London Lantern

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Tea - Different Categories and How to Brew It

14/11/2005, By David McIntosh

Reader Rating: 2.9 from 16769 votes


Now that we know the three major types of tea there are some other categories to consider. Black teas are graded using the term pekoe which comes from the Chinese word for ‘silver haired’ and pertains to the silvery down on young tea leaves. A well-known variety is ‘Orange Pekoe’ and the name most likely comes from the House of Orange, the royal family of the Netherlands. The first of the large tea trading firms in Europe was the Dutch East India Company.

Orange pekoe was considered an especially fancy tea since it a beverage favoured by the Dutch royal family. The younger the leaves used the fancier it is considered. Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe is with is made with the tips of the leaf buds while Broken Pekoe has fewer leaf tips and Pekoe Fanning and Pekoe Dust have been crushed more during the processing. The last two are often used in tea bags since they release flavour as well as colour more rapidly into water.

Gunpowder, Imperial and Hyson are all varieties of green tea. Young, high-grade leaves are rolled into small balls in gunpowder tea. They look like the small lead shot used in muskets thus giving this variety its name. Hyson is also rolled into balls but not as tightly and if leaves used are a bit older then the tea is Imperial.

Other types of tea have names that betray their geographical origins. Assam comes from a northeastern part of India wile Darjeeling comes from an in the Himalayas that is only about 200 miles from the spot where tea was first discovered growing wild. The high altitude results in a long growing season which, in turn, results a high quality harvest during the time of the year before the arrival of monsoon season. As for herbal tea, it contains no real tea but instead herbs so we will forgo any discussion of it.

Now we come to the preparation of a good cup of tea but there is something you need to know; there is probably no better way to start a polite argument among tea afficionados than the way you go about making a good cup of tea. Do you add milk after pouring the tea or before? What is the correct amount to let the tea stand after adding water? Sugar or not? Things like that. Passions run strong and feelings run high when the subject is that of how best to brew a cup.

No less a personage than George Orwell would weigh in on the subject with piece that is considered a classic much referenced when the talk turns to that of how to prepare the perfect cup of tea. Now, according to Orwell only Indian or Ceylonese teas should be used, the main virtue of Chinese tea only being its economical price since "one does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it." According to Orwell the phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ means an Indian tea.

He also tells us that tea should always be made only in small quantities in a teapot "tea out of an urn is always tasteless" and that the pot should be warmed beforehand. Also, the tea should be strong and it should be put right into the pot without making use of strainers and the like. The water should be boiling and the tea should be poured into the cup before adding milk though he admits the milk-first proponents are able to muster strong argument in favour of their stand.

Others, however, have stated that milk must be, upon ‘pain of eternal damnation’ be poured into the cup before pouring in the since that is the best way of determining the strength of the cup of tea; in other words by colour.

Anyway, the truth is that it probably depends on the taste of the person making the cup of tea. Here are some basics. Warm the teapot with boiling water. Make your pot of tea with water that has been brought to a boil then allowed to cool just a bit. Put a spoonful of tea in the pot for each cup then pour the water into the pot. Stir gently to distribute the leaves then cover the teapot with a tea cosy and allow to stand for the correct amount of time which may differ among people though a good rule of thumb is about three minutes.

As far as adding sugar, Orwell is against it, but others say it is okay as long as one uses sugar cubes or lumps. Again, let you taste determine whether to add sugar. This much is important, when stirring your tea, please try not to make too much noise, you will give yourself away as a novice at drinking tea.

David McIntosh

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