Science of tea

What makes the perfect cuppa?

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Simon Hill, tea buyer from Taylors of Harrogate, gives his top tips for the perfect brew.

Tea leaves or tea bags?

If I have time then leaves and in a pot. However when in a rush a tea bag in a mug. Whole leaf gives a very different taste to tea bags. It’s slightly more delicate and not so strong.

Should the teapot be warmed?

Always, use some of the water from the kettle just before it boils.

What’s the optimum brewing time?

For black tea anything between 3-5 minutes depending how strong you like tea. Green teas three minutes maximum and white tea slightly less. For Green teas don’t use the water straight after it’s boiled as it can scorch the leaves. For White teas allow the water to cool down further. Ideally around 80C

Should it be served in china?

I think tea does taste better from a china cup but a large mug of tea can be quite comforting.

Milk first or last, or not at all?

Entirely on personal preference. If you put the milk in first you can judge the strength, however milk in last has a different taste and appearance.

How many teabags per person?

Always one of each and one for the pot.

Should the whole leaves be used or just the tips?

The tips are where all the flavour and goodness are. However to only pluck the tips is very time consuming and expensive. Hence on tea estates they look to pluck two new leaves and a bud. When selecting a tea look for a good tip content to show good quality (In Darjeeling these appear quite silvery, in Assam they are golden).

How many cups of tea do you drink a day?

I can taste up to 200 cups of tea a day but will actually drink about eight. People are always amazed that after a day at work I come home and have a cup of tea.

See Simon Hill in Science of Tea on Friday 7 June

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