In the words of the late Tom Haffey, legendary Australian Football coach, renowned teetotaller and fitness guru, when asked for his opinion of beer: “Who needs it? Have you ever had a cup of tea? That’s all you need.” George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984 agrees: “One feels wiser, braver, more optimistic after drinking it.”
Tea is a simple concept: it’s water flavoured by leaves. This simple concept is an idea that transcends cultures, however. There is something utterly human about tea. In spite of its simplicity (or perhaps because of it), tea is wonderfully diverse and versatile. As a passionate tea drinker, I’m happy about the rapid growth of the T2 franchise, simply because it has demonstrated to Australians the vast array of different teas from all around the world.
My first experience of tea was at yum cha which literally translates to “drink tea”. Chinese tea (and the rest of the Cantonese cuisine) had a dramatic effect on me as a child. I’m white, (although one of my Nana’s grandfathers was apparently Chinese), but at age 5 whilst others hoped to be firemen, I dreamt of becoming a yum cha chef. Such was my love for the cuisine and the tea.
If you haven’t tried Chinese tea, make sure you do. I adore it and keep stocks of it at home. I do feel personally indebted to Emperor Shennong who, according to legend, invented the drink when a leaf happened to fall into a pot of water that he was boiling.
There is an overwhelmingly large variety of tea in the world to try: iced, green, black, white, spiced, oolong, herbal and even teas with fruits or nuts. Different cultures have different brewing techniques: Indian spiced chai, Turkish tea with beet sugar cubes, smoky Russian-style twice brewed tea.
If British style black tea is your passion, and you’re after brewing tips, an essay penned by George Orwell outlines exactly what makes a great cup of tea. It’s hilariously detailed. He analyses every aspect from teapot material – apparently pewter and china pots produce far superior tea to enamel or silver pots.
Chamomile tea is another personal favourite of mine. And its importance increases during exam time. Renowned for its supposed calming effect, generations have sipped chamomile to de-stress and find sleep. I’m not sure about the scientific merit of this but I choose to believe it. I’m certain I feel more relaxed after a cup of Chamomile tea and many a stressful exam period has been successfully navigated with a mug of chamomile in hand. I’ve been told it goes well with a hint of honey or a squeeze of lemon, but as a purist, all I want is the full chamomile flavour.
So next time you see yourself in need of a refreshing beverage, do consider the world of tea. With all its varieties and options for consumption, you may just come across a new hobby.