Real beer brewers drink tea: by Ardea Teas
Let me introduce you to someone who is even more fascinated by tea than we are. A man who explores the natural beauty of tea and all its intensity, aromatics, and flavours. I asked Craig if he would write a post for us. He did, and here it is. If you have ever read Patrick Süskind’s novel Perfume, then prepare to savour the words in a similar manner. I recommend taking 10 minutes, making yourself a cup/pouring a glass, have in mind a lilting Scottish voice, and closing your eyes…
Real Beer Brewers Drink Tea. By Craig Rothney, Ardea Teas
Let’s imagine you want to listen to some music. You walk over to the CD player and get ready to play a song. But now imagine this is a world where there’s only one song – for argument’s sake, let’s say its ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie. When you feel like listening to music there might only be one choice but the desire is undeniable, so for the umpteenth time you put it on again, turn up the volume, and you know… “just for one day!”
Now imagine waking up the next day to find shelves wall-to-wall, filled with a lifetime’s worth of music you never knew existed: different genres, new instruments; from classical and jazz to rock and roll and reggae! New experiences stretching on to infinity!
This is the feeling I had when I discovered the world of tea. It was no longer just dust in a bag; more than milk and two sugars. Tea wasn’t just one thing under the guise of different brands, there were hundreds of different types of tea. Maybe thousands! My perspective had been blown wide open.
The world of tea is vast. A lifetime of tasting would still leave you short of the summit, and if granted another, the mountain would still seem as tall as when you started. Let’s step back and examine the landscape.
We can start with the six different types of tea: Green, Yellow, White, Oolong, Black and Fermented. Each of these can be altered to create a seventh type, such as roasted, flavoured or scented teas. Green tea with jasmine flowers would be a familiar example. Next, like with wine, each country has different growing regions and within each location different terroirs exist: soil types, topography, micro climates, ecology; all play a part in the growth of the plants. One small example could be a plantation which may have greater shade from nearby trees, increasing amino acids in the leaves and thus creating a sweeter taste. In fact, tea growers in Japan will cover certain plants under straw or netting for up three weeks before harvesting to induce this reaction for the esteemed Gyokuru green tea. Now we can move onto different picking and processing techniques, which affect quality, flavour and aroma development, and the longevity of those compounds while brewing or storing.
Let me slam the door shut on this for now; I think the point has been made and we’ll take a break on the tip of the iceberg for now. This big world of tea can be daunting for some. For a lot of people tea is, and always will be, a tea bag of breakfast blend. That’s absolutely fine. ‘Heroes’ is a really good song! When I’m offered a cuppa at work I’ll never refuse, because that tea bag tea is like something medicinal for me on a busy day, especially when prescribed by a colleague. But the sheer immensity of experience the world of great quality loose leaf tea offers, stirs up an unrelenting desire for exploration within me. I’ve had a healthy obsession with coffee, wine and beer (more on this later) throughout my life, but tea has always fascinated me more than the rest. Not only for it’s long history, stretching back over 4,000 years to eventually conquer the world and become the second most consumed beverage after water, but because of the unrivalled diversity of flavours and aromas that are borne from its past, present, and ever evolving production as a drink.
For me, and for countless others who have enjoyed it, tea is an important ritual in life. We’ve all experienced it in that warm cup on a cold day or when taking ten minutes from work. More importantly, the act of drinking tea is a social catalyst, providing the perfect ambience for engaging with friends, family or new acquaintances. Building upon that familiar sensation, high quality teas can offer a rhapsody for the senses. Imagine the deep, warming aromas of a charcoal fire, old mahogany furniture, or toasted almonds. Think of the lighter smells of spring and summer; flowers in full bloom, freshly cut grass, or herbs straight from the garden. How about something more unexpected in tea, like liquorice, asparagus, or salty sea air. There are teas that have these aromas, and dozens more, and they all come naturally from the leaf, not from flavouring. Some of them can hit you with such intensity that you could swear it was the real thing in front of you. I recently tried a traditional smoked tea, made by the Singpho people in the northeast of India that left me feeling like I was right there by the fire. As someone with a sweet tooth, one of my favourite smells comes from certain roasted Chinese oolongs, which leave a distinctive brown sugar aroma at the bottom of the cup after you’ve finished. Oolongs themselves have flavour range from ripe peaches to wood ash. Did I mention I liked tea?
Apart from our love of tea, my connection with Left Field Kombucha also extends into the brewing world. I work as a brewer, making beer for a living, as Geraint did long before he started brewing up kombucha. Echoing some of Geraint’s words from previous blogs, it can’t be denied that the complexity of great quality tea and the chemistry and craft of brewing combine to make an unstoppable force. I’d never tried Kombucha before meeting Geraint at a tasting he was running in Dundee. I’d heard a lot about Kombucha, and mostly derogatory. It was a horrible drink, they’d say. A vinegary broth made by hippies. Well, as a hippie-type myself I obviously couldn’t wait to try it. Boy, were they all wrong! I found a drink that was absolutely delicious, combining all the flavours and aromas that I loved in tea with the robust, intricate, rounded character of a fermented drink. It’s safe to say I found a new beverage to obsess over! I can’t wait to see these guys bring more and more quality teas into the frame through this outstanding product.
Just like in music, I continue to find new tastes in tea I never knew I’d find or enjoy. Kombucha just started a new band.