Tea Resources, Tea Tips

Brewing Perfection – what to do for your next cup of tea.

April 22, 2015
brewing-tea

If you are new to brewing tea then there are a few things that any beginner needs to know. Keep trying different things until you find the perfect combination. They always say practice makes perfect and in this instance it is no different. Below are suggestions on what you can do to brew the perfect tea.

1. Knowing which types are your favorite and which ones you will drink.
2. Do the research and pick a tea pot that works well for your favorite tea.
3. Use the freshest water possible, we recommend filtered water.
4. Fill the kettle with cold water and place it on the stove to start boiling. Turn the facet to hot water and let it run.
5. Fill your tea pot with hot water and set it aside. This warms up your tea pot.
6. As soon as the kettle starts whistling, dump the water from the tea pot into the sink. Take the warm pot and add tea and the boiling water.
7. Let the tea seep in the pot according to whatever you are brewing. Steeping the tea depends on you and how you like the taste.
8. Get the other ingredients such as sugar and creamer ready while the tea is steeping.
9. Check the sea to see if its the right strength. The darker the stronger. If you are using loose leaves, strain the tea and pout it into your favorite cup.
10. Let is cool and enjoy.

rooibos

Red Gold from Cedarberg, South Africa

February 23, 2015

rooibosIt is one of the miracle plants of the world, and has been used as a medicine for perhaps thousands of years. Today it is consumed my millions all over the world as a refreshing tea. It is used in the preparation of natural cosmetics, skin care products and as a basis for medicines. It is rich in anti-oxidants, has a calming effect on the nervous system, has strong anti-inflammatory as well as anti-allergic properties, assists the body in blocking the production of cholesterol. It contains no caffeine, very little tannin and a wide variety of minerals, albeit in small quantities.

This is Rooibos – Aspalahtus linearis – endemic to the Clanwilliam / Cedarberg area.

Today Rooibos is cultivated in plantations over large areas around Clanwilliam and Van Rhynsdorp as well as in the Piketberg / Aurora area. Up to about 55 – 60 years ago plantations were unknown. When it was harvesting time – late summer and autumn – the farmers used to go into the veld to harvest the Rooibos growing wild.

But why does it only grow in certain areas? To answer this question one must have some understanding of the fynbos biome. Endemism (plants only growing in certain areas or locations) is quite common among fynbos plants. The basis of this phenomenon is that the soil is very poor in nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen and many plant species have adopted a survival strategy associated with micro-organisms in the soil. The presence of certain forms of micro organisms in a particular area is largely determined by topography and climate, and even micro climate, as well as the available nutrients in the soil. Many of these micro-organisms convert minerals like nitrogen and phosphorus to soluble forms which plants can utilise. In return the plant provides the micro-organisms with carbon which is freely available via sun energy. Thus, Rooibos requires not only certain soil types and climate, but also specific micro-organisms.

Cultivation of Rooibos is based on a six year cycle as the plants live on average for six years. At any given point in time there are plantations which are one year old, others two years and so on. After six years the plants are removed and the area then planted with lupines (two years) and oats for four years. After six years of lupines and oats, the Rooibos seedlings are transplanted from the nursery into the plantations. The seeds are sown in specially prepared beds in the open in March, and by middle July they are about 15 cm tall and ready to be transplanted. This transplanting can be nerve wrecking as this can only happen if the soil is wet and the weather cool – preferably rainy.

Rooibos, like many other perennial fynbos plants, only grows during the early and midsummer months and become dormant from about February. While the plants are actively growing, the new twigs have a distinct green colour. When the plants stop growing, the twigs turn red from the lower parts upwards. When more than 90% of the twigs have turned red, the plant is ripe. That is when the tea should be harvested because that is when the best quality tea is produced. However, most farmers start harvesting earlier. Only a few, as on the Groenkol Rooibos Tea Estate, wait for the tea to turn ripe. The reason for this is that after harvesting, the tea is cut into short pieces and then goes through a process of oxidation which is a wet process. The following day the tea has to dry in the sun. As long as typical summer and early autumn weather with high temperatures and low humidity persists, drying of the tea is easy and quick, but after the first real winter rain has fallen, the temperature drops and the humidity increases and then drying can becomes problematic as there is the possibility of mould growth which renders the tea useless. As no one can be sure when the tea will turn ripe and when the first winter rain will fall, waiting for the tea to turn ripe is a risk.

Harvesting of Rooibos is traditionally done by hand, using sickles. However, the late Mr. Oubaas Engelbrecht of Groenkol Rooibos Tea Estate, developed and built a mechanical harvester which proved to be such a success that many other farmers have placed orders for these harvesters. When harvesting the top ± 60% of the bush is cut off and taken to the processing plant. After being cut into short pieces, the tea is placed in long heaps (about 70cm x 80cm wide) where it is bruised. Then water is added. A rotavator then mixes the tea and the water in such a way that the mixture is well aerated. This ensures that as much oxygen as possible is trapped in the mixture to enhance the oxidation process. This process takes place at night, and early the following morning the tea is spread out on the drying pad to dry. Under normal summer conditions the tea will dry in one day.

On the Groenkol Rooibos Tea Estate tea harvested from the various sections of the farm is kept separate, and after drying, is blended and pumped into 500 kg bulk bags. It is then placed in storage for ± 18 months as it was found that good quality tea is very much like red wine. Allow it to rest and it will mature and improve in quality. This estate has its own processing plant and packaging facilities and it markets only its own tea – more that 90% of which is exported to many countries.

In the processing plant the tea first goes through a series of sieves to remove the unwanted material – everything from rough stick to fine dust. Then it is sterilised before being packaged in 18 kg bags for export. A small percentage of tea on the estate (about 10%) is packaged in sachets and under the estate’s brand name, African Dawn.

A fair percentage of the material removed through the sifting process is bought by companies that extract the oil from the material which is then used in the manufacturing of cosmetics, skin care products, toiletries and as a basis for medicines.

Visitors to the area who want to see what Rooibos is all about can go to Rooibos Ltd in Clanwilliam where they will be shown a short video. Alternatively they can contact Elandsberg Eco Tourism on the Groenkol Rooibos Tea Estate for a safari tour of the plantations and the processing plant.

Recipes

Devonshire Clotted Cream

January 18, 2015
cream

True Devonshire Cream, or Clotted Cream, is a very thick, rich cream actually very similar to butter. It is unsweetened, so it pairs very well on the scones with jam. You can purchase it in better supermarkets or specialty stores, or you can order it online.

Although sweetened a little, these homemade substitutions are very good with all scone recipes as well.

  • 1 C. Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 C. Confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 t. Cream of Tartar
  • 1 t. Vanilla Extract

or

  • 1 C. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 C. Mascarpone or 1/4 C. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 Heaping T. Sugar
  • 1 T. Vanilla Extract

 

The directions are the same for both recipes” Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with a mixer until stiff. Refrigerate until ready to use. When prepared and served the same day. Makes 1  1/4 – 1  1/2 cups.

Recipes

Bread Pudding

January 18, 2015
bread-pudding
  • 6 croissants
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups half and half milk
  • 2 tbs. of sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Dash of salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Slightly brush a 9 x 13 x 2 3/4 inch loaf tin with oil or melted butter.
2. Cut up croissants in one inch strips and line bottom of pan.
3. Combine all the remaining ingredients together and pour over the bread – cover with foil and refrigerate for 1 hour prior to baking.

Praline Topping:

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions:

1. Cream butter and brown sugar together
2. Add chopped pecans, cranberries, cinnamon and nutmeg.
3. Spread over croissant mixture, and bake for 30 minutes.

White Chocolate Whipped Cream:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 3.3 oz package of white chocolate instant pudding

 

Recipes

Black Forest Cake in A Glass

January 18, 2015
CakeinaGlass-small

Chocolate Cupcakes:

  • 1 box devil’s food cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. Chinese five spice

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line your cupcake pan with cup cake liners.
2. Sift cake mix into a bowl, set aside.
3. In bowl whisk eggs, oil, buttermilk, sour cream, and Chinese five spice.4. Add cake mix and stir until well combined.
5. Fill cup cake liners 3/4 full, and bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick near center comes out clean, and cool.

White Chocolate Whipped Cream:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 (3.3 oz) package of white chocolate instant pudding
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • Fresh mint
  • Chopped walnuts

Directions:

Pour heavy whipping cream in electric mixer bowl. Stir in package of pudding mix. With mixer on medium – high, beat until stiff peaks form.

To Assemble:

In glass, divide cup cake; put bottom half in glass pipe whipped cream on top or cup cake. Spoon cherry pie on top of cream, and pipe more whipped cream. Add second half of cup cake. To top it off add a dollop of whip cream and one cherry on top. Sprinkle chopped walnuts and fresh mint. Chill until ready to serve.

Recipes

South Town Smoothie

January 18, 2015
smoothies
  • 3 C. Strawberries, fresh, quartered
  • 1/2 can Lemonade concentrate, frozen
  • 1 scoop sugar
  • 1 Banana
  • 2 C. Sweet Ginger Peach Tea
  • 1/2 C. Real Lemon
  • Ice Cubes to fill container

Combine strawberries, lemonade concentrate, sugar, banana, Real Lemon and tea in a blender container; and ice to fill container. Puree.

Pour mixture into 5 tall glasses.

Garnish with strawberry and mint.

 

Recipes

Afternoon Smoothie

January 18, 2015
  • 4 Scoops Ice
  • 3 Sticks Pineapple
  • 1 C. Cream
  • 1/3 can Orange Juice Concentrate, frozen
  • 1/2 scoop sugar
  • 1 Lemon, freshly squeezed
  • 1 Banana
  • 12 oz Moroccan Mint/Jasmine Tea

 

Combine pineapple, banana, ice, cream, orange juice, sugar, lemon juice and tea in a blender container; puree.

Pour mixture into 4 tall glasses

Garnish with pineapple, strawberry and mint