Life in the kitchen

What's your cup of tea?


A cup of tea, in the old days – and by old we mean around 2007 – used to mean a choice of Ceylon (what we love to call ‘normal’ tea here in South Africa) or Rooibos. And maybe Earl Grey.

It was so easy. Then we discovered green tea, herbal teas, flavoured teas, infusions – and It all snowballed from there. Now, a trip to the supermarket involves a baffling walk along a very long tea aisle.

White tea. Black tea. Flavoured black tea. Fruit tea. Herbal tea. Blended tea. There’s a wide world of tea out there, so be adventurous. But if you’d like to try something new, we suggest you first get to know the tea categories, and find the ones you like.

Let’s start with a fun fact about tea. Did you know that all ‘real’ tea comes from the same plant? It’s a bush with the scientific name Camellia sinensis. The way it’s treated once it’s picked will determine whether it’s black tea, a green tea, a white tea, or an oolong.

After they’re picked, tea leaves soon begin to wilt and oxidize unless they’re immediately dried. The leaves turn darker as the chlorophyll breaks down and the tannins are released. Teas are named according to how much the leaves are allowed to wilt, oxidise and ferment, and whether they’re crushed. The most common teas are white, green, oolong, and black.

White teas. Black teas. Flavoured black teas.

Strictly speaking, herbal teas and fruit teas are not actually ‘tea’, because they’re not from that bush, but we’ll let them into the club because they’re such great company. The term herbal tea usually refers to infusions of fruit or herbs made without the real tea plant, such as steeps of rosehip, chamomile and rooibos. These are sometimes called tisanes or herbal infusions, to prevent confusion with tea made from the real tea plant.

What about flavoured teas? Well, the purists say that you shouldn’t start your tea appreciation journey with these teas, because the original ‘unflavoured’ teas DO have their own unique, delicate flavours – so we should learn to appreciate them first.

The tea experts have also told us we should choose loose tea rather than tea bags, which contain a finer tea ‘dust’ that simply doesn’t taste as good. So try tea the old fashioned way – use the coarser, good quality loose-leafed tea, and let us know if you taste a difference.

Now let’s make a pot!


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