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The box to beat winter: Tea Garden

Beatrice Smith

“I’m only ever in the mood for one type of tea. I never want to try new ones,” said no one ever.

Get ready to blitz through the Canberra winter this year – with a never-ending supply of steaming cups of unique tea from Tea Garden, delivered monthly to your door.

“At the moment we’re a tea subscription service,” explains Tea Garden co-founder Mikhaila Pennell. “The boxes are delivered monthly or quarterly and include three teas that we hand blend: A black tea, an oolong or a green tea and some kind of herbal tea as well. They’re all mixed with different flavours which encourages people to try new things and explore. It’s a surprise box when it turns up at your door!”

With just one year of operation under their belt, Mikhaila and her business partner Lauren Heys have scooped five Golds and one Bronze out of nine categories at the Australian International Tea Expo 2017. Throughout each month, Mikhaila and Lauren release the flavours on their website and Instagram so that those without a subscription can be intrigued by what may be next for Tea Garden ‘sippers’ (subscribers). 

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A Canberra based and operated company, Tea Garden’s branding matches perfectly with the concept of tea itself – warm, inviting and a little bit floral. The language on their website and products reads kind of like a letter from your tea obsessed friend (everyone has one) who always introduces you to new and fascinating blends when you visit. It turns out that’s a pretty good description of Mikhaila.

“From a young age it was quite normal for my family to drink tea but as I got older big companies like T2 came onto the scene and they turn your eyes to teas you’re not really familiar with,” explains Mikhaila.

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“It started there, when I was 16, trying out lots of teas and I actually worked for T2 for two years before I started Tea Garden. Being able to be around [tea] all day makes you love it – the more you learn about it the more you realise there is to know and it’s fascinating.”

While Tea Garden’s subscription services have been operating for the last few weeks, Mikhaila and Lauren have planned a tea-tastic launch to introduce the product to the media and invited the HerCanberra team to create our very own blend of tea for the occasion.

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After unscrewing and smelling every single jar that Mikhaila brought in, we decided that as an homage to our Senior Journalist Laura’s daily chai tea, we would create our own blend.

Mikhaila expertly advised what base, hero flavours and additions we should choose to build the perfect chai and how we could customise it to make it our own. After 10 minutes of Very Serious Chai Discussion, we landed on a Vanilla Cinnamon Chai named HerCanberra Unicornucopia. We have never been more pleased with ourselves.

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Making chai from scratch can sometimes seem a little daunting – you can either make it like regular tea or create a ‘concoction’ from fresh ingredients – so we asked Mikhaila for her top three tips for brewing chai at home.

Tea Garden’s Top Three Tips for Brewing Chai

  1.  Fresh drawn water: “You want to have fresh water whenever you’re making tea,” says Mikhaila. This may seem a little obvious to some but important to remember for those of us who routinely click the ‘boil’ button on the kettle without replacing the water first (guilty). “You don’t want your water to have been sitting in the kettle for six days since you last boiled it, you want fresh water,” explains Mikhaila.
  2.  First spices, then tea: “If you’re making it on the stove with raw spices, you want to boil your spices first in water without the tea,” explains Mikhaila. “If you’re boiling your spices with the tea it’ll start to brew bitter the longer you keep it on the stove. So you want to boil your spices in fresh water, then leave it to simmer with some milk and then add the tea.” Most chai tea already contains spices but by adding fresh spices you’re going to intensify the flavour. The five spices of chai tea to boil raw are cinnamon quills, star of anise, cardamon, fresh ginger and cloves.
  3. Personalise it: After you’ve added the tea, let it simmer for a couple of minutes and taken it off the stove you can then add sweeteners like honey, sugar or rice malt syrup. “The amount of fresh ingredients you use, the type of milk you add and the amount (or lack) of sweetener will create a different blend each time,” says Mikhaila. So play around and see how spicy and/or sweet you like your chai!

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If you’re now desperate for some Tea Garden chai, the black tea in their next delivery box will be a chai. Excited to sign up for your monthly box of tea goodness? Sippers will receive 20% off their first order if they add ‘friendsinteaplaces’ when checking out. 

the essentials 

What: Tea Garden’s tea subscription boxes
When: Delivered monthly to your door
Cost: $32.95 monthly or $37.95 quarterly
Web: You can find out more about Tea Garden via their website and Instagram.

All photography by Martin Ollman

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies. More about the Author