Hello, and welcome to the TeaGRAM podcast, the fortnightly podcast from Rujani Tea. I am Boroon Mahanta. Join me as I host folks from all over the world for conversations around our favourite beverage is the catalog is your tea steeping. Perfect. Let's get started. Second episode, I'm speaking with Daniella Tituin. Daniella is a certified tea sommelier, by the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada.

She's a blogger at Tea Cachai. She's lived in five different countries and has a background in business and fashion. Her love for tea has inspired her to share this passion with others through her blog and social media. She focuses on creating wonderful recipes, using tea as an ingredient. Hey Danny, thank you for joining us on our new podcast. How are you and what are you drinking today? 

Daniela: Hi Boroon, How are you? Thank you for having me today. And, what am I having today? I am having a Da Hong Pao oolong. It's actually one of my favourites. The weather is getting nicer here, but it's still quite cold. And that's what I tend to go to … when it's cold, I tend to go towards more black teas and dark oolongs. So it's perfect for today. It's quite nice, but it's kind of chilly still. So that's kinda my, go-to area with the weather. 

Boroon: Wow. That's that sounds excellent. Just right for the weather. We're heading into winter as we speak. Uh, it's getting colder, more heading into autumn right now getting colder. So we are also choosing black teas and dark teas, so that's excellent.

I'm so looking forward to speaking with you about your interest in all things tea. And I want to just start by asking how you got started with your a keen interest in tea and in creating recipes, using tea, especially. 

Daniela: Oh, okay. So, I'm originally from Chile and, South America wasn't really huge on tea although Chile had always, always like a big kind of tea … I'm not going to say culture because what we had was, you know, I'm going to say kind of regular mass market, black tea bags, which was very traditional. You had TV ads on that. So people kind of gravitated towards that tea and that was the only thing that we had accessible over there. So I grew up drinking that. I was never a coffee person and actually, you know, I really like tea, but at some point I thought it was limiting. Like I was drinking the same thing over and over. And I remember once, somebody introduced me to green tea and the first green tea that I tried was a tea bag. And now I can tell that it was like the dust of the dust of the dust and it was so bitter. And I remember loving it, because it was different. And I was like, Oh my God, there's a world out there. There are more things out there. So I started exploring on my own, Fortunately, I was able to travel and everywhere I went, I would search and, you know, buy different teas and things that I didn't have access where I lived.

So that was me exploring. And, at some point the, I always say that the passion became like an addiction and a way of living, not an addiction in a bad way, right. But it was like a way of living. And it was so much, the passion for tea that I, I, at some point I said, I need to go deeper and I need to learn more about it because I love it so much. So then I, , enrolled in a tea sommelier course to get certified and learned a lot more. And that's when I started exploring with tea and different uses for tea as well. 

During the program, there was one of the modules that was, I believe food and tea pairing. So they spoke mostly and they taught mostly about pairings, right? Tea and cheese, tea and chocolate, tea and other things. And I think they kind of barely touched on the fact that you could always use it for cooking and baking. And I was like, Oh my goodness. This totally opened my eyes, and I wanted to go for it. And then I started trying different things. I started like making some rice with tea instead of water. I didn't find any flavour in the first trial that I did. So I was like, okay, maybe I'm not doing it right. Or what's the big deal with this thing. 

You kind of start looking, learning by practicing and by doing different things. And now I find a recipe and I say, how can I tea-ify this? I'm thinking about adding tea every single time to every single recipe that I find. That's creating recipes and drinking tea. 

Boroon: That's quite a journey for you. We are fortunate that you chanced on that dust of the dust or the dust green tea.

What's your, what's your advice to anyone who's starting out on this journey? Any thumb rules or words of advice in creating recipes and, beverages. 

Daniela: If somebody's starting in tea in general, a lot of people would recommend different ways, with books and different educational resources. I would say along with that the best way to learn about teas by trying different types of tea. I've asked the same question to other people that I've personally interviewed and everybody has like a different perspective or a different recommendation on where to start with tea.

I personally think that at least the way I started learning most about tea was by trying different tea. That kind of, to me, that's the best way to learn. And also if you want to experiment with beverages and recipes and so on, once you try those different teas, you'll also try them the way that it works for you to brew them. Somebody might like green tea really strong and they might want to over steep. And so that's kind of the base of where to start creating your recipes. You have to kind of know your teas so that you kind of know the flavours and what they work well with.

Once I remember I said, I'm going to pair kiwi with something and see how that goes. And then I grabbed, I think, like a green tea. I was like I can’t,  I just can’t. That is part of the learning as well, making mistakes. Once you get to know those flavours better, you know …how dark oolong tastes and dark oolong from this specific region in China. So you get very specific in knowing your tastes. And then once you have that kind of big menu in your hand, you kind of know what they taste and what you can match them with. For example, now, if somebody tells me a type of food or a type of flavour, I can say, that will go really well with this and this and that.

So I would say that the way to start would be to experiment and try as many teas as you can from different types, different regions, different varieties, and so on. And then once you learned that, you'll kind of get deeper into being able to match flavours and compliment and so on. 

Boroon: Growing up in Assam, we were used to just drinking tea fresh out of the factory.

Now having experienced teas from the rest of the world, I can understand where it comes from, the fact that you really need to experience the different varieties before you can narrow down on choices and how you mix them.

Daniela: I posted on my blog recently about different black teas from different regions. And that's interesting because people might assume like, Oh, black tea, you know, like, Ooh, red wine there, you know, there's red wine, but no, there's like different types of red wines and you can go deeper and deeper.

And there are so many nuances and regions and flavours and different, you know, notes, same goes with like tea, black tea from China is completely different from, I don't know, a black tea from their dealing, you know, it's like completely different. So that's, that's really interesting. 

Boroon: Do you use Assam teas in your recipes?

Daniela: So, I like the boldness and the strength of Assam tea. When I'm doing something that I want the black tea flavour to be very pronounced, I would usually reach out for an Assam tea, specifically black teas. So for example, if I want to make a black tea cake, I probably use Assam tea because I know that it has like the strength and the boldness that I need to add a flavour and not get diluted or lost in the way.

If I'm creating some sort of masala chai version or something like that, I will usually use Assam as the base because of its strength as well. 

Boroon: What are you  currently doing in your journey with mixing tea and making recipes?

Daniela: I love creating recipes and as I told you, I kind of tea-ify a lot of things. And once you know the basic principles of using tea within your recipes, one is the desire, strength that you need, or the way to apply tea to your preparations … The main thing about tea is that you can consider it as an ingredient that adds flavour without the calorie.

So that's why I usually say, with mixology and with baking, or if you're cooking or whatever tea will give you it's like a flavouring, but it doesn't have the calories. And it just has that flavour that will add. And I guess once you kind of know how to add it to specifically recipes and food preparation you think, how can I add it and incorporate in how will it look with certain different types of food? So I'm always experimenting. I love desserts and sweets, so I will mostly use tea for those kinds of things. Although I also like to experiment with savoury and in terms of mixology, I find it fascinating. I really love that because I think as a whole world that can also go really, really deep. 

The thing about mixology is I'm not very knowledgeable with spirits and with alcohol. A year ago or before COVID when I was able to travel, I went back home and met with a top mixologist in Chile. He's certified as a tea sommelier as well. He's very knowledgeable in tea and botanicals. I wanted somebody that knew a lot about spirits and alcohol and could combine it properly with tea. I took like a class with him and he was teaching me the principles of how to create cocktails and mocktails and how to incorporate tea with different types of alcohol.

He was teaching me more on the spirits side. Of course, the part of how to incorporate the tea, I would know, but it's a different world that I'm trying to explore. And I think it's really, really interesting. I see a lot of people that are not drinking alcohol, that it's kind of growing and a lot of people are going towards mocktails and they're also several … I don't know how to call them … spirits that are non-alcoholic as well. I think that’s going to grow and tea is going to be a huge part of that because of the flavour that it adds without the calories or the heaviness. It's an amazing ingredient to add to cocktails. In cocktails we were looking for the complexity for depth and notes and stuff like that. And tea is a great compliment for that. 

Boroon: Where does tea fit in? I know you use tea for your recipes and you are doing mixilogy. But in your day-to-day lives, where does tea fit in? 

Daniela: It’s like, where do I kind of place myself with tea? Because I'm drowning in tea all day.

Tea is like my ground, it's like everything. I mean, I wake up and the first thing that I'll have is a latte, some sort of latte. I experiment a lot with lattes. So that is my first drink. It will be some sort of latte then, I'll have breakfast and then mid morning I will sit down now that we're home a lot, you know, I will sit down and do like gong fu session with some sort of tea. After lunch, another one and then mid afternoon, I'll have probably one herbal. And then before bed, I have my night time herbal. So I'm drinking tea all day. 

I've asked this question to other people, like how many cups of tea do you drink? I think I have to measure it in water. I don't know how much water I'm spending in tea. So if I say something like two and a half litres maybe. I would measure it in water because I know the water that I'm adding to, uh, the kettle that, , you know, then drinking it in my Taiwan and or a mug or afterwards.

Boroon: Do you have chai lattes and do you think there's a difference between chai and a chai latte. How similar are they to each other or how different are they to each other?

Daniella: I love my masala chai. I love trying different blends. I love making my own blends as well. It's probably the first kind of latte I've ever had. If you ask how different and how similar, obviously they have the same ingredients, right? They will have a black tea base and a blend that will usually have ginger cardamom, cinnamon, cloves … or it can go from anything to around those areas and people add fennel or I don't know, infinite amount of ingredients. 

Usually the traditional masala chai is prepared in the stove top and that's like the traditional way. And I really like also quote unquote the ceremony part of it. I love the ceremonial side of it.

Same with chai. But there's also like the newer Western quick version to make a latte, which is you just steep a black tea and then froth the milk and just put it on top. That's quick and easy. So I think it depends on what you want to do, where you want to go. I do both ways.

Sometimes I love the ceremony of boiling the tea in the stove top, adding the water, boiling, the milk, lowering the fire, and then, you know, up and down, it's a whole kind of ceremonial and mindful experience in my perception, which I really like. And sometimes you're like, you know what, I want to get it really quickly done.

And then the only difference it will be that the time you take to make it. And then the last day we'll have the froth milk on top. Or I also know some people who will make it in the stove top and then froth milk, extra milk, and then put it on top. So basically that's it, it's your approach on how to make it.

Boroon: For us, chai is so inherent in the Indian tea, world, but at the same time in all the old loose-leaf brewing tea without anything else, having it straight up is what we profess. It’s the same area, same tea but such a different way of making tea … it’s so interesting. That's what that, that's what keeps me learning. And this is just India, right? I've got so much more to learn from it. 

Daniella: Yeah. And also a lot of brands are doing their chai concentrates. That's even easier. You throw in the concentrate and then throw in the milk and that's it. It's an oversimplification because it's getting so, so, so popular outside of India as well. And people want the practicality of it, they want the flavour. So that's, another approach, not necessarily my preferred one, but it's another one. 

Boroon: Absolutely. I mean it's to their own. Taking the time to brew the tea, the way you mentioned the traditional way, it gives you the opportunity of actually enjoying the ceremony yourself, or sharing it with somebody who is new to tea, or is a friend or a family member versus, having a concentrate that you can just chuck in and have hot milk on top of it and not it's on the go. 

Daniela: That's why most of the time, I will never have it outside my house, because if you go to a cafe or anywhere like that, they'll have the concentrate. And if that's the case I am making much better chai at home. 

Boroon: Any final, final words for our listeners? 

Daniela: Thank you for having me. And I want to invite people to try different teas. If somebody is interested in tea, the best way to get into tea is try as many different teas as you can. If you want to learn more about incorporating team, your recipes, , just experiment, make mistakes, try again. And that is the best way of learning. 

Try as many teas as you can, and try and experiment as much as you can as well.