Buddhika Abayakoon of Dilmah, the highly regarded tea brand in Sri Lanka, was in town to train the F&B personnel of one of the country’s most prestigious hotel chains on the rudiments of preparing and serving tea.
I had the opportunity of meeting and chatting with him. Apparently, many of the things we do to make our cup of tea is not the way they should be.
What makes good tea?
There are a few factors—soil conditions, the climate and the manner in which the tea is manufactured. Another is the freshness of the tea. The leaves and the tea bags absorb moisture very fast, so it is best to get foil pack-wrapped tea bags or those in airtight canisters.
What are the different kinds of tea?
Black tea, which is fully fermented; oolong tea, semi-fermented; green tea, unfermented; white tea, the most expensive, consists of two tender leaves and the bud. It is handpicked, sun-dried, and is full of antioxidants.
How is tea best prepared?
The quality of the water is most important. It has to be filtered, spring or mineral. Boiled only once, using water that had been re-boiled, gives the tea a different profile, sometimes a bitter taste.
The temperature for black, oolong and white teas, as well as infusions (a blend of herbs, spices, flowers and fruits with no tea leaf content), is 100 °C; for green tea, 80 °C.
For every tea bag, there should be one cup of water, approximately 200-250 ml.
The brewing time for black tea is three minutes (for very strong black tea, up to five minutes); oolong, three to four minutes; green, two minutes; white, two to three minutes; infusions, also two to three minutes.
Always, tea before water! Put the tea bag in a cup and then pour the water. Doing so agitates the leaves, allowing them to bloom and develop flavor.
After the recommended brewing time, remove the bag or the leaves to avoid bitterness.
Do not reuse tea bags. Once you brew the first cup, you get the character, strength, color and taste of the tea, so the second cup will no longer be good.
There is really no need to keep lifting the bag up and down vigorously, holding it by the string. Moving the bag slowly and gently, a couple of times from left to right, is enough.
Do not scoop the tea bag out with a teaspoon and twirl the string around it. Doing so extracts the caffeine and unwanted flavors from the bag. Simply remove the bag from the cup.
Is it okay to add milk and sugar to tea?
We do not recommend adding milk and sugar to white tea, green tea and infusions. You can add sugar to strong black teas such as English Breakfast, Assam from India and Ceylon Black. Milk, like sugar, is best with strong black teas, but just about 1 tsp to a cup of tea.
Tea and food pairing has become quite popular. Cinnamon tea goes well with our native adobo.
Food is paired with hot tea, but it can also be iced. It really is a matter preference as is the type of tea that goes well with a dish.
According to the Dilmah manual: “Light and delicate teas complement light foods that have been steamed and poached. Green tea works with fish, poultry, rice, salads and many seafood dishes.
“Oolong tea makes a good match with stronger tasting seafood, food with sauces that are not too strong, fried food, dishes with ginger and berries.
“Since black tea contains more tannin, it works better with heavier, fattier and richer foods—creamy sauces, meat, cheese.”
How to brew iced tea:
Steep one tea bag in 200 ml of hot water (not boiling water). Temperature should not be lower than 205 °F. For batch preparations: five tea bags per 1 liter of hot water for 15 minutes.
Steep tea according to tea type. Never over-steep. Wait until the temperature of tea cools down and put tea in the refrigerator.
Use simple syrup to sweeten the tea by bringing 2 c sugar plus 1 c water to a boil, then simmering for seven to 10 minutes.
Add four ice cubes per glass per serving (12 oz) of iced tea.
Over 30 tea varieties
Dilmah has over 30 tea variants and flavors to choose from, all interesting and very distinct. My personal favorites, both hot and iced, are lychee, Italian almond, chamomile (real flowers), green tea with jasmine flowers, Arabian mint with honey, Lapsang Souchong, Moroccan mint, and many, many more! For all your tea needs, call tel. 8623041 to 44, and 0922-8096734.
Next week: To beat the summer heat, delicious Dilmah iced tea recipes, plus cooking with tea