Get A Brief Guide to English Tea

1. What is “English Tea” ?

Since the early 17th century, when tea leaves were first imported from India, black tea has been the British drink of choice. Its popularity propelled the country to attain one of the highest rates of per capita tea consumption in the world. In 2013, traditional British black tea, specifically blends like English Breakfast and Earl Grey, accounted for 89 percent of the country’s tea market.

However, herbal teas, like mint; green teas, like Chinese Longjing; and different blends of black tea have gained market share over the last decade. In response, many cafes, hotels and tea rooms have diversified their menus to include niche infusions such as lemon, herbal and oolong teas.

Angela Pryce, a British tea sommelier, said that while specific black blends designed to be taken with milk comprise the traditional canon of British tea, it is the ritual of drinking any tea that “is at the heart of British celebratory life.”
“Tea is quite personal. Wherever you are from in the world is how you take your tea,” she said. “But no matter the tea, I don’t see any barrier to participating in the culture of British tea drinking.”

2. Where does English Tea Start? -Kettle and Water

Most Americans are unacquainted with one of the most common features of British homes: the electric kettle.
“What, really?” Lewis Wall, 26, from Leicester said, shocked to hear the common alternatives to the electric kettle in the United States include stovetop kettles, coffee makers or microwaves. “Why? That’s deffo worse.”

The answer is that electric kettles work much quicker with the higher-wattage power supply standard in British homes — usually 230 volts at 13 amps rather than the 120 volts at 15 amps that’s common in the United States. American electric kettles often heat water about as fast as one on the stove.

More important, Ms. Pryce noted, was the water quality.

“Water type plays a big part,” she said. “If you always use a filter on hard water, that takes out mineral deposits, and the end cup of tea will be much brighter.”

She also noted that black tea should be brewed in boiling water, while it is preferable to place green tea in water at a lower temperature (158 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact).

3. Brewing Tea

In modern life, people like to have instant tea more. It’s noted that bagged or sachet tea far outpaced loose leaf in popularity. Loose leaf teas comprised only 2 percent of the British tea market in 2018.

Authenmole’s instant tea extract meets the perfect need and quality of a good and fast tea.

Whether tea is brewing loose or bagged or sachet, the process of steeping it is a matter of both science and preference. Ms. Pryce recommends around five minutes for black tea in boiling water, while Paul Ainsworth, a Michelin-starred British chef, recommended three. But Mr. Thompson argues that the process rejects the precision of our highly optimized world.

4. Is the milk before or after tea?

The question of whether, when and how to add milk to British black tea dates back centuries. Ms. Pryce said that in the early era of British tea drinking, “Milk was put in first because the fine porcelain and crockery would crack from the heat of the boiling water.”

“Now, there is no reason that milk can’t be added after,” to slowly gauge the quantity and color, she said. Most of the British public agrees. However, there are some holdouts. Richard Corrigan, a Michelin-starred chef from Ireland who has lived and worked in London for decades, said: “I take my tea the ‘unpopular’ way: weak and very milky. My children joke that it sometimes looks like I’m drinking cups of milk, which I always add first.”

Clare Smyth, another top chef, said that she also took her English Breakfast tea always with “milk in the cup first!”
No matter how much milk or sweetener — usually sugar — is added, Ms. Pryce said she thought it should be done slowly, and “to taste.” And brewing a cup of tea is always “a good excuse to have a slice of cake or biscuits,” Elizabeth Carter, editor at The Good Food Guide, said. “And given the lack of flour in supermarkets, it looks like everyone is baking.”

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