Tea takes us outdoors to sit around campfires. Tea helps us to tell stories.
Our Australian neighbours, and our Anzac partners, they like a good ‘cuppa’, a campfire and a story – or so I have been led to believe.
An Australian Tea Story:
Once, there were four brothers. Now these four set out down the Tully river on April Fool’s Day in 1882 a-lookin for arable land. As luck would have it (Australia is also called The Lucky Country) the brothers spotted a patch up near Cairns where they planted tropical fruits, coffee and tea. And the brothers prospered greatly. Until a bloody great cyclone waltzed in and smashed their plantation to smithereens. However those brothers re-built and they prospered. Right up until a drought swaggered all over North Queensland that is, and after the drought another bloody great cyclone spat at the brothers from the Pacific Ocean. So the brothers were forced to re-mortgage. It was bloody hard work. Then the mother of all bloody great cyclones stormed in and it finished the plantation off for good. Or did it?
No of course not! This is Australia we are talking about. Seventy years later … Dr Allan Maruff finds tea trees growing wild near Cairns, North Queensland. No ordinary tea shrubs these! For the tea trees were 15 meters high. And so Nerada tea was born; the first commercial tea-planting in Australia since 1886 and still brewing strong.
Who doesn’t like their tea to be served with a good story?
To be perfectly honest I was dubious. Can Australia grow good tea? Tea is like wine. There is this whole terroir thing to think about; tea’s complexities. I took a brick from the supermarket shelf anyway, mainly on account of it’s package being so photogenic, bold and bright, as Australia naturally is. If nothing else it would brighten my pantry. After a few photo shoots (this tea is not shy) I open the packet.
Nerada looks different to the Ceylon tea I normally drink. I am suspicious of these dusty-black pellets but into the warmed teapot they go. A stimulating mineral-like aroma escapes as soon as the water hits the leaves. Volcanic? A mass of tiny bubbles froth to the top of the teapot. This is a good sign. I wait. Then I pour.
The colour of this tea is vibrant. Did I expect anything else from Australia? Distinctively red/orange, bright as henna, Nerada tea even looks attractive in the cup.
The flavour: This tea is eager. Mineral, zest, salt and dry bark?
It is the sort of tea to drink before an exam I think. Or a tea to drive a long monotonous distance upon. A tea for work and sun and heat – since it is surprisingly thirst quenching and, well, exciting. I pour another.
Nerada tea is not vacuum packed, so there remains only the cardboard carton to dispose of.
Nerada tea is pesticide free. There are no natural tea pests in Australia.
The tea is machine harvested and processed (Ouch) and between harvest to finished product is a mere seventeen hours.
The Recipe for Outdoor Tea
Equipment: Outdoor tea is made in a billycan. If you do not own a billy then use a pot and a stove top as opposed to lighting a fire in your backyard. Note: This tea is best prepared and consumed outdoors around a campfire.
Two cups of almond or coconut milk
1/4 – 1/2 C. of water – to offset evaporation and depending on how thin or thick you want your tea
1 heaped tsp Lapsang souchong (I used t leaf T)
2 heaped tsp Nerada tea
2 cardamom pods, husks removed
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 generous tsp honey – or to taste
Bring milk and water to the boil. It should boil briskly. Now throw in the Nerada tea. (Do not sprinkle.) Bring the milk back to the boil and throw in the Lapsang souchong. Bring milk and tea back to boil again. Now throw in the ginger and cardamom seeds and give the brew a stir. Boil for approx. 45 – 60 seconds or until the tea is dark yet still bright. Strain through a sieve – into a warmed jug or straight into cups. Add honey to taste.
Consume while you appreciate the great outdoors, preferably in the company of a cheerful campfire and a good story.