By Kim Havelaar,

Founder of Roqberry Tea

This Sunday, April 21, is National Tea Day; a day to celebrate the UK’s favourite brew. Whether you are drinking at home, in a café or an elegant tea room, this is the day to celebrate tea.

And even for those of us who have been enjoying a good old cuppa for years, there are still some things you might not know about tea.

For instance, making a cup of tea isn’t necessarily as simple as you think. Here are five things to consider:

The quality of the tea

Obviously, the better the quality of the tea you use, the better your brew. Quite a few things go into making good quality tea including ‘terroir’, manufacturing method and age of the leaf. Terroir includes everything about the environment the plant grows in; the elevation, humidity, the soil and the season. Interestingly, the tea leaf tends to develop most flavour in situations where the plant goes through some degree of ‘struggle’ to grow. Whether that is due to frost, insect attacks, dry winds, or lack of sunlight. This has to be carefully managed as it’s a fine balance to ensure the plant survives.

Brewing method

The leaf needs room to unfurl and infuse the water properly. Brew loose leaf in a large enough infuser, or use teabags in pyramid shape. Pyramid teabags were designed to mimic loose leaf brewing without the mess.

The material of your cup matters too. Fine bone china might not always be practical, but I think we can all agree that tea in a plastic cup doesn’t compare with one in a proper mug.

The quality of the water

This is so important as tea is, in essence, infused water. Unless you live in an area with extremely pure tap water, filtered water is best. It makes a huge difference to the taste of your brew. Also use fresh water every time you boil the kettle. The more often water has been boiled, the more oxygen it loses and without it, your brew will end up tasting a bit flat.

The water temperature

While very precise temperature guidelines exist for most type of tealeaves, an easy to remember rule is: black and herbal at 100◦C and all others at 80◦C. Oolong, green and white teas are more delicate and brewing them at boiling point scalds the leaf and draws out an undesirable bitterness. You can use a kettle with temperature gauge or, alternatively, adding some cold water to the mug before pouring in the boiled water will do the job. About 1/3 room temperature water to 2/3 boiled water.

How long you are brewing it for

How long you brew your cuppa comes down to personal preference in the end. Assuming you are using good quality wholeleaf tea, three minutes is a good guide. But you might prefer your tea more or less strong and that is up to you. Lower grade tea ‘dust’ will brew quicker than wholeleaf, as there is more surface area of tealeaf touching the water.

Pairing teas with food

You may also be surprised to discover that the variety and versatility of tea lends itself perfectly to pair with meals, just like wine has done for years. Almost all teas will have a food pairing that works well. Being a foodie-inspired company, we actively promote this and offer top tasting tips on all of our packs. Peppermint Cream, for example, tastes wonderful with pan-friend Dover sole and a dab of pea tartare. At a high level, the rule of thumb would be to make sure the meal and the tea are balanced and don’t overpower one another. Use lighter teas like green tea with lighter dishes like chicken and fish and stronger teas like a bold Assam black with stronger dishes like beef or chocolate. Beyond balance I suggest looking for a complementary taste, for example the hint of citrus in Earl Grey with smoked salmon, or the spice in a Chai with a Caribbean goat curry.

Flavours you’d never believe work brilliantly with tea

I’m guessing you haven’t heard about a tea that is combined with seaweed and wasabi? We use this in our Sushi & Spice blend. It’s a Japanese Sencha combined with roasted brown rice flakes, dried ginger, dried seaweed and a hint of wasabi. It’s a really well-balanced savoury take on a green tea.

Other examples of flavours that might be surprising are the beetroot we use in an orange and beetroot green tea for an earthy taste, or the freeze-dried banana in a honey-flavoured Rooibos for a flavour reminiscent of warm banana bread.

So, happy National Tea Day and don’t forget that when it comes to tea, you can always ‘blend’ the rules for a great cuppa!

Roqberry is a new brand of tea, specifically focused on foodies, tea and food pairings, and bringing big flavour to tea. With high quality ingredients, hand blended in the UK, Roqberry offers both unique flavoured blends as well as top quality artisan varieties.  Flavours include fresh expressions of classic blends, such as smooth and sunny Citrus Grey, as well as extraordinary new fusions like savoury Sushi & Spice. The naturally caffeine free infusions range from spiced Turmeric Chai to floral Bloom Box. And the speciality Tea Legends include artisan varieties like Jasmine Dragon Pearls that remain true to tradition.