“Customising your own tea sounds easy enough, but there is a lot of science that goes into creating a tea blend,” says Cecillia Jonkers, a tea sommelier and sales manager of Yswara Tea Room.
“In order to create a bespoke tea, you need to have knowledge and understanding of tea (Camelia sinensis) classification and herbal teas, their individual steeping times and what flavours and additives (fruit, flowers, nuts etc) will blend well with each tea classification, as some flavours and additives work and some don’t.”
The signature blends at Yswara are exclusively created by founder Swaady Martin, and include African ingredients such as rooibos, honeybush, buchu, kola nut, wild yam and Penja pepper.
The concept of creating your own high-end tea is simple: choose a base and one or more flavours to blend your own unique tea. Top it off with a personalised name and brag to your family and friends about your gourmet style, or, better yet - gift it.
According to Jonkers, ratios play a very big part in creating a tea blend - how much of what is added. This is often based on trial and error.
Mingwei Tsai, tea sommelier at Nigiro Tea, says that when tea is mixed with the correct energy, the correct temperature, the appropriate infusion time and the right state of mind, all of its wonders and glories are unlocked.
“When choosing your tea base, avoid choosing too many tea types in one blend. You will lose the flavour of these exquisite teas if you don’t take into account the potency of each variant,” Tsai said.
Keep the tea base to three types, maximum.
Next comes the fun part; choosing your ingredients.
Decide on the type of flavour you want in your tea. Do you want it to be earthy, floral, fruity, herbaceous, spicy, tart or sweet? There are so many flavours to choose from. Almond, blackcurrant, cinnamon, peach, raspberry, honey, chocolate, vanilla and zabaglione - to name a few.
“You want to be able to receive the health benefits and flavour profiles of each ingredient, so try not to choose more that eight,” says Martin.
The specific process of teas being prepared for drinking by leaving the leaves in heated water to release the flavour and nutrients is known as steeping, and each tea type has a different steeping time. If your palate is more inclined to a spicy blend, you could create a tea with Rwandan black tea as the base, enhanced by cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom flavours. The steeping time would be two to three minutes.
Whether you are new to loose leaf tea or are already a connoisseur, you’ll find everything you need for the ultimate tea experience in Joburg at Tea Merchant, Le Maison Yswara, Contessa Tea Connoisseur and Bistro, The Tea Room at Crabtree and Evelyn, and Origin.
This hot beverage cannot be rushed. There is no option but to slow down and surrender to the process, and contemplate the universe the cup contains.