Dilmah School Of Tea Masterclass

I was lucky enough to be invited to a tea degustation masterclass held by Dilmah School Of Tea at the William Angliss Institute last Thursday. Aimed at those working in the hospitality industry, I thought long and hard whether to accept the invitation as I knew I was going to be out of my depth. In the end, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about tea.

The class was led by Merrill Fernando, founder of Dilmah and his son, Dilhan Fernando. It spanned about three hours and covered a range of topics such as the company's values and philosophies, history, manufacturing processes, brewing techniques and food pairing. I wasn't sure what to expect at the start, but as the session unfolded it proved to be a great afternoon!

I'd love to share some things that I learnt from the session:

Tea can generally be classified into four types:
  • black
  • green
  • oolong
  • white
Although all teas originate from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, different types of teas are created by processing the leaves differently. There may even be variations in flavours and aromas for teas that are processed similarly due to different atmospheric conditions during planting, such as the presence of wind, humidity and light.

The bud and the first two leaves of the plant are where the antioxidants and flavours are concentrated, while the third leaf may start bringing a little coarseness. Therefore, there will be a difference in taste when making teas from handpicked leaves versus those harvested by machinery. 

Dilmah's line of Watte teas display the differences in colours, flavours and aromas of tea grown in different climate conditions. Ran Watte is made from tea leaves grown at an altitude of 6000 feet, producing a golden, light and grassy tea. Uda Watte, Meda Watte and Yata Watte are grown at consecutively declining altitudes. The lower the altitude, the deeper the colour, and the more intense the flavour. 

Apparently, most people are brewing their tea wrongly, either giving it too little or too much time. (I'm guilty on both accounts!) Here are some tips for brewing the perfect cup of tea:
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of tea leaves (equivalent to 2.5g) per 200-250mL of water per person
  • use freshly boiled spring or filtered water (do not reboil water as it removes dissolved gases)
  • for black teas, brew with boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes depending on desired intensity of flavour
  • for oolong and green teas, brew with cooler than boiling water for 2 minutes
  • covering it and stirring occasionally will help release its flavour
  • use enhancements such as spices, mint, honey and ginger
  • if adding sugar, use white sugar only as brown sugar will give it a caramelised taste
  • if adding milk, use warm milk, otherwise the tea will be cooled too rapidly
  • make sure your tea is stored properly in an airtight container, otherwise it will absorb whatever moisture and aroma there is in its vicinity 

Who knew that tea brewing was such a refined process!

The second half of the masterclass was a wonderful demonstration of food and tea pairings. I'm hoping that more restaurants will adopt this concept, as it is an excellent option for non-wine drinkers like myself! My favourite pairings that evening were the green curry with rose with french vanilla tea, yoghurt and honey with chamomile tea, and chocolate ganache with moroccan mint tea. I was a little skeptical about the green curry pairing but it worked wonderfully!

The masterclass ended with the presentation of certificates of participation, but I walked away with a newfound appreciation of tea. It's always been one of my favourite beverages but I don't think I'll ever look at it the same again. Thank you Dilmah for a fun yet educational afternoon!

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