In honour of the Queen's birthday, here are a few tips on brewing the perfect cup of tea.
Apparently Her Majesty has a cup of Earl Grey and a sweet treat on a silver tray every day at 4pm. On a trip to the tea fields of Sri Lanka a couple of years ago I was told that the best way to make a cup of tea was exactly how you like it - meaning, there is no right or wrong way, just alter it to your preference.
However, a few things can make a difference. Fresh water is crucial. Getting into the habit of only boiling what you need (rather than filling the whole jug) means there's no waste. Some purists say that purified or spring water is best for bringing out the flavour of the tea, but that might be a step too far for everyday use at home. It could be a fun experiment to try one day though. Temperature is important too. For black tea, freshly boiled hot water is key, but for green tea and infusions, a more mellow 80C is about right. Boiling the jug and then leaving it for about 5 minutes should do the trick.
Did you know peppermint tea is not actually tea, but an infusion? Herbal "tea" is actually a tisane or an infusion, which an old flatmate of mine used to relish in pointing out whenever tea was on the menu. Steeping is key - most people don't brew their tea for long enough before drinking. A standard English Breakfast tea bag needs a good 3-5 minutes of brewing time.
Warming your cups with hot water while the tea brews is a good tip. Making the tea in a teapot also vastly affects flavour. I'm a big fan of the humble tea bag though, and I'll usually give my mug a quick warm-up before brewing. And as for milk? This comes down to preference. A friend of mine is pedantic to the point of 1 milk cap of milk in her tea - no more, no less. And if there's one time where being pedantic is important and acceptable, it's with your cup of tea. Cheers!