Saturday, 21 March 2015

Exploring Tea - Part 4

Here we have a taste of the history of tea in China

China’s Tang Dynasty (609-907 AD), often called the golden age of Chinese civilisation, flourished alongside a golden age in tea. It was in this epoch that Lu Yu wrote his celebrated The Classic of Tea, which describes the Tang Dynasty’s elaborate tea culture. In his masterpiece, he describes the importance of the terroir where the tea is grown, the ideal water to use, the brewing process and the 24 items of tea paraphernalia required for serving the perfect ‘bowl’ of tea.
In this era and the centuries that followed, tea leaves were not infused but ground into fine particles whisked in hot water in a large vessel before being served in small tea bowls. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), this evolved into placing the crushed tea leaves directly into the bowls themselves and using a pot simply to boil the water, much like Matcha tea is served today. A royal pastime called doucha, or tea contests, gained popularity: tea dust was placed into cups and mixed with boiling water with a bamboo brush, this produced a powerful white foam and the tea-drinker with the best looking foam would win. 
This tradition of whisking tea can be seen to this day in chanoyu, the elaborate and methodical Japanese Tea Ceremony. Brought to Japan by the Buddhist monk Myoan Eisai (1141-1215 AD), tea was embraced in Japan alongside Zen philosophy and flourished into a nationwide pastime.
Firmly established in the East by the 15th century, tea’s journey further west was just beginning.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Exploring Tea - Part 3 - Milk Oolong

Milk Oolong

Apparently the finest Tieguanyin Oolong tea from China.
 You would not want to add milk to this tea


Cup: pale yellow-green
Aroma: cream, caramel
Taste: milk, floral, balanced
Finish: smooth, sweet

I found it delicate and definitely with a hint of cream and caramel on top of the mild green tea flavour.
A pleasant afternoon drink

 I first came across Newby Teas when looking for a good Peppermint tissane
I was so impressed with their website that I phoned them and asked if they would mind if I took information from their site in order to do some blog posts on tea
They were more than happy and yesterday I received some gifts of tea from them, the above being the first that I have sampled (apart from the Peppermint that I bought and showed in a previous post)

I'll be sharing some very interesting tea history in my next tea post.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A Walk in our local Woods Today

Spring has sprung so breaking off from working in the garden to take a walk in our local woods. 
A five minute car ride and we are surrounded by countryside to the North of our Borough. Looking South from our nearest park where I walk regularly we overlook London, the best of both worlds.

This park was the estate of Havering Palace with King Charles the I being the last Monarch to stay there in the 17th century. It was used as a royal hunting lodge
Today we are going to begin by walking down the long path of Redwoods

till we come across the Snowdrops, so pretty and delicate

Of course on returning home the gardening is still there! Over the weekend I pruned two trees, 9 bushes and 6 rose bushes - that's just for starters - a lot more to do yet!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Exploring Tea Part 2 - The First Cup of Tea

© The Chitra Collection, Sèvres Tea Set

The First Cup of Tea

With origins shrouded in millennia of myth and folklore, the first written record of boiling water for tea appears relatively late, in an anecdotal tale by China’s Wang Piu titled Contract of a Youth in 59 BC. It details a contract between a servant and the author, who stipulates that the servant buy tea, boil tea and serve tea.
A legend ascribes the discovery of tea much earlier to Shen Nung, an emperor whose reign is traditionally dated some 26 centuries before Wang Piu detailed his tea needs. According to one version of the legend, Shen Nung (2737-2697 BC) was boiling water to drink, sheltered in the shade of a majestic tea bush. Whilst the water came to a boil, a gust of wind disturbed the branches and several tea leaves fell into the water. He was so enchanted by the infusion that he included it in his celebrated Pen t’sao, a medical treatise written some time later.
Archaeologists corroborate this period, estimating that tea was consumed for thousands of years before Wang Piu’s written reference in the 1st century BC, as a snack to be chewed or a medicine to be ground into a paste as well as an infusion steeped in boiling water. Whatever its true origins, one thing is certain: tea has been part of human history for millennia. (Courtesy Newby Teas)

Since my last post I have been asked to share how to make a good cup of tea. Since my Grandmother taught me as a child I will share just the way she taught me.
  How to Make a good Cup of Tea
Always use freshly boiled water as re-boiled water will have lost much of it’s oxygen. It is important to heat the pot first, pouring the water away, before taking the pot to the kettle, not the kettle to the pot. Use 1 teaspoon of loose tea per person and 1 extra for the pot. Infuse 3 – 5 minutes or to taste.  

Length of infusion

The length of infusion depends on the type of tea and leaf as well as personal preference. Teabags require less time as the leaves are smaller, and the increased surface area lends itself to quicker infusions. Loose leaf teas require slightly more time, with black teas and tisanes requiring the longest length of infusion.


The perfect cup of tea begins well before the water has been boiled. Storing tea correctly is essential. Tea leaves are fragile and easily corrupted by heat, light, moisture and air pollution. Store in a caddy with an airtight lid.(The last two paragraphs courtesy of Newby Teas)

Many more posts to come on the subject of tea.