London School of Tea, placed discreetly above The Stoke Newington Tea House in London, operates in an absolutely stunning space. Stepping into the room you will find yourself awestruck by the obvious beauty in the deep stained, rustic wooden floors and the bright organic lighting, emancipated by at least half a dozen gloriously tall sash windows, drawing the eyes up the plain, white washed walls to the miraculously high ceilings that showcase Victorian esque plaster details, painted in a deep blue, encasing the ceiling and lighting centre piece. The room completely envelops and draws you in, inviting you to savour every beautiful detail. The décor is purposefully simplistic, as founder Lucy Chappell believes that colour and shapes can directly influence in tasting. For this reason, all her tastings are operated facing a blank wall in order for the tasters external influences to be limited. All very scientific and absolutely fascinating! Who wouldn't want to learn here?!
In August 2016, this wonderful institute was host to a tea talk performed by Linda Gaylard in order to promote her book, entitled The Tea Book. The talk compromised of an extensive presentation on "The Ways of Tea", using snippets from her book and insights from her travels, in order to narrate the history, customs and culture of tea around the world. It was refreshing to hear honest, if not somewhat contrary, opinions from Linda, whom, whilst appreciating the concept, finds the "tea ceremony a little OCD", something I think some tea lovers can identify with. Overall, the talk was both informative and engaging, with questions and conversation flowing from the audience, which included Anna Petts from Baraka Teas and a handful of avid tea lovers.
There is so much to learn about tea, whether you are at the beginning of or well into your tea journey, so being in a room with tea industry professionals will always lead to making a few new discoveries. Here are the top three:
1. A study found that it takes 10 minute of infusion to extract all the potential "tea", including caffeine and antioxidants, from the leaf.
2. There's a tea themed hotel in Hangzhou, China, called The Xiangji Yard Boutique Hotel, decorated in natural hues and woods for a simplistic Zen style, with every room containing a tea station consisting of: fresh loose leaf, tasting cups, gaiwan and kettle.
3. Apparently, the best tea rarely makes it out of China, being produced on small farms and sold locally. If you ever get a chance to visit and find yourself looking at a list of teas you’ve never heard of, it’s not a con, they are probably really good quality teas that China couldn’t bear to part with.
The Tea Book
The Tea Book, a 224 page comprehensive guide to the basics of tea, comprises of pretty much everything you could want to know about tea in snapshot details over five key areas, detailed below. It's an easy to read, science-o-phobe friendly, fun and colourful way to learn about the beloved plant!
1. What is Tea? - All the basics; from details about growth and harvesting, post picking production processes, the different types of tea and a glimpse of the health benefits.
2. The Perfect Infusion - Lots of hints and tips on how to make the best cuppa, with details on how water affects the cup, the differences between tea bags and loose leaf, how to taste and appreciate tea like a professional and all about infusions and brewing equipment.
3. Teas of the World - A great section that includes a 6 page timeline of the history of tea, followed by information about growing regions and details of tea culture and customs around the world, from afternoon tea to the tea ceremony.
4. Tisanes - A 20 page section documenting the different classifications of tisane, how to prepare them and the medicinal uses.
5. Recipes - Over 80 recipes for you to enjoy and try out, including a range of iced teas, smoothies and cocktails. There’s also directions on how to make your own kombucha, bubble tea and chai blends.
Fancy winning a copy? Taste the Tea is giving one away! Click here for details.