How To Have A Tea Change
Growing up in England I remember my mother always had the kettle on for a cuppa. It was a ritual throughout the day.
The recipe for ‘a brew’ was one spoonful of tea for each person, one for the pot, and a heaped one for luck.
Dark brown – ‘strong enough to stand the spoon up in’ was the desired effect. Add full cream milk, sugar to taste and stir vigorously.
Woollen knitted tea cosies were plonked over the teapot.
It was often a social occasion with women of the village drinking tea, lighting cigarettes and having a gossip.
My tea making ability didn’t evolve much over the years other than becoming a tea bag freak. So easy, didn’t necessarily need a teapot.
It took many years for realisation to hit with a vengeance – tea is universal and versatile. I experienced a tea change and I'm still exploring. So much to learn.
In fact it’s amazing what you can do with tea.
Tea in Taiwan
In Taiwan a visit to the Jhongshan Agricultural Leisure Area is true tea experience.
This is a sleepy place, with lush tea plants undulating as far as the eye can see.
In the sunny garden, dogs roam lazily, fish whirl in the pond, coloured birds circle, pigs snuffle. Curiously, an imitation painted cow poses prettily.
Out in the plantation, we work, picking tea leaves, carefully selecting the new, bright green, shoots.
Back at the farm we wash the leaves, dry them thoroughly before dipping them into a light batter. Into the sizzling Wok for a deep fry produces a delicious mouth watering snack before lunch is served.
Tea for Lunch –
Tempura tea leaves.
Chicken, simmered slowly in tea.
Pickled tea leaves.
Tofu, tea soaked and then fried until crisp.
Tea based jelly
Scrumptious slices of green tea cake.
And, of course a cuppa. A steaming, fragrant, refined sort of cuppa. Milk and sugar -an absolute no -no!
I’m totally hooked. It all melts in the mouth.
There are many tea plantations farms in this area, and it’s possible to visit several in plantations in a day just cruising from one to another and sampling what’s on offer.
Teahouses are plentiful – warm and welcoming. The Jioufen teahouse is splendid.
It is so relaxing, sitting cross legged, watching tea being prepared in an exacting way, and then slowly sipping, totally appreciating the fragrance and quality.
I chose to taste Oriental beauty tea and then the local Oolong. All of it delicious.
Even more delicious is the environment, soothing background music, the gentle sound of a waterfall – paintings and pottery decorate the tearooms, all geared to creating an unforgettable experience.
Judging by the number of locals filing through to have their tea fix - this is not just another tourist venue. It’s an all day, everyday occurrence.
At the Yixing Xuan Tea House in Singapore Mr Vincent Low's Chinese Tea Appreciation courses are legendary.
There is no doubt Mr Low is passionate about his subject. Formerly a successful banker, he had a tea change, leaving his profession to study at Taiwan's famous Lu Yu - University of tea.
In 760 AD Lu Yu is credited with perfecting the art of tea making.
Like wine lovers, many Chinese tea drinkers are connoisseurs, constantly in pursuit of the perfect leaves.
The tea plant is said to contain antioxidants, purportedly a plus towards combating ageing. Obviously cheaper than Botox. Tell me more.
Yes, tea is recommended as a relaxant and for soothing for the effects of stress.
In the welcoming atmosphere Mr Low's enthusiasm bubbles like the boiling kettle as he explains the leaves of the tea, the aroma, the history and appreciation in a real cuppa.
I find it intriguing that all teas (with the exception of herbal or teas that do not include real tea leaves) come from one plant - Camellia Sinensis.
So - English breakfast, the Chinese Oolong or Japanese green tea all derive from the same plant.
The four major types of tea result from how the tea has been treated. Black (roasted), green (sundried), Oolong (part roasted, part sundried), jasmine rolled among jasmine flowers.
Watch those Bubbles
It's important to watch the size of the boiling bubbles to indicate the precise moment to pour on the tea:
To ascertain the correct bubble boiling moment the kettle is transparent.
As to the size of the bubble here’s the criteria - 'eyes of prawn' for green tea, 'eyes of crab' for jasmine or oolong, 'eyes of fish' for black tea.
So far so good, but now I'm confused. Surely he's not going to serve tea in the doll's house size tea set?
How wrong can you be? The tiny cup ensures the tea does not stand and become stale. It is constantly refilled throughout the tastings.
The delicately adorned thimble cups are to hold, to admire, to sip, to slow down the process. Sipping encourages relaxation.
Tea for Ten?
Tea for two is not the agenda Vincent Low recommends. Tea should be taken with a group of friends.
The conversation should flow; so get ready for a good gossip. The taste must be savoured, the ambience calm, background music soothing.
This is not a drink to quench the thirst but to appreciate the aroma; to let the flavour develop on the palate.
And for good measure you're in top company at Yixing Xuan. On a visit to Singapore the Queen and Phillip dropped by for a cuppa. If they want an encore I'm ready.
I now imagine myself an expert in the intricacies of tea.
I envisage coming home and throwing tea parties to die for. I will not be fazed. Not even when I’m asked where the wine is?
Unfortunately, old habits are difficult to break. I do admit I still dunk the teabags.
And when times are tough I resort to the old dark brown brew with milk and sugar. My comfort tea.
You might say I haven't obtained a tea degree, although, when appropriate, I can brew with the best.
Other Uses of Tea
Cold tea has long been recommended for bathing sore, tired eyes. Today tea bags seem most appropriate for this.
Cold tea can be useful for insect bites and is said to relieve the itching.
Cool tea can help to alleviate the heat of sunburn.
Marinate meat in cold tea before cooking – to make it sweeter and less dry.
Around the house cold tea can be used as a cleaning alternative - use to clean glass, mirrors, wooden floors.
Tea is definitely on a roll. High tea and Afternoon tea are served daily in many hotels and restaurants.
Tea shops are crammed with tea pots, strainers, infusers, caddies, sugar and creamers – oh yes, and numerous choices of tea.
There’s the - Biggest Morning Tea - raising money for cancer.
And iced tea – readily available now in most supermarket.
Come along inside….
We’ll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place. The Wind in the Willows
‘I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.’ – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground.
‘A cup of tea would restore my normality.’ – Douglas Adams
‘Dad was at his desk when I opened the door, doing what all British people do when they're freaked out: drinking tea.’ Rachel Hawkins, Demonglass
'Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me hundreds of things.' Saki
'Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one. '
– Ancient Chinese Proverb
I hope you all enjoy your cup of tea with this hub. What's your favourite tea?