Growing up in Britain there were traditionally only two types of tea: with sugar, or without. The idea of deviating from a well-known brand, usually PG Tips or Tetley, (which ostensibly possess a strong English Breakfast flavour) was unheard of. “No milk?!” A travesty. In absolute extreme cases a cup of Early Grey was acceptable, but only if the Queen was coming round. Towards the turn of the millennium specialty blends and, more drastically, coffee became more prevalent though a predilection for a builder’s brew remained. Then a Twinings advert complete with noted intellectual Stephen Fry - on the surface - extolling the health benefits of more exotic concoctions, yet subconsciously putting forward the notion a purchase would give the impression of upward social mobility, changed everything. Suddenly households were awash with Lapsang Souchong and 100 per cent pure Oolong. Where the teapot and the accompanying mythology around how warm it had to be to influence a cuppa’s quality was once consistently in vogue, now it stood empty and ignored as individual bags infused in dainty cups. Contrary to how it may appear, this isn’t a gripe. All progress is good. I just didn’t buy into it. Until I moved to the UAE.
This country’s confluence of cultures dictates a good cup of tea is taken just as, if not more so, seriously as in the UK. Yet rather than focus on one type, leaves from all corners of the world are readily available and their exploration can provide a delightful insight into their nation of origin. Taking the time to unravel a local favourite, Karak Chai, whisks you on a journey starting in India and ends up in the Gulf via regional countries and their spicy additions. A highly sweetened Turkish cay or a Hangzhou Longjing from China also have plenty of secrets to reveal. Did you know, for example, the latter contains high concentrations of vitamin C?
You’ll not be surprised to learn then I am therefore very excited for the Korean Blossom Tea Season beginning in Dubai today. It’s not a type with which I am very familiar and as a result of the event we can all enjoy a cup for free. Sound too good to be true? Well sometimes good things happen to good people and if you take a trip down to the Habtoor Grand Resort, The Address Boulevard, or La Farine Cafe and Bakery at JW Marriott every day from now until November 23 you (and crucially I) can take in a famous mix known for its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants on the house. Korean teas are not only made with leaves, but also from flowers, fruits, grains, beans, seeds, roots, shoots, and barks. Didn’t know that? Neither did I. This is the perfect chance to plug the gap in our knowledge.
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