Culinary Quest: Loose Leaf TWG Teas

At this point, even a cursory glimpse through most of my site’s articles will reveal that I now have ritualised tea time.

With thanks to the time (and constraints) that the pandemic’s lockdown has afforded me, I very early took to finding ways to:

  • Entertain myself
  • Fire up creative Content Creation
  • And Develop healthy and affordable habits within the bounds of my four walls.

The result of longer periods of sleep, adjusting to what can realistically be seen as sleeping at work, mental health fluctuations, financial and lifestyle reconsiderations, and – oh yeah – a global pandemic, was my Afternoon Teatime. During my blog musings about things that have kept my equilibrium passably steady during lockdown, was the realization that investing in a proper teapot and all the fixings for it, was the best decision I made in a while.

“…you can like it for the caffeine kick, or the rituals, or the scientific experiments in brewing time and temperature, or the cool hobbyist gear, or the Eastern religious undertones, or the dietary benefits…You can like it because it separates you out, or pulls you into a new community, because it makes you feel simultaneously like an outsider and an insider.”

Kevin Alexander for Thrillist

My exposure to true tea options growing up only occurred in my early teens, but I never really paid attention to how I shifted from ordering any local available tea (usually Rooibos or Five Roses) at restaurants and cafes while sitting with my mum (who won’t touch the stuff) to being emphatic about wanting only Earl Grey tea. However, I do recall that every black tea I have ever had and loved at dining establishments back then, has had that TWG tag tied to the teabag string.

Tea Bags Vs. Loose Leaf Tea

Listen, I’m not so much a purist that I think tea bags are forgettably inferior for my tastes. There are obviously some people who think tea bags are the worst kind of crime to beverage-making; a plague of subpar ingredients that are steeped and prepared with absolutely no consideration for propriety.

Everything has its place in my everyday food and beverage cycle, and that includes tea bags.

Teabags, of the sort I usually buy in bulk from my neighbourhood grocer, are for daily cuppa’s – to wake me, de-stress me, and accompany my nighttime TV show catch-ups.

Loose leaf tea though, I will admit, I’ve put on a pedestal.

It is most definitely not for everyday consumption.

Expense and availability play a significant role in why I make an experience of my loose-leaf Afternoon teatime. Where I reside in Cape Town, true tea merchants whose quality control is beyond reproach and whose selection is temptingly varied, are few and far between. So much so, is the lack of excellent loose-leaf stores in my surrounds, that I’ve had to go for the trusted imported stuff, from acclaimed tea stalwart TWG.

Now, after trials and errors with some organic and even hippie store options during lockdown, I have noted that Green Tea (don’t dare bring it near me though!) and Hibiscus Tea, are two of the only readily available loose-leaf teas in my city on a consistent basis – the latter of which welcomingly comes with a robust fruity flavour, and lasts a good while, and is affordable to boot!

But, when superior teas at favoured ritzy spots like the gorgeous Mount Nelson are not feasible every fortnight, I have found that investing in a shipment of grade-A loose-leaf TWG teas will be a decent approximation of the quintessential restaurant tea experience.

There are near hundreds of loose leaf tea blends which TWG offers, for special occasions, and bringing yummy refinement to the necessary utilitarian cuppa had daily.

I’m no expertly-trained tea sommelier, but I do know a damn good brew, and these are some of the tea flavours I recommend (and some which I covet to one day order):

  • Golden Earl Grey Tea ($42 for 100g) – Said to be blended with bergamot and has “a malty, honeyed flavor”
  • Happy Birthday Tea ($40 for 100g) – A black tea I love, that’s celebratory in rich taste, and not at all sombre in the feelings it evokes.
  • Ami Thé Tea ($9.75 for 50g) – Said to have “smooth malty notes accented by safflower blossoms and tart orchard fruits.”
  • Haute Couture Tea ($42 for 100g) – This is highly aromatic in its floral sweet tones, with a lingering flavour of caramel and rose.
  • Singapore Breakfast Tea ($42 for 100g) – Said to boast “a natural blend of green tea, black tea, rich vanilla and rare spices”

Did you know that Tea is the second oldest beverage in the world, with water naturally being the first?

Factoid courtesy of Lisa Li for NYMag

For now, this tea ritual of mine has yet to grow old. I am enjoying exploring the complexities of different types of loose leaves in my tea brews, and it’s almost as much as I enjoy the actual cup of warmth, flavoured by singular characteristics from regions far and wide – a world in a cup.

Perhaps I may not ascribe as much relevance to my tea time, as the world reopens and more things captivate me out there. But for now, I am nourished by this little pleasure of mine.

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