HENRIETTA LOVELL: THE TEA LADY

Henrietta is passionate about tea: the provenance, quality and preparation. Here, she reveals the perfect brew for an afternoon tea party

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

The adventure. I love travelling the world sourcing incredible teas direct from extraordinarily beautiful mountain tea gardens and developing relationships with the growers. It’s a real privilege. I also have the great pleasure of working with some of the world’s finest chefs. One day you might find me tasting new harvests high in a remote location in China, the next sipping tea with René Redzepi of Noma.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

Blending is one of the most complex arts. At the Rare Tea Company, we make unique bespoke blends each season for athletes, chefs, royalty and film stars. There are so many variables from field to field, farm to farm, region and country, plus changing environmental conditions. I might think, ‘to get that particular flavour profile, I need to go to that field on that farm in Nepal’, but then the rains come late, so I may need to search out a new tea entirely.

ARE TASTES CHANGING WHEN IT COMES TO TEA?

People are embracing unique flavours and provenance. There are so many different teas with a style to fit every occasion, from robust breakfast tea to something elegant and complex that’s suitable for after dinner.

AFTERNOON TEA IS VERY POPULAR IN THE UAE. WHAT TEA WOULD YOU SERVE?

A rich, dark, astringent and malty English Breakfast blend – without milk. The deep complexity and tannins would be perfectly complemented by scones with plenty of clotted cream and jam, for example.

SHOULD YOU EVER ADD MILK?

In most countries, tea is drunk without milk. Britain, for example, is an exception because during the Second World War, the government supplied industrial-grade tea, which was bitter, so the British started adding milk and sugar to make it more palatable. As a rule of thumb I would only add milk to a very dark blend or a regular teabag. More often than not I’d leave it out.

HOW SHOULD I MAKE A GOOD CUP OF TEA?

Preparing tea is an art form. The water should be at 70°C for white or green tea and 85°C for black tea; only use boiling water for a standard teabag or if you want a very astringent cup of tea. Add one teaspoon of tea to one cup of water (2.5 grams to 150 millilitres), then leave it to brew for anywhere between 45 seconds to three minutes. If you’re in control of the temperature, leaf to water ratio and infusion time, you can get your tea just the way you like it.