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Tips from the Tea Master on preparing the perfect cuppa

Tea is one of the most popular beverages worldwide, and every tea drinker has their preferred flavour and specific way of making a cuppa. But when it comes to understanding tea, nobody knows more than the master – Jonathan Kelsey, Master Tea Blender at Joekels Tea!

With centuries of heritage and time-honoured traditions, tea is a beverage that truly stood the test of time. The simple ritual of tea-making remains as relevant today as ever. Many self-confessed ‘tea snobs’ believe they’ve discovered the secret to the perfect cup of tea, from when to add the milk to whether to squeeze the bag. However, Kelsey is really one man who is qualified to spill the tea on making the perfect cuppa.

The Master Tea Blender and Co-Director at Joekels Tea Packers, manufacturers of top tea brands like Laager Rooibos and Tetley, has been evaluating and blending teas for over 33 years. He’s also the only Tea Master in the country who has insurance on his tongue and taste buds – R5 million to be exact!

But what is the Tea Master’s favourite tea? Is there one type of tea that trumps the others?

“All teas have different flavours and offer different benefits, so it depends on what you’re looking for,” notes Kelsey. “Rooibos, for example, is naturally caffeine-free and naturally sweet so it can be enjoyed without milk and sugar. Green tea is more astringent and is very high in antioxidants, while Black tea is ideal for mental alertness and is richer and more aromatic.

“I enjoy a strong cup of Laager Rooibos as much as a rich cup of Tetley Black tea with milk and sugar. It all depends on how I feel at the time. I’m also loving The Tetley Masala Chai and Elaichi Chai as a dessert tea with lots of milk and sugar, and the Tetley Green tea variants for a digestive after lunch or dinner.”

According to Kelsey, the two biggest mistakes people make are not brewing the tea for long enough and using re-boiled water.

“To get the most of the flavour and benefits, tea should always be steeped for at least three minutes, or longer – depending on how strong you like it. Using re-boiled water makes tea taste flat, which is why tea should always be prepared with freshly-boiled water.”

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For those looking to prepare tea like the Master himself, Kelsey has shared some useful tips.

Black tea

–    The key to Black tea is choosing a quality blend. A good quality black tea should have a reddish or golden hue to it once milk is added, while poorer quality teas are generally a flatter, muddy brown colour.

–    Black tea should be brewed for three to five minutes to enjoy the full flavour.

–    Black tea can be enjoyed with or without milk and/or sugar.

–    Flavoured Black tea varieties like Earl Grey and Chai are best enjoyed with milk and sugar. When it comes to Chai, the milkier the better – it can even be prepared using boiled milk.

Green tea

–    Green tea has a very delicate flavour, which can become bitter if prepared with boiling water. For optimum flavour, green tea should be prepared with water that hasn’t reached boiling point.

–    Green tea is best prepared without milk. Milk contains a protein called casein that negates some of the benefits of the natural antioxidants found in Green tea.

–    Green tea should be brewed for around three minutes. For those who find Green tea too bitter, adding a squeeze of honey or a slice of lemon is a good idea. Alternatively, there are flavoured green teas such as Tetley Green lemon, mint, or apple.

–    Green tea can inhibit the absorption of iron if consumed with meals. It should rather be drunk at least 15 to 20 minutes before or after a meal.

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–    Rooibos is actually not a tea in the true sense – in that it doesn’t come from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. It is a herbal tincture, much like Chamomile or Honeybush.

–    Rooibos should be brewed for three to five minutes.

–    Rooibos can be enjoyed with or without milk or honey. Many enjoy adding honey to their Rooibos, and/or a slice of fresh lemon.

Fruit infusions

–    Fruit infusions are also not ‘teas’ in the traditional sense as they don’t contain tea leaves. Instead, they are made from a blend of real herbs, flowers and fruit, which create a flavourful beverage when brewed in boiling water.

–    Herbal infusions are usually brewed for three to five minutes, but always refer to the packaging for preparation instructions.

–    Fruit infusions should be consumed without milk. Honey or sugar can be added.

3 useful tips for getting the most out of that cup of tea

1.  Tea is hygroscopic. This means that it will absorb moisture from the air and other flavours if stored with flavoured teas or food items. It should always be stored in an airtight container after opening, away from light and moisture.

2.  The shelf life of tea is about 18 to 24 months. Over time, the powerful flavonoids found in tea are reduced. This is another reason why proper storage is important.

3.  Don’t use re-boiled water when preparing tea. Rather than wasting water, use cool, boiled water for drinking or watering plants.

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Kelsey concludes that these guidelines are just that – guidelines: “The best way to drink tea is… however you like it! That’s one of the great things about tea. We all like it a different way, and no way is the wrong way. Some like it piping hot, others like it with ice and fresh fruit as an iced tea. Some will curse you for adding milk or sugar, and for others, it looks more like milk than tea. I can tell you all about the ‘proper’ way to make tea, but there’s really no wrong way to drink it – just enjoy it while you reap the benefits!”

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