Stunning Glass Gaiwan with Dragonwell
Admittedly, buying gifts for a tea snob can be very hard. Beyond figuring out what they like to drink, there is all the equipment, which they may already own. So we like to turn to the experts at giving tea gifts, the Chinese, to find the right tea with the right meaning for our favorite tea snobs. Below are the 3 popular gifts for tea lovers in China and the stories behind why they are so popular.
- Ti Kuan Yin – This beautiful oolong named after the Iron Goddess of Mercy is prized for its beautiful flavor and story about its creation. It is also one of the oldest oolongs produced in China, having been created sometime during the 18th century. Giving the gift that came from the Iron Goddess of Mercy shows the gift receiver that you wish them health and prosperity well into their future.
- Puerh from Yunnan Provence – Given for its health benefits, Puerh tea is thought of as the fine wine of tea. It only gets better with age. This fermented tea is over 2,000 years old and can be made with a black, green or white tea base. The bacteria that is added to allow for the fermentation creates a naturally sweet and smooth tea with lots of complex flavors. This tea is usually purchased in cakes or bricks and is broken apart to make a cup of tea.
Bai Hao Silver Needle – Exquisite first pluck of the newest growth of the tea plant.
Bai Hao Silver Needle – This prized white tea has been under production during the Song Dynasty (969-1269 C.E.) but did not enter the European literature until the 1800′s. Its soft and floral flavor as well as the silver hairs on the tea leaves are distinctive characteristics that cannot be found in other teas. This is a more expensive tea as it can really only be plucked during the first harvest of the season. This tea was often given as a gift to the reigning Emperor as it was the first tea of the season.
There are a few characteristics these teas share, each one has been manufactured for centuries, given as gifts to Chinese Emperors to bring them good health and luck, and have exquisite and complex flavors.
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Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge for Desert
Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge is a fun addition to the holiday cookie tray or jar. Not only is it a beautiful green color, the sugar, peanut butter and matcha combine to create a luscious flavor worthy of any holiday treat. This is a child friendly recipe that they can help make, except for the step of taking the bowl into and out of the microwave. We have made substitution notes below for those with peanut allergies.
We will admit this is technically not fudge, because there is no chocolate in it. However, this is a fudge like candy. You can drizzle chocolate over the top once it has cooled if you need to have chocolate for you to be comfortable calling this a fudge. This recipe will produce about a 3/4 inch thick pieces of fudge. If you want thicker, double the recipe, just make sure you have a bowl big enough to handle it melting and bubbling the microwave.
Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge – Equipment
Large microwavable bowl
Mixing bowl to sift the sugar and matcha into
Plastic wrap or lid for microwavable bowl (Do not skip this or you will not get fudge.)
Sifter or small strainer
8″x8″ baking dish
Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge – Ingredients
1 cup butter
1 cup smooth peanut butter
15oz of confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Matcha
Substitutions – The peanut butter can be substituted with another nut butter like Almond, Cashew or Coconut Butter. The butter can be substituted with 1/2 cup of coconut cream and 1/2 cup of coconut oil. Follow the same steps below.
Matcha Peanut Butter Fudge – Steps
- Prepare your baking dish by cutting a piece of parchment paper and putting it in the dish. You will want excess paper hanging over so you can fold it over the fudge before putting it in the refrigerator.
- Measure out the confectioners sugar and matcha and sift it to remove all lumps. If you choose not to sift you will find that you have lumps of sugar you will need to press out when you stir the fudge, which can be annoying.
- Put the butter and peanut butter into a microwave proof bowl and stretch the plastic wrap over the top. Microwave for 2 minutes and take out and stir. Put back on the plastic wrap and put back in the microwave for another 2 minutes. Then remove. It should be bubbly and very liquid like. It may darken in color, which is perfect.
- Stir in the vanilla extract.
- Stir in the sugar and matcha in batches, roughly pouring in the sugar about a third of the time. The mixture should start to get thick and stiff making it a little tricky to stir. You want to make sure you distribute the matcha so keep stirring and remove any green streaks.
- Spread the mixture into your prepared pan and fold the excess parchment over the top so it covers the surface of the fudge. Put in the refrigerator to cool, which will take about 2 hours. Once it cools, you can add that chocolate drizzle by melting chocolate chips and pouring them over the top of the cooled fudge and letting it sit until the chocolate hardens. Pull the fudge out of the pan by pulling up on the excess parchment paper and cut the fudge into 1 inch pieces. It will store for about a week, if it even lasts that long, in an air tight container in the refrigerator. It will darken as the matcha oxidizes, so don’t worry but if you want to keep the bright green color, serve within a couple of days.
Enjoy, I know we did!
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Are there Thanksgiving traditions in Asian Countries? Thanksgiving is thought of as a true American holiday that started with the Pilgrims celebrating a bountiful harvest with the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. The celebration of the fall harvest is not something new and could easily be found in other countries. So let’s look at the Thanksgiving traditions in some of our favorite tea growing countries.
Mid-Autumn Festival in China
China does not have a holiday that corresponds to the US Thanksgiving. They do have a Mid-Autumn festival that has been around for about 3,000 years that celebrates the first full autumn moon, which happens to correspond with the fall harvest of crops. The Mid-Autumn Festival does includes big dinners with family, but those are the norm for most of the important Chinese holidays. The food of choice for this festival is mooncakes. Not to be confused with the American Moon Pie cookie, mooncakes are a small pastry with a dense filling. There are different fillings and flavors based on the region of China that you live in. They are always served with tea. So we will save a more in depth discussion on mooncakes for a later blog. The Chinese government does recognize American holidays and encourages local businesses to make turkey available around the American holiday where there are larger numbers of American’s are living in China. Currently there are believed to about 100k Americans with green cards living and working in China (The US government does not count US citizens who live aboard that are not associated with the US military or diplomatic operations, it is done by other organizations).
Vietnam… And American Thanksgiving Dinner Feasts
The Vietnamese, much like the Chinese, have a Mid-Autumn festival that celebrates the moon and the fall harvest of crops. Many of the Vietnam holidays follow the Chinese, so this isn’t a surprise. However, Vietnam has a large and growing American tourist trade, so finding an American Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and cranberry sauce is a little easier. You just have to book reservations about a month or two in advance in Hanoi at some of the higher end restaurants to get your turkey dinner with cranberry sauce and stuffing.
Niiname-sai,traditional Japanese dance by Wikimedia user katorisi.
Japan Labor Thanksgiving
Japan has a formal Thanksgiving holiday on November 23rd every year. It is called Labor Thanksgiving and was introduced into the country after World War II during the U.S. occupation. The Japanese put their own twist on it by using the holiday to honor each others’ work through out the year. Labor unions use the day to hold festivals focused on human rights, peace and the environment. Labor Thanksgiving was combined with the ancient celebration of the fall harvest of rice, Niinamesai. It is documented that Niinamesai was first celebrated in 678 C.E. During Niinamesai, the Emperor presents the first harvest of rice to the Gods and partakes of the rice himself.
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A field of mint plants.
As we head into the holiday season, it is hard not to find a sweet or beverage that does not have mint. So let’s take a moment to learn a few things about the plant that creates this flavor and how it blends with tea.
- Human’s consumption of mint has been around a long time. Sprigs of dried peppermint were found in the pyramids of Ancient Egypt and carbon-dated back to 1000 B.C.E. The name mint comes from the Greek mythical nymph Minthe, who was a river nymph along the River Styx. Hades, the Greek God of the underworld, feel in love with Minthe. His wife, Persephone got jealous and turned her into the plant we know today. So that she would always be remembered, Hades gave the plant the ability to produce the aromatic oil we all know and use today.
- Mint is the first known addition to tea. Through the silk road, tea traveled from China into the Middle East and Northern Africa. It is here that it was blended with the tea to make a localized beverage. Moroccan Mint tea is the name commonly know today in Europe and the United States. However, it goes by the name Tuareg tea in the Middle East.
- Mint has a long list of uses for medicinal purposes. It is no mistake that there is mint toothpaste, mint mouthwash or mint flavored floss. Mint has been used for centuries to cure bad breath. It was also used to sooth an upset stomach and to relieve headaches (through the application of mint oil on the forehead).
- The United States is the largest grower of mint worldwide. Washington State is home to the most acreage with other Northwestern states like Idaho, not far behind. There is a push to grow it in the south, but it does require that nitrogen be added to the southern soil for it to grow properly and produce the expect amount of oil. There are over 71,000 acres of mint currently growing in the United States. The majority of the mint grown is used to produce mint oil, which is used to flavor all sorts of items that humans consume.
- Mint can be steeped alone as its own tisane. If you happen to grow your own, just pluck a few leaves and steep in boiling water for 7 minutes. It will be a minty mouthful. If your mint is not very minty, see the note before about your soil content. Mint needs nitrogen and a dormant period to really produce a strong oil.
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Add some intrigue with an Earl Grey infused cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it is time to start planning what is considered one of most important meals in America. For tea lovers, it is a chance to use our favorite beverage in several dishes to highlight how it adds depth and flavor you will not find with other ingredients. For me, freshly made cranberry sauce is a requirement. It probably has more to do with the fact that it is the key ingredient in my favorite coffee cake from childhood than anything else, but it also brightens up the presentation of the other food, like turkey. So let’s jump right into making one of the easiest side dishes in the Thanksgiving meal.
Earl Grey Infused Cranberry Sauce: Ingredients
1 12oz package of fresh cranberries (look in the produce section)
1 cup of water
4 grams (Rounded Tablespoon) of Earl Grey Tea
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp of fresh orange zest (optional)
Earl Grey Infused Cranberry Sauce: Equipment
Glass measuring cup for at least 2 cups
Container to refrigerate the cranberry sauce in
1 quart pot and lid
Strainer for tea
Long handled spoon for stirring
Micro-planer to zest the orange
Earl Grey Infused Cranberry Sauce: Steps
Cooking this recipe only takes about 15 minutes and requires you to be focused on the sauce in the pot, so you will notice a lot of these steps are focused on preparing to cook. Skip them at your own risk.
- Empty the package of cranberries into the colander and rinse under water. Now is your one chance to sort through them, remove any stems that may still be there, and remove any bad cranberries. Bad cranberries are cranberries that are soft and wrinkled or have soft spots on them. You do not want these in your sauce as they will ruin the flavor and can make you sick.
- Once you have sorted your cranberries, pour them in the pot and add sugar and put the pot on the stove. DO NOT turn on the burner yet.
- Start your kettle for the water for tea. While the kettle is heating up you can put your tea in the glass measuring cup and get out the container, long handled spoon, spatula, timer and oven mitts and put them by the stove where you can get to them quickly.
- Add the boiling water to the tea and steep for 5 minutes. Remember you only need 1 cup of water.
- When the 5 minutes are up, pour the water through the strainer straight into the pot with the cranberries and water. Turn on the burner now to high and use your long handled spoon to stir in any sugar that did not get into the tea.
- Set your timer to 10 minutes and put on your oven mitts to protect your arms from splash back from the popping cranberries. Once you hear your first cranberry pop, start the timer and start stirring. The goal is to allow the sauce to come up to a rolling boil while you are stirring. Once you have that boil, drop the heat down to medium and keep stirring. You are only stirring for 10 minutes and it does not need to be a vigorous stir. Just keep the cranberries and liquid moving. If you want more of jelly consistency to your sauce, squash the popped cranberries with back of your spoon against the side of the pan as you stir. If you like whole cranberry sauce, just stir.
- When the timer is up, turn off the burner and take the pan off the heat. This is when,if you want, you will add the orange zest by running the micro-planer lightly over the outside of the orange. The goal is to get as much of the orange skin without the white pith underneath. You are looking for a tsp, which is find is about 3-4 passes over the orange based on its size. I just zest over the sauce and stir.
- Pour the sauce into your storage container and leave the lid off to allow the sauce to come down to room temperature. Once at room temperature, put the lid on and put it into the refrigerator. If you do not have time for this, you can put on the lid and put it into the refrigerator, just realize that condensation will form on the inside of the container which may cause your sauce to be more runny than you want.
When the sauce cools down (it will take a few hours), have a taste. The bergamot oil will be present, but not overwhelming. It makes for a nice change to traditional dish.
Want to go all out this Thanksgiving with tea infusions? Check out Irish Soda Bread, Matcha Salad Dressing, and Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream for dessert!
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