My day just isn’t complete without a cup of tea. Okay—several cups of tea. Well, let’s just go ahead and make it several pots of tea. I pretty much drink it all day long. There’s the morning charge of Yorkshire Tea in my darling brown betty pot. Then the mid-morning elevenses of white or green, sans the full caffeine of the earlier black. On especially busy days I like to soothe my nerves with a mug of Tension Tamer, an herb and B-vitamin infused variety that has a picture of a princess perched serenely atop a dragon on its label. And I hardly ever go to bed without my stout little cup of Sleepytime.
In the late afternoon—the most important tea time of all, you know—I anticipate the delights of a fine rooibus or an exquisite chamomile laced with orange and spices. For this latter ritual, a china cup is in order, and maybe even a linen napkin. And of course those little goodies stashed away at the back of the pantry or bits of lovely dark chocolate always make their dainty appearance as well. It’s my own special pause, between the great duties of the day and the starting of supper, and, in my opinion, merits nice touches, if only for myself. There’s nothing like sitting down to a well-appointed tea tray on an ordinary day to awaken the senses to the small beauties of life.
Here are a few tips for brewing up the perfect pot.
You should always start with fresh, cold water of the best quality available.
(And remember to empty the kettle of any water that has been boiled before—the oxygen has escaped and this will definitely affect the taste of your tea.) Set it to boil and, meanwhile, fill your teapot with hot water from the tap. My mother always insists that I ‘hot the pot’ in this manner, and, like fresh water, it truly makes a difference. Pour this water out just before adding the tea leaves.
Measure out the appropriate level of loose tea into a tea ball or infuser.
If your tea doesn’t instruct you on an exact amount, the experts will all say ‘one spoonful per person and one for the pot’. (I can hear Bertie Wooster now: “Well, I don’t see why the pot should get one!”) It depends on the size of your pot, but for six cups I usually use three to four heaping spoonfuls—teaspoons, that is, not soup spoons. 😉 Remember, you can always make it stronger, but no one wants watered-down tea!
Your individual tea should give you some guidance on water temperature, but a good rule of thumb is that black and red (rooibus) and herbal blends should be made with boiling water.
Green and white tea should be made with water that is almost at the boil—steaming rather vigorously—as too hot water will cause these more delicate teas to taste bitter.
Brew times vary for the different teas, as well.
You will want to allow herbal teas and tisanes and rooibus to infuse for up to ten minutes, while a white or green can be quite drinkable after only one to two. Do not brew either of them for longer than three minutes, though. Black tea is best after three to five minutes. (I like mine on the strong side.)
Lay your tea tray with pretty cups and saucers and freshly ironed napkins.
A few sprigs of flowers in a tiny vase would not be out of place, either! Cream and sugar, if you like, and a little bite of something sweet or savory and you’re set. (Don’t add cream to citrus based or citrus flavored teas, though—it will curdle.)
Enjoy! Along with some easy ideas for tea time treats…
Photo: JenniMarie Photography
(originally published in 2007)