His greatest asset is on par with one of Madonna’s breasts, one of Heidi Klum’s legs, and both of Keith Richards’ hands – provided the British Pound doesn’t continue to devalue, that is. Meet Sebastian Michaelis, whose employers at Tetley – Britain’s largest tea manufacturer – had his tongue insured for $1.39 million. Tasked with blending individual flavors so that Tetley tea always tastes the same, the master blender has a palate so refined that he can taste and grade a tea in just 15 seconds, having undergone five years of intensive training.
During this time, he tasted hundreds of teas on a daily basis to develop his expertise and lived in India, Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania to visit local farmers and learn everything about the camellia sinensis plant – from how it is grown, the ins and outs of the production process, and more. Michaelis is now responsible for sourcing the best quality teas from Africa and China and, as Tetley buys its tea directly from producers, he travels regularly to meet with farmers and understand what is happening on the ground. It’s no wonder that Tetley felt the need to insure each of Michaelis’ taste buds – of which the average person has about 10,000 – at $139 each.
Despite having tasted almost half a million teas from around the globe, Michaelis’ training is ongoing as there are literally hundreds of thousands of varieties and flavors left for him to discover. We took the shortcut, tapping him for what it takes to make the perfect cup of tea. Keep scrolling to see if you are guilty of committing #brewblasphemy as Michaelis delves into what he thinks are the seven deadly sins of drinking tea.
“Always use water that is freshly drawn from the tap. Water that’s already been boiled can affect the taste of your tea, so discard any water left in your kettle from the last brew.”
Waste Not, Want Not
“Only boil the right amount of water you need. 95 percent of the energy it takes to make a cup of tea is the electricity used by the kettle, so overfilling your kettle will waste energy.”
“Glass, mug, or fine china? It is really down to personal taste, but I find that the thinner the lip of the cup, the more flavor I can taste.”
Quality Over Quantity
“Choose the right tea! Not all tea is the same and, like any food or drink, you have ingredients of different quality. Tea is grown in many different countries, all of which vary in their quality and flavor. Most of the tea that you’ll find on the shelf is blended to achieve the right balance of body, color, and flavor. That’s not to say that you should buy the most expensive tea on the shelf, but cheap teas often compromise on ingredients and can be poorly blended.”
“Allow your tea to steep for three minutes to get the most flavor from the leaf without it becoming too bitter.”
Some Like It Hot
“Use boiling water for black tea. It’s a myth that it will ‘burn’ the tea leaves. Pouring water that has literally just boiled helps to infuse the most flavor. In contrast, never use boiling water for green tea. While black tea likes the heat, green tea prefers water around 80°C – otherwise it will taste very astringent and bitter. If you don’t have a temperature gauge on your kettle, then wait until you start seeing little bubbles rising as a sign that water is hot enough.”
“Milk in before or after? If you are brewing tea in a cup, then always pour milk after, as you will reduce the temperature of the brew when the boiling water is poured on your tea.”