The first thing you need to know are the customary types of teas served during Afternoon Tea in our modern world.
- Black tea: The green tea leaves are more dried than its counterparts. This results in a dark leaf that generally stronger than other teas. Note the common mistake when talking about stronger teas and more flavoursome: stronger tea doesn’t necessarily have more flavour. Black tea became largely popular because it lasted several years making it easy to transport and trade.
- White tea: A light tea pale yellow in colour. Most prominently made from young unfermented teas leafs left to dry naturally. Mostly made in Fujian province in China.
- Green tea: Minimal processing (oxidation which is akin to drying) produces a green tea, although many varieties produce a more yellow tea. Primarily from Japan, Korea and China where it is ingrained into the local cultures. The many varieties lend to varying tastes with the most common difference cited as being grassy or mellow. Green tea is thought to provide made health benefits most of which are unsubstantiated.
- Oolong tea: Various flavours depending on the type. A Chinese tea produced using a process involving withering the tea leaves under the strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting. Considered to be more of a connoisseur’s tea offering a wide range of flavours including sweet, woody, roasted and fresh offering various floral aromas.
- Herbal Teas: These are not technically teas as they are not cultivated from the Tea plant but rather other plants and fruits.
- Blended teas: Arguably the most popular teas are made by expertly combining different tea leaves, flowers, herbs and even spices to create unique teas.
- Decaffeinated Teas: Decaf teas of all varieties are now widely available, some of which are naturally free of caffeine (or contain inconsequential amount) and definitely not to be dismissed.
The second thing you need to know when choosing your teas is have the people’s favourite to hand! Most people prefer their everyday cup of tea!
Serving the Tea
Serving the tea properly is super important and an enjoyable aspect of afternoon tea. Here are a few guidelines:
Take careful note of the recommend brewing temperatures of the various teas. Some green teas for example lose the most interesting flavours when made with boiling water.
Run the tap for a minute or so before filling up the kettle and if possible filter the water first. As many teas have delicate flavours any foreign flavours will more than likely have a negative impact.
Be wary of urns as they don’t oxygenate the water for optimal flavour extraction. If you are making many pots of tea, make one pot of tea, fill up the kettle and boil again which will add just enough time in-between teas to serve them. Boiling cold water from scratch takes far longer and is less efficient.
Don’t over brew or let you guests over brew the teas.
Fine tea is best served at 60 degrees so wait a couple of minutes after the brewing process has stopped before serving. At 60 degrees the flavours will be oozing out of the tea and after 15 minutes they will have significantly reduced.
Enough teapots and teacups are super important – don’t forget them!
Serving two teas, a black and a green tea pleases most tastes.