Here we speak with Tea Expert, Angela Pryce, to discover more about tea blends, tea tasting tips and the tea tasting process.
Tell us about you, Angela. How did you become a Tea Expert?
I first started my career back in 1999, so I’ve spent 20 years in tea! I joined the trade as a tea buyer, taster and blender for a large tea company. I spent my first five years there as trainee taster, as it really is so important with tea to taste the product. The value of tea is based on quality from a taste perspective so it’s important to fine tune this skillset.
I’ve enjoyed tea buying from lots of wonderful places around the world, it’s lovely that tea is grown in so many beautiful places. The whole world drinks tea, but wherever you travel they drink it in different ways, from Japanese Tea Ceremonies to British Afternoon Tea, to a more casual Ice Tea in the US. It’s fascinating!
I’ve since moved on from buying teas, and set up my own tea consultancy business. I work with retail brands, tea growers and farmers, and most recently on a project with the United Nations helping tea businesses in East Africa exporting more products into Europe.
From all your years of tea tasting, do you think you have a favourite tea blend?
I think it really depends on the weather, the time of year, and it depends on how I’m feeling and what I’m eating. For example, I love Lapsang Souchong in autumn to drink – it’s smoked over pine wood, from the pine forests of Fujian Province, China, and it’s naturally smokey so reminiscent of autumn walks in the woods, and coming back to sit by a fire. In the summertime I drink lighter teas, such as green teas, even cold-brewing green tea in summer is quite refreshing. Tea can lend itself to many different occasions as it’s such a versatile drink so it’s tricky to pick just one favorite blend.
The home of Wedgwood is in the UK, as such, what do you find to be the most popular type of tea in the UK?
The most popular type of tea in the UK is a black tea blend - we are a nation of traditional black tea drinkers. Not many people realize the biggest supplier of tea to the UK is East Africa, which is due to the type of tea they make. Of course tastes of tea are always changing, so growth in green tea consumption and fruit & herbal drinks is becoming more prominent.
And of course it’s important to note that tea preferences are regional, so within the UK we like strong black tea with the majority of the population adding milk to their tea. Whereas in France they wouldn’t add milk, so their tea preference for black tea blends change.
What is important to consider when brewing the perfect cup of tea?
- You should consider these three things in equal measure to begin - the quality of the tea, the water and (of course) the teaware.
- When you can, use loose leaf tea for maximum flavour.
- If you have larger leaves the tea will take longer to brew i.e. large leaf takes 3-5 minutes of infusion time.
- With regards to water, if you live in a hard water area you should use a filter to remove the impurities. It makes a huge difference to flavour and how the tea looks.
- Finally, tea is about taking time out and making time for yourself, and that can be a moment to celebrate. Whether it’s from your favourite mug or fine bone china tea service, it’s very important to consider the teaware!
Do you have any other simple tea tasting tips or rules?
Aside from those mentioned, I follow some other very simple rules. These include, using freshly drawn water, using one teaspoon of tea per person plus one for the pot, and the temperature of your water is critical.
For black tea use boiling water, whereas 80 degrees is ideal for green tea and white tea. Sometimes people say green tea is too bitter, but it’s often because the water is too hot.
Do you have any ‘tea rituals’, for example, a specific daytime tea or night time tea?
I can never start my day without tea. And it’s got to be a strong black tea with milk to get me started, typically an English Breakfast blend.
Later when I’m working, I like to have Jade Oolong just loose in a mug. I tend to keep topping up with water throughout the day. The best thing about Oolong is that you can repeat infuse them, up to 3-5 times, so it’s a very cost-effective way of using quality ingredients.
Another special ritual that came out of lockdown for me has been taking time out for tea with my family. We’ve all had to juggle working from home and home-schooling, and the tea break has moved from the office to the home, and collectively as a family we see it as a nice break to reconvene in the day. The laptop is closed, we step away, and simply make time to sit and just have tea. It’s a really nice way to effortlessly connect in the home, and it’s a ritual that has morphed out of the office tea break. You can learn so much about people on a simple tea break. It’s been heartening to share tea with my children.
And finally, which tea is best for Afternoon Tea?
Traditionally afternoon tea blends are lighter in character than a breakfast blend. Origins that work well include Darjeeling, and high grown Ceylon because they have more liveliness and a lighter character.
For Afternoon Tea, something you could consider is a Matcha (powered green tea from Japan). Matcha is a good way to move through an afternoon slump – simply whisk one for an instant pick me up. Green teas are a great source of l-theanine, it’s an amino acid that destresses the body. Where caffeine gives you the buzz, l-theanine calms you down. So the combination of caffeine and I-theanine creates this wonderful alert feeling of calm. It’s one of the reasons why Matcha has been used throughout history in settings such as Buddhist Tea Ceremonies.