A storming brew

Tea makers For a nation of tea lovers, we cut a lot of corners brewing up. Martin Skegg and Michael Oliveira-Salac advise on the perfect cuppa. Photograph by Adrian Burke
Giles Hilton, product director at Whittard, has been buying teas for 20 years, and probably knows everything there is to know about the stuff. (Did you know, for instance, that wild tea used to be picked by trained monkeys?) He says that fine tea is now in short supply because producers have geared production towards small leaves that are only suitable for tea bags. However, the Whittard T Zone shop in London's Covent Garden still manages to stock 150 different varieties. Flavoured teas - as opposed to herbal infusions, which are not strictly teas at all - have grown massively in popularity over the years and now account for 35 per cent of Whittard's sales (check out that Sticky Toffee Pudding flavour).

Making the perfect cup of tea requires time and care. It is important to use freshly drawn cold water as it is oxygenated. While the water boils, warm the pot to keep the brewing temperature as high as possible. You should use a different pot for different types of tea as residue is hard to remove. Pour the water over the leaves (or bags if you must) as soon as it boils so that the oxygen in the water brings the leaves back to life. Hilton recommends that you always brew for four to five minutes and alter the strength by the amount of tea you use. Despite what your great-aunt might say, milk should be put in the cup first, as pouring the hot tea on top mixes it in more efficiently.

Whittard T Zone, 38 The Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2 (0171-379 6599). For your nearest Whittard shop call customer services on 0800 525092.

Pictured from left to right

Quick Boil kettle Useful for those prone to electric shocks, this is a chrome-plated copper kettle for gas stoves. It has a 1.5-litre capacity and a specially designed heat-retaining base. pounds 19.99. Available from Index on 0345 444444.

Bush Dual Filter kettle

Still riding the i-Mac translucent bandwagon, this has a capacity of two litres with a filter built into both the top and the spout, so the water is filtered on the way in and out. pounds 30. For stockists call Bush on 0181-787 3111.

Prima Clear Boil kettle

Looking like something out of the science lab, this kettle has a concealed element which prevents furring. It also boasts a capacity of 1.7 litres and the glass has been toughened to cope with boiling water. pounds 30. For stockists call Prima on 0113 251 1500.

DeLonghi teapot

Combines modern brewing technology with a classic old-school look. For use with bags or loose tea, this can make six cups in eight minutes. It comes with a ceramic teapot that is preheated by a warmer. Because the leaves are kept separate, the tea can be kept at serving temperature without stewing, although Hilton points out that there are always leaf particles that get through and continue the brewing process. pounds 40. For stockists call DeLonghi on 0800 626496.

Russell Hobbs 3362 coffee/tea maker

An up-to-date electronic tea-maker that brews two cups at a time and has separate removable tea and coffee filters. It is important to keep any tea-making appliance clean, and this is especially true for the 3362 as it has a dual tea/coffee function. Two china cups are included. pounds 24.50. Available from Argos. For local stockist information call 0870 6003030.

Quay Vortex kettle

This could easily lay claim to being the kettle for the millennium, doing justice to any 21st-century kitchen. It has a massive 15-cup capacity and a special feature to ensure rapid boiling (once the water has boiled it simmers down to 75C and periodically reboils). pounds 60, available in September. For stockists and information call Quay Products on 01543 466033