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The Harrods Guide to Tea

Feature: Long Read
Words by BRIDIE NEWMAN

Ah, tea. There’s nothing quite like the humble brew, is there? We consume over 165 million cuppas every day in Britain – and here at Harrods, we have a long history with tea.

Ever since Charles Henry Harrod began his career as a grocer and tea merchant in 1834, it’s been our mission to source the world’s finest teas. In short, we’re experts – so allow us to help you brush up on your trivia while discovering your ultimate cup in five steps. Tea break, anyone?

The Five Types of Tea

How many types of tea are there? Dozens? Hundreds? Actually, most varieties fall into five main types – white, green, black, oolong and pu-erh – and they all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis, a sub-tropical species of evergreen shrub or small tree native to Asia. It’s how the leaves are processed that makes all the difference. Now, of course, among the fab five, there are countless variations, used to make even more blends… but understand these distinct types and you’ll be better placed to: a) navigate our wonderful array of tea; and b) discover your ultimate cup.

  • White Tea

    White Tea

    Deliciously round and delicate in flavour, white tea is the most highly prized of tea types. It’s made either entirely or mostly from buds, which are hand-picked, withered and gently dried just once a year. — Brewing time: 2–3 mins | Temperature: 75–80°C

  • Green Tea

    Green Tea

    Green tea boasts a clean, vegetal flavour. Once harvested, the leaves are quickly steamed or pan-fired to prevent oxidation. They’re then rolled to release their aromatic oils, shaped and dried. — Brewing time: 2–3 mins | Temperature: 70–80°C

  • Black Tea

    Black Tea

    Darjeeling, Assam and Ceylon are the most popular black teas. Once picked, the leaves are gently bruised and allowed to fully oxidise (hence the red-brown colour), before being dried. — Brewing time: 3–4 mins | Temperature: 90–98°C

  • Oolong

    Oolong Tea

    Oolong is the most complex tea to produce. Once picked, the leaves are withered and tumbled to encourage partial oxidisation, then pan-fired, rolled and dried. — Brewing time: 3–5 mins | Temperature: 80–85°C

  • Pu-erh Tea

    Pu-erh Tea

    Prized for its deep, complex flavour, pu-erh is a fermented style of tea. After the leaves are oxidised, they’re aged for a few months to several years. — Brewing time: 30 secs (leaves can be re-steeped) | Temperature: 90–100°C

Ask the Experts

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Our tea experts give us the lowdown on what makes our varieties of tea so special and how best to select, store and experience them.

How do I choose the right tea for me?

Our tea specialist, Mihail Chirlomez, breaks this down into three steps: “First, find a trusted tea supplier. At Harrods, we’ve served premium teas for more than 170 years and have a vast and unique selection.”

“Next, find your tea expert. Having so many options can be overwhelming, and we’ve all been guilty of choosing a tea according to its packaging. Talking to a specialist gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get suggestions tailored to you.”

“The final step? Enjoy your tea and the experience of making it. We will offer brewing advice but encourage you to follow your taste, especially when trying a new tea.”

How can I get the most out of my tea?

 “There are multiple factors,” explains tea buyer Yousef Serroukh. “For the finest cup, use whole, loose-leaf tea and store it in an airtight bag or container, out of direct sunlight. Brew your tea in a generously sized teapot as it needs space to expand and release its flavour.”

“Temperature is also vital” Serroukh adds, “and certain varieties are more delicate, so always check the instructions. Soft water is best for brewing but if you live in a hard-water area, consider filtering it first.”

“As a rule of thumb, the longer the leaves are infused, the more astringent the brew is. If you over-steep, it can turn bitter – so use a timer. However, large-leaf tea does need more time to extract the flavour due to its larger surface area, so adjust brewing time to the size of your tea leaves.”

How does Harrods select its teas?

Yousef explains: “Over the years, we’ve established a unique method, sourcing tea directly from the gardens to ensure the quality is exclusive to our customers. We travel across the globe in search of the best produce for the season, accessing teas that are not exposed to the wider market. We taste a wide range, selecting only the varieties that meet our standards for flavour and aroma.”

“We’re mindful of environmental issues, working conditions and ethical practices and the producers we work with can maintain our criteria. It is of the utmost importance to us that we work alongside them to ensure they can not only grow and succeed but sustain the production of premium quality teas.”

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea

In search of the perfect brew, who better to advise us than The Harrods Tea Rooms? Having served afternoon tea since 1896, there’s no finer destination for a taste of British tradition.

Teatime at Harrods

The Harrods Tea Rooms

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Fancy a taste of perfectly brewed Harrods Earl Grey? Or perhaps our exclusive Georgian Blend? Head to The Harrods Tea Rooms on the Fourth Floor for a quintessential afternoon tea, complete with picture-perfect patisserie.

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Destination Tea

If you’ve yet to discover your ultimate brew, visit the tea counter in the Roastery & Bake Hall on the Ground Floor to find lustrous copper caddies filled with speciality blends. Our team will guide you on your journey of discovering teas unlike any you’ve ever tasted before.

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