Straying from chronological order (skipping ahead, that is…), we will now take a little mate break to talk about the Gaucho perfumed tea. This is the third one in an ongoing collaborative project between myself and Dawna Ehman, an incredibly knowledgeable woman who has her ways with plants and beauty like no other. Dawna has worked for years with people, plants and plant essences, studying and utilizing both their therapeutic and aesthetic properties. Her connection to nature and her deep understanding of human-plant-environment relationship never ceases to amaze me and I feel blessed and very fortunate to have met her and be able to learn from and work with her.
The concept for the perfumed teas in general was conceived with the launch of Tirzah in June 2007. Later that summer, we sat in a park in Kitsilano after a short walk and I let Dawna smell some of my new creations that I have been working on – among them an earthy sweet vetiver scent, a gardenia soliflore (which turned out to be Gigi which will be launched this spring), and Gaucho – the perfume that I was working on for several years now, and now dreaming up the possibilities of turning it into a perfumed tea with Dawna. All I knew was that it had to be mate based. I was also hoping that the bittersweetness of green will somehow come across it as I was hoping it would in the perfume (I was still struggling at that point though…). I knew Dawna is the only person that will know how…
It wasn’t difficult to decide about launching the perfume and the tea in the spring, for the therapeutic value of the bitter herbs and the ways they work to stimulate the liver after the long winter “hibernation”. The choice of a green, fougere perfume paired with a bitter mate based tea seemed perfect for the beginning of spring and the re-awakening of nature and people.
And yesterday I came face to face with the result. Let me just tell you, by spending 2 hours with Dawna sipping various brews of the Gaucho tea, I’ve learned that the art and science of tea does not begin just in creating the right blend, nor does it end in the tasting. The preparation of the tea itself requires attention to detail, consideration of factors such as the water, its temperature, the temperature of the container used for brewing, the type of herbs or teas brewed, steeping time, the temperature in which the tea is sipped and what to serve it with, to name a few.
The experience of sipping Gaucho was familiar and peculiar at once. It is quite bitter (though not overtly bitter, Dawna took careful care to create a very balanced blend…), and even long after it was sipped, the tea left a sensation in the mouth that was both sweet and tingling. A sensation that is familiar to me from overbrewing lemongrass leaves from my garden back in my home village, and many of the organic tisanes we would brew from fresh herbs in the wild and from our organic gardens.
Of all the perfumed teas it is the most earthy, herbaceous, even medicinal. From all the perfumed teas created for me by Dawna, Gaucho is clearly the most therapeutic one by nature. Just imagine the cleansing your liver gets from drinking this magical herbs… It is, I think, exactly what I need after a winter’s hibernation.
Here are a few tips for how to successfully brew Gaucho to make the most out of it:
1) Use hot water rather than boiled, in order to eliminate some of the bitterness. However, be careful as to not let the water cool too much, this will create a completely “wrong” impression of the tea (emphasizing the spearmint and the lemongrass and making the tea seem too light and almost floral, which was not our intention!).
2) Make sure the teapot is hot. Rinse it with hot water before you add the tea leaves, to make sure the temperatures don’t drop too low as soon as you add the water for steeping.
3) At this point, when you being brewing, you may want to add a pinch (not more!) of green stevia as a sweetener. If you prefer other sweetener such as honey or sugar, add them after steeping. And of course, if you like the bitterness of mate, embrace it unsweetened…
4) Serving suggestion: serve with an apple and rosemary polenta. We couldn’t quite find the recipe to share with you, but the rosemary note will beautifully accompany this perfumed tea. Or any pastry that is not too sweet and has some herbaceous accents…