New tea trend: Bubble Tea

Bubble Tea
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If you like to keep yourself updated with all things tea, then you may have heard or read articles about Bubble Tea, so what exactly is it and why is everyone loving it?

Bubble Tea, also known as pearl milk tea or boba milk tea, is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented in the 1980’s. There are two typical types; fruit flavoured teas and milk teas. Usually, black tea is used in Bubble Teas, but most teas can be used as well.  The ‘bubble’ element of the drink comes from the tapioca pearls, which are cooked in brown sugar to create chewy balls. The oldest known Bubble Tea recipe consisted of a mixture of hot Taiwanese Black Tea, small tapioca pearls, condensed milk and syrup or honey. Many variations have been created, and Bubble Tea is now usually served cold rather than hot.

This drink phenomenon soon spread from Taiwan to other Asian countries, and more recently to the US and Australia; one Bubble Tea company, Chatime, has over 63 stores in Melbourne and Sydney and in 2012, McDonalds started serving Bubble Tea in Germany and Austria.

Bubble Tea has been described as modern, trendy way for young people to enjoy tea and its varied flavour combinations make it an enjoyable drink for everyone.

This new trend is not all good though, while Bubble Tea’s may have some good health benefits depending on the ingredients and the tea used to make it, they are still high in sugar and calories; the tapioca pearls alone are 160 calories per ¼ cup serving! Combine that with the other ingredients and the drink could be up to 400 calories.  As irresistible as they may be, it’d be best to make Bubble Tea an occasional indulgence.

No onto you readers; have any of you tried a Bubble Tea? What were your thoughts on it?

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Orange Pekoe is Not Supposed to Taste Like Oranges

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If you’re at all interested in tea, you’ve probably heard the term ‘orange pekoe’ (or OP) before. This is a tea grade; for instance, a tea may also be graded Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (or FTGFOP), which is one of the highest grades a tea can achieve (which is probably why FTGFOP is sometimes known instead as ‘Far Too Good For Ordinary People).

Interestingly, and rather contrary to what some will tell you, orange pekoe doesn’t have anything to do with orange notes, orange flavouring, or any oranges at all. It is instead a quirk of language use, and actually only tells us that the tea is a basic medium-leaf variety of average quality. Teas carrying this grade are plain tea; the herbs that may have been combined with them later are not a part of this grading system, and have no effect on the overall grade of the lone tea.

This grading system is used for the tea trade that occurs in the West, and applies mostly to teas that have been grown in current and former British colonies such as Sri Lanka and India. Black teas are the only types of tea that use this system. It is relatively unknown in most parts of China.

The term ‘pekoe’ refers to silver downy hairs found on both the buds of camellia sinensis, and the leaves. It is possible that it originated as a mispronunciation of the Chinese word that was used for a tea called “white down”. ‘Orange’ seems to have come from either the fact that finished black tea can have a bright orange tinge to it, or due to the Dutch marketing the tea as orange when they transported it to Europe, so as to make the tea sound royal (after the House of Oranje Nassau).

 

Tasting Teas: The Role of a Tea Taster – 2

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In our last post we went through the necessary skills and traits a qualified and well-respected tea taster should possess. In this post, we will be covering how a tea taster conducts their job.

Firstly however it is important to note that tea is a beverage that has been around for many thousands of years, and has survived all sorts of economic slumps, collapses, and the falls of entire civilisations. As such, a job in the tea industry has a bit more permanence than many other jobs, with job security generally being quite high. Tea has proven to be something that will always be in demand, and its relatively flexible expense ensures its survivability.

Actually performing their job, however, is an interesting and highly technical process. Using a very particular and specialised spoon, the tea taster takes in the tea by slurping it so that it accelerates to exactly 125 miles per hour. This causes a fine mist to form inside the mouth which helps both the olfactory and gustatory senses absorb every aspect of the taste and scent. After thoroughly tasting the tea, it is spat back out into a special pan. The tea taster can then move on to the next cup.

A tea taster will use a stringent methodology under which they will evaluate teas, and also has a standard reference with which to compare them.

Today, tea tasting is a combination of age-old tried and tested methods and scientific methods and understanding unearthed in the modern world. This has both harmonised and standardised tea tasting around the globe.

Tasting Teas: The Role of a Tea Taster – 1

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We often hear of people such as wine tasters; they sample the wine and grade it for quality. But have you ever heard about tea tasters?

A tea taster works within the tea industry as a professional who specialises in sampling teas. It is a complex and artful career path, and those who taste teas are gifted with sensitive tongues and a good sense of intuition.

So, what type of person makes a good tea taster?

Firstly, their taste buds must be highly active and undamaged. In addition, their olfactory sense must also be in good condition, as both of these are required to tell the subtle differences between alkaloids in the samples of tea. A capable tea taster will be able to identify many subtle aromas from within a cup. In turn, this means that the taster should avoid sensory-destroying substances and habits such as spicy foods, alcohol and smoking.

Secondly, they must have a diverse knowledge of the tea plantations and how the teas they are tasting have been manufactured. This knowledge will help them identify these characteristic from inside the teas immediately, and will also them identify mystery teas whose characteristics and sources are unknown.

Thirdly, they must love the earth and all her fruits. To truly appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of tea, they should understand nature and be actively interested in both harvesting and preserving it, allowing it to be the best it can be. A good tea taster may graduate from biology, home science, agriculture, horticulture or food technology.

More to come in Part 2.