Sunday, 20 March 2011

Taking tea outdoors

I took advantage of the sunny weather and an hour to myself this morning to take my tea outdoors in the Fitzroy Gardens. Just lovely.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

So... What would YOU call it?

Just following on from my previous post about Australian green tea, and whether it should be called sencha or not - Jackie, for example, seems to feel NOT - but what more exciting name than just 'Australian green tea' could be used instead?

For example: Oolong tea grown in New Zealand is called Zealong... Apparently the tea is very good but I am afraid the name doesn't really work for me; it just sounds kind of silly.

Moreover, what if there were more than one kind of tea being produced? For example, green tea grown in Australia but processed as for longjing, chun mee, bi luo chun? Clearly just calling the whole lot 'Australian green tea' wouldn't cut it - you would need to differentiate somehow. Would 'Australian XYZ-style tea' be adequate? I am a bit less sure now than I was when I wrote the previous post.

What do you think?

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Green tea from the Alpine Tea Co

Did you know that green tea is grown in Victoria, Australia? Yes indeedy, right in the Victorian Alps - Tawonga to be precise. The tea bushes at The Alpine Tea Co are the 'yabukita' strain, which is one of the most popular for sencha in Japan, and the leaves are processed as for sencha.*

I came across the company at the Collingwood Children's Farm farmers' market a few months ago and purchased some of their first (spring) harvest tea. I haven't tried the regular green tea yet, but I have been greatly enjoying the first harvest one (in fact am nearly out of it).

Sometimes I brew a smaller amount of leaf with low-temperature water, for about 2 minutes at a time (2-3 infusions),  sometimes with lots of leaf for very short infusions (30 secs or so) in boiling water. Either way it is delicious. There are unique flavours that I haven't come across in a Japanese sencha. The taste profile is similar - the roasty, savoury taste for example - but there are also at times fruity notes, even floral ones, and sometimes an extremely distinct smell & taste that I can only describe as 'fresh dairy cream'. In some ways this tea makes me think more of an oolong than a sencha. I guess this is the effect of terroir at work.

The Alpine Tea Co teas are very reasonably priced too, and I am thinking that at $50-$65 a kilo a substantial purchase might not go amiss... especially at the rate I have been drinking sencha lately.

Interestingly, the company states on their website that
to ensure no direct comparison to Japanese Sencha (ours is not as strong), we prefer to call it Australian Green Tea.
What do you think about that? I know that green tea grown in China and processed as for sencha is sold labelled as such - I believe that this is because the Japanese tea industry alone simply can't meet the full market demand for sencha. I think that so long as it is also labelled with its country of origin and not purported to be Japanese that there is no harm in calling it 'sencha' as well, or 'sencha-style' - and that this even opens up the opportunity for people to celebrate more diverse flavours and taste profiles.

*I expect (though this is speculation on my part) that this production decision was at least partly influenced by the fact that sencha processing is almost entirely mechanised, from harvest to finish - given the high cost of labour in Australia, I imagine that a hand-plucked and processed tea would be beyond exorbitant in price.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


I am having a teaware run of death at the moment. Over the last four months or so I have

Broken two glass teapot lids (the second one was my spare, my glass teapot is now unusable)
Shattered a gaiwan lid (luckily I have a spare)
Broken the handle on my beautiful Royal Doulton cup (mended)
Shattered the lid of my tokoname teapot (not fixable, teapot now can't be used)
Smashed the handle of my small zero japan teapot (well, the cat knocked it off the bench; can't be fixed)
Smashed to smithereens a lovely green mug that was a gift from my husband.

The green mug died last night. I went to bed in tears. I have not allowed myself any tea so far today in case I break something else...

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Tea and Food: A match made in heaven

Peaches and almonds go together so beautifully. Not surprising really I suppose, when you consider they are closely related within the same botanical family.

I think many teas pair well with fruit and nuts as a snack, but my particular favorite is a sencha. I love the way the initial bitterness of the tea contrasts with the sweetness of the fruit and creaminess of the nuts, and then the sweetness comes through again at the end.

I have just used up the last of my sencha of the spring sun from Obubu Tea. I love this tea. I make it the way they recommend, with lots of leaf and boiling water for multiple VERY short steeps. This brings out the bitterness that I love in a Japanese tea in the first infusion; subsequent cups are sweet and creamy, a little floral. It cold-brews beautifully too.

I'll be purchasing some more of this delicious tea as soon as I can.

If you'd like to know more about Obubu, have a look at this great interview with Matsu and Akky , the farmers, on the Travel and Tea blog!

PS do you like my incredibly beautiful Royal Doulton 'moss rose' teacup set? I love it SO MUCH!


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