3 Introductory Green Teas – Where to Start

Loose Leaf Green TeaInterested in green tea but don’t know where to start? Here are our 3 favorite introductory green teas that we recommend to those who are new to the tea or had a bad green tea experience in the past. Each gives a different view into the vast world of green teas without being so green that it shocks your palette. We skipped flavored teas here as they don’t truly represent complex green tea flavors.

We recommend that you brew these between 175°F and 185°F.

  1. Jasmine Green – This scented green tea from China carries the floral aroma of jasmine petals with a lite astringency. This is a good one to try if you like other floral teas that include lavender or rose. It is a softer green tea that also holds its flavor over ice. Applying the jasmine scent is labor intensive but worth the effort.
  2. Gunpowder – The name of the tea refers to the shape of the tea leaves. This is a tightly balled green tea from China. Unlike other greens, this one has a stronger finish that is more similar to an Irish Breakfast or Assam tea. This bite is due to the combined use of steam and baking to make this tea. We generally recommend this tea to those who have been loyal black tea drinkers but want to branch out into green tea.
  3. Genmaicha – This Japanese green tea is a mixture of green tea and toasted rice kernels.  The toasted rice kernels were added to help stretch out expensive green tea. This ancient recipe carries the aroma of popcorn and a lite smooth finish. It is a great introduction to Japanese green teas, which are steamed instead of baked.

Green tea is a very broad category of teas with a wide range of flavors. So if all the articles talking about the health benefits of green tea have you interested, these introductory green teas are a great place to start to help narrow the field to a tea you can drink daily.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

Tea Poached Pears

Poached pear prepared with hojicha green tea.

Hojicha Tea Poached Pear

With fresh juicy pears in season right now it is hard to pass up the opportunity to make the classic poached pear dessert with tea. For this recipe we used the green tea Hojicha from Japan to infuse the poaching liquid. The Hojicha adds a beautiful nuttiness and depth to dish. You can feel free to try this dish with any of your favorite teas.

A few items to consider before taking on this dish. It does take time to poach pears and make the syrup and allow them to cool, roughly two and half hours, so making this while preparing dinner is not really an option. The pears keep well in the refrigerator, so you can definitely make them in advance, even the day before. When buying pears, you are looking for pears with stems to make it easy for you to move them in and out of the water. If that is not possible, you can quarter the pears and use a slotted spoon instead of serving whole. Ideally you would use ripe pears, where if you press along the neck of the pear it gives under pressure. If you cannot find them, don’t worry, you will need to poach longer in the liquid.

Tea Poached Pears – Equipment

6 cup pan with lid
Peeler
Grapefruit spoon or corer
Tongs or slotted spoon
Knife
Spoon
Container to hold the pears in the refrigerator
Kettle to heat water
Pyrex or pitcher/teapot to brew tea in

Tea Poached Pears – Ingredients

6 Pears with stems
4 cups of water
1/4 cup of Hojicha tea
1 cup of sugar

Tea Poached Pears – Steps

  1. Peel and core the pears. Start by coring the pears from the bottom so as to keep the stem in place. Using a grapefruit spoon or corer, work around the notch at the bottom into the pear with the goal of removing the seeds and hard center. It will create a hole in the pear, which helps to speed along the poaching. After coring, peel the skin off the pears and place into your pan.
  2. Heat up 4 cups of water to 185°F and put in the tea. Steep for 3 minutes. Strain out the loose leaf tea and pour the remaining liquid into the pot with the pears.
  3. Turn on the burner to about medium. The tea is already hot, so you can pour in the sugar while it comes up to a simmer.
  4. Allow the pears to simmer in the tea for at least 20 minutes, but more likely 40 minutes if the pears are not fully ripe. You can use your knife to test if they are done. The knife should insert very easily.
  5. Remove the pears from the liquid using tongs by lifting them out by the stem and put in the refrigerator to cool. Leave the sauce in the pan and turn the burner up to high to get the sauce to a rolling boiling. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer until it reduces to a syrup that coats the back of your spoon when you lift it out. This will take around 30-minutes so be patient and stir periodically to check. Remove from heat and store in the refrigerator.
  6. Poached pears are traditionally served cold on a plate by placing the full pear in the center, drizzling on the syrup, and allowing guests to add whipped cream if want it.
Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

Darjeeling Tea Shortage of 2017 and Gorkha Struggle

Are you a lover of Darjeeling tea? Or perhaps just curious about the region? Unfortunately, it appears that the struggle for recognition by the Ghorkha has led to the harvest of a tiny fraction of the expected tea crop in Darjeeling. In fact, indications are that Darjeeling tea on auction in Kolkata is way way down and trending toward zero with upcoming auctions. The relatively short, yet ultimately complex history of the region set the stage for a months long uprising triggered by a ruling about language taught in schools.

Darjeeling, India

Darjeeling is in the Northeast of India surrounded by Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh (Public Domain)

The Ghorkha and Ghorkhaland Region

If you haven’t taken a close look at a map of India and West Bengal recently, now is a great time to do so. West Bengal is an oddly shaped state in Eastern India. Almost serpent like in shape, West Bengal extends from the Bay of Bengal in the south up to the high mountains between Nepal and Bhutan. It then extends east, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. India extends further to the east into Assam where the country opens up, yet Darjeeling itself is seemingly squished from all sides with a greater geographic touch to neighboring countries than to India.

Important Darjeeling Facts:

  • Darjeeling, once part of Nepal, was ceded to the British and East India Company in 1815 in the Treaty of Sugauli.
  • Modern India was created in 1947 when it became independent from Great Britain. It’s only 70 years old!
  • Bengal was separated along religious lines into West Bengal (India) and East Bengal (Pakistan) during Indian independence.
  • Bangladesh, formerly East Bengal, succeeded from Pakistan in 1971.

The Ghorkha are Indian citizens of Nepali descent. They speak a different language and have different customs from those to the south, the majority Bengali Indian population. They have been advocating since 1907 – 40 years before India’s independence – for recognition and their own independent state. The desire for more autonomy, and recognition as different from Bengali’s of the south, has contributed to significant friction that has occasionally spilled over to violence since that time. This desire for its own state led to the creation of the push for Ghorkhaland to include the northern most portions of West Bengal – a region from Darjeeling east to the border with Assam.

Within the Gorkhaland region you will find that the population actually includes Nepali (which is actually 15 different ethnic groups), Lepcha (some of the earliest settlers), Bhutia (people migrating from Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet), Tibetan (refugees from Tibet during the Sino-Indian War of 1961), Bengali (settlers and migrants from South Bengal and refugees from Bangladesh), and many others not otherwise classified1.

During the past 100+ year desire for recognition and its own state, the Gorkha have come together and formed various political parties and violence has flared from time to time, notably in the 1980’s and again in 2013. This has led to various concessions from West Bengal with the current major political party, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) advocating for recognition and the Gorkha Territorial Administration, providing semi-autonomous self-governing in the region.

The Spark for 2017 Turmoil

In May 2017, the West Bengal government of Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee issued a ruling that Bengali must be taught in all schools in West Bengal through the 10th grade. In a region that has struggled for over 100 years for recognition, in an area more closely aligned to Nepal than to Bengal, this was the spark needed to revive the push for an independent Gorkhaland state.

Immediately after the announcement from the West Bengal government the GJM and other related parties renewed the long simmering push for an independent state with Darjeeling as the epicenter for protests. On June 12th, the GJM called for an indefinite bandh – a Hindi word for general strike – while at the same time a group of 26 trade unions lent support by calling for a strike by tea workers as well.  Many people in the region took to the street to protest causing disruptions in local government services and transportation, making it difficult for tourists and residents of boarding schools of the region to leave. In response, the West Bengal government sent in police and military to try and quell the unrest. To date at least three people have died and multiple buildings and vehicles have been burned.

As August 2017 approaches the region continues to protest with tea production and tourism, two of the largest industries of Darjeeling and the greater Gorkhaland area, mostly at a standstill. The GJM has refused talks with the West Bengal Government, instead pushing for talks at a national level to push for the creation of their state. And, if the West Bengal Government is to be believed the GJM may now be bringing in outside help to train protesters for a long drawn out struggle2.

Summing Up

The season for 2nd Flush Darjeeling is now past, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Narendra Modi thus far has not engaged in the discussion for a Gorkhaland state, and the GJM remains unwilling to work with the West Bengal Government. So the 2017 Darjeeling crop is a bust and early indications aren’t looking good for a resolution anytime soon potentially threatening the 2018 Darjeeling crop as well.

 

1) GTA Profile, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, http://www.gta-darjeeling.org/node/285

2) GJM Preparing for Underground Armed Movement with Maoists, CNN News 18, http://www.news18.com/news/india/gjm-preparing-for-underground-armed-movement-with-maoists-1470011.html

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

5 Facts About Ceylon Tea

Ceylon tea plucked on the island nation of Sri Lanka

Plucking Tea in Sri Lanka

With the Ceylon tea industry celebrating 150 years this week, we thought we would highlight five interesting facts about Ceylon tea and the island of Sri Lanka.

  1. Coffee was originally planted by the British as the crop that would be used, via export, to pay for this strategic military outpost. Luckily, tea seeds and plants where brought onto the island in the 1840’s for testing by the local botanical garden as an additional crop that could be exported from the island. It wasn’t until 1867 that the first tea plantation went into production, which was fortunate. In the 1870’s, rust would wipe out the coffee plantations in Sri Lanka, at which point the coffee growers ripped out the coffee plantations and replaced them with tea. Without this rust outbreak, Ceylon tea may never had taken off.
  2. First batch of tea grown in Ceylon arrived in England in 1872.
  3. 1 million packets of Ceylon tea were sold at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.
  4. Sir Thomas Lipton, yes the founder of Lipton tea, had his plantations in Sri Lanka. Lipton tea is no longer grown there (It is grown in Argentina for consumers in North America and Africa for the European market. Lipton will still buy Ceylon tea at auction periodically but they do not own any plantations in Sri Lanka.)
  5. Ceylon tea is typically black tea and can come as both a single estate tea, like Vithanakanda, or a mix of small farms that share a manufacturing facility as in our Ceylon OP1. Periodically you can find a green tea from the island that stands up to the greens from China, like Royal Ceylon Gunpowder.

As an American, you have probably had Ceylon tea even if you were not aware of it. Ceylon tea is judged for its malty flavor with a brisk finish that is toward the back of your mouth.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

Irish Breakfast Raspberry Muffins

Irish Breakfast raspberry muffins are easy to make and a fun change to the usual morning meal. We used raspberries in this recipe because we happen to have a lot in the house currently, but you can incorporate any summer fruit or berry, just cut it into small pieces.

Irish Breakfast Raspberry Muffins – Ingredients

1 1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons of Irish Breakfast tea
2 cups of Whole Wheat Baking Flour or All Purpose Flour
1 cup of Old Fashion Rolled Oats (No instant Oatmeal, it will not set up correctly)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 cup of raspberries cut in half
2 eggs 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1/3 cup of agave nectar

 

Irish Breakfast Raspberry Muffins – Steps

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line your muffin pan with muffin liners or spray with oil so you can easily remove the muffins after baking.
  2. Put the milk in a pan on the stove top with the tea and bring the milk up to just a simmer. You are looking for steam and small bubbles around the edges. Stir the tea leaves into the milk and periodically stir to make sure the milk does not burn to the bottom of the pan. This will only take about 5-7 minutes. Remove the milk from the heat and allow to sit with the tea still in it for at least 10 minutes.
  3. While the tea is steeping, mix together in a bowl the flour, oats, salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
  4. Cut the raspberries in half and mix them into the dry ingredients. You want them coated in flour. Do not skip cutting down whatever fruit you chose to use, if the fruit pieces are bigger than 1/3 of an inch you will likely have problems with big holes and your muffins falling apart as the fruit shrinks in cooking.
  5. Mix in a separate bowl the oil, agave nectar, vanilla extract, and eggs.
  6. Strain the milk to remove the tea leaves and once cool mix into the liquids in step 4. The milk is cool enough if you can comfortably put your finger in it.
  7. Add the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix until everything is incorporated and there are no dry ingredients.
  8. Fill the muffin tin to about 2/3 of the way up the sides and bake for 14-16 minutes. Test with a toothpick (which should come out clean) before removing. Makes 12 regular sized muffins.

**If you want an even more intense tea taste, replace a tablespoon of the flour with a tablespoon of tea leaves. Crush the tea leaves into a powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss