Tea is at the heart of Harrods’ heritage – Charles Henry Harrod began his career as a grocer and tea merchant, founding the Knightsbridge store in 1849 with a tea counter that quickly established its excellent reputation – so allow us to help you brush up on your tea trivia while discovering your ultimate blend...
After water, tea is the most consumed drink in the world. The five main types of tea – black, green, oolong, white, and pu-erh – all come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. Anything else, while sometimes called tea, is more accurately referred to as a herbal tea or tisane. Rooibos, chamomile and fruit teas are all tisanes.
Camellia sinensis is a sub-tropical evergreen plant native to Asia, and now grown across the world. It cultivates best at high altitudes in loose, deep soil. The world’s main tea-growing region occupies the same 'belt' within which coffee grows – around the Equator between the Tropics.
As all tea comes from the same leaf, the variation comes from the time period and conditions of the fermentation process. Once the tea leaf is picked, it is withered, rolled, fermented and fired – a short fermentation period produces a green tea, while black teas are left longer to develop.
"Once harvested and fermented, teas are blended to create the unique flavour profiles you can find across the world."
Soil, altitude and climate all influence the subtle flavours of a tea; the finest teas grow at high altitudes and should be plucked before sunrise, when the natural fragrance is at its peak. The Indian tea season begins in March – teas plucked at this time are known as 'first flush'; 'second flush' teas are picked in the prime season from the end of May to the beginning of June and 'rain teas' are harvested at the end of the July monsoon that produces a rapid growth of new leaves. Around 4,000 tiny leaves make up just one kilogram of finished tea.
Once harvested and fermented, teas are blended to create the unique flavour profiles you can find across the world: teas from different regions can be blended to vary in strength and flavour, or natural oils can be added for subtle variations.
Black teas tend to give the strongest flavour and are the type most regularly drunk with milk and sugar, while white teas offer the most delicate flavour. Green teas range from the toasty and grassy (for which freshly picked leaves are pan-fired in a hot, dry wok) to the fresh (the leaves are steamed).
Oolongs are more complex in flavour than white or green teas, with floral or fruity notes, making them perfect for those new to tea drinking. Very old, well-stored pu-erhs, meanwhile, are considered 'living teas'. In a similar way to wine, they are celebrated for their earthy, woody or musty aroma and smooth, rich taste.
Loose leaf teas are best served in a small teapot of no more than 300ml; be generous with the leaf and use around 5g per 300ml pot. Green teas and white teas taste best when infused with 60°C-80°C water so that the delicate flavours are not lost, while black teas, oolong and puerh require near-boiling water. Infuse the tea for three minutes and serve. Pour all of the infusion into your cup or into a new teapot to ensure that tea leaves are not left to stew in the pot, which will result in a bitter flavour.
How To Store
Storing tea in an airtight container is imperative to prolonging the delicate flavours, particularly with green and white teas.
Harrods’ Coffee and Tea Buyer, Clare Welton, shares her expert tea recommendations...
If you're after a unique blend, visit the tea counter in the Harrods Food Halls, Ground Floor, for our bespoke service. Choose from over 140 teas and our expert team will create your customised blend, logging it for whenever you next visit. Perfect for yourself or as a gift, you can even add a personal message.