I don’t drink alcohol, well –I can be persuaded to happily sip slowly on some rich red or rosé wine, but generally, it’s just not quite me.
So, I am a avid tea drinker! Being ethnically Chinese means tea has been, and continues to be, a large part of my diet and the general ceremony of eating: it accompanies our food, like water. During ‘dim sum’ or ‘yum cha’, the dining of food alongside perpetual refills of the tea pot over hours is de jure. In fact ‘yum cha’ translated from Cantonese literally means ‘drinking tea’.
Tea also has a yin and a yang, a philosophy of food it can be described –though more accurately it is conceived under a concept in Chinese medicine known as ‘meridian theory’ or system. Teas can be either ‘heating’ or ‘cooling’ to the body, and drinking tea can induce either yin (cooling) or yang (heating) in order to be aligned with the body, or to (re)balance the body. For example, chrysanthemum tea is considered cooling; perfect for hot, summer days, and combating fevers.
I’m quite traditional in my choice of teas -no zesty infusions for me. Here’s a list of the Chinese and Japanese teas I always keep in my stock:
This is a Japanese tea, that creates a warm, toasty, amber brew. The colour comes from the green tea leaves being roasted first. Due to this process it is lower in caffeine than other green teas, and is a fantastic evening, post-prandial tea. It does taste very different from sencha, your average green tea.
Ode to the earth, this is a rich and dark tea of the soil. This is a fermented tea that ripens to reveal deeper and more distinguished flavours as it ages. You can purchase truly vintage stock of this tea. However, I am no such connoisseur; I am happy with an everyday folk’s brew. It is excellent for digestion, a perfect accompaniment during a meal. This is definitely not for everyone; try brewing a lighter, less concentrated tea to taste first.
I’ve come to truly appreciate this singular standard of tea. This tea is made by a mix of jasmine flowers and usually a green tea base. I spurned it for oolong, and now I am back worshipping at its fragrant alter.