Sunday, August 4, 2013

What’s in a Cup of Tea?

I was never a big tea drinker. The English obsession for “a cuppa” (or a cup of tea) is a nice concept that means having a break and sit back, but when I needed to sit back, I would have coffee – or a pint of beer. Still, I like Indonesian original Teh Botol – direct translation: bottled tea. I like the sweet bottled ice tea for the nostalgia of those hot days after school, going to Juju the drink seller, chatted with him, and buy one Teh Botol on ice. Oh so refreshing the sweet bottled tea!

 (Image from wilipedia)

There were varieties of Teh Botol as the 21st century coming to Indonesia. There was Lipton Ice Tea with all sort of fruit flavour, and different brands tried their own blend of bottled sweet ice tea.

Come back to a cuppa, maybe I would say that I like a cup of green tea. Japanese Ocha is perfect with fatty meal – gives me the fresh taste as well as the illusion that the fat would be washed by the goodness of the green tea. Green tea with lemon, that is also nice and refreshing hot or cold – although my British husband and most of my British friends would cringe when I said “iced tea”.

However today I learned something new about tea. Started with a conversation with Jack in Piccadilly Garden about the silliness of the word “chai tea” on the board of one of the food vendor in the Picnic in the Garden event. Jack pointed out that as chai means tea, the phrase “chai tea” means “tea tea”. I guess it was like Lake Danao in Leyte, Philippines. The word “danao” in Tagalog and Indonesian means “lake”. That makes “Lake Danao” “Lake Lake”.

Anyway, I then walked around Manchester and ended up in Castlefield Artisan Sunday Market. Walking almost aimlessly and taking pictures of the unique and funny things around, I came across a stall called “Quinteassential” and chatted with the guy. Although I did not buy any tea today – and I do feel bad for not buying from this very nice guy – I learned a lot about tea.

As a believer of “everyday is a school day” philosophy, here I try to summarise what I learn.

Tea are named according to the way it was processed.

White tea is a lightly oxidized tea harvested primarily in China. White tea comes from the buds and leaves The leaves and buds are allowed to wither in natural sunlight before they are lightly processed to prevent oxidation or further tea processing.
Green tea is made from the leaves (Camellia sinensis) that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing. Green tea it is unfermented and have less caffeine.

Yellow tea “usually implies a special tea processed similarly to green tea, but with a slower drying phase, where the damp tea leaves are allowed to sit and yellow.”

Blackteas, the most common her in England, are “fully fermented, usually for 16-20 hours which results in a full and robust liquor. It contains the highest level of caffeine amongst all other types of tea.” Wikipedia said, “the Western term "black tea" refers to the colour of the oxidized leaves. In Chinese, "black tea" is a commonly-used classification for post-fermented teas.”

Oolongis “a traditional Chinese tea produced through a unique process including withering under the strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting”. Quinteassential said, “In between Black and Green, it is fermented for only 5-8 hours. Often referred to as Chinese tea, it is fragrant and renowned for its digestive properties.” 

“Redbush” or “Rooibos” or "Red tea" is “native to South Africa and is derived from a different plant. It is high in antioxidants – rivals the health properties of green and white tea – and totally caffeine-free.”
Now coming back to my childhood Teh Botol, Wikipedia said that it is actually jasmine tea. Jasmine tea is a green tea infused with jasmine flower – both plants are very common and easily grow in Indonesia especially in Java. According to the maker of Teh Botol, PT Sosro, jasmine tea is also “mixed with jasmine and gambier flowers” It also said that “According to research, jasmine tea is good for decreasing cholesterol level and refreshing body.” Although I’m not sure that the amount of sugar in Teh Botol would lower anyone’s cholesterol!

So… there you go, I learned about tea today…! Thanks to this guy in Castlefield

Artisan Sunday Market (mate, I’m so sorry I forgot your name….) He is Greek, and his wife is Singaporean. And his knowledge of Indonesian tea and food deserves two thumbs up! I will absolutely come back in two weeks time, this time with more cash with me. I fell in love with their “jasmine gold” green tea!

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