My love of tea began with childhood visits with my regal grandmother.
She would serve tea in a gorgeous fine bone china cup. The blue flowery print was faded, but when she asked me, ‘One lump or two?’ as I sat opposite at the kitchen table, I felt so grown up.
After the milky, weak, overly sweet tea in a fine bone teacup, my next treasured memory is slurping a strong smoky black brew of billy tea from a dinted tin mug by a campfire.
The blue rim was faded but when the wizened stockman asked me, ‘One lump or two’ I felt as rugged and Aussie as you could get.
To this day, I enjoy making billy tea on the hot coals of a campfire, before swinging the billy with a straight arm four times in a clockwise direction to make the perfect brew.
My next tea stop was Fortnum and Mason, London’s exclusive department store, where I wandered the aisles looking for the perfect blend. The tea was overly packaged but so beautifully presented. Each week I’d put a dint in my meagre wage on tea alone, but it was worth every pence.
Whilst browsing, a stately gentleman advised me that the only way to serve tea was with twice boiled water. It’s a tip I’ve never forgotten and still employ today.
My love affair continued when I visited India, the home of tea. As I backpacked my way around the colourful country, the call of ‘chai chai’ on the trains was as common as the clickety-clack of the tracks.
Made with water, powdered milk, sugar and black tea, it’s offered as it is made. Costing only a few rupees and served in a ‘recyclable’ red clay rudimentary cup, chai has a flavour I cannot recreate at home, despite countless attempts.
Fast forward 20 years and today we have an abundance of choice. Fighting for retail real estate with Twinning’s and Tetley are myriad brands, big and small.
So to help you get started, here are my top five to try:
1. “Prana Chai” is made with black Ceylon tea, Australian bush honey, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, peppercorns, cloves, fresh ginger and salt. In a small saucepan, I add 1 tablespoon of this sticky blend to 1 cup of soy milk and water and warm on a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring often, before straining it and drinking.
2. “Golden Grind” is the newest kid on the block. It is a glorious Ayurveda blend of turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper which claims to fight heart disease, reduce cholesterol, nausea and indigestion as well as fight colds and flu. It’s especially warming in the cold months.
3. “Matcha Maiden’s Green Tea” is a ground bright green tea powder, which claims to have 137 times the antioxidants than regular green tea. I love a latte — add 1 teaspoon of Matcha tea powder and ½ teaspoon coconut sugar into a cup, add ½ cup of boiling water and stir well, then top with frothed milk.
4. Geelong-based “Love Tea” has been a long time favourite of mine. I first discovered this brand when I was given the ‘breast-feeding’ tea blend.
5. “Pukka” has a very large range including my husband’s favourite ‘Night Time’ blend. The tea bags mean you simply add water.
And don’t forget the latest accessory – a tea bottle, which will keep your tea warm up to 2 hours so you can make it and take it.