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Fancy a G & Tea?

Pink grapefruit, bergamot, lemon – they’re flavours you’re familiar with from tea, but these brilliant botanicals are also the key to some of the world’s most beautiful gins. Our tea expert Bethan Thomas recently chatted to Craft Gin Club about why gin and tea make for a deliciously oriGINal combination (sorry – we couldn’t resist).

“Tea leaves and herbs are all used to balance blends, to ensure they aren’t too sweet or floral, but the aim is that the key flavour comes through,” says Bethan. “It’s an experimental mix that works – like many a craft gin.”

Tea Taster Bethan

Bethan grew up in Wales, where tea drinking was the order of every day, but it wasn’t until she was working on a graduate scheme in China that she discovered the true wonder of this incredible leaf.

“I was amazed when I saw the bus drivers in Shanghai drinking whole leaf tea from flasks,” she says, “and builders topping up their leaves with hot water from the tap. I fell in love with it there, and knew I wanted to work in the tea trade.”

So, Bethan sacked in her graduate scheme, and got a job with an independent tea company. “Some of my friends thought I was nuts, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” she says.

Now our resident tea expert, Bethan sources and blends our world-class collection, making sure that every tea we sell meets our exceptional standards of quality. She’s also behind the creative recipes included with our Tea Tasting Club deliveries – so pairing tea with gin comes naturally to her. The two drinks aren’t as different as they might at first appear: in fact, there’s a lot of comparisons to be made between tea tasting and the work of a craft distiller like Mark Marmont, creator of award-winning 58 Gin.

An important botanical used in making 58 Gin is bergamot – the very same botanical that gives our Earl Grey tea its beguiling fragrance and luminous citrus flavour. And, while they echo one another, there’s just enough difference that the comparison is endlessly fascinating.

“An appreciation of the complex mix of botanicals in gin is really well suited to tasting tea,” says Bethan. “Being able to identify multiple layers of flavour is completely translatable.”

From the camomile in Dreamtime to the lavender in Lavender Yerba Mate, the liquorice in Liquorice Twist and the elderflower in Elderflower Earl Grey, the botanical blends in our teas are as complex a construction as those that make up your favourite tipples.

As Bethan explains, “Botanicals come through more strongly than in comparison to most gins, but in a very similar way.”

 

3 Tips for Tasting like a Pro

Want to taste tea like a professional? We always recommend that you find your own favourite way of brewing at home, since no guideline is a substitute for personal taste; but if you want to recreate the experience of a tea expert like Bethan, just follow these three key pieces of advice.

1. Stay scientific

“It’s extremely important to approach tasting scientifically,” says Bethan. “It essentially levels the playing field when comparing teas from different suppliers.”

Make sure that you measure the tea painstakingly (two grams for small leaf and three for large leaf, per person) and ensure that you brew your tea for the correct time: three minutes if you won’t add milk, five if you will. Wait five seconds between adding water to each successive tea, so that every blend has the exact same time to infuse.

2. Be watchful of your water

Never overboil your kettle, and don’t boil water for a second time. “It will affect the flavour of your tea,” Bethan says.

That goes for the temperature of the water, too. Boiling water will ruin the taste of green, white and yellow teas; use water off the boil (80 degrees) to bring out the rich umami qualities of these tender leaves.

“So many people say they don’t like green tea because it’s bitter,” says Bethan, “but it never should be. It’s only bitter if you brew it as if it’s a black tea that you’re going to add milk to.”

3. Slurp, then sip

It may be bad manners at the dinner table, but slurping is a must when you’re trying tea. “Essentially,” Bethan explains, “you’re getting lots of oxygen into your mouth, which helps you to better taste the infusion.”

Just like gin, it’s important that you coat your entire palate, and therefore experience the entirety of the taste sensation. Also like gin, spitting into a bucket is also recommended; drinking too much tea – much like drinking too much gin! – can leave you feeling the wrong kind of funny.

Earl Grey martini

Earl Grey Martini

What better way to explore the similarity between gin and tea than by combining the two? Right on cue, we’ve come up with a rather decadent recipe for an Earl Grey Martini…

Ingredients

50ml gin
1 Earl Grey teabag
25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
25ml sugar syrup (1:1 sugar and water)
1 egg white (optional)

Method

Infuse the teabag in the gin for 10 minutes at room temperature. Combine the tea-infused gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white in a cocktail shaker. Dry-shake without any ice to emulsify the egg. Open and add very cold ice; shake again until cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

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