A true artisan mastership of tea processing is Oolong. It is neither black tea nor green tea, instead has its category depending on the direction its masters decide to take. It is one of the most difficult and time-consuming drinks to make. The flavor, shape and appearance vary based on the region it’s grown and style of processing.Let’s have a better understanding of making this tea like a master by learning the processes involved.
• Choose your brewing style
There are several ways of brewing this tea the simple is the western method and the complex is the traditional Chinese style, but both have their benefits. If you want to enjoy a complete and full-bodied tea experience, the Chinese technique ensures that you enjoy history and its culture. For a beginner or one who wants to brew an afternoon cup apply the western way quickly.
A brief description of the various brewing techniques
Gaiwan: It is a lidded bowl that does not have handles, used along with a saucer in the making process. It is characteristic for having large opening.
Western-style: It is simple because you make use of any pot at hand, though you will not enjoy it culturally as it should be, at least you will enjoy a cup. Pay attention to the amount of tea, steeping times and water temperature.
Yixing Pot: It is a teapot made from clay with the origin of Jiangsu, China. It is specifically designed for brewing Oolong, black and white tea and Pu-erh. The set absorbs tea while steeping thus lead to the formation of a coating which resembles the color and flavor. For this reason, one of each pot should only be used for one type to preserve the taste.
Asian: Prepare this Chinese tea with Yixing teapot which is placed on traditionally slotted bamboo trays to ease serving. These vessels are usually small in size.
• Prepare tea leaves
Start by withering freshly picked tea leaves; where it begins with bruising by tossing them, to allow for oxidation. Leave them to dry in the sun for several hours so that they wither. This process helps to make them supple and flexible thus will not break in the step of rolling and shaping.
Leave the leaves to cool and rest down and the will begin to wilt and flatten.
By starting to change shape, it is an indication that they are ready for rolling. Lightly roll the leaves to enhance exposure of the enzymes, essential oils and chemicals during oxidation.
Oxidizing; it is merely exposing the rolled leaves to oxygen, depending on how long its allowed to oxidize will determine the type of Oolong tea, the color and flavor.
Roasting of the leaves to lend essential characteristics.
Final rolling of the roasted and partially dried leaves, followed by drying to reduce the moisture content.Once they are ready, hand sort to similar color and sizes to have different groups of tea.
• Prepare water
For amazing aromas avoid distilled or tap water, use spring water to avoid affecting its taste, heat the water to 180 or 200 F for brewing. For accuracy use a thermometer. Once it reaches the required temperature fill in your Gaiwan or Yixing cup that has leaves about halfway, swirl and discard the water, it is a cleansing step. Now, fill your vessel up.
• Steep and strain
Steep between 1 to 5 minutes as you taste for what you will like and prefer. Pour the tea into a teacup by placing a filter over it.
Enjoy you Oolong tea. As a master, I advise that you try drinking it without adding sugar or milk.
When people think of single-serve pod machines, they usually think of coffee, but there are actually plenty of tea alternatives out there that are just as easy and quick to make with pods.
Tea Pods in a Variety of Flavours
There are plenty of flavours out there, so whether you are an English Breakfast, an Earl Gray or a Rooibos kind of tea’er you will always have something to choose from. In fact, there are many varieties from a lot of the big name brands – more than you would see in their usual tea bag or loose leaf collection, with flavours such as PG Tips Raspberry and Apple or Caramel and Vanilla.
If you are looking for something a little more special, then you might want to look at some of the gourmet collections of tea such as Gourmesso’s Infusion Bundle of Nespresso compatible teas. The flavours in the bundle include classics such as a green infusion made from 100% rolled green tea leaves, a black infusion from 100% rolled black tea leaves and for those who prefer something without the caffeine injection – a herbal mint infusion which combines peppermint, calming chamomile and aromatic fennel along with a fruit plum infusion which contains a black chokeberry, hibiscus blossom, apple, licorice root, plum and cinnamon flavouring.
One of our favourites are the Teespresso teas with the classics such as Earl Grey, a pure green tea and some herbal variations with a chamomile tea and a Marrakesh mint. What we love about these teas is that each of these pods can be used for up to three times for three cups of tea and they still taste great.
We would definitely recommend rinsing out the machine first before brewing yourself a tea – especially if you are sharing the machine with coffee drinkers. There is nothing worse than having a nice cup of delicate refreshing tea ruined by coffee dregs.
Something we are incredibly excited about and that gives you a clear conscience when using pods – because we have all heard about the 150 – 200 years it takes for an aluminium pod to degrade – is the advent of the reusable pod. You fill it yourself with one of your favourite loose leaf teas and use it in the machine. No waste and no guilt.
You can even buy stainless steel pods and a seal for the top of the pod. Perfect! Take a look a selection of the best selling teas.
It is thought that coffee and tea pods made from aluminium can end up taking around 150 – 200 years to degrade – many of those years they will be lying around in a landfill. If that isn’t bad enough, it is thought that the process used to refine the aluminium that goes into the capsules, produces a great deal of toxic waste.
For some people, going without their daily caffeine fix just doesn’t seem like an option. The little capsules that bring you a cup of joy at just the flick of a button and the whir of a machine are quick and easy ways of getting a quality hit.
So what should we do if we want to help the environment, remain conscientious about our choices and avoid shouting the office down because there is no decent coffee or tea?
There are plenty of companies out there now who are making their mark on bringing us environmentally-friendly coffee and tea capsules, and they certainly don’t compromise on quality.
Companies like TeaOne and Terra Leaf are making capsules from biodegradable paper. Take a look a selection of the best selling teas.
The definition of specialty tea seems to have ‘loosened’ over the years and it is increasingly a difficult thing to define. It used to mean a much higher quality or much rarer blend of tea than you would usually come across i.e. it’s not your usual supermarket blend. However, with the increased ease to shop anywhere, order teas online from all over the world and generally have access to much more variety, there is now a bit of a blurred line between ‘specialty’ tea and a supermarket variety.
A good definition of a genuine specialty tea is one that has either been hand-processed and is rare in the industry or that specific market. What is rare to a tea-buyer in the UK is possibly an everyday tea to someone in China or India. When we refer to rare, we don’t mean an exotic blend of fruits, we usually mean a tea that is uncommon such as a pu-erh tea or a white tea.
Generally the specialty teas do tend to be a little more expensive than others and the leaves are usually larger and not as fine cut as tea leaves that go into a tea bag.
Whilst previously you couldn’t find specialty teas in the supermarket, there are now many available and easy to buy. – there are boutique tea companies, specialising in their own blends, there are organic tea companies, tea companies that focus on green teas or on white teas. There are tea companies that specialise in regions.
There are no real standards across the industry but the term is widely debated. A great deal of the decisions as to which teas fall into the specialty tea category comes from clever marketing by companies who choose their words and their image carefully and the consumer is none the wiser.
Afternoon tea has become such a part of British life that we don’t think twice about it. It may now have taken on a different form with just a break for tea and biscuits, but in one way or another it is very much part of British heritage and traditions. Finding an afternoon tea spot as a treat that serves the best tea, the nicest scones and the most indulgent clotted cream is a weekend mission for many afternoon tea connoisseurs.
A traditional afternoon tea would usually include scones with clotted cream, a cake of some description – usually some small ‘fancies’ and some sandwiches cut up into very dainty portions – often with no crusts and of course featuring the cucumber sandwiches – there’s no messing about here either – the cucumber should be very thinly sliced to be just right.
There are now all manner of afternoon teas with the tradition having spread across cultures and to many different countries. You can enjoy an afternoon tea with a glass of champagne, or even a an oriental twist on the food selection with sushi or sashimi, or curried snacks, you can enjoy afternoon teas with pretty much any local delicacy from the region you are drinking it in. In some cases, brands have seized the opportunity to promote their brands by organising launches around afternoon teas and creating small fancies shaped like their products or with branding on them.
This, however, is all a far cry from the very original afternoon tea where Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, feeling a little peckish around 4pm and not able to wait until their fashionably late evening meal at 8pm, sent up for a tray of cake, tea and bread and butter. It became a bit of a habit and soon she started to invite her friends to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey and soon after she took the habit with her back to London. The popularity grew and it moved to the drawing room and became a fixture on any respectable lady’s afternoon agenda.
The difference between a ‘low’ afternoon tea or a ‘high’ afternoon tea came from the description of the types of tables that it would be served on. The lower or middle classes would enjoy a ‘high’ tea which would usually be around 5 or 6pm and would be served at the dinner table and at times would replace the fashionable late dinner. The upper classes would enjoy a ‘low’ afternoon tea at around 4pm, served in the drawing room, usually at lower tables and this would be in addition to the late dinner.