The perfect cuppa...

As a nation, the British is known world over for our love of a good cup of tea.  Whether you're a traditional English Breakfast fan or prefer a herbal brew, chances are you've already had at least one today.

We recently teamed up with our friends at Good and Proper Tea to celebrate International Tea Day giving away some of our best selling mugs, and a bundle of their goodies.  The response was huge so we thought we'd share some of their insider secrets with you...

Let's start with their most asked question - How do you make the perfect cup of tea?

A cup of tea is a very personal thing, but there are a few things that you can get right to make sure that you get a delicious cup, every time.

1. Use good tea. That means whole, loose leaf tea.

2. Use the right amount of leaf for the volume of water - we recommend 6g (2 heaped teaspoons) for a 350ml pot.

3. Bring freshly drawn, filtered water to the boil. For blacks and herbals, pour directly over the leaves. For oolongs, greens and whites, allow the water to cool before using it to avoid burning the leaves.

4. Pour the water over the leaves and allow to brew for 3 minutes or as per brewing instructions.

5. Once brewed, you want to separate the leaf from the liquor to stop the tea over extracting. To do this you can use either a teapot with an infuser  or alternatively use infuser tongs or an  in-cup brewer and brew inside your cup. Once happy with the strength remove the infuser to leave you with just the brewed tea.

6. Enjoy your perfectly brewed pot of tea!

Next up, here's the lowdown on the 4 types of tea everyone should know about.  Grab a brew and take notes...

1) Black Tea

Confusingly known in China as a ‘red tea’, thanks to the dark red liquors they produce, black tea is perhaps the best known and certainly the most widely drunk of the tea types in the UK. The ubiquitous English Breakfast, for example, is a blend of black teas from different origins.

The distinguishing feature of black tea production is the full oxidation of the freshly plucked tea leaf. After the leaves are picked, they are rolled and gently bruised, kickstarting a process of oxidation. This process of enzymes in the leaf meeting with oxygen in the air turns the leaves from the green we see on the bush to the brown we recognise as tea, before finally being dried. The result of having being left to ‘full oxidise’ is the development of dark, robust flavours, ranging from India’s rich, malty Assams, through China’s Keemuns, with their bittersweet notes of dark chocolate, to lively cups of East Africa’s single origin black teas with hints of fruit and caramel.

2) Green Tea

Compared to the many processes that black tea goes through, green tea production is relatively simple. Where the various steps in black tea prepare the leaf for oxidation, the focus of green tea production is to avoid oxidation altogether and instead deactivate the enzymes in the leaf as early as possible. After the leaves are picked, they are gently withered and then immediately heated to prevent any oxidation taking place. This latter part is known as ‘kill-green’ and the method chosen, such as wok-firing or steaming, plays an important role in the flavour of the finished tea. The lack of oxidation is what gives green tea its vibrant green colour and fresh, vegetal character. Green teas are surprisingly diverse, ranging from the sweet, floral character of a Chinese green to an intense, sweet-savoury Japanese Sencha, the flavour changing depending on where the leaves are grown and how the leaves are heated.

3) Oolong Tea

Oolong, or Wu Long meaning ‘black dragon’, is, in terms of oxidation, a simple halfway house between black and green tea. However, the skill and time required to craft the best oolongs make this tea type quite unique. Unlike black teas which are allowed to oxidise fully, Oolongs are known as semi-oxidised, meaning that in this instance the oxidation process is halted at a controlled point. From lighter ‘green’ oolongs to darker, more heavily oxidised oolongs, it is this varying level of oxidation and the craft involved in their production that make this tea type so exciting, with a huge spectrum of flavour. Expect everything from delicate floral and tropical fruit notes from lighter, ‘green’ oolongs to black cherry and cacao from their darker counterparts.

4) White Tea

The least processed of all tea types, white teas are highly-prized the world over. Only the youngest, finest leaves and buds are painstakingly plucked, the best of which are harvested in Spring, before being gently withered and dried. Many mistakenly believe that white teas are the least oxidised of all tea types, but in fact, while the maker will neither provoke nor prevent it, natural oxidation does occur during the long and carefully controlled withering stage. This meticulous processing is where much of the intensity of its characteristic aroma and sweetness develops, but is also means the best white teas are not only highly prized but also highly priced. When done with skill, the result, however, is very much worth it. From the best white teas you can expect a fresh, delicate, Champagne-coloured cup with character ranging from the gentle honeysuckle of Silver Needle, to the more full-bodied White Peony, brimming with melon-like sweetness.

And there you have it, the 101 to all things tea!