The past month in the tasting room at Selby Gardens, we have had many European visitors, especially British. When they hear me speak, we inevitably talk about where we are from and the type of tea we drink. Talking Tea, as I say.
The choices being PG Tips, Typhoo, Yorkshire, Twinning’s, etc., basically all the well-known tea bags available. There was also a gentleman who mentioned Brooke Bond, who was a real blast from the past! He was married to an American and lives in Sarasota. His wife sourced the tea for him, and he was very pleased.
The name Brooke Bond took me on a journey back to the small village in the Yorkshire Dales where I was born and raised. Our little grocery shop, run by Mrs. Gosney, had a large metal sign displayed outside in black and red advertising Brooke Bond! Mum sent me to buy tea, and I remember Mrs. Gosney using an old fashioned scale with real weights and putting the weighed tea in a brown bag.
When I got home, mum would transfer the tea to our caddy (which I think was a tin that had once stored candy, probably Liquorices’ Allsorts). I can remember inhaling the most wonderful smell of fresh tea in the caddy. I was touched thinking about how we continue such practices, as I use such a caddy even now!
So, where did the name caddy come from? During the early British trading days in Asia, a language called “pidgin English” was created to facilitate commerce. Composed of English, Portuguese and Indian words pronounced in Chinese, “Pidgin” is actually the word which was used for “do business.” The term “caddy” is from the Chinese word for one pound, the standard size for a tea container.
We meet such nice people when we start talking about tea. Great stories and legends are exchanged, and memories are evoked when we talk about this amazing drink called TEA.
I like the way this sounds, so I am going to blab about brewing. So many visitors to the CarriageHouse Tea Room at Selby Gardens are confused about how to brew tea. I hope this helps with Infusion Confusion.
Let’s start with the Kettle, used only to heat water. There are some great models on the market which switch off when the boiling point is reached. There is even one with a thermometer to catch the water before the boiling point is reached. Great for making green or white tea.
A Teapot is a vessel in which the tea is made. You may brew directly in a cup or mug, but I love my teapots. I always warm the pot with boiling water before adding the tea. After I pour out the heating water, I add the tea to the wet pot. After a minute or so, I inhale deeply. As the leaves start to open, the aroma from these warm environs is fantastic and hints at the pleasure soon to come.
Use a teaspoon for each cup of tea you want to prepare. My mum used to say, “and one for the pot,” and my husband and I still always add an extra teaspoon of tea when we brew a pot. A teaspoon is different for each kind of tea, as teas come in many shapes and sizes. Not to fret; you will soon get accustomed to the amount of tea you prefer as you brew more tea. Experiment, though it is not an exact science, have fun.
Steep your tea for the recommended time. White and green teas are 2 to 3 minutes. Black tea is 4 to 6 minutes. Herbals and tisanes are 8 to 10 minutes. Above all, personal preference is the rule. While I use a timer in the tasting room to bring garden visitors the perfect taste, at home, I just look at the color of the liquor and guess!
Many teapots have Infusers, mesh baskets to hold the loose tea. Other pots have Strainers to keep the leaves in the pot and out of your cup. I like to let the leaves move around in the pot, and with glass pots, it can be quite a show.
Loose leaf tea holds a lot of flavors, and I always recommend multiple steeping. Add more boiling water to the leaves and double the steeping time. Your second cuppa will not be as strong as your first, but I cannot bear the thought of throwing away tea leaves with even a bit of flavor. If you don’t plan to drink multiple cups, put the teapot in your fridge, and enjoy the tea over ice.
This afternoon I am brewing my favorite Oolong and will infuse the leaves at least four times before the leaves are laid to rest in my garden, but that’s another posting.
Sit back and enjoy the perfect cup of tea. Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination. I hope this helps.
The tea lady