In the nanosecond world of this day and age, it’s a beautiful thing to sit back and just smell the roses. It’s also a beautiful thing that this aroma can be wafting from a warm cup you’re holding in your hands. Take a sip and travel back to a time more simple, where the air was fresh and our food was real. I recently caught up with Peter Kuruvita, ambassador for Dilmah Tea, to share his approach to tea gastronomy and the meaning of life.
As time goes by, the value of tea has become less important, a notion that Dilmah is on a mission to change. Peter talks about how their tea is made with passion in mind, not commodification, where each tea leaf goes through a strenuous level of quality management and old fashioned love. To provide a bit of a picture, the only leaves deemed of the proper standard are the two leaves around the bud, which are handpicked and placed into handmade bags for further production. Like wine, the elevation of the tea leaves define the final taste; the lower the more robust, and the higher the lighter. And, again like wine, it must be enjoyed a certain way.
The average person in the world brews their tea leaves for a mere 32 seconds. This simply does not do the tea leaves justice, as proper leaves actually take 2-5 minutes to emit the right flavours! Peter urges that those few minutes of tea brewing are a time where you can step out of the daily buzz into some ‘R and R’. Don’t check your phone, don’t act in the millisecond, just simply connect to your roots and the truly important things in life.
Peter kindly showed me the ways of the tea through a selection of flavours inspired by the spirit of tea gastronomy, starting with Fragrant Jasmine Green Tea. He opened up the tea packet to show me the real ingredients of leaves with specks of white-yellow jasmine. This is very light with hints of jasmine coming through, a taste achieved from steaming the leaves at the right time, as decided by the resident tea-timer in Sri Lanka. As each time varies according to each batch of tea leaves, this is a task that cannot be substituted by a machine.
The following teas were complemented with sweet bites from the Real High Tea Tasting Platter that Peter created from tea infusions. From front to back, these were the: Rose and French Vanilla Turkish Delight, Earl Grey infused Chocolate Truffle, and the White Chocolate and Spiced Chai Fudge.
We started with the Rose and French Vanilla Turkish Delight, which was infused with the tea, coated with candy sugar, and dipped in chocolate. The initial taste of chocolate combines with the rose and vanilla for a flavour combination that is the right amounts of chocolate and tea. Now this tea is what inspired the beginning paragraph of this post; there were roses RIGHT next to us, but the scent instead came wafting from my cup of Rose and French Vanilla Tea, where the rose flavour was complemented by the soft taste of vanilla, a taste that’s a bit bolder than the green tea.
The White Chocolate and Spiced Chai Fudge has just enough sweet and spice balance that completely melts in your mouth. This flavour takes Peter back to Sri Lanka where he would get tea from the chai-wallas on the street. Although generally tea should be enjoyed in its pure form, Peter urges that the Ceylon Spiced Chai tastes beautiful with a bit of condensed milk. I was hesitant to try this, since I don’t usually like chai, but this cup of spices is just that, it feels fresh and natural with a quiet flavour that slowly builds in your mouth. If you never try, you never know – and I’m glad I did!
We had the most fun eating the Earl Grey Infused Chocolate Truffle which literally pops in your mouth! This is courtesy of the popping candy Peter has used inside the filling; fun to cook and fun to eat! The truffle is crunchy on the outside, and once bitten into, you reach the beautifully soft, silky centre that melts and explodes at the same time. The sprinkle of tea leaves on top are a gentle reminder to wait for the tea sensation that lingers after the sweetness fades. As for the Earl Grey, the full smoky bergamot orange flavour is attained from using authentic bergamot oranges.
Peter also shared his experiences from his food exploration of Mexico documented on SBS One’s Mexican Fiesta currently airing every Thursday night at 7:30pm. He stresses that you really have to go to the country to know the county – and that Mexico is not all gangsters and drugs! What really stood out to him was the huge culture surrounding family and food. A tip he gave is that when visiting a country, go to the rural areas to really immerse yourself in undiluted culture and get the full experience. For Peter, the cultural experience is really about interacting with the locals at the heart of the country – not with tourists at the typical destinations.
Stay tuned for more tea-infused discoveries at the Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge which will journey across 22 countries around the world leading up to the Global Real High Tea Challenge in mid-2015 in Sri Lanka, where the national winners from around the world will compete for the ultimate Real Tea title! The focus is on bringing back the spirit of innovation and culinary respect for tea that has shaped and will continue to shape gastronomic culture into the 21st century.
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Dilmah