New Teas for New Habits

With the new year right around the corner, we thought we would share some teas to help you form new habits. Whether it is expanding your horizons by trying new things, reducing your caffeine intake or adding a cup of green tea to your daily routine, here are some of our picks to help you get off on the right foot.

Reducing Caffeine

Generally tea has half the caffeine of coffee and one third the caffeine of soda. So replacing those beverages with tea is an easy answer for reducing caffeine. Not only that but the caffeine in tea is less jolting too! If you are looking to replace coffee, check out this post on 3 teas for coffee drinkers. However, if you are like us and tea is your go-to constantly, then we have to talk tisanes (French term meaning tea like drink without tea). One of our favorite tisanes is Honeybush. This cousin of Rooibos is slightly sweet and woody. It is naturally caffeine free and a great substitute in the evening just before bed.

Adding Green Tea

It is almost daily that we are asked about the health benefits of green tea. They are numerous, but to get them you must drink at least one cup daily. For some, this may be somewhat daunting, especially if milk and sugar are part of your tea routine. Green tea should not be drunk with milk or sugar. There are a few green teas that make it easier to transition to this tea type. Hundred Year Tea is one of these since it is blended with other ingredients that give it a slight spiciness and help to tone down the grassy flavor of tea. The other is Liu An Gua Pian, also known as Melon Seed Tea. This green tea from Anhui, China is subtly sweet and much less grassy in flavor than most green teas, making it a good introduction to this type of tea.

Trying New Things

Expanding one’s horizons is often a fun resolution and gives you a reason to expand your tea drinking habits. This leads us tea drinkers into the world of Puerh Tea. Admittedly the flavor profiles on these fermented teas range from peat moss to collard greens, which may not be appealing to all. However, this category of tea surprises many and opens up a wide range of highly crafted and cared for teas, whose history is thousands of years old. A good place to start is sampling a few of the teas in a flight of tea at our shop or picking up a sample size of Golden Fortune Puerh or Puerh Leaf Satemwa.

There are many teas out there that can be incorporated into your new habits for the new year. So join us in exploring them all!

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Burmese Tea Leaf Salad – Part 2

Plated Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad – Plated for presentation but not yet mixed together.

So, if you are just joining us, you may want to read Part 1 of this blog post describing how to pickle your green tea leaves. For those of you who already read and now want to eat, we have a few more steps to finalize this salad. This salad is traditionally served with the tea leaves acting as the equivalent of lettuce, which I will prepare below. However, the pickled leaves remind me more of a dressing and do nicely as a garnish on romaine lettuce. So feel free to Americanize.

Ingredients (To serve 4)

Fried Rice Noodles (look in the Asian isle of the grocery store)
8 gloves of Garlic
1/2 cup Peanuts
1/4 cup Sesame seeds
1 can of Lentils (color is your choice)
Oil for frying
2 whole Tomatoes

Equipment

Paper towels and four plates. Cast iron frying pan or a pan with high sides to fry in. You will also need a ladle to pull out the lentils and a slotted spoon for the garlic.

Steps to Prepare the Other Ingredients

Start by gathering up all your ingredients as the frying times are going to be short and you cannot walk away from the pan. Setup the paper towels on two of the plates, double the paper towels on one of the plates for the lentils. This will give you a place to put the ingredients to cool before plating them with the tea leaves. Remove the skin and slice the garlic cloves. Cut the tomatoes into wedges to get you at least 4 wedges per serving. Empty the lentils out of the can into a strainer and rise under cool water. Pat dry with paper towels. Put the pan on the stove top and allow to heat. Add the sesame seeds and allow to toast for no longer than about 1 minute. If they start to turn brown on you remove from the heat so they do not burn. Pour the sesame seeds out on one of the plates with no paper towels. Next, put the peanuts into the pan and toast them for about 2 minutes. You need to stir the peanuts to prevent burning. You will smell the peanuts, which is an indicator to remove from the heat as they will burn quickly after this point. Pour the peanuts out on a plate without the paper towels to cool. Now add oil to the pan, depending on your oil type it will ripple immediately and will not require any more time before putting in the garlic. The garlic will cause bubbling, so do be careful. You can lower the heat and stir the garlic with a slotted spoon. It will take the garlic about 5 minutes to start to turn brown. Once brown, remove from the oil and put on one of the plates with paper towels to remove the oil off the garlic. Next, put in the lentils, leave them in the oil until they are crunchy, which will take around 5-7 minutes. Keep stirring and you will feel as they dry out and harden. Remove them from the oil. Unfortunately, the lentils are so small they fall through the slots in the spoon. So you will need to remove them with a ladle.

Steps to Plate the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

Measure out roughly 1/2 cup of the tea leaves into the middle of each of the 4 plates. Arrange the dry ingredients (rice noodles, fried lentils, sesame seeds & peanuts) in piles around the outside of the leaves and divide the piles with the tomato wedges. Sprinkle the garlic on the top of the tea leaves. It is up to the individual to decide how they would like to mix the ingredients together. Don’t skip the fried garlic and lentils as they add a wonderful textural contrast to the tea leaves.

Enjoy!

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Sweet Tea Recipe – An American Classic

Sweet Tea // Ice Tea

Popular throughout the American south, Sweet Tea can be a great way to beat the summer heat. Photo by liz west (Flickr) – CC BY 2.0 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/641462022/

Sweet tea has been around since the 1800’s in the United States. It has had many variations in a wide variety of cookbooks. Generally speaking it is tea, sugar and lemon. It is the ratio’s of those ingredients that provide this variety and allow this drink to become a family recipe. The big headache with sweet tea is getting the sugar to dissolve in the cold tea. The recipe below takes care of this by using a tea infused simple syrup.

Sweet Tea (1/2 gallon)

4 cups of water

4 tablespoons of loose tea (Originally this was green tea since that was what was available in the 1800s, but now it is usually black. English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast make a great base.)trailer movie J. Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only 2017

1 lemon

1 cup of simple syrup

4-5 cups of ice

Start by making the simple syrup from the recipe below. You can use the same tea you are using for the base of the sweet tea or change it up to add a hint of something else. Moroccan Mint or Earl Grey with Lavender make interesting twists to the flavor of sweet tea. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the tea. Allow to steep for 5 minutes if a black tea and 3 minutes for a green tea. While the tea is steeping. Take out a 1/2 gallon pitcher and fill half-way up with ice. If you have a larger pitcher, just add 4 mounded cups of ice. Then pour in the simple syrup over the ice. If your simple syrup just came off the stove, it will melt some of the ice. Add more ice to get your ice back up to half way up your pitcher. When your timer goes off, put a strainer on the top of the pitcher to catch the loose tea and pour the hot tea into the pitcher over the ice. You are using the ice partly as water and partly to cool this down quickly to ice tea.

You can slice the lemon and add it to the pitcher. It will cloud the tea, but I find that it cuts the sweetness nicely. (Sorry I love my tea straight up.)  Or you put the lemon in the glass and pour the tea over it.

The ratio of simple of syrup to tea used above is borrowed from older recipes, but what you generally find is that it is a personal preference so feel free to adjust accordingly.

Tea Infused Simple Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp of tea

Simple syrup for sweet tea simmering on the stove.

Preparing simple syrup for sweet tea.

On the stove top, put 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup of water in a sauce pan and hit over medium-high to high heat to get to boil. It is recommended that your stir, it will not take long for the sugar to dissolve into the warming water. As soon as bubbles start to appear, put in the tea and set a timer for 5 minutes. It is easiest if you stir for the next 5 minutes, you will want the water at a low rolling boil. Once it is there drop the temperature so you do not turn your simple syrup into a caramel sauce. At the end of the 5 minutes, remove from the heat and strain out the tea. Simple syrup can be made in larger batches and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, so feel free to make a large batch so you have them at your disposal anytime (It works nicely in tea infused cocktails).

 

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Tea and its History

Yellow Mountains with clouds below.

Yellow Mountains of Anhui Province, China – by Flickr User Chi King – CC BY 2.0

Huang Shan Mao Feng tea is rich in both flavor and history.  This amazing green tea is considered one of the most famous Chinese teas, being prized for its complex vegetal flavor and the shape of the finished tea leaves.

History of Huang Shan Mao Feng

Huang Shan Mao Feng comes from the Huang Shan mountains in the Anhui province of China. Huang Shan means yellow mountains, which they happen to be. These are the famous mountains often depicted in Chinese pictures with the pointy jagged rocks at the tip with trees jutting out from deep crevasses. This region provides the perfect terroir for tea, making it home to several famous Chinese teas. Huang Shan Mao Feng may be the youngest of these teas, becoming popular in the late 1800s CE, during the reign of the last Chinese imperial dynasty.

Most Chinese teas have a myth around their creation that reflect the ancient life of China, and this tea is no different. The story goes that a young maiden on a tea plantation fell in love with a local scholar. The plantation owner wanted her as his wife and forced her parents to give the young maiden to him. The night before the wedding the young maiden escaped and fled into the mountains to find the scholar, only to discover he was killed by the plantation owner. When she went to his grave deep in the mountains she cried over his body, turning it into a tea bush and herself into the rain and mist that covers the mountains almost daily.

Huang Shan Mao Feng Production

Huang Shan Mao Feng is made from the young growth of the bud and first leaf, and often have the noticeable silver hairs made famous by Bai Hao Silver Needle tea. It is shaped by hand into a mountain peak. The term Mao Feng mean furry peak. These needles will range in color from light to dark green and have a slight curve in their shape. This tea, like Dragon Well, is picked before the Qing Ming holiday and baked to stop the oxidation.

Steeping Huang Shan Mao Feng

Yellow Tea Huang Shan Mao Feng Leaf and Liquor

Yellow Tea – Huang Shan Mao Feng

You are going to use 3 grams per 8 ounces of water. If you do not have kitchen scale, use 2 tablespoons to get the 3 grams as this tea is very light and airy. The water should be between 175°-185° Fahrenheit. Allow the leaves to steep for 2 minutes for the first cup. Your second cup should be steeped for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Your third cup should be steeped for 3 minutes. Notice how the flavor changes with the cups, going from a light grassy to a strong vegetal flavor.

If you have not had this tea before, stop into the shop for a tasting or order a sample online.  This tea reflects the skill of Chinese tea masters and the beauty of Chinese green tea.

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Chinese Tea: Hubei Province

In our last post we focused on Anhui Province, its people, and some of its famous teas. In this post we shift next door to look at neighboring Hubei Province which has many similarities yet is home to distinct Chinese teas of its own.

Hubei Province – Land and People

Ancient tower in China

Yellow Crane Tower in Hubei Province China (by Flicr user Meraj Chhaya, CC BY-2.0)

At a macro level Hubei, like Anhui, has a large population especially by comparison to US States of similar size. Hubei has approximately 57 Million people in an area of 186,000 sq km (71,815 sq mi). This is roughly equivalent to the size of Washington State, which has a much smaller population at only 7 million people. Instead, consider that Hubei’s 57 million is the equivalent of the populations of California and New York combined, all within the land area of Washington State. The population is made up of a large number of minority ethnic groups in a province said to be the origin of the Chinese people.

From a geography perspective, Hubei is a land locked province located along about the same latitude as southern Texas, Louisiana, and Florida though its land features range from lowlands to highly mountainous. The province is also traversed by the well known Yangtze River, features the Enshi Grand Canyon (1/16th the size of ours but very lush), Three Gorges, Yellow Tower, and more.

Like its geography and its people Hubei province has a wide range industries and business activities ranging from agricultural to finance and high tech.

Hubei Province Tea

Statue of Lu Yu

Lu Yu – In Xi’an on the grounds of the Great Wild Goose Pagoda
Nat Krause
July 26, 2005, CC – 2.0

Home to the birthplace of Yu Lu, author of the Classic of Tea, Hubei boasts a number of great teas. Though its teas are perhaps overlooked due to teas like Dragon Well, Keemun, and many others from surrounding provinces, it is home to its own unique tea. The major tea producing region of Hubei is found in the southwest mountains of the province in the Enshi region. Its an extremely mountainous region with very rugged terrain,and not surprisingly is quite rural by comparison to other parts of the province. The land here is heavily forested and known for rich soils high in selenium. As a result of both history and the high selenium content of its soils, Hubei produces a number of unique teas. The most famous of its teas is actually Enshi Yu Lu, also known as Jade Dew. What makes this unique is its close similarity to another ‘Jade Dew’ tea, Gyokuro from Japan. The Enshi Yu Lu green tea, like that of its close relative from Japan, uses steaming to halt oxidation of the leaf, which is a production method generally not used in other parts of China. Like its Japanese counterpart, Enshi Yu Lu has long dark green leaves that look to be needle shaped and tends to have a very vegetal flavor.

Additional teas include Wujiatai Tribute Tea, Hefeng Tea, Mapo Tea, and increasingly teas focused on perceived health benefits of selenium like Enshi Selenium Enriched Tea. The high selenium content of the soils, in fact, has led a number of companies in the region to seek trademarks on many different health related names of teas (though selenium deficiency is considered rare in the United States). Given the rich history of tea production in the region, its unique processing methods, the role in culture, and its own particular terrior, this region like many others (starting with Champagne, France) is pursuing Geographic Identification status as a way to highlight and protect its tea products.

Sources
Geographical Indication Characteristics and Agricultural Intellectual Property Protection of the tea in Enshi Prefecture, Asian Agricultural Research 2015, http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/174939/2/24.PDF

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