The Knack: How to make a cup of tea, by Sam Twining

"Use fresh tea, and fresh water. Hot tap or reheated water contains less oxygen and gives a flat, stale taste. Make sure the teapot is clean. If a layer of tannin has built up, use two dessertspoons of bicarbonate of soda and boiling water to remove it. Tannin makes the tea taste bitter. Always warm the pot. This ensures the water stays at boiling point when it touches the tea. How much tea to use? One teaspoon per person, plus `one for the pot' is a good guide, and the same applies if you're using tea-bags.

Brewing time is critical. Let the tea brew for three to five minutes. Stir, before serving. If you take milk, always put it in first. Nancy Mitford got it wrong when she said we should put milk in last. And try to leave out the sugar. It numbs the palate, is not good for the body and spoils the tea. Forget the tea cosy, it speeds up the stewing process. If you must use one, to save face with granny, use an infuser or tagged tea-bags so that these can be removed.

If the weather improves and you want iced tea, use Ceylon. Unlike other teas, it doesn't go cloudy when it cools. Brew it the traditional way (but at double strength), allow it to cool, pour over ice and dilute to taste. Alternatively, use cold water and leave for four hours. Add a sprig of mint and perhaps a slice of cucumber or lemon for that final touch." Fiona McClymont

Sam Twining, from the ninth generation of the famous tea family, drinks Ceylon at 11am, Darjeeling at noon, Earl Grey in the afternoon, and takes Jasmine, Oolong or Rose in the evening

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