Tea in Italy more often than not means a bag stuffed with meagre leaves and a bright yellow label which advertises a water-thin brew of the very finest quality, and order of which is more often than not met by a frowning of the brows and a definite look of suspicion. Lemon is a salvation and milk unnecessary but recommended to lend the brew some form of body.It is always flavoured but even the flavours are weak. It is never served in a pot.
As all of you who have joined me on the Afternoon Tea Tour of York will know, my liking for tea borders on crazy. I love the stuff and during our time together on tour I spoil you with all the small and minute details I have gathered over time about this leaf we drink so much of but still manage to know so little about.
Very recently, my tea addiction took me to Bologna where I joined the In-Tè Festival, the second of it’s kind in Italy. It was small but great to see the steps taken to promote fine tea to an otherwise overwhelmingly coffee-drinking country. Many proper cups of tea were sipped on and some exciting new meetings were made, the all in a beautiful 17th century palazzo. Really, I think you'll agree there are worst places to be.
I first met with the Malawian Satemwa Tea Estate. I was already a fan and use their Bvumbwe white tea in all our cheese + tea pairing workshops. It works wonders. The tea at the estate is unlike much of its kind and under the leadership of Alexander Kay (third generation farmer) the Estate is doing great things for Malawian tea. True innovators in their field, the Satemwa Tea Estate is definitely one you will be seeing appear more often in this space so keep updated and subscribe to our newsletter!
Another 'coup de coeur' was my meeting with the Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan. Supplying the country and our kettles with some of the very finest teas, they had me try steamed and pan-fried sencha, cold-brew gyokuro (superb) and kukicha. Japanese tea is something quite out of the ordinary up here in our northern countries and a taste that definitely takes getting used to. But build up your palate for it and you will be converted forever to the sweet, light and refreshing brew.
A very very long time ago, I had an idea (which seemed great at the time) to create chocolates which would translate the essence of deities appearing in the Greek Mythology and speak their stories. Friends dutifully ate their way through the good and not-so-good chocolate created in rounds of experimentation (bless you all) but in the end, this project (thankfully) never came to fruition.
But Narratè achieved with tea (and with much more success) what I had once set out to do with chocolate. Each tea bag is accompanied by a little booklet which tells (in English and Italian) the story of a city, a philosophy, a religion. In the time that it is read, the tea is ready to be drunk and through the brew itself the essence of the story is carried on forward. A travel in a teabag or a tour in a dish, it is all the same and I absolutely love it.
There is more to say and lots more to share. I come back armed with newly found knowledge and connections which I only hope to share with you all. Join me for an Afternoon of Tea, sweets and savouries in York or, if you’re short on time, come and meet me to learn how to pair Cheese + Tea and we will get to talk about all those crazy-fascinating stories.
A very special shout out also to Michelle from Mlesna who, in learning I came from Montreal delved into conversation. For a moment I was struck dumb; not because she was speaking perfect French but because her accent was so 'québecois', much more so than my own. It had taken me to come (for a product hailing from Asia) all the way to Italy to finally find myself suddenly so much closer to this very little piece of another, older home.
The world is a small place, very small indeed….