May 13 2016
Cold tea? We’d normally think of this when we return to a mug we made earlier, only to find that our cuppa has turned cold and bitter while we were preoccupied… Or perhaps a pre-bottled sugary supermarket offering? Well, we’d like to tell you how it can be so, so much more – and not only is it wonderfully simple, the cold brew technique opens a entirely different spectrum of taste and experience.
What is cold brew tea?
Brewing tea in cold water – or ice – can yield fantastic results. First popularised in Asia, most notably Japan and Taiwan, cold brew teas are served up and down the country as a refreshing remedy during the muggy, humid summers. One of the many interesting things about cold brew tea is that a very different chemical process takes place to that of hot water. Higher temperatures encourage the leaves to release their many compounds and potentially bitter characters and tannins at speed – however, the cold brew process reveals an entire new world of soft, sweet, grassy flavours with a velvety touch to the palate.
Ice brew Japanese Hojicha and Sencha teas
This completely leapfrogs over the need to brew hot tea, cool it, then add something to sweeten it in an attempt to mask the bitter notes of this cooled-down infusion.
Learn more about how temperature affects tea here in our Tea & Temperature Guide
One of our favorite teas here at The Gilded Teapot to use for cold brew Japanese organic Sencha Superior and is beautifully simple to make. The first method is to add 2 tsp of Sencha to your teapot and fill it with ice cubes – once enough of the cubes have melted to fill your cup you can strain the infusion and enjoy (and return to the rest when the rest of the cubes have melted). You can also add a little cold water to encourage the infusion if you’d like your tea a little faster. The other method is to add the tea leaves to cold water and infuse for 5-8 minutes. You can also re-infuse these leaves several times, so you can enjoy your cold brew throughout the day.
Evening cold brew Sencha Superior
Another tea that works particularly well is Hojicha – a blend of lower leaves and tea stalks that have been toasted over charcoal in porcelain pots by a family of growers in Mie, Japan. Rather than a typically ‘green’ and grassy character, the Hojicha gives a fantastic light, coffee/cocoa sweetness. You can brew this in exactly the same way as the Sencha above. It tastes rather similar to the famed Boucha tea from Kanazawa on Japan’s western coast – there is nothing better than diving into a small, shady tea room in Kanazawa’s Chaya district on a hot day and being greeted with a cooling glass of iced Boucha.
And why not experiment? You can even look towards herbal infusions… Peppermint cold brew with slices of fresh lemon and cucumber is a thorough delight first thing in the morning. Or a cold brew Earl Grey (with a little gin) over ice might tickle your fancy?
January 9 2016
What is Matcha?
Bright, grassy, bursting with umami, a little astringent, and all with the hit of a double espresso… Matcha is the traditional Japanese stone-ground green tea powder, and forms the central part of the Japanese tea ceremony – Chanoyu.
The history of Matcha stretches back to the year 1191, when the Zen Buddhist Monk, Eisai, brought powdered tea to Japan from China. From here, the practice of Matcha drinking was embraced by the Shogunate, and spread through Japan’s Buddhist Monasteries, becoming closely aligned with Zen Buddhism, where the ceremony was honed over generations to take the form that we recognise today.
How is it made?
Ceremonial grade Matcha goes through a quite incredible process to take it from leaf to powder, which begins before the leaves have even been picked.
In the last few weeks before the tea bushes are ready for harvesting – between 2 and 6 – the tea growers will cover the bushes, shading the plants from around 60% of the sunlight. In response, the tea plants work double-time to reach up to the light, producing higher amounts of chlorophyll and amino acid L-theanine than your usual tea. The finest, most tender leaves and buds of these are plucked when the time is right, and the leaves continue on to be processed. Normally these leaves would be rolled at the beginning of their process, but leaves destined for Matcha are let to dry flat (Tencha) where the purest part of the leaf from between the vein and the stalk is removed, and ground in specialised granite mills to produce the iconic green Matcha powder.
In essence, there are two different kinds of Matcha: ceremonial and culinary.
A traditional Matcha mill in Wazuka, Japan
Shaded tea bushes waiting to become Matcha in Miyazaki, southern Japan.
Matcha has become a bit of a celebrity lately in the field of health, and it is certainly with very good reason. When you enjoy Matcha, you are drinking the whole leaf, rather than an infusion from it as with normal tea leaves – this makes it naturally high in minerals and vitamins, especially A, C and E, and up to 100 times more antioxidants than your usual cuppa. Add into that its amino acids and beta carotene, and you soon have a bowl of tea that will pack quite a punch.
How can I make it at home?
In a word, easily! Matcha can be quite daunting and seem a little confusing at first glance, but once you get the hang of it, it really is nice and simple. Being a powder, Matcha is incredibly versatile, but first we’ll look at the traditional way to infuse and serve it:
Things you will need:
- Matcha Bowl (Chawan)
- Matcha Whisk (Chasen)
- Matcha Scoop (Chashaku)
- Matcha Tea – it helps to sieve the tea first
- Water between 65-75 degrees C. If you’re in a hard water area, use spring water instead, as Matcha struggles to foam in your usual tap water.
Take one scoop of the sieved Matcha powder (approx 1/2 a teaspoon) using the Chashaku, and place it in the bottom of the bowl. Pour on the water to fill the bowl to a little over a third. Then, take your Matcha whisk in hand and gently stir the powder in the bowl. Make your action faster and faster in a ‘W’ shape, slowly lifting the whisk until a satisfying foam appears on the surface. Your Matcha is ready.
Bowl of Matcha and traditional Namagashi in Kagizen Yoshifusa, Gion. A 200 year old tea and wagashi specialist.
While a daily ceremony of your own can be absolutely wonderful, there are other ways that you can enjoy your Matcha, too. Being a powder it can have many uses, so go ahead and get a little creative… Why not use it in a Matcha Latte, stir it into your morning juice, or make some Matcha ice cream? While Japan is the home of the tea ceremony, you’ll see it everywhere there in Pocky sticks, sweets, patisserie, Kit Kats… even Oreos!
So go ahead and dive in
scroll down for our Matcha FAQs
OUR ORGANIC MATCHA TEA FROM MASTER SHIGERU AND HIS FAMILY >>
Help! My Matcha is clumpy!
Aaah, relax! This is perfectly normal – Matcha powder will naturally clump together when it comes into contact with the air. Simply sieve your Matcha before using for a good, even infusion.
Should I store my Matcha in the fridge?
Yes and no. Yes, if you can guarantee that it is stored in a completely air tight package away from fridge condensation and strong smells (like cheese, for instance). Otherwise, the back of a cool, dark cupboard will be ideal.
How can I make my Matcha foam?
If your Matcha feels a little lifeless, don’t worry. First, be sure that you’re using a high grade – then, check your water. If you’re using hard tap water or mineral water, you probably won’t have much luck developing a good foam. Use bottled spring water heated between 65 – 75 degrees C. And when you’re whisking, really go for it.
Why can’t I use boiling water on Matcha?
Matcha’s Goldilocks zone is between 65 and 75 degrees C. Adding very hot water will bring out bitter compounds in the tea – while we are looking for some bitterness in Matcha, we also want to appreciate the full depth of flavour that it has to offer, so anything too hot will simply obliterate this complexity.
So I can make iced Matcha?
Absolutely! It’s delicious.
November 8 2015
The clocks have gone back, we’re digging blankets out of the cupboard, and fallen leaves are absolutely everywhere. Mulling season is upon us!
These dark evenings are calling out for something festive bubbling on the stove, so we’ve concocted a little recipe for you. We took it out for a spin at the wonderful Halloween tasting night at The Bull Hotel with the Venner Bar and had a great response! So by popular demand, here is the recipe for our Winter Spice Mulled Cider.
Mulled Cider Ingredients (for 2 mugs):
- 1 tablespoon of Winter Spice tea
- 500ml bottle of still cider (medium or sweet is best, we used the Dabinet from The Purbeck Cider Company down the road)
- Brown sugar
Additional extras: apple juice, stick of cinnamon, slices of apple and orange, a slug of Calvados.
Wonderfully simple. Pour the cider into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the tea and any extras you’d like straight into the pan and simmer for 6 – 10 mins depending on how strong you’d like the flavour to be. Add sugar or apple juice to taste.
When it is ready, strain through a sieve and enjoy.
(For an alcohol-free, simple replace the cider with apple juice!)
October 11 2015
We are all creatures of habit, especially when it comes to mornings. Without a routine to start the day, lord knows how we’d get anywhere on time. So, it can be all to easy for things to become a little repetitive, especially when it comes to our morning brews.
‘English Breakfast’ is synonymous with something full bodied and malty, with good tannins, a relatively friendly amount of caffeine, and can sit well with a little milk. If you fancy changing things up a little, or would just like to try something new, here are three teas I’d like to recommend which will help you on your way.
From left to right: Ceylon Kenilworth, Kenya Kaimosi, and Yunnan Gold
This long, wiry beauty comes from the famed Kenilworth tea garden near Ginigathena in Sri Lanka’s central highland Nuwara Eliya region, planted at around 4,000 ft. This tea, when brewed, gives a stunning deep amber coloured cup, with a smooth character and hints of honey on the aftertaste. I love this without milk and some hot buttered toast. Sri Lankan black teas can sometimes be overlooked for heavier, malty Assams, but I’d like to shine a light on this brilliant tea producing region. To get a little nerdy, it tastes more like a tea from the Kandy region, and is certainly worth trying if you haven’t tasted single estate Sri Lankan teas before.
Your traditional English Breakfast tea will almost certainly have some element of Kenyan tea in its blend. Why? Well, there are very good reasons. For one, the assamica tea plant thrives in the Kenyan climate, and does a great job of producing deep, malty, well structured black teas. Also, being so close to the equator, the area isn’t all that seasonal, which means that the tea crops tend to be very consistent – and blenders like this very much. I’d like to give a special mention to this TGFOP from the Kaimosi tea garden. Grown at around 6,000 ft, this tea has a moreish thickness to it, and pairs very well with milk. It has great strength, but without being too overpowering. A real classic that makes a great start to the day.
Just look at it. Those leaves! A personal favorite of mine, Yunnan Gold will often appear in my mornings. The rich soils of China’s southern Yunnan province can produce some absolute wonders, and this tea is no exception. It has an incredible deep richness to it, with notes of sweet raisin, caramel and a hint of smokiness with a delicious almost buttery quality. Sometimes known as Dian Hong, there is no mistaking this majestic tea. Best enjoyed without milk, but it will take a splash if you are so inclined. And for those who need a little help waking up in the morning, the high proportion of golden tips in this tea gives it a higher caffeine content than those with a lower amount. And fortunately for tea, it naturally contains theanine, which ensures a slow, steady caffeine release through the morning. Delicious.