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The inspiration for this article came when my parents visited Hong Kong for several weeks to visit family and have a holiday.  When I spoke with them to see how they were getting on, my mum said to me she couldn’t wait to get to Australia to see me.  A smile graced my face until she finished the sentence off with “so she could have a proper cup of tea”.  :o

Ceylon Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Ceylon Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Different parts of the world are renowned for their different types of tea.  Japan is renowned for its green tea, India for its masala chai, Australia for its Billy Tea.  Hong Kong is renowned for Hong Kong tea which is a beverage consisting of black tea (typically Ceylon tea) with evaporated milk or condensed milk. Sugar may also be added in addition to the sweetened milk.  In Cantonese it is known as “lai cha” (the literal English translation is “milk tea”) to distinguish it from Chinese Tea which doesn’t require milk.

To make Hong Kong Style Milk Tea:

  • Place 3 or 4 tablespoons of Ceylon Tea (Pu’erh has also been known to be used for Hong Kong Tea) to about 5 cups of water in a saucepan.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and add a small can of condensed milk.
  • Bring the saucepan to a boil again.

This process of boiling and simmering can be repeated several times which is said to help intensify the flavour of the tea. The intensity of the tea is said to be of a similar intensity of a Vietnamese or Thai coffee which are also made with condensed milk (except that Hong Kong Tea is a hot beverage whereas the Vietnamese and Thai coffees are typically iced).

After the tea is made, a sackcloth bag is used to filter the tea leaves. It is said that the use of this sackcloth makes the tea smoother, which develops the flavour even further. Given the shape of the filter, which resembles a silk stocking, Hong Kong-style milk tea has been given the affectionate name of “silk stocking” milk tea.  (Don’t worry – no ladies gave up their pantyhose to make this brew).

Similar to the British way of making a cuppa the age old debate of whether to add milk before or after the tea extends to the Hong Kong style of making tea, too.  Whilst the debate goes on, what tea drinkers do agree is that the hallmark to a good milk tea is how smooth the tea is and how creamy and full bodied it is.

The strength and sweetness of Hong Kong Tea is not everyone’s cup of tea but I do think it is a beverage you might want to treat yourself to from time to time.

See also:
Tea Traditions — Australia

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Vanilla fruits, dried

Vanilla fruits, dried

I recently reacquainted myself with flavoured teas and I was ever so tea-lighted to have come across another flavoured tea (specifically, a vanilla tea) that I like.

A flavoured tea in the true sense of the term is a tea that has had a fruit, herb or spice added to it. How to tell that you have a good flavoured tea? My recommendations would be to look on the back of the packet. If the ingredients indicate that artificial or “natural” flavouring has been added, then I personally would drop the packet and run the other way, but that’s just me.

A good flavoured tea should be a balance of tea and fruit, herb, or spice in the dry leaf. There should be an aroma that comes from both the tea and the fruit, herb, or spice in the dry leaf (one shouldn’t overpower the other; and the all-important test is, of course, in the tasting itself.

Many flavoured teas on the market mask the flavour of the tea and are often overpowered with the strong flavours that have been added to the tea. Unfortunately I’ve had many vanilla teas in the past where it’s been like chewing on perfume as the artificial flavours of the vanilla masked the flavour of the tea itself. The quality of the tea was often called into question and it wasn’t until I added milk to the tea that it was able to pass my lips. I haven’t been very luck with vanilla teas in the past.

That all changed, when I was extremely privileged to have been given a very generous sample of a locally grown flavoured (vanilla) tea recently. What was especially exciting was that both parts that made up the tea were locally grown in Daintree which is in North Queensland in Australia.

This tea from Daintree was quite different.  The Daintree tea was a subtle black tea and the flavour of vanilla bean was subtle but they both complimented each other extremely well.  I was able to discern the mellow gentle black tea notes from the beau-tea-ful aroma and flavour of the natural vanilla pod. They were a perfect balance, thoroughly enjoyable and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this tea is given greater recognition because it is an excellent example of a vanilla tea.

Vanilla Cream Natrually Flavored Black Tea

The English Tea Store brand Vanilla Cream Naturally Flavored Black Tea

See also:
Vanilla — A Tea Favorite
Tea Blends vs Tea Flavourings
5 No-No’s When Storing Your Flavored Teas
The Real Issue with Flavored Teas
These Are a Few of My Favorite Flavored Teas
Vanilla Tea
Some Australian Grown Black Teas
Some Australian Grown Green Teas

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Herbal infusions are teas, too. Now, I’m probably going to upset a lot of tea lovers for making this bold statement and in fact, if you’d have said “herbal infusions are teas” to me a couple of months ago, I’d have found it difficult to agree with you. Why this sudden change of heart you may ask? Well, it was all down to my mum visiting me in Australia.

One day she asked me what I was working on during the week, and so I explained that I had a Tea Appreciation class coming up and was just updating my slides on the difference between tea and herbal infusions. She cocked her head to one side and tried to repeat “herbal infusions” in English; stopped mid-sentence and said “herbal-what”? I proceeded to explain that tea is a beverage derived from the Camellia Sinensis bush and that anything else from which a beverage is derived is a herbal infusion. Mum continued to look at me in a confused manner and so I carried on.

Nile Delta Camomile

Nile Delta Camomile

Me: “You know, like peppermint, camomile, lavender? These are all herbal infusions.”
Mum: “But they’re all tea.”
Me: “Huh?” (not very eloquent I know but it was now my turn to be confused).
Mum: “We Chinese call any herb, flower or shrub; if a beverage is derived from it, it’s called a tea.”

It was my turn to cock my head and, as I took a momentary trip down memory lane and thought back to my childhood, I realised that when I was given a pure jasmine flower “tea,” Momordica Fruit “tea” or when I made a chrysanthemum “tea,” you know what? My mother was right – we would refer to these beverages in Cantonese as “tea.” It was an amazing revelation, and I laughed as I nodded and reluctantly had to agree with mum. So you see, after years of insisting there is a difference between real tea and herbal “tea,” I might have to change my mindset and accept that herbal infusions are teas, too, because mothers are always right, aren’t they?

On to my Tea Appreciation Class and I reflected on what mum had said and decided to continue to make the distinction between tea and herbal infusions. The reason being is because teas, which come from the Camellia Sinensis bush all have very similar health benefits whereas each and every one of the herbal infusions will have their own unique health properties. Rooibos, for example, is renown for its antioxidant content, Hibiscus is packed with Vitamin C and is said to help lower cholesterol, whilst Camomile is reputed for its sleep-aiding properties. I did end the class with my conversation with mum, though, whilst we all shared a laugh and a cup of tea together.

A few days later, I translated my conversation with mum to my husband, whose initial response was what about coffee? I haven’t quite got round to asking mum about that yet.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ever since I became professionally involved with tea, I’ve had many people approach me to tell me their horror story of being pulled by the arm when they’ve visited China; being taken to a room where a Tea Master makes the tea, they receive a thimble of tea and are then charged “an arm and a leg” for the privilege.

May King Tsang performing Gong Fu Tea Ceremony “with a Dash of Milk”

May King Tsang performing Gong Fu Tea Ceremony “with a Dash of Milk”

Now I can sympathise with these stories because if you think about it, when us Brits make a make a cup of tea at home or in the office, we put the kettle on; go away to do something; wait for the click; return to the kettle; pop a teabag or tea leaves into a cup or teapot; make the tea, add milk and sugar if desired, before we head back to our work station, or desk at home.  We will then continue to work without a thought for the cup of tea we have just made.

In a true Gong Fu Tea ceremony the participants are paying for the privilege of watching the Tea Master at work as he or she prepares each piece of tea ware, wakens the leaves, makes the tea, offers the tea to the onlookers and then the tea is sipped and enjoyed by each participant.  The British tea-making ritual is therefore completely different to the Chinese Gong Fu Tea making ritual.

I have therefore adapted the Gong Fu Tea ceremony where I seek to explain each and every step and its significance to the whole Gong Fu Tea Appreciation experience.  This is so that participants can fully appreciate what is being presented to them during the tea making ritual as well as the end result of sipping the tea.  I also encourage the sharing participant’s thoughts and experiences of the tea with the others in the group in order to create a sense of communi-tea and mutal respect for the tea that has been presented in front of them.  So as a nod to my Chinese and British upbringing, I decided to call my events, Chinese Gong Fu Tea ceremony with a dash of milk.  Here is a short clip of my tea ceremony in action.  Thanks to @iatebrisbane for taking the clip.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It was a last minute decision for hubbie and I to revisit the World Heritage site that is Fraser island, so with tent, camping stove, food and tea in tow, we headed to one of the largest sand islands in the world.

Sand is the key word – it gets everywhere when camping, doesn’t it?  Not wanting to spoil my loose leaf tea, I decided to make my own tea bags before leaving home.  Yep, you heard me right: tea bags!  I place my favourite loose leaf tea into an empty tea bag and place them into a sealed container.  Hopefully this ensures that the sand is kept away from my tea.  There are plenty of different companies online that sell these bags of convenience.

So I have the tea, what about the hot water?  Well that’s the fun part!  Reminded of Lu Yu’s poem, I can see the different temperature states as the water is heating on the camping stove:

When the water boils for the first time,
Something akin to the eyes of a fish appear on the surface
and a faint hissing sound can be heard.
Then the gurgling brook develops
with a string of pearls round the edge.
This is the second boiling.
Then the turbulent waves appear: this is the third boiling.

Lu Yu, Cha Ching (The Classic of Tea), 780 AD

Depending on the type of tea, I can take the pan off the stove at the fishes eyes stage, to make a cup of green tea, when the string of pearls develops, this water is perfect for oolongs or when the turbulent waves appear, this is ideal for black teas.   Furthermore as the tea is loose leaf I can reuse my own made teabag for further cups of contentment whilst sitting on the beach and watching the sun rise to the tune of the crashing ocean waves.

Tea at our camp on Fraser Island

Tea at our camp on Fraser Island

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and  links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

There is a Chinese proverb that says “One Picture is Worth Ten Thousand Words”.  The modern take on this proverb has reduced the number of words to a mere thousand but the meaning is essentially the same.

When it comes to tea education, there is nothing more compelling than a few pictures to illustrate precisely what it is you are trying to say.  Take this picture for example.  To explain that different teas impart a different liquor colour which has nothing to do with the taste of the tea, can be better explained with this picture:

Different Teas Impart Different Liquor Colour

Different Teas Impart Different Liquor Colour

The picture also seeks to explain the different categories of tea, which is useful information to impart during my Tea Appreciation classes.

In my Tea Note Speaking events, I have used the following picture to explain that green tea is a category and not the name of a tea.  Living in a wonderful wine producing country that is Australia, I ask the audience would anyone purchase a bottle of wine that just says wine on it.  Most people would shake their heads and this helps to explain why I personally wouldn’t buy a box of tea that says just green tea on it.  There are so many different green teas out there and we don’t know just what green tea is inside the box.

A picture to illustrate Green tea is a category and not a name of a tea

A picture to illustrate Green tea is a category and not a name of a tea

I use this picture to explain how the storage of tea is really important.     Good quali-tea loose leaf tea has an added advantage over its teabag cousins because one can get at least two or three cups of tea from the same teaspoon of tea leaves.

Picture to illustrate importance of storing teas

Picture to illustrate importance of storing teas

Finally I often share a picture online to showcase cafés, restaurants and Afternoon Tea establishments which serve loose leaf tea and present it really well.  It helps to raise awareness of great places that serve good quality loose leaf tea, whenever I am on my travels:

Great Tea Presentation and Great Oolong Tea at Nigi Nigi, Brisbane

Great Tea Presentation and Great Oolong Tea at Nigi Nigi, Brisbane

When explaining a tea term, fact or showcasing a place that serves tea well, why not take a picture and let the picture help you tell the story instead?

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I am extremely privileged to have met so many wonderful tea friends over the years from the States, Canada, China, UK, several countries in Europe, India and Australia and I often reconnect with these friends through the world of Social Media.

With a large group of tea friends though, there is bound to be a falling out.  Whilst we all love tea many questions are poised with accompanying bold statements and at times we often forget that our own opinions may not be held by others.  I was brought up in a working class background; my parents didn’t have two pennies to rub together.  I was also brought up in a Chinese household which meant no hoighty-toighty-ness; simple as you like with no fuss.  These two influences have also lent themselves into my business.  Whilst there are temperature controlled kettles, thermometers, special teaware like Yixing Teapots, gaiwans and English bone china, I’m just as comfortable with a flask of hot water, tea leaves sitting at the bottom of a cup which is topped up with hot water through-out the day as and when required.

Chinese Thermos

Chinese Thermos

But that doesn’t mean I turn my nose up at tea enthusiasts who took classes to understand mandarin in order to understand Chinese tea tasting terms which do not have an English translation.  I shouldn’t be dismissive of those who have a different tea making ritual for each type of tea; and I should welcome those tea lovers who are fans of herbal infusions as well as flavoured teas (as long as they are not artificially flavoured of course!)

As tea lovers, we need to be mindful of each other and embrace each other’s differences.  I have been involved in heated exchanges in the past about tea.  It’s difficult not to get on that soap box when one has so much passion for something, but rather shout first and regret later, maybe we should respectfully wait until that opportune moment to speak up.

It is easy to get passionate about tea, talk over others and mow others down with one’s words and our strongly held convictions but let’s remember that as passionate as we are in tea, there is a big world out there that is unaware about our beau-tea-ful beverage so tea lovers, let’s unite, get into that big wide world and raise awareness about good tea together.  Let’s not fall out with each other, be mindful of each other’s differences, and embrace our differing thoughts over a good cup of tea.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In my former life as an IT trainer, I remember the first few days of training to become a certified Microsoft Applications trainer.  Every class started with KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.  The premise behind the acronym is when delivering a training course to ensure that you speak in layman’s terms: speak in a language that the audience can understand.  Travelling around the world with my IT role forced me to do that in countries where English was the second language.

May King in action

May King in action

Who’d have thought that my training skills would come in handy when talking about tea?  With so many acronyms and tea terminology, it’s ever so easy to become daunted by them when you see them on paper, or online, but if explained with KISS, hopefully the audience can understand it better.  Here are just a few Tea Terms you may come across.

In my Tea Appreciation classes, I have broken the class down into 6 simple modules:

  1. What is Tea? (In order to differentiate between tea and herbal infusions)
  2. Loose Tea Guideline – outlining the best way to store loose tea and tips for making tea
  3. Recognising Good Tea – This is probably self explanatory.
  4. Tea Processing Basics – explaining the journey of tea leaf: from the bush to the cup
  5. Tea Tasting Basics – how to fully appreciate tea in a similar vein to how wine or cheese is appreciated.
  6. Health Benefits of Tea – the most popular topic and one in which I separate fiction from fact.  My favourite myth about caffeine is beau-tea-fully explained by the tea-lightful Stephen Fry.
Top 10 Tips to the Health Benefits of Tea

Top 10 Tips to the Health Benefits of Tea

The best part of a Tea Appreciation Class though, has got to be the tasting. :o

So tea lovers: when explaining tea terminology to someone new to tea.  Remember to explain with a smile, but more importantly educate with KISS.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

As a tea consultant, one of the best parts of my business is offering advice to tea business startups and seeing them flourish.  It’s rather like a mother or father waving their child off to school.  Mary Cali from The Tea and Jazz House is one such ‘cool cat’.  After offering business guidance, I was like that proud mother waiving her child off to school.  These are a few points on what The Tea and Jazz House as an online tea business has done extremely well:

Branding: Mary has created an extremely strong brand identity in The Tea and Jazz House.  The logo, the look and feel of the website clearly shows how tea and jazz are intertwined.  The website’s philosophy, vision and passion are outlined on the home page which demonstrates how the two complement each other.

Products: After learning about tea from yours truly, Mary conducted a lot of research about her target market to come up with a range of flavoured teas and herbal infusions.  In keeping with the tea/jazz theme the names of each tea are inspired by Jazz artists.  The jazz style of each artist is reflected in each of the fusion of herbs, flowers, spices and tea.  Products are always more compelling if there is a story behind it; which increases consumers’ emotional attachment to the products.

Tea and Jazz House Meet the Artists Page

Tea and Jazz House Meet the Artists Page

Education: For novice drinkers, it can often be daunting looking at a website and what The Tea and Jazz House have done particularly well is to provide information to consumers.  The steeping tea guideline on the Home page; the How They Make Tea section which provides pictorial tea education and information about the all Jazz artists helps to create a great online shopping experience.

Sharing is Caring:  Consumers are embracing the notion that people buy from people in Social Media  and The Tea and Jazz House has embraced Social Media extremely well by sharing other people’s blogs such as Tea Time with the wonderful editor of the English Tea Store blog, A.C. Cargill. Consumers can also follow Mary’s tea journey and passions via Twitter.

What are your thoughts on what makes a great online tea store?

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Tea is dehydrating, so if you want a hot drink then go for herbal tea instead.”  I know: I nearly spilled my Travel Mug and spat out my tea when a speaker from the fitness industry made this bold statement.  I bit my lip and wondered whether I should interrupt when the next claim was made:

“If you really need to drink a cup of tea, make sure you drink a glass of water to rehydrate yourself.”

Wah??? Right! That does it!!

Go ahead, get hydrated!

Go ahead, get hydrated!

But as a Brit, I’m used to keeping that stiff upper lip (and moan to my hubbie when I get home) and growing up in a Chinese household, my parents encouraged us to avoid conflict at all costs.  Conflicted between my British and Chinese upbringing, I finally raised my hand ever so gingerly.  “Yes?” boomed the speaker.   I politely informed the speaker and the audience that contrary to popular belief, tea is not dehydrating and can actually contribute to the daily two litres of fluid intake that the speaker was recommending.  In fact studies have backed this hydrating claim although if people are really worried about caffeine in tea, they can limit their intake to eight cups a day.   This is something I often mention in my tea talks.

So, I said my piece, and it was clear the speaker wasn’t going to be swayed and, as I didn’t want to interrupt the speaker any further, I bit my lip and kept schtum.  I had a private chat with the speaker later which was somewhat challenging, but I did manage to persuade the speaker on one thing.  Any beverage that is not derived from the Camellia Sinensis bush is not a tea and ought to be referred to as herbal infusions or tisanes.  Dispelling myths about tea is a huge challenge bu,t cup by cup, tea talk by tea talk, my mission is making sure we’re on the right page when it comes to tea.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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