Winter has barged in on my year and left me with cold fingers and a snuffley nose. I intend to deal with this situation in two ways:
1. Escape to Europe for some northern hemisphere summer
2. Enjoy the wonderful warming benefits of tea at every opportunity
Tea is pretty much always my drink of choice (unless it is cocktail hour), and I love that there are as many different plants that taste good infused in boiling water as there are health benefits from those teas. Some of my favourites are herbal teas like fennel, mint, rosehip, hibiscus, ginger, lemon balm, nettle, dandelion root and the wonderful blends by the geniuses at Pukka (a London tea brand that is starting to make it’s way here to Australia). Earl Grey is my all time favourite black tea, although I am starting to develop a respect for Orange Pekoe.
Over the last few years I have developed a deep appreciation for the complexity and variety of green tea, a term that really refers to a whole library of teas, each with a unique colour, flavour and aroma. Oolong, white tea, red tea, Pu Erh tea, all completely different and suited to different situations. One of my favourite teas at the moment is an Australian green tea, grown in the Kiewa Valley at Tawonga in Victoria by the Alpine Tea Company.
I am also thrilled to note that some new tea houses are starting to pop up (I am also discovering ones that may have always been here) and offering more opportunities for a cup of tea on a busy day.
This weekend I have had two very different tea house experiences. One was a classic Chinese tea tasting session in a Neutral Bay tea shop run by the wonderful Raymond Mao. Time seems to stand still as we sit and watch him prepare his teas for us to examine, smell and taste, appreciating the way the flavour changes with each infusion. Raymond has great knowledge of tea and the process involved in creating each variety, beginning as they all do with the leaves or young shoots of the Camelia bush (or tree in some cases). Raymond has made tea pilgrimages to different areas of China and has wonderful photos of small villages who care for 500 year old tea trees. If you have a bit of time, sit and drink in his knowledge whilst you taste his tea.
The other tea house was part of the new breed, which sets itself apart from the cafes or coffee shops with a few teas on the menu as a dedicated, tea only venue that creates the feel of a classic tea salon. The Tea Parlour in Refern is a time capsule in which you can sink into a plush armchair, open a vintage book to read from the tea menu and select a home made scone or cucumber sandwich to accompany your pot of tea. A great space to come with a small group for high tea, or a close friend for a tete-a-tete. I raise my china to the emergence of many more tea houses to balance out our coffee heavy culture.