Making Strong Black Teas
Strong black teas are made in the British way. They are meant to be slightly bitter, deeply brown-black and to be best enjoyed with some milk and often with sugar, or other sweeteners. For lighter teas, these are brewed to be less bitter and taken without milk - How to brew lighter teas.
- Ceramic, china or earthenware teapots are the best for making teas – they keep warmer for longer and do not taint the organic tea. Never ever bleach the teapot, even though some older books suggest adding bicarbonate of soda.
- Fill the tea-pot with boiling water to warm the tea-pot. Alternatively, quarter fill the teapot with water, then place into a microwave and heat at full power for 1 minute. If you are making a mug of tea, you should warm the mug in the same way as you would warm the teapot; in fact, it is even more important, since mugs usually have no lids so lose heat even more rapidly than a tea-pot with lid.
- For a 1,136 ml or traditional quart-sized tea pot, add 6 heaped teaspoons or 15 g (½ oz) of loose leaf tea to the pot; this equates to 1 heaped teaspoon per mug plus 1 for the pot, where a quart-sized tea pot does 5 mugs. For a 225 ml mug (i.e. 1 cup), add a heaped teaspoon or 2.6 g to the tea infuser. A teaspoon is roughly a teabag, i.e. 2.5 – 3.0 g, with the higher average weight compensating for the slower infusion caused by the tea bag filter paper.
- As for the tea, tea leaves are the best, rather than tea bags. Orthodox teas are better than CTC-style teas.
- Fill the kettle with more freshly-drawn cold water, pour away the warm water in tea-pot just as the water is coming to the boil. Add the tea leaves. Pour the new water into the pot as it boils, because off-the-boil water makes very dull tea. At this stage, the water will be in the range of 96 – 98oC (205 – 210oF).
- Give the tea leaves a quick stir with a warmed teaspoon.
- Infuse for 3 – 5 minutes. A quick brew never gets the full flavour from the organic tea leaves, whereas a long brew is astringent. This part depends a lot on the type of tea leaves you are using as well as your own tea flavour preferences. At the end of the brew, the temperature of the infusion should be in the range of 70 – 80oC (160 – 175oF), and ideally at the top end of the range.
- Add 25 – 30 ml (1 fl oz) of milk per 225 ml mug (a mug with volume of 1 cup). Make sure the milk is at room temperature then add it first (not second), because milk does not superheat as much if added at this stage, so keeping the taste and mouth feel of the milk right. It must be real milk and should be semi-skimmed, never homogenised, and if using classic milk, the cream should be poured off the top into a jug to leave the milk below. Others, for example Tony Benn and George Orwell, say add milk afterwards because you can regulate the amount of milk you add much better that way. There is no answer to this core disagreement amongst tea drinkers and never the twain shall meet, i.e. it is really just a matter of taste and habit.
- Leave to cool until the tea is around 60 – 65oC (140 – 150oF), then start to drink, but do not slurp as it is uncouth. Do not leave until the tea becomes too cold, with an upper limit of 17½ minutes, and lower temperature limit of 50oC (122oF).