Sweet Essence of Tea

Written by: Tony Ciulla

“If man has no tea in him, He is incapable of understanding truth and beauty”

— Japanese Proverb

I love that quote it’s the true sweet essence of tea. Back in the early 2000’s I owned and ran a tearoom called Sweet Willow Tearoom. It was located in the mountains of Clayton Georgia. Mind you it was a restaurant and a tearoom. Loved every aspect of owning a tearoom.  It showed me the lighter side of want life is all about. Coming from a background of being a badass Marine it goes against my whole nature and image at that time.
What was in store changed my whole way of thinking. Imagine if you will, sitting on a porch on a summer night. The crickets sound fills the air. Table for two and having a spot of tea. A very elegant tablecloth covers the table. On that table a small vase of two red roses. Fine bone china consists of elegant plates, silverware, two teacups, and a teapot. Then there’s a three-tier plate holder with plates filled with cucumber sandwiches, pastries, savories, and all sorts of goodies.

Afternoon Tea

You grab a tea strainer and lay it across your teacup. You pick up the teapot and began pouring your tea. The aroma and the steam from the tea hit your nose. The anticipation of sipping your freshly brewed tea is making your taste buds go wild. Then you add a little sugar and maybe some milk and you stir it once or twice. Finally, the time comes to raise your tea cup as it hits your lips. Then all of a sudden your little pinky finger raises. ( I’ll explain that later). The smooth taste of your tea puts a quite soothing hush across your whole body. That Ladies and Gents that is the sweet essence of tea.

How to make that perfect pot of tea.

So, there’s a little work that goes into having that great-tasting tea. When I had my tearoom I was taught by women from England the proper way of serving tea. I like to share this with you. It’s like when you cook you follow a recipe. Consider this the recipe for brewing a perfect pot of tea. But first, let’s talk about what type of tea you should use. There are loose-leaf teas and filter tea bags. Both have advantages over the other. Filtered tea bags are convenient you don’t have to use a tea strainer when pouring your tea. The flavor is OK but using loose leaf in my opinion is the best. It cost just a little more and it is worth trying this type of tea.

Assortment of loose leaf tea

Loose-leaf tea is of higher quality, is fresher, tastes better, is more diverse, and is good for your health. Mass-produced tea bags are filled with tea leaves from different locations and have traveled great distances before they reached any supermarket shelves, making them somewhat less fresh. I always used and sold loose-leaf tea at my tearoom. I know tea bags are convenient and all you do is plot your tea bag into your Kreurig and off you go.

There are all types of bagged and loose-leaf teas out on the market. I used The Republic of Tea at my tearoom. Black teas like Earl Grey, British Breakfast, BlackBerry Sage, and Ginger Peach are all excellent. The BlackBerry Sage and Ginger Peach make excellent flavored sweet tea. Pour into a tall glass with ice and enjoy the bursting flavors. I sold out of both when I served it as sweet tea. When making hot fruit-flavored tea do not use milk it will make your milk curried. Also, there are green teas like Spring Cherry, Republic Chai, Honey Ginseng, and Sky Between the Branches. All green tea is loose-leaf. They also have a long line of herbal teas. Use an airtight container to store both loose-leaf tea and tea bags. This will help keep your tea dry and fresh.

Always use freshly drawn (filtered if possible) cold water in the kettle. The best-filtered system I found is a BOROUX foundation.™ filters . Tea loves oxygen as it helps the flavor develop. Great tea depends on the water you use to make it. You can use a coffee machine this will give you the right temperature for making tea. Just under the boiling point at 206°F. Never boil water and pour it over loose-leaf tea or tea bags. It will burn the tea leaves and make a bitter-tasting tea! Tea bags will not give you the full maximum flavor. So keep that in mind. Pour a small amount of hot water into a teapot and swish it around. Then discard the water. Warming up the teapot allows the tea to unfurl, relax, and deliver the maximum flavor. It also helps to keep the tea warm without dropping the temperature.

OK, now why do people raise their pinky when drinking tea? There is some disagreement about the origins of this tradition, but it likely dates back to 16th century England, when teacups were very small and delicate. People would often raise their pinkies to keep their cups stable and avoid spilling any liquid.

Over time, this gesture became associated with good manners and etiquette. The original purpose of raising your pinky has largely fallen by the wayside, and today it is more commonly seen as a sign of good manners and etiquette. Regardless of its original purpose, the tradition has evolved into one that is now seen as polite and sophisticated. Today, although not everyone chooses to raise their pinkies when they drink tea most will agree that doing so is still seen as polite behavior that demonstrates respect for others. So next time you raise a cup of sweet essence of tea – pinky up!