Today I had the pleasure of visiting Tea Drunk, a quaint tea house nestled in the East Village NY. A great place to relax, read a book and, of course, drink some of the finest tea. I would highly recommend visiting if you ever the get the chance even if you are new to tea.
Tea Drunk is a tea house with an extensive range of all the classes of tea –Black, Oolong, Green, White and Puerh teas, and holds authenticity in Gongfu Cha, which is the Chinese tea ceremony and method on how tea is served. In Gongfu Cha quality of tea leaf is imperative, appreciating the colour of brewed liquor, aroma and, of course, the taste. You use more tea leaf to smaller amounts of water and shorter brewing times which allows for multiple steeps of the tea, enabling you to enjoy and appreciate the subtle changes in every brew.
As I walked in the shop, pleasant aromas of sweet florals and fruits lingering in the room happily reminded me of a freshly brewed Oolong. I was welcomed warmly by a gentleman who goes by the name Dylan, who invited me to come and sit at the bar. Soft music of the Blues playing in the background, sets the mood nicely when enjoying tea. I had a feeling this was going to be good.
After some friendly banter, he kindly served me a taste of what he explained to be a Phoenix Oolong (guessing what I could smell when I first walked in), that is from the highly revered Wu Dong Mountain, China. It was highly aromatic with notes of sweet florals and stone-fruits. This tea had a magnificent complexity of flavours with a smooth finish and lingering notes of peach. What a treat!
Dylan asked what type of mood I was in –did I feel like something light or heavy. With a full belly after lunch I guess you could say I was in a “something light” kinda mood. Looking through the green teas, I couldn’t help but choose one of my favourites Longjing that also goes by the name of ‘Dragon Well’. It is very rare to come across an authentic Longjing as there are many copies of this famous tea, so I wasn't going to miss the chance.
First, I was handed the dry leaves to smell –they were fresh with nutty notes of chestnuts and slightly vegetal, and then was asked to pick out a tea pet of my liking. A tea pet is a ceramic animal that sits on the tray when serving tea Gongfu style and keeps you company while drinking your tea. They had an excellent selection, but my choice was the sweet tortoise that had a jade-green shell.
Hot water was poured back and forth between the water pitcher and the glass server about five times; this helps to cool the water down by about 10 degrees every time it is re-poured, a cooler temperature is a must for green tea. The brewed liquor was pale yellow and bright; I enjoyed the warm toasty aromas before taking my first sip. It was deliciousness in a cup; light, fresh and nutty, I was in heaven. The tea was good for three infusions and held all its wonderful flavours till the end, me savouring every last drop.
It was an outstanding sensory experience, and I thanked Dylan for his brilliant tea service that was truly admirable. I left feeling totally satisfied with a smile from ear to ear.
The Nan Tien Temple is the biggest temple in the southern hemisphere. “Nan Tien” in Chinese, literally means “Paradise of the South”, and that it truly is!
Tea and Buddhism have a long history together. Buddhism was introduced to China in the Han Dynasty; tea was instantaneously embraced for its healthful properties and rejuvenation abilities. Monks found that tea helped them stay awake and focused during long hours of meditation. Tea became a necessity for these holy men, an “elixir of life” that should be consumed daily by all people. Tea first became popular in temples, and then a part of daily routine among monks and Buddhists and then finally became a vital part of Chinese life. According to a Chinese proverb, tea is said to be one of the seven essential elements needed in daily life.
The Temple is a two minute drive from the home I lived in for 15 years and a sight I saw every day on the route I used to take to work. I always had good intentions of going but never quite made it. Maybe as I am getting older and somewhat wiser (I like to think), I am more interested in finding the true meaning of life and how to live it wholly and mindfully, in this crazy society. Studying tea has also taught me to slow down and be present in the moment, and I thought the temple would be a great place to start.
Seeing that the weather had finally warmed up yesterday, I took the opportunity to take a walk to the Nan Tien Temple. Wandering up the long road to the entrance jacaranda trees in full bloom enveloped me, and a very large Buddha (a statue of course), who was looking mighty jolly greeted me at the entrance. I instantly felt calm in the presence of my surroundings, listening to the birds and looking up, to see a family of dragonflies hovering up above me.
Readers, I'd also like to share something beautiful that I experienced on my visit. I took a seat in the shade; a quiet spot - away from the bustle of tourists. As I sipped on my tea, I found myself not thinking about anything or anyone just being present in that simple moment. I felt at peace in the silence and smiled with happiness. I was happy because I felt content in just being alive, in that very second - I felt a real appreciation for life. Just me, that moment and my tea. I didn't really know what to expect coming to the temple, at the very least I was hoping for a good cup of Oolong, but what I found was what I can only explain as mindfulness, or joy, or peace (I'm struggling to find the words)!
With a belly full of tea and seriously satisfied, I lazily made my way out of the Temple, knowing that I will return to this magical “Paradise of the South”.
Tea is personal; like your favourite pair of shoes or flavour of gelato. Just like those things, your taste can change, you change - so right now here are my three favourite tea's, in no particular order.
Let's face it, we're all busy! Whether we're deep in the rat race of a 9-5 or taking care of our little ones. We look for ways to unwind; we're all looking for moments of escape. For this, my tea of choice is an herbal infusion called Sleepy Head.
Sleepy Head is a wonderful caffeine-free tisane making it a great choice for an evening beverage. Hand-blended with lemon balm, chamomile, lavender and pink rose petals; these ingredients have mild sedative properties, which can help take the tension away, so you can feel relaxed.
Some helpful tips:
-You can steep Sleepy Head anywhere from 3-5 minutes. Personally, I like to steep mine for 3.5 minutes.You can leave it longer if that is your desired taste.
-Boiling water is must, this allows for all the essential oils to be released. Always keep the lid on your teapot when infusing, this stops the oils from escaping, meaning you get full benefits from your brew.
- You could even try this in your bath. I would suggest placing it in a muslin cloth, so you don't find herbs and flowers in places they should not be. You would need at least eight teaspoons. Pop it into the bath (along with yourself) and let it steep.
Need to perk up? A favourite of mine is our Yellow Mountain Green tea. It's a refreshing brew with loads of flavour! I find green tea keeps me alert (due to a small amount of caffeine) and focused. There is an amino acid found in green tea called L-theanine. It neutralises the jittery effects of caffeine, keeping you relaxed yet focused.
There are mornings where I like to swap my black tea for green tea, especially in the warmer months (green tea can cool the body down when feeling hot). Spring is amongst us, and I was doing a little experimenting the other day, and I came up with a fun idea of making green tea ice cubes. A nice alternative to flavour your water on those warm days (and maybe adding a couple to a cheeky vodka cocktail... just saying).
Here's how it goes:
1. Add two teaspoons of Yellow Moutain Green tea to 500ml of 80-degree water. TIP: Green tea does not like boiling water; it burns the tender leaves, and you will have a very unpleasant, bitter tasting tea. What you need to do is, boil your water, pour it into a teapot or whatever brewing vessel you have, let the water cool down for 5 minutes before adding the tea leaves.
2. I let the tea steep for about 2-2.5 minutes, then remove your infuser. If you don't have one, you can use a strainer.
3. Stir in half a teaspoon of honey. I would start with half a teaspoon, as you can always add more.
4. Pour the green tea liquid into your ice cube tray, and freeze.
All this green tea talk leads me to Matcha. This powdered green tea is taking the world by storm due to its many health benefits. Our Matchas Morsel is an A Grade organic pick - quality does matter with this tea.
Matcha is being categorised as a superfood, due to its high levels of antioxidants, a class known as 'Catechins', EGCG being the most potent!
It's a natural detoxifier that is full of powerful properties -chlorophyll being one of them. Simply, it makes you feel good!
There are many ways that Matcha is being consumed, on its own, as a latte with soy or almond milk, add it to your smoothies or sprinkle it on some yoghurt. You can even bake with it.
One of my favourite things to do in the mornings is to make myself a smoothie with Matchas Morsel powder! They are fast, easy and taste delicious. Here's what I do:
To your blender, add:
- One banana
- Small handful of almonds
- A quarter of an avocado
- One scoop of vanilla powder
- Half a teaspoon of Matcha
- One teaspoon of chia seeds
- 200 ml water and 200ml of Almond milk
Give it a go, it's SO delish!
Everybody's different; their lifestyle is different, their palette is different - if you need help finding your blend contact me through Facebook or why not join our tea club? We send you different sample size teas every three months.
A few years ago while struggling with my career direction, I remember reflecting on my life, and although I loved the people in it, my career left me unfulfilled. I hated that I woke up every morning saying ‘I don’t want to go to work today’. So I wrote down on my 'goal' board that I would one day love what I did, and never say those words again.
I was a hairdresser, and for a time I did love it. Working in the hairdressing industry for nine years did bring me at times career satisfaction, because for as long as I could remember, all I ever wanted to do was be a hairdresser. I excelled in my work (being one of the most booked out team members in the salon that I worked in). I loved the time I spent working on people's hair and talking to them; it allowed me to help them feel beautiful on both the outside and in the inside.
Times eventually changed. Towards the end of my career as a hairdresser, I started to feel lost. I still loved helping people, but I didn't feel the passion from cutting hair anymore. I slowly grew tired of that world, and not to mention, hated working with so many chemicals. I eventually came to realise that is was not meant for me anymore, and so my quest for fulfilment began.
Growing up, tea was never really a big part of my family life. Coming from a European background, coffee (which I still enjoy and have an appreciation for) played a bigger part in our everyday. At home, we only ever had Lipton English Breakfast tea bags that I would have every now and again. Come to think of it, funnily enough, we only really whipped out the Lipton tea bag when one of us was sick. We'd add some honey and lemon, and this would surely fix us up! The only other time we had tea was when we stayed overnight at Nonna's house (that's grandmother in Italian). Nonna would always give me chamomile when I stayed over in the evening before bedtime, to help me sleep. I never wanted to sleep (what was I missing out on?)!
Then, my life changed, and I was fortunate enough to discover a world of tea I never knew about as a kid.
I'm a Wollongong girl, but moving to Sydney changed everything! It would mean a fresh start and new career. I quit hairdressing and handed out a few resumes. As luck would have it, I landed a job in a tea shop, this is where my love and passion turned a new leaf (pun intended) over to this wonderful and mysterious world of tea.
My hunger for learning about this ancient beverage only got stronger, and I needed to know more.
I put myself through a Tea Masters course, which I didn’t even know existed until I found Australian Tea Masters. This seriously blew my mind and excited the hell out of me. There is SO much to know about tea and to be honest, once I started my studies I soon realised it's a life pursuit, I could live ten lives and still not know everything. Tea is a journey, one shared and enjoyed in both company and solitude.
I graduated both as a Tea Master and Tea Blender, but more importantly I knew this was my calling. I had to make it my life's work.
So here I am today, still learning, and excited more than ever to be sharing Tea Esk with you all. Like most journeys, the road is at times rocky, and yes the self-doubt creeps in (more than I would like). I've never run my own business before, so it's something my customers get to experience with me. I'm scared, I'm out of my comfort zone, but all in a good way. Because, I believe, as long as you live an honest life and you're having fun doing what you love most then it’s a journey worth travelling. Tea has given me all this and more; it makes you appreciate time, reminds you to take a few steps back from our busy lives even if it’s only for fifteen minutes in your day. Tea is welcoming, not judgemental and humbling. It's a gift we give to others, and ourselves.
As I write this, I reflect back on my goal board from those years ago and feel proud that I wake up with a smile. I've achieved what I set out to do, now when I get out of bed I get to say that "I love what I do!"
I warmly welcome you all to come on this colourful journey with me.