radionotes podcast episodes

Brewed By Belinda is where tea and the Arts meet. Belinda Hellyer is the Director of a collection of over a dozen teas and spoke with radionotes about their Art, both in from the pot and in their life.

Did you know there are six teas? Black, White, Green… and three more…

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(Transcript of Brewed By Belinda chat below, check to delivery in audio)

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SHOW NOTES: Brewed By Belinda episode

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Feature Guest: Brewed By Belinda, Director Belinda Hellyer

They’re delicious and complex and many kinds of them 

Next Episode: Silly Goat talks coffee

Coming Up Soon: Claire Anne Taylor and Peter Drew (Poster Boy)

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For direct quotes check to audio, first version of transcript by Lyn M at REV

John Murch: Belinda, welcome to radionotes.

Belinda Hellyer: Thank you, John.

John Murch: Now, I want to have a chat with you about teas, about music, about you. Let’s firstly find out about you and where your first experience of music was.

Belinda Hellyer: I think the thing that probably comes to mind in a big way is I started calisthenics when I was three, and that was full of music, little routines and costumes and things like that. So I’d say that’s probably my first experience of music, Lycra, calisthenics, music

John Murch: Was it the sense of performing that music was connected with?

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, absolutely, from word go, from a very young age. Yeah, I guess that my extra curricular activities were performance based, or how I spent my spare time.

John Murch: When was your first cup of tea and what was that experience like?

Belinda Hellyer: My first memory of really enjoying tea was from my dad’s thermos, because my dad was a builder and so he would head off to work, he’d make black tea and he’d sweeten it with sugar, take a full thermos with him to work. And so he would come home, I would race to his van to see if there was any tea in the thermos before my four brothers and sisters did. So that was kind of my first experience with really enjoying this thing called tea.

John Murch: Now, that’s at the end of the day, a bit of strength to it after a day’s brew.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, there wasn’t any leaves in it. So he would strain off the leaves, but it would certainly have been there for awhile. I loved that. And then both of my grandparents, my sets of grandparents, when we went to their home, they would always bring out the beautiful china and the tea pot and we’d always have beautiful loose leaf tea and cup and a saucer, and enjoy that sort of ritual together of sharing time and talking over tea. So that is a really strong memory for me as well.

John Murch: If we go back to the father who’s been at the building site all day, and as you say, racing to the thermos to get it from the siblings.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, I was always there first, me and my sister. The brothers weren’t as keen on the tea. But there was something about that sweet black tea, and it was warm so it wasn’t too hot at the end of the day. And he was the one in the family who would be making the pots of tea, so he had a beautiful old enamel tea pot. He would get it every morning. He’d have nice, strong black leaves, he’d make his pot of tea. He’d drink one cup and he’d pour the rest to his thermos, so that was sort of a morning ritual that I remember.

John Murch: What other memories do you have of tea in the younger years?

Belinda Hellyer: Role playing with tea cups and pots and setting up little tea parties. I have memories of taking tea on picnics. And things, I guess, sort of evolved and my interest grew as I grew up and went into university. That’s probably where it really became something different for me. I think when I was around that uni age, so I went to uni at 17 and was there for five years, I think it was probably around that point in my life that I realized there was more to tea than just black tea. Discovering things like tea blends, so teas that are blended with other ingredients. Discovering that there were things like green tea and white tea, the creative possibilities of tea.

Belinda Hellyer: So over those younger years through my 20s and 30s, I would buy all sorts of different teas that I would discover and I’d just collect them and drink them. Yeah, so I guess it was about the creative possibilities of tea.

John Murch: Black, green, white tea.

Belinda Hellyer: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, there’s actually six different types of tea. You’re drinking tea from my range called Standing Ovation. This tea is a white tea blended with red rose petals.

John Murch: Okay, so that’s a white, you say there’s six.

Belinda Hellyer: There are six. Okay, so there is white tea, which is very delicate as you’re drinking now. There is yellow tea. It’s actually the leaves are steamed and they take on a yellow tinge and a slight sweetness, the liquor in the cup is yellow. So there’s yellow tea, rare, expensive, only comes from China. So not many people would probably have experienced it or even know about it. Then there’s green tea.

John Murch: Kristian Jackson who’s a singer songwriter in Penrith, who introduced me to gunpowder.

Belinda Hellyer: Gunpowder green.

John Murch: Which is a green tea?

Belinda Hellyer: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It is a green tea.

John Murch: So what is it about the green teas? I was told it’s the higher antioxidants.

Belinda Hellyer: The thing that makes the different types of tea is the oxidation process. A green tea is quite lightly processed, so it hasn’t gone through lots of processing stages like a black tea would, and that means it does retain more of its antioxidant benefits, like they’re fixed in the leaf because it’s not heavily processed. So white, yellow and green teas and not heavily processed, not heavily oxidized, and other types of tea from there are more processed. So that’s why green and white teas are said to be the best for you in terms of fighting free radicals in the body and they’re antioxidant qualities, vitamins and nutrients.

John Murch: And that yellow one which is quite rare, we’re saying, is in the middle there.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah.

John Murch: So just as good to get it if you can.

Belinda Hellyer: Absolutely, yeah. It has quite a complex processing method, which means that it’s a bit of a dying art. It’s hard to come by and so it’s expensive, and so it’s just not as known.

John Murch: Three down, three to go.

Belinda Hellyer: Yes.

John Murch: What have we got?

Belinda Hellyer: Sitting between a green tea and a black tea on the tea spectrum is a whole group of teas called oolongs. As I mentioned before, it’s the oxidization process that changes teas into different types. An oolong tea can range anywhere between being 10% to 80% oxidized. It’s this whole big spectrum of tea that sits between the greener, lighter styles of tea and black teas. So you can have light oolongs or dark oolongs, anywhere in that spectrum. They’re delicious and complex and there’s many different kinds of them. Oolong’s amazing. The liquor, which is the correct name for the liquid, once you’ve brewed tea, can be anywhere from being quite light and golden through to almost looking like a black tea.

John Murch: Who’s in at number five?

Belinda Hellyer: In number five is black tea. So yeah, you’re going to think that’s the end of the line, but it’s not. The tea leaves, once they’ve been picked and withered and rolled and processed, they’ve been let to oxidize as much as they possibly can, I guess. A way to think about tea processing is a little bit similar to if you cut a fresh apple and it starts to go brown. When you pick a tea leaf and it starts to break down, that’s what’s happening, that Browning is the oxidization. So if you let that process go all the way through, you’ll end up in the black area.

Belinda Hellyer: There are so many different types of black teas. You’re getting these tannins and some astringency mostly in this leaf, and this is the only tea really where you would add milk if you like. They’re beautiful without milk, but a lot of people are used to adding milk.

John Murch: Anything below black tea, no milk.

Belinda Hellyer: No, no milk. Milk is really about balancing tannin and astringency, so those black teas, they’re so bold. They give this astringent feeling in the mouth and these tannins come through, and it’s often about balancing that bitterness with a touch of milk. That’s what the milk brings to the table.

John Murch: Whilst we’re at the table, there’s the sugar bowl.

Belinda Hellyer: I used to sugar up big time. As I said, my dad had his sugared black tea in the thermos, I guess it’s what you kind of first see, but over the years I have completely … There’s been no sugar in my tea for many, many years now. I guess what I’ve learned about tea as I’ve gotten deeper into it and tried many different teas, they have inherent in them these beautiful flavors and notes. I guess in the same way that you can break down a wine and say, “Oh, I can taste some berries and some chocolate and ash or something,” we can do the same with tea. And once you taste and get a sense, your palette gets used to how complex and fragrant and amazing these flavors can be in tea, then you don’t want to add sugar or want to add milk, because you really wanting to experience these unique flavors because every tea will bring you something different.

John Murch: For those at the quiz table who want to win all the prizes, we’ve gone through five, we’ve got one remaining.

Belinda Hellyer: So tea number six is called Pu-erh Tea. Pu-erh Tea is different again in that it goes through a completely different process, it’s post fermented. So when the tea is processed, instead of being dried to fix it, ready for use, it’s left moist and it’s compressed into cakes.

John Murch: What’s the key benefits of Pu-erh Tea.

Belinda Hellyer: Pu-erh Tea is known to be amazing medicinally, actually. It’s really good for your digestive health, like cutting through fatty foods and things like that. I believe it’s good for your cardiovascular health. Tea in general is incredibly good for you, from detoxifying the body, strong healthy teeth, healthy bones, regulating blood sugar levels, regulating weight or metabolism, cardiovascular health.

John Murch: What about memory.

Belinda Hellyer: It’s amazing for your brain function, so tea is kind of brain boosting. The caffeine in tea is very different from the caffeine in coffee, because caffeine in tea is slow released. It’s not like a striking upper and a crashed down. It’s slow released. So this is why tea is associated with kind of mental clarity and focus, because it does give you a focused lift. It’s sort of stimulating, but it’s sustained.

John Murch: We’re currently speaking with Belinda, who is the owner and director of Brewed By Belinda. She’s touching on there about the arts. In fact, inspired by the arts, made with jazz hands is the tagline of your very own range. Let’s talk about the arts, and we’ll get through to music in just a moment.

Belinda Hellyer: So yeah, my whole background that’s led up to this new sort of tea focus has been working in the arts. So starting as a young child doing dance and calisthenics, it led to doing drama through year 12, and then going to university, I studied a Bachelor of Drama Studies at Adelaide university. I did my honors in comedic performance, majored in improvisation, and sketch comedy were my main interests. And that was where in my brain I was set to go. I moved to Melbourne to pursue sketch comedy, and as life takes you on different journeys.

John Murch: In Melbourne, you were part of the Back To Back Theater as well?

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, that came a little later, but yes. I moved more into the producing side of the arts in Melbourne. So I went from sort of doing a lot of performance into then helping to facilitate other independent artists, and then I worked with Back To Back Theater, worked at the Adelaide Fringe as a producer and a manager of their Honey Pot program for many years. And most recently I’ve worked with Restless Dance Theater for three years as their development manager. Beautiful company, they’ve been going a really long time now, over 20 years. And they work with young people with disability, create world-class, beautiful contemporary dance theater.

John Murch: At Adelaide university?

Belinda Hellyer: I wanted to be a sketch comedian. When I was young I was watching things like Full Frontal and Comedy Company, and that was like, “This is my world, I love this.” I guess I was always the class clown and trying to make people laugh and things like that. And then really enjoyed learning about how to be funny, like what is that little toolbox of rules and formulas and things. I wrote my thesis in university on John Cleese. It was called Up Cleese and Personal.

John Murch: Standing Ovation, and a few others of the teas recently have won silver awards, five star awards.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah.

John Murch: Tell us more.

Belinda Hellyer: I have a range of 14 teas, and five of them, I entered recently into the Royal Hobart Fine Food Awards for the first time. I found out that they were all scored and received silver medals. Two of my teas have also won some golden leaf awards. My Standing Ovation has won a gold and a silver in the Golden Leaf Awards, and my Creativity Blend has won a gold and a bronze.

John Murch: You’re a tea master.

Belinda Hellyer: I am a tea master.

John Murch: Wow.

Belinda Hellyer: To be really honest, I feel a little bit uncomfortable with the title, because I feel like it’s something that really needs to be earned, and I feel like I will after many more years in tea and much more experienced than I have. I think being a true tea master will involve much more, but I do have a qualification of certified tea master from Australian Tea Masters. That study was actually really intensive. And what it involved was cupping and evaluating hundreds of different teas from around the world, really getting to know tea producing areas of the world, thinking about how teas pair with food, thinking about the health benefits of tea and really looking into that, thinking about blending.

Belinda Hellyer: It was intensive, but I loved it and I feel much wiser, but so much more to learn.

John Murch: The blending of tea and food, having a tea menu.

Belinda Hellyer: A tea menu is a curated list of teas that a restaurant or cafe might offer, that I guess has been given a little bit more thought than kind of ticking off your English breakfast, your Earl Grey, your peppermint, and you’re done. I think what’s really interesting is that tea is having this beautiful resurgence right now. Coffee’s been the popular beverage brew for many years, and everyone’s wondering where their beans are from and how it’s roasted, and I love that, but tea now, people are getting more interested in tea. So tea is kind of on trend. And with that comes these new possibilities in the same way you might have a wine sommelier in a restaurant.

Belinda Hellyer: There’s now a study, the next thing that I would undertake after tea mastery is becoming a tea sommelier, which is getting really detailed around pairing tea with foods. Same way that you would match wines with cuisine, you can do the same with tea. Taking that into everyday restaurants and cafes where tea is given a little bit more respect and is celebrated for what it can really bring into the enjoyment of cuisine. I’ve actually just been working on a menu for our new Chinese restaurant, so they approached me and said, “We want to have a beautiful tea menu,” which I just love that.

Belinda Hellyer: I want more restaurants to be doing that, because people want more than a teabag to finish their night after a beautiful meal. Just had the pleasure of thinking about flavors and notes in Chinese cuisine and the flavors and notes that will either compliment or contrast those dishes, or cut through the fats, or cleanse the palate in terms of teas. So I think it’s a whole new little world.

John Murch: Custom blends, every person has their own personality, their own style, and we’ve been talking about the arts, and in a moment we’ll be talking about music, what does that actually involve?

Belinda Hellyer: It’s about creating a one of a kind blend that is a reflection of either a person or a couple, if they were getting married, or business responding to a brief about someone or a place with a tea blend, done some for individuals for milestone birthdays. I’ll gather information about that person that I’m making the tea for, quirky information, I’ll even ask them what is their favorite song or if they were a song, what would it be? I use my blending skills, but also my intuition to create a one of a kind blend for them, especially for them.

John Murch: The sense of season when it comes to what the teas might be.

Belinda Hellyer: Absolutely. All ingredients that I work with, I work with the 100% organic ingredients, and I work with herbs and flowers and pills that are locally grown where possible, and they are sometimes in season and sometimes not in season. So I’ll absolutely be led by what’s fresh and beautiful at the time.

John Murch: Let’s head into music. What is the harmonies of tea?

Belinda Hellyer: Blending tea is all about creating a harmony. When you’re combining different ingredients it’s about, I guess, thinking of it like a composition of sorts. Bringing the different elements together in a way where nothing is overpowering the other element. You don’t want your peppermint overpowering your other florals, for example. I guess in the same way that maybe a piece of music is composed and produced and put together. For me it’s definitely about, I guess the words balance and harmony come into play strongly.

John Murch: What’s the rhythm section of the tea world?

Belinda Hellyer: I reckon that it’d be a tea base. Yeah, I think that’d be the underlying chugging along flavor that’s supporting some other things.

John Murch: Whatever that main starting base, as you were saying tea is, that every time you’re off the cliff of a taste, it comes back to that, back to the beat.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, back to the beat.

John Murch: If I was a bass player, what would be my feature ingredient? So I’m going to be hanging out with some drums and rhythm guitar, but I’m a base.

Belinda Hellyer: You know what’s coming to mind, I’m thinking about lemon balm or spearmint, something that kind of sits in the middle that rounds out a blend. So it’s not your florals and your little kind of triangle.

John Murch: Hi-Hat.

Belinda Hellyer: Hi-Hat or triangle on the top. I reckon you’re full in the middle.

John Murch: The most obvious band is The Tea Party, what’s your favorite tea song?

Belinda Hellyer: Oh, that is such a hard question. I don’t have a favorite tea song. I do use music as a source of inspiration when I make tea, but I don’t have a favorite. I’m drawn to music that fits the mood of the tea that I’m creating, sounds a little bit woo-woo and weird. Yeah, I don’t know. Sometimes I’ll pull out some Eurythmics to blend with. Sometimes I’ll pull out something beautiful like Coldplay to blend with.

John Murch: There is an atmosphere for which tea can musically inspire as well.

Belinda Hellyer: I blend with music all the time, and the music I choose will drive that blending and creative process, especially if I’m creating a custom blend. Sometimes I’ll, as I mentioned, I ask on the form and when I’m gathering the information, like if this person or business was a song, what would it be? And whatever they write, I’ll often pull that up and listen to it as I’m making the tea.

John Murch: Level of composition that you are the musical director of their oral sensation.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, I absolutely see it as a creative, artistic process, and I’m creating a composition but of a different kind. One of my by-lines for my business is that it’s art you can drink because I am coming at it from a very creative way, that’s my background. That’s where I sit most comfortably. I see music as a part of helping me in that creative space.

John Murch: Which musician would you like to see drinking your tea? And which tea would you like them drinking?

Belinda Hellyer: Florence.

John Murch: And The Machine.

Belinda Hellyer: Florence + The Machine. I love her. I would love to see her drinking my tea, and I would tell her to get onto that Standing Ovation because she totally deserves one. I saw her live this year in the Botanic Park, and it was amazing the way her voice filled the sky and I love her vocals. I love the compositions of her work. And I remember the day that I went to see her, I’d posted a pic on my Instagram because I found some pics of her drinking tea and I was definitely thinking I’d love her to have my tea in her hands.

John Murch: When were you first introduced to Florence’s music?

Belinda Hellyer: It was Laneways Festival. It was at Footscray Community Arts Centre. There was a road blocked off, she was down the end. All my friends were going home, we’d we’d spent the day there and I was like, “I’ve heard about Florence, I want to stay,” and it was life changing. She’s up there singing Dog Days, and I was like, “Oh my goodness, her voice.” I’ve loved just watching her music evolve and I love her new album, and I loved seeing her live. It kind of marks different parts of my life, like certain albums, but I really loved seeing her recently. I think that was probably one of my most amazing live music moments.

John Murch: What was your first album?

Belinda Hellyer: I got a little … What do you call a small record?

John Murch: A 45 7-inch.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah. I got Kate Bush, Babushka, that was my very first music that I owned. I was little, but then I remember the next childhood music moment was receiving Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors on cassette, also John Farnham, Age of Reason. I got them both for Christmas, and just owning my first bit of music. Kylie was in there in the young years.

John Murch: Was that because of Neighbors or was it post neighbors?

Belinda Hellyer: I think it was probably because of Neighbors. I do remember the duet with …

John Murch: Jason.

Belinda Hellyer: Jason, yeah, and I thought that was so romantic. I was at that age. Those were my early memories, but definitely Kate Bush being my first vinyl was exciting. Yeah, I still love Kate Bush.

John Murch: What kind of drink do you think Kate Bush drinks? Of course in the tea range.

Belinda Hellyer: In the tea range, Kate Bush would be drinking my drama queen blend. It changes color from blue to lilac-

John Murch: Hang on, blue, you’ve got a blue tea?

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, I do.

John Murch: That’s not one of the six, that’s just because of the added flavors obviously.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, so that’s not one of the six types of tea. This one doesn’t actually have tea in it. It’s called a herbal tisane, so it doesn’t have the tea plant. Tisane or infusion is the correct word to it.

John Murch: So you’re saying Kate Bush won’t even have a tea.

Belinda Hellyer: No, she would have an infusion. So I have a new blend called Drama Queen, and it has this flower called a Butterfly Pea Flower that’s native to Southeast Asia, and it has a natural blue dye. So when you brew the tea, it’s blue. It’s this beautiful blue color, and it’s sensitive to changes in pH levels. So if you squeeze a couple of drops of lemon into that blue tea, it’ll change color to purple. And it’s dramatic as she is. That is what would be in her cup.

John Murch: Would the other Kate, not to call her drama queen, but would the other Kate, Kate Miller Heidke be into that?

Belinda Hellyer: I think so.

John Murch: What’s your take on Eurovision?

Belinda Hellyer: I love it. I think this year I was mainly focused on Electric Fields and Kate. I love Electric Fields, and so I was really more focused on the Aussies. I blend to their music. It definitely gets me pumping.

John Murch: What other South Australian artists have done it for you over the years?

Belinda Hellyer: Live music that’s associated with the theater world, I guess, ensembles like F Zephyr Quartet, Adam Page jumps to mind,

John Murch: A vibe towards, as we were mentioning previously in a way in terms of composition, but in terms of improvisation as well, you still have a structure like you would when you’re making your tea, but you’ve got all this other playroom to actually compose within.

Belinda Hellyer: I think that’s such an amazing skill. When I worked with Back To Back Theater, we did a work where The Necks played live. They improvised the Score, and it was amazing how … Yeah, as you say, there’s a structure. They know the marks within the live work that they’re trying to hit emotionally, but every night was different and surprising, and I do love that as a form. That creative flow and that sort of diving within your creative self and trusting yourself in that moment, I think that’s amazing.

John Murch: What’s some of the most memorable theater performances that Belinda’s been to?

Belinda Hellyer: Big and wide and varied over the years. I have seen all sorts of things, but I think if we’re talking about live performance and not thinking too heavily yet about the music part of this, I like theatrical experiences that surprise me. So I do think things that are site-specific, so maybe not set in a traditional theater, something where you’re given a set of headphones and you’re walking through a city and following instructions. There was an amazing work called Smile Off Your Face that came to the Adelaide festival many years ago, which basically blindfolded you and put you in a wheelchair and took you on a journey and all these things happened. I like experiences. I like being surprised.

John Murch: What’s the most memorable music or song?

Belinda Hellyer: There’s a song called The Wedding Song by Angus & Julia Stone that was sung by my beautiful, amazing performer friend, Emily Teheny. Yeah, that’s a really special song in my life. It was accompanied by two of our other friends on a little ukulele and yeah, it was great. I was with her recently in Melbourne and she took us along to watch her little Americana band. Yeah, she’s got good taste. Actually, Millie is a very big musical influence on my life, because I lived with her for many years in Melbourne. We always had music in our lives, and I think she introduced me to a lot of artists that I might not have found on my own.

John Murch: I’m thinking she’s from Mad As Hell.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, so that’s the Emily we’re talking about. She’s an amazing live performer. She’s an incredible singer and cabaret performer. She’s totally nailed the comedy sketch world and then moved into her Mad As Hell role, was in her first feature last year, I believe, as well.

John Murch: Your own tea habits.

Belinda Hellyer: I drink a lot of tea throughout my day. I kick off the day, every day, with a black tea. The first thing I do, I wake up and my body goes, “Tea,” and I put the kettle on. So I start with a beautiful strong Assam black tea or a Earl Grey.

John Murch: Backtrack, what kind of kettle do we need? Just your ordinary Kambrook kettle?

Belinda Hellyer: I have a fan-dangle temperature controlled kettle. Control the temperature of the water to match the brew.

John Murch: Can we get away with the run of the mill kind of kettle?

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah, absolutely. You only need different temperatures for green and white and oolong teas. So if you’re a black tea or herbal tea person, your 100 degree water is perfect. The other teas, not as much heat because it burns the leaves and can bring out some bitter flavors. Mid morning, I would be having a green or white tea, probably something herbal in the afternoon. I’d go through the spectrum. To be really honest, I go with my gut. I’m drawn to different teas at different times, and if my body’s like nervous, a little bit stressed, then I’ll go for my calming teas.

John Murch: And on the weekend, do you go wild?

Belinda Hellyer: I’m known on the weekends to maybe punch through a few pots on my own. I’ll brew a huge pot of tea and I’ll drink it all myself and then I’ll probably brew another one. I like to sit with a pot and drink it and share it with my husband and kids. My kids love tea. They make their own little blends.

John Murch: Really?

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah.

John Murch: Practical, hands on.

Belinda Hellyer: Yeah. It’s creative for them and it is tactile. My oldest boy makes tea with me a lot and he makes his own blends and he gives them a name and he labels them, and it’s creative and then he can share it and drink it.

John Murch: Does that bring you back to the joy that you had with your father and his brewed teas?

Belinda Hellyer: Absolutely. I think tea is something you share, whether it’s the making of it, the brewing of it or the drinking of it. I hope that he’ll have those memories when he is older of creating and sharing with me and with our family.

John Murch: Belinda, thank you very much for joining radionotes.

Belinda Hellyer: Thank you, John. Thanks so much for having me.