Brighton and Hove may be famed for its small-batch coffees, but as granny chic makes a comeback, herbal tea is back in vogue and Brightonians are lapping it up.
If you take a stroll up sleepy Spring Street you’ll find one of the city’s hidden hot drink gems. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Clarence Square, Talk of Tea is a cosy, bright, kitsch hideaway unlike any other. When you step through the door you’re bound to be struck by the charming orange walls, mismatching chairs and sweet smell of banana cupcake rooibos.
This quaint little shop was taken over by smiley tea guru Vas Onica last October, and he took the time to impart his brewing wisdom and take me on a journey of discovery over a variety of his delicious tea samples.
Vas makes it clear straight away that he never serves any of his 60 teas in mugs as he much prefers using a pre-warmed teapot to energize the tea leaves. But should we be brewing from bags or loose-leaf? Vas is fierce advocate for a loose-leaf blend. “Since I started drinking loose leaf tea, I have found that I can’t look back,” He said. “Drinking loose tea feels better for my body.”
With the teabag and teapot debates settled, Vas teaches me that different teas need to be steeped at different temperatures, which is why Talk of Tea uses two urns – one heated to 80 degrees and one to 100. He recommends a lower temperature for delicate herbal blends such as green and white teas and a higher temperature for black and rooibos varieties.
I ask him about the all-important brewing time, which the Tea and Infusions Association say is about three minutes for green teas and four minutes for black blends. Vas prefers his teas stronger. He said: “Always brew herbal or fruit blends for longer than four minutes, and stir them midway to get all the aromas to come up.” However, he agrees that green and teas should be left to steep for less than four minutes.
What about milk and sugar? Most people take their tea black with one or both, but Vas takes his tea and it comes and said that he feels amazing since he gave up adding sugar to his hot drinks. “Adding milk and sugar is all to do with personal preference,” He said. “However, adding sugar definitely overpowers the taste of the tea most of the time.”
Will we ever be as knowledgeable on the topic of tea as Vas is? One can only dream, but here is how to make Vas’s perfect cuppa:
- Heat water to 100 degrees for black or rooibos teas, 80 for green or white.
- Warm a teapot with a little bit of the heated water.
- Add a generous teaspoon of your chosen blend per person and an extra heaping for the pot.
- Pour over the hot water and leave the brew to steep for 3-4 minutes or longer for black, rooibos or herbal teas.
- Stir halfway through brewing to ensure your tea is aromatic.
- Enjoy your tea as it comes and do not add sugar. Have a little milk if you must.
To find out more about Talk of Tea, check out the Facebook page.