Archive for August, 2010

My First Tea-Tasting Collaboration

It’s week 6 in Brisbane and I feel like a small child excited by experiencing all things new such as the first time I took the train, my first CityCat ride and the first time I walked along Kurilpa Bridge. Last week was my first tea-tasting in Brisbane. It was a threeway partnership between three women. I first met Shaktiprem, founder of Brilliance in Being at Networking Chats and we realised straight away how Yoga followed by a healthy breakfast with some tea would be a formidable combination. Lucy who provided the breakfast and the venue (16th on Park, Milton) certainly agreed and so there we were: three business women doing what women do best: networking and collaborating.

Yoga has managed to elude me all these years but as I’m getting older, I can certainly see the benefit of developing a set of breathing exercises and enhancing one’s posture.  Yoga was also a first for me and I thoroughly enjoyed my first session with Shaktiprem. It wasn’t too strenuous, I could feel the stretches from the top of my head to the tips of my toes and it was a great way to start my Sunday.

After the Yoga class we were led to our table where we had a healthy breakfast: a wonderful selection of fruits, followed by poached eggs on rye bread. After breakfast I decided to introduce our fellow yoga students to two of my teas: High Mountain Oolong from Nantou, Taiwan and Lung Ching (or Dragonwell) from Zhejiang, China.

It made sense after breakfast to tempt the students with the High Mountain Oolong first of all, as oolong is purported to be great for digestion. It was certainly a winner with everyone: a delicate tea with apricot undertones, with a lovely aftertaste. The best thing about this tea is that the aroma lends itself into the taste. After trying the oolong, I prepared the Lung Ching and it was great to hear the student’s reactions when they tasted my Lung Ching the way green tea should taste. Finally, I asked the students which tea they preferred and made them a proper cuppa, with the leaves swirling around in their tea cup so that they could appreciate the beauty of the leaves as they enjoyed each sip.

For a pictorial representation of the tea-tasting, make sure you click on the Flikr photos on the right.

It was really encouraging that some of the students wanted to know more about my tea-tastings and once my tea-tools finally arrive from the UK (it’s currently on a container ship making its way to Australia), I can’t wait to start MayKingTea in Brisbane. 

Want to be in the know about our tea-tasting classes? Drop us an email and we’ll be in touch very soon.

I’d like to thank Shaktiprem for starting me on my Yoga journey and to Lucy, for providing such a wonderful venue and breakfast. May we have many more collaborations in the future.

The best kettles in the world perhaps?

When I talk to folk about the best temperatures for particular tea types, I’m sometimes faced with a blank expression (except from coffee enthusiasts who are familiar with the perfect temperature = good coffee concept), and so during my tea-tastings, I would advise my tea friends to pop the kettle on, watch the water gauge and think of the following quote from Lu Yu, a tea scholar who wrote Cha Ching – ‘The Classic of Tea’ in 780 AD.

When the water boils for the first time,

something akin to the eyes of a fish appear on the surface

and a faint hissing sound can be heard.

Then the gurgling brook develops

with a string of pearls round the edge.

This is the second boiling.

Then the turbulent waves appear: this is the third boiling.

 

The first boiling (eyes of a fish) is around 70-85C (158-185F) and is perfect for green or white teas.

The second boiling or string of pearls (90C or 194F ) is perfect for any oolongs.

The third boiling (roaring waves) is suitable for black teas (100C 0r 212F).

Or you may want to buy the best kettles in the world which does all the thinking for you! I came across these two wonderful kettles last week, which got me terribly excited! (See my flikr pictures on the right).

After all the excitement of seeing them, I realised that I didn’t want a kettle to do the thinking for me. Making tea is not an exact science and part of the fun is getting the water to the right temperature and the right steeping time to make the tea how one wants it. That said, it is comforting to know that if I did change my mind, I have a choice of kettles to choose from.

Australian Sencha: a great introduction to Sencha.

I’ve been in Brisbane for five weeks now and it’s comforting to have a great tea-room slap bang in the middle of the city: The Tea Centre. I must’ve been there half a dozen times now and when my husband (Ewan) and I had a break from shopping at the weekend, I came across this little gem: Australian Sencha.

A sencha, from Australia?! Yes, that was my reaction too but I was terribly excited when I ordered it. Ewan wanted to try their Japanese sencha and so my experience was about to get better when I thought about doing a comparison between the two. With camera in tow, we waited eagerly for our teas.

Typically herbaceous in its aroma and flavour, sencha is a green tea which is an acquired taste. Ewan’s initial reaction when he tried the tea several years ago is typical of a first time consumer of the beverage: “it’s like you’re eating grass”. As his palate developed over the years though, it was great to see him try the tea again.

The teapots came and I looked at the wet leaf immediately inside the pot to see how they faired. They certainly looked very similar but I wouldn’t say that the leaf (both the Japanese and the Australian) were typical of a sencha. I didn’t get the dark emerald green choppy leaf I was expecting. The aroma however was certainly very exciting. The seaweed notes were there as well the grassy hue but it was very gentle on the nose compared with the Japanese sencha, the characteristics of which were certainly more obvious. 

Now onto the taste. I poured the tea after a minute’s infusion and the aroma had lent itself into the cup. The Australian sencha had the same gentle and subtle characteristics on the palate compared with the knockout grassy punch of the Japanese sencha.

There was a more pronounced flavour in the second infusion, but the Australian sencha was never going to be more than gentle but I think that this is what’s great about this tea and why I entitled this post ‘A great introduction to’ So for any tea enthusiasts out there who want to introduce their friends to Japanese sencha, or if you’ve never tried a Japanese tea before and want to experiment, I would try this tea first.  As your palate grows accustomed to the nuances of this tea, then I would try a Japanese sencha later on in your tea journey.

(Australian Sencha: grown in several valleys in the Victoria Alps region. For a pictorial review, click on my Flikr photos on the right).

Why Green Tea is so popular

After my last blog post about oolong tea, I was then asked on Facebook, but what about green tea?  Again, if you were to type green tea into a search engine, you will be inundated with websites but here is just a short summary of what they might say:

  • I talked about antioxidants in my last blog post and green tea is no exception.  Green tea is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is a powerful antioxidant.   EGCG is said to be at least 100 more times more effective than vitamin C and 25 times more effective than vitamin E at protecting cells from harmful influence.You may have noticed that extracts of green can be found in anything from deodorants, shower gels, perfumes to creams.  The antioxidant properties of green tea and extracts found in anti-aging creams is no coincidence.
  •  I’ve also mentioned in my daily tea tweets, that green tea can even help prevent tooth decay!  It contains antibacterial properties to kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque, bad breath and the natural presence of fluoride in green tea also helps to prevent tooth decay and strengthens your teeth and gums.
  • Contrary to popular belief drinking tea is hydrating and therefore by drinking green tea (or any other tea type) you are helping your body to maintain a healthy fluid balance and relieve fatigue and stress which is often caused by dehydration.
  • Just like oolong tea, green tea can stimulate your metabolism, and can be effective if incorporated into a healthier eating plan.

But as I’ve mentioned in my previous post.  It’s not just about the health benefits of tea.  Good quality loose leaf green tea when brewed correctly shouldn’t taste bitter but there are a wide variety flavours for you to choose from.  From a grassy vegetal taste of a Sencha, the freshness of an Anxi Bai Cha to the nuttiness of a Dragonwell.

Why Oolong is so popular

I’m often asked what I like to drink and I have to be honest it really depends on what I fancy that day but for the past week, I’ve been attracted to different types of oolong.  Oolong, sometimes spelt Wulong is considered to be the most complicated tea to produce but the results are extremely rewarding as there are a whole variety of flavours, aromas and tastes on offer.

If you were to type Oolong into a search engine, you will be inundated with websites with health claims.  This is just an outline of what you might see:

  1. Antioxidants is a buzz word in the UK media (I’ve seen it in several major tea campaigns), and looking in health and fitness magazines here in Australia, it’s a commonly used word here too.  The way I describe it is that antioxidants are the good vitamins and minerals (hurrah!) that help our bodies fight the free radicals, the bad stuff (boo!) which, in damaging our cellular structures can lead to conditions such as wrinkles and dark spots, to more serious conditions such as cancer.  Oolong tea (as well as others such as green) is packed full of the good stuff.
  2. Oolong tea has a reputation for promoting weight loss.  There is no consensus with all the studies conducted on oolong tea and the weight loss claims , however as with any weight management programme, if you were to incorporate oolong tea into your healthier lifestyle, it can put you in the right direction.  It has been said that oolong tea increases metabolism thereby burning fat and blocking dietary fat absorption.
  3. Oolong tea is also good for the heart.  It is said to be able to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol.

It’s a generally accepted fact amongst us Chinese folk that oolong improves digestion making it a popular tea to accompany dim sum.  Besides, with the variety of flavours in this category of tea it makes my tea journey an absolutely fascinating one.  Why not book a tea-tasting and join me in discovering this wonderful tonic.