The Art of Enjoying Tea
Tea should be kept away from light, heat and humidity to keep its freshness and quality over longer periods of time. It is highly recommended to use airtight (metallic) boxes. Most teas have a two or three-year preservation time, while a few such as first flush teas or some white and green delicate teas maintain their original flavor for around 12 months. The latter can have their flavor preserved if stored in the refrigerator.
There is a multitude of traditions and ways to drink tea around the world. Among the extremely codified rituals of the tea ceremony in Japan, the Chinese and Taiwanese technique of Gong Fu Cha, or the bag simply dipped in hot water, a large number of drinking modes can be found or even elaborated. It is up to each person to choose the best suited for him/her. Here are a few base rules to enhance the tea experience:
Quality of the water
Since water is the main ingredient for tea preparation, it should be the most neutral possible to avoid any distortion of taste
Infusion releases flavors and other perfumed molecules. For each tea a temperature level is recommended especially for the most delicate ones. The maximal water temperature of 95º C is the one reached just before boiling. The recommended water temperatures of the teas are pointed out on the tea packages.
The indicated time of infusion is the ideal period according to both traditions and expert opinion, knowing that each tea drinker can develop his/her own perception and personal taste. Because theine diffuses in the first seconds of infusion, drinkers who want a low level of theine in their cup may throw the water of the first infusion after around 20 seconds and make a new infusion for drinking (not recommended for rare teas).
For most teas, the average cup generally requires 2 g of loose tea, the equivalent to one heaped coffee spoon, a little less for broken leaf teas and a little more for white teas.
Filters and strainers
They are used to keep the loose leaves from getting in the cup. There are filters integrated in the teapots or cups, and there are practical paper filters (bags to fill), cotton filters and bamboo or stainless steel baskets. The tea balls are not recommended since they keep the leaves from expanding and freeing their entire aromas and potential. Strainers are practical accessories to pour tea from a teapot without a filter.
Teapots are normally used to prepare tea infusion. There are plenty of designs from various sources; purists have one teapot per type of tea. Teapots come in different materials. Porcelain, glass or cast-iron teapots adapt to all teas. Teapots made of porous clay have a “memory”, meaning that they absorb the flavors and tastes of infused teas. They should be reserved to a single type of tea. The most exceptional clay comes from the region of Yixing near Shanghai. It is advisable not to wash a teapot with soap, but to rinse it in hot water and let it dry. Teapots can be preheated for better taste by pouring hot water for a few minutes before infusing the leaves. According to taste and practice, one can drink tea in various containers of different shapes, volumes and materials such as cups, bowls, mugs, glasses, gaiwans, etc. A Chinese specialty, gaiwan (or zhong) is a traditional cup, without a strainer, where the tea leaves are thrown; it has a saucer and a lid that prevents the leaves from passing through. Ideal for white and green Chinese teas, it easily allows multiple infusions. For all Chinese white and green teas, it is recommended that leaves be “washed” by immediately throwing the water when it covers the leaves and then proceeding with the drinkable infusion(s).
SUGAR AND MILK
Both are usually not recommended for quality teas, although milk goes well with some strong black teas from India, Ceylon and Africa. Sugar reduces the tea bitterness, but certainly spoils the taste of delicate teas. Purists only tolerate it with mint teas and strong black teas.
TASTING AND DRINKING
Tea-tasting is an art, and drinking tea calls up at least four senses for good appreciation – sight (of the tea infusion and leaves and the overall setting), smell (of the tea before and after the infusion), taste (of the infusion) and touch (of the utensils and through all the gestures of preparation and drinking).
Tea can be custom-made or be used in other cooking recipes. Many hot or cold, sweet or salted, liquid or solid recipes that use tea can be found in specialized books.
A GOOD CUP OF TEA
Modern researches have verified some of the virtues of tea anciently known to traditional medicine. Tea slightly stimulates or awakens without inducing nervousness. The theine (similar to caffeine) level in tea is at least two times lower than the caffeine level found in coffee and it diffuses more progressively in the blood. Some teas are even naturally very low in theine. Tea does not have any calorie or sodium content. It contains tannins (polyphenols) that fight the free radicals partly responsible for cell-aging, and thus has antioxidant properties. The tannins have only one flaw; they reduce the assimilation of iron during digestion. Therefore, one should not drink too much tea during meals. Tea also has astringent and decongestion properties that are used in cosmetics. Tea is rich in vitamins and fluorine. Like other hot drinks, it has diuretic and digestive effects. In a nutshell, while not being a medicine, tea induces well-being and contributes to a preventive way of staying healthy.
The wide variety of teas can cater to every person, environment and situation. At Awan, our tea experts are here to advise you, inform you and guide you through the many possibilities this world offers to make sure you always find the right tea for you, at all the right moments.