Tea is trending in hotels, restaurants and homes in T&T. From its numerous health benefits to its soothing effects, many are recognising the aromatic lure of a freshly brewed pot of tea.
Kiran Akal, president and creative director of a company called Infinite Worlds, created and branded his own assortment of premium West Indian luxury teas in 2010 called Smaks Bespoke Teas that have become popular here and abroad.
The idea came about as a result of Akal’s love of tea and a need to rebrand his mother’s 32-year-old Smaks boutique, which specialises in fine porcelain, china and crystal ware.
Akal said he has definitely observed an increased interest in fine teas in T&T: “People are discovering that tea is just not tea. It’s a whole world and it’s something that can be a hobby and a passion. People find it a relaxing diversion from the relentless drive and stress of modern life.”
Akal said his goal has been to give tea a West Indian identity—to tell the story of a region which has experienced what he calls “a unique collision of tea cultures.” He said Smaks luxury teas embody the unique history of European, Middle
Eastern, Chinese, Indian and African elements in the West Indies, as well as the flavours and fragrances of each.
He explained that for the serious tea-maker like himself, the process of producing tea is similar to making a fine wine and it begins with the selection of large leaf teas from fine estates. He said high-quality tea consists of leaves that are processed by the CTC or cut-clear-curl method. This process involves the plucking of the leaves before they are left to wither. This is followed by the rolling, oxidation and roasting of the tea leaves. Akal said the intention is to create a balance of aroma and texture and taste.
Tea is not only associated with a more mature crowd. Manager of the Smaks showroom at the Carlton Savannah Hotel in Port-of-Spain, Sharon Ho Wong said, “I notice now that a lot of young people are drinking tea. Afternoon tea is a soothing, relaxing way to end the day. You sit, chat with your friends and have a cup of tea.”
Ho Wong said their Grenadines Purple and Bermuda Pink tisane blends are particularly popular among young people because of their fruity flavours. A tisane is a herbal infusion of dried flowers, fruits or herbs steeped in boiling water without the inclusion of any tea leaves. The Grenadines Purple tisane contains tropical lemongrass, hibiscus, apple pieces and orange peel, which, when brewed, produce a light lavender-coloured tea with a tangy flavour.
She said their black teas such as the Caribbean Chai, Tobago Afternoon and Trinitario Dark are popular among people of all ages. She said she is surprised to see that a lot of men are buying tea now and many of them favour the Hispaniola tea—a brew that has a deep amber colour and an aroma of vanilla and malt. Smaks says the Hispaniola also steeps well into rum.
Akal told the T&T Guardian that office executives now frequently serve tea at business meetings. He said the act of preparing and pouring a pot of tea for colleagues involves grace and etiquette which puts everyone in a great mood for conversation.
Smaks luxury teas are served at restaurants like Buzo and The Verandah. They are also enjoyed by guests having afternoon tea at the Trinidad Hilton and the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort in Tobago. Akal said Caribbean Airlines serves their luxury teas to passengers on its first-class service to the UK. He proudly added that earlier this year, Smaks teas were presented to Queen Elizabeth II by the Earl and Countess of Wessex for her diamond jubilee celebrations.
Dhisha Moorjani, owner of House of Jaipur in Woodbrook, says the popularity of her tearoom has grown significantly since it opened in 2003. The House of Jaipur is an Indian artisan showroom specialising in Indian fashion, textiles, handicrafts, home decor and teas. Moorjani said at the House of Jaipur tearoom, the focus is not only on the preparation and serving of tea, but on creating a subdued atmosphere for people to enjoy their beverages.
She said over 30 types of tea are served at the tearoom, including black, green and white teas. Most of the tea blends come from tea plantations in India, though Moorjani said some also come from plantations in Africa and China.
Moorjani told the T&T Guardian that initially the variety of teas in her tearoom was limited, but this changed when the demand for more exotic tea blends increased.
One of the House of Jaipur’s most popular teas is the Indian Masala Chai—a black tealeaf from Assam, India, which Moorjani says is usually boiled with milk, cardamom and other spices to create a hearty brew. She said another favourite is the Kama Sutra Chai tea, a strong combination of Indian and Kenyan teas blended with ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper.
Moorjani said although tea is brewed, served and consumed in different ways around the world, “The beverage symbolises communication, shared moments, sympathy, harmony and friendship.” “This ritual of tea-drinking is usually found among women who take the time out of their hectic days to relax and unwind from either their work schedules in their offices or the running around with kids,” she said.
Owner of the DH Gift chain of stores Dianne Hunt, said her store has five premium tea blends: Maracas Morning, Indira’s Garden, Sugar Estate, Tassa Chai and Savannah Afternoon. The Tassa Chai is composed of Ceylon black tea, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon and black pepper. Described as a “full-bodied” tea, it is said to have a spicy aromatic flavour and great taste when mixed with milk and sugar.
Hunt said younger people tend to favour chai teas while the “older and more sophisticated demographic” prefers the afternoon teas. “Teatime is a social activity that has been revived in recent times,” she said, adding that tea consumption provides an opportunity to spend time with family and friends and she encourages customers to “share a cup of love”.
Hunt said consumers are also becoming more and more aware of what they consume and the health benefits of tea. Information of DH Gift’s Facebook page says black tea comes from Camelia Sinesis and is a great source of antioxidants and polyphenols, which various studies show can fight certain types of cancer. It goes on to say research indicates that drinking at least one cup of black tea each day may reduce the risk of heart attack and kidney stones.
Health benefits of tea
Other than the feel-good benefits of tea, some research indicates that tea has significant health benefits.
->Many green and black teas contain antioxidants which scavenge for cell-damaging free radicals in the body and detoxify them.
->Tea has less caffeine than coffee.
->Tea protects your bones. It is not just the milk added to tea that builds strong bones. One study that compared tea drinkers with non-drinkers found that people who drank tea for ten or more years had stronger bones.
->Tea may increase your metabolism. Green tea has been shown to increase metabolic rate so that you can burn 70 to 80 additional calories by drinking just five cups of green tea per day.
->Tea is calorie-free. Tea doesn't have any calories, unless you add sweetener or milk. If you are looking for a satisfying, calorie-free beverage, tea is among the top choices.