Tea (C. sinensis var. sinensis) is believed to have originated in Southern China. All tea varieties today are hybrids of this. Southern China is still a major tea producer today. Other major tea producing nations include Sri Lanka, India, Kenya and Indonesia.
Da Hong Pao:
One of the most expensive teas is Da Hong Pao. During the cultural revolution, it was reserved for Chairman Mao and VIPs. Even today, Da Hong Pao remains a prized commodity. Interestingly, Coca Cola has a brand Authentic Tea House, which includes Da Hong Pao as a product. Personally enjoy this with ice and it is great on a hot day. To be fair, really do not think this is the real McCoy, since Da Hong Pao starts from USD 1,400 a gram! Then again, there have been clones of the original plant and perhaps this is where Authentic Tea House gets their Da Hong Pao. A close second is Pokka's Oolong tea.
In general, there are a few categories of teas:
- Green - This is unoxidized. Examples include Japanese Green tea which has been steamed to stop oxidization and then dried. This is why there is a "raw" taste.
- Oolong - Partially oxidized. In general, the tea leaves are harvested and then pan fried in a hot wok. This creates the black and shriveled look. There is a mature taste that leaves a sweet after taste in the throat. Note that this only applies to better grades of Oolong.
- Fermented - Examples include Pu-erh (which comes in the form of a cake) and most western black teas. Tea leaves are harvested, exposed to moisture and allowed to ferment. The tea leaves then baked to stop the fermentation process.
- Flavoured - There is a huge variety. Examples includes Jasmine, Earl Grey, Blackcurrant, Mango etc. In general, black tea is combined with flavours. Example Earl Grey is the oil of Begonia combined with black tea.
These are examples of tea blends include:
Personal favourite Yorkshire tea. Branded teas will have a master batch which is considered the standard the brand wants to be associated with. They will then source teas from all over the world and blend it to get it as close as possible to the master batch. This is why branded teas are generally quite consistent in terms of taste. From personal experience, variations in taste is mainly down to improper storage. In general, tea should be stored in air tight metal containers, away from strong smells such as coffee and other spices. Now you know why good tea brands use metal containers.
Vertical brands basically means ownership of the tea plantations, production and sales. There are very few vertical brands left today. One of the better known ones in our region is BOH. They still maintain tea plantations in Cameron Highlands. It is worth a visit to the Sungei Palas plantation. They still maintain schools for plantation worker children and clinics. Understand this is standard for Indian tea plantations. Personally like BOH Cameronian tea leaves that is sold in metal containers. Sadly, these are only available in Malaysia from Aeon Supermarket for around MYR10. In Singapore, they only have tea bags. Another better known brand Dilmah.
Tea has anti oxidants, lower caffeine and zero calories (this assumes no milk and sugar added).
Singapore tea shops:
Singapore has a rich heritage of tea which ranges from boutique tea shops such as TWG to teh tarik stores. In addition, each race such as Indians, Chinese and Malay have their own variant of tea. The good tea shops make them own blend of tea. These are closely guarded secrets. According to my favourite tea stall owner, he uses a mix of Sri Lankan and Indian teas. Here are personal favourites:
Indian - Syed Mohamed Drinks, Amoy Food Centre #01-67, MON to FRI 0600 to 2000 hrs, SAT 0600 hrs to 1800 hrs, SUN Closed
Chinese - Tong Ah Eating House, 35 Keong Saik Road, 0700 to 2200 hrs daily
How to make your own tea
This is the result of much experimentation:
- Boil water from the tap (this is important). Do not use water that has been boiled
- After boiling, allow it to settle i.e. stop bubbling
- Two tea spoons of Cameronian tea leaves (Lipton will also do nicely) in a mug
- If desired, add sugar e.g. two tea spoons
- Pour in the hot water
- Allow brewing for 10 minutes
- If desired, add three tablespoons of full cream milk e.g. Fern Leaf or Nestle
- Stir and allow the tea to settle
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke