Tea on the map
Asking for the wine list in a restaurant is quite normal. If you don't want alcohol, it quickly becomes 'a soft drink' or just water. There is almost never an alternative to the wine arrangement: a matching wine with every dish. Unless the restaurant has hired a tea sommelier. Someone like Barbara Veldhuizen, who changed tack five years ago and 'went into tea'.
In the office of tea treet in Amsterdam the tea tins are lined up in the racks. On a table are white bowls and special cups with a serrated edge (to allow water to pass through and to stop the tea leaves, as I learn later) for the tasting. While Barbara is preparing everything, she talks enthusiastically about how five years ago she started with the idea of starting a 'Starbucks in tea', but eventually ended up with a trade in tea and accessories, aimed at consumers and companies.
Tea at the office
“In offices you see more and more good coffee machines with a wide range for employees and guests, but tea remains a neglected child,” Barbara says. We want to do something about that. “More and more people are drinking tea, so you can't really get by with a box of bags, not even from a so-called luxury brand.” She opens one of her tea cans and lets me look and smell it. You recognize the tea leaves, even if they are rolled up. Then she shows the contents of a tea bag. It's not quite a powder yet, but it has little to do with tea anymore. “Look, that's incomparable, isn't it?” she says. I wholeheartedly agree with her.
Barbara was trained to be a tea sommelier and gives a lot of information. She explains the difference between the most refined white tea (young leaves, least processing), green tea (no oxidation) and black tea (8 to 20 hours oxidized). These varieties all come from the Camelia sinensis, the tea plant. Only tea from this plant is real tea. Rooibos comes from a green shrub whose leaves turn red due to fermentation and herbal tea comes from – you guessed it – herbs, these are officially called infusions because they are not leaves of the tea plant. (For the enthusiast: here you will find information about all types and processes.) In the meantime Barbara is preparing some toasts with smoked salmon, because we are going to taste. Barbara: “Besides wine, tea is the only drink that can enhance the taste of food. The combination of tea and food is like 1+1=3. There is a suitable tea with every dish.”
We drink Sencha with the smoked salmon. A pure, green tea that she steeped for 2 to 3 minutes. “Basically, you have to wash down the first draw of this tea.” She starts laughing. “In China they say: give the 1st cup to your mother-in-law, the 2nd to your wife and the 3rd to yourself.” She lets me taste the difference between the 1st and 2nd and indeed the 2nd cup tastes even better.
The next course is a portion of grass-fed cheese that we drink with Tie guan Yin, an oolong. A great combination. This tea is also very suitable for making fresh ice tea.
Finally, we taste a Golden Yunnan with dark (fair) chocolate. Although I am not a fan of dark chocolate, it is delicious with the tea.
Disc of Five
Tea is not just a suitable drink for every moment of the day. Tea is a thirst quencher without calories, it lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke. Tea has been included in the Wheel of Five for some time now. You do your body a favor with 3 cups of black or green tea a day.
The caffeine in tea has a different effect than that in coffee. Does coffee make you alert or restless, the caffeine in tea is a bound substance that makes you alert and calm. If you want less or no caffeine, pour the tea twice. The caffeine is released on the first infusion. Discard that water and let the tea steep again in clean water.
More and more restaurants have an extensive tea menu. Ask for it when you go out for dinner, or ask in advance what the offer is. Choose a variety that suits the dish.
And also make a 'tea card' for your home. Different varieties for different times of the day. Or prepare a fresh iced tea from your favorite tea, easy, tasty and healthy. Once I've tasted the delicious loose, real tea, I can't wait until the bags I still have in the house are used up. I'm not going to settle for a weak infusion anymore. You do?