When I was going through Postnatal Depression, I was fortunate enough to have the love and support of my family and friends. I always remember the sound of the kettle boiling and the conversations we would have over a cup of tea. The sense of connection it encouraged. For me, now, since recovering, it is not just drinking the tea that is special. It is the mindfulness that goes into making tea and then sitting down to enjoy it. Choosing the tea, finding the right teapot, measuring out the tea, brewing the tea, holding the teacup and feeling the warming effects on my hands. All of these things are an important part of the process.
I am thrilled to have collaborated with Impala and Peacock, a Melbourne-based tea-blending company. One of the co-owners, Sarah De Witt, is an accredited tea sommelier with the Australian Tea Masters Association. Together, we bring you three top-quality blends; Comfort, Revitalise Breakfast and Nourish Chai. Each tea has been carefully created to bring you a delicious cup to be enjoyed in your own home. We hope the tea will evoke conversations around mental health and encourage self care. I recently sat down with Sarah’s husband, Ruan De Witt, co-owner and certified tea blender of Impala and Peacock to chat all things tea.
Josie: So, what exactly is a tea sommelier?
Ruan: It’s an accredited course by the Australian Tea Masters Association and involves a year-long certified course covering the fundamentals, the science and art of tea with a lot of flavour profiling and testing.
Josie: Why loose leaf?
Ruan: Brewing a cup of tea with loose leaf is a mindful process. Once you have chosen which tea you will enjoy, you open the canister and carefully measure your tea out of the canister into your infuser. Once the kettle has boiled, you pour the water over the leaves, observing the leaves swell and expand. You will see the colour change and the steam rise from the pot. You choose your favourite tea cup and listen to the sound of your tea being poured into the cup. It is now ready for you to enjoy. As a loose leaf infusion, the tea leaves have more space to expand as they infuse, leaving you with more aroma, flavour, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The quality of leaf is also much better in a loose leaf tea without tiny leaf bits and stale tea dust found in most mass-produces tea bags. There are also uncontained micro plastics in tea bags and the bags are chemically bleached.
Josie: What goes into making a blend?
Ruan: Blending tea is like making a piece of art that requires several iterations. The initial inspiration takes flight from an objective. For example, a tea that evoked comfort, a detox tea or a sleepy tea. Once we have the objective, we pick the ingredients that speaks to it and make a few versions of the blend. Most blend are built on “base” notes with heart and top notes accentuating the unique particularities of the blend. Base notes are the backbone of the blend and are not too strong to overwhelm. Black tea, rooibos or chamomile flowers make excellent bases. Heart and top notes are stronger flavours that help form the ephemeral notes that sometimes last only for a moment in a stewed pot of tea. These heart and top notes must be carefully rationed to avoid overpowering each other. Lastly, we eat (and drink) with our eyes. A blend must look beautiful and with so many colourful ingredients to choose from it’s difficult not making it look beautiful!
We then do a blind tasting. In a blind test, the blend labels are covered, that way you don’t know which blend you are trying. We write notes, and grade the blends on flavour, colour, texture and aroma. Several tasters take part of this process to make sure we’re getting balanced feedback. The idea, of course, is for you to be totally objective and not have any pre-set ideas about what to expect. Our brain gets in the way of our senses. What we see is what we expect, so not seeing can eliminate those expectations. We then made any adjustments needed and repeat the whole process!
Josie: Are there any health benefits in tea that you know of?
Ruan: It’s no secret that drinking tea is good for you. Tea has been an integral part of traditional medicine and is revered as a cure-all in many Asian countries. The Chinese and Japanese have consumed this tea to improve health for centuries. The main health-promoting substances in tea are polyphenols, in particular catechins and epicatechins. These molecules have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Tea also contains flavonoids which contribute to the relaxation of gut muscles and intestinal tissues and the antioxidants work to prevent oxidative stress, which can damage healthy cells. The caffeine in the tea is moderated by these other chemicals, therefore, the absorption is much slower and more gradual. The overall amount is 15% to 20% less than coffee. Tea is beneficial for your digestive system because it can absorb gas, improve blood flow to the entire digestive tract and eliminate free radicals that can cause an upset stomach and indigestion. Tea is also popularly known for its calming effects and has been used for centuries unwinding after a long day.
Josie: What are some of the reasons for choosing to collaborate with Smiling after PND?
Ruan: Your brand resonates with our vision. We understand you are trying to create a connected space with the tea. The idea of sharing the tea amongst others and encouraging conversations around mental health is really, very important. We also value your desire to educate people about perinatal mental illness, reduce shame and stigma and encourage help seeking. We also feel that the capacity to sit down and enjoy and cup of tea to give yourself the space for self care.
I am thrilled to have collaborated with Melbourne based Teahouse, Impala and Peacock, to bring you three top-quality blends; Comfort, Revitalise Breakfast and Nourish Chai. Each tea has been carefully created to bring you a delicious cup to be enjoyed in your own home.