How to brew different types of tea

Last week I took an awesome class through Laneway Learning called The Art of Tea Brewing, Flag & Spearhosted by the lovely Cheryl from . And 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: Storm In A Teacup’s Breakfast Tea is my all-time go to. Also adore Fortnum & Mason’s Royal Blend for an afternoon cup,  Clement & Pekoe’s Assam Leaf Corramore for a morning cup, 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 is a delicious blend of green tea with toasted rice, Storm In A Tea Cup’s Matcha Laced Sencha is a great way to try matcha without going the whole hog, Twining’s Lemon Drizzle is a delicious special treat cup, and my absolute favourite (and splurge purchase) tea is Ippoddo’s Mantoku Gyokuro, which is just heaven in a cup.

 

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 makes an awesome iced tea as an alternative to plain boring water, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie’s Cocoa Tea Relax is a delicious dessert tea, and Monique’s Apothecary’s detox.me is amazing to help get your liver and kidneys working properly again.

 

And if you’d like some more tea-related business this cold, foggy Melbourne morning, we’ve got tea-infused porridge to make at home, matcha magic cake for dessert, some great winter teas, and my favourites from around the world!

Top 10 Things To Do in Osaka

Osaka might be a smaller and less visited city than Tokyo, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less to do there…

 

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. 

Cook this: Matcha & white chocolate muffins

I saw this recipe a few weeks ago on Matchaeologist’s Instagram page, and like so many others, saved it for later. I decided to make them (with a few small changes) for my turn of Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club last week, and they were delicious! I love the combination of matcha and white chocolate, and these make a nice change from the standard choc chip muffin, especially for a special breakfast with some fresh strawberries 🙂

image

Ingredients (makes 12 small muffins):
– 1¼ cups plain flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 2 tsp matcha powder
– ½ cup white chocolate chips
– pinch of salt
– ⅓ cup caster sugar
– ⅓ cup vegetable oil, coconut oil, or melted butter
– ¾ cup warm milk (I used almond milk, which work really well)
– 1 tbsp white vinegar

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a 12-hole muffin tray with cupcake cases.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, matcha powder, choc chips and salt in a bowl, and set aside.

3. In a larger bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, milk and vinegar, until completely combined.

4. Add the dry ingredients into the wet, bit by bit, gently mixing with a wooden spoon as you go until it all comes together to a smooth batter.

5. Spoon the batter into the cases and bake 20 – 25 minutes, until just browned on top/they pass the skewer test.

6. Cool in tins, and enjoy!

img_8422

As you can see, mine came out quite dark, because the matcha powder I used was a darker colour. The type of matcha you use will affect the muffin colour – it won’t taste any different, just something to be aware of!

 

Cook this: Mini microwave matcha pudding cakes

Monday morning. You’re meant to be rested and ready to go on Monday mornings. As I begin to type this on Sunday night, I get the feeling that’s not going to be the case for me. A lifelong insomniac, I’m also struggling with depression and anxiety and disordered eating. Throw all that into the cauldron along with how busy things are getting in the lead up to Christmas (not very compatible with a textbook introvert who gets her energy from being along rather than in big social situations), a particularly frustrating work situation that I’m stuck with at the moment, and my body struggling to adjust to some new medication, and it’s just, well…. yeah. So at this point, every Monday I can get through in one piece is a massive win right now!

I know a lot of people like to reward themselves for getting through another Monday unscathed; for some, it’s a beer or a nice glass of wine. For others, it’s a spot of online shopping. Or maybe watching their favourite guilty pleasure trashy TV show. Personally, I like a cup of tea on the couch in my PJs with a little something sweet to eat. So if I get through today, this is what I’m gonna be treating myself with.

This is a magical little cup of happiness, based on the recipe I used for the chocolate mug cake. Other than the matcha powder, it uses staple pantry ingredients that you should always have handy, and it only takes about 5 minutes start to finish, so it’s the perfect end-of-the-day treat 🙂 I also like to use pandan kaya on top of mine, because it tastes fantastic with the matcha – this is the stuff I use, which I get from ARC Asian Grocers at Preston Market. It’s SO GOOD!!!

 

To make one big pudding cup or two small ones:
– ¼ cup plain flour or almond meal (if I have almond meal, I like a 50/50 mix)
– ½ tsp matcha powder
– ¼ tsp baking powder
– ½ tbsp caster sugar
– ½ tbsp shredded coconut
– ¼ cup milk (I like almond milk for this)
– 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
– optional – a few strawberries or raspberries, pandan kaya

And then:
1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a coffee mug or tea cup.
2. Add in the wet ingredients and stir to combine completely.
3. If you want to add in berries, stir them in now.

4. Microwave for 1 – 2 minutes, depending on how strong your microwave is.
5. Take it out, let it cool for a minute, top with pandan kaya and a little more shredded coconut if you want, and enjoy!

I hope everyone has a good Monday; make sure you make time to do a little something for yourself, and if you need a little treat tonight, I hope you can enjoy a matcha pudding cup, too!

Tea time: Ippodo Tea, Tokyo

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

Friday. We made it, guys. But it’s not over yet – if your weekend is gonna be anything like mine, it’s gonna get a bit crazy. So before that happens, let’s head back to Tokyo for a few minutes and enjoy a little bit of tea time. To make this a more interactive experience, I’ll wait a few minutes for you to brew yourself a cup/pot/bucket/whatever you need.

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 looked strangely like food heaven – $400 bento boxes, French baguettes, Italian cured meats, 500 different types of noodles, animal shaped cookies, the most stunningly intricate cakes that would put even Zumbo to shame. Oh, and tea, coffee, wine, sake, beer… my God, it was amazing. I settled on a gorgeous little rice lunch box and a matcha cookie sandwich, and trotted happily home in the rain. Eating my delicious lunch on my crazy comfy hotel bed, I was pretty happy with the week I’d had in Tokyo; there was only one more thing I really wanted to do, and that was to spend part of my last night in a tea house. I did a bit of research, and the name “IPPODO” kept popping up – it wasn’t too far from Tokyo Station, where we intended to meet up later in the afternoon so we could visit Character Street, so I saved the address and finished my delicious lunch.

After shopping our way up and down Character Street and dinner on Ramen Street (and this is all in the basement of the train station, mind you), we made our way to Ippodo. Ever since drinking that incredible Gyokuro tea at Cha Ginza, I’d been on the look out for some of it – it seemed way too expensive at the time to buy (around AUD$50 for a 50g bag), but at the end of the trip I was left with a lot more spending money than I expected to have, so I decided to treat myself! I found a few different varieties at Ippodo and bought a bag to take home.

Tucked away behind the main shopping area of the store was the Kaboku Tearoom; 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 times 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 gorgeous green tea blended with roasted brown rice, originating from the 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; T2 did a particularly beautiful version of this tea called Jade Mountain, which was a genmaicha (green tea + roasted rice) with cocoa husk, hazelnut brittle pieces, toasted almond flakes, blackberry leaves and chicory root (it was a special one off tea which I bought several boxes of because it’s that good, so if you missed out, sorry… not sorry!).

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 gorgeous little wafer flower filled with sweet red bean paste. Perfect match with the tea.

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