If you asked a child in most Western cities what tea is, the chances are they will say it is a brown powder in a small paper bag which has a string attached to it!
The dumbing down and lack of information about this mystical and healthy beverage was successfully carried out by large multi national food companies from the 1970s until a few years ago. They were looking for market share in the supermarkets and therefore attempted to make the tea bag a generic product without emphasising product quality, regional variation or origin.
Thankfully over the last few years the knowledge about tea and its wonderful attributes have been widely publicised, primarily because of the health benefits associated with it.
Tea is grown in many countries mainly in Asia and Africa. It is an important agricultural product and the source of important export revenue for many of them. The tea trade employs millions of people to produce, manufacture and distribute this healthy and pleasing drink which we all enjoy.
The principal producers of tea are China, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Taiwan. Very often smaller tea producing countries blend their teas with teas from the major producing countries as their own production levels are low.
Green Gunpowder tea is one of the most popular green teas available and it is often used as the base to blend flavoured teas such as Moroccan Mint.
Although its name sounds threatening, the reason it is called ‘gunpowder’ is because the rolled leaf style resembles the pellets that used to be put into shotguns!
But be assured, there is nothing dangerous or lethal about the mild, astringent and slightly sweet beverage that the tea leaves produce. Healthy and lower in caffeine than black tea, it is a popular drink sometimes taken with meals.
Green Gunpowder tea produces a straw coloured infusion with a fresh and grassy aroma.
English breakfast, Irish breakfast, Scottish breakfast, Melbourne breakfast, Perth breakfast, the list goes on.
Breakfast teas were originally blended to give a strong brew, usually taken with milk, to complement a hearty English-style breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, butter and of course kippers and whatever else the gourmand desired!
In the past, the teas were a blend of malty Assam and/or strong Ceylon teas.
Sadly what passes off or is called English breakfast tea today is often a weak imitation of what it used to be. Very often bad or poor quality tea is used and by calling it English breakfast tea, tea suppliers disguise a poor tea blend behind a generic name.
To make matters worse and even more confusing, other breakfast teas such as Scottish, Melbourne and Perth have now hit the market – no doubt to attract unwitting buyers and perhaps to play on their love for their home town or country.
If the consumer wants a good, strong English or Irish breakfast (stronger and more pungent) tea the best advice is to buy a good premium quality tea or teabag. Maybe a taste test of two or three English breakfast teas will prove the variation of quality and flavour.
A tea taster or blender tastes many hundreds of tea samples each week. This process determines the quality of the tea and the price that it will attract. Descriptive terms used by the tea trade exist for dry leaf, infused leaf and the beverage (called liquors).
The terms are too many to mention here but generally dry leaf has about thirty descriptive terms, infused leaf about twelve and liquors about fifty. For example a sample of good Ceylon Tea can be described by the blender as black, clean and even (dry leaf), good aroma, bright and coppery (infused leaf) and good body, bright, brisk, coloury and thick (liquors)!
So the next time you have a cup of good tea remember the effort that goes into making it a good one.
Terroir is a French word that refers to a place where the roots of a plant grow.
The effect of that particular environment, altitude, climate, weather and soil has a distinct bearing on the unique taste, attributes and character of the beverage produced in an area or region.
That is why tea produced in Darjeeling or wine that is produced in Bordeaux, has a characteristic that is unique to the region.
Good tea and good wine…Enjoy!
To enjoy the real flavour and aroma of high quality black tea try taking it without milk or sugar.
Green teas, flavoured teas and herbal infusions should be taken without milk. A mere touch of sugar or honey perhaps, if it is so desired.
It is said that milk was introduced to tea in the 18th century, particularly in Britain, to mask the mustiness of tea which occurred after the long voyage from China.
It then became a habit which spread through the British Empire. Interestingly milk is rarely added to tea in the rest of Europe.
Some teas such as English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast are blended with the expectation that milk will be added.
How you take your tea depends entirely on your taste and your habits. So enjoy it the way you prefer. But PLEASE use good quality tea.
Which is why coffee plungers are good for coffee and not for tea leaves. Also the plunger damages the tea leaf and causes tannins to be released which can make the tea bitter.
Because infused tea sinks to the bottom of the pot, look for a pot with the spout at the top of the pot not at the bottom, to minimise the flow of leaves into the cup when pouring.
A well designed pot will have a spout that does not drip and a lid that stays in place when pouring the tea.
Many pots have infusers built in that prevent tea leaves from flowing into the cup and also prevent the tea from ‘stewing’.
Stewing happens when the tea in the pot is infused for longer than the recommended time. This distorts the flavour and makes the tea dull and bitter.
Paris ‘that elegant and fashionable city of light’ has the best tea salons and tea rooms in the world.
Stylish and tastefully appointed these interesting establishments serve the highest quality teas from the best plantations, accompanied by delicious food.
Some have a long history while others are relatively modern.
Seek them out when visiting Paris –they are well worth a visit.
Some companies in Australia claim to supply ‘Australian produced tea’.
The tea plantations in Australia which are run by these companies in Queensland are relatively small in acreage compared to the plantations run in the traditional tea producing countries.
The yield (the amount of leaf) from an acre of plantation can vary depending on location and climatic conditions, but generally there are accepted yield levels.
Even allowing for the ‘rough’ picking of the leaves in Australia– machine picking which picks up stalk as against hand picking –two leaves and a bud only, the quantity of so called Australian produced tea sold in the supermarkets cannot be reconciled with its limited production capacity.
To put it bluntly, far too much ‘Australian produced’ tea is sold relative to the Australian plantation’s production capacity!
How does this happen? Lesser quality Australian tea is blended with other quality imported tea (usually Ceylon Tea from Sri Lanka).
Some companies actually state this on their packaging.
Because it is almost impossible to determine the percentage of imported tea used in many ‘Australian Produced’ tea blends, the question must be asked if this is simply a deliberate and clever (though misleading) marketing ploy to attract Australian consumer loyalty for an inferior product.
The only common factor between tea and coffee is the use of boiling water to infuse or brew them. Even that is not quite the same as the correct water temperature for infusing teas varies with the type of tea being infused.
Tea leaf versus coffee bean, the agricultural processes employed, the caffeine content and health benefits, the various type of product, the infusion and brewing methods and even the method of serving are all different.
That is why it is always amusing to read and hear about tea and coffee experts!
Tea is an essential part of fine living and dining…an integral part of the overall gastronomic experience. Just as wines are selected to enhance certain foods, teas can also be selected and brewed to match sweet, savoury or spicy foods and the various hours and moods of the day.
|TYPES OF FOOD||SUITABLE TEA|
|English-style breakfast (fried foods, eggs, smoked fish, ham, bacon, etc.)||Ceylon Pekoe, English Breakfast, Dimbula, Irish Breakfast, Flowery Pekoe, Assam, Darjeeling, Jasmine|
(breads, cheese, jams etc)
|Ceylon Pekoe, English Breakfast, Flowery Pekoe, Dimbula, Assam, Darjeeling, Jasmine|
|Light savoury meals & brunch||Ceylon Pekoe, Dimbula, Assam, Darjeeling, Green, Oolongs, Sencha, Fruit and Herbal infusions|
|Meat & game||Earl Grey, Jasmine, Assam, Lapsang Souchong.Russian Caravan|
|Poultry||Darjeeling, Oolong, Jasmine, Lapsang Souchong|
|Fish||Darjeeling, Oolongs, Earl Grey, Green, Sencha|
|Spicy foods||Ceylon Pekoe, Dimbula, Darjeeling, Oolong, Green, Jasmine|
|Tea time||All Teas|
|Strong cheeses||Earl Grey, Green, Lapsang Souchong, Russian Caravan|
|After a meal||Darjeeling, Green Tea, Oolong, most Herbal infusions particularly Peppermint|
|All day||Most teas as well as herbal, fruit infusions and specialty teas can be enjoyed throughout the day.|
Contrary to popular opinion, teabags do not necessarily make a bad cup of tea.
Teabags are here to stay, convenience being their main advantage.
The quality of the tea made by a teabag depends on the QUALITY OF THE TEA IN THE TEABAG.
The majority of teabagged teas sold in supermarkets have inferior teas because of price competition.
There has been a recent marketing campaign to promote pyramid style tea bags using larger leaf teas.
However the reality is that large leaf teas do not make a stronger cup of tea and they must also be infused for at least four minutes.
Studies have shown that the average teabag user only infuses a teabag for less than a minute.
This is why the more expensive option to use large leaf teas in pyramid teabags will probably eventually go the way of previous teabag fads – round bags, drawstring bags, etc.