The current fascination with all things charred doesn’t only apply to food. It seems we love our teas smoky and toasty too, going by the range we can find beyond the typical hojicha or Japanese roasted tea.
They are green, oolong or herbal tisanes which make good complements to myriad dishes. If you’re a fan of this taste profile, here are some to try.
Roasted Japanese Green Tea
Gyokuro Hojicha Kaho
Made in Kanagawa, Japan, Royal Blue Tea teas are produced using an unheated cold-brewing process called muzidashi. The teas are served cold, and in wine glasses as you would a good wine. In Singapore, the teas are available via their website and at restaurants Beni, Hashida Sushi and the now-defunct Restaurant André.
Gyokuro Hojicha Kaho ($214 for 750ml bottle), a premium roasted green tea in their collection, is made with roasted Gyokuro or shadegrown green tea leaves from Fukuoka prefecture. The stems of the Gyokuro leaf is available only in very small quantities and undergo a two-stage light roasting method to bring out their characteristics. This method is easily five times more labourious than that used to make regular hojicha. Says Kenji Yamanaka, executive chef of one Michelin-starred restaurant Beni, “Kaho goes especially well with red Kobe beef and roast Challandais duck. These dishes are heavily roasted to draw out their rich aromas and seasoned using a sweet Madeira sauce with high alcohol content.”
Concubine and Dong Ding are two oolongs that hail from Nantou county, Taiwan, near Dong Ding Mountain. Jolene Seow, founder of Antea Social, sources hers from a tea master in Nantou county. The rare Concubine tea (price depends on harvest) is handpicked, medium-roasted and has a unique flavour imparted by tiny green insects known as green leaf hoppers that nibble on the leaves just before harvesting. This precipitates some chemical changes in the tea leaves, even kick starting the oxidisation process while still on the plant. The result is a tea that has a honey-like aroma.
Dong Ding Oolong (from $12.50 for a 10g pack) is handpicked, medium-roasted (more so than Concubine) and, according to Seow, has a “fruity, nutty, roasted golden tea liquor with a lingering, sweet aftertaste”. Dong Ding pairs well with spicy food, grilled meats or white chocolate desserts, vanilla desserts and bakes. Concubine Oolong makes a nice match with our local kaya toast. “It brought out the floral and honey notes of the tea,” she said.
A dedicated tea room adjoined to Sichuan Dou Hua restaurant at Parkroyal on Kitchener Road, Tian Fu Tea Room offers more than 30 varieties of premium Chinese tea to go along with its dim sum selection. Two of their Oolong teas are among their most popular roasted tea selections.
One is Wu Yi Da Hong Pao or Red Robe ($16.80 per person or from $70 for 50g tea leaves), a prized tea with a deep roasted flavour and a long finish, grown on the mineral-rich cliffs of Wuyi Mountain, a UNESCO world heritage site. The other is a new addition to their list, Mi Xiang Dan Cong, which has the aroma of honey. Both go well with fried dim sum such as deep-fried potato fritter with minced meat or pan-fried minced meat dumpling with chives.
181 Kitchener Road. Tel: 6428 3170
This roasted herbal tea by Murataen company in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, comprises a blend of 16 herbs and grains including maize, job’s tears (a grain also known as coix seed) soybean, mulberry leaves, persimmon leaves and liquorice.
The flavour of the herbal tea is mildly sweet, yet with a strong flavour and the aroma of nuts roasting on an open fire. It does not contain caffeine and has several health properties. It is high in anti-oxidants, aids digestion, boosts blood circulation and prevents constipation and fatigue. You can find Bannoucha served at some dining establishments like Teppei Japanese restaurant. It is also available at Isetan supermarket and other retail outlets.
Toasted Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate is a South American beverage made from the leaves and stems of the holly plant. In Argentina and other countries in the region, it is traditionally drunk in a mate gourd with a bombilla, or straw filter.
Yerba Mate contains a high level of caffeine— typically higher than tea but lower than coffee. It also has some health properties such as being rich in anti-oxidants, aiding digestion and reducing fatigue. Toasted Yerba Mate tea goes through a roasting process similar to coffee-roasting and emerges with a mellow, toasty flavour.
Available at Adagio Teas online ($10 for 15 pyramid teabags)
If you love teas and all things related to it, check out our story on healthy bubble teas.
This was first published in Wine & Dine’s November 2017 issue – Happy Hour, ‘Trending’