Have you ever wondered what makes fine tea different from what you find on supermarket shelves? Do you know how long to brew fine teas? Tea has become as important as coffee, perhaps more so. Many of us drink it for the health benefits. When my husband and I entertain, we often serve fine herbal teas after dinner; our guests request them. I also enjoy blended flavoured teas such as Kusmi’s Christmas Tea, for special occasions. I love the spicy, sweet aroma. It’s also a special treat I can enjoy all season without guilt, as it does not have a single calorie. I like to share it with my special friends too.
I interviewed tea expert Sylvain Orebi,the owner of Kusmi Fine Teas, to get the scoop on tea drinking. Don’t miss a word of our exclusive interview, and learn to be a tea maven too!
DD: Why is green tea an antioxidant?
SO: As any vegetal element, tea leaves contain nutrients called flavonoids which are antioxidants. They are water soluble, which makes it great for tea drinkers.
DD: Do black teas also have health benefits?
SO: Black tea also contains a large amount of anti-oxidant but a bit less than green tea due to fermentation.
DD: What is red tea? Does it have health benefits?
SO: This plant actually belongs to the acacia family and is completely different from traditional “Camelia Sinensis” tea, except for the way it is prepared and consumed.
This little bush exclusively grows in South-Africa and is harvested during the summer; it is then, just like black tea, fermented – which gives a dark red colour – and then dried in the sun. The longer the infusion, the stronger the taste – although it does not become pungent because it does not contain any tannins. It is also totally caffeine-free, said to have anti-spasmodic and relaxing properties, and contains a fair amount of antioxidants.
DD: Does decaffeinating tea affect the flavour?
SO: No, this process does not affect the taste.
DD: You give different brewing times for different Kusmi teas. Why is this important?
SO: This is important because black leaves deliver their flavours after 3 to 4 minutes, and green tea after 2 to 3 minutes. If you brew green tea too much longer, it could become pungent, although Kusmi Teas are carefully selected to be quite smooth and light.
Temperature can also alter the taste and suppress some of the well-being factors of teas. For instance, green tea should brew at 75°C (or 165°F); in case of higher temperature, its flavour diminishes as well as its amount of natural anti-oxidants that are very sensitive to high temperatures.
DD: What are “wellness” teas?
SO: Wellness teas are a new line of blends that not only contain tea, but also plants known for their natural well-being properties. For instance, Detox is made of green tea, but also Maté – a tonic plant popular for its richness in vitamins, minerals, caffeine and anti-oxidants - and lemongrass, a plant well-known for its tonic and digestive effects.
DD: Kusmi makes beautiful seasonal and specialty teas such as Christmas tea and Imperial Label tea. Can you explain how a seasonal tea is created?
SO: Creating a seasonal tea or an exclusive blend is a very long process that is quite comparable to making perfume. It really starts with a concept; what does this tea mean to the people who are going to drink it, as well as a list of desired ingredients. Then it takes a few weeks or months to find the right blend of tea leaves, the right flavours and the perfect balance of all ingredients. To create Imperial Label, especially made for Kiehl’s, I spent weeks reinventing ancient Russian sbiten and matching the taste to Kiehl’s Imperial Body Balm.