I have been to a number of English-style tea houses, each time selecting a unique tea from their menus. The quiet, usually ornate atmosphere is calming and somewhat nostalgic and I can’t usually complain about the tea’s quality. However, there is one major downfall when it comes to the English-style tea service. That is the fact the leaves are left in the teapot until the very end of the session.
A session of tea drinking in a traditional English tea house could take a while with all of the distractions readily available (like delicious scones). Letting the leaves sit in the water is not only a huge faux pas in the Chinese-tea drinking community but also creates an insanely bitter cup of tea. Bitter tea often encourages the drinker to add milk, or worse yet; sugar, to make it more tolerable.
Serving tea this way is insulting to the people who work hard to grow and blend it, and to the drinker who selects it from the menu. Tea houses of all kinds should strive to prepare tea in the way that best brings out its pleasant qualities. This means not leaving the leaves in the brewing vessel so that only the first cup is enjoyable.
English-style tea houses (or, at least, the ones here in the US) must adopt new methods if they have any hope of attracting discerning tea drinkers, and they need to do it quickly to avoid furthering their demise in North America.