May 11, 2012

An Ode to Tea


"Strange how a teapot can represent 
at the same time the comforts of solitude 
and the pleasures of company."


There is really nothing quite like a cup of freshly steeped tea: it can be vitalising, calming, comforting and warming, it will caress all your senses and leave you feeling restored and content. Tea truly is the elixir of life, and over the years I've moved on from drinking coffee to enjoying and embracing green and herbal teas. I've become fascinated by the rituals deep engraved in the traditions of serving and drinking tea and I've become more appreciative of this magnificent beverage. 

I find it incredibly fascinating how, a humble leaf of an ever-green camellia plant, can be so highly celebrated over the whole world, can have the most precious ceremonies formed around it and can still be the most standard beverage found in the most modest of homes. 

For thousands of years the Chinese have used tea for medicinal purposes and tea is now known to contain high quantities of antioxidants, those cell-hugging substances that are believed to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. There are many additional health benefits of regular tea consumption, including improved artery function and increase of good cholesterol, as well as decrease of bad cholesterol. 

We all know the different types and varieties of tea - black, green, Oolong, white, Rooibos, Pu-erh, herbal teas and so on. The flavour of the brew is affected by the way tea is harvested, dried and processed, but the soil, climate and altitude also leave a mark on the flavour. Whilst certain countries and areas are only known for their black teas (India and Sri Lanka, for instance), others are commonly producing only green varieties (like Japan). There is a whole art of steeping associated with each type of tea, but without going into too much technicalities, I will refer you to this steeping guide that will most certainly guide you towards right direction.


There is so much to say about tea, but I will now introduce you to Helene von Schrenk, who, together with her husband Richard, founded Swedelicious, a Swedish tea business located in Melbourne, Australia. I had a few questions in mind for Helene and here's what she had to say. 


Q1. Can you tell us a bit about Swedelicious – Why did you decide to start a tea business? 

Coming from Sweden where there are tea houses around every corner it seems, I have missed all the beautiful tea blend varieties one can enjoy there. I decided to see if I could import some of my favourites down to Australia for my own enjoyment. To do that was not easy or cheap, as I needed an import permit for each ingredient for each tea! It all started to snowball and all of the sudden I had an online business and wholesaling black, green, rooibos and organic (Viking) tea blends. It seemed that there were more Scandinavian other than my husband and I that were missing these sorts of blends that were impossible to find in Australia.

My aim with Swedelicious is to continue bring in more tea blends, introducing other scrumptious Scandinavian products and eventually have a typical Swedish Tea house for all to sample, buy and enjoy a cup of tea and other delicacies. 

Q2. Are there any dos and don’ts one should know about brewing a perfect cup of tea at home?

I think the main problem in brewing a great cup of tea is the length and temperature of the brew. Green tea can become quite bitter if it is brewed for too long (black can get a more tannin taste too) and we shouldn’t scald the tea leaves either with the water. So when I make green tea I try to turn the kettle off before it has reached boiling point and I taste the tea so that I know when to remove my tea strainer in time. Milk doesn’t go that well in green tea, but is a great accompaniment in black and I also have it in my rooibos blend but that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea :-)

Q3. What is your favourite tea variety? And how do you like to enjoy it?

I have many favourites :-) The hardest is choosing which one to have each night, but I tend to lean towards the black tea blends and rooibos during the colder months especially. Green teas I tend to drink more during the summer months and make lots of ice teas!

My favourite black (at the moment) has got to be Freya’sPassion, which is an organic tea with passion fruit, kumquat, blueberries and marigold. 

Q4. Can you tell us about the art of blending teas? How do you come up with different flavour combinations?

I have only dabbled a little in blending myself, but would love to become more knowledgeable in that are. At the moment I source the tea blends and import them directly from Sweden.

Q5. What are some different ways one can use tea in cooking and in recipes?

I think you can use tea where and when your imagination lets you. I tend to use it in baking, substituting water for example with tea for a greater taste. But you can also use it in poaching, smoking, BBQ… the list goes on. Great ways to experiment!

Thank you, Helene! 


To celebrate tea, Helene and Richard are kindly offering 25% off all Swedelicious teas, tea cards and Sami bracelets to Scandi Foodie readers! Please visit their website for more information on different blends (Freya's Passion is my favourite too), tea cards and Sami bracelets. Please see Helene's blog for even more information. This offer is available until the end of June, 2012. Please email orders to Swedelicious and make sure to mention "Scandi Foodie" in the order. 

 

Recommended reading





Some of my favourite tea shops

Swedelicious - Scandinavian blends
Obubu Tea - Matcha and other green tea varieties
T2 - Lots of black, green and white teas + brewing equipment
Neo Australia- Herbal teas
Yogi Tea - Herbal teas
Pukka - Herbal teas
Nordqvist - Finnish tea company


"If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty."
~ Japanese proverb


Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored blog post. All recommendations are genuine. 

10 comments:

  1. I agree, that was a great post! I love tea too - but the more simple plain flavours of green, black and rooibos. Am not too keen on fruity blends at the moment. I have been drinking more green tea as the weather cools (otherwise it's just water for me!) and loving it :)

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  2. How does the saying go: you drink coffee because you have to; you drink tea because you want to!
    Love the vibrant green of the tea you have there, and love genmaicha especially.

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  3. Beautiful photos and great interview! I'm sitting in bed right now with a cup of Byron Bay chai ... and about to head over to Swedelicious and see what other goodies my visacard can find me ;)

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    1. Thanks Amanda, about to send your order. I hope you find them as lovely as i do :)

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  4. I love Genmaicha! I drink tea all day long after I finish morning coffee. Your spoon full of matcha remind me to make matcha ice cream again. =) Great post about tea!

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  5. What a wonderfully informative post Maria! I have learned a lot and am putting this in permanent file for future reference. In the mornings I am a coffee person but can't imagine watching evening news without my mug of green tea :) ! Beautifully evocative photos too!

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  6. Yes, I'm a tea person myself. Have not heard of Swedelicious - thank you for bringing it to my attention!

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  7. Positive my cells consist largely of tea. At home, the husband is the chief brewer of proper tea as part of his nurturing duties. At work alas he is not there so I have one of those long iced tea jugs from T2. In the morning I make an enormous infusion of 'other' tea, mixing it up according to mood (tulsi, rosehip, rooibos being current faves). I have the whole thing, hot in the morning and then the rest cold like I would drink water. If I fancy a hot cup of proper tea at any point in the day, then I get that too! AHHH, a post on tea! Thanks. Lisa

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  8. What a beautiful post, thank you for this.

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  9. I love tea too - I managed to squeeze a quick visit to the T2 store in Bondi Junction recently - it's such a wonderful panacea to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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