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May 13 2016

Cold Brew Tea

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

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

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?


CATEGORIES: Guides. Tea


January 9 2016

Matcha Guide

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 ceremonyChanoyu.

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.

Tea Ceremony Utensils

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

A traditional Matcha mill in Wazuka, Japan

 

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Shaded tea bushes waiting to become Matcha in Miyazaki, southern Japan.


Matcha Benefits

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.

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

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OUR ORGANIC MATCHA TEA FROM MASTER SHIGERU AND HIS FAMILY   >>


 

Matcha FAQs

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.

 


CATEGORIES: Guides. Japan. Uncategorised


September 6 2015

Tea and Water

A cup of tea simply can’t exist without water – this much we know! As the saying goes, “bread and water can so easily be toast and tea”. So it is entirely reasonable that the quality of the water will have an effect on the taste of your tea. In fact, it is crucial.

Sen no Rikyu's Tsukubai at his residence in Sakai, Japan.

Sen no Rikyu’s Tsukubai at his residence in Sakai, Japan.

For instance, Japan is incredibly fortunate to have outstanding quality water straight from the tap, and it suits their teas perfectly. (As an aside, when we visited the family in Miyazaki last year and sat down with Shigeru, he leaned across the table and the very first thing he said was “what is your water like in England?!” He is fascinated by the chemical make up of water and the effect is has on tea). Whereas our water here in Dorset is at the completely other end of the spectrum to theirs.

Good quality water can elevate your tea into something truly great, revealing the complexities and nuances contained within your infusions. In China, it was said that great tea in ordinary water would become ordinary, and ordinary tea in great water would become better. So we can see how essential water can be in our enjoyment of tea.

Hard Water Here in Dorset we have the pleasure of some incredibly hard water packed full of minerals like calcium and magnesium (where we are is particularly chalky). It is also has a habit of scaling up kettles with limescale. Lovely. Boiling water removes any bacteria etc. but the minerals remain, and can have a large impact on the flavour of your tea. It can be nightmarish battling with calcified hard water while enjoying tea, especially when it comes to lighter infusions. White teas and Japanese green teas especially can suffer terribly as a result.

Soft Water The picture is a little more rosy here. There are fewer minerals to interfere with the flavour of your tea, although it should be noted that higher sodium levels can sometimes be troublesome. The main bit of good news is that you won’t have to de-scale your kettle anywhere near as much as us folks in Dorset, and we’re all secretly very jealous.

Pure water Pure distilled water, contrary to how it may appear, isn’t all that much good either. The complete lack of any minerals at all can leave your tea tasting quite ‘dull’ and flat. We want a little personality, but nothing too overbearing.

So what kind of water is best?

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The renowned tea scholar Yu Lu said that water drawn from the centre of a flowing mountain stream is best. Seeing as many of us don’t have some useful mountains nearby, what other options do we have at our daily disposal?

Tap Water If you have hard tap water, an easy fix is to use a regular high street filter (various different kinds on the market). These typically charcoal filters will help remove some of the minerals that have a detrimental effect to the flavour of tea. We’ve had some success with the well known high street brand filter jugs.

If you want to take things to the next level, there is an array of very impressive filtration systems on the market. Reverse osmosis systems are quite amazing. Ideally, the pH you’re looking for with tea is something neutral – around 7 – and typically RO will sit somewhere between 5 and 6, but it is a world better than hard mains water scaling up your kettle and tainting your tea.

Bottled Water As the water in our Dorset area is very badly behaved, whenever we have a tasting session, or are trying a new tea for the first time, we look to bottled water. Mineral water is best avoided (the clue is in the name) so we opt for spring water instead. Just promise to use water from a responsible source and recycle the bottles when you’re finished.

Let’s finish with a good Chinese Proverb:

Water is the mother of tea, teapot its father, and fire the teacher.

 

More tea guides:

Tea and Temperature

How to Store Tea


CATEGORIES: Guides. Tea


July 21 2015

Tea and Temperature

Ice brew Japanese Hojicha and Sencha teas

Ice brew Japanese Hojicha and Sencha teas

Tea, water, and temperature – a holy trinity when it comes to getting the very best from your tea leaves. In this post, we’ll look at how the temperature of the water effects flavour.

Temperature can have a remarkable effect on the taste of infused tea leaves. Ever had a green tea that tasted bitter and just plain unpleasant? Well, I suspect that water temperature had something to do with it. Here’s why.

The tea plant, camellia sinensis, produces all manner of different substances mainly called phenols. You’ll also find them in wine, chocolate and berries. Phenols play a key role in the overall flavour and appearance of the tea that you drink, and how you brew it can effect how these phenols behave (if you’d like a long sciencey post about how this all works, let me know in the comments and I’ll happily put on my lab coat). For instance – a sencha green tea infused with water from a rolling boil will most likely be very bitter. But if you use water at 60 – 70 degrees, and the tea takes on a life of its own. This isn’t because the tea is ‘burned’ by higher tempertures, although a burning toast analogy can be useful, but because certain tannins and catechins are released at higher temperatures which can impart a ‘bitter/astringent’ quality. This also happens if the tea is left to steep for too long.

Certain more robust, darker teas will sit very happily at higher temperatures. Those concentrated flavours can stand up to bitterness brought about through temperature for a stronger and more malty cup.

Here in the UK, I think most of us can relate to our grandmothers telling us to bring the pot to the kettle and pour boiling hot water straight onto the tea. Our grans weren’t entirely wrong on this – because the chances are, they were brewing black tea teabags for no more than around a minute or two. Then adding milk (and sugar if you were feeling fancy). Without milk, the end result probably didn’t taste that great. But it is absolutely fine for a ‘tea you can stand your spoon in’ situation. Outside of this, you can start having fun with temperature.

A question we’re asked a lot in our tea shop is – how can you tell what temperature your water is?

There are a two ways you can do this:

1.Use a thermometer. Any kitchen thermometer or temperature probe will be great. It could also be a great excuse to use one of those infared temperature guns…

Here are a couple of temperature ‘hacks’ you can use too: the average electric kettle will get your water – filtered, ideally – to around 97 degrees C, a decent boil. Turn the kettle off and open the lid. Let the water calm down and sit for around 1-2 mins. This will help take the edge off for most black teas.

For lighter teas, grab yourself a heat proof jug. Pour your freshly heated (just simmering) water into it, and give it a swirl. You’ll soon have taken 10 degrees off pretty much right away.

2. My favorite. Get yourself (or if you have a birthday coming up, drop hints for) a temperature variable kettle. These things are fantastic. I have one from Bosch that I use at home after upgrading from a perfectly good one made by Philips which came to a sticky end while moving house. They start at around £30, and will soon become your best friend.

I’ll leave you with a rule of thumb for what temperature different teas need. Think of it like this:

the lighter colour the tea leaf, the lower the temperature the water.

Easy. While you may find some impostors (like Silver Needle sneaking in at 80 degrees) it will generally serve you well.

With each tea you brew, I promise it will get easier and easier. You’ll soon be using your own judgement as to how you enjoy your tea, at what temperature, and how long it is infused. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. You’ll know what to do simply through your tea instinct!

 


CATEGORIES: Guides. Tea


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