Summer Sensations in Winter Weather

Standard

As I write this, rain just began pouring over the office roof. It’s just hit winter here in Australia – 12 days ago to be exact – and after a record-breaking El Niño event we’re finally beginning to see the weather get colder.

In the Northern Hemisphere, however, it’s an entirely different story. For all of you lovely Northern Hemispherians it’s summer – or almost summer, anyway – and you’ll all soon be enjoying the wonderful holiday weather. So, today we have something just for you!

Australian Tea Masters has created a Pinterest account where we will be pinning all of the best iced teas and tea cocktails to refresh you as you run around enjoying your summer antics. If you’d like to join in the fun (while we freeze to death making them), then head on over to http://www.pinterest.com/austeamasters/. We’re still setting the account up, but expect a lovely stream of pins in the coming weeks.

As for our lovely local Australians, we’ll get around to creating some beautiful winter warmer recommendations for you soon, so stay tuned!

Visit our website!   instagram   twitter logo   FB-fLogo-online

Colours and Shapes: Part 2

Standard

We move to our next lesson in understanding tea quality through the leaf in Part 2 of Colours and Shapes. Today, we are focusing particularly on the leaf’s shape, which depends greatly on the type of tea we are examining.

So, let’s say you’ve bought a royal ring tea. It’s a green tea that has been processed into its beautiful trademark ring-shaped coil, shown on the picture above. If this tea has not been made to optimum quality you will notice that these coils are not as tightly furled as they should be – at least in the dry leaf. This means they may not have been processed with the care and attention they deserve, and will not achieve the same wonderful flavours as a high-quality royal ring might.

Texture can also be important, and in any tea where the texture seems different to those of its type, this can indicate any number of things. Texture in particular can be difficult to discern, however it’s important to remember that no green or white tea should be brittle, although some black teas may take on this characteristic. Each different tea has its own set of traits that are considered “optimum” and “normal”, so it really does count to do some research and experience the tea from several different tea producers (if the tea is made by several independent farmers and/or companies).

Visit our website!   instagram   twitter logo   FB-fLogo-online

Colours and Shapes: Part 1

Standard

Tea leaves are a delicate thing. To ensure optimum quality, they need to be plucked with specific care, the result being a quality leaf that may be fully appreciated. Experienced tea drinkers and masters can often tell you the quality of a leaf just by looking at it, and today we’re going to give you a few clues as to what to look for, so you can too.

Please note, of course, that it takes much time and tea drinking to uncover what the leaf conveys. Experience is paramount in order to separate the subtle differences, but don’t treat it too seriously. Enjoy tea as you always have, and don’t pressure yourself into being able to tell with every single leaf. Your experience will build simply by making the conscious decisions to take a look at your leaves before you simply throw them in your teapot.

One of the first indications of quality that you can look for is whether the leaves of a batch are of a similar size. If not – for example, in a whole leaf tea you can see leaves that are obviously broken and some tea dusts – this can indicate that the tea was processed by machine and thus will be inferior to a manually processed version. Not only that, but it will also mean that the tea will not steep at an exactly even rate. While this is hardly detrimental to a tea’s flavour, at the same time it certainly isn’t favourable.

Visit our website!   instagram   twitter logo   FB-fLogo-online

Conducting a Japanese Tea Ceremony, Part 1

Standard

The Japanese conduct their tea ceremony in a variety of different ways depending on the time and season. The two main occupations are known as Furo, for use in the summer, and Ro, for use in the winter – however, these two can vary, and location / personal preference can bring in an even greater number of factors when it comes to the ceremony itself.

Firstly, it is helpful to note that Japanese tea rooms tend to look nothing like the table-and-chair tea rooms that we are so used to; Japanese people sit on the floor much more often than we in Western society do. As such, there are no chairs and tables present in a Japanese tea room; it is merely a square with a dip in the middle for which to prepare tea.

There are preparations one must make several weeks before your tea ceremony is to begin. First, you must invite your guests. It is only polite to give your guests several weeks’ notice so that they may prepare and adequately adjust their lives to allow the visit; failure to give adequate notice could result in your guests not being able to show up at all.

It must be ensured that tearoom and the garden outside are clean and tidy before commencement of the ceremony; it is wise to ensure this is done more than a few days before it begins. Tatami mats and sliding door Shoji paper should both be replaced as well.

A meeting should be held with the Hantou and Shokyaku, which are some very special guests to your tea ceremony. This is to help decide important things about the tea ceremony and to explain what sort of tea ceremony you intend to hold.

Finally, one day before the ceremony begins, you should begin to prepare the Kaiseki meal. Whether you begin the day before or early in the morning of the ceremony is up to you; mostly it depends on how large and/or complicated you intend the meal to be. Newcomers to Japanese cuisine will find it easier to keep it small and simple during their first ceremonies.

Visit our website!   instagram   twitter logo   FB-fLogo-online

How to Process Your First Tea

Standard

Now that you’ve harvested the tea leaves from your very own tea bush in Growing Your Own Tea, Part 1 and Growing Your Own Tea, Part 2, you may be wondering; how do I make these into something wonderful? If you wish to go back to olden times – say, 3,000 BCE, you could always just take the leaves straight off the tree and brew them; for tens of hundreds of years, this was the only known method of making tea. However, now that all sorts of tea processing has been invented you’re probably much keener to process it into something a little more refined. This will be your first processing project. If your tea plant has had adequate amounts of nitrogen (particularly ammonium) while shooting, it will be perfect for green tea.

For this project, we will be making green tea. Green tea is one of the least processed and least oxidised teas available, and is thus the least strenuous to create – especially for a home-brewer who is new to the job. For a very long time only varieties of green tea were available in China, until eventually other, more complicated teas were made. Green tea, on the whole, is much easier to work with.

First you will want to spread the leaves over a large surface for anywhere from 2 – 3 hours; varying the time they are left out for will produce different results with regards to taste, so feel free to experiment and see which brings you the best flavour. Do not spread the leaves too thickly during this stage; the thinner the layer, the better – this is a stage where the moisture content of the leaves is reduced, it won’t be very effective if they’re all clumped together. This part of the process should be done in the shade.

While they are drying, sift through them to find any debris that shouldn’t be there, as well as discoloured leaves. Such things should be removed, as they will ruin your final product.

Now, as you’ll recall, green tea isn’t oxidised – in fact, your first goal is to halt the oxidation process altogether. This can be achieved either through frying the leaves in a pan, or steaming them. In this case we will steam them with a steamer, exactly the same way you would with vegetables. This should be done for roughly one minute, thus reducing the moisture content of the leaves to just over 50%.

Preheat your oven to 120ºC (or 250ºF). While the oven is preheating, be sure to spread your leaves out evenly over a sheet of baking paper. When the oven is ready, place the tray inside for 20 minutes, thus further reducing the moisture content.

After this, you should store your leaves how you would store any other tea you own; in an airtight jar well out of the way of sunlight. Do not store it anywhere where things like mildew could form – the last thing we want is for the tea to develop fungus or mould.

You may have noticed that these instructions do not involve a rolling stage; it is not strictly necessary for your first tea, however it will produce a greater quality of tea if done properly.

Visit our website!   instagram   twitter logo   FB-fLogo-online