Essential Guide to Tea

Green, white or black, tea is the must-do brew of the moment. Pore over our essential guide

 
 

Sipping tea made with leaves in a proper teapot and served in fine china, while nibbling on crustless cucumber sandwiches... yes, high tea is back on fashionable menus across Australia. The old teatime ritual is winning over new fans at all times of day, in specialist tea emporiums, cafés and even your very own front parlour (aka the living room).

What’s the attraction? “People love the theatre of high tea,” says John Primmer of the James Cook Hotel in Wellington, NZ, whose restaurant served more than 5000 high teas last year, in a marked counterpoint to the fast-paced takeaway mindset. “The presentation makes it an event for everyone – lady lunch-a-lots, suits from the city or families,”says Primmer.

The Ritz in London is well known for its lavish high tea and has a month-long waiting list. In Australia, many hotels and restaurants now offer modern twists on old teatime favourites. The Loft, overlooking Darling Harbour in Sydney, has exotic brews such as Madagascar Vanilla and Sencha Quince with cornflowers, served with shortbread or pissaladière (a sort of French onion pizza). The venerable Windsor in Melbourne offers a special chocolate high tea featuring rich mousse cake and cream éclairs.

Need it now? Try high tea at home. Pull out your best china, polish the teapot and serve warm scones piled high with jam and cream. Raising the pinkie finger is optional.

Tea drinking’s renewed popularity may be partly due to the health benefits associated with the high concentration of antioxidants. “Green and white teas are particularly high in these free-radical-fighting compounds,” notes David Ingram from tea retailer T2.

English Breakfast and Earl Grey remain classic favourites, but exotic-sounding blends such as Silver Needles, Buddha’s Tears, White Flowery Pekoe and Gyokuro are gaining ground. So are “pearls”, which are rolled-up tea leaves that unfurl when steeped in hot water, revealing the leaf or flower within.

 
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