Tea can be fun. Really.

Dilmah Tea’s Mr. Fernando slurping tea

IN THESE troubling times, one reaches for a cup of tea almost as a reflex, the calming drink an effort to protect one from the dangers outside. Tea is often regarded as a serious drink, fit for reminiscing or for meditating. But an online talk from the Dilmah School of Tea last month showed us that tea can be fun.

First of all, pleasure from tea can be derived by dropping some of the niceties. Dilhan Fernando, son of Dilmah Tea founder Merril J. Fernando, and current CEO of Dilmah, picked up a glass, and said, “When you taste, you’ve got to slurp,” he said, gamely doing so. “It’s only when you slurp that you’re going to get the texture, the aromas; because you’re tasting with your brain, as well as your palate.

“We’re all very polite. We sip, and that’s lovely. You’re getting the four true [tastes], plus umami; the fifth,” he noted. “But then, you’re not really getting the resolution. It’s only when you’re a little bit rude,” and here he slurped again, “that’s how you get the rest of it.”

While Dilmah of course has an expertise in tea in the strictest sense — the drink brewed from camellia sinensis — the company also has a line of herbal teas (called tisanes or infusions in some circles). These are based on Sri Lankan Ayurvedic traditions, which is why they have herbal teas like cinnamon (according to Mr. Fernando, it works to protect against type-1 diabetes), moringa, peppermint, ginger, and chamomile.

“Tea is incredible. The antioxidants in tea protect us from pollution… and so many other things,” said Mr. Fernando.

Peter Kuruvita, an Australian chef and TV personality, was a guest on the webinar, where he demonstrated how to make a gazpacho using Dilmah’s Tangerine, Rose, and Grapefruit infusion — watermelons, cucumbers, and tomatoes went into a blender, followed by some of the tea.

Meanwhile, flair bartender Tomek Malek demonstrated how to make a Dilmah Melon Sour, a mocktail made with cantaloupe and green rooibos tea (which Mr. Fernando says has antiviral properties). An alternate version of the recipe flashed onscreen said that Dilmah’s Lemongrass and Spearmint infusion works just as well.

While this might sound a little less staid and more dryly health-conscious, tea can be fun too. Really.

Kicking off from questions about alcohol additions to the healthy mocktail (particularly one about Mr. Fernando’s fondness for the Old-fashioned), Mr. Malek said, “I was waiting for this question.” According to him, stronger black teas can be paired with barrel-aged spirits (your whiskeys and the like), while vodka and gin would go with lighter-spirited teas (think green, or white; or the aforementioned herbal infusions). It really depends on the effect you’re going for: the barrel-aged spirits would bring out the boldness of the tea; while the gin and the vodka (which can be used for the Dilmah Melon Sour) would bring out the more floral aspects of it.

“It’s difficult to have one rule,” he said.

The Dilmah Tea webinar series is ongoing, with one slated on Thursday about “Brews for Every Mood and Occasion.” One can catch this and all the other Dilmah School of Tea webinars at facebook.com/SchoolofTea/. One can also go to schooloftea.org for some tea basics (such as material on brewing the perfect cup of tea).

Dilmah Tea is available in the Philippines at most major supermarkets, but also at shopee.ph/dilmahteaonlineshop. — J.L. Garcia