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Out of the bag: one woman’s mission to educate the region about tea

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Out of the bag: one woman’s mission to educate the region about tea

Monica Naples offers a unique tea experience

From tea that changes colour to refreshing blends perfect for a Sunshine Coast climate, a Caloundra woman has been busy brewing her business venture and sharing her love of tea to others.

A botanist by trade, Monica Naples recently rebranded her business to ARTEA The Tea Merchant, after launching in 2018.

Now she offers her award-winning, organic and Fairtrade tea blends from her tea bar.

Ms Naples says experimenting with tea is an outlet for her creativity and she hopes to teach visitors a cup of tea is more than a tea bag soaked in boiling water.

As a tea drinker herself, Ms Naples always struggled to find a good cup of tea when she was out, so decided to complete a course with the Australian Tea Masters in Victoria.

“I found it was a bit of a niche market, so I started tea blending,” she says. “My tea bar is an expression of tea in its various forms and creating something that’s a little bit different for tea drinkers.

“I like to showcase its versatility.”

Ms Naples uses only certified organic ingredients to create her small-batch blends. “I like to use a lot of colours and florals with my tea. The colour and the smell is the first thing you experience.

“It’s about educating the public on what tea actually is and the variety that is out there.“I make small-batch tea, which enhances quality and differs from what might be sitting on a supermarket shelf for months.”

Ms Naples says tea is similar to wine or coffee and many factors can influence its flavour.

Her most popular ARTEA blend is hibiscus mint, a refreshing and colourful herbal tea. “I make that as an iced tea and the ingredients are very cooling and thirst quenching.

“I also have a tea, blue lavender, that changes colour. It’s blue when you brew it up and if you add lemon or lime it changes to a beautiful purple.”

When it comes to brewing the best cup of tea, Ms Naples shares some tips with My Weekly Preview.

“For example, with green tea, a lot of people don’t know you shouldn’t put boiling water in because it makes it bitter.”

She suggests heating water to 85 degrees or switching off the kettle just before it starts to boil.

And, when it comes to the debate of milk first or last, Ms Naples says a good black tea should have no need for milk or sweeteners at all.

“If you have good tea you don’t need to add anything to it.

“People might add milk because it is too strong or bitter and that’s because it is not a good-quality tea.

“With my blends, they can be drunk with or without milk, but I always recommend not.

“If you want to have a milky tea, there are certain teas that work well, and I explain those to people.”

ARTEA has won several awards, with two tea blends winning silver medals at the National Golden Leaf Awards in Melbourne in 2018 and nine medals across several tea categories, including tea cocktails, in 2019.

Ms Naples also sells wholesale to cafes, restaurants and stores and makes tea-infused cakes to sell in her tea bar.

Her menu includes speciality tea lattes, rotating cold brew teas and daily tea tastings. “It’s like an experience rather than just going out for a cup of tea.”

ARTEA The Tea Merchant Tea Bar is open from Wednesday to Sunday at 121b Bulcock Street, Caloundra and online at theteamerchant.com.au.

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