The English are experts on tea and they feel such a responsibility for it that, in 1980, the British Standards Institute issued a 6-page paper on the results of some extremely important tea-related research.
The paper, British Standard BS 6008:1980, was later adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (the member body of Ireland dissenting) as International Standard ISO 3103:1980 “Tea — Preparation of liquor for use in sensory tests.” The entire document can be downloaded from the ISO for a little less than $45.00 and, while there are some key tips the lay person can apply to brewing tea at home, the method was really created for use in taste-testing by tea producers who require flavor consistency across blends, harvests, etc.
But don’t think the English are any less serious about brewing tea at home! Anyone who is serious about tea—and that must be everyone who drinks tea—respects the way it’s been done for centuries and, first, must master a traditional English black tea, like an Earl Grey loose leaf.
Steps for Brewing Black Tea
- Put fresh, cold, filtered water into a tea kettle and heat on the stove top—NEVER a microwave!
- Pre-heat your teapot with hot water.
- Add 1 tsp. of loose leaf tea to the teapot (or about 1 bag) for each cup.
- Add one extra teaspoon of tea (or 1 extra bag) “for the pot!”
- As soon as the water reaches a rolling boil, pour it into the teapot, cover, and steep according to taste (3 to 5 minutes is standard).
- Pre-heat your tea cups with hot water.
- If you take your tea with milk, add a splash to your cup and then pour in the tea.
- If desired, add 1 lump or 2 of sugar (or 1 or 2 sugar cubes).
Once this method has been mastered, move on to green teas, white teas, or herbal teas. Each requires different handling, but brewing charts are available on the websites of nearly every major tea manufacturer.