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.