Healthy & tasty
First up, it's good for you. "Although tea contains ca eine,
it also contains polyphenols and antioxidants," says
Ranjeeva De Silva of English Tea Shop. In fact, tea has
about eight to 10 times the amount of polyphenols
you'll nd in fruit and vegetables, according to
Dr John Weisburger, a researcher at the American Health
Foundation. Polyphenols protect us from cancer, while
studies also show that tea drinkers have a lower risk of
dying from heart disease, and there's evidence that tea
helps prevent strokes and Alzheimer's disease, too.
Second, there's a whole world of avour to discover
beyond our everyday cuppa. "Once you start looking at
the technical side, you realise tea is as complex as wine,"
says Nick Kilby, co-founder of Teapigs.
Technicalities aside, it's useful to know a few basics.
There are ve types of true tea: white, green, black,
oolong and pu-erh. All true teas come from the Camellia
sinensis plant, but the leaves are processed di erently to
produce di erent avours.
White tea gets its name from the down on the plant
buds, which are simply picked and left to dry naturally.
Green tea is picked, dried until the leaves start to wilt,
sometimes rolled to release avour, and heated to stop
the leaf turning brown. Black tea undergoes the same
process, but the leaves are oxidised until they turn dark
brown. Oolong sits between green and black tea; it's
semi-oxidised, but the rolling and oxidation processes are
repeated to achieve more avour. Finally, pu-erh tea is
oxidised slowly over time by pressing the leaves together
in a at cake. The best pu-erh teas can take at least
30 years to mature.
Within each of these categories there's more diversity
of style, such as
matcha green tea from
Japan or Darjeeling
black tea from India.
As well as true teas,
the leaves or roots of
other plants can be
used to make infusions or herbal teas, such as camomile,
peppermint and rooibos. Teapigs has just published The
Book of Tea, which is a great place to start if you want to
nd out more.
Given the importance of the tea leaf in the production
process, it's not surprising that whole-leaf and loose-leaf
teas o er more avour than the dusty crushed leaves
used in commercial tea brands. "It's like the di erence
between a sh nger and a piece of fresh sh," says
Henrietta Lovell of the Rare Tea Company. Visit one of the
tea rooms we recommend (see box on the previous page)
for a tasting and you'll understand what she means.
"It's incredibly simple to make loose leaf at home as
well," adds Jing Tea's Eisler. There are just two things to get
right: the temperature of the water and the steeping time
(see above). Lovell advises using a glass pot rather than a
ceramic one. "If I can get people to start appreciating tea
like ne wine, my job is done," she adds.
One person already doing that is Christine Parkinson,
head of wine for the Hakkasan Group. Her innovative
drinks list at Yauatcha City
includes 23 teas grouped with
wines, cocktails and sake into
categories such as 'Special;
Indulgent Exceptional', so you
can understand how tea compares
to other more familiar drinks. High
Mountain Oolong is the tea equivalent of vintage Dom
Pérignon Champagne for example.
Bartenders are also increasingly using tea in cocktails.
The new autumn/winter list at cellar bar The Vault at
Milroy's of Soho includes Memoirs of a Geisha, a mix
of Gunpowder tea-infused Scotch, Scotch Gunpowder
bitters and Fino sherry.
"I've used black tea and Scotch before but have been
playing around with green teas recently," says owner
Simo Simpson. "Tea is one of those products that has
such a depth of avour. Tea can be made into bitters to
pull out the intense taste, or smoked tea works if you
just want to give the essence."
Whether you want full-on avour or delicate
infusions, booze with your brew, or the nest leaves
money can buy, the wonderful world of tea is just
waiting for you to take a rst sip...
116 | squaremeal.co.uk
Top of the pots
How to make tea properly, with tips from Henrietta Lovell
For loose-leaf tea the temperature
of the water should be below boiling,
as the amino acids (which produce
the tea's avour) dissolve at lower
temperatures than tannin.
White and green teas are best at
about 70°c. For black and oolong teas
use water around 85°c.
Steep the tea for the recommended
time only, don't leave it to brew.
Use the following steeping times:
white tea = one to three minutes,
green tea = one to two minutes,
oolong = 30 seconds in small repeated
infusions, black tea = 45 seconds to
one minute for gentle avour or two
to three minutes for a stronger, more
When the tea has steeped, pour it
into another warmed pot to serve.
HIGH MOUNTAIN OOLONG IS
THE TEA EQUIVALENT OF VINTAGE
DOM PÉRIGNON CHAMPAGNE
OF TEAWe have two
copies of The Book
of Tea, by Louise
Nick Kilby, to give
away (£20, Jacqui
Small). To win a
copy of the book
plus a bundle
of TeaPig teas,
tweet a picture of
a cup of tea to
by 12 November.