Afternoon tea is a tea for five o'clock, tea for the guests, tea for tea party...tea for the sake of tea.
Unlike tea for breakfast, the afternoon tea has a rather complex functionality. Therefore, the requirements to the afternoon drink also become more complex. An attempt to formulate them will lead to the next set of very subjective concepts: not very strong, elegant, delicate, exquisite, fragrant, friendly and pleasant for everyone's drinking it, also worthy of attention as a topic for conversation.
The simplest requirement, at first glance, is the requirement regarding the robustness of a drink. It is understandable that afternoon tea should not be very energizing, by no means it implies that tea served in the evening should be weak. Consider one teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup, plus one extra spoon for the pot. Although, I'd suggest serving two or perhaps three varieties of the afternoon tea, but that is a matter of personal choice.
We'll try to address the remaining requirements and find out what teas are more felicitous to these qualifications.
Let's start with the elegance and sophistication of tea, which, of course, can manifest itself in tea's taste, aroma, color of infusion and aftertaste. The refined and delicate teas are traditionally considered Indian Darjeeling’s and Chinese black teas as well as blends, prepared on their basis. I also would like to suggest mildly flavored teas. Vanilla, Cinnamon, Caramel or Bergamot (Earl Grey) teas are good examples of flavored daintiness, not too complicated, familiar and friendly. This does not detract from the merits of afternoon teas, but suggests a few more simple elegance and fragrance solutions. Lapsang Souchong with its smoky notes, Russian Samovar with earthy notes may be a very appreciated additions to one's afternoon tea collection.
All these teas are good due to the fact that in extension to their undoubted sensational gustatory and aromatic excellence, they are very simple to perceive. They do not require from people who drink them special training or knowledge of tea tester. Moreover, their divine simplicity starts the conversation that will go beyond the question "What kind of tea are we drinking today?"
Based on the foregoing, we can conclude that to find a universal afternoon tea is practically impossible. The choice of beverage will greatly depend on the guests who gathered at the tea table, the dishes served with tea, and the host. There is only one solution to the problem, which is simple enough - in a decent home should be a few afternoon teas on the shelf. You can choose to your taste any combination of the above suggestions to complete your personal collection of the afternoon tea.
In the next article we'll talk about exotic flavored teas as refinements that are more percisely characterizes the owner of tea collection...