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Feeling like really capitalising on the lovely weather over the coming months and hosting an afternoon tea party? Want to make it extra special and provide your guests with an experience they won’t forget? Here at Twinings we’ve got a series of articles to help with ideas for hosting the very best Afternoon Tea Party, from which tea to choose, what to serve it in, themes for the party, and the best food to go along with it.

You may have heard that loose tea really stands out as the best way to serve tea. Please don’t get us wrong, tea bags are still a great choice in terms of convenience, taste and ease - loose tea however is just that next level experience that truly brings out the full flavour of tea as it was intended to be enjoyed.

Thankfully, we’re here with a handy guide to all things relating to loose tea, so read on to find out more...

SO WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

The best way to get to know loose tea is to first delve in to the production processes of both loose tea and tea bags, to give you an idea about what tells them apart.

The tea leaves that you’ll find in tea bags and loose leaf tea all come from the exact same plant - Camellia Sinensis. However, the way that these different forms of tea are produced massively affects their overall quality, taste and longevity.

High quality loose tea (such as what you find with our very own Finest Darjeeling or the rare and bespoke Lingia Estate First Flush Darjeeling) are made by following the same stages of hand-picking the finest buds and whole leaves. These are then processed as normal, but without speeding up the process and dicing the leaves. Much like a fine wine, extra care has been taken to make it, resulting in a tea that keeps hold of its distinct quality, flavour and characteristics. 

Tea bags by contrast contain leaves that have been sliced and diced and often include tea fannings (sometimes called ‘dusts’). There is absolutely nothing wrong with this technique, as it creates the tea we find in tea bags which we all know and love, but it does mean that it loses some of the subtle hints and fuller flavours associated with loose tea.

CHARACTERISTICS OF LOOSE TEA

The different varieties of loose tea are distinct from one another because of the region of the world in which they were produced, as well as what know as their ‘flush’.

The word ‘flush’ refers to the season of the year in which the tea was harvested and produced. For example, early spring gives us the tea leaves first ‘flush’, and early summer brings the second ‘flush’. The differences between each flush are very subtle, and again, much like a fine wine, certain flushes of certain types of loose tea will create more sought-after and unique tea flavours.

In terms of the different regions of loose tea available, there is a broad and varied range, each with their own array of unique flavours and characteristics - from the golden, delicate taste of Darjeeling from the foothills of the Himalayas, to the invigorating, honey-dew infused bright region of Ceylon in Sri Lanka.

By experimenting with different flushes and different regions of tea you’re likely to stumble across your own favourite. 

CHOOSING THE RIGHT TEA FOR YOU

Now you’ve got the low-down on loose tea which you can use to really impress your guests, it’s time to pick which tea to serve. If you’re entirely new to loose teas, the sheer range of different options available can be a little bit overwhelming, particularly if you’re unsure which will suit the occasion. So we thought we’d help and highlight some of our favourites to get you started:

Premium Loose Teas

We all need a dash of luxury in our lives every now and then, and our range of Premium Loose Black Teas will make you and your guests feel as spoilt as you deserve to be. These are some of the very best teas that Twinings offer and are sure to be a big talking point for your afternoon tea party.

The 2015 Lingia Estate First Flush Darjeeling really is the champagne of tea. Made west of the town of Darjeeling in the region known as “The Triangle of 8 Peaks” thousands of feet above sea level. This very rare and limited tea has produced one of the most well-balanced, refreshing, floral flavours we’ve ever encountered.
The 2014 Chamong First Flush Darjeeling is a Twinings exclusive and is an outstanding black tea. The large leaves from the Chamong Garden in the Rong Bong Valley once blended creates a deep and rose liquor that’s bursting with juicy peach notes and fresh grassy aromas.
Our 2013 Phoobsering First Flush Darjeeling comes from one of the oldest tea plantations in the Darjeeling West valley. The exquisite leaves used to produce this tea have been plucked from the highest point in the tea garden. The flavour is fresh and sweet, with subtle citrus aromas combining with floral notes to create a clear, bright and unforgettable tea.

And a few loose teas for any occasion

Finest Darjeeling from the southern Himalayas is a blend of delicate black teas, which come together in a pleasing and refreshing way, creating a cup of tea to be enjoyed at any time. Darjeeling as it's meant to be enjoyed!
Finest High Grown Ceylon has a medium brown liquor with balanced tints of orangey citrus, perfect for a subtle, sharp and refreshing taste.
We’re particularly proud of our wonderfully unique tea: Butterflies in Love. Silvery coloured leaves and buds are individually fashioned into bows (or butterflies!) by hand from the Tippy Flowery orange part of the tea plant. 

Don’t stop here though, there’s plenty more to see. Follow the link to discover details of our delicious range of Loose Teas.

PREPARATION TECHNIQUES

So once you’ve found a loose tea that’s right for you, it’s time to look at the best way to store your tea, along with a few ideas on the ideal preparation to really get the best out of it.

Loose tea should ideally be kept out of direct sunlight and stored in an airtight container such as our own Etched Glass Storage Jar, Bitossi Jars or an Eva Tea Tin. These functional items also look great in any kitchen and will guarantee that your loose tea will stay as fresh as possible for longer.

Related products

Chalk Board Storage Jar - Large

Now: £14.66 each

Was: £20.95

This classic glass storage jars offer versatile storage for the home. They have a pretty and practical green screw top lid with a small chalk board for you to label each jar accordingly..

Eva Tea Tin - Taupe

Now: £13.00 each

Was: £16.25

These pretty Eva enamelware tins are perfect for storing tea, coffee and other bits and pieces. Each one has been hand painted in these pretty soft hues, by skilled artisans living in Kashmir.

Bitossi Jars - Set of Three

Now: £30.00 each

Was: £50.00

This set of Three Bitossi Glass Jars with cork lids are ideal for your favourite loose teas, sugar or sweet treats and make a great addition to any kitchen.

For some, the preparation of loose tea is a pleasure in itself, and should be done with care to ensure that the best possible result is achieved that compliments the delicate flavours found within. This is when you’ll really notice the difference between loose tea and tea bags, as brewing tea in its loose leaf form allows hot water to infuse every inch of the high-quality, whole leaf tea. This truly gives the freshest, fullest flavour possible.

Here’s a quick guide for getting the best out of loose tea. Of course there are different ways to prepare loose tea, either using strainers or infusers, but here are a few golden rules that apply:
 
  • Use fresh, clean water to help develop the flavour
  • Warm the pot or infuser first with a spot of boiled water
  • Use one heaped teaspoon of loose tea per person and one for the pot. This ensures the best results, but add more if you prefer a stronger flavour
  • We recommend that you allow loose tea to brew for up to seven minutes. The general rule is that the larger the leaf, the longer the brewing time and the best times are advised on our packaging. Try not to let the tea brew for too long in any case, as it can result in a bitter, oily taste
  • Loose tea should typically be enjoyed without adding milk or sugar, but this is of course down to personal preference

For some, the preparation of loose tea is a pleasure in itself, and should be done with care to ensure that the best possible result is achieved that compliments the delicate flavours found within. This is when you’ll really notice the difference between loose tea and tea bags, as brewing tea in its loose leaf form allows hot water to infuse every inch of the high-quality, whole leaf tea. This truly gives the freshest, fullest flavour possible.

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