A paen to tea

A selection of teas

As a child I never really enjoyed tea, but then again I never really enjoyed beer, wine or parsnips either, and these days I’m a confirmed fan of all three. Now I can do without almost anything else, but not tea. Taking an inventory of all the different teas in my kitchen was a testament to my addiction. Regular teabags, earl grey teabags, loose leaf jasmine green, Genmeicha rice & green tea, Pura, Buddha Balls, Oolong, Gunpowder Green, Clipper English breakfast, Sri Lankan Ceylon – all different and all suited to different occasions.

I would find it difficult to get through a whole day with out tea in one form or another. When I need a pickup a strong cuppa the colour of London brick, all malty and tannic, when I need cleansing, the Buddha balls – premium white jasmine tea – are perfect, clear, light and gently aromatic. To go with a strong flavoured fish dish, a grassy, nutty Genmeicha hits the spot perfectly. Sometimes I just need the earthy, musty wooden flavour of the Pura (all not that often though).

The flavour or tea, like that of wine (or cheese, beer and most other great food), is influenced by Terroir. Tea from Darjeeling in North-East India is as distinct in flavour as a Dragon Well (Longjian) tea from Hangzhou. In addition to the regional variation, the oxidisation process imparts different flavours. Oxidisation occurs as the teas dry and the more they oxidise, the more tannins they release. White tea is the least oxidised and the most delicate and grassy in flavour, then green, oolong and black tea – which is the strongest and most commonly drunk in the West.

Some teas are mixed with floral aromatics such as Jasmine blossoms, mixed with fresh mint or nutty roasted brown rice grains. Tea takes on flavours and smells easily, but still keeps its underlying ‘teaness’.

6 Responses to “A paen to tea”

  1. Warren Dell

    Don’t forget the Mr Scruff breakfast tea! Gets the day started right!

    Can’t beat a good cuppa and sit down.

  2. The Grubworm

    Ah yes – Mr Scruff, the Ninja Tunes tea fiend himself. The ideal start to the day: http://www.mrscruff.com/ the only breakbeat driven breakfast tea ;-)

    It does make a damn fine brick-tea cuppa though.

  3. shayma

    i learnt from a chinese lady during a tea ceremony, that we “overboil” the water when preparing white tea which kills the good stuff in it. i buy my white tea from a place called Teavana in Washington DC, which I think has some of the best tea selections in the world. that’s my humble opinion. have you tried kenyan tea? perhaps i am biased bec i spent my childhood there, but for a good builder’s tea, it’s amazing/ a tad bit difficult to find, but is available all over London if you look. a really interesting post- best wishes, shayma

  4. The Grubworm

    That’s interesting Shayma – i always try to leave the kettle for a few minutes before adding the water to looseleaf tea (with bags i just whack it in) and then pour from a height. I suspect i still singe the leaves somewhat though. Did your tea-lady give any good hints as to how hot the water should be?

    I have a feeling that i have tried Kenyan tea in blends, but i’m not sure. Where would you recommend i find some in London – always on the look out for a good cuppa type tea?

    Glad you found the post interesting – tea’s something i find endlessly interesting.

  5. The Grubworm

    Thanks Shayma, interesting reading, particularly the steeping time – i have been over steeping my white tea.

    I’ll keep a closer eye out for the tea now.

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