To Milk Or Not To Milk…?

To milk or not to milk…that is the rather weird sounding question of the day! This blog post was supposed to be a deep dive into the 5 types of tea – I’m trying to keep a consistent, easy to follow mindset when it comes to my study of tea, However, there’s something I wanted to take a look at before I forget…

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post entitled 5 things I know about tea, that I didn’t know last week. On that post was a brief snippet about my discovery regarding why we put milk, and sugar, into our tea… I wanted to dig deeper into this, rather than just go on the story of the man at Fortnum & Masons, who told me the reason we put milk & sugar into our tea is a direct result of the British trying to boost the economy back in the 17th Century.

Now originally I wanted to pull together proven, historical reasoning for this article, however, one search of the phrase ‘why do we put milk in our tea?’ on Google, leads me down a rabbit hole of stories, rumours, and more learnings about the very dark past of tea. (I will eventually be getting into this!)

So here are just a few of the stories/suggestions I’ve found that, although interesting, haven’t really helped me piece together anything…

  • In the 17th and 18th centuries teacups were so delicate they would crack from the heat of the tea. Milk was added to cool it down! According to Google: “This is why, even today, many English people add milk to their cups BEFORE adding the tea!”
  • According to a recent story on the ol’ BEEB, it looks as though the sugar came before milk (mass produced by slaves in the Caribbean & America)  – some bright spark thought let’s sweeten up the tea, and let’s add milk – thus creating a process of ‘domestication’ that resulted in taking tea mainstream, so making it really easy & fashionable to drink!
  • Numerous forum discussions  & Blogs suggest that adding milk to tea came from France in 1680. A french writer named Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, talked about adding milk to her tea in her letters. The reason was to enhance the flavour…

NEWS JUST IN – thought I’d actually go and check out what the F&M site said, and they are in agreement with my first bullet… so the guy behind the counter might need to read up!!?! #Confused

So right now, it’s all still a bit of a mystery, I can’t categorically tell you why we put milk into our tea. Can anyone help me find an answer?!

Until next time,

Elizabeth c(_)

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The sciencey bit: what is actually in Tea?

I’m not going to spend too long on discussing the chemical composition of tea & this is for a couple of reasons – a) I’ve never been a sciencey kinda girl and back at school I used to wince each time photosynthesis was mentioned! I just couldn’t get my head around it – this piece of research has been hard going. And, b) there is SO much to tell that we’d be here all day! Excuses excuses I know!

That being said, I do think it’s important to give the top line of what actually makes up tea, to help understand further what I’m drinking day in day out! The big learning is that there is sooo much more in tea than what I’d originally thought! I thought it was just caffeine- and errr water? Yes, this is going to be embarrassing!

So here’s the top line: pigments, enzymes, carbs, minerals, Polyphenols, Caffeine (aka Methylxathines), Amino Acids, Volatiles, Flavanoids and many more!  For a great breakdown of exactly what these chemical compounds  are, check out this blog post from the world of tea. It goes into far more detail than I ever could!

Each of these compounds/things found in tea, come into their own at different stages of oxidation & the other processes of tea production! For example, caffeine, responsible for all those feel good awesome feelings you get when drinking tea, is unbelievably strong in the tea leaf, like would send you over the edge kinda strong! But when the tea leaves go through the process of withering, oxidation – aka the photosynthesis kinda stuff, it turns into the perfect amount to give you that much needed natural boost.

This infographic & article from teabox is a super simple way of showing the chemistry of tea.

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Anyway, for now, I’m going to move on – I hope to come back to the Chemistry when I’m further along in my journey.
Elizabeth c(_)

5 Things I Know About Tea, That I Didn’t Last Know Week

A week into the Tea Journals, I already feel super excited, a little overwhelmed (there is so much to learn) and really positive about my future as an enlightened tea drinker!

To help summarise my learnings, on a weekly basis I’m going to do a rundown of between 5 & 10 things I’ve learnt from all the sources I’ve been accessing and reading. I’ll try and keep them as consistent & coherent as possible, without flitting between subjects, teas, histories, rituals, plants etc… but think it’s important to help consolidate my learnings.

Ok so here goes!

1. There are 3 types of Camelia sinesis, 2 of which (“Camellia sinensis var. sinensis for Chinese teas, and Camellia sinensis var. assamica for Indian Assam teas”) are widely grown & cultivated to make some of the highest qualities of teas, then there’s the cambodiensis variety which isn’t exactly the best for drinking, but fun to grow in your garden – I might do this although I have a track record of plant murder!

2. It takes approximately 2000 tea leaves to make just 1Lb of the tea that you and I know & love. I’m starting to see just how big the scale of this whole tea thing is!

3. There are different methods of making tea, but the two most commonly used in mass production are the orthodox method and the unorthodox method. I’m going to do a full investigation into the many methods of tea making later down the line, but from what I can tell so far these methods depend on the parts of the leaves used. For example, orthodox methods rely on the tender leaves at the top of the tea plant, and the buds. There’s also different processes attached to each method, mixtures of old and new! But, like I said – more on that later – wayyyy too complex for a bullet point.

4. Milk & Sugar were introduced to tea wayyy back in the day by the brits with a bit of a sneaky motive! At least this is what the man behind the counter at Fortnum & Mason told me! In the 16th century when tea was becoming a thing in the U.K. (You wait till you hear the stories of Smugglers & War – actually crazy) the British encouraged drinkers to include milk & sugar to ‘ better the taste’ – this is not common practice across the world – however, as the British relied heavily on the cash brought in by sugar, milk & tea, by associating one with the other, the economy was driven forward. The more tea was used, the stronger it was, so as a result more milk & sugar were used and so on… all very crafty if you ask me!

5. And on that, yesterday for the first time in… well for the first time ever, I made myself a cup of Darjeeling (thank you Teapigs) to enjoy with no milk, and no sugar… (this is what the pack told me to do) and holy mole my eyes were opened! Probably one of the most refreshing cups of tea I’ve ever had! It tasted so wonderful – light, smooth and just like…tea! No clouds, no muddy water, just pure tea! So I think moving forward I’m going to make the concerted effort to try teas in the way they are supposed to be enjoyed.

So that’s it for now – there’s so much more, but who wants to trawl through text heavy blog posts?! Not me! Until next time!

Elizabeth C(_)

 

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Sources: teaclass.com / World Atlas Of Tea, Krisi Smith, Wikipedia 

How Tea Is Grown

The plant that tea comes from grows across much of Asia, its native home – Sri Lanka, India, Viet Nam, China etc… it grows, and is cultivated, in 35 countries across the world such as Africa, Argentina and even the UK (!) to name just a few. It can grow anywhere, and in most climates – from small gardens, to giant plantations spanning acres. However, there’s a common set of criteria needed for the successful cultivation of the real grade-A stuff.

High Altitude – you tend to find wet, misty conditions the higher up you go, which is great for a plant that needs to be protected from harsh sunlight, and access to plenty of water & minerals as it grows. The leaves can mature slowly without the worry of being scalded by fierce temperatures, and despite it taking longer to grow at higher altitudes, the flavor produced is better – in other words, it’s worth the wait!

Steep mountain slopes – some of the highest quality tea comes from mountain ranges with an altitude of over 1200m. This creates a perfect atmosphere of misty & humidity to help leaves absorb as much water, and nutrients as possible.

Sub-tropical climate – despite being able to grow in most climates, the best type of tea comes from plantations in humid climates – typically above 10 degrees. This climate gives the plants the best chance of maturing slowly, and developing the perfect flavors.

Moist, acidic, deep soil – tea needs rainfall, at least 50inches of rainfall to be precise, in order to flourish. They prefer deep, acidic soils in order to soak up some of the much needed minerals for successful growth.

As mentioned earlier, there are other areas, climates and conditions that tea can and does grow, i.e The UK – something I’m looking forward to exploring in more detail as I progress with this project. Must admit, I’m finding it difficult to imagine the UK as a tea-friendly environment, I shall have to write to the team at Tregothan, to find out!

For now however, getting the basics is key. And on that, I’ve invested in two great books to help me on my quest. I’ll be reviewing them shortly, and sharing all my learnings.

World Atlas of Tea, Krisi Smith

Tea: The Extraordinary Story of the World’s Favourite Drink, Roy Moxham

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See you next time,
Elizabeth c(_)

Sources: teaclass.com / World Atlas Of Tea, Krisi Smith, Wikipedia 

1 Shrub, 5 Tea Types & A World Of Change

When I think of the word shrub, I think of how my Granny would tend to her garden, secateurs in hand, the snippety snip snip snip as she trained her prize plants. The sweet smell of English summer surrounding her, and usually a fat, Wiltshire pigeon warbling in the distance. I don’t think of tea. When I think of  the word tea, I give little to no regard to where it has come from, or why I’m drinking it. I think only about having it.

Now I have to admit, starting out on this quest has already been a bit of a headspinner – there is SO much information on the internet about tea. Knowing where to start is near impossible. What type of do I study first? Do I study rituals & history as a starter, or the science!? Help me please help me. Like any sensible person, I’m going to start at the beginning and find the answer to the the most obvious question:

What exactly is tea?

It’s a shrub, and one that’s changed the world. Native to Asia, Camellia sinensis aka Tea, has given us the 5 types of tea that exist in the world (I say types, official types – herbal teas, infusions etc… a whole other bag!). So that’s Green Tea, Black Tea, White Tea, Oolong Tea & Pu-erh Tea. Please be aware that at point of writing, 5th Jan 2017, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about what distinguishes these types from each other. Eek.

First major revelation: All tea comes from the same shrub, albeit different parts.

Hang on, wait… what?! All tea comes from the same plant!? What a lovely concept – and one plant has produced so much in the way of wellbeing! It has changed the world, and continues to do so on a daily basis.

From economy to mood, tea is a driver of change. I like that. Feels like I’m drinking something supernatural.

Now I know what tea is and a a tiny bit about where it originates, I need to know how the different types are made. How does the plant grow, what does harvesting look like etc… From my research so far, it appears to be all in the process – a bit like wine, different processes create different types, but more on this later.

From this exercise I now have 2 things:

Categories to study later down the line. I think I’ll start with Black, as I’m most familiar with that taste.
My next clue to unlocking the secrets of loving tea rituals – investigating its hometown glory, Asia. I need to find out more about where this magical plant originates!

Until my next lesson!

Elizabeth c(_)

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Page One, The Tea Journals

 

Additional learning: there are actually 3 types of Camellia sinensis, ‘assamica’ & ‘sinensis’, widely grown and cultivated, and then japonica, not suited to drinking, but fun to grow in most back gardens.

 

 

Sources: teaclass.comwww.samovartea.com – many thanks for your info! 

Making A Start

January 4th, 2017 – Making A Start

Before I set sail in this journey of exploration, I thought it best to take stock of what I actually have in the tea department – as you can see from the picture below, there’s not a lot to go on. These teas are all gifts, minus the Clipper (bought for my boyfriend, I’ve never tried it). My current favorite (and only one I’ve been using) comes from the beautiful Alice In Wonderland Tin (by New English Tea, courtesy of my friend Teesh). It is English breakfast at its bagged finest! Really it is.

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Current Selection

Now this isn’t about becoming a hoarder of teas I don’t drink – which is what I currently am on small scale. At the end of this year I don’t want to be armed with a cupboard of 100s of teas, more a small trusted selection of teas that have purpose and that I enjoy.

In fact, that’s what I aim to be the end product of this – a capsule tea collection!

Have you heard of the phrase capsule wardrobe? If not, the very awesome blog un-fancy, explains it all – essentially a guide to crafting the perfect collection of seasonal clothing without a) breaking the bank and b) hoarding! I was inspired by this blog to write a piece for XoJane, which looked at the premise of building out a capsule wardrobe, through memories & associations. Clothes are sorted into three piles of memories: Memories to love, memories to  make and memories to shake.

So this theory I’m now trying to apply to tea, in some form! But, before I get into that, I need to go back, way back, to understand where tea actually comes from, and what it actually is.

Until then, cheerio!

Elizabeth c(_)

New Year, New Brew?

January 3rd, 2017

When I say ‘I’m a bonafide tea-addict’ I should be more specific for the purpose of this blog post:

I’m a bonafide English Breakfast Tea-addict’

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fairly rigid in my approach to tea. I tend to go for Traditional English Breakfast tea, via a bag (Twinnings tends to be my choice) and if I’m feeling adventurous, loose leaf from Whittard. I do love Peppermint tea, and occasionally try Green Tea, however if you broke down the quota, it’d be 99% Trad eng.

I’m sure any tea connoisseur would be rolling their eyes at me right now… but I’m holding my hands up. It is time for a change, a BIG change.

So with that in mind, here’s what I want to achieve in Twenty SevenTEAn (see what I did there?!)

  • Learn about the history & origins of Tea
  • Discover the perfect methods of brewing
  • Understand the different types of tea
  • Make my own tea
  • Expand my horizons and taste experiences
  • Appreciate, and fall back in love with the rituals of making tea

That just about covers it – and will form the core subject matter of this blog.

I’m really excited to embark on this journey, and I hope you are too!

Elizabeth c(_)

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