I am appealing to the English tea drinking enthusiasts out there for advice on tea. Which brands of tea are excellent and which should be avoided? What makes for the best brew - enameled cast iron teapot or ceramic? Again - what teapot brands are excellent quality and which ones are poor? I am considering a Japanese pot. However, some are now made in China and I question the quality. Share your tea drinking tips with me. Thank you.
Yorkshire tea is my brew of choice.
"Taylors of Harrogate" does make a nice tea (Yorkshire). Another good, English brand of loose-leaf is "Ahmad's of London" (I like their 'Imperial Blend').
I'm not usually serving an opulent afternoon 'Tea', so I can't help you with kettle composition.
But for a quick 'cuppa' in the morning, I go the Builder's route: put my favorite, large (Builder's) mug in the microwave and drop in a disc of "Tetley's" or "Make Mine a Builder's" once the water has reached a boil.
PG Tips or Tetley are the ones we generally buy (depending on who's got a special offer on).
PG Tips and Tetley are 'standard' British brews, intended to have milk and/or sugar added. Nothing wrong with that, built a nation, awesome with a full English or standing in the cold and rain.
However, tea has evolved in the UK. Proper tea is really 'loose leaf' tea (not in tea bags) and best without milk or sugar.
Whittard sells many, many high quality loose leaf teas. You can smell before you buy and many you can taste too. Harrods certainly has a Tea department.
China or ceramic pots are best in my opinion. I like the ones with a finely perforated metal cylinder in, into which you put the tea so it can be removed when 'brewed, after about 4-7min so you don't 'stew' the tea. The pot we have is a 'Forlife' one, not posh, but makes a good cuppa.
Tea bags arn't all bad. 'Tea Pigs' are particularly good ones. We really like the mint teas, but they do many.
Earl Grey is the classic 'posh' tea. I'd just get a selection, smokey, fruity, flowery, etc. and drink the one you like most. I'm no expert though.
"Proper" tea NEVER comes in a tea bag, it is always lose to allow the flavours to mix. Brands depends on taste and budget. Black or green tea? I had a tour of a tea plantation ages ago and they said Orange Pekoe was best and tea bags are made more from the leaf dust.
Tea Pigs are probably the best UK upper-end mass market brand. I have not come across Ahmads of London teas despite working there for years, apart from at airports in fancy tins.
Always use a hot pot - the material does not seem to make a difference. The water used impacts on the taste.
Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. I will remember to preheat my pot with hot water from now on.
Any thoughts on Fortnum and Mason?
If you are looking for tea actually grown in England then your choice is somewhat limited. However there is Tregothnan Tea from Cornwall although its locally-grown teas are usually blended with imported for particular flavours.
No matter what I do I simply CANNOT brew tea at home that tastes like the tea I get in the UK. I bring tea home and make it in exactly the same way that I have meticulously observed in hundreds of tea houses, B&Bs, hotels, restaurants, etc. and it vexes me to no end that I cannot get it right!
I have decided it's the water.
Fortnum and Mason is great, worth a visit. Personally I prefer the Harrods and Selfridges food halls. F&M is a little too 'formal' for me. They have a great selection of teas.
Just as an anecdotal addendum...
Some of the most uninspired (that's a euphemism for just plain bad) I've ever had was on a British Airlines flight.
I haven't drunk tea by choice on a plane because of the altitude issue in the temperature of boiling water as well as it tending to over stew. However, BA have been working recently with Twinings to improve the taste at 85C so I might give these a go.