Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Cuppa: The wonders of whites!

White tea is one of the trendiest teas to drink right now. It’s being touted as the latest go-to item for its abundant health benefits. Well, of course it’s a powerhouse of goodness, it comes from the amazing Camellia sinensis plant just like all other teas, each having its own list of health benefits.

Of all the teas created from Camellia sinensis, white tea is the least processed. Therefore, it retains most of its naturally-occurring goodness. White tea is produced mainly of leaves from the Fujian province of China, though it is being produced more and more in other tea regions like India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. Only the buds and/or the youngest leaves covered in fine silvery hairs or pekoe are used to make white tea. These leaves are plucked for two or three days every early spring. 


Though white tea is classified as non-oxidized, a certain amount of oxidation does occur naturally during the withering process. So, after the leaves are gathered, they are allowed to wither for a period of time and then dried either naturally by air or by some mechanical means. That’s all! Some manufactures may add a step of quick steaming or frying after withering in order to stop any further oxidation.

Silver Needles

To make a cup of this beautiful tea requires certain water temperatures, tea amounts, and steep durations just like any other tea. I’m using one of the best white teas called Silver Needle. It is made entirely from downy buds only. In its dry form, they resemble needles, hence, the name. Feel free to try other whites instead if you wish. White Peony is another wonderful white which consists of a bud and two leaves. 

A cuppa silver needles.

The following is just a guideline you can try out and then adjust to your own liking:

  • Bring water to a full boil and allow it to cool down. Ideal temperature for white tea should be around 70 °C to 75 °C. I've had great white tea at 65 °C. I would not go higher than 80 °C as the tea may become bitter and you don’t want to scald white tea leaves as they are very delicate. 
  • Select your vessel of choice. I'm using my trusty little teapot with a built-in filter, and add two teaspoons of tea leaves per cup.
  • Pour water over the tea leaves and allow to steep. White tea leaves can handle longer steep durations. Try a shorter steep time of 2 – 3 minutes first. Then go longer, 5 – 10 minutes, if desired. See what works for you. You're drinking it!
  • Like most other teas, white tea leaves can be used several times, usually about 3 steeps before discarding them. Increase the duration for subsequent steeps.
  • Enjoy your white tea as is. This is a very delicate that is best enjoyed on its own.

Enjoy!

The colour is a very pale yellow. You may notice the fine white hairs of the buds floating in it as well. The flavour and aroma is mild and sweet. Some describe a chestnut taste. I do detect a nutty flavour.

White tea, especially Silver Needle is not cheap, but do try it out once in a while, it is so worth the purchase.




Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blooming with tea!

Tea is not only wonderful to drink, but it’s beautiful to watch infuse. Specifically flowering or blooming teas. These are teas that are formed into bundles using tea leaves and various types of flowers. Upon contact with water, the bundle unfolds and expands into a beautiful bouquet all within a matter of minutes of steeping. It really is quite interesting to see what emerges.


Flowering pod.

Preparing a flowering tea is very simple. All you need is the tea pod, water, and a transparent teapot which makes for better viewing. Just place the tea pod into the teapot and pour in hot water. I used 4 cups of water for each pod and steeped for about 5 minutes though you may steep longer without the liquor ever becoming bitter. Then, sit back and watch the pod reveal itself as it slowly dances with the water. 

Beauty unveiled.


The close-up.

Many types of flowers can be used to create these beauty bundles including amaranth, chrysanthemum, jasmine, lily, marigold, and carnation. The container of pods I purchased was a Chinese green tea from the Fujian province, perfumed with jasmine, and sewn around the various flowers to form the bundles. It’s from a company called Primula. Each pod had a lovely name to go along with it such as Juliet’s Kiss, Lover’s Blossom, Fairy Lily, and Butterfly Floret.

Pod product.

The various pods I tried were pretty good taste wise. You could smell the aroma of the flower being used along with the jasmine. The taste was not bitter at all and the liquor was a clear golden yellow colour. Each pod can be steeped up to 3 times. I had it both hot and cold, drinking it throughout the day keeping me alert and hydrated. The only downside was the number of bathroom trips I had to make!


Enjoy this quick video I made of a tea pod revealing itself!

video







Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bursting the bubble on tea!

Every now and then something new pops up and it just explodes. It could be anything from gourmet burger joints, all-you-can-eat sushi shops, salad eateries, poutine places etc... One of these trends is Bubble Tea. They've been around for years, and they are everywhere!

First time I had bubble tea was about a decade ago. I thought the name was strange. What was the reference to bubble anyway? The actual product didn't even look like tea as I knew it. Well, first a little history. Apparently, bubble tea was first made in the 80’s in Taiwan. Like anything new, there are different stories with a claim on its invention. The two versions I found during my research was nothing more than a couple of tea shop owners taking a chance and dropping balls of tapioca into tea. The drink was so well received by their customers that it went on to becoming the most popular item on the menu. 

My bubble tea!

Along with the many styles offered, bubble tea also has many names. I've always know it as Bubble Tea, but depending on where you live, it can be referred to as Pearl Milk Tea, Boba Milk Tea, Momi Tea, Tapioca Tea, and so many other names. The basic ingredients in bubble tea is milk, brewed tea, sugar, and tapioca balls. However, there are many variations that include both natural fresh fruit of many kinds and artificial flavourings of syrup or powder, with or without milk, different types of milk, hot or cold, green, red (black), or oolong tea, coffee and so on. Even the pearls come in different sizes and flavours too. Plus there are other items you can add such as adzuki beans, seaweed, jelly cubes etc… Really, the list is endless. The “bubble” refers to the bubbles that appear when the drink is shaken, kind of like a milkshake, and not the actual tapioca balls sitting at the bottom. Strange.

Great balls of tapioca!

I went to enjoy a bubble tea at a new shop that opened up in my neighbourhood not too long ago. I pretty much sat at the counter going over the endless list of options on the menu board and even discussed favourites and what the more popular items were with the very patient and friendly salesperson. I wanted something different, but something basic and not too drastic that I may not like it. I opted for the jasmine green tea with coconut milk and tapioca balls on ice. My love of coconut continues!

My bubble tea was yummy! The coconut went very well with the jasmine green tea. The tapioca pearls were soft, chewy and sweet. Fun to drink too! Was a little worried I might need the Heimlich maneuver from the possibility of choking on the pearls. Hey, I'm sure it’s happened along with a lawsuit! 

A choking hazard?

Definitely not something I could or would drink every day. Bubble tea is not exactly a health food, though I'm sure there are healthier versions available. You can make bubble tea at home. I might fiddle around with some recipes and create some crazy concoction of my own.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Cuppa: Sit back and have a cold one!

Okay weather’s been rather hot here, not that I'm complaining.  Though I'm more of an autumn girl and not much into heat and humidity, I've actually welcomed the summer a little more this year especially after the long, cold, never-ending winter we had.  

With the summer comes lighter eats and treats for me as well as an endless supply of teas and tisanes on ice which are quick, easy, and so refreshing.  They are a perfect way to keep yourself hydrated.  

Having a cold one on my balcony!

I know some tea snobs may scoff at the thought, but I believe tea bags are the easiest and fastest way to make these cold beverages.  All you need is the tea, water, and any optional items like lemon, lime, sweeteners, mint or basil leaves etc…

I'm going to mix-up a green tea and peppermint tisane. You will need the following:

  • 2 green tea bags
  • 2 peppermint tisane bags
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar (optional)


Preparation:

  • Bring water to a full boil.
  • Pour water over tea and tisane bags in a teapot.
  • Add sugar, if you wish, now as it dissolves much better in hot water than in cold.
  • Steep for about 5 minutes.
  • Allow liquor to cool down and then refrigerate.


Totally cool!

How easy was that?  Just pour into a tall glass over ice and add a slice of lemon or lime, even some mint leaves if you wish.  Sit back, relax and enjoy your drink!  I find the green tea and peppermint tisane combo very refreshing.  An instant cool down especially after a long walk with the sun beating down on you. 

Cooking Tips:
  • Use some of the liquor to make ice-cubes that way your drink does not become diluted with water as the ice-cubes melt.