Don’t be a mug when it comes to choosing tea 

Sunday 23  Nov, 2014 

  • Not all wine is sweet, not all tea is safe

  • Discover why you should make a change in your teapot

Back in my early days I considered myself a sophisticate.

Hard to believe that a denim and leather clad, long haired and roughly shaven teenager could be anything remotely approaching delicate... but I liked to think so!

The basis for this belief lay in the fact that I was able to accompany my dinner companion to the local pub and advise whether to have wine or stick to half pints of lager.

Believe me back in the day that was as refined as sophistication got!

The selection of wine was never a challenge, consisting as it did of Blue Nun or house Liebfraumilch... never both and never a red wine or heaven forefend a rosé.

Sitting in a smoke filled room with ham, egg and chips and a warm bottle of German sweet wine was the height of posh round our way.

Strange to think that this particular type of wine became so popular in the 1970s, being both cheap and widely available – it was accepted as what wine was. You therefore either liked wine or you didn’t.

I know that elsewhere in the world, and even in the country, the choice of produce was far more extensive and the truly educated palate would never have touched anything so uncouth and overly sweet as that which I lavished upon prospective girlfriends.

But in my small corner of Wales we didn’t have that choice.

Why am I regaling you with the horrors of a date with yours truly? Believe it or not I think we have got the same problem with our tea.

Let me explain why.

Do you want to discover a whole new experience in fresh tasting tea? Click here to find out why your favourite blend might not be all that you think it is

Why you need to move on in your tea drinking habits

I am a devotee of tea in all its many and varied forms, much as I am now of real wine.

For me, a proper cup of steaming tea is the perfect drink – I can sit and savour the delicate aromas, gulp it down with a bacon butty or pop it into a flask for sustenance on a long hike with the dog.

A really versatile brew.

But I’m willing to bet that if I did a survey of UK households I would discover that the brand of tea drunk in each hasn’t changed in years.

We all seem to be very loyal to our choice and educate our children to follow suit – there are PG Tips families, Tetley clans and Typhoo-ists right across the country.

Much like the Black Tower or Blue Nun fans of my formative years.

But just as the scandal about unscrupulous producers adding antifreeze to their wines killed off the Liebfraumilch craze there is trouble brewing for the major tea brands too.

Like many tea drinkers I have always believed that my beverage of choice was safer than other options such as soft drinks or sugary juice drinks, but this fantasy has been squelched by numerous recent studies reporting on the high levels of fluoride and pesticides found in tea. 

No longer is 'just any tea' a safe choice. Even certain tea brands promoted as healthy and sold in health food stores are no longer a sure bet, as some of these brands contain high levels of fluoride, pesticides, GMOs and natural flavours which may not be the kind of 'natural' you would knowingly ingest.   

Commercial teas from the big brands are also coming under fire because of chemicals used in the tea bags.

Certain ones are treated with epichlorohydrin, a plastic that helps to keep the bags from breaking. The problem is that this potent chemical can potentially break down in water…and be released into your drink.

Health experts advice that a daily consumption of products containing epichlorohydrin could cause stomach problems and an increased risk of cancer.

Here’s the real low down on commercial teas, find out how to enjoy a safer brew

Widen your palate

Thinking about tea in the same way as we would wine turns out to be a really good idea.

I don’t know about you but I tend to stock up on a few different types of wine to enjoy in differing circumstances; a light prosecco for a refreshing buzz, a flinty Chablis for savouring and a nice Beaujolais for sharing with friends around the dinner table.

Then there are the deep tones of Malbec or a Cotes Du Rhone for a guilty night in alone – the choices are wide and varied.

Why then have I spent years drinking just one variety of tea?

There are so many to be discovered out there; fresh zingy green teas, deep golden flower teas and fine blend black teas are just a few of the delights awaiting you.

Right now I am enjoying a Kenyan black tea called Kosabei which is grown at an altitude which means it is free from pests and therefore has no chemical controls sprayed over it.

Rich malty flavours combined with a hint of currants make this a real connoisseur's blend, plus I have rediscovered the joy of fresh brewed tea made in a teapot and poured through a strainer.

There is a bit of theatre to serving tea that has been sadly missing as we have become used to dropping a tea bag into the mug and slapping on hot water.

Like a fine wine, tea needs time to prepare, to breathe and slowly infuse the pot with all of its flavour and aromas.

A few weeks ago I wrote that we were drinking less tea as a nation than before, and that there was a rise in juice and sugary beverage consumption as a result.

Well, getting back to old habits might be the way to re-educate your palate to what proper tea can offer, and have you and yours drinking more of the revitalising and health boosting beverage.

Interestingly taking a trip backwards in time is no bad idea – I’ve discovered that the new Reislings are rather fine wines too!

Click here to find out more about the horrors that lurk in your tea cup, and how to get your own stock of fine Kosabei tea

Yours, as always






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