Hundred Year Tea – A Modern Twist on an Historic Beverage

Loose leaf hundred year tea.

Hundred Year Tea

The inspiration for Hundred Year Tea comes from the first Korean encyclopedia, published in 1614 C.E. The author, Yu Su-gwang, tells the story of an old man punishing another man who appears to be even older still. When chastised for punishing the older man, he replies that the other man is actually his son despite his appearance. He is punishing him because he did not follow his instructions to drink hundred year wine each day and now has aged to the point where he appears older than his father. This hundred year wine, known as Baeksaeju, is available in many Asian markets, and is made of numerous spices found in traditional Asian medicine. We have taken those spices and added them to green tea for our own version of this beverage

Hundred Year Tea: Ingredients from Traditional Asian Medicine

Some of the ingredients that add the spice in this tea are recognizable to most Americans, like the cinnamon, goji berries, ginger and licorice root. The schisandra berries and astragalus deserve some explanation. Both of these ingredients have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat a wide variety ailments.

Schisandra berries are also called the five flavor berries. These red berries look like small cranberries because of their color but they pack a complex flavor. It’s salty, sweet, bitter, sour and pungent all at the same time! It adds a depth to this tea that would otherwise require many more ingredients to get. The Chinese have long used this schisandra berry for coughs, other lung ailments, to regulate blood sugar and assist with liver functions. Schisandra hasn’t been widely tested by the medical community in the United States but the Chinese have derived and use widely liver treatment drugs from this fruit.

Astragalus is a type of legume or bean that is native to Northern China and Eastern Russia. By itself, it tastes like dried hay or wood. Combined with tea, it smooths out the flavor. It is the root of the astragalus plant that is harvested and has long been used in Chinese medicine to boost the immune system. It has been proven to help increase white blood cell counts and assist in decreasing the duration of cold and flu. More recently it has been studied here in the US for its ability to turn on an enzyme in humans called telomerase, which lengths the telomeres at the end of the DNA strands in humans. The US medical community has been studying telmeres in relationship to age related diseases and agree that it is the shortening of telomeres that makes a person susceptible to age related diseases like heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. For now, the medical community thinks the shortening comes with the repeated copying of the DNA, but there are several studies looking at how diet, exercise and environment effect telomeres. In the meantime, we are going to appreciate the fact that humans knew several centuries ago that this plant helped and modern science is now telling us how.

Hundred Year Tea: Taste

While it is nice to see modern proof for a centuries old story, we are more focused on how it tastes. This tea is subtle yet spicy with a flavor profile more complex than Indian chai tea. The spice in this tea removes the grassiness often associated with green tea, making it a good introduction to green tea for those who are not fond of the typical green tea flavors. For the routine green tea drinker, this is fun change that preserves all the health benefits while giving you a new flavors to enjoy. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

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How to Make a Single Cup of Iced Tea

Fresh Iced Tea by the Cup

Preparing a single cup of iced tea.

In warmer weather one of the things we offer in our Purcellville Tasting Room is iced tea in a variety of forms. With over 100 different teas to choose from we don’t want to limit guests to what we have prepared ahead of time or what’s on the nitro tea tap. So we also offer any tea, iced by the cup. And guests regularly ask how they can do the same thing at home.

Making a single cup of iced tea is very easy. So if you are wanting a cup of iced tea but not in the mood for a full pitcher, here is how it’s done.

Single Cup of Iced Tea: Equipment

  • Kettle (yes you can boil water on the stove but its well worth picking up an electric kettle)
  • Glass measuring cup (we love Pyrex 8 oz measuring cups)
  • Strainer
  • Glass to drink from (Preferably 16 oz, but you can scale this smaller or larger)

Single Cup of Iced Tea: Instructions

To make a 16 oz cup of iced tea we are effectively going to make a concentrated cup of hot tea and pour it over ice to rapidly cool and dilute it to the right strength.

1. Start by measuring out double the amount of tea you would use for an 8 oz cup into the glass measuring cup. For large leaf tea, this is 2 tablespoons and for small leaf this 2 teaspoons.
2. Get your water to the right temperature in your kettle and pour 1 cup (8 oz) of water into the measuring cup. Allow the tea to steep for the appropriate time. If you are unsure, just check the for the correct time here.
3. Fill your drinking glass with ice. The trick here is to know how much ice to fill based on the density of your ice. You may need to play a little bit, but generally you will fill the 16 oz glass half full with ice.
4. When time is up, pour the hot tea through the strainer onto the ice. You know you have the right amount of ice when most of it melts and just a few cubes remain.

Hint on sugar: If you want sugar in your iced tea, add it to the hot tea while steep and stir. It will dissolve the sugar/honey quickly and the strainer will catch anything that doesn’t melt.

This method works with all tea types and herbal/tisanes. Enjoy!

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Chinese Solar Eclipse Mythology

Flag of the Qing Dynasty

Chinese solar eclipse mythology stretches over thousands of years. The fun myths and real life stories of the rise and fall of empires around solar eclipses give a unique view into this ancient culture. So grab a cup of your favorite tea and join us in a little historic sun gazing.

Hungry Dragons

One of the oldest Chinese solar eclipse myths is around the hungry dragon. A solar eclipse is a dragon eating the sun. To stop it from consuming the entire sun, a lot of noise has to be made. Originally, pots and pans where beaten to make noise to scare away the dragon. The noise making expanded to include drums, firecrackers and even the firing of cannons on naval vessels. This belief in the hungry dragons led to one of the first words for eclipse to be the Chinese word shi, which means to eat.

What this fun story hides is the obsession with the sky that heavily influenced Chinese culture. It was believed, and is still reference in modern day culture, that the heavens dictate the power of the leader. So understanding the heavens and its signs was a full time job for several members of the imperial court and a serious hobby for many of the commoners.

Chinese Astronomy and Solar Eclipses

Solar eclipses are seen as bad omens for Chinese Emperors, so astronomers where tasked with predicting them and ensuring that the Emperor was aware. If caught off guard, the Emperor was seen as out of favor with the heavens and weak. This opened up the possibility of having to pass the thrown to another family member or an opponent. The first detailed documentation of an eclipse was more of a documentation of the beheading of 2 of Emperor Kang’s astronomers for failing to predict the eclipse in 2134 B.C.E. (To put this in perspective, humans really didn’t have the mathematical equations or equipment to nail down the day and time of eclipses until the 1800s C.E.. So the Chinese advisers used observation of the moon and star placement to predict both solar and lunar equations usually within a few days of the actual occurrence.)

So why so much detail? The moon phases were used to build the original calendars and predict the change of seasons, which helped with planting and harvesting of foods. Getting the planting and harvest wrong, meant people would starve. It was the emperor’s job to tell people when to plant and harvest, so having help in predicting and documenting the sky was critical to the emperor’s success.

The Chinese obsession with the sky lead to a vast amount of documentation of the stars, sun and moon back into 2100s B.C.E. These were so detailed that they were used by the NASA Jet propulsion lab to help calculate the historic rotation of the planet.

 

So as we enjoy the eclipse on Monday, we will toast it with a cup of Jasmine Dragon Tears, as the poor dragon fails to eat the sun.

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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.

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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.
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