About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006
Cuppa Anyone?
I am not what you would call a tea drinker. My usual poison is a strong cup of instant coffee, black, no sugar. One of my mates and I have a private joke about this, for we both drink the same brand of coffee. Once, when he was visiting after our gruelling, regular Thursday night tennis grudge match, that has been sadly abandoned, I made a cup of coffee for him, from what was then a relatively new brand on the market, that promised a superior experience. Unbeknownst to me, D had already adopted this brand as his preferred cup.

One of the things that happens at my apartment is that I try out new foodie things on visitors and ask for their opinions. That's the price you pay to be my friend. On the whole it works out well, except maybe that time I introduced my kids to black pudding. It's amazing how complimentary they were until they found out what was in it.

I served D a cup of coffee and asked his opinion of it. "Not bad, maybe a six out of ten." he replied. He was rather shocked when I revealed his favourite brand and to this day we both refer to this brand as the six out of ten coffee, whenever we offer each other a cup.

Coffee is a wonderful beverage, but sometimes I hanker for something a bit lighter, which is mostly a cup of tea, so I keep a box of teabags at work as well as at home, where my wife prefers it to coffee. It's not something that demands a lot of attention, just boil the water, dunk in a tea bag and wait for a few minutes - remember I'm a coffee drinker, so the tea has to be strong. If you asked me to describe the taste of a tea, I would be hard pressed, it's not something that I've really considered, but I'm sure there is a whole liturgy to accompany it.

The other day I noticed we were out of teabags at home, so the next time at the supermarket I grabbed a box of teabags, not my wife's usual choice, for life is too short to contemplate the joys of only one brand and took them home. After dinner that night I went to the kitchen, switched on the kettle and opened the new box which was tightly sealed. As the cellophane was breached, a most distinctive aroma of tea pervaded my nostrils, smooth and mellow. This was interesting, it was not the first box of teabags I'd ever opened, but it was the first time I'd ever noticed the aroma. It was gorgeous. I stood there inhaling like a crackhead. Eventually I stopped sniffing and managed to place the teabags into cups and brewed them up.

Wandered back to the loungeroom and passed a cup to my wife. After a couple of sips I asked her what she thought. She said it was one of the better ones she's had. When I tasted, it was like drinking tea for the first time. This sounds stupid but it tasted like, well, tea. It was deep and smooth with so many notes to it, full and rich. The next day I bought another box and made a cuppa for my partner at work. He raved about it as much as I did.

I looked in the box and there was a small pamphlet which I read. It was mostly a rant about the evils of large multinational companies and the damage they have done to the third world countries where tea is grown. There were also some paragraphs on a charitable foundation that this company has set up to give sustenance to the survivors of the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed 40,000 people and left only devastation in its wake.

Now I don't spruik anything on my blog, but I want to alert you to a great cup of tea, and this from a coffee drinker. I am certainly not getting paid for this. It may be that I don't know much about tea, but I do know about flavour and I recognize when there is something flavourful in my mouth.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the pamphlet.

'Demand for a quick brew from tea bags changed the traditional method of making tea. A new CTC (Cut Twist and Curl) method to obtain quicker colour was introduced. That colour was at the expense of the real character of tea! Bowing to commercial demand, big brand names abandoned the authenticity and centuries old traditions in making tea. And tea lost its soul.

Dilmah brought back Single Origin 100% Pure Ceylon Tea that you had enjoyed some years ago. Now better and fresher because it is packed at the source, unblended and refreshingly fresh. What's more it is authentic and traditional in manufacture, which guarantees the true character and taste of tea. Tea the way it was made for several generations.'

Amen to that.

I know it's marketing spin, but there are a couple of interesting points. If we consumers can't wait for the colour and associated flavour by brewing a cup of tea for at least a few minutes, then the tea merchants have helped us by employing a method (CTC) that allows the colour of the tea to arrive almost instantly, but without the flavour.

Secondly, Dilmah talks about 100% single origin Ceylon (Sri Lanka) tea, packed at the source. To use a wine analogy, that is the equivalent of an estate bottled wine, from grapes grown in their own vineyard versus a wine made from many different vineyards from several different countries. Consider that just about all the most famous wines are estate bottled, single vineyard wines and you start to realize what they are on about, tea with flavour.

Try some, I think you will like it, if not, at the very least you have helped a charity.
  posted at 7:35 am

At 12:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An Ah, ha moment.
Interesting how you discovered it.

At 12:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tea is wonderful. Dilmah tea always reminds me of Kamahl, although I'm sure he hasn't been on their ads for years.

(BTW, we grew up with fried black pudding. It is crunchy and delicious and goes well with eggs any way.)

At 8:05 am, Blogger Gigi said...

I'm strictly a coffee girl in the morning but enjoy a nice soothing cuppa on cool winter evenings. I'll watch for this.

At 8:50 am, Blogger Reb said...

Nice story and I normally flip out at tea bags (and instant coffee for that matter), being a loose leaf kinda girl myself - have you spied a loose leaf version of this tea? My one concession to the tea bag is Dilmah's Moroccan mint grean tea because I can't find anything similar in loose leaf that doesn't cost a bomb :) I can confess to having eight varieties of tea in my cupboard at any one time. Do I have a problem?

At 12:03 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, I'm thinking that's an ad over there. Here someone ran an ad campaign, getting people together that had had famous falling outs and putting them together over a cup of tea.

Hi kitchenhand, I'm still more the coffee drinker, but seem to be drinking more tea these days.

Black pudding is d'lish.

Hi gigi, hope you like it.

hi reb, can't say I was looking but I think they do have loose leaf. Did you know the first tea bag was made of silk? Yes you do have a problem. According to Dilmah you should keep the teas in sealed containers in the fridge. Otherwise, no problem, variety is the spice of life!

At 12:38 pm, Blogger Angela said...

Hi Neil, thanks for posting about this, as I am a tea LOVER. I checked out the website and I am not sure if I can buy it here in the US, but I can have it shipped here. I am definately going to give it a try.

I also love that it is a charitable company. I try to buy things from companies that give back to the community or support the Fair Trade system.

At 2:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip for using up the spare tea. I've just bought a bottle of cheap guava juice-cheap because monday next was the use-by date- for plumping up the latest kilogram of prunes. Essential for that regular feeling!
When are we being invited to try your Morels? Greg just goes into a daze when he mentions them?
Yes and Dilmah is our favourite tea too.
How come you can still smell after all that Chromic acid?
Henry-the one who sooled Greg onto you.

At 9:07 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi Henry, sounds like you will be regular as clockwork! Maybe next time we go to Maroondah dam park will bring some along.

At 9:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey all :o)

Yeah Dilmah are great... I'm a big fan of loose leaf also, but the usual reasons for being against tea bags don't really apply when it comes to dilmah because it's seal packed and retains it's freshness right from the factory... plus they don't use the CTC method meaning even thier tea bag teas are the equivalent of many loose leaf varieties you can get. But I just love the process of making a loose leaf tea :o)

The loose leaf range to look out for is the t-Series range... see t-series.dilmah.com which is real high end stuff, some rare seasonal releases etc and can be found in a few gourmet stores in Australia... not sure about U.S. but you could try www.aspenint.com who were going to import it there.

Anyway, all the best... time to go make a cup of 'Italian Almond Flavoured Black Tea' (one of the t-series) YUM


At 5:29 am, Blogger Dr.Gray said...

I used to be a coffee only fan just like you. When I got married my wife introduced me to real tea and I have never looked back. I think here in the US most people drink coffee over tea only because the only experiance Americans have with tea is tea bags. To be blunt they taste horrible. But when you try fresh high quality loose leaf teas, its a whole different drink. I also find that it makes me feel a lot better than with coffee. Coffee has that spike and drop, but tea I dont know its just different.

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