We all know that tea is the nation’s favourite tipple, but there’s so much more to this drink than the humble British cuppa, as I discovered recently when I was invited to an insightful workshop at Manchester’s Proper Tea. The event was hosted by the venue’s tea expert, Kalpa Gosrani, who has designed a series of workshops aimed at all tea drinkers, from novices (of which I’m one!) to real aficionados. In my session we were given a broad overview of different types of tea, starting with delicate white varieties, then moving on to green, Wulong and red teas.
I must admit, I walked into the pretty tearoom, set in a beautiful space beside Manchester Cathedral, feeling a slight sense of trepidation. The only tea I enjoy on a semi-regular basis is Earl Grey, and while I’ve tried to persevere with green tea because of the health benefits, I certainly wouldn’t claim to like it. But that was before my education… Kalpa started by telling us a bit about tea as a whole; how it’s picked, what defines the different varieties and why it’s so important to brew each one in a certain way. The first tea we sampled was a delicate white Darjeeling, which was subtle but refreshing – perfect for the hot summer’s evening.
After trying a slightly stronger white peony tea, we moved on to green tea – and here’s where my education really began! The reason most of us (myself included) tend to dislike green tea is because we’ve experienced an unpleasant bitterness. This is caused by scorching the leaves with water poured straight from the kettle, which is how I’ve always prepared tea. Instead, water should ideally be boiled at around 70C for and brewing time is around two minutes. If you don’t have a thermostat handy (or a very clever kettle!), just pour some cold water onto your teabag or leaves first, then leave the kettle to cool slightly before topping up with hot water. We sampled three different green teas, and my favourite was the rare ‘bi luo chun’, which was delicate yet full of flavour.
Next, Kalpa told us about Wulong, red and dark teas, and our samples included Darjeeling – the ‘Champagne of teas’ and minerally ‘Tie Kuan yin’ Wulong. I must admit, this end of the scale was my least favourite, as many of them were closer to the typical English breakfast tea that I’ve never really enjoyed, but I could really detect different qualities in each one I tried.
To end the evening we tasted some sweet matcha tea macaroons, miso and walnut biscuits and delicious chocolates from the Northern Quarter’s Bonbon Boutique, filled with a gooey matcha tea centre.
I’d definitely recommend the workshops to anyone who wants to educate themselves on the art of tea, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to try some of the rarer loose leaf teas that Kalpa and the team at Proper Tea have hand selected. Prices per person per session start at £30 and groups are small, so there’s every opportunity to ask plenty of questions. You can find out more about the workshops by visiting www.properteadeveloper.com/workshops.