For all the tea in China

Combine two of the world's favourites - tea and cookies - in a scrumptious afternoon delight: 'Earl of Grey cookies'

Earl grey cookies: combine tea with cookies for an afternoon delight
Earl grey cookies: combine tea with cookies for an afternoon delight

Ingredients
•    2 tsp Earl of Grey (dry leaves, ground)
•    2 cups flour
•    2 eggs
•    56g butter, melted
•    ½ cup cane sugar
•    1 tbsp decorative sugar crystals
•    A few loose Earl of Grey tea leaves
Method
1.    Beat the melted butter with the sugar.
2.    Add 1 egg, then flour and powdered tea, until you get a homogeneous dough.
3.    Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. Grease a cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 200°C.
4.    Beat 2nd egg with 1 tbsp water in a small bowl.
5.    Roll out the dough to about ¼ in thickness, on a lightly floured surface.
6.    Cut out cookies into desired shapes, and place on cookie sheet.
7.    Brush with beaten egg mixture. Decorate with loose sugar crystals and tea leaves.
8.    Bake about 10 mins or until just golden.
9.    Cool on rack and let come to room temperature before serving.

Tea

Now that spring is approaching and comfort eating has come to an abrupt halt – for this week at least – we look to other things to derive comfort from. And what better way than from a steaming hot cuppa?

Tea is the second most widely drunk beverage in the world, after water. Though there are a huge variety of teas available on the market, they all come from the same place – from the tea bush or Camellia Sinensis.

The only difference in the type of teas is how the leaves are processed. For some types of tea, the leaves must be fermented, for others they are only sun-dried. The processing is what determines the taste and quality of the different types of teas.

There are four main categories of tea which are drunk the world over. These categories are White tea, Green tea, Oolong tea and Black tea.

Black tea

Black tea is the most popular of all teas and the most widely consumed. The distinctive taste prevalent in the different black teas comes from the way that they are processed. During the processing of the tea leaves, the leaves are heavily oxidized and fermented. It has a higher caffeine content and is stronger in flavour than the other teas varieties.

There are a huge variety of black teas available, though the main ones include Nilgiri tea, Assam tea, Lapsang Souchong, Earl Grey and Darjeeling tea. Flavoured black teas provide an extra little bit of something blending anything from Italian liqueur to cinnamon and almonds.

Green tea

Originally coming to the world from China, Green tea is a popular beverage due to many factors, one of which is said to be the fact that it aids in weight loss.

The difference between black and green tea does not come from the plant itself but from the preparation method. To put it simply, black tea undergoes a fermenting process while green tea does not.

Of the four different tea varieties green tea undergoes least processing. It is withered, or air-dried and then either steamed or pan-fried. The tea is then rolled gently and heated once to lock in its flavours.

Oolong tea

Again the processing of the tea leaves give Oolong tea its unique flavours. The edges of the leaves are bruised following the withering process to allow partial oxidization causing the flavour and caffeine to rise to the surface. Brewing methods also differ with the correct tea pot, called a Gaiwan, necessary to produce the best flavours. The taste of Oolong tea is somewhere between black and green tea.

White tea

The harvesting and preparation of this tea means that it is not as abundant as the other teas and therefore more expensive. White tea is very light and has a silky texture and soft flavour. It lacks the green grassy taste of green tea and the bitter, flowery taste of black and Oolong tea.

Unlike the other varieties of tea, white tea is made from tea buds that are barely unfurled. It is also the appearance of these buds, which has given White tea its name, as the buds are covered in a silver fuzz at the time of harvesting.

When the harvested buds are steamed, the fuzz remains on the leaf turning to a white color, hence the name white tea.

White tea is cultivated and made in a few different countries around the world, with China, Japan, India, and Sri Lanka (Ceylon) being among the top runners for producing high grade White tea. And just like the many different varieties of Black tea available, there are also different grades of White tea available, with the Silver Needle variety being one of the most sought after White tea varieties.

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