The Ancient Art of Tea
Dilmah Tea, the world renowned makers of Ceylon tea, is a brand “founded on a passionate commitment to quality and authenticity in tea, it is also a part of a philosophy that goes beyond commerce in seeing business as a matter of human service.”
In this fascinating look at both the art and the myriad benefits of tea, we’re honored to have Dilhan C. Fernando — son of Dilmah founder Merrill J. Fernando, Director of Dilmah, Head of the Dilmah School of Tea and the family’s MJF Foundation and Dilmah Conservation — share with us his experiences, passion and knowledge about this ancient beverage.
Guest Post by Dilhan C. Fernando
Tea, an ancient beverage, is experiencing a renaissance. Driven significantly by a growing body of research that confirms the therapeutic effects of tea, and its protective influence on the human body, tea consumption is growing globally. This can only be considered natural, as tea was first celebrated 5,000 years ago as a medicine, discovered by the herbalist Emperor Shen Nung as a tonic, said to protect from the effects of poisons and aid wellness. Science does confirm that natural antioxidants in tea protect us from stress, reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, prevent dementia, reduce cholesterol, diabetes and a host of other lifestyle diseases. Beyond wellness though, there is much more.
Real tea – as tea growers and tea makers define – is tea that is picked by hand, made in the traditional, artisanal manner and enjoyed garden fresh and unblended. Picking the leaves by hand ensures that only the tender two leaves and bud – where flavour, freshness and natural goodness are concentrated – are harvested. This traditional method of manufacturing, while demanding in terms of expertise and much more expensive than the comparatively recent CTC method that is widespread, is the only way to make good tea. The traditional method nurtures terroir – the influence of soil, climate generally – in tea while requiring the tea maker to understand the confluence of natural elements in the delicate process of manufacture.
The notion of luxury in beverage and hospitality terms, is linked to personalisation. In this sense there is no more luxurious herb than one that is handpicked and expertly produced. The fact that the variety of colour, strength, texture, flavour and aroma, are all the result of the magical influence of nature, only adds to the luxury. Tea handpicked for each tea drinker and the indulgence of knowing that each cup is to a degree unique, its taste formed entirely by nature expressed in terroir that is more prominent than in wine, makes tea unique. In the traditional method of manufacture there is no way in which poor tea leaves can be made into good tea while an inexpert tea maker who might wither, roll or ferment the tea for a few minutes longer than ideal, can produce poor tea from good leaf. That is the artisanal aspect in tea which complements the luxury and indulgence.
The healthfulness of tea is validated by over 18,000 scientific studies that have explored and confirmed Shen Nung’s belief that tea is a herb that is extraordinarily beneficial to human health. It is a herb that is indulgent in taste, rich in its heritage and enjoyable, varied and calming in its appreciation. Good tea is demanding of respect even beyond manufacture since its selection, storage, preparation and serving are all essential in offering a guest a perfect cup of tea. Fresh tea that is unblended, retaining its natural identity, packed at source to maintain freshness is likely to offer what nature intended. Its storage is important for tea is hydroscopic and absorbs moisture, odours and fragrances easily, contaminating its delicate flavour with kitchen and other odours and producing toxins that harm flavour and natural antioxidants. Preparation is equally important, with good quality spring water or water that does not have an excess of minerals, calcium, chlorine and essential prerequisite. Tea should be brewed in water that is boiled just once and black tea, stirred occasionally should be brewed for 3 minutes as a minimum, 5 minutes for a strong cup. Green tea can be brewed for 1½ to 2 minutes whilst White Tea – Silver Tips – should be brewed for 3 – 5 minutes.
Tea is an amazing herb. It is unique in the combination of natural goodness, diversity in taste, the sensorial pleasure, indulgence and its ability to complement fine cuisine. Without question tea is the beverage of the 21st century.