After trying green tea, Donna Ferenth vouched she’d never touch the stuff again. But it wasn’t until she travelled to China that she realised there was more to tea than teabags.
Starting her own tea business following a life-changing trip to China in 2004, Donna was inspired by the Chinese way of life and wanted to bring a taste of the teas home.
Brewing up her dream business, Donna has spent the past two years establishing Unravel Tea, building its offering from just a few teas to more than 25 single origin teas and 12 herbal infusions.
“I went to China and discovered there was more to life than tea bags,” said Donna.
“Green tea was the real one I was interested in as, to me, it’s so bitter, but when I was over there I was handed cup after of cup of this delicious sweet green tea. I’d never tasted anything like it.
“My cousin was living there at the time and she educated me about ‘real tea’ so to speak. She took me to a Chinese tea shop and showed me all the different flavours and styles of tea there is.”
Developing her online tea business, Donna specialises in offering two different types of exotic teas from China and Taiwan. The two variations of tea include blended herbal infusions and single origin tea leaves.
Creating the herbal blends herself, Donna not only names the products but also hand blends them, giving them their unique and individual recipes and taste.
She said: “The hand-blended herbal infusions are all blended by myself in my kitchen at home in Aberdeen. Most of them are made from herbs and a few of them have tea leaves in them, but they’re mainly made with herbs, hence the name.
“For the herbal teas it’s all my own recipes. There’s been a lot of trial and error, but they’re all my own creations, and I make up the names which can be really fun. The most recent ones I introduced were the two chai teas. I did a lot of trials with them after being asked to make them about a year ago for a customer. It’s taken a long time to develop them but you can’t rush these things.
“It was hard to balance the spices and when I was blending them I wanted to make sure there were different flavour journeys throughout the tea. Your tongue can pick up so many different flavours and I want drinking these teas to truly be an experience and something people take their time with.”
Single origin tea is, however, entirely different as there is only one plant she uses – Camellia Sinensis – for making her teas.
“All the single origin teas come from the one plant,” said Donna.
“The plant is grown in different places, in different soils, and harvested at different times so that’s how you can get different variations of it. The weather can have different effects on them too.
“The best way to kind of describe them is to think about wine and how the different grapes can give a different taste, and different times of the year can mean fuller or lighter flavour. A lot of different factors can influence the final taste.
“I get all the single origin teas straight from their respective countries that they’re grown. China and Taiwan are the two main ones I use and I source all my tea leaves from there.”
Sold in weight, Unravel Tea boasts bags of leaves between 20-60 grams, however, Donna is also happy to provide certain weights if requested.
An advocate for the traditional Chinese gongfu tea brewing ceremony, she insists that taking your time with the tea and taking time out of your day to appreciate the tea is the best way to drink it.
She said: “With Western brewing you tend to have a smaller amount of tea leaves to a larger amount of water. Because the percentages are different you tend to leave them in for a longer period, but in doing so, some of the teas can overpower the lighter notes with the stronger ones.
“When you do the gongfu brewing you have a much higher percentage of tea leaves to water. It’s normally about five grams of tea leaves to 150ml of water. Essentially you end up flash brewing it by leaving it in for 10 to 20 seconds and because of that you’re getting much more of the lighter floral notes coming through. You don’t have these really powerful underlying tastes coming through.
“I sometimes host workshops and educate people about the Chinese tea ceremony and the ritual around it. It’s all about taking your time and appreciating the tea and enjoying it. You take the time out of your day for yourself. It’s like ‘me time’ and self-care at the same time. It’s a great way to destress or centre yourself for the day.”
With popular choices including mint, oolong and white tea, Donna’s best-selling expressions are unsmoked black teas.
“My unsmoked version of Lapsang Souchang is absolutely amazing and is one of my best sellers,” she said.
“It’s so light and it has this fruity note to it and is also quite creamy in texture. I like using it as a way of introducing people to brewing tea as you can still taste the tea as it’s a black tea, but I’ve had people taste it and realise they can just enjoy it as it is.”
Stocked in a variety of local shops, Donna dreams that 2019 will be the year she secures a tea residency at a local cafe.
She said: “I do a lot of local markets like Ballater, and I’m planning on doing Thistle Street Market next year too. I’m stocked in a couple of shops: I’m in a coffee shop in Kemnay, Roaring Stag coffee roasters in Ballater, Tangletree Studio in Aboyne and in Hammerton Store in Aberdeen. You can also buy it online directly from the website.
“I would love to be able to sell my teas to a cafe – that’s the main goal for me for 2019. I’ve also got a lot of exciting new teas in the making just now and there’s some incredible flavours incoming and I think there will be a lot of newbies that people will love.”
To find out more click here.
- White teas | 85-95°C for 5 seconds, at least 4 infusions
- Green tea | 80-90°C for 12 seconds, at least 5 infusions
- Oolong strip | 90-95°C for 10 seconds, at least 5 infusions
- Oolong rolled | 90-95°C for 15 seconds, at least 7 infusions
- Black tea | 90-95°C for 10 seconds, at least 5 infusions
- Puerh tea | 95°C for 10 seconds, at least 8 infusions
- Herbal tea/tisane | 100°C for 30 seconds, all herbs are different so experiment
The most common style of brewing tea in today’s western society.
A general rule of thumb for this method is 1 or 2 heaped teaspoons of leaf per cup (300ml). Due to the size of the tea leaves you will find here, the guidelines on individual teas are by weight.
- White tea | 85-90°C for 2 minutes, at least 2 infusions
- Green tea | 80-90°C for 1.5 minutes, at least 2 infusions
- Oolong strip | 90-95°C for 1.5 minutes, at least 3 infusions
- Oolong rolled | 90-95°C for 2 minutes, at least 4 infusions
- Black tea | 95-100°C for 1.5 minutes, at least 3 infusions
- Herbal tea/tisane | 100°C for 6 to 10 minutes, normally just the one infusion
Always check the recommended guidelines for your tea.