Archive for the ‘Chinese Teas’ Category

Tea Ceremonies

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

A tea ceremony is the ritualized way of tea brewing. It often has a strict set of rules to govern how different kinds of teas are prepared, what equipment is used and what drinking manner the tea drinkers should follow. These rules are there to make sure the best taste of a tea can be achieved through the process.

The ritual can trace its roots back 2000 years in ancient China. Old Chinese tea poems and history texts have recorded the brewing of tea following certain rules laid out by the “saints” and how nice the taste of tea was when the ceremony was performed by an expert. There are also ancient Chinese paintings depicting the ceremony, however these were painted at a later time in the Tang Dynasty from around 1000 years ago.

The tea ceremony is the center of tea culture in many tea drinking nations, namely China, Japan, Korean, Britain and its many former colonies. The ritualized process is called Cha-Yi in China. All kinds of Chinese teas are used in the Chinese tea ceremony. It depends on the region and geographic locations, tea ceremonies can be different from one place to another, like the local dialects in China, they can be so different simply by driving 10 minutes down the road. One of the exceptions is Kung Fu Tea ceremony. It is a brewing method that is quite uniformed across many South Eastern provinces of China and Taiwan. Chinese tea ceremonies are quite flexible in terms of rules, however, depending on the teas, water quality and water temperature are often tightly controlled by the rituals.

Photo By: Bruno Cordioli

The Japanese tea ceremony is better known to the world. It is called Cha-no-Yu or Cha-Do in Japanese language, meaning “the Ways of Tea” or “the Tao of Tea”. Japanese Cha-no-Yu originated from medieval China and was brought back to Japan by Buddhist monks who went to study Zen Buddhism in China.

Japanese powdered green tea, Matcha, is the main tea used in Cha-no-Yu. Unlike the Chinese tea ceremony which emphasizes the tea and drinking process, Cha-no-Yu has a lot of focus on the preparation and anything surrounding the preparation, such as the tea ware and the set up of the tea drinking room. There are very strict rules and manners in Cha-no-Yu. The ceremony is usually performed by a woman wearing a  traditional Japanese Kimono dress. However modern Japanese Cha-no-Yu is trying to move away from that image, as the result, you can see women dressed in a tuxedo performing the tea ceremony. Before she is able to professionally act in the ritual, a tea artist has to attend specialized school for years of training and education.

The lesser known ritual is the Korean version of tea ceremony, called Pan-Ya-Ro. The Koreans feel that it is very important to remain natural while drinking tea together. Although Pan-Ya-Ro also has many steps that may seem complicated at first, but there is no rules of minute gestures like the Japanese or complicated water temperature requirement as the Chinese, and it does not take long to master them. Performing Pan-Ya-Ro is less ritualized and emphasizes more on the natural aspect of tea drinking. Green tea is often used in the Korean ceremony.

Bubble Tea Recipe

Monday, May 30th, 2011

As promised, I’m back again writing about Bubble tea only this time I am including a Bubble tea recipe. Bubble tea is not really at all difficult to make yourself at home, providing you can find the right ingredients; with one of the most important ingredients for Bubble tea being the larger sized tapioca pearls used in the drink. Once you have the right type of tapioca balls, the next challenge in producing the perfect cup of Bubble tea is to cook the tapioca so that it is at just the right texture–not too hard and chewy and not over-cooked.

Bubble Tea Ingredients

Photo By: Avlxyz

Here is a list of ingredients you will need to make your Bubble tea. Note, you can actually use any type of tea–green, oolong, black or even fruit tea if you like as the base.

  • selected tea (preferably loose leaf tea, though tea bags will also work)
  • large size tapioca balls
  • sugar or fructose syrup (you can make this yourself rather than buying it if you like)
  • dairy creamer or milk/cream of your choice

You will also probably want a shaker of some sort, tall clear glasses and very large straws.

How To Make Bubble Tea At Home

There are many different variations when it comes to Bubble tea recipes. The recipe listed below is a very simple, basic recipe that can be adjusted or adapted according to your taste and your creativity. The mainstay of the tea is the tapioca balls but you can make the tea from tea bags or loose leaf tea, any type of tea including fruit teas, you can choose to use more milk, evaporated milk, or a creamer substitute. You can also use fruit juices or a freshly blended fruit such as mango to make a smoothie–as long as the tapioca balls find their way into the drink–unless you want to substitute the tapioca balls with small agar-agar squares or using taro, follow a taro bubble tea recipe!

  • ¾ cup of tea of your choice
  • dash of milk, cream or a scoop of dairy creamer
  • sufficient ice to fill up your glass
  • 2 ounces (or about ¼ of a cup) of already cooked tapioca pearls
  • syrup or fructose to taste

Shake together the hot tea, milk or cream substitute and syrup of fructose till it is well mixed — a cocktail shaker works well for this.

Add the ice to the shaker and continue shaking till bubbles or froth forms on top of the tea (that’s why it is called bubble tea, not because of the tapioca balls.)

Place the cooked and cooled tapioca pearls into a large glass, pour the tea mix over it and place a large sized straw in the tea.

Sit down and enjoy your self-made bubble tea!

Where To Find Tapioca Pearls

Granted, they are not always that easy to find.  If you have an Asian area of town you may well find them in almost any Asian supermarket. It is unlikely they’ll be in your local supermarket unless of course there’s a large Asian population in the area or Bubble tea is popular where you live. You may also have a tough time finding the straws. Unless you like shopping around or you know there are some to be found nearby, my recommendation would be to buy them online. There are some “Bubble tea” sites that have them for sale, or you can simply buy some from Amazon. For example, you can easily pick up Tapioca for Bubble Tea here, with quite a selection of items to choose from.

Incidentally, if you like you can even buy a Bubble Tea Starter Kit online that includes everything you need, down to straws and a cocktail shaker fairly inexpensively.

Photo By: E.T.

How To Cook Tapioca Pearls for Bubble Tea Recipe

Last but perhaps most importantly the tapioca needs to be just the right consistency; not too chewy and not so soft and mushy either. If you buy the proper kind of tapioca, that used when making Bubble tea, it will take a lot longer to cook than the normal dessert ‘minute tapioca’.  The package should have instructions for cooking listed on it. If not, here’s a basic recipe for cooking tapioca:

  • Use 1 cup of tapioca balls per eight cups of water — this will make enough tapioca for 8 drinks.
  • Boil the water in a very large pot–tapioca really swells a lot
  • Once the water is boiling, add the tapioca. It should rise to the top, if it doesn’t you may want to gently stir it to separate the tapioca balls and encourage it to rise
  • Let the tapioca boil for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn the stove off and let the tapioca sit in the hot water for another 20 minutes
  • Drain the tapioca pearls and rinse off in slightly warm water, this will help them to separate better
  • Stir in some fructose or sugar syrup, mix it through the tapioca balls — again, it will aid in keeping the balls separated (sort of how olive oil in spaghetti does the same thing)

If you choose the smaller mini tapioca balls, the cooking time is reduced to around 15 minutes (with them standing in the hot water for 15 minutes after they are cooked.)

How Many Calories In A Cup Of Tea?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Have you ever asked yourself, “How many calories in a cup of tea?” If you are a regular tea drinker and you have been trying to lose weight at any time, it is probable that you have wondered about the calorie count in tea–especially after hearing that some teas; notably green tea and wulong tea can actually aid in weight loss.

The good news is that tea without added sugar, milk or cream is considered to have zero calories. So, if you are really trying to lose weight and you are counting every calorie you may want to skip adding anything to your tea.

The more sugar, milk or cream added to your cup of tea, the higher the calorie count goes. While adding a little milk and sugar to a cup of black tea may not seem to add on very many calories you do have to consider how many cups of tea you drink each day. For example, my parents routinely drank two cups of tea with breakfast, two for morning tea, two with their lunch, two with their afternoon tea, two after dinner and two cups before bed–for a total of twelve cups of tea a day providing guests did not drop by. (If they did, they would routinely be sat down for a “cuppa or two”.)

Worst case scenario: Full cream milk and two teaspoons of sugar goes in each cup of tea. You are looking at around 70 to 80 calories per cup of tea. Twelve cups of tea at 80 calories per cup adds up to around 960 calories per day! If you are trying to lose weight that really is 960 calories that you can probably do without.

Of course, cutting back on the amount of sugar or using stevia or some other sugar substitute instead will cut back on the amount of calories used. Using reduced fat instead of whole cream milk does not make that much difference considering the amount most people use in their tea. Using non-dairy creamers in your tea will add almost as many calories per teaspoon as sugar! So, don’t think switching from milk to creamer is going to help reduce calories in your tea–it won’t.

If you want to cut back on the amount of calories per cup of tea consider omitting sugar from your tea. The little milk you add will not cause you to gain weight, but the sugar might. Best of all you may want to simply stick to tea without any sugar, milk or cream.

Photo By: Arnold Gatilao

If you want to benefit from the additional, and proven, weight loss properties of some types of tea you may even want to switch to drinking wulong or green tea. People who have traditionally drank black tea all their lives are sometimes hesitant about switching to Chinese teas, in spite of their health benefits. If you are thinking about switching and trying Chinese teas I would suggest you opt for wulong (or oolong) tea. It does not taste quite as strong as many of the green teas you can buy. For a delicious tasting oolong that really does almost taste similar to black tea with milk (at least as far as Asian teas go) you may want to look for one called “Milk Oolong” or “Milky Oolong”. It is available from many shops that sell oolong teas and it really is quite delicious–a great tea to transition onto if you’re thinking about trying some different types of teas and you want to buy tea that is healthy and yet a little different.

Green Tea Benefits Heart Health

Friday, January 21st, 2011

One of the great things about green tea is that there is no dispute that it is good for you. There has been so much research studying green tea that there is no doubt that the abundance of antioxidants found in this healthy beverage promote a whole range of natural benefits. There are now literally 100’s of papers published that support the health benefits of green tea, and heart health is one of these fundamental benefits.

The results of large-scale studies clearly show that those who drink green tea daily are considerably less likely to develop heart disease and all of its symptoms than those who do not drink green tea, or drink it infrequently. The results of one such study, conducted by Y. Mineharu, was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Y. Mineharu and colleagues studied the drinking habits of over 70,000 people in an effort to find a correlation between drinking caffeine-based beverages and heart disease. They discovered that men who drink green teas and oolong teas daily were 38% less likely to die of heart disease, and women were 22% less likely.

Photo By: Shirokazan

Researchers state that it is the antioxidants in green tea called polyphenols that produce the heart healthy benefits of this drink. Polyphenols help protect LDL cholesterol in our blood stream from oxidative damage, and this is important for the health of the main arteries leading to the heart. Once LDL cholesterol falls victim to oxidative damage it binds to the artery wall, and as this process continues the LDL cholesterol builds into a plaque. This plaque is arteriosclerosis, a health condition that is the #1 cause of heart disease!

Plaque in the arteries decreases the amount of room for blood flow, reducing the amount of blood that moves through the heart, if it gets bad enough a heart attack will result. Limited blood flow also increases blood pressure levels because the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body. In addition to this, plaque build-ups also harden the arteries, taking away their elasticity and natural ability to expand and contract. When this elasticity is compromised, blood pressure level rise significantly.

So it is then no surprise then that many studies show that drinking green tea helps lower high blood pressure, slows down or even reverses arteriosclerosis and lowers high blood cholesterol levels. Based on the results of these health tea studies, it is recommend to drink 2 or 3 cups daily for the best green tea benefits for the heart.

Health Benefits Plus Weight Loss Green Tea

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Many of us are now aware of the health benefits of green tea; the health promoting properties of this beverage have been making headline news consistently for the past 5 years. Drinking green tea really does help to ward of cancers and heart disease, but the benefit that really catches people’s attention is green tea and weight loss.

Green Tea and Weight Loss
There are now many studies that show that drinking green tea genuinely does help with weight loss because it contain antioxidants called polyphenols that dissolve fat in the blood before it gets a chance to deposit on our bodies. These polyphenol antioxidants also increase our metabolic rate so that we burn up extra calories each day. However, these weight loss effects are very slow if consuming green tea is not combined with a moderate exercise plan and/or sensible eating plan, but it still works. Combined with healthy eating and exercise, the weight loss benefits of green tea are increased. So it is important to note when discussing green tea weight loss that drinking green tea is not a miracle weight loss cure, but it really is a useful aid.

Photo By: Dan McKay

One study In Japan that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1999, found that volunteers who were put on an exercise plan that included 3 x 30 minutes of cardio sessions each week (for 12 weeks) and given 690mg of green tea antioxidants daily lost considerably more weight (especially belly fat) than those who just did the exercise! Another related study found that drinking green tea helped increase the amount of time people could exercise for before fatiguing, therefore helping them to burn more calories while working out. Researchers believe that the metabolism boosting effects are what increases this exercise endurance.

Green Tea and Appetite
Another key green tea and weight loss benefit is a result of this beverages effect upon our appetite. It contains plant chemicals that inhibit some of our carbohydrate digestive enzymes, therefore slowing the rate at which we digest carbohydrates (especially complex carbohydrates). This helps us feel fuller for longer and it also helps to keep our blood sugar levels stable. Stable blood sugar keeps the brain working properly which helps us maintain our focus, concentration and will power during our weight loss efforts. If blood sugar levels spike and dip it affects our brain chemistry and signals to the body that it needs to eat more sugar to deal with the blood sugar level dips! To me and you that translates as a hunger pang that looks for sugary snacks!

If you are looking at different weight loss teas and trying to decide if one weight loss tea is better than another, you may want to first of all consider green tea plus exercise and a healthy diet. The green tea health benefits alone are tremendous but of all the green tea benefits weight loss seems to be one of the most desired plus there are very few calories in a cup of tea made from green tea leaves.

Buying Wulong Tea – Where to Start?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

wulong teaIf you are new to drinking Wulong tea (also known as Oolong tea) it may be difficult to know exactly what you should purchase, especially when faced with the huge variety of Wulong tea there is available both online and in many teashops and cafes. Prices for the tea ranges from a couple of dollars to hundreds of dollars, and just as with wine, there are differences in the quality and taste of tea.

When first acquiring a taste for Wulong tea you do not want to start drinking one that is extremely expensive as you will most likely not appreciate the finer qualities it possesses, and in fact you will probably not be able to distinguish between different quality teas until you are quite a bit more used to the flavours and tastes. By the same token, you do not want to drink one that is very cheap as you may never begin to appreciate it!  Unless you are accompanying someone who is very familiar with the differences in taste and flavour with the teas, I would suggest you stick to a mid-range tea when you buy tea.

Some of the best Wulong teas are grown in China and in Taiwan. Spring teas are meant to be the most flavorsome teas, and each spring the new harvest is soon bought up. Just as with wine, some years are better than others and you may find a tea from four or five years ago actually tastes better than one that has just been harvested. There is  no real rhyme or reason why one year’s tea tastes better than another as there are many different factors that come into play when growing and harvesting tea.

For general everyday use I have found some great triangular teabags that have loose leaf tea in them. These are not the same as the Lipton teabags you find on the supermarket shelves, as they are made from fine powdered tea (actually from the leftovers that are scooped up and made in to teabags!)  These teabags actually contain real loose leaf tea inside, so the taste is very close to what you would get by brewing loose leaves in a teapot.  The reason I use these on a daily basis is because they are extremely simple to use, you just pop them straight into your cup and let them sit for a couple of minutes, then take them out and set them aside.  You can actually use them several times too, just as you can use regular loose leaf tea over again. There is no mess, no pouring from kettle to teapot, then from teapot to cup. I spend a lot of time at my desk, writing, each day and I really do not have the space on my desk nor the time or inclination to spend too much time making my cup of tea.

Of course when it is time to really enjoy a cup of good wu long tea I prefer the loose leaf tea that is brewed properly in the teapot. But for a quick cup of tea during the day, I find the triangular teabags much more tasty than other types of oolong tea in regular teabags and I like the fact that I can actually get around three cups of tea out of one teabag.

So, if you are a new wulong tea drinker I would suggest you start out with a moderately priced wulong Chinese tea. If you would like to drink the tea on a regular basis, in a no-fuss and no-mess way, then I would suggest you find some triangular teabags with loose leaf wu-long tea inside and try those.  Whatever you choose, please enjoy your tea!

Buy The Best Chinese Teas

If you are interested in purchasing some great tasting Chinese teas directly from Taiwan, where many fantastic teas are grown, you may want to check out the following:

Green Tea or Wu Long Tea? What is the Difference?

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

It is very easy to become confused when hearing about the different teas available. There is green tea, herbal tea, wu long (or oolong) tea, black tea, white tea and organic tea to name but a few. Tea comes from China, Taiwan, India and Sri Lanka, as well as other countries.  It is powdered, sold in teabags, or sold as loose leaf. How are you supposed to know what you should buy or what is best for you?

Do not worry if you are new to the world of tea, it really is not as difficult as it first seems. The first distinction to understand is between the tea types. All tea, except for herbal teas, comes from the same plant, “Camelia Sinensis”, and yes, it is a relative of the garden Camelia!  That also includes chinese tea’s as well.  Tea grows best in tropical or sub-tropical climates, as opposed to colder climates, and it also is best when grown at higher altitudes–thus many of the best tea is harvested at an elevation of up to 1,500 meters.

So, what is green tea?  How is it different from black tea? The main difference between the types of tea available depends on the processing it undergoes. Once the tea leaves are picked they quickly begin to wilt and oxidize. The only way to stop the oxidation is to dry the tea leaves by heating them. Following is a brief summary of the main different types of tea and their level of oxidation.

  • White Tea: Unoxidized. The leaves are processed soon after they are picked, though they are allowed to wilt first.
  • Green Tea: Unoxidized. This tea is processed as soon as it is harvested, and before the leaves begin to wilt.
  • Wu Long Oolong Tea: Partially oxidized. As these leaves are left longer before processing they naturally have wilted somewhat.
  • Black Tea: Fully oxidized. These leave are also wilted, and crushed.

Traditionally, black teas are the more commonly imbibed teas in Western and Indian cultures. Oftentimes these are brewed using teabags, or loose powdered tea.  Green and Oolong teas are popular in China, Taiwan and Japan. They are also becoming increasingly more popular in Western countries. This is in part due to claims made regarding certain health benefits they have such as being beneficial for those wanting to lose weight and containing antioxidants.  Really though, when it comes to debating the health properties of green tea vs black tea there are probably more similarities than differences.

My favourite tea is Wu Long, often simply called wu tea, although I also like to drink Green tea as well. There are many misconceptions regarding wu long tea side effects and wu long tea benefits. In reality, I know of no side effects from drinking wulong tea. Chinese drink it many times a day, from morning to night, with no apparent side effects other than many Chinese are quite slim and trim.  While it does have some caffeine, the amounts are small. If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine you should probably not drink it late in the afternoon. One point to mention with properly brewed wulong tea is that the leaves (or pyramid shaped teabags) are used over and again. All of the caffeine comes out with the first batch, subsequent batches from the same leaves have little to no caffeine.

You can buy wu long team in stores, in supermarkets and just about anywhere a decent selection of tea is sold. If you are wondering where to buy wu long tea, and whether the generic supermarket tea is fine, I would have to recommend you look elsewhere. Often tea specialty shops carry better varieties of tea, including organic wu long tea which is often sold in nice tea canisters or a small decorative tea chest . These are better for you health-wise and as important, they are also usually much better tasting, providing you brew them properly.

There is another benefit from Asian teas that is not as well known, but that is potentially as inviting as the health properties. In Chinese culture, tea plays an important role as being an aid to enlightenment, clearing the mind and enhancing thought patterns. While some may scoff at this, there is no doubt in my mind that an afternoon spent sampling teas definitely does have an effect on those who partake in it.

As an aside, in Taiwan and China tea and the ‘tea culture’ or ‘the way of tea’ as it is often referred to as is often closely linked to the arts. This perhaps give credence to claims that does indeed play a part in enlightening and enhancing innate abilities, and fostering creativity in all of its forms.

When I was first introduced to the ‘tea culture’ I scoffed. To me it was a ritual, cloaked in tradition and meaningless in today’s world. Tea ceremonies were a desperate attempt by some to keep alive the ancient rituals and traditions of the past–and what need is there for that, anyway? Today, with more years of exposure to this fascinating culture and more insight into the fascinating “Cha Dao” or “the way of tea“, I am starting to believe that there is more to it than initially meets the eye.

If nothing else, it drowns you in the rich, deep Chinese culture which is far older than the culture of many Western lands. There is much we can learn from this, and I believe to embrace it is wiser than to ignore the truths and simple wisdom that it has to offer.

Chinese Wulong Tea, Green Tea and Tea Culture

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Tea evokes different images in the thoughts of people, ranging from the hot morning cuppa’ made from a black tea teabag to the mystery of China and Chinese tea culture and their Wulong tea and Green teas.

Some of the greatest teas originated in China, with China’s tea culture dating back for over a thousand years. Western experience with tea, however, is relatively recent, dating back a couple of hundred years when tea was introduced initially to the nobility. It soon became a favoured drink among many, with most of the tea exported to western countries, black tea.  Black tea remains one of the favourite teas for many Westerners still, although there is growing interest in Chinese teas such as Chinese green tea, Wulong oolong tea and Puerh tea.

No matter what the culture, drinking tea is usually a social event. A commonly heard phrase in China translates as, “Drink tea, make friends.”  Tea has also been traditionally used for centuries as a ceremony shared by master and student, no matter what the subject of the lesson; meditation, scholastic studies or martial arts.

Ancient Chinese Cloudwalkers who lived in the mountains in China, turned from the belief of Tao and instead chose a different path to enlightenment; “Cha Dao” or “the way of tea”.  Cloudwalkers discovered that tea possessed properties that would clear the mind and encourage better concentration, thus the master and student sharing tea together soon became an important ritual that survives amongst Chinese culture even today, the tea ceremony.

Cha Dao, the way of the tea, is almost a spiritual journey of enlightenment for many today. The wonderful calming and meditative properties of properly prepared tea has made Cha Dao not a religion as such, but a journey to find spirituality and peace. There is no set ritual for enjoying tea, nor is there any specific equipment that must be used. This journey is a personal journey, a journey of tasting and enjoying the subtleties and flavours of tea. Chinese believe and teach that in order to truly appreciate the finer qualities of teas your mind must be still, and after that you will begin to notice the difference between teas.

While it takes time for people to learn about tea, and to understand and recognize the differences between teas and between the qualities of teas, it can be learned. The best way to learn is to try different teas, and to learn how to brew them as they should be brewed. With time you will learn what constitutes a good tea and you will come to appreciate the different flavours.   It is a journey well worth taking.

If you are wondering where to buy wulong tea (also known as oolong or wu long tea), I would suggest that you buy from a health store or a special tea store, and that you look for organic wulong Chinese tea.  You can buy either the loose leaf tea or wulong tea bags. The best tea bags to purchase, if you go that route, are the triangular shaped bags that have loose leaf tea inside of them. They can be reused several times, and the quality is much better than teabags with dried tea powder.

You have most likely heard a lot about oolong tea side effects and benefits. It has been featured on numerous television shows, for example, where people talked extensively about oolong tea. Oprah helped to make it famous when discussing wulong slimming tea, and asking the famous question, “Oolong tea, does it work?”  There are also numerous sites online offering oolong tea reviews, and discussing the benefits of drinking oolong tea. Weight loss does often occur when someone switches to drinking wulong tea, (or wu yi tea, as it is also known as.)  It has been well documented, and actually my husband lost quite a bit of weight when he first began drinking it. Having said that, it is not a ‘miracle cure’ that will make all weight drop instantly from you, no matter what else you do.  It does help raise your metabolic rate, as does Green tea, which of course will affect your weight gain or weight loss. Chinese tea’s benefits are substantiated and real.

There are other health benefits to chinese tea’s both green tea and wulong tea. They both contain polyphenol, which has been shown to both enhance your body’s natural enzymes and removes dangerous free radicals from your body.