The soothing effect of a cup of tea
Tea for me is intimately linked with the British. Afternoon tea is a wonderful thing. Tiny sandwiches with the crust cut off, cucumber of course but also egg and watercress. Buttery scones with lashings of clotted cream and jam, delicious pastry and oh yes, a glass of champagne! I had the most amazing afternoon tea at the Chesterfield in Mayfair, London. It had everything and more, a great selection of teas and the most wonderful staff that made our afternoon a lovely experience. Having moved to the UK I did discover that it isn’t at all as common to go for afternoon tea as I thought, but it doesn’t stop this nation from loving their tea. They love it so much that they consume no less that 60.2 billion cups each year. Compare this to “only” 70 million cups of coffee and you get the idea.
It would be easy to think that tea is quintessential British but it comes from China and according to a legend the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, in 2737 BC, sat under a tree when leaves fell in to boiling water and this was the start of tea drinking. Tea made it’s way here in the 1600 century, imported by the British East India Company and having been embraced (with a few hickups such as heavy taxes) ever since.
There are a lot of teas to choose from and Dragonfly Tea sent me four different kinds to test and review. I haven’t been paid or influenced, the opinions are my own. I love a good cup of tea but I also like to use tea in recipes and took it as a challenge to see what I could come up with.
The first tea I used was the Skinny Dragon, a Pu’er tea. Pu’er tea is tea put through a complex process of gradual fermentation which gives it a very distinct flavour. It is said to aid digestion and has lovely earthy notes. A cup after a heavy meal is delicious. I brewed some tea and used it as a liquid to boil pearl barley and it was a brilliant combination. The Pu’er tea added a deep flavour and the earthiness went very well with the wholesome flavour and texture of the barley.
The second tea was a classic Earl Grey, one of my absolute favourite teas. I love it plain with a spoon of demerara sugar. I don’t drink as much black tea as green but this comes out, especially when I feel cold, wrapping my hands around it sitting under a blanket whilst warming up. It does the trick every time. Bergamot oil makes this tea so distinctive in smell and flavour and I thought I would pair it with orange to make a glaze for my duck. I cooked crispy duck legs and smothered them with the glaze and I have to say it was quite a treat! See recipe here.
The third tea I tried was Moonlight Jasmin tea. Jasmin tea is a fragrant tea from China. Tea leaves are harvested in the early spring and stored until the late summer when fresh jasmine flowers are in bloom. Dragonfly’s jasmine flowers are picked in the cool of the night when the blossoms open and the tea scenting takes place. I had so many ideas of what to do with this tea, besides drinking it that all I have had time to do so far is to boil rice in it and I highly recommend adding 2 tea bags when you are cooking the rice for extra flavour.
The last tea is a Mountain Honeybush tea. The honeybush grows only in small areas of South Africa and it smells of honey. The tea is naturally sweet with a very vague note of bitterness. It is a great tasting tea to just drink and you won’t need any sweetener. I had a whole chicken for Sunday lunch and decided to see what I could do with the chicken and the tea together. I opted to make a dry rub with the honeybush tea mixed in to it. I then added the tea to the stuffing and also brewed tea to keep the chicken moist whilst cooking. I absolutely loved it, the tea gave the chicken an unusual and fragrant note. You can see the recipe here.
Dragonfly teas have a depth of flavour. Their philosophy of “slow” tea is lovely. They work to support sustainable methods of tea cultivation and processing as well as small production growers, making their teas even more delicious.