Tea flight: a new trend

A tea flight, a sort of sampling plate as shown above, is a nice way to compare and appreciate the subtlety of fine teas of same type.  They can be from different gardens, country, or sometimes the same crop, but plucked at a different season.  The idea is to compare teas with similar characteristics to expand your palate.  Usually you will be offered three teas, but there is no absolute rule on this.

This art of tasting tea is an opportunity to learn about the teas you taste.  The tea expert or Tea Sommelier who guides you through the tasting will introduce you to the history and origin of the specific flight you have chosen.  He will also teach you the proper method of preparation for these teas, and valuable tips on food pairing.  He may also share some information about health benefits linked to these teas!

The teas are generally served in small white porcelain cup of one or two ounces, or in a professional tea cupping set.  When done in the state of the art, the teas are brewed in front of you, and the infusion (steeped leaves) is introduced first.  Like in wine tastings, assess each tea on the nose first, and then on the palate.  Sometimes, you will receive a card to record your notes and findings.

This type of tasting is not only for connoisseurs, tea lovers of all levels can enjoy it!  It is a great opportunity to discover and enjoy a selection of different teas.

If you had a chance to experience a tea flight, we would love to hear about your experience!

Find your nirvana while drinking green tea

The science behind meditation, is it really beneficial for you?

Meditation is like brain fitness. It strengthens your thinking muscle! Its purpose is to train your brain to focus and relax, that’s it.  The concept originates in ancient Buddhist, Hindu, and Chinese traditions. Mindfulness is less about spirituality and more about concentration; it is the ability to quiet your mind, focus your attention on the present, and dismiss any distractions that come your way. All it really takes is the ability to intentionally not think about anything for a little while.

Only recently have we started to see studies that actually reflect the common wisdom. The University of Washington has recently published a study showing that meditation can increase productivity and help you focus, another study published in Brain Research Bulletin suggests meditation can reduce stress.  The University of Massachusetts Medical School also published a study on how meditation boost the overall brain power.

What is in tea that helps you concentrate?
Thousands of years ago, Buddhist monks discovered that tea clarifies the mind and helps people feel happy.  But what explains that?  The ”magic molecule” or theanine.  I’m not joking!  The theanine is a unique amino acid found only in tea (Camellia Sinensis).  Evidence from human electroencephalograph (EEG) studies show it modulates aspects of brain function; they found that theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness. These data indicate that theanine has a significant effect on the general state of mental alertness or sharpness. Furthermore, alpha activity is known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention, and further research is therefore focused on understanding the effect of theanine on attention processes.

Find your nirvana while drinking green tea
Theanine has also been found to induce the release of dopamine in the brain, which is primarily a neuro-chemical associated with feelings of pleasure and well-being.   The American Botanical Council has just recently released a new report claiming that theanine in green tea can enhance reward learning and decrease symptoms of depression. Reward learning is the conditioning response of positive behavior following a positive event. Positive reward learning is thought of as a way to counter depression.

Afternoon tea during the Downton Abbey times

An institution created by the British elite

Tea etiquette at the times had already been established well into the 1860s, in fact, afternoon tea is a veritable institution created by the ruling elites of the United Kingdom. An institution which has since lost its gravitas. The charm and lavishness of this tradition was, and still is, at the center of social events such as anniversaries, wedding receptions, and family receptions.

A way of displaying wealth, refinement, and social status

During the period of Downton Abbey, custom for occasions involving only few guests was to serve tea in the drawing room or boudoir. For larger events however, the ball room, great hall, or garden was preferred. Banquet tables were dressed in immaculate white, perfectly ironed cloths.

During afternoon tea, everything would stop; it was an important pause in the day, the time was not for business discussions, politics, and money matters, but rather for lighthearted chatter, friendly conversation, and perhaps the odd pieces of gossip.

Worthy ladies and gentlemen took it upon themselves to have a household properly furnished and equipped with all the necessary dishes, cutlery, serving wares and accessories required for tea. The more becoming dish sets were made of delicate porcelain, often adorned with intricate gold-leaf patterns, and the serving wares usually made of sterling silver, along with the delicate spoons, and sugar tongs. Much importance was placed on the make, and quality of the dishes and serving cloths, especially for those seeking recognition from the higher classes. It was a way of demonstrating one’s wealth and refinement, as well as social hierarchy.
Special attention was given to table settings and ornaments, often chosen to please guests, or to create a theme of ambience for the occasion. The choice of accessories, decorations, and often of furniture, as wells as food had to reflect the style and refinement of the hosts and create an unforgettable event and project the grandeur of the estate. Servants were rigorously trained in preparing and serving tea, having to follow rigorous etiquette and rituals, the reputation of their employers being dependent on it.

Tango tea dances

Early in the 1900, dance and entertainment such as music and poetry recitals were often included in events. The arrival of Tango to London in 1910 revolutionised afternoon tea, creating the “Thés Dansant”. Rapidly adopted by the more eccentric, tea dances multiplied through to the chic residences and hotels. Professional tango dancers were hired to entertain the un-accompanied, all were expected to master the dance. Tango became an important influence, to the point purpose made dancing clothes became a symbol of status and elegance.

A bygone era

This era is long over, but has afternoon tea become in modern times? A simpler occasion.

The faster pace of modern life has led to the downfall of this ritual. Taking time for tea has become a privileged moment rather than a formal luxury. I like to believe we have brought tea back to its original virtue, without the needless show and opulence. Tea is a gift from Mother Nature, a product of hard labour from humble and courageous people. It doesn’t have to be accompanied by luxury and formality, to appreciate it requires only the simplicity of the moment, the quality of the leaves, the purity of the water, and some time to enjoy the taste!