How to brew different types of tea

Last week I took an awesome class through Laneway Learning called The Art of Tea Brewing, Flag & Spearhosted by the lovely Cheryl from . And it got me thinking that a big reason more people probably don’t enjoy tea is because they haven’t had it made properly. There’s actually a bit more to it than pouring boiled water into a mug and throwing in a tea bag, and there’s a hell of a lot more to it than those stale black tea bags your nanna has in the back of the pantry.

I thought I’d do a quick run through of a few different types of tea this morning, and how to brew them, based not only on some of what I learned last week, but also from what I’ve learned making and drinking tea around the world, so that you get the best tasting cup possible!

*** I will preface this guide by saying that you should always check the instructions on your tea first, as they may specify the exact time and temperate for steeping – this guide is more a general rule of thumb for the most popular types of tea. I also generally use one heaped teaspoon of loose-leaf tea to make one cup, 2 heaped teaspoons to make a 500ml pot. ***

 

Black tea

Why drink it: For a great, caffeine-lighter alternative to coffee as a morning or afternoon pick-me-up, and for benefits that include digestive tract health and lower stress levels.
Water temperature:
Boiling water, 100°C. This is the exception to “it’s not all just boiling water” rule.
How long to steep: Depending on how strong you like it, around 3 – 6 minutes.
Favourites: Storm In A Teacup’s Breakfast Tea is my all-time go to. Also adore Fortnum & Mason’s Royal Blend for an afternoon cup,  Clement & Pekoe’s Assam Leaf Corramore for a morning cup, and English Tea Shop’s Organic English Breakfast tea bags when I can’t use a teapot.

 

White tea

Why drink it: To help with everything from oral health to anti-aging to diabetic symptom relief – it’s a versatile one.
Water temperature:
 Around 80°C.
How long to steep: 2 – 5minutes
Favourites: I’ve actually never gotten into white tea, so if you have any recommendations, I’d love to know!!

 

Green tea


Why drink it: Green tea is packed with antioxidants, will still give you a bit of a caffeine kick, and reputedly has benefits ranging from reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease to improving brain function.
Water temperature: Around 60 – 75°C. A very basic rule of thumb is to fill about a quarter of the cup or pot with cold water, the rest with boiling water.
How long to steep: Again, it can vary so check the specific tea’s instructions, but generally only a minute or two, otherwise it can get quite bitter. You’ll also find some green teas can be infused two or three times, but you’ll only need 10 – 30 seconds for the second infusion.
Favourites: Ippodo’s Genmaicha is a delicious blend of green tea with toasted rice, Storm In A Tea Cup’s Matcha Laced Sencha is a great way to try matcha without going the whole hog, Twining’s Lemon Drizzle is a delicious special treat cup, and my absolute favourite (and splurge purchase) tea is Ippoddo’s Mantoku Gyokuro, which is just heaven in a cup.

 

Rooibos tea

Why drink it: Because rooibos is caffeine-free, it’s the perfect option to drink at night – it’s also packed full of antioxidants, and helps support strong bones with higher levels of manganese, calcium and fluoride. 
Water temperature:
 90 – 100°C.
How long to steep: 5 – 7 minutes.
Favourites: The Old Tea Shop’s Rooibos Caramel, and T2 Tea’s Red Green Vanilla

 

Oolong tea

Why drink it: Not quite as high in caffeine as black tea, this drop is reported to help increase metabolism (therefore aiding in weight loss), and decreases inflammation. 
Water temperature:
 80 – 100°C.
How long to steep: 3 – 5 minutes – this is another one that can deal with multiple infusions, which are often said to get better as they go.
Favourites: Wall & Keogh’s Milk Oolong and The Spice & Tea Exchange’s Coconut Oolong

 

Herbal tea

Why drink it: Herbal tea benefits are almost unending – it all depends on what kind of herbs you go with! Herbal teas can be used to help in everything from detoxing the body from harmful nasties, helping to de-stress you before bed, assisting in healthy pregnancies and energising you before a big day.
Water temperature:
 100°C.
How long to steep: 5 – 8 minutes. Herbal tea is also great to cold steep for iced tea – just add cold water instead of boiling water, and steep it in the fridge overnight.
Favourites: T2 Tea’s Mint Mix makes an awesome iced tea as an alternative to plain boring water, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie’s Cocoa Tea Relax is a delicious dessert tea, and Monique’s Apothecary’s detox.me is amazing to help get your liver and kidneys working properly again.

 

And if you’d like some more tea-related business this cold, foggy Melbourne morning, we’ve got tea-infused porridge to make at home, matcha magic cake for dessert, some great winter teas, and my favourites from around the world!

Top 10 Things To Do in Osaka

Osaka might be a smaller and less visited city than Tokyo, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less to do there…

 

1. Try okonomiyaki, an Osaka specialty

Where? Okonomiyaki Chitose, 1-11-10 Taishi, Nishinari-ku, Osaka
Why go? Contrary to what I thought a few years ago, okonomiyaki actually isn’t found all over Japan; it’s just Osaka and Hiroshima that traditionally do it. And you have to try it. Roughly translated to “cooked as you like it,” it’s a type of savoury pancake usually filled with pork and shrimp, and topped with a thick, almost sweet okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed and bonito flakes. And it’s the ultimate in Japanese soul food.
How long will you need? Most okonomiyaki places like this one are quite small, so you’ll often need to allow for more time to get a seat than to eat.
Cost? We paid just under AUD$10.00 for a shrimp okonomiyaki.

 

2. Check out an undercover shopping mall

Where? Janjan Yokocho Alley, a few minutes walk from Shin-Imamiya Station on the JR Loop Line
Why go? For a really different shopping experience! This indoor alley is basically a mish mash of shops selling everything from second hand watches to dried fish. And there aren’t many tourists around, so you get a really good sense of what life is like in Osaka for the local population. And if you’re happy to rummage around, you can find some really cool stuff!
How long will you need? Give yourself a good few hours if you like to shop.
Cost? Prices range from dirt cheap for old stuff and food to a little more expensive for the odd clothing boutique.

 

3. Shop for stationery

https://www.u-arts.jp/
Where? U-Arts, 3-10,Namba Sennichimae,Tyu-o-ku, Osaka City
Why go? The Japanese have a love for stationery rivalled only by my own, and their stores are next level. There are the big ones like Muji and Tokyu Hands, but the little shops like U-Arts are even better. They stock pens and pencils, notebooks and washi tape, handmade decorative Japanese paper and origami pads, paint brushes and bookmarks… if a visit here doesn’t inspire you to create something, nothing will.
How long will you need? Normal people – half an hour. People like me – an hour or more.
Cost? Everything is very reasonably priced considering the quality. 

 

4. See some very unique shrines

Where? Namba Yasaka Shrine
Why go? Lots of visitors to Japan like to see the shrines and temples, because they’re so unique to that part of the world. Then there are shrines like this one that are unique on a whole different level. Hidden in plain sight on an unassuming street, you turn a corner and come face to face with a giant lion’s head…
How long will you need? We were there for about half an hour.
Cost? Free.

 

5. Eat all of the food

Where? Dōtonbori – along the canal
Why go? This is where you’ll find the best food in the city, advertised by giant crabs, octopuses and puffer fish. Great dishes to look for typical to the area are gyoza (fried dumplings), taiyaki (wafer-type cake filled with something like custard or red bean paste) and takoyaki (octopus balls – fried batter balls filled with little pieces of octopus).
How long will you need? All night. And then the next night.
Cost? Most food is pretty cheap, but a general rule of thumb is that the tackier the signage, the more you’ll pay.

 

6. Play some video games

Where? All around Namba district
Why go? If you’re a child of the 80s or 90s, chances are you have fond memories of Street Fighter and Super Mario Brothers. For a few dollars per game, you can relieve the good old days on old school arcade games. Sounds a bit nerdy, but it’s more popular than you’d think!
How long will you need? Depends how much of a gamer you are – plenty of people are in there fore hours on end!
Cost? Usually only a few dollars per game. 

 

7. Visit Osaka Castle and Park

http://www.osakacastle.net/english/park/
Where? 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo, Osaka
Why go? The park is home to hundreds of cherry blossom trees if you’re lucky enough to be there in spring time, but if you’re not, it’s still just as beautiful. You can walk the moat-guarded grounds,  check out the castle’s museum, or take a look at the shops selling Japanese tabi socks, furoshiki (gift wrapping fabric) and matcha beer.
How long will you need? Half a day – better to get there in the morning if you can.
Cost? Entry to the park is free of charge, the castle museum costs around AUD$8.00 per adult.

 

8. Do the character café thing

http://gudetama.createrestaurants.com/jp/
Where? Gudetama Café, Level 7 – Hep Five, 5-15 Kakudacho, Kita-ku, Osaka
Why go? Because you’re in Japan, the land of kawaii. They love their cartoon characters over there (we even saw Hello Kitty traffic cones being used at one point in our trip), and the character cafés are a really fun way to get into it. I chose the Gudetama Café, because the lazy little egg is my spirit animal, and I regret nothing.
How long will you need? An hour or so should do it.
Cost? Not super cheap – two matcha lattes and a dessert to share cost about AUD$22.00.

 

9. Try matcha flavoured everything

Where? Everywhere!
Why go? Matcha lattes were all the rage in Melbourne a few years ago, but it isn’t just a fashion statement in Osaka. Yes, they’re definitely cashing in on the tourist’s fascination with the green stuff, but it’s actually delicious. Start by trying actual matcha tea to get a taste. Then, the options are endless – soft serve, cookies, cakes, candy, husband even tried matcha beer!
How long will you need? Be on the look out alllll the time – we found that soft serve on the side of a really quiet street with not much else on it.
Cost? It’ll depend, but expect to pay a decent price for high quality matcha. 

 

10. Catch a bullet train to your next stop

Where? They depart from Shin-Osaka Station.
Why go? The best way to get from one city to the other in Japan is by bullet train. They fly along at speeds of up to 320kph (yes, really), are super clean and comfortable, and on the way from Osaka to Tokyo, you’ll get an incredible view of Mt Fuji. Can’t get that on a flight!
How long will you need? You can get from Osaka to Tokyo in 2.5 hours.
Cost? Not cheap – around AUD$175.00 per person in standard class. 

Melbourne Tea Festival 2017: all of the tea you should be drinking!

Melbourne Tea Festival 2017
http://www.melbourneteafestival.com.au/

I couldn’t have been more excited last year when one of my best friends told me Melbourne had a tea festival; this year, I didn’t need any prompting.

Off we went to Tea Palooza; we being myself (the avid tea drinker) and my husband (the food truck fanatic). He heard Ghost Kitchen were back this year and wasn’t passing up the chance for their popcorn chicken.

We arrived not long after opening, and it was noticeably smaller than last year’s. Husband worked it out almost immediately;  last year, Melbourne was in the throes of a matcha trend, while this year it seemed that chai was the in thing; apparently there are less chai dealers than matcha ones It was also a little disappointing to find that not all of the vendors on their program sheet were actually there.

But onto the tea… I did get around to trying a few, and obviously took some home with me. For those of you who didn’t make it to the tea festival (and actually care about tea!), here’s what’s worth trying!

 

TRIED:

1. UMTEA: Champagne Rose
http://www.umtea.com/
This was nicer than I expected it to be – sweet without that overpowering syrupy taste, and the rose flavour was subtle enough to be delicious  (anyone who’s had something with wayyyy too much rose flavouring in it will know what I mean). Kinda sad they didn’t have more teas brewing to try!

2. The Fitzroy Naturopath: Organic Turmeric Elixir
http://thefitzroynaturopath.com.au/
With its trendy superfood label, turmeric is “in” at the moment, so when I was offerrd a taste, I wasn’t expecting much – blended with lemongrass, it was actually really good! Husband commented that he felt like it would be the perfect thing if you were sick with a cold or flu. While I didn’t end up buying any on the day, I’m not ruling out an online purchase…

3. McIvers: Bolshie Brew, Tramtracker
https://www.mcivers.melbourne/
Both really good, strong black brews – would happily drink both of them again, but found a third option that I liked best and purchased (see below).

4. Cloud Nine Teas: Sencha, Gyokuro
http://cloudnineteas.com/
Honestly, I wasn’t impressed. I was actually pretty disappointed; I was really hoping to take some gyokuro home with me, but it didn’t taste like gyokuro (or at least not like the varieties I tried in Japan that I fell in love with) – just tasted like an odd type of sencha. The search continues…

5. Ito En: Genmaicha
http://www.itoen.com.au/
This was fantastic – really delicious, but not overpowering nutty, toasty flavour. Only reason I didn’t buy some is because I was just given a bag of genmaicha from Ippodo Tea!

6. Matcha Matcha: sweet matcha (cold)
https://www.facebook.com/matchamatchacafe/
I didn’t think I’d like this much,  and it was far too sweet to drink much of, but it was surprisingly nice!


TOOK HOME:

1
. McIvers: Vic Market Mornings
https://www.mcivers.melbourne/
This was my favourite from the McIvers range – the perfect strong, black tea to enjoy on a cold, lazy Sunday morning with a good book and a fluffy dressing gown.

2. Tea Angle: Smokey Lapsang Souchong
https://www.teaangle.com/


This was a new one for me – I’d never heard of or tried anything like it before. It tastes like a cold night sitting by an open fire. Great on its own, but I also tried it with a tiny bit of milk, and that was really good, too.

3. Faraaz Tea: Red Hibiscus
http://www.faraaztea.com.au/
I bought this last year for the first time as a reminder of the tea I drank in Egypt. I recently discovered a better way to drink it rather than just as hot tea; mixed with a little bit of T2’s Mint Mix tea, it makes the perfect iced tea to fill my water bottle with and sip on at work all day – so much better than water!

4. Rico Coco’s: Chocolate Tea
http://www.chocolatetea.com.au/
Chocolate tea. Magic. It couldn’t be more simple – just cacao husks/shells, and some cacao nibs. Add hot water and its a hot cup of drinkable chocolate. And it has no caffeine, which is why it’s my tea of choice before bedtime – it’s like drinking dessert before bed! Oh, and it’s organic (good for you) and FairTrade (good for the Peruvian plantations that supply the cacao). Everyone wins!

5. Storm In A Teacup: Breakfast Tea
http://www.storminateacup.com.au/

My favourite loose leaf breakfast tea – despite the dozens of other black teas I have at home  (yes, seriously, more than one dozen), I’m onto my third bag of this since discovering it at last year’s tea show. When I work from home, I brew a big, strong pot of this first thing in the morning, and its the perfect start to the morning. Also gets a great run on lazy weekends at home.

Cook this: matcha magic cake

After my trip to Japan gave me a much deeper appreciation for matcha, I started following Matchaeologist’s Instagram account. Since then, I’ve made a few of their recipes, like these mini matcha balls and these white chocolate matcha muffins.

A recipe for a pretty easy but very delicious-looking matcha cake popped up, and I knew I had to try it. I was intrigued by the amount of egg and milk in it, compared to the very low amount of butter. The video of it being cut up also made it look like it had a really interesting/different texture to a standard cake…

It was super quick and easy to throw together, and required no special ingredients that I didn’t already have. It also came out looking a little differently to the Instagram video, with an almost glutinous/gelatinous layer on the bottom, and an incredibly light and fluffy cake layer on top. I suspect that may have had something to do with the beaten egg whites folded in, the low amount of flour, the melted butter, maybe a combination of it all… whatever it was, I loved it! The only real difference I made to the recipe posted on Instagram was to add a little more flour – the amount they called for really didn’t seem to be anywhere near enough compared to the amount of milk, and I’m pretty happy with the results. Anyway, here’s how I put mine together; if you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it turned out for you!

Ingredients:
– 2 eggs, separated
– ⅓ cup caster sugar
– ½ tsp vanilla extract
– ¼ cup melted butter
– ⅔ cup plain flour
– 1 tsp matcha
– 1 cup milk, lukewarm

 

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC and line a square cake tin with baking paper.

2. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until peaks just form (be careful not to over beat), and set aside.

3. In a larger mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until pale. Then, add in the vanilla and butter, and beat again until completely combined.

4. Sift in the flour and matcha, and stir until just combined.

5. Gradually pour in the milk, stirring to combine.

6. Lastly, use a spatula to fold in the egg white, bit by bit. It’ll be a wet batter, so don’t freak out – it will cook into cake form in the oven!

7. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until set and golden on top. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

8. This cake goes particularly well dusted with icing sugar – and a pot of green tea 🙂

Cook this: mini matcha balls

One of my favourite Instagram feeds belongs to Matchaeologist; purveyors of high quality matcha, and sharers of the best matcha recipes online. The last recipe I tried from their feed was this batch of oddly coloured but VERY delicious matcha white chocolate muffins. Yesterday morning,  another one of their recipes caught my eye. With a little tweaking, I give you these ridiculously simple to make and full of goodness matcha balls.

img_0614

Not only do they require very few ingredients, they can very easily be made gluten free. They’re lactose and fructose free,  too. They take all of 3 minutes to put together before a quick bake in the oven. They come out like delicious little biscuit balls on the outside, with a soft, moist centre. Stop reading,  start baking.

img_0616

Ingredients:
– 80g plain flour
– 5g matcha
– 25g caster sugar
– 20g almond meal
– 2 tsp vegetable oil
– 4 tbsp water

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, then stir in the oil and water.

3. Roll into small balls and place on the oven tray. Bake for 18 minutes, then transfer to a metal rack to cool.

4. Once cooled to room temperature,  dust with icing sugar and serve.

Eat here: Serotonin Eatery, Melbourne (healthy stuff)

Serotonin Eatery
52 Madden Grove, Burnley, Richmond
http://www.serotonindealer.com/

So, I finally got around to visiting Serotonin. I’ve been putting it off for aaaaages because:
a) it’s a shit to get to from my place, and
b) it just seemed a bit bright and shiny and happy and positive for me.

But, overdue for a lady date, my lovely friend suggested Serotonin, and I figured “why not?” I probably wasn’t going to go on my own! I figured I’d kick back and relax with some good food and great company after a looooong week, and not worry about photos or anything this time, because I didn’t intend on writing a blog post about it, because every other man and his dog has already. Obviously, I changed my mind..

Serotonin is all about the healthy. Combining an eatery and exercise centre, they’re all about promoting good health and the happiness that comes with it. The menu is plant-based, relating back to their belief that this kind of food helps regular hormones, moods and gut balance, and therefore gives you more energy to enjoy the things you love. Normally, I get a bit antsy about these super healthy types, having experienced the full range of health-nuts working in the health industry; I always worry that they’re going to be a bit preachy and judgy with those of us who aren’t rolling up to eat in our tights and sports bras, toned and tanned and terrific.

I couldn’t have been happier to be proven more wrong; yes, the team working there were all far fitter and more beautiful than I, but there was not a speck of arrogance or holier-than-thou about them. I genuinely don’t believe I have ever been anywhere the staff looked so happy to be there, and it makes all the difference (those of you who’ve experienced the surly, snappy service first thing on a Sunday morning in some lovely cafe or other know what I’m talking about). Not only did this crew take your order, they asked if you needed any recommendations or had any dietary restrictions that needed attending to, pulled up a seat next to you and actually stopped for a chat! And you know what? I did not see a single customer grumpy at having to wait an extra 2 minutes because their server was having a chat with the people at the next table. I didn’t actually believe this was possible in Melbourne…

The place itself is gorgeous, too – heaps of seating inside, but the courtyard is where it’s at, in my opinion. When the winter sun hits it, it’s perfection. And even better, there are swings to sit on out the back – you wanna talk about getting the happy chemicals flowing, put a grown woman on a giant swing at a fancy cafe and watch it happen!

And the menu was actually pretty impressive – they even had a few dishes that were specifically mentioned as being onion and garlic free! Do you have any idea how hard it is to go out for lunch and find something without onion and/or garlic?! Even soups are made with them! We both ordered the deconstructed sushi bowl ($17.00), because it just sounded too good to pass up – a bowl of warm brown rice & quinoa piled high with pickled ginger, daikon, carrot, mushroom, capsicum, cucumber, avocado, shredded nori and crunchy wasabi peas, along with a syringe full of tamari soy sauce.

I loved it. I love sushi anyway, and I actually really like raw veggies, so even without any meat, this was brilliant. It was deceptively big, as well, and very filling, without being heavy and sickening. If I wasn’t totally lazy, this is the sort of lunch I’d make myself most days – don’t get my wrong, I’m still an utter and complete burger addict, but sometimes it’s nice to have something fresh and light, and this completely hit the spot. Those crunchy little wasabi peas were magic in there, too (note to self: add to shopping list).

By that point, the sun was out and we were warming up on our swings (and we were both procrastinating going home to adult for the day), so we decided to stay a little longer with some hot drinks. Drinks menu is incredible; they even have a peanut butter latte (seriously)! It was a matcha latte ($7.00) for me, though, made with organic coconut milk. Matcha and coconut milk is one of my favourite combos, and even though it wasn’t a cheap drink and I couldn’t ever justify ordering these regularly, it was the perfect treat to end lunch with. And, it was so happy to see me 🙂

We finally and reluctantly left our seats on the swings, bellies full and happy, and I have to admit how wrong I was about this place. The food was fantastic, the people couldn’t have been nicer, and it couldn’t have been further from the scary, intimidating experience I was imagining. I just wish it was closer to home!

 

Serotonin Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, Melbourne (brunch) V.2

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place Carlton, Melbourne
http://vertuecoffee.com.au/

While we’ve been back numerous times for tea, coffee and cake, it’s been a while since our last sit down and relax meal at Vertue. And, with a brand spanking new winter menu, I thought it was time for a fancy Sunday breakfast to try it out!

Nothing’s changed on the surface, with the same beautiful high ceilings and flooding light, and the same delicious, hot tea and coffee to start off on…

But after that, things have changed dramatically. I took a while to pour over the menu, but husband made up his mind straight away, choosing the crispy pork belly with soft duck egg, spiced sweet potato puree, black pudding and quince gel ($22.00). Black pudding is his new favourite breakfast item, and this one definitely didn’t disappoint! It was a very pretty breakfast, but it had guts, too – the pork was incredible, both soft & fatty and crispy at the same time. Big winner.

After much deliberation, I ended up going for the matcha panna cotta with finger lime, coconut chia pudding, house made granola, adzuki bean paste and kiwi fruit ($17.00). Because I love every single one of those things. And I, too, made the right choice – this is a little cup of heaven (and actually not that little). There’s nothing more disappointing than receiving a matcha dish that doesn’t actually taste like matcha, but the flavour was absolutely there in this. Creamy coconut chia pudding, amazing lime zing, and whatever is in that granola is magic. Would definitely order again.

By-passing the sugary window to heaven that is the cabinet full of sweets on the way out was not easy, but it gave us a good excuse to head back (again). As last time, beautiful setting, amazing food, great atmosphere, make time in your weekend schedule to visit!

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato