How to brew different types of tea

Last week I took an awesome class through Laneway Learning called The Art of Tea Brewing, hosted by the lovely Cheryl from  Flag & Spear. It got me thinking that a big reason more people probably don’t enjoy tea is because they haven’t had it made properly. There’s actually a bit more to it than pouring boiled water into a mug and throwing in a tea bag, and there’s a hell of a lot more to it than those stale black tea bags your nanna has in the back of the pantry.

I thought I’d do a quick run through of a few different types of tea this morning, and how to brew them, based not only on some of what I learned last week, but also from what I’ve learned making and drinking tea around the world, so that you get the best tasting cup possible.

 

*** I will preface this guide by saying that you should always check the instructions on your tea first, as they may specify the exact time and temperate for steeping – this guide is more a general rule of thumb for the most popular types of tea. I also generally use one heaped teaspoon of loose-leaf tea to make one cup, 2 heaped teaspoons to make a 500ml pot. ***

 

Black tea

Why drink it: For a great, caffeine-lighter alternative to coffee as a morning or afternoon pick-me-up, and for benefits that include digestive tract health and lower stress levels.
Water temperature:
Boiling water, 100°C. This is the exception to “it’s not all just boiling water” rule.
How long to steep: Depending on how strong you like it, around 3 – 6 minutes.
Favourites: Fortnum & Mason’s Royal BlendClement & Pekoe’s Assam Leaf Corramore, McIver’s Ceylon Broken Orange Pekoe, and English Tea Shop’s Organic English Breakfast tea bags when I can’t use a teapot.

 

White tea

Why drink it: To help with everything from oral health to anti-aging to diabetic symptom relief – it’s a versatile one.
Water temperature:
 Around 80°C.
How long to steep: 2 – 5minutes
Favourites: I’ve actually never gotten into white tea, so if you have any recommendations, I’d love to know!!

 

Green tea


Why drink it: Green tea is packed with antioxidants, will still give you a bit of a caffeine kick, and reputedly has benefits ranging from reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease to improving brain function.
Water temperature: Around 60 – 75°C. A very basic rule of thumb is to fill about a quarter of the cup or pot with cold water, the rest with boiling water.
How long to steep: Again, it can vary so check the specific tea’s instructions, but generally only a minute or two, otherwise it can get quite bitter. You’ll also find some green teas can be infused two or three times, but you’ll only need 10 – 30 seconds for the second infusion.
Favourites: Ippodo’s Genmaicha, Twining’s Lemon Drizzle, Zen Wonders’ Hanae Matcha, and Ippoddo’s Mantoku Gyokuro, for a bit of a special treat splurge.

 

Rooibos tea

Why drink it: Because rooibos is caffeine-free, it’s the perfect option to drink at night – it’s also packed full of antioxidants, and helps support strong bones with higher levels of manganese, calcium and fluoride. 
Water temperature:
 90 – 100°C.
How long to steep: 5 – 7 minutes.
Favourites: The Old Tea Shop’s Rooibos Caramel, and T2 Tea’s Red Green Vanilla

 

Oolong tea

Why drink it: Not quite as high in caffeine as black tea, this drop is reported to help increase metabolism (therefore aiding in weight loss), and decreases inflammation. 
Water temperature:
 80 – 100°C.
How long to steep: 3 – 5 minutes – this is another one that can deal with multiple infusions, which are often said to get better as they go.
Favourites: Wall & Keogh’s Milk Oolong and The Spice & Tea Exchange’s Coconut Oolong

 

Herbal tea

Why drink it: Herbal tea benefits are almost unending – it all depends on what kind of herbs you go with! Herbal teas can be used to help in everything from detoxing the body from harmful nasties, helping to de-stress you before bed, assisting in healthy pregnancies and energising you before a big day.
Water temperature:
 100°C.
How long to steep: 5 – 8 minutes. Herbal tea is also great to cold steep for iced tea – just add cold water instead of boiling water, and steep it in the fridge overnight.
Favourites: T2 Tea’s Mint Mix, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie’s Cocoa Tea Relax, and Alem Tea’s Pina Colada.

Top 10 Things To Do in Osaka

1. Try okonomiyaki, an Osaka specialty

Where? Okonomiyaki Chitose, 1-11-10 Taishi, Nishinari-ku, Osaka
Why go? Contrary to what I thought a few years ago, okonomiyaki actually isn’t found all over Japan; it’s just Osaka and Hiroshima that traditionally do it. And you have to try it. Roughly translated to “cooked as you like it,” it’s a type of savoury pancake usually filled with pork and shrimp, and topped with a thick, almost sweet okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed and bonito flakes. And it’s the ultimate in Japanese soul food.
How long will you need? Most okonomiyaki places like this one are quite small, so you’ll often need to allow for more time to get a seat than to eat.
Cost? We paid just under AUD$10.00 for a shrimp okonomiyaki.

 

2. Check out an undercover shopping mall

Where? Janjan Yokocho Alley, a few minutes walk from Shin-Imamiya Station on the JR Loop Line
Why go? For a really different shopping experience! This indoor alley is basically a mish mash of shops selling everything from second hand watches to dried fish. And there aren’t many tourists around, so you get a really good sense of what life is like in Osaka for the local population. And if you’re happy to rummage around, you can find some really cool stuff.
How long will you need? Give yourself a good few hours if you like to shop.
Cost? Prices range from dirt cheap for old stuff and food to a little more expensive for the odd clothing boutique.

 

3. Shop for stationery

https://www.u-arts.jp/
Where? U-Arts, 3-10,Namba Sennichimae,Tyu-o-ku, Osaka City
Why go? The Japanese have a love for stationery rivalled only by my own, and their stores are next level. There are the big ones like Muji and Tokyu Hands, but the little shops like U-Arts are even better. They stock pens and pencils, notebooks and washi tape, handmade decorative Japanese paper and origami pads, paint brushes and bookmarks… if a visit here doesn’t inspire you to create something, nothing will.
How long will you need? Normal people – half an hour. People like me – an hour or more.
Cost? Everything is very reasonably priced considering the quality. 

 

4. See some very unique shrines

Where? Namba Yasaka Shrine
Why go? Lots of visitors to Japan like to see the shrines and temples, because they’re so unique to that part of the world. Then there are shrines like this one that are unique on a whole different level. Hidden in plain sight on an unassuming street, you turn a corner and come face to face with a giant lion’s head…
How long will you need? We were there for about half an hour.
Cost? Free.

 

5. Eat all of the food

Where? Dōtonbori – along the canal
Why go? This is where you’ll find the best food in the city, advertised by giant crabs, octopuses and puffer fish. Great dishes to look for typical to the area are gyoza (fried dumplings), taiyaki (wafer-type cake filled with something like custard or red bean paste) and takoyaki (octopus balls – fried batter balls filled with little pieces of octopus).
How long will you need? All night. And then the next night.
Cost? Most food is pretty cheap, but a general rule of thumb is that the tackier the signage, the more you’ll pay.

 

6. Play some video games

Where? All around Namba district
Why go? If you’re a child of the 80s or 90s, chances are you have fond memories of Street Fighter and Super Mario Brothers. For a few dollars per game, you can relieve the good old days on old school arcade games. Sounds a bit nerdy, but it’s more popular than you’d think.
How long will you need? Depends how much of a gamer you are – plenty of people are in there fore hours on end!
Cost? Usually only a few dollars per game. 

 

7. Visit Osaka Castle and Park

http://www.osakacastle.net/english/park/
Where? 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo, Osaka
Why go? The park is home to hundreds of cherry blossom trees if you’re lucky enough to be there in spring time, but if you’re not, it’s still just as beautiful. You can walk the moat-guarded grounds,  check out the castle’s museum, or take a look at the shops selling Japanese tabi socks, furoshiki (gift wrapping fabric) and matcha beer.
How long will you need? Half a day – better to get there in the morning if you can.
Cost? Entry to the park is free of charge, the castle museum costs around AUD$8.00 per adult.

 

8. Do the character café thing

http://gudetama.createrestaurants.com/jp/
Where? Gudetama Café, Level 7 – Hep Five, 5-15 Kakudacho, Kita-ku, Osaka
Why go? Because you’re in Japan, the land of kawaii. They love their cartoon characters over there (we even saw Hello Kitty traffic cones being used at one point in our trip), and the character cafés are a really fun way to get into it. I chose the Gudetama Café, because the lazy little egg is my spirit animal, and I regret nothing.
How long will you need? An hour or so should do it.
Cost? Not super cheap – two matcha lattes and a dessert to share cost about AUD$22.00.

 

9. Try matcha flavoured everything

Where? Everywhere!
Why go? Matcha lattes were all the rage in Melbourne a few years ago, but it isn’t just a fashion statement in Osaka. Yes, they’re definitely cashing in on the tourist’s fascination with the green stuff, but it’s actually delicious. Start by trying actual matcha tea to get a taste. Then, the options are endless – soft serve, cookies, cakes, candy, husband even tried matcha beer.
How long will you need? Be on the look out alllll the time – we found that soft serve on the side of a really quiet street with not much else on it.
Cost? It’ll depend, but expect to pay a decent price for high quality matcha. 

 

10. Catch a bullet train to your next stop

Where? They depart from Shin-Osaka Station.
Why go? The best way to get from one city to the other in Japan is by bullet train. They fly along at speeds of up to 320kph (yes, really), are super clean and comfortable, and on the way from Osaka to Tokyo, you’ll get an incredible view of Mt Fuji. Can’t get that on a flight!
How long will you need? You can get from Osaka to Tokyo in 2.5 hours.
Cost? Not cheap – around AUD$175.00 per person in standard class. 

Tea time: Ippodo Tea, Tokyo

Ippodo Tea
Kokusai Building, 1F, 3-1-1 Marunouchi Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo
http://www.ippodo-tea.co.jp/en/

 

It was around 9am on my last day in Tokyo, and it was raining. My plan to head back to Kagurazaka for the morning went down the drain along with the rain water; I decided to take my umbrella out and explore closer to the hotel. I ended up in the basement level of Isetan Department Store, which also, apparently, food heaven. $400 bento boxes, French baguettes, Italian cured meats, 500 different types of noodles, animal shaped cookies, the most stunningly intricate cakes… Oh, and tea, coffee, wine, sake, beer… oh my God! I settled on a gorgeous little rice lunch box and a matcha cookie sandwich, and trotted happily back out into the rain. Eating my delicious lunch on my hotel bed, I was pretty happy with the week I’d had in Tokyo. There was just one more thing I really wanted to do, and that was to visit a tea house.

Tucked away behind the main retail area of IPPODO’s store was their Tea Room; there were quite a few different green teas on offer, which all came accompanied by a traditional Kyoto sweet to compliment that specific tea (the store was originally opened in Kyoto, but another was opened in Tokyo a few years later, as well as another in New York). I’d tried matcha and gyokuro and many types of sencha before, and would have happily had any of them again, but noticed one of my favourite teas on the menu – genmaicha. It’s a unique blend of green tea and roasted brown rice. Genmaicha originated with poorer families who used to add the rice to their tea in order to make it last longer and therefore save a bit of money, as well as using it to cover up the taste of often stale tea. Properly done genmaicha is amazing; it’s got the lovely green tea taste, with the nuttiness of the roasted rice.

I enjoyed my pot, which I learnt could be re-filled up to three times if the following points were observed:
– use all of the tea provided (12g, I believe).
– use boiling water.
– pour into the pot, cover, count to 10 and then pour.
– do not let it brew longer than 10 seconds the first time, or it’ll have a bitter taste.
– empty the pot COMPLETELY into your cup – you don’t want to leave any water in there, or it’ll make the next brew bitter.
– leave the lid askew while drinking that first cup so the leaves can breathe.
– you’ll only need to count to 5 on the following refills.

And my sweet? A delicate little wafer flower filled with sweet red bean paste. Perfect match with the tea.

The teahouse itself was beautiful – simple, unassuming and very peaceful. And my tea set only cost around AUD$13.00 – it was the perfect way to end not only the night, but the entire trip.