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!

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.

Tea time: Trà Viêt Tea, Vietnam

Trà Viêt Tea
http://www.traviet.com/en/

I’m usually pretty consistent with my Monday morning blog posts, so big apologies for missing yesterday – unfortunately, being knocked out with a migraine most of Sunday wasn’t real conductive to blogging time! It did make for a good excuse to rest and drink tea, though, so I thought that’s what I’d post about this morning – my favourite green tea purchased from Vietnam 🙂 Someone asked me after I got back from Vietnam if I did much shopping and what I bought over there. When I told them I’d pretty much just bought a whole lot of tea, they looked a little perplexed; what they didn’t know was that tea has been my souvenir of choice for a few years now.

It’s incredible how making and sipping on a pot of tea you’ve made with tea leaves you bought in a market in Chicago or on the side of a street in Hoi An or at a cute little café in New York can bring all of those good holiday memories and feels flooding right back 🙂 So, when I spotted the little Trà Viêt tea stall set up on the street in Hoi An, I was like a moth to the flame.

img_6784

This lovely lady kindly let me choose a variety of tea to try, and took us through a little tea ceremony, demonstrating exactly how to brew the tea I’d chosen – a pandan ginseng green tea. Turns out that the best way to brew this particular one is to add the leaves into the pot, and fill with water at around 80°C (or, roughly 1 part cold water to 4 parts boiling). Pour the water out immediately, and refill the pot again, steeping the leaves for no more than a minute.

You get an utterly delicious green tea with that distinct pandan flavour (which I absolutely LOVE!) – it’s the perfect morning pot of tea, and I do try to make time most weekends to slow down and enjoy a pot (or two) before I get going – you can easily get two or three infusions from these leaves, too, which makes them even more perfect for me 🙂

Trà Viêt is quite popular in Vietnam, and sold all around the country; I’ve been trying to source a website that sells it online, too, and the closest I’ve been able to find is here, although they don’t ship everywhere… I plan to email Trà Viêt directly when I’m close to running out and checking if they can post me some more! Otherwise, another trip to Vietnam wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing… If you have a visit coming up, though, I’d recommend a tea stop with them – they have a pretty big range, and you can always ask for a demonstration so you can learn the proper way to brew your tea

Tea time: Tao Dan Park Bird Cafe, Saigon, Vietnam

Tao Dan Park
110Bis, Nguyễn Du, Bến Thành, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

This café stop on our last morning in Saigon was probably the highlight of our time in Saigon. Another suggestion from our wonderful Cu Chi Tunnels guide, she told us about the “bird café” in Tao Dan Park; each morning, from around 6am until around 8 or 9am, a corner of the park becomes a meeting place for men around 30 – 50 years of age, and their pet birds. Sounds odd, right? It is, but in a really beautiful way.

img_6514

Keeping pet birds is quite popular in Vietnam – you notice cages everywhere, beautiful, old, vintage-looking bird cages, with gorgeous little feathered creatures sitting inside. The café at Tao Dan Park is a real social event, where the men of the city roll up on their motorbikes with their covered birdcages perched on the back. They park their bikes and carefully lift the cages, bringing them to rest on the floor in the middle of the outdoor “café.” The covers are removed from the cages, and they’re delicately hung from the hooks on what looks like a collection of big metal trees with braches especially crafted for the cages.

img_6512

While the women are off presumably raising the kids, cleaning the house, running the shops and doing whatever else needs to be done, the men sit around for a few hours enjoying their coffee and listening to their birds sing. We pulled up a little plastic table and joined the growing crowd, husband with his Vietnamese condensed milk iced coffee, and me with my lemon tea and journal. While the tea is nothing to write home about (just a Lipton tea bag, boiling water and a squeeze of lemon), husband said the coffee was amazing, and that’s what everyone else seemed to be drinking, too. I got a lot of strange looks, being the only woman around, but probably no stranger than the perplexed look on my face when I first arrived trying to work out what the hell was going on. Travel is like that – we might all be a little weird to each other, but you learn to adapt to anything 🙂

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Tea time: The Village Larder, Woodend, VIC 

The Village Larder
81 High St, Woodend
http://www.thevillagelarder.com.au/

Going back in time today because it’s cold and I’d rather be sitting in front of a fireplace with tea and scones. Unfortunately, I’m fairly stationary today, but when you’re taking a road trip and it’s freezing cold and raining a little bit and you’re not quite there yet, you gotta stop for hot tea and coffee. On our way from Melbourne to Bunjil Farm, we passed through the sweet little town of Woodend, and The Village Larder looked like the perfect place to stop off and warm up.

If I lived here, this would be my regular tea house. It was perfect; warm and cosy, owing mostly to the fire place (heaven!), cute random fabric curtains, the most gorgeous old wooden counter and plenty of space to sit and read and relax.

Tea and coffee were both delicious, and so was the sultana scone, warmed up and served with delicious berry jam and cream. I also really loved the two drawings stuck to the coffee machine; one a beautiful pen sketch done by someone who was clearly a talented artist, and another done by a child, signed with their name. They both looked perfect there. It’s the simple stuff 🙂

The breakfast menu looked great, too – shakshuka, fig date & raisin toast, bacon + egg + avo + chipotle ciabatta and freshly squeezed juices… next time, I think I’ll want to leave a little earlier so I can have breaky instead of just morning tea!

 

The Village Larder Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Melbourne Tea Festival 2016 (and all the teas you should be drinking!)

The Melbourne Tea Festival. Or, according to my husband, “Tea Palooza.” Whatever you wanna call it, it happened on Sunday, and it was awesome!

Held for the first time at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre,

The Melbourne Tea Festival is an interactive experience designed to help people discover and experience specialty tea; encourage and grow passion for tea through education; and showcase quality specialty tea providers. The festival day has two elements, a tea market and a program of ticketed workshops.

If you bought your tickets online before the event, they were only $12, and entry included a little tea cup to carry around for the day so you could taste as much as you wanted. Workshops cost a little extra, so we didn’t participate in any of them, and instead just went to sample and shop. Ok, I went to sample and shop; husband came along because there were food trucks, and his favourite ones, at that.

Included in the food truck line up were Sliders on Tyres, Nem N Nem Vietnamese street food and Kurbside Kravings, but the ones we were there for were the Don Lopez El Cubano Food Truck, doling out the most incredible roast pork Cuban sandwiches, and Ghost Kitchen, purveyors of my husband’s all-time favourite food truck fare – their popcorn chicken is spectacular.

Delicious sweet food was abundant, too (yay for my, the sweet tooth), and I absolutely couldn’t go past the rich, fudgy chocolate whoopie cookies stuffed with matcha.lab matcha cream from Alpen Delicious’ The Whoopies Range.

I also absolutely loved the salted caramel chocolate tart, and the matcha red bean strawberry stuffed daifuku from Chocolette Patisserie.

But enough of the food for now – let’s talk tea! I came home with a pretty decent haul, and sampled quite a few more. Here’s what I tried and what I took home….

What I tried:
– Larsen & Thompson: Lemongrass & Ginger Tea
Light and delicious and great to settle an upset stomach

– the art of tea: Tasmanian Breakfast Tea
I actually tried this one back at Salamanca Market in Hobart a few weeks ago, and it’s a really lovely black tea – a blend of Chinese grown large leaf Yunnan & Keemun

– T2: all of the tea
I’ve been a big fan of T2 for years now; favourites include Melbourne Breakfast Tea, Madagascan Vanilla, Pumping Pomegranate, French Early Grey, Strawberries & Cream and Geisha Getaway.

 

What I took home:

– matcha.lab: matcha pack – 60g pack of organic matcha + bamboo chashaku + bamboo chasen whisk for AUD$45.00
I really enjoyed the matcha I tasted from matcha.lab, and obviously their association with the aforementioned whoopie cookies didn’t hurt, and I needed a whisk and I figured why the hell not go the whole nine yards?! Great purchase!
* WHY MATCHA.LAB? They promise superior organic stone ground matcha from the tea fields of the city of Nishio in the Aichi Prefecture, Japan’s leading producer of matcha, and crafted to ensure the highest concentration of nutrients and antioxidants. They also use small tea leaves, resulting in a higher concentration of antioxidants compared to other brands.

– RicoCoco’s Chocolate Tea: 40g packet for AUD$12.00
This magic little formula actually tasted like a cup of chocolate. Not imitation hot chocolate, but like your actually drinking smooth, liquefied chocolate… wow.
* WHY RICOCOCO? It’s made from shell of the cacao bean, and thats it! It is not a flavour infused tea, nor a processed tea. This is 100% organic, free from GMO pesticides and Freetrade.

– Faraaz Tea: Hibiscus Tea 30g gift pack for AUD$7.00
It was actually the husband who spied this one, remembering the amazing hibiscus tea we drank in Egypt back in 2013. The massive crowd around their stall told us that they had the good stuff, and so they did!
* WHY FARAAZ? They believe in contributing positively to society on a global scale and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Their goal is to make sure you get the best tasting herbal and fruit tea, to feel great after drinking it, to provide exceptionally high quality products and services that are competitive in the global market, and to dedicate themselves to ensuring customer satisfaction world-wide.

– Storm in a Teacup: Breakfast Tea 50g pack for AUD$7.00
I love this tea – it’s a good, strong, old faithful, served at quite a few cafes these days. As much as I love fancy flavoured black teas, I also like to have a good, trusty breakfast tea handy.
* WHY STORM IN A TEACUP? They know their tea inside out, have great respect for the tea rituals of the world, embrace the precocious elevation of tea’s place in our culinary society. Basically, they’re all about tea.

– Zen Wonders: Taishiro Matcha 50g packet for AUD$20.00
Last but not least, a packet of culinary grade matcha – I loved the taste of the ceremonial grade, but didn’t have the extra money to spend on it. That said, this culinary grade is still fantastic as a tea, and an exceptional matcha latte addition.

* WHY ZEN WONDERS? They believe that nourishing both mind and body is a simple, yet powerful discipline to embrace a meaningful and happy journey through life. They source their matcha from the Uji Region of Japan, known to be the best area for production of superior matcha green tea because of the lack of pollution, rich soil, and wide range of temperature between day and night.

 

What I want to try next:
– Travelling Samovar Tea House
Their range looked incredible, and they have Gyokuro tea, my absolute favourite green tea varietal!

– Impala & Peacock Tea Room
They do high tea – if there’s anything I love more than tea, it’s tea with scones!

 

In the mean time, though, I think I’ll make myself another cup of tea and dream about those whoopie cookies… I hope this festival is back again next year!!

Tea time: Naked Espresso Bar, Melbourne (eat here, too)

Naked Espresso Bar
390 Little Bourke St, Melbourne
http://www.nakedespressoco.com.au/

Another Friday, another week down (almost). Come Friday, I feel like I’ve really earnt my lunch time break, and love heading down Little Bourke Street or Hardware Lane for a pot of tea and some reading and writing and people watching. Sometimes, if I’ve got a bit of extra cash (because eating in Melbourne costs a bloody fortune), I might even treat myself to lunch, like I did on this visit to Naked Espresso.

They’re one of my favourite go-to places to a good lunch time pot of tea, mostly because they’re lovely and friendly, play great tunes, and give me a chocolate dipped Tiny Teddy with my tea. How can you not love a place that does that?!  Thanks, guys, you make long work weeks so much better  : )

Food is also top notch, particularly the toastie menu for which they’re so well known. Is there anything better than a really well made ham, cheese and tomato toastie? Really? Good bread, well filled (not stingy on the ham, yay) and  a nice little pot of tomato relish on the side. Also, at $8.00, it’s a pretty good Friday lunch option if you don’t want to spend a small fortune and save your cash for after work drinks.

While I’m not a coffee drinker, I do know that they make a damn fine brew; one can only assume as much when you see the absurd amount of Naked Espresso take away coffee cups walking up and down Little Bourke Street first thing in the morning/at lunch time, as well as the constant line at the front door for them. And Melbournians are pretty fussy about their coffee, so if they’re happy to wait in line for a cup, it must be good! And one of my favourite mid week time out spots in the city  : )