Tag Archives: Tea

BLOG POST: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR HERBAL TEAS?

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Herbal Tea, Tisane, medicinal

Herbal teas, or tisanes, have existed for centuries dating back to ancient Egypt and China. They have become extremely popular in North America in recent years.

A report on the herbal tea industry asserts that the widely publicized health benefits of these teas have boosted their demand significantly over the past five years. Consumers have been purchasing more herbal teas because they are perceived as healthier and good for many ailments than traditional black tea, although black tea still remains the most consumed type of tea in the United States. In 2015 revenue from herbal teas grew to $1.0 billion.

In one of our previous articles about teas, we explained that tisane is any beverage brewed from material other than the Camellia Sinensis bush—teas brewed from barks, stems, berries, seeds, and even leaves of other plants. It is obvious then, that tisane material is limitless.

So what are the qualities you should look for when you select a tisane?

According to an article in Reader’s Digest, Best Health, it is important to look for a well-sourced product made from high-quality ingredients. If you drink herbal tea for medicinal purposes, you should steer clear of products that have things like essential oils or flavours added. In addition, you should steep the loose tea leaves or tea bags longer, say at least ten minutes, to extract the healthful properties. The article further explains that, “Anytime you’re ingesting something, you’re giving your body the building blocks it needs to manufacture tissues and hormones. . . If you drink tea every day, you can make all sorts of significant changes to your mood, your skin, your sense of well-being and energy.”

Below we have listed some of the most popular herbal teas/tisanes and some of their benefits.

Peppermint tea: Naturopath, Colin Huska recommends drinking peppermint tea to relieve symptoms of abdominal gas and bloating, and to relieve muscle spasms. It’s also good for nausea (without vomiting) and for heating up the body and making it sweat.

Ginger tea: Aids digestion. It can curb nausea, vomiting or upset stomach due to motion sickness.

Chamomile tea:  Chamomile is a gentle calming and sedative tea that can help with insomnia. Huska recommends it for a cough and bronchitis and when you have a cold or fever. It should be steeped well to get all the medicinal benefits.

Lemon balm tea: Helps to lift the spirits. It is recommended for the winter blahs, and to help improve concentration.

Milk thistle and dandelion tea: According to Huska, when these teas are consumed they act as gentle liver cleansers. “They help the liver to regenerate and function at a higher capacity.”

Rose hip tea: This tea is made from the fruits of the rose plant and is a good source of vitamin C, and important for the immune system, skin and tissue health and adrenal function.

There are so many wonderful herbal teas to choose from. Tell us about your favourite tisane.

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Disclaimer: This blog is intended only to provide information, education, and entertainment. We do our very best to ensure the information we provide is accurate. Be reminded that nothing you find on our site or in our blogs is in any way intended to be a substitute for the medical care and advice your professional healthcare provider gives you, so be sure to visit him/her with any health issues.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE PROPER TEA BREWING EQUIPMENT?

By Yvonne Blackwood~

Drinking tea is a good thing, but making an excellent cup of tea—well that is something else. What do you need to make that excellent cuppa? In our previous article, “Tips and Tricks on How to Make Superb Tea,” we elaborated on the key things one must undertake in order to achieve tea nirvana. In this article, we well focus on the primary accoutrement necessary to make tea—a teapot.

There was an advertisement several years ago—very effective I might add—that said, “We will serve no wine before its time.” As far as a good cup of tea goes, we will serve no tea without a proper teapot, or as some people call it, a tea maker. Tea must be brewed whether your raw material is loose leaves or teabags; therefore, a tea brewing container is required.

So you visit the store to purchase the important teapot and you stand before a shelf lined with gizmos; you are lost in wonder!  There are gadgets promising to make tea brewing easier, more fun, and better than before. There are cute infusers, automatic brewing machines, and tea balls. The variety overwhelms you. Furthermore, the gadgets come is all sizes, shapes, materials, and colours. Which one should you buy? The most important deciding factor should be the function of the item. You must first determine which size to purchase based on the number of people you plan to serve tea. If you will regularly serve six people, there is no point in buying a teapot that serves only four. In addition, you should be aware that if you plan to use loose leaves, once they are steeped in hot water, they’ll expand to more than double their dry size. Therefore, the teapot should have adequate space to allow the leaves to unfurl, and release their full flavour.

If you are really ‘into tea,’ always remember that tea originated in South East Asia; the people from this region have had hundreds of years of experience brewing tea. We can learn from them.

While your personal preference is important in selecting a teapot—you may opt for elegance, beauty or even a conversation piece—you should bear the following important questions in mind: Does it pours well? Is it easy to handle? How heavy it is when filled? Does it become too hot to hold? Does it maintain heat? Let us drill down into the main types of teapot-making materials since they have a direct impact on the answers to these questions.

Elegant porcelain—porcelain teapots are generally glazed inside and out. If the interior is unglazed, use them only for one type of tea, and if glazed on the inside they can be used for different types of teas.

A Fine China Tea set

Clear glass—this is a good choice which allows you to see the color and the texture of the tea leaves as the brewing takes place.

 Stainless steel—known as a poor conductor of heat, however, good quality stainless steel pans usually have a sandwich of other metals like copper bonded to it; this improves that heat conducting process. In addition, stainless steel is lighter than cast iron and it does not rust.

Ceramic—teapots made from ceramic have natural heat-retention properties, and will brew the tea leaves quickly. Similar to a porcelain teapot, a ceramic pot may be glazed or unglazed on the inside. If it is glazed, you can certainly alternate your tea choices; if unglazed, stick to brewing one type of tea in it.

Cast Iron Teapot

Cast iron—In Japan, the main teapots, called Tetsubin, are usually made from cast iron. This metal is a good conductor of heat, is long-lasting, and almost indestructible. If you are prone to breaking glass pots this may be for you. The downside to cast iron teapots is that they may rust. Fortunately, the more modern ones are coated on the inside with enamel which prevents rust.

Chinese Clay Teapot

Clay—In China, most teapots are made of unglazed clay, and are good conductors of heat. The flavour of the tea seeps into clay over time and strengthens it. On the other hand, since the flavour remains in the clay, it affects any other tea brewed in that pot—similar to the unglazed porcelain pot.

Maintenance

Of course you should consider how much time and energy you wish to expend on keeping your teapot clean.

A glass teapot will get stained eventually, but it can be cleaned easily with a good rub and a mild soap, and a thorough rinse. Stainless steel pots can also be cleaned easily with soap. Porcelain is dishwasher safe, however, for best results they should be place in the top rack of the dishwasher. Crockery type ceramic and fine China teapots should not be put in the dishwasher. Soap should not be used on cast iron teapots, and they should not be scrubbed. They must be properly dried inside and out after they are used to avoid rust.

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WHICH COUNTRIES ARE THE TOP PRODUCERS OF TEA? (Part 2)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

King Tea reigns supreme!         cup-156743_1280

We now know that tea is the most popular drink in the world (after water) and we know which countries are the two top tea producers (see part 1 of our previous blog). Let us now turn our attention to the numbers 3, 4, and 5 top tea producers.

Kenya, East Africa, is the third largest tea producer. Tea was first planted in Limuru near the capital, Nairobi, by G.W.L Caine in 1903. At the time the bush was planted for merely ornamental purposes. Commercial tea cultivation in Kenya began in the 1930’s. Today tea is one of Kenya’s most important cash crops, and the country is known as one of the world’s leading Black Tea producers. Kenya’s high quality tea is used for blending other teas that are sold on the world market.

The Tea Industry in Kenya has two components—corporate planters and small holders consisting of more than half million registered growers. The Tea growing areas in Kenya have the ideal climate for Tea—tropical, well-distributed rainfall, long sunny days, coupled with rich volcanic red soil. The best tea growing regions are located in both east and west of the Great Rift Valley within altitudes ranging from 1,500 meters to 2,700 meters. Kenya exports about 95 % of its total tea production.

 Sri Lanka is the number four top producing tea country in the world. The question one asks is how did a small island off the coast of India become so highly ranked in tea production?

Tea was first cultivated commercially in Sri Lanka (Formerly Ceylon) in 1867 by the Scotsman James Taylor, who was a British planter. Almost 200 years after James Taylor’s death, tea production grew rapidly. Many plantations which once grew coffee were converted to tea, and former coffee stores became tea factories resulting in a dramatic increase in tea production.

Harvesting tea, Sri Lanka
Harvesting tea, Sri Lanka

Tea is serious business in Sri Lanka, and is produced according to strict traditional methods and standards. The Tea Board, set up in 1976, is the main regulatory and administrative body of the Sri Lankan tea industry. It incorporates representatives from both private bodies involved in the industry such as cultivators, manufacturers, traders, exporters, and government. Today tea export is one of the most important sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka. The country has developed quality teas. When the “Pure Ceylon Tea” stamp with its Lion logo is placed on a sack of tea you know it symbolizes 100% pure Ceylon tea packed in Sri Lanka, and is world-renowned as one of the finest tea in the world.

Turkey is the number five top producing tea country. Tea production mainly started after 1923 when Turkey became a republic. Most of the tea plantations are centered around the Black Sea region and the town of Rize where the first tea factory was built. The tea produced is primarily black tea, known as Turkish tea, or Rize tea (named after the Rize area).  A tea corporation was established in 1971, and in 2015 the country produced 175, 000 tonnes of tea. Turkish tea is very strong, therefore it is not served in large cups but in small tulip-shaped glasses. Turkey consumes most of its tea, exporting only a small amount.

Turkish Tea served in glasses
Turkish Tea served in glasses

Tell us about your special teas.

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WHICH COUNTRIES ARE THE TOP PRODUCERS OF TEA? (Part 1)

By Yvonne Blackwood~

There was a time when the most popular drink in the world (after water) was coffee. This is no longer the case. Now King Tea reigns supreme! According to Tea Association of the USA and an article in National Geographic (2016) tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water.

chinese-tea-pot

Bearing this fact in mind one must ask, why has tea become so popular? There is a very intricate and detailed answer to this question which I will address in a future blog. For now, though, I will mention that one reason is that tea is one of the few beverages usually served hot or cold, and is served anytime and anywhere. In fact it is served on almost any occasion. Statistics show that on any given day, more than 158 million Americans drink tea, consuming well over 80 billion servings, or more than 3.6 billion gallons. When you factor in the rest of the world including China and Japan where tea is their national drink, we begin to see why tea now reigns.

First, we must define what we mean by tea. Tea it a beverage brewed strictly from the tender leafs of the Camellia sinensis plant. Depending on how the tea leaves are processed, the beverage produce can be either white, green, Oolong or black tea. Tea brewed from any other plant is really herbal tea or tisane; I will cover this in another article.

The second important question is, which countries are the top tea producers? According to World Atlas, in 2016 the top five rankings are China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey respectively. In this article, I will deal with the first two, and cover Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey in a subsequent article.

The camellia sinensis plant is native to Southern China and South East Asia. It is small wonder then that these areas are the top producers and that China is number one. Tea made from the camellia sinensis was developed in China about 2000 years ago, but become widespread about 1000 years ago. Tea is produced in large areas covering the South Eastern part of China from Shanxi to Yunnan and Guangdon in the extreme south. These provinces have climate that is humid and ranges from tropical to subtropical.  The varying geographic locations and climate, produces various kinds of teas. China currently produces just over a million tonnes of tea. 

 India is the number two tea producer. There is an interesting story about how tea came to be grown in India. As we know, Britain was once India’s colonial master. In an effort to break the Chinese monopoly on tea, Britain introduced the plant into India using the Chinese varieties of seeds and employing their planting methods. They also offered land in the Assam region to any European who agreed to plant tea for export. Now that India is the number two tea producer in the world, it is fair to say that Britain succeeded in that quest!

Tea plantation, Kerala, India
Tea plantation, Kerala, India

In the early 1800s after tea plantations were established in India, only Anglicized Indians drank tea, but by the early 1900s, tea became popular with the natives. India now produces some very well-known teas such as Assam and Darjeeling which are grown exclusively there. Over 70 percent of India’s tea is consumed within the country.

The main tea-producing states in India are: Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Bihar, and Orissa.

Tell us about your favourite tea?

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BEWARE OF TURKS OFFERING TEA!

By Yvonne Blackwood~

A few years ago I was touring Istanbul when I had an interesting encounter with Nazik, a young Turkish gentleman. I was with a group of tourists when Vilma, my touring buddy, and I decided to go off on our own. At the time the bustling city of Istanbul seemed harmless enough. We headed for the Hagia Sofia only to find a queue a mile long, waiting to enter. It was a hot day in September, and since we did not want to get baked waiting in line, we decided not to join the queue. We dashed across the street and headed toward another mosque. It was the Blue Mosque, one of the major tourist attractions in the city, and it’s an active one—it was prayer time. What should we do? How long would we have to wait?

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul-still active
The Blue Mosque, Istanbul-still active

Our bus driver had given us clear instructions about where and when our group should meet with him. We still had a couple of hours to go. We were walking slowly back to the meeting place when a young Turk, waving his hands frantically, called out to us from the side of the road. “Come and see my store. We have lots of nice rugs,” he said. I politely said thank you, and assured him that we did not want any rugs. “Come, come, we have very nice rugs,” he insisted. Vilma reiterated that we did not need anything.

Then he said the magic words! “Look, you don’t have to buy anything, just come and have a nice cup of tea with us then you can go.” He seemed like such an honest, hard-working man, and we had time to spare. We followed him to his store which was on a short street that ran off the main road. He said his name was Nazik, and gave us his business card. He pulled out comfortable chairs for us to sit. Within minutes Nazik’s assistant came into the room with a quaint, double-spout teapot and little glasses placed on saucers. Nazik poured tea for us and as we sipped the delicious, rich-dark Turkish tea, he told us about himself. He had travelled to the United States where he has relatives and had been to Canada.

Turkish Tea served in glasses
Turkish Tea served in glasses

While Nazik spoke, his assistant had been subtly bringing in several beautiful rugs which he rolled out in front of us like magic carpets! Vilma reminded Nazik that we didn’t want any rugs. Besides, they’re too bulky to travel with.  “Oh just have a look. You don’t have to buy. Anyway, we can ship it to you,” he said. More rugs arrived; each more intricate than the first ones. We sipped our tea and tried to ignore the products.

Finally, Nazik said, “Okay, you don’t want rugs; how about some tablecloths?” On queue, the assistant entered with some the most magnificent table cloths—they were woven like tapestry. Unwittingly, Nazik had zeroed in on my weak spot. How could I leave without possessing one of these masterpieces?

A masterpiece Table Cloth
A masterpiece Table Cloth

Our tour guide had advised us earlier not to accept the first price offered by sellers; we should haggle. So I haggled. After Vilma and I drank two cups of Nazik’s Turkish tea, we departed from his store.  I carried a neat zippered bag with a handle, and inside was a tablecloth that one could easily hang on a living room wall. It has become by pride and joy, and a conversation piece when I entertained.

SIDE BAR:

Turkish tea, also called çay, is a type of black tea made from the Camellia sinensis leaves, similar to other teas. The Turks have developed their unique way of making and drinking tea to the extent that tea-drinking is a part of their culture and a way of life. Tea or coffee is usually offered as a sign of friendship and hospitality wherever you go in Turkey. According to World Atlas, in 2013 Turkey was the fifth largest producer of tea in the world, with China and India at first and second respectively.

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TIPS AND TRICKS ON HOW TO MAKE SUPURB TEA

By Yvonne Blackwood

tea-557448_640

I have searched and searched, compared notes, and have finally garnered the best information about making tea. Some people will say making tea is not rocket science; I say it takes tea science to brew a good cup of tea!

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of proper tea brewing let us quickly review how the four types of teas produced from the Camellia sinensis bush are processed. This is important since you may be making tea from either one of these types.

White tea: the newest shoots of the tea bush are picked and allowed to wither dry. If the weather condition is poor, the leaves are placed in a dryer with very low heat and a mild tumble. Leaves are not rolled, or shaped like the other teas.

Green tea: the young tea leaves are picked and wilted for a short time, then heated by placing then in the sun or in a cool airy spot to pull out additional moisture, and to stop any enzyme activity. Finally, the leaves are rolled.

Oolong tea: the same basic process as green tea occurs, except the leaves are wilted for a longer period, then mixed up to bruise them which initiates enzyme activity. Finally, the leaves are pan-fried, then rolled and dried by heating them at a high temperature.

Black tea: the first two processes mentioned above are followed, but with a slight variation. The tea leaves are withered, then rolled several times. This rolling process breaks up the cells and facilitates more enzyme activity. The leaves are then air-dried at high temperature. The increased enzyme activity in Oolong and black tea causes some of the phenol molecules to convert into larger molecules, and this produces more subtle flavours.

For more details kindly view our post The Three Amigos…

Let’s Make Tea

 The first and most important ingredient in making a great cup of tea is the raw tea. Whether you are using loose-leaf tea or a tea bag, if the raw material is not of a good quality, your tea will be lousy. It also goes without saying that, even if you buy expensive tea, if you do not brew it correctly, it will be lousy too.

The second important item is your utensil. It matters not how intricate and expensive your teapot or tea maker is (we will cover this in another article) it must be of a quality that does not affect the brewing process. In other words, it should be there to facilitate the brewing, not impinge on it.

The final item is the actual brewing process which covers five key areas:

  1. Water: Good tasting water is required; if your water tastes funny, your tea will too.

Great water should have about 150 parts per million (PPM) of balanced mineral content. In places where the water is hard, a diligent tea shop will usually use a good reverse osmosis filtration system and a calcium carbonate cartridge to input the correct amount of mineral content into the water. You can do a similar thing at home by using a water pitcher with a carbon-filter to remove excess mineral and contaminants like chlorine from your water. Either too hard or too soft water has an impact on tea. If the water is too hard (has too many minerals) it will remove extra astringency from your tea and you will have a harsh brew; if it is too soft it will not extract sufficient polyphenols which provides astringency, good taste, and ultimately health benefits in Green Tea and Black and White Teas. Finally, you need to use freshly boiled water because it releases oxygen. According to the Chinese (the tea kings!) water that is boiled is “dead water”. Tea will never be the best if you use re-boiled water.

  1. Temperature: The perfect temperature depends upon the tea you are using ( hence the refresher information stated at the beginning of this article). Boiling water (212°F) should be used to prepare Oolong, Black, and Herbal teas. These teas are tough and require very hot water to break down the leaves in order to release the flavour and antioxidants. On the flip side, if you are brewing more delicate teas—white, or green—slightly cooler water should be used. Delicate tea will taste overly bitter or acerbic if the water is too hot, or it will be weak and flavourless if the water is too cool.
  1. Amount of tea: The amount of tea you use per cup is important since too much will make tea bitter while too little will make a weak cup of tea. The amount considered ideal is one teaspoon (about 2 grams) of most tea leaves, to 8 ounces of water. For larger mugs, a bit more tea leaf is required. Again, be reminded that the type of tea you use may require variations to these guidelines. For example, you will need to use about two teaspoons of large open leaf tea like White tea or some Oolong teas. Of course, you can vary this based on your taste preference.

4. Brewing Time: If you allow tea to brew for too long it will turn bitter. The general guideline is about 3-5 minutes for most black teas. Oolong and White teas can be steeped for a similar time, however, they can be steeped a bit longer, and still taste wonderful.

If you have not been following these guidelines, try them out and let us know if your tea tastes better.

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WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF BLACK AND WHITE TEAS?

By Yvonne Blackwood

In my recent blog post, Does Green Tea Provide any Health Benefits? the focus was on green tea in particular. In this article I will deal with the health benefits of black and white teas, which are also brewed from the Camellia sinensis tea bush.

Black tea is more oxidized than Oolong, green, and white teas, and generally has a stronger flavour than these. So what are the other health benefits provided by black tea?

tea-978788_1280

According to an article by WebMD, “Black tea is used for improving mental alertness as well as learning, memory and information processing skills. It is also used for treating headache and low blood pressure.” The article also states that black tea can be used for preventing Parkinson’s disease, and reducing the risk of stomach, colon, lung, ovarian, and breast cancer. This is interesting information since a 2006 Japanese study of green tea’s effect concluded that it did not reduced mortality due to cancer.

In an article by Cathy Wong, ND, physician, and an American College of Nutrition-certified nutrition specialist, naturopath, and journalist, she states: “While some studies indicate that regular consumption of black tea may reduce cancer risk, others report no cancer-related benefits of black tea intake…”

John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y., has a different take on the tea issue. He states: “Studies of humans and animals show that the antioxidants in black and green teas are highly beneficial to our health. I’ve published more than 500 papers, including a hell of a lot on tea…” He explains that all teas from the Camellia sinensis tea plant are rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant which is wonder nutrients that scavenge for cell-damaging free radicals in the body and detoxify them. Weisburger states that, “We found that both types of tea blocked DNA damage associated with tobacco and other toxic chemicals. In animal studies, tea-drinking rats have less cancer.” It seems the verdict is still out on the cancer issue.

Lowers Cholesterol

According to an article in Clinical Nutrition (2014) in a recent study, researchers conducted a comprehensive search to identify studies which evaluated the effects of black tea on low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’) cholesterol, and on high-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’) cholesterol, and on total cholesterol. The researchers found that drinking black tea significantly lowered LDL cholesterol, but not total cholesterol or HDL cholesterol. Moreover, the lowering effect of LDL cholesterol was greater in people who had a higher heart disease risk.
The researchers concluded that drinking black tea lowers LDL cholesterol, without effecting HDL and may be beneficial for people with an increased risk for heart disease. We note, however, that only 411 participants were evaluated in the study—a small amount for a study.

Anticancer Qualities in White Tea

The Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University carried out studies in which researchers tested white tea to determine whether it could help prevent genetic mutations in bacteria, and colon and rectal cancer in cancer-prone rats. They concluded that white tea appears to have more potent anticancer qualities than green tea. In both of the experiments conducted, white tea was seen to have a strong protective effect, and offered much more protection than green tea. Dr. Santana-Rios told Reuters Health, “I was surprised by the potency. We were not expecting that much of a good result.”

Stronger Bones and Teeth
Numerous studies have also shown that regular white tea drinkers had greater bone density than non drinkers of white tea. White tea has small amounts of fluoride which help to keep teeth and gums healthy.

Reverses Some of the Signs of Aging

White tea has also been shown to fight free radicals from sun, stress, and poor diet, and to reverse some of the signs of aging. According to a study by Kingston University in London, it seems that white tea may be an interesting option for reducing and preventing wrinkles. The researchers tested 21 different compounds, and found that white tea contains by far the highest concentration of antioxidants.

Green and Black Teas Provide Some Similar Health Benefits

A review of studies on health benefits of green and black teas commissioned by the UK Tea Advisory Panel, found that both are equally effective. We must bear in mind that both varieties come from the same Camellia sinensis plant, but are processed slightly differently. According to the researchers, studies that have looked at these two types of teas have confirmed similar improvements in vascular function, leading to significant reductions in stroke risk. The average intake in those studies was 4 cups per day for black tea and 5 to 6 cups per day for green tea.

It seems that in spite of the many researches and studies, not all findings are conclusive; there is still more work to be done.

Do you have some positive tea results stories to share? Do provide some comments.

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Disclaimer: This blogsite is intended only to provide information, education, and entertainment. We do our very best to ensure the information we provide is accurate. Be reminded that nothing you find on our site is in any way intended to be a substitute for the medical care and advice your professional healthcare provider gives you, so be sure to visit him/her with any health issues.

 

HIGH TEA ON THE GO IN NEW ZEALAND!

Some like it hot, some like it cold, and some like it on the go! One of the great things about tea is that you can drink it at a myriad of places, and on countless different occasions.

You can sip tea daintily in the drawing room or while seated in the formal dining room; you can gulp it down unceremoniously at the breakfast nook or on the veranda/balcony/patio, or even while walking around; you can drink it in a restaurant or on board an aeroplane—to name a few places.

A few years ago, I was in Christchurch, the largest city of the South Island of New Zealand—a fascinating place said to be the most English city outside of England—when I signed up for the Punt, Tea and Tram Tour. It was only then I realized that I was the only passionate tea lover among my four travelling buddies; I was the only one who had signed up for the tour! Not deterred by their lack of interest, I headed to the punt dock to join the other tourists who were going on the tour.

One of the key characteristics of people who love to travel is that we make friends easily. While we waited for the punt to arrive Carley from California became my new best friend. Along with a few other tourists, we punted up and down the most tranquil and picturesque Avon River. Frankly, the punting was more enjoyable than riding the gondolas in Venice, and less traffic to contend with.

AVN2RF1005
Punting on the Avon River, Christchurch, New Zealand

After punting was over we made our way to the pick-up-spot for the tram. Little did I envisage how much I would enjoy the thrill of High Tea on board a tram. When the quaint little tram rolled up on the tracks and stopped in front to us, we were greeted enthusiastically by two charming waiters dressed in black and white uniforms, wearing black and white striped aprons. This was no ordinary run-of-the-mill tram. Outfitted with tables spread with white table cloths, and set with red-rose-patterned fine bone China, and silver cutlery, it was specially designed for sightseeing while the passengers gorged themselves on High Tea. Seating was arranged at tables for either two or four persons. I shared a table for two with my new friend.

New Zealand, Dunedin, Tram tea car

As the tram rumbled leisurely along the tracks, the driver announced the different landmarks that came into view, and supplied some historical details about them. The waiters promptly placed at each table, tripple-decker trays chock-full of finger sandwiches, fresh pastries—scones, cakes, cream puffs, biscuits—garnished with chocolate-coated strawberries. Carley and I didn’t hesitate; we immediately sank our teeth into cream puffs. The whipped cream exploded around our mouths, giving us temporary moustaches! We had a good laugh then cleaned our faces with fancy napkins, and attacked more pastries.

High Tea on Tram in New Zealand

Then came the piece de resistance! Our waiter returned with a silver teapot, so shinny you could see your reflection in it, and poured freshly brewed, rich-coloured English-styled tea into our dainty bone China cups. Mmm! Mmm! Is there anything quite like a good cup of tea? For a while I no longer saw the historical landmarks, or heard anything the driver said about them—I was hoisted up in High Tea Heaven!

Later when I rejoined by travelling buddies, I laid a guilt trip on them that they had missed a truly unique and satisfying experience—High Tea on a tram in Christchurch.

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THE THREE AMIGOS PLUS ONE TEAS

 

Tea Leaf Drying

In an article published under Let’s Talk About Tea (http://www.healthytealovers.com/let-s-talk-tea.html) I explained that tea is brewed from the tender leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, while herbal teas, also called tisanes, can be steeped from the flowers, berries, roots and leaves of many different plants. I also mentioned that tea leaves have a number of phenol molecules which gives them astringency, and bitterness (this is meant to repel animals from eating the leaves). In this post I will elaborate on how tea leaves are processed.

Tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis bush are versatile; they can produce different types of teas. It is the processing method used that makes a significant difference in the taste and textures of the final brew.

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First, Green Tea: The method used to prepare tea leaves that will brew green tea is the shortest and simplest process. The young tea leaves are picked and wilted for a short time to remove moisture. At the same time this allows a small amount of oxidation to take place. The leaves are then heated by placing them in the sun or in a cool airy spot to pull out additional moisture, and to stop any enzyme activity. Finally, the leaves are rolled. Not much to it!

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Second, Oolong tea: Tea makers use the same basic process as green tea, but this time the leaves are wilted for a longer period. They are then mixed up to bruise them (tea makers are a little more violent with the leaves!). This additional process initiates enzyme activity. Finally, the leaves are pan-fried, then rolled and dried by heating them at a high temperature.

Third, Black tea: In the making of black tea, the first two processes are followed, but with a slight variation. The tea leaves are withered, then rolled several times. This rolling process breaks up the cells and facilitates more enzyme activity than with Oolong tea. Afterward, the leaves are air-dried at high temperature. The increased enzyme activity in Oolong and black tea causes some of the phenol molecules I mentioned earlier to convert into larger molecules, and this produces more subtle flavours.

Wait! There is more. White Tea is another type of tea that is made from the Camellia sinensis leaves. Note that there is no generally accepted definition and no international agreement as to what qualifies as white tea, therefore the term can mean different things. In this article we refer to the Camellia sinensis leaves which are basically unprocessed. The newest shoots on the tea bush are picked and allowed to wither dry. A small amount of oxidation occurs when air-dried because it can take a day or two. If the weather condition is poor, the leaves are placed in a dryer with very low heat and a mild tumble. Leaves are not rolled, or shaped as in the previous three processes.

The versatility of the tea leaves is obvious when we observe that four teas with entirely different tastes and textures are brewed from the same types of leaves by merely applying different processing methods.

Although I drink all four types of teas mentioned, my favourite is green tea. It has a mild flavour and a lighter colour because it has not undergone any enzymatic action.

In subsequent articles I will explore which of these four types of teas provide the best health benefits.

FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA!

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I cannot recall how or when the idea came to me, but several years ago a strong conviction welled up within me, a conviction that I must set foot on every continent on earth—all except Antarctica—that virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. After all, I’m a hot-blooded, sun-loving, kind-of-a-gal. While no doubt many will find Antarctica fascinating, I’m unable to justify the expense to explore such a cold place, hence the decision to leave it alone.

My goal then, was to visit all the continents while still strong and healthy. Unlike Phileas Fogg in the Jules Verne novel, I had no plans to accomplish my quest in eighty days! In fact, I planned to work at achieving it for as long as it took, while savouring every journey, and learning as much as I could about each country that I visited.

Although I continue to travel each year, my main mission has been accomplished. In this blog I’ll share an anecdote about a tea ceremony I attended in China. On this visit I spent my time in Beijing and toured with a group. An amazing city with over fifteen million people then, Beijing has many historical places.

Our tour guide was Emma, a beautiful university student, educated and obviously well instructed in how to talk to tourists about her country. She reeled off information about the history and geography of China like an encyclopedia, and shared several stories with us which gave us good insight into the culture and politics of China. Emma did not shy away from talking about the “One-child-policy” existing at the time, and I was quite surprised to learn that it did not apply to everyone (a good thing!). For example, people with doctoral degrees could have more than one child, and so could farmers.

We toured most of the regular tourists spots—the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, The Summer Palace, and climbed the Badaling Great Wall—to name a few. Emma also made sure we experienced “real” Chinese culture. And what better way to do this than with tea? After all, tea originated in Southern China and South East Asia some 2000 years ago. With such a lengthy tea history, I needed no convincing that the Chinese people are pretty good at brewing tea, but I wanted to witness the process. Emma took us to a tea shop so that we could not only see, but participate in a tea ceremony.

Sitting in the tea shop surrounded by exquisite containers of tea in every colour, shape, and size, inhaling the varied aromas of tea, and listening and watching a Chinese woman perform the ritual of the ceremony is something I have never forgotten.

The water used to brew the tea had to be at a perfect temperature. To test the water the woman used a pee-pee boy! So what is a pee-pee boy you ask? It’s a tiny plastic (or some other material) figurine of a nude man/boy with an oversize penis! The woman poured hot water over “him” and when the temperature was right, water squirted out of the penis—he pee-peed! Our group roared with laughter when the boy pee-peed. After all the shenanigans took place, we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed two different types of teas that day—a green tea and a rose-bud tea.
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It was fascinating to watch the minute rose-buds—no bigger than thumb-tacks—expand until they became the size of a small rose. As the buds expanded they exuded an incredible aroma which enveloped the room.

When we left the tea shop most of us were loaded down with boxes and cans of teas and dozens of pee-pee boys to give our friends as souvenirs of China.

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