From the Orient to the West, Saicho Sparkling Non-Alcoholic Tea has arrived in the UK courtesy of the husband and wife founders of the brand. Inspired by an ancient drink drunk by Buddhist Monks to enhance their meditation, Saicho brings you a refreshing cold brew sparkling tea that is ideal for pairing with meals.
At Christmas, it is traditional to celebrate with an alcoholic drink or two, and quite often, people turn to Champagne. This year, you can add plenty of sparkle to your celebrations without the negative impacts usually caused by alcohol by imbibing Sparkling Tea from Saicho.
Charlie and Natalie, the two founders, have always had a passion for food and drink, but because Natalie can not drink alcohol, she could never fully enjoy the food and wine pairing that her husband did.
Following a meal at an upmarket restaurant where the soft drink options were woeful, the two thought there must be a non-alcoholic drink that could be discussed with the same passion for wine and the food it accompanies.
Natalie is from Hong Kong and grew up drinking tea with food, so she knew it could create the perfect pairing. With tea, it matters at what point of the year it’s harvested, the region it’s grown, its oxidation level and the specific weather conditions of that particular season.
Accordingly, you get a massive variety of flavours from floral to fruity, nutty to smoky, candied to umami – depending on the type, terroir and production method.
Excited by this moment of inspiration, Charlie and Natalie enthusiastically threw themselves into the painstaking, two-year process of sampling and experimentation. Having tested hundreds of different teas worldwide, they eventually settled on their first three teas.
Cold brewing tea gives you a different taste compared to hot brewing. It’s far more delicate, with better-balanced astringency and enhanced aromatics, creating a more complex flavour profile and mouthfeel which pairs perfectly with food.
Saicho uses single-origin tea, hand-picking the exact varietal, time of harvest, location, altitude, terroir, and processing methods. There is simplicity and purity in using single-origin tea.
The individual tea is cold brewed for 24 hours to extract the most complex and delicate flavours. The teas are then finely balanced with a hint of sweetness and acidity. The finishing touch is sparkling the drink, which enhances the flavour of the tea.
Saicho Sparkling Tea Mini collection gift set
The Mini collection, containing a 200ml bottle of each Saicho tea, is presented in a beautiful box and is the perfect taster pack and ideal gift for this Christmas. Perfect for those who cannot or don’t want to drink alcohol, Saicho’s products are fantastic for celebrating, unwinding, socialising, indulging or pairing with food.
The gift box includes:
- Darjeeling – The black tea is grown in the foothills of the Himalayas in Darjeeling, India, and harvested in summer to develop its unique Darjeeling muscatel flavour. The tea has mandarin, ginger, wood spice notes, and gentle, dry tannins. It pairs perfectly with rich pasta dishes or grilled meats.
- Hojicha – Originating in Kyoto in the 1920s to utilise leftover leaves, stalks, stems and twigs, Hojicha is a roasted green tea from Japan. The tea has a deep umami character with notes of nori seaweed, roasted hazelnut and delicate smoke, with dry and woody tannins.
It pairs well with mushroom risotto or sushi.
- Jasmine – Scented with jasmine blossoms, this green tea is from Fuding, in Fujian province, China. It has a delicate floral aroma and notes of apple sherbet, lychee and vanilla, making it a refreshing aperitif.
To help you choose which sparkling tea to drink with a meal, Matteo Montone, Wine Director at Berners Tavern, has some suggestions:
Darjeeling has aromas of golden apple skin, ripe yellow plums and blonde tobacco. On the palate, it has a fine mousse with good texture, tannins and a fruity finish. Ideal with seabass ceviche with avocado, tomatoes and ginger sauce. The tannins and the bubbles cut through the oiliness while cleansing the palate.
Hojicha has aromas of orange zest, roasted hazelnut, smoke and mushroom. It is rich and full-bodied, with a round texture and a slightly bitter aftertaste. Perfect to match with a roasted duck served with mushroom puree. The tea’s aroma profile naturally complements the character of the dish.
Jasmine has a pronounced floral character with rose petals, a creamy texture, and a refreshing, spicy finish. It reminds me of the texture of a Kabinett Riesling but with bubbles. I would match it with poached lobster served with a lemon verbena reduction.
The acidity and bubbles of the tea cut nicely through the sweet meat of the lobster.
Saicho, a Japanese citizen, had been on a long retreat at a Buddhist temple in Tang, China.
He returned to his homeland in 805 AD, taking the knowledge of a strange and exotic drink that the Chinese monks would use to prolong and enhance their lengthy meditation sessions. He also had the secret of the source of this mysterious drink: tea seeds.
Saicho then founded the Tendai school of Buddhism and wanted his followers to enhance their meditation using tea. Five years after Saicho planted the first tea seeds in Japanese soil, the trees were ready to pluck.
On a visit to Saicho’s Sofukufi temple, Emperor Saga had one taste and loved it so much that he immediately ordered tea trees to be planted all over Japan. The enthusiasm for tea in Japan exploded, and it is now considered a core part of Japanese culture.
The gift box is priced at £14.99; in addition, Saicho offers 750ml bottles (with gift box) priced at £17.99. For more information and to make a purchase online, visit www.saichodrinks.com. The products are also available to purchase at Amazon and Selfridges.
Photos courtesy of Saicho Drinks and Johnny Stephens Photography.
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