With her wealth of knowledge in both coffee and tea (particularly sourcing), we posed the all-encompassing question to Jen and here’s her thoughts …
What is Tea?
The leaves and sometimes buds of the camellia sinensis tea plant, an evergreen shrub that originates in south east Asia. A seemingly never-ending range of flavours, that are linked intrinsically to terroir, traditional expertise, and handling. The fresh leaves are bright green, soft and supple, the aroma is sweet and herbaceous. They are plucked quickly and delicately, and can be used in cuisine, this is tea before its moisture is removed. Decision are made about the ways to remove water content, shape, oxidise and fix the leaves. The intricacies of each step make way for many different iterations, the artisans touch can make all the difference.
It is fascinating to see how tea drinking culture has spread around the world and seems so easy to draw parallels between tea and coffee. One very important difference between our two favourite caffeinated beverages, is how the quality of coffee from farm to cup has improved significantly in the last 10 years, while the quality available of tea has been there for centuries, it is the appreciation of it in Western culture that is lagging.
Great news right? High quality and expertly crafted teas already exist, but now more than ever, creating space to recognise and value speciality teas in the West is important. While having “a cuppa” in Australia is ingrained in our culture, it only scratches the surface of what tea can offer. Over the years demand has meant increased supply of low quality “tea bag” style bitsy teas, easy, cheap, good with milk. So, the tea industry in many ways has gone backwards, lowering quality to meet demand. These next 5-10 years will be interesting to watch, it seems inevitable that we will see a surge or demand for artisan teas in the West.
All I can say is, if you’re willing to keep an open mind about tea and explore what is out there, you will likely stumble across a whole new world of flavours and find yourself wondering how you went without them for all these years.