Nicky Park

Editor of Life & Style.

Making the perfect cuppa tea

There's a type of tea for everyone. Photo / Thinkstock
There's a type of tea for everyone. Photo / Thinkstock

Stephen Twining drinks at least ten cups of tea a day, and has been for the last 25 years.

"Anything less ... is what I call an unsatisfactory tea drinking day," says the tenth generation member of the famous tea family, sitting across from me in a tweed blazer, sipping a steaming cup of Earl Grey.

He'll wake up and have a cup of English Breakfast. He says it's invigorating and robust, designed to complement a big, cooked breakfast. Mid-morning he'll brew up a Darjeeling, because it's a bit lighter and laced with hints of citrus, before moving on to Lady Grey and Earl Grey around lunch. These go well after a meal, cleansing the palate, he says.

"In the afternoon it really depends on the weather, who I'm with and what I'm doing and my mood."

A Russian Caravan or a Prince of Wales helps him relax, a green tea is perfect on a sunny afternoon or he'll switch back to English Breakfast if it's cold and damp and he needs a pick-me-up. Then, in the evening, it's all about green tea or infusions like chamomile and peppermint to wind down.

He'll sometimes add a dash of milk to his tea, but never sugar. "Sugar to me is a sin," he says.

"There's a great skill in growing tea. And tea is like wine, it changes its flavour every time it's picked.

"Then to put sugar in it, sugar's the first thing your taste buds pick up on and you're missing out on the flavour of the tea.

"So I'm a great advocate of changing your tea to a flavour that's more delicate that you can have without sugar."

There's a tea type for everyone, he says.

"It's just about finding the tea, in the same way that some people prefer a shiraz to a merlot."

The most popular brew for New Zealanders, and around the world, is Earl Grey, Twining says.

"The aroma comes up and greets you in the cup, it's a very relaxing tea, very refreshing tea, it works beautifully with or without milk so however you take your tea, it's a great tea it works any which way."

This has prompted Twinings to release a new Earl Grey variety, due to hit shelves next year. Over 10,000 Kiwis road-tested the recipes, and picked one with a dominant bergamot flavor, mixed with orange and orange blossom to create a rich, round flavour.

Twining says most people aren't appreciating all that tea has to offer - dangling a bag in a mug, pouring on boiling water, giving it a jiggle and tossing it in the bin, just doesn't cut it. All the flavour and the healthy antioxidants are thrown out, he says.

So here are Stephen Twining's tips for making the perfect cuppa:

1. Empty any old water from the kettle and fill with fresh, cold tap water. It has more dissolved oxygen which will draw maximum flavour from the tea leaves.
2. Add the teabag to a cup. The water in the kettle will usually come to the boil about 10 seconds before the safety switch flicks, so keep an eye on it.
3. Pour the water into the cup, unless you're making green tea. If this is the case, leave the water to cool for two or three minutes.
4. Leave the tea bag soaking for a few minutes to allow the flavour to come off.
5. Remove the bag and add any condiments - milk or lemon ("sugar is a sin").

Remember: "The first rule of tea drinking is you have it the way you like it. The second rule is sugar's barbaric, the third rule is if you don't like the second rule, see the first rule."

- HERALD ONLINE

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