Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Matcha-Making: A Tea Masterclass with JING Tea @ Spice Market, London
Tea and tea-drinking has always been an integral part of my life: when I left the US for the UK, I left one tea-drinking culture (my Hong Kong Chinese family's obsession with good tea knows no bounds) for another (I think John drinks at least 6 cups of Yorkshire Gold per day, no joke). Having said that, my knowledge of tea itself is surprisingly minimal, so I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the leaf-picking process, the harvests, and the different ways tea is made, stored, and consumed at JING Tea's Tea Masterclass last evening at the W Hotel's Spice Market - the perfect setting for our tea journey.
Our "Tea Master" for the evening was Felicity, who's been with JING for over five years, following an impressive journey to get there and a true passion for tea. In fact, Felicity was so knowledgeable about her tea (where it's grown, how it's processed, the precise periods within each season the leaves are picked and left to "wither") that, for a second, I forgot I was in W Hotel and felt magically transported to one of my favorite college seminars instead.
We tried three different types of "Spring" Chinese teas last night: Silver Needle (a white tea picked in early April in the Fujian Province), Hui Ming Spring (a green tea that's also hand-picked in early April but in the mountainous south of Zhejiang), and Golden Gong Fu (a black tea picked in high altitude gardens in Fujian, precisely between the 1st and 5th of April).
Tip from Felicity: never use boiling water for a white tea such as Silver Needle, as it ruins the flavor. 80 degrees is the optimal temp for your tea leaves to keep happy!
Also: did you know? Fresh green tea has a nearly fluorescent yellow color to it when it's brewed. While others around my table made noises of appreciation for the Silver Needle and Golden Gong Fu tea, the Hui Ming Spring was my firm favorite of the three - its lovely strong, fragrant notes reminding me of home and the types of teas I drink with my family.
A common misconception about drinking Chinese tea is that you can only use the tea leaves once - not so! Teas such as the Hui Ming Spring may be infused 2-3 times and I admitted to Felicity that I sometimes even drink the tea my dad's brewed the night before ... the next morning (usually Oolong). Not really advised, but still.
We also learned some great tips about making chilled tea infusions like the one we were served upon our arrival - a super refreshing summer drink (if there was any summer to speak of here in London, but I'll save that story for later). First, double the amount of tea leaves you would normally use in your JING cafetierre or glass mug infuser (like the one I have). Fill with (and this is the key) room temperature water. Leave it in the fridge for 2-4 hours. Et voila! Chilled Chinese tea (or you could make like my mom and buy a huge bottle of artificially-flavored cold green tea at your local Chinese supermarket, but JING's method is a little more ... special).
Mid-way through our tea-tasting (which suits me much better than wine-tasting, given my alcohol intolerance), we stopped for some canapes from Spice Market's kitchen.
Really delicious mouthfuls that disappeared quicker than the JING tea timer could be turned!
And then ... my favorite part of the evening: matcha-making. I'm a hay-uge fan of matcha. Matcha Pocky sticks, matcha lattes, matcha cheesecakes, matcha ice-cream ... put matcha in it, on it, over it, and I'll eat it (almost).
First, the pros showed us how it's done: Felicity added hot (not boiling!) water to the matcha powder, creating a smooth, glossy paste with the small bamboo whisk (which can be found in JING's Matcha Set). Then - and this was the hard part - she slowly added a small amount of water before quickly and deftly whisking the matcha to create a light froth at the top, careful not to touch the whisk to the bottom of the bowl.
"Make an 'M' shape with the whisk and keep your wrist loose," Felicity instructed. "Now, you have a go!" Of course, she made it look effortless (and even graceful).
Under Felicity's watchful eye, it was our turn to give matcha-making (ha, see what I did there?) a try. But the whisking proved to be hard work, as we quickly found out (great for the triceps, though), and Jacintha passed the bowl over to me to experiment.
The finished product was paired with some of Amelia Rope's gorgeous white chocolate: the creaminess of the chocolate combined with the slight bitterness of the matcha was a matcha-made in heaven. OK, OK, I'LL STOP NOW. We only had tiny sips of our finished matcha creations, as matcha has quite a high caffeine content, and it was nearly 9 pm, after all.
I still may or may not have sprinted up 2 flights of stairs and an escalator when I got out of the tube station though.
This morning, I groggily got out of bed, then perked up when I saw my JING tea in the cupboard. I made myself a cup of Jasmine Silver Needle using my infuser mug (being careful not to use boiling water!) and sat in silence - preparing myself for the day ahead. Such a lovely way to begin.
I was generously hosted by JING Tea and Spice Market at W Hotels London - thank you! All opinions are my own. Throughout the month of August, readers of Angloyankophile can get 10% off their JING purchases using the code AYPAUG15. Will you go for the infuser mug? Or your own matcha set? Happy sipping!