When we started Europa in 1989, it was important to us to serve tea as a simple hot drink. It took some time for our guests to get comfortable with the samovar tea we were serving. Tea doesn’t need to be consumed in a pompous ritual. Tea ought to be enjoyed for its taste.
All tea types stem from the same tea bush, which is, on the other hand, found in a number of varieties. What this means to say is that the green, the white and the black tea are all originally one and the same kind of tea. Above and beyond the fact that the bush type can vary, the choice of leaves from the same tea bush also makes a difference. The finest and earliest top shoots have a distinctive and very delicate flavor. The taste from the later harvested large leaves has a more ordinary taste.
In industrial tea production, almost the entire tea plant is used. The most inexpensive tea on the market stems from the “tea-brick”, which is produced by something that calls a floor-sweeping to mind. It is pressed into a block and winds up as bargainbin tea and in cheap teabags.
The tea leaves are picked several times a month, most often by hand. The manner of picking the leaves is contingent upon the season and upon whether the tea is growing in flat fields or on steep slopes, upon the quantity of precipitation and upon a whole lot of other climatic considerations, such as how high over sea-level the bush happens to be growing. These geographic variations affect the flavor – and in much the same way that we know about from the world of wine and the world of coffee.
In order to avoid a situation where the freshly plucked tea leaves start to mold or rot, they have to be dried. And the way that the newly harvested tea leaves are dried determines whether they become black tea or green tea.
During the drying process, different kinds of oxidizing and fermentation take place. Oxidizing sets a number of chemical processes in the tea leaves, while the fermentation process is a relatively light and easy one. Both of these processes may occur at the same time. The leaves are air dried, dried slowly with low heat, dried quickly with higher heat, or just spread out to dry by the forces of nature. After they are dried, they are cut or rolled. This results in variations from vernal green tea to deep-black tea. White, yellow and silver-colored teas are also products that vary, all according to the oxidizing and the subsequent processing of the tea.
The processes determine what color the tea will have and how much caffeine or theine there will be in the dried tea. In addition, the processing also gives rise to essential oils and tannic acid as well as to substances like theobromine and theophylline, which are chemical bonds that are found only in tea. Tea has to be handled with care – from leaf to cup. Even though the tea is handled and processed with all requisite meticulousness through the drying and packing, is it far from enough to ensure the flavor. Even the very finest tea can be destroyed if it is badly brewed.
The water’s temperature is very important to the flavor. The rule of thumb is this: the more green the tea, the lower the temperature should be. A cup of black tea should generally be brewed with boiling water. The flavor of black tea cannot come forth in water that is not hot. This would yield nothing else than a flaccid and tasteless drink. On the other hand, when preparing a green tea, it is best to let the water stand in the electric waterheater so that the temperature can drop a bit before adding the leaves. If you do not happen to have a thermometer, figure that the temperature falls about 10° C every five minutes in the electric water-kettle.
The temperature is also important to the many beneficial substances in the tea and to the effect that the tea can have on our bodies – minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and so on. If you use water that is too hot when preparing green tea, it will bring forth unpleasant nuances of flavor. In addition, water that is too hot will impede the beneficial chemical reactions, such as the relaxing effect that caffeine has on the nervous system, better blood circulation and the trengthening of our immune system.
It is also important to note that some of the green teas taste best with the second or even the third “flush” of water.
There are green teas where the first round of water poured over the leaves is simply poured away and discarded –
and there are others where the first “flush” of water is just not ideal. In Denmark, the selection of hot drinks has
Our search for holiday joy in just about every country on the planet has resulted in the situation that many Danes have come to acquire a natural inclination for drinks from foreign cultures. They can come from flowers, herbs and the like, which are combined in teas. The most prevalent example is oil of bergamot, which is the taste in Earl Grey tea. Only the imagination is the limit to what flowers, herbs and flavorings will find their way into different types of tea.
Herbal tea is often considered tea, but to put it more correctly what it actually consists of is herbs that are extracted in hot water. Rightly speaking, it is only the leaves from the tea bush that can be called “tea”. However, this does not mean to say there is anything wrong with herbal tea – as long as the selection of herbs is made carefully.
For example, you might want to try herbal tea with mint, chamomile flowers or nettle. Another “tea-variant” is Rooibos,
a bush that is grown in South Africa. Many people refer to this as “red tea” and the name of the tea originally stems
from the Dutch word for “red bush”. Red tea is consumed as tea but in reality it consists of leaves from the Rooibos bush, which have been dried and chopped into fine pieces. Rooibos, of course, can also be supplemented with every imaginable flavor effect: vanilla is often used for this purpose Both Rooibos and herbal tea should be brewed with boiling water.
Like coffee and wine, tea can open up a diverse universe of flavor sensations and enjoyment. Many interesting experiences await if you have the courage to go out and find your own inclinations and your own way into the universe of tea.
In addition to the samovar tea at Cafe Europa, we also have a tea-menu. When you order tea from the list, you are served a pot of tea, a cup with a saucer, a teaspoon, a pot with extra hot water, a tea sieve, pieces of lime, sugar and milk. Accordingly, you can brew your own tea so that it is made precisely the way you want to have it. That’s also the way we feel you ought to serve your tea at home.
It is worth all the trouble, we can assure you.