A Bit More About Us

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So, after all of this, you may be wondering who exactly Australian Tea Masters are. I know we have an About Us page (which is all very good and well with explaining what we do), but I thought I’d write something a little more intimate in this post.

Australian Tea Masters is a tea education organisation founded by Certified Tea Master Sharyn Johnston in 2011.  We basically run out of an office and a large room filled to the brim with tea and tea instruments, alongside a tearoom and coffeehouse in Breakwater, who kindly permit our operations there. In total we currently have four employees, including myself, and one contractor, Luis, who builds and maintains our website (you can check his business out at http://www.inductivestudios.com.au/).

Sharyn began Australian Tea Masters with the hopes of giving budding individuals in the tea world a world-class education in tea to help them become talented individuals. For this, we began offering the Certified Tea Mastery course, as well as a few other (much shorter) options. These include a Certified Tea Blending course, and the fully online Tea101 course.

Sharyn currently aspires to become Grand Tea Master of the Internet. It’s not quite world domination, but of course, it’s very close to it.

We operate alongside a group known as Canadian Tea Masters, who is run by the lovely Tea Master Sylvana Levesque. We also have a huge variety of tea friends around the world, spanning many different cultures thanks to Sharyn’s many and varied world travels. In addition to this, we have all of our wonderful students to thank for keeping this organisation alive and running. Our dream is to create a global network of passionate tea individuals and professionals, and to invigorate global tea culture like never before.

You can visit our website at www.australianteamasters.com.au. We offer a few different services (including our Rare Tea Club) that are run all over the world, and our blog, Behind the Brew, has many other posts that haven’t been depicted here (including photo galleries of some world travels).

Anyhow, tomorrow we will be back to regular programming with a feature of a famous black tea from China. Happy brewing!

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Tea and Teeth

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Tea is considered to be an all-around healthy, nutritious drink by many people. Of this, there is very little debate; it contains catechins, which are powerful antioxidants, and has plenty of other health benefits associated, tested and proven to keep human beings healthy. So, it seems a little odd that one would talk about any health detractors.

However, that’s exactly what we’re going to do, because as it turns out, tannic acid can be a problem for your teeth.

Tannic acid, a type of tannin, does have some benefits towards consuming it. Studies are showing that it can help to resist tumours, it has had a positive effect among patients with haemorrhoids, and, among other things, contains a variety of antioxidants that are helpful to the human body. This is in fact only a very small list, and the actual list of both suspected (not yet fully tested) and actual (fully tested and approved) benefits is much longer. The long and short of it is, it’s good for you.

It might not necessarily be so good for your teeth, however. Dentists long ago noticed an association between tea drinking and stains on people’s teeth, which we now know to be caused due to the tannic acid that tea contains. One would think that black and oolong teas would be the sorts of drink to stain teeth rather than green and white teas, but it appears the latter two are not immune to this effect either. However, black and oolong teas will stain your teeth a lot more, mostly due to their colour.

Mostly tea will stain the enamel of your teeth – that is, the very surface of them. It will also stain plaque and tartar very quickly, and since tartar is both unsightly and difficult to remove unless you’re at a dentist, it makes it even more important to brush your teeth properly. However, with so many people enjoying tea and the health benefits associated with drinking it, it’s not exactly something you want to cut straight out of your diet just due to a bit of tooth decolouration.

So here’s what dentists recommend you do: right after finishing your tea, drink some water and swish it around your mouth. This helps get rid of any tannin still stuck in there. Then wait about an hour and brush your teeth, as apparently waiting for your saliva to naturally clean away some of the offending acids will cause less damage to your teeth than immediately brushing.

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How to Store Tea

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As with many foods, even tea has a shelf-life, though you might not realise. Its shelf-life compared with many other unpreserved foods is actually quite long, which is why many people are unaware that it can expire. However, as tea is often something consumed over time (like, perhaps, a fine wine), it is preferable to know how to store it in a manner that won’t allow it to prematurely go bad or stale. Most people are first caught out with white or green tea, as oxidation levels are initially low but are a primary factor in deteriorating the tea’s quality.

The first step in storing it properly is to understand a thing or two about the properties of green and white tea in particular. Black and many oolong teas are already heavily oxidised during processing, as a method of attaining very particular and strong flavours. In order for white and green teas to retain their delicate tastes and subtle aromas, they are barely oxidised at all, with white tea being the least oxidised tea available. As one can plainly see, the level of oxidation is clearly correlated with the colour (and thus class) of the tea.

Now what would happen if you started oxidising something such as, say, a green tea, because you stored it improperly? It will actually start to darken and brown, much like in the processing for black and oolong teas. However, since the oxidation is not happening in the same strictly controlled environment as it would if it were actually intentionally being made into a black or an oolong, the degradation of flavour begins.

There are a few things that change the effectiveness of the storage of your tea. Oxygen, light, heat, and moisture are all responsible for degrading the leaves, so the optimal storage area is somewhere that is a) airtight, b) watertight and dry, c) free from heat, and d) in a dark area. Light can cause the pigments and lipids in the tea to oxidise, and the chlorophyll may also decompose. Mildew can be created through exposure to moisture, and heat will cause a number of compounds in the tea to decompose.

Oxygen, however, is one of the biggest offenders, which is why it’s so important that the tea be stored in airtight jars. Large elements of the tea, such as carbohydrates, amino acids and especially polyphenols (such as catechins) are particularly vulnerable to being oxidised by fresh air at this point. Any of the other above problems will only make this oxidation process faster.

The best place for your tea, therefore, is out of direct sunlight – a dark cabinet would be ideal. To be safe, you should make sure this cabinet is well away from moisture (not above a stove top, or outside, etc.) and any place where it might get particularly hot. Summer is a particularly dangerous time for tea, so finding a place in your house that is generally cool is preferable.

It is not advised that you ever refrigerate your tea, as this can cause condensation to form, which will contribute to spoiling it. Generally speaking, you should be able to keep most teas for at least six months before they begin to spoil, if stored correctly. Some rare teas, in much the same manner as a number of different cheeses and wines, can improve with age; however it is suggested that research is conducted into the tea before allowing it to age, as these teas are few in number.

If your tea does become bland in flavour, however, all is not lost – as long as it’s still drinkable, that is. Mint and lemon can be added to give it a flavour boost, and stronger teas can be mixed with the stale tea in order to produce a much more passable concoction.

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Afternoon Tea

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Afternoon tea is a not-so distant cousin to the now enormously impressive movement of high tea, and is also known as ‘low tea’, due to it being a traditionally casual-type meal (or more accurately a snack, obviously with tea) enjoyed outdoors, on low-seated chairs. Common foods are cakes and other sweet foods, often served with clotted cream.

In comparison, it is a much more leisurely meal than the concept of high tea ever was – whether you are taking the higher-class or the lower-class view of the almost ritualistic and fabled act. High tea gained its opposing name by the act of being seated in high, formal chairs.

Afternoon tea itself is generally conducted in the afternoon, around just after or before children come home from school. Typical times vary (some individuals will serve afternoon tea earlier in the afternoon if an early lunch has been served, or for whatever reason lunch was missed), but generally it is conducted somewhere between 2:30pm and 4pm in the afternoon.

Small sandwiches cut into fours may be offered as well, containing any filling the host desires. Small cakes and slices of larger ones may also be present. Much like in the higher-class version of high tea, a three-tiered cake stand is also often present in order to house cakes, sandwiches, and other such goodies.

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Trials of a Tea Addict: Tea-Related Injuries

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Welcome to Saturday, where we post a fabled column known as Trials of a Tea Addict (you can find it in our list of categories)These are a little bit less serious than our usual posts, and we hope to enlighten everyone on the humorous (or in this case dangerous) side of tea.

Without further ado, let’s begin!

You could be forgiven for thinking that the humble teapot surely couldn’t be the cause of much trouble. However, every year there are approximately 40 teapot-related accidents in Britain that land people consistently in hospital. In addition, there are also many more incidents that lead to people becoming injured (however not to the level of hospitalisation), with that particular statistic increasing to around 4,000 reported injuries worldwide. To anyone who drinks tea, this statistic is not particularly comforting.

A majority of accidents, predictably, come from burns. Teapots are notorious for having boiling steam billowing from their spouts, while are also quite well-known for collecting enough heat to make the pot itself scalding to touch. In one particular incident – in which Starbucks was forced to recall approximately 257 of its ceramic teapots released in 2005 – printed on the bottom of the teapots was “Microwave and Dishwasher Safe”. The teapots most notably were not safe, as the teapot handle, made of bamboo, would overheat when placed in the microwave for any reasonable amount of time.

Teapot cosies do not avoid the injury list either, with large numbers of people reporting burns from these decorative woollen teapot jackets. Another object of scrutiny that can cause tea to act as a burn machine is none other than the biscuit. Yes, a biscuit. A survey has reported that around half of all Britons have injured themselves with biscuits, one of the notable incidents involving people accidentally dipping the biscuit into their tea so far that it scalds their fingers.

Although not as recent – but even more disturbing – are the cheap teapots produced by China in the 1720s and 30s, when export demand for red-painted earthen tea-ware well outstripped supply. In order to keep up with the demand, manufacturers decided to begin using cheaper materials in order to get that beautiful, highly sought-after red colour; materials like lead paint. Lead can begin leaking out of the paint at temperatures above 80°C, which was particularly awful for drinkers of black and oolong tea who owned these teapots. As a result, there were many reported cases of lead poisoning.

At this point one may be reminded of the Romans who, in their infinite wisdom, decided to use a revolutionary lead piping system for their water taps. Unfortunately, their knowledge of the element never advanced sufficiently enough to realise that large portions of the affected population had lead poisoning.

In the end, however, perhaps a teapot isn’t awaiting you at the beginning of a terrifying, death-defying accident. But it is noteworthy that both teapots and tea can pose a significant risk to your health and safety when handled improperly, and should be enjoyed with care.

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Follow Friday: T-Lovers

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Welcome to Follow Friday! This works more or less the way Twitter’s fabled Follow Friday works, but in a much more blog-friendly way. Each Friday we’ll promote someone’s blog at our own discretion, and give you a few reasons to follow them, as well as some links to some posts from them that we were really very fond of indeed.

If you would like us to feature someone, just drop us a comment sometime with a mention to who it is, and we’ll definitely think over it!

Who and Why?

This week we’ll be featuring WordPress user tlovers, with their blog T-Lovers. T-Lovers is a photo-rich blog that says a lot more than plain words ever could, in a sort of visual-diary manner. It’s very appealing to any tea lover, especially those newly making their journey into the expansive world of tea.

Link Me!

A video of us making Yixing teapots in China

Teanamu – an unusual tea house in London
Finding time for tea
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