Silver Tea Leaf
BY ANAAM IKRAM
For centuries we have been reading about the benefits of drinking tea. From its antioxidant properties, to aiding in weight-loss, tea has many attributes.
From culture to culture, tea is consumed in different ways.
In countries such as Pakistan and India, milk is added and it is popularly known as “chai”. In the Arab world, the tradition of drinking red tea (with either lemon or honey) is commonly practiced and has been for many years. Whether it’s the ever popular “karak chai” or a warm, soothing cup of green tea, the tradition – and somewhat rising trend – of consuming this beverage is found across the globe. From Chinese to Moroccan, the variety of tea ranges as does its uses and preparation methods. For some, tea is a way of life, for others its a drink to have at the end of the day to help them wind down.
For one young Bahraini, the love and passion for tea goes deeper than just having the perfect cup of tea, but holds to equal importance to how it is prepared. The Middle East’s first Tea Specialist, Anfal Fekri, sat down with Perle Magazine to share exactly how that is done.
It started off as mere curiosity, but Anfal soon realised that having a cup of tea that would taste as good at the last sip as it did on the first is not the only thing that matters. The sensation that also filled her up while having tea led to her doing extensive research and eventually starting her own tea-preparation training company, Silver Tea Leaf – named after her favourite tea.
Tea had been an integral part of her upbringing so Anfal said that her exposure to tea had been from the very start. Whether she was visiting family or seeing her friends, tea was always present. Growing up, her decision to get healthier also resulted in her incorporating tea into her daily diet. This was only the beginning to her growing passion for tea. Experimenting with different flavours and preparation techniques not only further sparked her curiosity but made her fall in love with the soothing beverage even more.
The decision to take lessons about how to prepare the perfect cup and then start her own company came from the want to have the best tasting tea at all times and not being able to find it. Initially wanting an to have an online shop that sold tea, Anfal searched Bahrain and the GCC for places that would offer her courses where she could learn more about the beverage. With no such luck, she travelled to the United States of America and got her certification, making her the first Tea Specialist in the Middle East. She said, now many places in Bahrain have become more trained in preparing a good cup of tea, that wasn’t always the case. “Maybe the first cup would taste nice, but the second would taste horrible, so I thought to myself why would I pay for something out which I do not get an enjoyable experience?” she said.
Though she specialises in brewing the perfect cup, Anfal clarified that she does not actually sell tea. Using her expertise, her team caters to the hospitality industry to help them improve their tea services. Silver Tea Leaf offers workshops which train everybody involved in the preparation of tea. This, she said, results in a sufficient increase in their knowledge of tea preparation as well as boosts their confidence. Anfal said she understood that everyone has a different way of learning, so along with educating about tea in her workshops, she is also integrating different learning methods that help anyone who attends. Their first workshop was held at the Ritz Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa, where the staff was taught how to properly brew and serve tea. This is an art and a skill that not many people have, and understandably her workshop received very positive feedback.
Workshops are not only limited to training on a corporate level, but are also offered to individuals who are tea enthusiasts or just want to learn the right way to make the best cup of tea.
Carried out unlike any other session, the aptly named workshop ‘The Art of Tasting Tea’ not only educates the attendees about the basics of tea, but also, for one of the two tasting rounds, the participants have to be blindfolded. “We do that intentionally because our eyes get to judge before we even taste. And it is very interesting to see how people identify aromas and flavours of tea” Anfal said. In the second round the blindfolds are removed and the same tea is served, so they can compare the before/after tastes and identify any flavours or aromas they had not experienced before. It may seem unlikely, but there are people who do experience different tastes each times.
Although it is common to overlook simple details such as the material of the cup the tea is served in, Anfal said it does make a difference. Some kind of teas, she said, tastes much better in a ceramic or iron cast cup whereas others taste better in a glass cup.
From Korea to Japan, the workshops also allow the attendees to taste a variety of teas that they may not have the chance to try otherwise, all in one sitting. The workshops educate attendees on every level to make sure they have a deep understanding of not only the different varieties of tea, but also how each one can be brewed and how many times – some teas can be brewed using the same leaves more than once whereas others cannot.
Though in the future, Anfal said, she hopes to sell her own tea through Silver Tea Leaf, she first wants to teach people how to not only make the tea the right way but also how to learn to appreciate it. Her extensive research to find out the different taste profiles of people in Bahrain led her to the conclusion that everyone has different preferences of how they like their tea. That research has also helped her develop effective strategies to offer during their workshops. Since everyone has a different taste palette, it would be ineffective to try and cater to everyone’s needs, Anfal said, therefore they propose solutions which enhance the quality of the tea being served.
“I don’t think there will be any tea that will compete” Anfal said, going back to discussing her personal favourite, silver tea leaf. Originally from China, the tea is made of small buds and has to be handled very delicately. It is a variety that goes through the least manufacturing process, rather it endures a heavy weathering process, meaning it is mainly dried and then able to be used for tea. “It gives me a very beautiful feeling. It enhances my mood!” she said.
The abundance of flavours, methods, varieties and benefits make drinking tea a leisurely experience. Whether it is for elevating your mood, an accompaniment at a social gathering or part of your daily routine, there is no right or wrong time to have a cup of tea and as Anfal Fekri believes, “a cup of tea can change the world.”
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