Tea. It is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. It can also be produced just about anywhere around the world as well. People have even made a career out of this popular product one such person is Linda Gaylard. Originally a wardrobe stylist, Gaylard studied and became a tea sommelier and tea stylist. Gaylard has written a book called The Tea Book where Gaylard guides readers through the vast world of tea. She explains how tea is produced from plant to cup, as well as the many varieties of tea and how it is used around the world.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Linda Gaylard. Gaylard is not only the author of The Tea Book, but she is also a certified Teas Stylist.
Here are some of the questions I asked her about herself and her interest in all things tea.
1. What is a tea stylist and how did you fall into this career?
Before I became a tea sommelier I was a wardrobe stylist for many years. I wanted to apply the creative side of my former career to the work I would be doing in the tea world and decided on “The Tea Stylist”. I teach and write about tea and I am also interested in the social history of tea, where style and tea have intersected for centuries. On my site, http://theteastylist.com/, there is much to report in the way of industry insights, social history, innovations in tea ware and tea preparation. As a tea sommelier, I have knowledge of tea’s growing regions and history and flavour profiles of tea to help clients and students better understand the nature of the beverage. I also advise on tea and food pairing.
I came to this career 6 years ago through the tea sommelier program at George Brown College, culinary arts faculty. The course had 8 units and it took one year to complete, but learning goes on, as tea is a vast field of knowledge to be explored!
2. Where was the most exotic place you have traveled along your tea journeys?
I’ve been to South Korean tea regions, several provinces in China and to Hong Kong. I’ve visited some rustic tea operations and tasted lovely artisan teas. As far as exotic goes, you may be surprised that I have picked a city! The city of Hangzhou, in Zhejiang province China, is exotic and cosmopolitan with beauty and culture always within reach. Zhejiang province is one of the southern coastal provinces of China and the city of Hangzhou is a powerhouse economically but it also has a strong connection to the past. It was one of the major centres of the silk trade and has a silk museum and silk market. The tea market in Hangzhou has shops with wall-to-wall tea ware and beautiful teas from the surrounding area. Hangzhou is also home to West Lake, an ancient partially man-made lake that has been a cultural icon for over a thousand years. The hills surrounding it in Long Jing village grow a famous green tea (Dragon Well) picked in early spring and tasting of fresh green shoots and roasted chestnuts.
3. What are some of the best teas to maintain health and wellness?
All types of true tea (Camellia Sinensis) have many healthful properties. Green and white tea, since it is picked from young leaves and in some cases, leaf buds, tends to have the most health benefits. As the plant awakens from winter dormancy it sends juices containing protective and stimulating compounds that help the young bud/leaf survive it’s first few days/weeks of growth. Tea contains polyphenols, amino acids, catechins, and much more. Tea can strengthen bones, help with oral health, support cardio vascular health and promote a calm alertness.
Tisanes or herbal infusions, which are not technically “tea”, have been used since ancient times to help relieve or prevent a variety of complaints. The tea book has a chapter on Tisanes and a Wellness Wheel to help you match ailments with the herbal tisanes that could help to alleviate them.
4. Which teas would you suggest would be best to serve this summer?
I would recommend trying a cold infusion method for summer refreshment. Any tea can be cold-infused. Simply put dry tea leaves (a slightly higher ratio than you’d put into a teapot) into a jug of cool water, stir, cover and place in the fridge for 4-6 hours. Fruit can be added if desired. Test from time to time to see if it is ready according to your palate. It is a really easy way to prepare this refreshing cool beverage and perfect for those who don’t care for ice in their tea. Hot tea is also considered to be a “cooling” beverage in Chinese medicine. I drink hot tea all the time on the warmest of days and find that it is very refreshing. The important thing is to stay hydrated and there is much research that supports tea as a hydrating beverage.
5. Which tea would you say is your favourite tea to drink and why?
For me it really comes down to taste. I know that tea is healthy and that’s great, so I can concentrate on enjoying the tea for its aroma and flavour. The more I know about a tea – it’s history, terroir (where it is grown, climate, soil, elevation, etc.) the more enjoyment I derive from it. I love green tea and I’m lucky to have some stellar choices in my tea chest. Green tea doesn’t keep long though – it’s best in the first few months and starts to deteriorate after that, but if stored well, it can still be enjoyed for almost a year. It’s the fleeting nature of green tea that attracts me to it. Some mornings I drink it and I taste spring and sunshine. That’s a great way to start the day! My favourites change from month to month, but one favourite green tea is Anji Bai Cha, a leaf bud tea from China. My other favourite is Darjeeling, a black tea from north India. Each plucking season (called a “flush”) has it’s own unique characteristics.
I must thank Linda Gaylard for taking the time out of her day for this interview, as well as DK Canada for arranging it. I learned so much more about tea and about Linda Gaylard after this interview. The Tea Book is published by DK Canada, and is a part of their popular Food & Drink Boutique! I am so pleased that I picked up this book as there is so much to take in and learn from it!