I was a late bloomer in the hot beverages game. From a young age, I loved having a cup of tea with my Nanna because it made me feel special and grown up, but I never really liked the flavour of the tea itself, which was always a milky English Breakfast type blend with white sugar.
As I got older and my friends started drinking, falling in love with and becoming addicted to coffee, I remained immune as I simply didn’t like the flavour. To this day, I strongly dislike the taste of coffee, whether in a drink, cake or chocolate. Strangely, I quite like the aroma, but not the flavour. This was problematic when I briefly worked at a coffee bar which offered a choice of many flavoured coffee grounds, served in a gold and glass ‘plunger’ (now more commonly called a French press). I could recommend brews by popularity or aroma but never by taste and a few customers voiced their concern that a non coffee drinker should be making their coffee.
I eventually succumbed somewhat to peer pressure and began drinking hot chocolate, just so I could have something when everyone else was sipping on coffee or tea.
Sometime in my late thirties I discovered herbal and green teas and started to experiment with different flavours, first from the supermarket then from T2 before finally discovering some amazing small independent tea blenders.
Brackendale Tea has a wide range of teas, both traditional and more imaginative, lovingly sourced and blended in Kiama, NSW. My favourite is a rooibos, Tuscan Pear. Cream Earl Grey is another must try. Brackendale have recently introduced a range of Lady teas to support women at different times throughout their monthly cycle and life stages, which I am keen to try. I started to regularly drink green, oolong and rooibos teas at home and sought out tea shops and cafes that stocked interesting loose leaf tea blends.
Teas soon became souvenirs of choice on trips and I’m still enjoying a blueberry oolong purchased in San Francisco’s Chinatown just over eighteen months ago.
T2 is one of my favourite shops to browse in, with sample teas to smell and taste and gorgeous tea wares temptingly arranged around the walls. Their lighting is cleverly designed so that each store resembles a cave of wonders which draws the unwary shopper in. It’s probably just as well there isn’t a store within easy reach of my home. I eagerly await their sales and snag myself a box of bargains online a couple of times a year.
Izba Espresso, a cute little container café at various locations, offers a good range of teas which can be served either hot or iced, just perfect for a humid climate. The first tea I tried here was a chocolate tea which was pretty amazing. The fruity iced teas are perfect on a warm day.
Cafes recently started catering more to non-coffee drinkers and introduced hipster latte blends, which I found exciting, soon discovering the delights of matcha, chai, turmeric, charcoal and beetroot lattes. A Parisian cafe, WILD & THE MOON, which I follow on instagram, has a rose latte which I intend to try when I visit later in the year.
Grounded Tea and Coffee Emporium has a mission statement I love, “We believe that every person deserves to experience the taste of real tea, whether that be in their home or at their favourite café.” A local tea shop which sells teas by the cup, leaves by the gram and supplies cafes, Grounded Emporium even has a Blue Lagoon latte which is pretty amazing and such a pretty pale blue. How exciting to have a drink in my favourite colour! Their Aussie Oriental is deliciously smoky and smells like a camp fire whilst Caramel Swirl has tiny pieces of Jersey caramel amongst the tea leaves. I recently purchased three lovely teas here to serve at my craft and hobby workshops. If you find yourself on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, visit Grounded Emporium in Caloundra’s main street and try out some of their tea for yourself.
Despite all these advancements in non-coffee lattes and loose leaf tea blends, it amazes me how many cafes still only offer the most basic selection of teas – English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Peppermint, Lemongrass and Ginger, Green – and often in teabags. Surely it’s not that hard to pop some leaves in an infuser instead of putting a teabag into a little teapot? It’s also a whole lot better for the environment, as waste is reduced. A little imagination goes a long way when it comes to teas, but so many cafes sadly lack that imagination.
It’s pretty sad when you know you can get better tea at home. My husband loves to buy a coffee when we’re out shopping. It’s not unusual for him to enjoy his coffee with me looking on because the teas on offer are ordinary at best. I guess it looks bad and I have received some strange looks, but I refuse to pay for a very ordinary tea when I can make a really good one to suit my mood from my current selection when I get home. I drink tea for enjoyment as well as its health benefits and it has to be worth the effort or I won’t bother. I refuse to pay for sub standard tea. If this makes me a tea snob, so be it.
High teas and their recent surge in popularity have become very popular and are great for tea drinkers and usually offer a selection of different teas. We recently celebrated my mother’s eightieth birthday with a girls only high tea. My mother, sister, daughter, niece and I all enjoyed a luxurious and delicious high tea at Aimee Provence High Tea Parlour in Buderim, also on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It was the perfect excuse to share some girlie time across three generations and was something we could all enjoy together, a rare thing. We each enjoyed a different tea and had our little glass teapots constantly refilled throughout our high tea – hibiscus, chai, pearl jasmine, Earl Grey were our choices from the extensive menu. The sandwiches, scones and cakes, along with the teas made this a really special meal.
What a tea is served in makes such a difference. For my everyday work teas, I have an oversized Rae Dunn mug. The wonky-looking lip fits my mouth perfectly and the oversized handle makes for comfort and safety in a crowded classroom. Pale blue inside, it called out to me from the shelf and I just had to buy it. I’m so glad I did. At home, I drink my tea from a variety of mugs, some bone china, others cute colours or designs I’ve picked up over the years. I culled my mugs right back in preparation for our move a year ago and am left with only my favourites. For special occasions, Nanna’s bone china tea cup, saucer and cake plate sets come out. All floral, they are delightfully mismatched and lovely to drink from, even if my clunky fingers find it difficult to fit hold the delicate handles. I have added other cup and saucer sets to the collection such as a Kensington Palace set to remember a high tea shared there with my daughter. It’s lovely to use these special teacups. I love them so much, I’ve recently started giving tea gift sets as presents. A lovely teacup can be kept long after the tea is finished and serve as a memory of a birthday or other special occasion.
Teas in featured image are from Grounded Tea and Coffee Emporium, Caloundra.