Monday, January 27, 2014

Steeping Beauty: Lathering up with Tea!

Travelling is another one of my passions. I've been all over the world so not only have I seen so much of this great planet, but I've also stayed in all sorts of hotels. From one of my previous escapes out to Western Canada, my hotel room included samples of green tea shampoo. I took home the extras I didn't use and just realized I had some and thought this would be the perfect opportunity for a post on it. 

Nourishment for my hair.

Not sure what kind of green tea was used or if it was just some imitation scent, but the shampoo really does smell like green tea. It has a sweet aroma almost like 
sweet Matcha or green tea ice-cream.

The product is called Nourish, and is labelled as a mineralizing shampoo with green tea. I was unable to find it at any of the mainstream shops you would find shampoo. It's made in Canada and is available online at Hunter Amenities which is a company that supplies such items to hotels and spas. 

Getting ready to lather up!

The product itself isn't too bad though. A lovely, refreshing scent and pale green colour just like green tea. I’m noticing more and more products including tea as part of the ingredients which is great since tea does amazing things for your body and well-being.
Unfortunately, I didn't have any accompanying conditioner to go along with my shampoo. I had to detangle and soften my long locks with coconut oil instead.  Other than that, it's a nice shampoo.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Yes Chef: Um, waiter, there’s a dragon in my soup!

While searching for ways I can incorporate tea into my cooking, I came across a recipe that called for green tea along with a number of other ingredients that were right up my alley. I knew I had to try out the recipe when I found myself drooling over the sexy pictures! It’s not called food porn for nothing!

I made a few adjustments to the recipe as I thought best, so feel free to do the same. I used Longjing (Dragon Well) tea, but you may use another green tea if you wish. Sencha might be a good one to try. Of course, you can use tea bags instead of loose leaf.


What's required.


Ingredients:

Broth

  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups of brewed green tea
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce 
Salmon
  • 4 salmon fillets 150 grams each
  • 4 cloves minced garlic 
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
Other Items
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 4 cups of brewed green tea for the rice
  • 1 cup shelled edamame
  • Chopped scallions
  • Hot sauce to taste

Process:

1.    Using the green tea liquor, cook the rice according to package. Rice to liquid ratio is 1:2.

2.    Cook the edamame according to package. Boil in water for about 5 minutes.

3.    For the broth, simmer the chicken broth, brewed green tea, minced garlic and ginger, and soy sauce for 15 minutes.

4.    Rub each piece of salmon with garlic and ginger. Wrap in parchment paper and bake at 185°C for 20 - 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.

The rubdown!


It's a wrap!



Assemble your meal:

Place a bed of rice in a bowl, followed by some edamame casually thrown on top, and then a portion of the salmon. Ladle a couple of cups of the broth over the salmon. Sprinkle with chopped scallions, and add a few drops of hot sauce.
     
Some assembly required!

Enjoy your dragon bowl!

The final product!


Forkin' good!


Options:
  • Try another fish like trout or a white fish, or even shrimp.
  • Use other veggies or go completely vegetarian, and add carrots, celery, red bell peppers, bean sprouts, chopped walnuts etc…use vegetable broth instead.  
  • Instead of rice, use noodles.




Monday, January 13, 2014

My Cuppa: I am Tea, Hear Me Roar!

Hope you enjoyed my last post on the legends of Longjing (Dragon Well). If you haven’t read it, what are you doing here? Go back and read it!

Now, I’m going to go through what’s involved in processing Longjing and how you can enjoy this beautiful tea. As I mentioned in a much earlier post on tea production, the manufacturing process will have a great impact on a tea’s uniqueness in appearance, flavour, and aroma.

Longjing is produced in the Hangzhou area of the Zhejiang Province in China, though you can find cheaper imitations in other areas which will affect the quality as well as the price tag of the tea. The tea is harvested in the early hours of the day beginning around April. The top two leaves as well as the bud are required to create Longjing. After plucking, the leaves are spread upon bamboo trays for withering. Once the leaves have lost some of their moisture and become much softer and pliable, they are then roasted in a wok to prevent further oxidation. In order to achieve the unique appearance of Longjing, experienced tea masters work their hands in a set of steps called the “8 Hand Movements”. This procedure requires the tea master to grasp, toss, shake, pile, throw, buckle, press, and grind the tea leaves in the wok and sometimes running the leaves through a roller until they take their shape. Apparently Longjing was designed to resemble the flat sword-shaped leaves Emperor Qianlong retrieved from his sleeves when tending to his ill mother at her bedside.  

   
The 8 Hand Movements of Longjing.

Roasting will also reduce additional moisture still remaining in the leaves. After roasting is complete, the leaves are placed on bamboo trays and allowed to cool down for about an hour. The leaves are then sorted according to size, removing any stems or broken leaves, before going through another cycle of roasting to further reduce the moisture content to 5%, a final cool down, and sorting. Longjing is ready for the market!  

Dry Longjing Tea Leaves.

To prepare this fine tea, I follow these steps:

1.   For 1 cup of water, measure out 1 teaspoon of Longjing tea and place it in a teapot.

2.   In a kettle, bring water to a full boil and allow it to cool down to 75°C.

3.   Pour water over the tea leaves and infuse for about 1 ½ - 2 minutes.

4.   Pour the liquor into your cup and enjoy!

The tea leaves produce a golden-yellow, pale-green colour. Depending on your senses, you may detect sweet, delicate, vegetal aromas. I found the taste mild, sweet, and a bit nutty. There was no aftertaste or astringency. 

Longjing Liquor!

We’re not done yet! Tea leaves go a long way. With additional infusions, the leaves will continue to unfurl, releasing their aroma and flavour. For each infusion, I extend the brew time 30 seconds longer than the previous brew time in order to capture the flavours. I find I’m able to produce 2 more infusions before the leaves lose their flavour and can be discarded.

There you have it, the delicious legend in a cup!



Monday, January 6, 2014

A Tea Story: A Dragon's Tale!

Stories and legends abound surrounding tea especially in Chinese folklore. One of the most renowned teas is Longjing which translates to Dragon Well. This is a beautiful green tea that was often given just to royalty and other high ranking officials. There are even a few tea plantations grown exclusively for them. Today, anyone can enjoy this fine tea though it can be quite expensive depending on the variety. How Longjing achieved its famous status is an interesting tale. Here’s how the story goes:

One day, Emperor Qianlong was visiting the Hu Gong Temple at West Lake in Hangzhou. He became mesmerized by the rhythmic plucking of the tea by the ladies in the gardens situated below the temple and decided to join them and give it a shot himself. As the emperor continued plucking, he received word that his mother had fallen ill. He tucked away the tea leaves he had plucked into the sleeve of his robe and immediately departed for Beijing. While he sat by her bedside, his mother sensed the sweet fragrance of the tea leaves wafting from his sleeves which by this time had lost all their moisture. These leaves were turned over to a servant for brewing and served to the emperor’s mother. Upon drinking the tea, she regained her health. Emperor Qianlong was so impressed by the results that he immediately gave Imperial Status to the 18 Longjing tea bushes growing by the temple.

The Imperial Status tea bushes are still growing today, and are known to sell at auctions for more than the price of gold in grams. I was told that the term “Cha-ching” or “Ka-ching” which is associated with the sound of old cash registers is actually derived from Longjing. The resemblance in spelling as well as the pronunciation is certainly there but, I have not been able to find any documentation to verify this from my search on the web. If anyone has any information regarding this, please send me the links, I’d love to read about it!


This would look so cool on my arm!

Now, how did Longjing or Dragon Well get its name? There are some interesting fables in this case as well. Here are just a few tales:

  • When digging a well, the locals found a stone in the shape of a dragon and thus decided to name the well “Dragon Well”. Not sure how they thought the stone looked like a dragon. How would you validate that when dragons don’t exist? Or do they?
  • Supposedly, the water in the well is quite dense. So, after rain showers, the light rain drops floating on the surface of the well water begin twisting and turning in patterns resembling Chinese-stylized dragon drawings or tattoos you often see. 
  • Locals believed that a dragon actually lived in the well and was capable of controlling the weather. Yes, he was a meteorologist! During droughts, locals would offer treats and pray to the dragon for rain, which he would submit to as requested. Hmmm….I wonder if it was Puff the Magic Dragon himself?

Remember this goofy character?

There are some variations to all the stories indicated in this post and each version is just as intriguing. Folklore makes for great storytelling to friends and even children alongside pots of tea. They certainly pass the time away during those uncomfortable moments of silence. On my next post, I’ll show you how to prepare a cup of this fine tea!