Our indefatigable co-founder and Director of Studies Jane Pettigrew – leading tea historian and writer – spoke to @the.tea.biz podcast about how the UKTA evolved into an innovative global tea education institution with the impact of COVID, and the role the UKTA plays in raising awareness of good tea both here in the UK and around the world.
To listen to the podcast, click below (Jane is on from around 13 minutes in).
For years, we have been trying to find out the truth behind Earl Grey tea. Why was the famous blend named after the British Prime Minister? Why is it flavoured with oil of Bergamot? Which of the famous legends (if any) are true? Who has the original recipe? Etc, etc. Tea friends of Jane’s in the US have researched the history of the tea, and a few years ago, Jane spent time with the Grey family looking through archival material at their family ancestral home, Howick Hall in Northumberland. But it has always been difficult to shed more light or answer the questions. We will probably never know the truth! But it is a fascinating mystery and the following article, available online from The Food of England Project, explores the background to the name, the blend, and the possible origins of the tea. It makes for interesting reading.
A WHITE PAPER BY THE UK TEA ACADEMY ON PERFECT WATER FOR TEA
We are delighted to present The UK Tea Academy’s first white paper on water for tea.
Water, which makes up to 99% or more of a cup of tea, is an often-overlooked ingredient that has a huge impact on the taste, aroma and appearance of every cup – and up until now it has not been considered in the same way as water for coffee.
Six months in the making, this report highlights the key ingredients of water which impact the brewing process of tea. It will also provide a standard water specification to create the optimal cup of tea.
A team from The UK Tea Academy has worked closely with BRITA to find the perfect water for tea. BRITA has been our partner since we launched the Academy in 2016 and have provided the filters for all our training courses as freshly drawn, cold, Brita-filtered water is an essential part of getting the best from the tea leaves.
Jane Pettigrew, Tim Sturk and Carri Hecks from the UKTA visited BRITA HQ in Germany for the research trip. Working with Birgit Kohler, Brita’s Resident Water Sommelier, in the controlled environment of the BRITA lab, the team explored a number of different waters with varying pH and mineral content and compared them for aroma, taste, clarity, colour, etc for the different teas.
“You did a brilliant job. It took coffee 20 years to arrive at a standard that included specific details about water. You advanced the same for tea by a decade at least.” Dan Bolton, Editor/Publisher
Yellow tea has for several years presented tea lovers with a bit of a puzzle. Small producers in China still keep their exact manufacturing process as a trade secret. Towards the end of the 1990s, when we were first drinking it, there was virtually no information available about the processing steps and we were confused: was it was a fermented tea (like Puerh), or a lightly oxidized tea? Those of us involved in tea education discussed what we knew about the method and the flavour profile, and concluded it was lightly fermented, which is what UKTA has been teaching for the past three years.
But now, having carried out more research, we find that we were wrong and would like to offer an apology for giving you the wrong information.
Different yellow tea producers use varying methodology but the basic steps are as follows:
The freshly plucked buds or shoots are withered briefly, in the same way that green tea is given a short wither in order to evaporate a little of the water in the leaves and buds.
The tea is panned to stop oxidation, but at a lower temperature than is used for panning green tea (the wok temperature for green tea is usually about 200º C – 280º C; the wok temperature for yellow tea is usually about 120º C – 150º C).
While hot and damp, the tea is removed from the wok and is wrapped in paper or cloth to provoke a step called ‘Men Huang’ (闷黄) or ‘Sealing Yellow’. During this stage, the tea undergoes non-enzymatic oxidation, which reduces the vibrant grassy character of the tea and develops instead a gentler, sweeter, more mellow smell and flavour. The length of time that the tea is wrapped varies according to the producer and the type of yellow tea being made.
After the first wrapping, the tea is returned to the wok for a second panning and, while still warm and damp, the tea is wrapped again to provoke a second stage of non-enzymatic oxidation. This heating and wrapping may be repeated several times.
The tea is sometimes rolled or pressed to develop flavour but this does not always happen.
Finally, the tea is dried.
What is non-enzymatic oxidation?
Non-enzymatic oxidation occurs in yellow tea after the initial panning when the leaves are heaped or wrapped in cloths (Men Huang) and kept warm for a few hours.
The resulting change in colour and flavour of the tea is due to what is called the ’Maillard’ reaction. This reaction occurs between sugars and amino acids present in the leaves but does not require oxygen.
The Maillard reaction occurs either at high temperatures or as a result of prolonged heating. In yellow tea, it is provoked by the extended heating during the repeated heaping or wrapping stages.
Enzymatic oxidation takes place when enzymes in the tea (or food) react with oxygen in the air. This causes browning in tea leaves (or in foods such as a cut apple, avocado, pear, etc).
Keynote Address. Nigel Melican: Tea in the Future – A Bumpy Ride.
In Feb 2018, Nigel Melican gave the keynote address at the Global Tea Initiative for Tea Culture and Science 3rd Annual Symposium at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). In October 2019, Nigel shared on Facebook the link to his presentation about ‘Tea in the Future – a Bumpy Ride’. He raises all sorts of issues that we all need to be aware of. He discusses such factors as urbanisation, population growth, an increasing shortage of available land, climate change, etc – all of which will have, or are already having a fundamental affect on the workforce, the production process, quantities and types of tea produced, attitudes to tea, the marketing of tea, and the product itself.
This YouTube clip runs for over an hour but it is really worth watching as it contains facts, statistics, thoughts and predictions that anyone involved or interested in tea should be aware of, should be thinking about, and should be discussing.