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The Masterclass: Tea 101

May 19

Ever since my trip to Japan earlier this year, I have had a newfound love for tea. Once you have a good cup of tea, you’ll know what I’m talking about. While it doesn’t replace my love for coffee, there is a time and place for tea — and when it’s good, it can be very beneficial. I recently interviewed the head tearista (yes, this job exists!) at one of my favorite places, Fortnum & Mason (a London import) in Downtown Dubai, right by The Dubai Mall. I spoke to the tearista about his job, the differences between teas, and jotted down his advice on how to order tea.

We all want to know, what does a Tearista do?
A Tearista is an in-house tea expert at Fortnum & Mason. They are on hand to support the guests with recommendations on tea based on the customer’s flavour preference and also the food. The deep knowledge the Tearistas have allows them to take customers on a journey through the world of tea, from how it’s made, to the unique differences between a green, black and blue tea to help tea-drinkers discover a new hidden gem in the tea world.

I always assumed there’s caffeine in some teas, could you explain what Theine is?
Caffeine (in coffee) and Theine (in tea), chemically speaking, are identical. The difference is reaction and effect in the body after drinking.
*Caffeine (coffee) – this normally stimulates the blood quickly, accelerates the intensity for 2-3 hours and is subsequently followed by a low after the effect.
*Theine (Teas) – these are the result of Polyphenols that are oxidised. This gives relaxation to the body by more slowly getting into the blood, while giving prolonged alertness over 6-8 hours, and slowly fading out when the effect is gone.

What is the difference between White and Black tea?
There are six main types of tea – black, green, white, yellow, oolong and puerh. While they look and taste quite different, they all come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, of which there are two key subspecies: Camellia Sinensis, the kind originally grown in China; and Camellia Sinensis Assamica, which is native to the province of Assam in North-East India. While that might seem limited, these two subspecies produce more than 400 varieties of tea.
Black tea is the most commonly drunk tea in the world. It‘s black and twisted appearance is due to the fermentation, or oxidization process, which gives it its distinct flavour and consistency. When infused, black tea provides coppery brown infusions and light, or well-rounded flavours.
The ever popular Earl Grey is actually a black aromatic tea. It is mainly a black China tea blended with oil of bergamot to create its distinctive taste. Like all such teas, it is best served without milk.
White tea is one of the simplest teas to process. It is made just from the tips of the buds of the tea leaves. These are picked in early spring while they are still immature and before they have produced any chlorophyll, causing it to have lighter and less ‘vegetal’ taste, unlike Green Tea.  The best way to dry white tea is in the sun and the leaves are dried as soon as being picked so that no fermentation takes place. This keeps the colour of the buds and gives the tea its white colour.

What are the benefits of drinking Tea? How often should we be drinking it?
Drinking tea has a wide range of health benefits but it very much depends on what type of tea you enjoy for the specific benefits. From helping with weight loss, aiding digestion and supporting with managing cholesterol levels, the benefits can be wide reaching. Don’t forget the relaxation that also comes from enjoying a lovely pot of tea and a catch up with your friends!

What advice would you give someone when ordering tea?
The flavors of tea are so different and based on personal preferences, but it’s worth considering the time of day – a green tea after food can aid in digestion, but late at night you might choose to avoid a tea that has a high theine level.
There are so many teas out there so we recommend speaking with our Tearista when you visit Fortnum’s to help you discover new teas to fall in love with.

What advice would you give someone buying tea for the home?
I think it is key to always have a nice selection of teas in your house and a range that suits every occasion. You want to make sure you have a selection of both loose leaf teas and tea bags, allowing you to still enjoy your favourite tea even if you are in a rush. All of our Fortnum’s Famous Teas, Green Teas and Black teas come in both bags and loose leaf, so you can always have your favourite.
When buying tea, it is also important to make sure you have the right equipment – from a nice china cup and saucer, a stunning tea pot and also the much needed tea strainer. This will allow you to sit and enjoy your loose leaf tea and make the occasion feel a little more special.

What are your thoughts on the Matcha tea trend?
Matcha is a Japanese powdered green tea which is considered to be one of the finest teas. It is more concentrated and has a stronger taste than the normal green tea. This is not something we currently sell at Fortnum’s Dubai but are looking to offer it in the near future.

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