A whistle-stop guide to tea

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published 150 years ago in November 1865. My how time flies; like a tea tray in the sky.

I love tea. I love Lewis Carroll even more than tea. So this blog post pays homage to both. I wrote the below feature for the artfully fabulous Caboodle magazine.  You can find the full recipes mentioned in this blog post in the Autumn Winter 2015 issue of Caboodle magazine – out now!

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A whistle-stop guide to tea

For centuries, many folk have benefited from the healing qualities of tea. Although flat white sales may have rocketed in recent years, tea stimulates creativity, increases metabolism and is full of natural cancer-fighting antioxidants. Loveliest of all, this timeless tipple gives us a comforting ritual to enjoy with loved ones – and if it has the Mad Hatter’s seal of approval, then it has ours too.

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It doesn’t really matter if you don’t know your Darjeeling from your Gun Powder or your Jasmine from your Chai but if you’re looking for some inspiration to get your taste buds popping, then here’s our like-a-tea-tray-in-the-sky guide to tea.

Earl or Lady Grey: Twinings invented the Lady Grey blend in the 1990s to appeal to Nordic countries, who found Earl Grey too pungent. Instead, the ‘Laaaaady’ variety is considered more delicate, scented with a lower dose of oil of bergamot than that found in Earl Grey, contains lemon and orange peel and is sometimes scented with lavender.

Perfect for… an understated portable afternoon tea at your desk or in the park. Serve Lady Grey with other subtle fragrant flavours such as cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches and a rose cream-filled sponge.

Earl Grey tea is perfect with chocolate orange-spiced or with dark chocolate brownies. The richness of the chocolate will accentuate the deep plum flavours of this tea and complement its natural spice without overshadowing it.

Photo credit: Kayti Feather ~ Caboodle Magazine

Photo credit: the talented Kayti Feather ~ Caboodle Magazine

Assam: known for its body, briskness, rich malty flavour and strong, amber colour, Assam is the world’s largest tea-growing region bordering Bangladesh and Burma. Famed for its full-bodied strength and usually a great tea for breakfast.

Perfect for… a traditional English afternoon tea, whilst sporting a 1940s house-dress, hairnet and a wistful expression. No need to reinvent the wheel here, simply serve with finger sandwiches and plain scones thick with blackberry jam and clotted cream.

Darjeeling: A light golden tea grown in the foothills of the Himalayas. Regarded as the “Champagne of Teas,” Darjeeling is light and delicate in flavour and aroma, with undertones of muscatel.

Perfect for… a refined and decadent gloved-afternoon tea served with fizz and all the trimmings. Try elderflower and almond Turkish delight: Floral and lightly flavoured food such as this will not over power this refined tea.

Photo credit: Kayti Feather ~ Caboodle Magazine

Photo credit: the talented Kayti Feather ~ Caboodle Magazine

Green Tea: A bitter-sweet aroma and a source of natural antioxidants. Green teas are totally unoxidised (compared to black teas which are fully oxidised). A delicate and beautiful flavour, it’s delicious with both savoury and sweet foods.

Perfect for… a Zen afternoon tea post-yoga, served with vegan raw cacao balls, cucumber and hummus sandwiches, goji berry flapjacks, lots of floor cushions and enough candles to put the National Grid out of business.

Lapsang Souchong: Perhaps the most famous Chinese tea – a unique large leaf tea distinguished by its smoky aroma and flavour, acquired through drying over pine wood fires. Lightly smoked, sappy, pine character. This tea is made in the same way as it was 400 years ago.

Perfect for… an afternoon tea fireside at home or outdoors by a sunset bonfire. The smoky flavours of this tea pair well with cheese scones and chutney. Try cherry flavoured cakes or tarts, the deep fruity notes work well with the smoky flavours of this brew.

Photo credit: Kayti Feather ~ Caboodle Magazine

Photo credit: the talented Kayti Feather ~ Caboodle Magazine

Gun Powder: Dark and rich with the mystic of the orient. This tea takes its name from the particular treatment of the leaves. Rolled into tight pearls, they were mistaken for gunpowder by 16th century traders. With a smooth, sweet, slightly smoky flavour, this tea has a soft honey or coppery liquor with a herby smooth light taste.

Perfect for… an afternoon tea for big personalities. With such a bold tea, simplicity is best. Buttery pastry items such as linzer tarts – the delicate puff pastry will melt in the mouth and provide a satisfying contrast to the sweet-smoky flavours of the brew.

Chai: Rhymes with ‘pie’, Chai is a centuries-old beverage. India Chai is basically spiced milky tea and is often blended with milk and sugar, in traditional Indian recipes the spices vary from region to region but the most common are, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper.

Perfect for… an afternoon tea with a modern-Asian fusion twist. Think cardamom scented cupcakes, curried egg mayonnaise sandwiches or creamy spiced shortbread biscuit. This crumbly textured shortbread will enable to pallet to absorb the subtle flavours while complementing its spiced notes.

“It’s always tea time” ~ The Mad Hatter

For more about Caboodle magazine, and to order your copy, go to www.caboodlemagazine.com

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