15th July 2011
With excitement I set off on the 5:30am train to Jane Pettigrew’s Tea Masterclass in London, knowing that on my return journey I would know a great deal more about tea. At 9am at The Chesterfield in Mayfair we were all warmly greeted by Jane Pettigrew a tea specialist, historian, writer & consultant and Tim Clifton – a leading tea broker, with a vast knowledge of teas and plantations around the world. We enthusiasts were from all walks of life such as those wanting to open their own Tea business/Tea house. Some were observing all things British such as one girl who was invited by her friend to join the class to become more refined – the tea slurping we did later put paid to that I think. We had a Tea loving Brazilian living in Dublin, one lady was about to take a year out from working to seek out new adventures with tea, another adding to her tea knowledge to enhance her tea business. Members from the Tea Palace in Covent Garden were also there along with an Australian Lawyer travelling the world in search of Tea and good food.
We began by looking at the manufacture of Black tea, the tea we most often drink with milk and tasted a Darjeeling – India Black. Assam – Orthodox. And Assam – India CTC (Cut Tear Curl – often found in Tea bags)
- Darjeeling – India Black had lovely copper colours and warm tastes which seemed to improve as the liquor cooled. Jane suggested this would be a good accompaniment with Madeira Cake.
- Assam India Black, which we discovered that day, had won this years Gold Tea Award, turned out to be one of my favourites due to the Malt Whisky aroma and it’s Malty taste. This would go perfectly if served with a Tea Loaf or any fruit cake.
- The Assam – CTC Black, on the other had, was completely different to the first two. Very dark in colour, it had, for me and some others there, a very strong bitter taste. Even with a drop of milk lacked the flavour and aroma we were now beginning to associate with a good cup of tea.
We then moved on to taste more Black teas, this time from Ceylon, Kenya and China. At each stage of the tasting we were shown the tea leaves as they were dry and after the brewing, so that we could compare the aromas at all stages. Some teas had undertones of rubber, flowers, honey and meadows.
I’ve always been put off by the grassy smell of Green Teas until I tasted some, at this class. I found them to be lovely in colours but dry to the pallet and one wet leaf tea Lung Ching (Dragon Well) to have the rather pleasant aroma of a Roast Lamb dinner. This was my favourite of the Green Teas that we tried. The Moacha Green Powder Tea, 2nd from the left in the above picture and often used in Tea Ceremonies, is very good for using in cooking and baking.
For a mere £1,500 per lb, this White leaved Oolong tea is picked with Golden Scissors by people wearing white gloves. The leaves are then collected in white porcelain bowls held under each bud so as not to bruise the leaves. Although we didn’t get to try it, it is said to be rather bland in taste.
I loved the Oolong teas from Taiwan and we got to try
- Pheonix Honey Orchid China Oolong – Good for Iced Tea
- Ballad Oolong (Taiwanese Oolong) – Fresh Clean light in fragrance and good for 4 – 5 brewing’s.
Next we tried a Puerh Aged China Tea, see above. This tasted better than it smelt and looked. It has been suggested to aid the breakdown of fat, and I do hear that some celebs drink it quite a lot.
We also got to learn:
- First Flush – The first picking of the season after dormancy.
- Darjeeling – Grown at High Altitude. The First Flush is best and is only available for picking for two weeks.
- Second Flush – The second picking season of the same year.
- Assam 2nd Flush tea is better and is grown at Sea Level
- White Teas are the least ‘manufactured’ – processed with less handling
- Most of Africa’s Tea is CTC (Cut Tear Curl) and is good for tea bag tea, because it infuses quickly.
- Always brew your tea with fresh water.
- Never use metal Tea pots, they give a metallic taste
- Always use a filter when brewing tea and remove after the required brewing minutes.
- Use clear tea pots if possible so you can show off the colours of the tea.
- Store tea in an Air Tight container, even card boxes can badly affect the tea storage.
During our Buffet lunch I managed to chat to some of the other tea enthusiasts. And later in the afternoon after more tea tasting, we had the chance of trying a new Earl Grey ice cream being created by Jude’s ice cream. We all agreed it needed just a little more Earl Grey adding to the flavour and it would be perfect. We also got to try some of their other ice creams, like Vanilla, Rhubarb, chocolate and Salted Caramel. All creamy and delicious.
We finished off the day with afternoon Tea consisting of Pastries and Scones with Clotted cream & jam and an exchange of emails to keep in touch. And with a goody bag consisting of a signed copy by Jane of ‘Tea Classified‘ by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson I set off for my train home.
It was a great day and my knowledge of tea has improved immensely and here’s a certificate we all received to prove it.
I shall still drink Black Tea with milk, but my other Tea collection will now begin to grow at a fast pace beginning with some Darjeeling and more Oolong. Plus some Moacha powdered Green Tea for cake baking..