3 Unique Uses for Used or Old Tea Bags

Old tea bags

Old tea bags are great for the compost!

Tea drinkers inevitably have old tea bags in their pantry along with their other teas. As we have either given up tea bags for higher quality loose leaf tea or been given them as a gift by a non-tea drinking friend, these old tea bags take up space because it feels wasteful to throw them away. Well, here are 3 easy ways to use those old tea bags around the house without ever having to drink them.

Fertilizer and compost for your plants. You may not like the taste of stale tea bags (if your tea tastes like paper, it is stale), but your plants love it. Break open those tea bags and put the tea leaves around your house plants or out in your flower beds. They will decompose quickly and their nutrients are helpful for any plant.

Treat yourself to a tea bath. The Chinese have used tea for centuries to help alleviate the pain of sun burn or poison ivy. Black tea is best for this, but other teas will work as well. You can place a cool wet tea bag on a burn to alleviate the pain. Brewed black tea also helps to dry out a weeping poison ivy rash. After you have brewed the tea for your skin, allow the bags to cool and use them as a compress for your eyes. Black tea helps to remove the puffiness around tired eyes.

Deodorize your home. There is a reason tea is stored in air tight containers. Tea is hygrosopic, which means it absorbs moisture and odor from the air. The Chinese will leave a small plate of used tea leaves in freezers and refrigerators to remove odor. Put those tea bags in your closets to remove odor. Dried used tea bags also work in removing odor from shoes. The good news here is that the tea doesn’t impart its own smell while absorbing odors. You know when to change the leaves by smelling them. They will smell like the odor they absorbed.

So, clean those bags out of your tea cabinet and put them to work for you!

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

What is Dim Sum?

Hong Kong Dim Sum

Custard Filled Hong Kong Style Dim Sum at a Xiamen Restaurant

Dim Sum has a long history in China that dates back to the Silk Road. This tea centered meal has spread from Southastern China to the world. As a tea drinker, this is a culinary tradition from China that is just as important as British high tea. Every serious tea drinker should go to Dim Sum at least once in their life.

Dim Sum Origins

Since the Song Dynasty (960-1127 C.E.), Dim Sum has been served in Southeastern China in the Provence of Guangdong, which is home to Hong Kong and the Cantonese people. It is common to find Dim Sum referred to as Cantonese cuisine. Originating in the tea houses along the Silk Road, Dim Sum is a series of small dishes of food served with a never ending pot of tea. It was up to the traveler to pick and choose what they wanted from the menu. In China, Dim Sum is typically served all day. In the US, you may find it served as brunch, lunch or dinner.

The Dim Sum menu is vast and overwhelming. However, it is an amazing array of flavors and textures that reflect not only the Cantonese people but food cultures through out China. There are dumplings filled with seafood, meat or vegetables. Congee, rice porridge, mixed with vegetables and pork. Rice buns filled with barbecued pork, stir fried seafood or vegetables. Dragon claws, or fried chicken feet, is another Cantonese delicacy. There are plates of stir fried meat or vegetables in various sauces. One of our favorite plates is the rice noodle rolls filled with sweet potato or taro. The roll is made by wrapping the rice noodles around the food and dropping it into a fryer, which gives a crispy texture to the outside and a soft inside. There are also sweets in the form of pastries and rice buns filled with sweet egg custard. This is a multi-course meal, so you don’t have to order everything at once. That gives you time to digest and decide on what is next to try. Keep in mind, the serving portions are small so you can order and try a lot of different things.

Much like high tea, Dim Sum has its own etiquette that should be followed.

Cantonese Dim Sum

Cantonese Style Dim Sum at one of the oldest garden style restaurants in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Dim Sum Etiquette

One starts Dim Sum by ordering the tea. Traditionally it would oolong tea in Guangdong but even they now offer all types. In Guangdong, the first pot is used to wash the dishes. To an American, this is rather odd as the dishes come out clean and often shrink wrapped in plastic to confirm cleanliness. However, you watch many a table unwrap the dishes and pour hot oolong tea over them into a bin that is taken away by staff.

If you sit to the left of the tea pot, it is your job to serve the guests at the table tea and to turn up the lid on the tea pot when it gets empty. That indicates to the staff that they need to bring more water. Always pour the other guests tea first, then pour your own cup.

Keep your chopsticks to yourself. Each dish is to be shared with the table, so it comes with serving spoons or chopsticks and your have your own chopsticks. So there are a fair number of utensils to keep straight. Just remember if the chopsticks went in your mouth, they do not get used to take food off the serving plate.

Most of the authentic dishes are best served warm and don’t reheat well, so skip the doggie bag.

Dim Sum is an amazing meal with tea that is worth the effort to find here in the states. As a tea drinker, you will find it is just as social an experience as high tea but with a lot more food choices.

 

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

Growing Regions of Sri Lanka – Terroir & Tea

Tea bushes in Sri Lanka.

Ceylon Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka.

Most people do not think of Sri Lanka when they think about tea, until you realize that Ceylon tea comes from Sri Lanka. The British East India Company named the island Ceylon and the name Sri Lanka was actually given to the island in 1972, long after the British had gone. So Sri Lanka is Ceylon, but not all Ceylon teas are created equal. This is a mountainous island, so terroir is going to make a huge difference. The island nation of Sri Lanka boasts 7 different tea growing regions, each producing a different flavor profile for their teas. Below we give you a brief description on what to look for from each region.

Uva – This high elevation, remote, mountainous region of Sri Lanka produces the most complex teas. Their mellow, woody, and floral flavors are considered the finest of Ceylon tea, containing both the copper color and smoother flavor. These flavors are a product of the southwestern monsoons and winds of the northeast. So the area is dry during the prime harvest season and wet during other seasons, creating the best growing conditions for the plants.

Kandy – This mid-elevation region produces a strong bodied tea with a copper colored infused. The monsoon winds heavily influence the flavor. The more the wind and rain, the smoother the flavor.

Nuwara Eliya – The most delicate and lightest of the Ceylon teas, this is  generally higher elevation than Uva. It produces a gold colored liquor in the cup and a light floral flavor. This is a Ceylon tea that most Europeans and Americans would not identify as Ceylon. Exposed to cold winters, the tea plants in this area get a dormant period that other growing regions do not get.

Uda Pussellawa – This wet monsoon region is known more for its leopards than its tea. It still produces a tangy, yet pinkish brew that is somewhere between the flavors of Uva and Nuwara Eliya. This heavy rainfall regions produce the stronger Ceylon teas that are known for holding their flavor in milk.

Dimbula – This region averages 4,000 feet high with rugged terrain, lower than Uva. That terrain produces micro-climates at various estates. Some can be dry, while others are rainy. Generally,tea from Dimbula is mellow, missing the finishing bite from other Ceylon teas. It produces a golden-orange cup that is darker than Nuwara Eliya but lighter than Uda Oussellawa.

Ruhuna – This southern coastal region of Sri Lanka is low-elevation. This lower elevation produces the largest tea leaves in Sri Lanka. It also produces the darkest and most flavorful of the blends. If you like your Ceylon tea with a drying finish, this is the region to turn to. Much like Uda Pussellawa, it will more than hold its flavor in milk. In fact, you may want to only drink this tea with milk.

Sabaragamuwa – This mid-elevation region is a mixture of valleys and mountains. It is located on the north end of the island, making it slightly less wet than the other parts of the island. It produces a sweeter, more caramel flavored tea with a dark reddish-brown tinted brew.

While Sri Lanka works to educate the world on the differences of its growing regions, now is the time to learn these differences and to start to explore the different regions of Sri Lanka and Ceylon tea. Ask your tea merchant which region they buy from, that will tell you whether they have taken the time to learn about Sri Lanka and all it has to offer.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

Cheese Tea, Bubble Tea, Milk Tea and Nitro Tea: What are you Drinking?

Cheese Tea

Fresh Cheese Tea being prepared at Gong Cha in Guangzhou, China.

Cheese tea, bubble tea, milk tea and nitro tea are all available in the US markets. However, few consumers know what they are and where they originated from. We explore each of these delicious treats to explain what they are and provide the essential back story so you can hold your own in any foodie conversation.

Cheese Tea

This is tea topped with a combination of cream cheese, whipped cream and sugar. Yes, this sounds strange, but done correctly and it is an awesome culinary experience. We are found of Tie Kuan Yin or Jasmine Green in this combo with low sugar. Originating out of Guangdong, China by the Royal Tea Company, now called HeyTea, it is immensely popular in China and comes in a wide range of flavors and levels of sweetness. It can be served warm or over ice. The company Gong Cha, also from China, has chains in New York City serving what is supposedly the same recipe, but the cheese is more whipped cream than cream cheese and sweeter. (We prefer the ones we had when visiting Guangdong over the ones served in New York City). Rest assured this is not a low calorie beverage or a low sugar beverage. The cheese topping is said to contain at least 20 grams of sugar but could have as much as 50 grams and that is before they offer to add more sugar to the tea. We haven’t found a company in Virginia making anything close to the original, but Gong Cha is moving into the area beginning in Rockville, MD.

Bubble Tea or Boba Tea

This is a tea like beverage containing large tapioca pearls at the bottom of the drink. Yes, there is tea in the liquid but you may also find that it has been blended with fruit juice or milk. This also comes in a wide variety of flavors and requires an extra large straw to suck up the tapioca pearls. It is generally served cold or at room temperature. It is a different beverage to drink as it is chunky. So if you are ok with chewing on the tapioca pearls, you may enjoy this. This is another calorie dense drink as the tapioca pearls themselves will give you over 100 calories and may be cooked in sugar water to help sweeten them, adding even more. With milk, fruit juice and other sweeteners added this beverage quickly makes it way above 300 calories.

Milk Tea & Thai Iced Tea

Milk tea originates in Hong Kong and is simply evaporated milk (not sweetened) and tea. The milk is sometimes steeped with lavender, jasmine or other floral flavors and then blended with the tea. Sugar is added on request and the beverage is generally served warm. Think of this as a reflection of the century of rule by the British Empire. Thai Iced Tea is a very close in nature to the Hong Kong milk tea. Originating in Thailand, it is served cold and with sweetened condensed milk. This makes the beverage much thicker and sweeter. Sometimes additional spices like star anise or ginger are also added. The milk and sugar add calories, but no where near cheese or bubble tea.

Nitro Tea

This American invention is the tea lover’s answer to nitro coffee. Nitro tea is cold-brewed tea pressurized in a canister of nitrogen gas and dispensed out of spigot just like beer. The nitrogen gas makes the tea naturally sweeter and adds little bubbles to the tea. There are no additional calories, unless the maker of the cold brewed tea added sugar or fruit juice. So think of this as bubbly iced tea. You can add simple syrup after dispensing it but it will deflate the bubbles.

So as you are out and about, keep your eyes open for these unique versions of tea.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

3 uses for Tea Infused Simple Syrup

Tea infused simple syrup is an easy way to incorporate tea into a wide variety of recipes and its simple to make.  So skip the store bought stuff and experiment with your own. A typical simple syrup is just equal parts water and sugar. The water is heated to the point of dissolving the sugar and then removed from the heat to cool.

Tea Infused Simple Syrup

1 1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
6 grams (roughly 2 Tbsp) Tea

Bring the water to a boil and remove from heat. Put in the tea leaves to steep for 10 minutes. Strain off the leaves and measure out 1 cup of remaining liquid. If you are short because the tea leaves absorbed more than 1/4 cup, add more water to get you to 1 cup of liquid. Put this back on the stove top and add the 1 cup of sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. If you do this immediately after steeping, you will not need to return the tea to a boil as it will be hot enough on medium heat to dissolve the sugar quickly. Allow the simple syrup to cool and then put in the refrigerator if not using immediately. Simple syrup generally has a shelf life of 1 month in the refrigerator.

Tea Infused Simple Syrup – Uses

Lemonade – This favorite summer time drink requires a fair amount of sugar to keep it from being too puckering. A tea infused simple syrup is a great way to add an unexpected twist to the lemonade. Moroccan Mint or Mint Fields impart a subtle mint flavor to your lemonade, while using Pear Raspberry Green gives it a nice raspberry twist.

Cocktails/Mocktails – Many cocktails call for simple syrup to help cut the edge off the alcohol in the beverage. If the cocktail, has a clear alcohol base like gin, vodka or rum, the flavor of the tea will be very evident. This allows you to use green tea simple syrups using Sencha or Jasmine Green. With barrel aged alcohols, you can have fun with Puerh and your stronger black teas from Assam.

Coffee – Yes, you read that correctly. Some spicy teas like Ginger Honeybush and Masala Chai add a fun twist to the cup of coffee.

There are countless ways to use simple syrup, so experiment and enjoy!

 

 

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss