotland? Brr! Even in Summer you need a hot cuppa to get you going in the morning. They also have mainly soft water (not a lot of extra minerals, etc., in it) which tends to steep up a rather flat tasting tea. So this blend tends to be rather more bracing, malty, and full-bodied due to a blending of leaves from various gardens in the Assam region of India. Milk and sugar are strongly recommended. They bring out that maltiness and make this a tea ideal with typical Scottish breakfast foods like Scott’s Porridge Oats. One customer says she drinks this tea all day long since it usually has no bitterness. So true! We always keep some on hand and rotate this with the others as our morning cuppa. See a full selection here.
5 Yorkshire Harrogate Tea
Strong black teas blended to produce a full-bodied tea with a rich flavor. Harrogate is famous for its water that people would drink as a medicinal cure, and it steeps this tea up perfectly. But don’t worry – you don’t have to travel there or have some of their water flown in. Your water at home should be fine. Be sure it’s brought to a full boil and steep for 5 minutes to infuse all the goodness in those leaves into the water. Don’t forget that milk and sugar – the key part of that British style cuppa. And since Harrogate is also where the annual Crime Writing Festival is held, you can sit back with a good crime novel while you imbibe. See the tea here.
Whether you’re slurping a cuppa with breakfast, gulping one mid-morning, brightening up your lunchtime with a fresh potful, or any other time of day, this tea will keep you going – in British style!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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