Four Golden Rules to Making the Perfect Cup of Tea

April 19th, 2024 | Coffee Industry Insights & Trends

If you’re celebrating National Tea Day with anything but a loose leaf from Suki tea, you’re doing it wrong.

Ahead of the biggest day in the tea calendar, we sat down with one of our favourite celebri-teas; Oscar Wooley, all-round tea nerd and co-founder of the award-winning Suki Tea, for some expert advice on the perfect cuppa.

Since he started Suki with Annie Irwin back in 2005, Oscar’s search for the perfect brew has taken him to over 30 countries and it’s safe to say; he’s picked a fair few tricks up along the way.

So sit back, enjoy a cup, and discover Oscar’s four golden rules of tea-making. Hopefully, it’s not a steep learning curve…

Picture of Oscar Wooley and Annie Irwin, founders of SUKI Tea.

What’s the ideal brew time for a cuppa?

“When it comes to loose-leaf breakfast tea, a good rule of thumb is 3-5 minutes: less than three minutes will produce a lighter brew (if that’s what you’re into) but won’t bring out the depth of characteristics available in the loose-leaf. Anything over five will leave your cuppa over-brewed, metallic, starchy, and worst of all; cold!

We love loose-leaf (if you haven’t picked up by now) but we know most of the nation is enjoying the good old traditional tea bag tea. These are designed to give everything they’ve got in 30 seconds; so you’re getting convenience over flavour, a more two-dimensional drink to the depth of character that a loose-leaf tea delivers. Whatever floats your boat though…”

Your water can make or break it

“Your cup of tea is 99% water, so it’s certainly an important factor. Your water should be freshly drawn and freshly boiled (don’t overfill your kettle – save on water and your bills!). If you reboil your water, you are reducing the oxygen and minerals in the water – which means you’re not getting the best chemical reaction to the infusion and activating those tasty enzymes to bring out the full flavour of your tea, which makes a really flat-tasting drink.

If you really want to enhance the tea character of your brew, filter your water first (yes, even in Scotland!) – ideally with a charcoal filter – and use freshly drawn, freshly boiled water once. When you filter the water, you’re removing impurities and chemicals (like Chlorine and other minerals) that might alter the taste of the tea. By using freshly once-boiled water, you’ll be able to release the full flavour of the tea leaf.”

Milk first?

“Listen, drinking tea is totally a personal preference, and there’s no right or wrong way. Having said that, if you’re adding milk first, you’re wrong.

Black tea is subjected to very high heat when it’s being processed, so you need boiling water to activate it. Anything less than boiling will not give you the flavour you need, so if you put milk into your cup first, you’re reducing the temperature. Plus, everyone is drawn to a specific colour of cup when knowing that their tea is brewed perfectly to their taste, so you want to know that that colour is right for you before you add a splash of milk.”

Finding a good quality tea

“One of the most important things is finding a good quality tea – don’t settle for less! For loose leaf, you’re looking for a fresh, full, neat and uniform leaf which delivers great character, enticing cup colour, wonderful aroma and a real depth of flavour – real and naturally crafted ingredients.

Remember, tea is so much more than just a refreshing pick-me-up. A great quality tea shared with friends can, in our eyes, solve any problem.”

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth; the four golden rules of brewing. After reading this, you’ve got no excuses for a sub-par cup. Now, time to get filtering…

Large catering bag of loose leaf black tea pyramids.