Nothing says ‘Great British’ quite like a cup of tea. The British love it! According to the UK Tea and Infusions Association we drink approximately 165 million cups a day!
My Nan seasoned me on pots full of the stuff. The sort of tea so strong you could stand a spoon up in it.
Although I’ve always been a tea drinker, for me it’s just something I bought in a supermarket, but I know it’s far more than that.
It seems tea has a very, very long and global history. It originates from China, 6000 years ago!
Tea, and the tea trade, has quite literally changed the world; it has made and broken empires. For example, during the days of the British Empire, it was one of the largest commodities traded by the East India Company.
It was brought to Britain in the 1600s and, at the time, was something only the aristocracy could afford as it was so highly taxed. So much so that half of the tea available at this time had been smuggled in!
After the tax was cut in 1784, and tea became more affordable, it made it’s way into the majority of British homes.
Even today, tea is big business, as it’s still the most popular drink in the world, second only to water! According to Statista, in 2017, the global tea market was worth approximately 49.46 billion U.S. dollars.
There are many different varieties available, but all tea comes from the same plant, called ‘Camellia sinensis‘. It’s the process involved in preparing it that changes the tea; for example, black tea, the one most popular in Britain, is picked and left to soften (called ‘withering’) which removes some of the moisture, it’s then rolled/shredded which breaks the leaves up and allows them to oxidize. This is what turns the tea brown. It’s then dried out. In contrast, white tea is simply picked and left to wither, and green tea goes through the same process as black tea, but isn’t allowed to oxidize.
Some tea brewing tips:
- Water: What water is best for tea? Well…I live in an area where the water is relatively hard so, due to the high mineral content, the consensus is to use a carbon filter to remove some of this. Apparently soft water isn’t ideal either as it doesn’t brew properly. Also, it’s advised not to use water that has been repeatedly boiled.
- Heat – Black tea seems to be okay with high water temperature; some of the tea I’ve bought states 100 degrees Celsius (boiling point) to release the flavour. Green tea and white tea need a lower temperature (usually 80 degrees C) otherwise it can affect the flavour.
- Tea: You can buy tea in bags for convenience, and this is how he majority of people buy theirs, but this has, historically, been of lower quality. ‘loose leaf’ is the choice of the connoisseur, giving a far superior flavour, as the leaves have more room to move and absorb the water. To brew it you can use an infuser (a mesh ball if using cup, or insert if using a tea pot) or you can put the tea directly into the pot and use a strainer.
- Don’t forget to warm the pot!
- The general rule regarding the ratio of tea to water is 1 tea spoon of tea per cup, but this can vary and depends on the size of the cup and how strong you like your tea. Brewing time tends to be between 3 to 5 minutes depending on the type, but the best bet is to let your taste be your guide.
When you drink a cup of tea, you’re indulging in something that people have enjoyed for thousands of years, that has, quite literally, changed the world, that is known for its paradoxical ability to stimulate and calm the mind, and warm and cool the body. As well as this, Research is constantly being done regarding the health benefits, including its effect on everything from weight loss to cancer! Tea really is an amazing drink, so, whose putting the kettle on?
I have no affiliation with the following company, but I’ve had some really great teas from them recently! https://www.adagiotea.co.uk
What do you love about tea? Leave a comment.