Time for tea – part two!

There’s nothing most of us like more than a hot drink and, in the midst of this wet and gloomy January, I am sure everyone’s kettle is in very regular use! A hot drink revives, comforts and warms you all in one go – can’t be bad! I wrote a blog about tea a couple of years ago and lots of you responded and said you’d enjoyed it… so here are a few more thoughts on what is, surely, Britain’s national drink.

I can remember when tea bags first became popular (yes, I am that old!) and loose-leaf tea was suddenly regarded as old hat and rather a lot of faff. In my family, we still used a teapot, but with the new-fangled bags. Nowadays, most people tend to just plop a tea bag into a mug, dunk it a bit – and there you have it. But tea times are a-changing… just as coffee has become a huge industry, with bean grinders, expensive coffee makers and exotic types of beans, so tea is reinventing itself as a healthy ‘on trend’ beverage. Actually, trendiness aside, the amazing range of teas that are now available to make tea drinking a lot more interesting and, in health terms, it’s pretty good for you.


Freshly picked tea leaves.

Returning to loose leaf tea isn’t just a trendy thing, you actually get better quality tea. Loose-leaf tea is made from whole leaves or large pieces of leaf that still contain aromatic oils. As you wait for it to infuse, or brew as we used to say, the flavour is slowly released into the water. Commercial tea bags are filled with small pieces of the lowest grade tea, making them quick to infuse. Like so many things in life – what you gain in time, you lose in quality. There are better quality tea bags around now, some with the pyramid shape that gives the tea more room to brew, but loose-leaf tea is still the best for taste.

Going back to brewing your tea properly will also help give you a better cuppa. Just as with coffee, there are now books and websites on how to do this, plus oodles of fancy equipment. But let’s be sensible here – we don’t all have time for an elaborate tea ceremony – so here are a few simple tips for how to get the best from your tea.

  1. Treat yourself to some loose-leaf tea
  2. Use fresh water in your kettle. If you live in a hard water area, filtering your water would be good but it’s an added faff.
  3. Get your water temperature right – black tea (the sort most people drink, like English breakfast, Assam etc.) wants boiling water, as do herbal teas. If you are making green tea, oolong or white tea, use cooling water. Boiling water burns the leaves of these delicate teas, making a bitter taste. Now I know where I have been going wrong with green tea!
  4. Make sure you get the right ratio of tea to water, read what it says on the packet, or do what my mother always did – a teaspoon per person, plus one for the pot! Then leave your tea to brew. Black teas need about three minutes.

But let’s not forget something very important… if we went back to loose-leaf teas we’d be able to see our fortunes! Tasseography is the art of reading tea leaves or fortune-telling. As a child, I remember my grandmother doing this and I was always enthralled! Make a pot of loose leaf tea, pour yourself a cup (ideally a white cup) sip your tea, leaving the tea leaves and a little liquid in the bottom. Then, swirl the contents three times and upend your cup carefully over a saucer, getting rid of the last bits of liquid. You then need to squint closely into your cup at the tea leaves still clinging there and look for the symbols. The common ones include stars for good luck, spirals for creativity and parallel lines for travel or change. Just think what we have been missing all these years!

12 replies
  1. Diana Newson says:

    That brought back memories Joanna! My grandmother always tipped the used tea leaves around the rose bushes, said it was good for them LOL. My hubby always leaves a half inch of tea in the bottom of his cup, a hangover from the days when you got a mouthful of tea leaves if you drank it right to the bottom!

    • Joanna Sheen says:

      Oh yes, tea leaves around the rose bushes! I think it is good for them, or at least adding them to your compost is good. Glad you enjoyed the blog. Joanna

  2. janet says:

    I don’t like ‘teabag tea’ at all, but will have loose leaf tea sometimes. I always make loose tea for friends visiting, though workmen, gardener etc have teabags -they seem to prefer them! I like Earl Grey and Lapsang souchong and similar teas the best. Really though, I’m a ground coffee drinker!!

    • Joanna Sheen says:

      Agreed, Janet, I also drink more coffee than tea, but all the lovely herbal and fruit ones available now are very soothing. Joanna

  3. Bonnie Weakley says:

    Mygrandma always read the tea leaves for me too. such a lovely memory, thank you. I remain a herb and decaf tea drinker and make my tea in a delicate little pot that my son- in- law brought me back from Oxford University. the cup and pot are blue with little red roses

  4. Pearl Farrier says:

    Very interesting Joanna. I always have loose tea – Earl Grey, hot! as Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek) would request on board the Enterprise of the replicator. I like mine weak with no sugar or milk though, which usually goes cold while I’m crafting, but I do drink it cold as well. In a cafe or restaurant I always ask for a pot of water and the tea bag so that I can make it to my own strength and my regular ones don’t mind. I find that tea – as well as coffee is made much too strong by most establishments.I have not read tea leaves though, it sounds fascinating.

  5. Pearl Farrier says:

    No probs Joanna, my hubby, Dave and I love Star Trek and go to a monthly Star Trek Club meeting on the first Friday of the month. We have a great time, quizzes, raffle, general SciFi chit chat with friends and a drink or two! If you and your hubby are ever near Dudley on the first day of the month, let me know, you should pop in.


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