Most people love a good cup of tea, but the benefits of a cuppa go far beyond refreshment – tea consumption is linked to so many positives for our health.
Starts at 60 chatted with Dilhan C. Fernando, the CEO of Dilmah, the famous Sri Lanka tea company, to find out how to get the best out of tea. It’s no surprise Dilhan knows everything there is to know about tea – his father Merrill J. Fernando founded Dilmah in 1974 (the name is a combo of Dilhan’s and his brother Malik’s names) and made it famous by using amazing baritone singer Kamahl to perform on its advertisements in Australia.
As such, the Dilmah boss has some interesting ideas you may not have already tried.
Tea contains natural antioxidants that are linked to a lower risk of heart disease, dementia, cancer and diabetes, Dilhan says, and reckons drinking five cups of tea a day can reduce stress levels by more than half. But we shouldn’t just be drinking tea, he says, when it can also be used as an innovative ingredient when cooking. “There are several different ways in which tea and food are incredible combinations,” Dilhan says.
Tea can be used in soups, desserts such as panna cotta, and with meat “you can take the tea and make it into a jus” that’s fantastic with grilled steak, he says.
Most people know wine goes well with cheese, but what about tea? If you want to try something different, Dilhan recommends serving tea instead, explaining that, like wine, tea “enhances the flavours in cheese”. He particularly recommends Earl Grey as a great partner for a cheddar-like cheese because it completely resets the palate without dominating the flavour of the cheese.
Tea is also great for improving digestion, he says, explaining that “if you have a rich dessert, [drinking] a cup of tea afterwards takes the fat away [and] helps the body to process sugar”.
But, before you try adding tea to food, mastering the art of making tea is vital – and to true connoisseurs, it’s not as simple as dunking a bag in some boiling water. Dilhan says that first, you must make sure you use good water, such as filtered water, because tap water “can really upset the tea quality”.
He recommends boiling the water just once, explaining that “every time you boil the water it becomes more and more metallic”, so no leaving it in the kettle for convenience! As for stirring, it’s important to stir every half minute if you’re making tea in a pot, he says, because “brewing is the extraction of flavour and natural antioxidants, so if you’re not stirring, the tea is not coming into contact with the water”.
For extra flavour, Dilhan advises adding some honey, mint leaves or fresh ginger, and if you’re up to it, “a shot of gin”.
From what this tea pro says, it’s key that we enjoy tea while we’ve got it, because climate change is a big threat to the tea industry (tea growth is very sensitive to climactic conditions so the wrong weather can hit production hard). But Dilhan says Dilmah, which remains family-owned, makes sure quality and ethics are at the heart of everything it does, including donating 10 per cent of its global gross profit to charity every year.