September 26, 2019

Behind the Brew

Tea goes much further than brewing a great cup. And, with a plethora of varieties, it’s a useful ingredient in food, too. Katie Reynolds-Da Silva explores in more detail

According to Chinese legend, the history of tea can be traced to 2737 BC, when the Emperor Shen Nong, a celebrated ruler and skilled scientist, accidentally discovered this mystic brew. While boiling water in the garden, a leaf from an overhanging wild tea tree drifted into his pot. He was so impressed by the taste that he set about refining his invention and promoting its use. Fast forward a few thousand years and tea is one of the most popular beverages on the planet. More than a humble drink, chefs have discovered that tea, and its plethora of varieties, is a useful ingredient in food too.

What makes a great cup?

Different types of tea require different preparation. So, for example, Black tea and Rooibos are at their best when prepared with water that has just reached boiling point, while Green tea is best when prepared with water that is slightly under boiling point.

Joekels Tea Master, Jonathan Kelsey, whose tongue and taste buds are insured for R5-million and who blends top tea brands including Laager Rooibos and Tetley, is certainly more than qualified to educate us.

“The golden rule when making any tea is don’t use re-boiled water! Also allow the tea to brew for the full indicated amount of time, and only add milk once the teabag has been removed. Warm your teapot or teacup first with hot water to ensure your tea doesn’t cool too fast and that the brew is consistent,” says Jonathan.

Joekels has a well-established relationship with South Africa’s hospitality industry and has partnered with two South African chefs to further the brand. “Lebo and Tebo Ndala are our Laager Rooibos ambassadors. Born and bred in Pretoria, Lebo and Tebo are qualified chefs, foodies, and pop-up restauranteurs who have appeared in television cooking shows and magazine features. They also write their own food blog withlovefromthetwins and are constantly creating innovative and flavourful recipes, often drawing inspiration from our Laager Rooibos and flavoured Rooibos range,” says Candice Sessions, Marketing Manager at Joekels.

“Our business was founded in 1994 by Joe Swart and Jonathan Kelsey – two regular guys who saw an opportunity to make life better for themselves and South Africans through the humble teabag. Jonathan was a trained Tea Taster working for one of the largest tea companies in South Africa and was trained under a Tea Master whose family grew up on Tea Estates in Ceylon, so training was of the highest standard,” says Candice. “And so Joekels Tea Packers was born, with the founding brand Phendula Tips, which literally means “to turn around or change” in Zulu, and with a vision to offer all South Africans top quality tea. Because a great cup of tea should be within everyone’s reach.”

Rooibos – SA’s Super-Leaf

Rooibos has been a staple of South African culture for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It is not a true tea, but a herb. The brew made from the dried Rooibos leaves is, therefore, a herbal infusion (known as a tisane) rather than a tea but is widely known as Rooibos tea.

Rooibos has a distinctive colour, flavour and aroma, which differentiates it from most other teas, and has made it famous and sought-after around the world.

Rooibos enters the big leagues

Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council, says it’s a real coup that the USD103-billion chocolate industry has taken notice of Rooibos, which is a proudly South African product. “As consumers’ taste profiles change and new consumers enter the confection market, new opportunities arise. Today, teens and young adults are using social media to interact with and document everyday life, providing opportunities for chocolate and sweet brands to incorporate multisensory confectionery options that use unexpected textures and flavours. The youth seek experiences over possessions and are always looking for new innovations from brands that they love.

“Equally, health-conscious consumers that are concerned about wellness (and their waistline) are looking for healthier chocolate options, and the chocolate industry has responded by turning to ‘functional foods’ such as Rooibos as a solution.

“Rooibos is rich in health-promoting antioxidants, which help to protect the body against cell damage caused by free radicals. Its naturally sweet taste also makes it an obvious choice for chocolatiers,” she says.

Rooibos Facts:

  • The vibrant amber colour of Rooibos comes from the natural colour that develops during the post-harvest “fermentation” (oxidation) process, brought about by natural enzymes in the plant.
  • Rooibos is a pure and natural product as it contains no colourants, additives or preservatives.
  • Rooibos has no kilojoules.
  • Rooibos is available as plain or flavoured tea, as loose leaves or in tea bags. It is often blended with other herbal teas.
  • Rooibos is graded according to colour, flavour, and cut length.
  • Rooibos ages well and can be stored for long periods without any deterioration in quality, flavour and taste.

Dilmah’s Top 10 Tea Rules

Sri Lankan family tea company Dilmah, founded by Merrill J. Fernando, today the world’s most experienced teamaker, has championed quality, authenticity and variety in tea. Dilmah pioneered the concept of Single Origin Tea in 1988 when the family company went against industry trends to declare its commitment to authenticity. Garden fresh, unblended tea is a hallmark of Dilmah and offers a unique taste of unblended Ceylon Tea packed at source.


Good tea is inexpensive but not cheap. For what it offers, tea is an affordable luxury but choosing good tea needs some care. Tea made in the traditional, artisanal way – called the orthodox method – retains the sophistication that natural soil, and climatic factors induce. Tea packed at source, retaining its freshness and in particular tea that maintains the purity of its origin – single origin, single region or single estate tea – is best.


Connoisseurs store their wines in climate controlled cellars and cigars in humidors. Tea is no different in requiring care in its storage. Tea is hygroscopic, absorbing moisture and similarly odours or fragrance. Protect your tea in an airtight container, and keep it away from moisture, heat, light and odours. Stored in a cool and dry place never warmer than 30 degrees centigrade. For medium term storage, keep your stocks of tea in an airtight foil pouch or ceramic container in the refrigerator.


A cup of tea is 99% water and good water is as important for a good brew as the tea itself. Water that contains high levels of minerals, especially calcium, or magnesium (hard water), water that is chlorinated, briny or desalinated sea water or has been boiled several times is not good enough for brewing tea in. Tea is delicate and the pleasure in fine tea comes from the combination of fragrance, brightness, strength, flavour, body and texture. A contaminant like chlorine, or a poorly washed teapot can affect your enjoyment of good tea as much as using bad water can. If the water is your area is ‘hard’ or mineral rich, contains chlorine, fluoride or other chemicals, in particular calcium, you need a good activated carbon filter. These are commonly available for domestic or professional use.


Re-boiling water is not good at any time as it can deplete dissolved gases and concentrate nitrates, fluoride and other undesirable elements, and for tea that is especially bad.

In a professional environment use a samovar with a good thermostat to minimize re-boiling, whilst at home, use a kettle and fresh water every time.


Brewing is the extraction of the goodness nature has induced in the Black, Oolong, Green or White tea leaves. Using the right amount of tea for the volume of tea you wish to brew is critical, as is the method of brewing. There are several ways of brewing tea with varying sizes of teapot, ratios of tea to water and traditions although the most convenient and efficient is this. Use 2.5g of tea per 220ml water. Using a clean and dry teaspoon, place the 2.5g tea in a clean, odour free and pre-heated teapot. Preheat the teapot and cups by swirling around some hot water in them and pouring it out before brewing. Pour freshly, once boiled water onto the tea leaves using 220ml per 2.5g of tea.

Poor preparation is the most common cause of tea that fails to please.


Green tea has a softer, generally more gentle personality than Black tea and should be brewed in water that is cooled to around 75 degrees, whilst Oolong in water that is around 85 degrees and Black tea in water with temperature of 90-95 degrees. Light and floral high grown Black teas also benefit from lower temperature brewing and could be brewed at 85 degrees.


Once the tea and freshly boiled water are combined, the leaves tend to settle at the bottom of the teapot, reducing the contact between tea leaves and water. Stir to agitate the tea and allow proper extraction. Black tea should be brewed for 3 minutes, stirring when adding water, again a minute later and finally before serving. Oolong and Green Tea could be brewed for 2 minutes.


Once brewing is complete, the tea should be poured into warm teacups and any tea remaining in the teapot decanted to avoid over-brewing. Tea that is over-brewed can develop bitterness. The best temperature at which hot tea should be drunk is around 65 degrees centigrade although that can vary. The tea should not be consumed when too hot and the best temperature is best determined by what is most comfortable for you.


Milk should only be added to a strong brewed black tea. Use warm milk only as cold milk will rapidly cool down the tea, as tea should be always enjoyed hot. We recommend using white sugar and not brown sugar due to its caramelized taste profile. Other enhancements honey, mint leaves, cinnamon, a wedge of lime. Respect the taste profile of the tea: the tea should withstand the enhancements without compromising the taste.


When mixing tea cocktails or cooking with tea, over-brew the tea into an essence. The tea taste, texture or fragrance must be evident in the food or drink. Secondly but just as importantly – respect the tea. Each tea has flavour, strength, texture, fragrance linked to its terroir and the tea that you select should form a part of a harmonious composition of ingredients which, when subjected to cooking or mixing should maintain its identity and be pleasing. Tea can be the basis for the foam in a cocktail, it can add texture when sprinkled over a salad and its uses are limited only by the imagination of the Real Tea Revolutionary.

Why choose Joekels?

Joekels has just launched an extended range of Tetley single-serving envelope and tea products, specially designed with the catering industry in mind. These products join the existing Tetley Premium Blend Tea and the Laager Rooibos envelope and tag products.
Enjoyed in over 40 countries across the globe, Tetley has become a local favourite in recent years, offering South African tea fans a full-bodied tea rich in flavour with 10% more tea in every teabag (compared to other regular teas).  The full Tetley Tea Envelope & Tag Range now includes the following flavours; full-bodied Tetley Premium Blend tea, zesty Tetley Lemon-flavoured Tea, refreshing Tetley Pure Green tea and Tetley Lemon-flavoured Green Tea, and the classic Tetley Earl Grey.

The new Tetley range, along with Laager Rooibos and Joekels’ other brands, is produced at the Joekels factory – a facility which holds the highest global food safety certification and is Halaal and Kosher certified. The machine itself was commissioned from Italy and uses the latest staple-free technology.

The health benefits of Rooibos


Polyphenols are organic chemicals with great antioxidant capabilities (Organic Facts, 2016). The polyphenols in rooibos have anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-mutagenic properties. These phenolic compounds protect the body from free radicals which can cause cancer and heart disease. Several research studies have proved the health benefits of rooibos in fighting heart disease and premature ageing, and in reducing the occurrence of cancer and diabetes (Joubert et al: 2008).

Hypertension and cardiovascular health

Rooibos assists in combatting hypertension by reducing blood pressure in general, and acts as a bronchodilator in relieving respiratory problems. The tea supports the formation of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and reduces the ability of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) to form a layer on the inside of blood vessels (Joubert, Gelderblom & Louw: 2008).

Healthy skin and bones

The antioxidants in rooibos slow down the ageing process and seek out free radicals that damage the skin by making it vulnerable to disease and degeneration (Organic Facts, 2016). Rooibos is also rich in manganese and calcium, which stimulate enzymes needed to build and repair bones (Organic Facts, 2016).


The antioxidant aspalathin in rooibos helps to balance blood sugar levels and improves the absorption of glucose. For diabetics, this health property is beneficial in preventing blood sugar spikes and lows (Joubert et al: 2008). The polyphenol aspalathin, that is uniquely present only in rooibos, helps to balance blood sugar levels and improve the absorption of glucose by the cells of the body, by breaking down insulin resistance in cells. For diabetics, this health attribute is beneficial in preventing blood sugar highs and lows.

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