True brew’s not just pot luck

IT’S cold outside, the wind is blowing and winter has truly set in. What better time to pop the kettle on the boil and brew up a warming cuppa.

Despite what seems like a loud chorus of coffee lovers, tea is actually the most often consumed drink in the world, after water.

There are plenty of teas to tempt your palate, from white to green to black and everything in between.

The newly-opened T2 store at Charlestown – the first regional store in T2’s stable – has been introducing Novocastrians to about 200 different types of tea since throwing open its doors at the end of May.

Store manager Iain Johnston showed GT around the enchanting store which he aptly described as an ‘‘Aladdin’s Cave’’ designed as a sensory experience of tastes, sights and smells.

There are Japanese cast iron teapots, Indian-influenced brightly coloured teapots, futuristic-looking glass infusers, dainty teapots and even a child’s tea set wrapped in a checked picnic blanket. There are also a myriad of tea accessories including spoons, infusers, storage canisters, jars and more.

Each month the store shows off a new type of tea and homewares to match. Last month it was all things chai (a sweet and spicy Indian tea made with tea leaves, milk, sugar, cardamom and other spices), the store bursting with colourful tea pots and bathed in the sweet and spicy smell of chai.

This month’s theme is Japanese, embracing green teas such as sencha and matcha (high-grade green tea), traditional Japanese tea ware and more. You can sample several types of Japanese tea throughout the month, but if you’re interested in learning more about Japanese teas and even in experiencing part of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, head to the store on Saturday between 1pm and 4pm.

Of course, T2 also stocks plenty of tea from a good old English breakfast blend to flavoured and scented teas including Arctic fire, chilli kiss, Earl Grey and Madagascan vanilla. There are also herbal and floral teas with names such as bright night and detox, fruit and instant teas including the delicious Turkish apple tea, rooibos and honeybush teas, as well as a variety of white, yellow, green and oolong teas.

Dozens of the teas are on display in a small pot for you to smell and at the heart of the store is the specially-designed tea bar to try all sorts of brews.

But there’s no need to be intimidated if you’re not a seasoned tea drinker or are more familiar with a simple cup of tea brewed with a bag at home; the staff at T2 can help.

The store has two tea ambassadors, Kim Creighton and Amy Landry, on hand to help you try to choose a tea and get the best results making it at home.

Creighton recommends using loose leaf tea where possible, not just for the taste, but because it is more economical than using tea bags.

The tea expert’s top tips for making the perfect cuppa?

*Make sure you remove the leaves or bags once the tea is brewed to prevent over-brewing and the tea tasting bitter: ‘‘It doesn’t do justice to the tea.’’

*If you prefer strong tea, add more tea leaves to your infuser rather than brewing it for longer than the recommended two to three minutes.

*Use the correct temperature water for the type of tea you are making. Black tea requires 100-degree water to release the oils from the relatively smaller leaves, while larger leaf green tea will be scorched by boiling water. Instead, when making green tea, use water cooled to 80degrees to make the most of its sweet, delicate flavour.

*Add milk after the tea is brewed, otherwise it will lower the temperature of the water before the tea has brewed.

*Adding sugar or honey can enchance the flavour of some teas. Creighton’s favourite Monk Pear black tea (Earl Grey blended with sweet jasmine blossoms and crisp pear flavours) can be enhanced by the addition of sweetness. Adding a drizzle of honey to a black cup of Monk Pear brings out the jasmine flavour, while adding milk and sugar brings out the flavour of the sweet pear.

For more top tea tips and information, see today's Good Taste in the Newcastle Herald.

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