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What is Sustainability for Tea – Solutions

13 hours 14 min ago

Tea is much more than steeping of leaves in hot water. There is much that goes into this product that has become an international symbol of health, art, and business. Regardless of the situation or condition of the industry, the five things that must remain intact in order to sustain the international tea industry are seeds, soil, water, sun, and people. In my past “What is Sustainability for Tea” articles I highlighted the environmental, social, and economic issues surrounding the sustainability of tea, and in this article we will look at possible solutions which I have come across through my travels throughout the tea world.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, sustainable means “able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed.” Applied to the tea industry it means that the industry will be able to continue operation without being destroyed.

Tea did not become an internationally demanded product until the modern part of its history. Almost 5,000 years since the discovery of tea and it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that the global tea industry has become what it is today. The past 200 years have seen drastic expansion of the appreciation of tea, but its fast growth has externalized many costs that are now challenging the sustainability of the industry.

Prior to the expansion of the tea industry it was a modest and sustainable trade that was very much focused on respecting the five elements of seeds, soil, water, sun, and people. One can look at the future sustainability of the tea industry by looking to the past and how these essential elements were respected. Systems were localized and decentralized, which allowed each stakeholder in the system to focus on how they can best respect these elements.

Tea begins from a seed. Modern tea is not all seed, with the industry dominated by clonal propagation and planting versus the traditional method of seed cultivation. From an efficiency perspective it makes perfect sense to achieve consistency and convenience from a tea field that is one common genetic expression. Seeds versus cuttings promote biodiversity which strengthens the garden for a longer period of time and develops a tap root that will go deep into the earth to collect more energy and flavor and encourage drought resistance. Seeds also communicate with the natural environment to produce what is best for that environment. It would be counterproductive to the commercial tea industry to convert tea fields from clones to seeds, but it may become the only option a small tea grower will have to continue their heritage of tea-making.

Soil is the home of the tea plant. Prior to the (predominantly American) introduction of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, soil was treated as someone would treat their own home and community. If the soil wasn’t happy and healthy than a farmer’s plants were not happy. The modern use of agriculture chemicals and techniques such as monoculturing have eliminated the biodiversity of soils around the world and have reduced the soil’s ability to provide and retain water.

Water is perhaps just as important to the growth of tea as the soil it lives in. The Earth has an abundance to give, but modern agriculture has turned its focus from cultivating natural sources of water to providing a crutch with irrigation. Even the most harsh environments in the world can provide water (I pulled water for my own consumption and use while a Peace Corps volunteer in the Sahara Desert from a 80 meter deep well). Traditional tea growers respected their natural sources of water and worked hard to protect the water they had. A big part of this was encouraging indigenous biodiversity in their community and in the soil.

Although there is not much humans can do to control the sun, there is much that we can do to protect our environment from the extremities of the sun. The sun is our source of energy and heat and is absolutely necessary for the tea plant, in controlled doses. Temperature in our environment is controlled by the sun. In recent times the temperature has become much more volatile than anticipated which has negatively affected farmers by delaying planting and harvesting schedules and affecting the quality (and price) of their products. Although the modern tea industry has not been the culprits of this “global warming”, the same ideologies that were behind the expansion of the global tea industry are behind the expansive industry and development decisions that have culminated to our current climate issues.

People are the effort that bring these elements together. It is their energy and craft that has developed the appreciation of tea. These people need to be protected and respected like heroes because tea wouldn’t exist without them. The modern tea industry that is focused on quantity rather than quality has given less and less value to the people behind the tea. In return, many families of long lineage of tea-making have left the career and left their tea gardens to grow feral. If the market only showed the same value and respect to a tea-maker that they did to the marketers of their electronics, cars, and homes, perhaps the tea-makers would be more motivated to continue making quality tea and caring for their natural resources.

These issues are not simple ones to solve. Although, if you look to the simplicity of the past you may see that it could be easier than we think. The element that changed it all and brought tea to the unsustainable fate that it sees now is centralization. This is big business that took responsibility of making tea and sharing large quantities around the world rather than independent people sharing quality. In my opinion, decentralization is the answer. A good example of this is looking at the experience of riding in a taxi versus riding in a Uber vehicle. Taxi drivers work for a centralized organization where the driver doesn’t own their car and may not put great effort into caring for the car (and possibly caring for their passengers). Uber drivers, on the other hand, are decentralized businesses that utilize Uber to connect with their passenger with a car that they own. This encourages the driver to take care of their vehicle and offer premium service to their passengers, because they are responsible for their own business. I believe this will be the solution to tea sustainability, independence and quality. If left on their own an independent tea-maker will take responsibility for caring for their seeds, soil, water, sun, and people.

This is the fourth part in a series on sustainability in the tea industry.

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Tea melange, anyone?

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 12:46

As a chef, I approach tea as a flavor that I might incorporate into a food, whether sweet or savory. But with my restless penchant for not wishing to leave well enough alone and perceiving flavors and differentiating them from each other, I enjoy experimenting by blending small batches of fresh whole leaf teas from different tea growing regions with different terroir.

First, it’s necessary to know the dominant flavor personality of each tea before embarking on combining them. Perhaps more than a bit heretical, the blending process nonetheless reveals something new to me about the constituent teas in the blend. When brewed in just-under-the-boil water for about 3 minutes, equal amounts of Dao Ming Keemun, with its slightly smoky character, and Duflating add up to something truly special. The smoky note of the Keemun is followed by the mellowing round sweetness of the Indian tea. That comforting musty aroma of an old library (a good thing here) in the Chinese tea is brightened by a shot of the Indian tea. Do I enjoy each of these teas by themselves? Check. Do I also enjoy them when they are companions in the cup? Check.

Moving farther afield, how about something even more renegade? How about a soupcon of Darjeeling with its peachy perfume underpinned by a high altitude grown Ceylon? Even when blended, the delicacy of the first tea trumpets its identity with the island grown Ceylon lending a lingering bass note to the cup.

Which teas among the favorites in your tea cupboard would you like to blend? Let me know.

In the meantime, here’s a recipe for a spicy molasses-sweetened cookie, a perfect accompaniment to your tea blending explorations.

Many Spiced Cookies

Yield: Approximately 20 cookies

  • Scant 7.5 ozs (1-1/2 cups) All purpose flour
  • Spices in any proportion you favor, totaling 3.75 teaspoons (NOTE:  I suggest using an amount of cinnamon that is equal by volume to the total of the other four spices, as cinnamon mellows and softens the aggressiveness of the others).
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Allspice
  • Scant 4.5 ozs (9 T,) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2.5 ozs (1/2 c.) dark brown sugar
  • 3.8 ozs (1/2 c.) molasses
  • 1-1.2 t. hot water
  • Granulated sugar, as needed, to coat the scoops of cookie dough before baking

Sift flour with spices and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, cream butter until light. Add brown sugar and molasses and mix to blend. Add hot water and mix in. Add the sifted dries and mix only until the flour disappears.

Using an ice cream scoop, portion out the dough into 1 ounce balls, dropping the scoops into a bowl of granulated sugar. Toss to coat and then place the dough onto parchment paper lined sheet pans leaving about 3 inches space between cookies. Chill until firm. Preheat oven to 350° F. and bake the cookies on an oven rack positioned halfway up from the bottom of the oven,  for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned, but still somewhat soft (they will harden as they cool). When cool, transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and store at cool room temperature.

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Blast from the past: Are fancy grades worth the price?

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 12:19

This article was originally posted to T Ching in November of 2016.

Super fine grade, #1, #3, Royal Grade,  Supreme ….so many terms!

In most instances, these terms affect the price. There is no global standard for tea grades. Each region will use a different designation for grading the various loose leaf teas they produce. So the question is – can you taste the differences of the various grades and are they worth the extra cost?

When blending teas with other ingredients such as fruit, the underlying quality of the tea is not as important and in many cases would be a waste since the flavors would overwhelm the subtle notes of the base tea. Going down the quality scale of tea to the lowest grades often brings unwanted taste, and thus they will require more potent flavors to make up for it. This is where some tea vendors start introducing artificial ingredients to mask the harshness of the tea. Sticking with the higher end vendors will generally avoid this problem. Some of the higher-quality flavored teas will use better grades or some fancier teas, and usually, the flavors are intentionally mild so as to allow the drinker to experience the quality of the tea with subtle flavoring notes. However, with rare exception, most flavored varieties don’t specify grades of the underlying tea.

When it comes to pure teas there are many differences, and as a tea purveyor, we have the option to taste a lot of different teas from different sources and evaluate them side by side. This study can be exhaustive, so we chose a few types for this initial comparison.

We did a tasting of several different teas – Dragonwell, Jade Oolong, and Gyokuro.

Dragonwell – Lung Ching

For the Dragonwell we pitted three different versions against each other. The most expensive was a Ching Ming variety, produced in the early spring. Another vendor just uses the term Dragonwell, but it is grown in the West Lake District and produced in the early spring (therefore indicating high grade). We also took a #1 Superfine Grade. Each of these various teas is not cheap and is considered in the higher grade category. We didn’t go down to the lower grades (i.e. Grade #3) for this experiment but will do so in the future with Cheap versus Expensive comparison.

We cupped each and did a blind taste test. The highest-end tea (price wise) was our top choice. The 2nd place was not far behind but was a little lighter bodied. The next in line had some lingering aftertaste (some astringency) which we took points off for. None of these teas were bad, but there were clear differences.

The two top teas were somewhat close, but the price gap was somewhat high. Retail $5 an ounce versus $9 and ounce. It is also worth noting that the top pick was NOT organic versus the 2nd place. We’ve found both inferior and superior teas in the past irrespective of being organic or not.

So here, the best tea is a lot more expensive, but the taste difference was small. We did think the difference between third place and 2nd was enough to warrant a few extra dollars ($5 an ounce versus $4).

Jade Oolong

We pitted a Super Fine #1 Grade versus a #2 grade. Again a blind taste test.  Retail #1 in the $5 an ounce price range, while the #2 is about $3.50. Once again we did a blind test, and most of us chose the #1 grade versus the #2. The difference being the higher grade of tea had more prominent flavor and more floral character.

#2 wasn’t bad, and if that is all you drank you would consider it a good tea. However, side by side we felt #1 was worth the difference.

Gyokuro

This test was interesting. Gyokuro is generally already a very high-end tea. We took an already expensive “standard” Gyokuro and compared it with a “supreme” edition. This price difference was massive…$5.50 an ounce versus $10 an ounce. For this test, we didn’t drink blind. We were expecting to be blown away by the more expensive one, but in actuality, we preferred the standard version. We felt there was slightly more flavor and there were more grassy notes versus the much more expensive counterpart. Our vote was that the standard version was the better value.

Summary

Overall, when there are a lot of grades available for a particular tea type the higher grades seem to taste better. We found that the differences start becoming more narrow once the teas move into the very high end of the spectrum. In other words, the increase in quality isn’t always representative of the associated price increase.

In some instances, it’s also not a given that paying for a tea that costs double will result in twice the better tea. With Gyokuro, we actually preferred the lower priced version.

Like wine, tea is priced based on supply and demand. Crops vary from year to year, and sometimes there are nuances from one vintage to another. And like wine, certain high demand teas may create a  large price gap irrespective of quality.

What do you think? Do you think paying for the highest quality tea is always worth it? Would you switch if you found a tea you liked better, but was significantly more?

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Let Your Heart Soar

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:22

Its comforting aroma and soothing taste reminds me of a quote from the Bhagavad Gita: “Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward.”

Take time to set your heart upon your work. Close your eyes and visualize the blue mountains at the southwestern tip of India, sweeping flora, elephants, bengal tigers, and the sound of a laughing thrush.

The sound of the laughing thrush will fill your heart with laughter while infusing your soul with Nilgiri Kairbetta black tea!

Nilgiri black tea is often called the ”frost tea” because it is produced during the winter season. The fine dark-green leaves will fill your cup with a golden liquor full of fruity and woodsy notes. Let laughter be your guide in life, find it wherever you can, and let your work flow as it should.

It’s good to laugh and get tea drunk – set your heart free and enjoy Nilgiri Kairbetta Black Tea from Camellia Sinensis Tea House.  Get “infusiastic” and steep this tea: one teaspoon of leaves to 250ml with 95ºC water for 3 – 4 minutes.

Stop, breathe, let you heart soar with tea!

Interested in individually designed tea reviews? Weaving compelling visual stories for social media is a passion of mine. I love creating immersive illustrated reviews that awaken people to tea and culture. If you desire an illustrated review to engage your followers, please contact me.

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Japanese Tea Meditation Will Help You Be In The Moment

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 12:49

Meditation is an excellent and satisfying way of bringing yourself into the present moment. There are many different forms of meditation to ground us, and provide the energy and focus we need to get through the day without feeling burnt out. One of the ways to meditate is through Japanese Tea Meditation.

Tea Meditation is a Japanese art that one can understand, albeit not quickly enough for everyone, through the phrase “one time, one meeting”. This phrase should help us experience life–and every moment that makes it–to the fullest. It is a reminder for us that in this world, we only have the present and its uniqueness to carry us through.

The tea ceremony provides us the opportunity to become present at the moment, and to appreciate it and be grateful for it by living with an open heart. Although the act of preparing and drinking tea may seem simple, doing it with an awareness and a grounded presence can be quite challenging, especially for a beginner.

You can use any type of tea you prefer. My favorite is oolong tea. Here are the steps you should remember when practicing Japanese Tea Meditation, so you will be present as well as aware while doing something simple.

Make Tea

Acknowledge your inner chi as you follow the steps. Get the tea out of its box, clean the cup you are going to use, and let the tea steep in hot water. After making your tea, sit with it first, then inhale its aroma. Feel the warmth in your hands, and look at the colors swirling in the cup. Imagine the journey of the tea leaves before they arrive in front of you.

Be Grateful

Before taking a sip, it is essential to be thankful for the tea, and for all the people who made it possible for the leaves to reach your cup. Also be grateful for the moment you have, the leaves, the water, the good health, your cup, your chair, and your surroundings. Be thankful for the reality that allows you to perform the tea ceremony.

Savor the Tea

It is best not to focus on all the other things going on in the world as you drink your tea. Feel the sensations that the tea creates. Savor the taste, take in the smell, and feel the tea in your mouth as it tickles your taste buds.

Think about the movement of your arm and wrist as you bring the cup closer to your lips. If you have other thoughts that come to you as you drink, be aware of them, but let them pass. Don’t dwell on them for too long.

Remember, this particular act of drinking is unique. Whether you share the moment with someone else or just with yourself, drinking that specific cup of tea will not happen again. You are in a moment you should savor. After finishing your tea, give thanks again. Be grateful for completing the meditation. It can add to the richness you would feel about life. Gratitude will also help you stay in the present.

After the Tea Meditation

There are a lot of benefits that tea gives to a person’s body. Drinking tea promotes everything from immune defense to weight loss and fertility. The meditation, while the goal of this exercise, is not the only benefit to drinking your tea.

Takeaway

Taking part in a simple but profound meditation can be your gift to yourself. By being present and grateful at the same time, you get to enhance your experience of life. You bring that understanding with you, not just during the tea ceremony but in the other waking moments of your life.

Aside from benefiting from the antioxidants found in your tea, you can also improve your presence in the moments you live. As a result, you could also improve your relationships with other people by learning the value of being present and by practicing it by heart.

Harry Beckett is a blogger and health enthusiast. He is also a self-ascribed tea aficionado. Harry loves to learn about and share the different benefits of tea. He also likes to drink various tea flavors because they are healthy and delicious. During his free days, Harry likes to read men’s magazine while drinking tea. He is currently affiliated with OMG Brah! male supplements.

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How to De-stress in 5 Effective Ways

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 12:49

Stress has become a new epidemic, and according to the American Psychological Association it contributes to the six leading causes of death: cancer, heart disease, suicide, lung ailments, cirrhosis of the liver, and accidents. It can be hard to relax and de-stress when one of the main requirements for any job says “Must be able to work under pressure”. Fortunately, there are efficient and simple methods that can help you reduce stress and achieve inner calm. Sometimes even little things such as a good book, or a stroll through the park can be exactly what you need in order to restore your peace of mind.

Meditate

This ancient practice is one of the best ways to de-stress. Its benefits are numerous, and they include lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as reducing levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can wreak havoc on your body. You don’t need any special conditions to start practicing meditation, as you can simply find a quiet spot, sit down, close your eyes, and focus on one thing, no matter what that is. If you want to keep calm, do this for at least 10 minutes a day. Yes, that’s all it takes to do something for your well-being.  

Drink tea

A cup of tea has a soothing effect on your mind, so when you’re under a great deal of stress stay away from coffee and stick to this relaxing beverage. Chamomile is a mild tranquilizer and can help you have restful and uninterrupted sleep. There’s a long list of green tea health benefits. It’s packed with antioxidants and other nutrients, and it’s known for reducing the risk of cancer, improving cognitive functions, and helping with weight loss, among many other things. Theanine, an ingredient that gives flavor to this refreshing beverage, is responsible for the relaxing effect.

Get a massage

When you’re stressed, it’s not just your mind that suffers, but your body, too. That’s why a massage is an excellent way of helping your body relax and de-stress. It can improve your circulation, reduce pain, and relieve muscle tension. Aromatherapy oils and soothing music can be added to your massage session for even better results. If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of getting a solo massage, you can go for a couples massage. This amazing concept allows you to enjoy this relaxing experience together with your partner in a personal and intimate atmosphere that will remove any potential discomfort.

Avoid processed foods

Comfort food that people usually turn to when they’re stressed or anxious is full of sugar, sodium, and other unhealthy ingredients. Processed foods provide a short-term relief, but in the long run they make you even more tense and anxious because they’re bad for your digestive system. Fast food, fried food, and soft drinks are the main culprits behind sugar imbalances which are very bad for your mood. Chronic stress makes it hard to control the temptation to gorge yourself on a burger with fries, but by doing so you get yourself trapped in a vicious circle. So, instead of grabbing a glazed doughnut or a candy bar, have a piece of fruit, some dark chocolate, or a handful of berries.

Listen to soothing music

Even if you enjoy listening to up-tempo music, and if you believe that it boosts your mood, opt for something more soothing when you’re stressed. This kind of stimulation will only make you more nervous and irritated. Slow, quiet music can reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of cortisol. If you want to fully enjoy the benefits of therapeutic music, light a scented candle, brew some tea, and make yourself comfortable. Calming music will let you fully engage in mindfulness of tea and make the most of this synergistic experience.

Fighting stress can be tricky, but these simple methods can help you establish healthy habits and gradually help to eliminate stress from your life.

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Is This The Best We Can Do?

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:43

Tea service in North America is almost a shame! We are serving tea the same way we did forty or more years ago. We are long overdue for an upgrade!

When I was presented with an institutional mug along with the small metal teapot yesterday, it was as if I was transported back to high school in the 70’s. On the occasions when a teacher was sick, or we felt like ditching, several of us would walk to the nearest cafe and have tea. This was in Canada, and this was not unusual for us, but most definitely would have been for American teenagers in the 1970’s.

A pot of tea was about all we could afford! It was thirty-five cents, and you could always get a free refill on the hot water. That’s how we would kill an hour or more in between classes. Tea service back then consisted of an institutional teacup and saucer, a metal teapot on a matching dessert plate, and an assortment of accoutrements; which included honey in little square packages, lemon slices, and a sugar bowl (which often contained sugar cubes) along with a matching creamer. The teabag was Red Rose Tea, and it was always in the teapot when it arrived unless you asked for it on the side. That was my preference because I always drank mine clear. That’s what we called it. For those that used any or most of the accoutrements, it didn’t seem to matter to them how strong the tea was. In most restaurants, you just never knew how long your tea had been steeping before it was brought to you, but I didn’t like strong tea, and I still don’t.

What was served to me yesterday was much less than what was served in back then, as you can see in the photo. At least everything was presented on a plate. I haven’t often seen that here in America. Yesterday was a test.

When I inquired as to the choices of tea, the waitress returned with a handful of Stash teabags in foil pouches. Yes, she brought a handful! This is not about the brand of tea; it is about the lackluster quality of the tea service in most food service establishments. It is not the server’s fault; it is not the restaurant’s fault; it’s our fault! Those of us in the tea industry are responsible for this.

Most of us just do not order tea in cafes and restaurants. Many of us seldom even check the hot beverage section on the menu in certain restaurants. If it’s an upscale restaurant, I do, I check. I ask, and then I usually decline.

How many more decades are we going to let slip by before we stop this lousy tea service? Who is taking steps to upgrade the service of tea in America? What is it going to take to have every restaurant consider tea as a legitimate item on their menu? When are we going to say “enough is enough!”?

Imagine that you are seated at a table in an ordinary restaurant with three other people; everyone has ordered their beverage, and you have ordered tea. Yes, you’ve had to stipulate that it is HOT tea you are ordering and not iced. Their beverages arrive and are set down in the usual manner. A few moments later, the server arrives with a small decorative tray that holds a lovely porcelain or clear glass teapot filled with hot water, a matching teacup in an unusual style, a coordinating plate of accoutrements, along with an assortment of teabags in colorful sachets all tucked into a lovely presentation box.

Everyone’s mouth drops. Eyeballs from other tables are all focused on what has been set down in front of you, you just happily go about selecting your tea, making it the way you like it, and adding whatever you desire.

How hard can this simple upgrade be? Every restaurant can do this, and much more!

What have we upgraded in the vision above? We’re still using teabags, which is acceptable, and with a name brand that isn’t on every grocery store shelf in the country. What we’ve done is upgrade the service of tea. We’ve actually turned it into something! Someone cared enough to order teaware that is befitting of the beverage! It was presented with some style and everything was kept simple.

For the savvy tea customer, this should be a good start. If we continue whining for loose-leaf tea selections and water at precisely at 180 degrees, we’ve lost most restaurants right from the get-go. I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t expect this at some point but let’s first graduate from the horrible cafeteria metal teapot and clunky mug. Clearly, in four decades, while tea sales and tea consumption have skyrocketed in this country — tea service lags behind dramatically.

 

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Blast from the past: a brief history of boba

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 13:00

This article was originally published on T Ching in August of 2014.

Two tea establishments in Taiwan claim to have invented tapioca milk tea the drink, not tapioca balls the ingredient.   In 1983, an employee at Taichung City’s Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House concocted the first cup of bubble tea – so called because of the bubbles in the shaken mix of tea and syrup; tapioca, or boba, was not added until 1987 at this premises.  Hanlin Tea House in Tainan City began to serve a similar drink with white-colored tapioca balls – also in 1987.   If this novel, non-obvious beverage recipe were patented, or unimaginably kept a trade secret, then we would be enjoying it in a very different way today.

At Thai restaurants nowadays, I make sure to call my favorite dessert by its correct name sago pudding instead of tapioca pudding.  Sago is extracted from palm stem pith, while tapioca from cassava root.  The infamous Empress Dowager Cixi (1835 – 1908) was said to have once enjoyed an all-natural tapioca dessert prepared by the Taiwanese envoy.  Both Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House and Hanlin Tea House should be credited for re-sizing the tapioca balls; they might have invented the fat straws too.

So when did tapioca balls stop being all-natural?  Do McDonald’s McCafe locations in Germany still serve boba tea?   Some tea shops offer a substitute known as healthy boba, which is not boba at all but konjac.

Popping boba seems a popular topping choice at self-serve yogurt parlors. On the other hand, Heart boba – a red bean in the middle – can only be savored during a visit to Taiwan.

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Not So Green Anymore?

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 12:00

by GV Shashidhar

  • Middle Eastern imports at 218,470  metric tons of tea in 2015 compared to 226,930 in 2014. In 2010, it was 250,000 metric tons of tea annually.
  •  The Russian Federation imported 3,000 fewer metric tons in 2015 than the previous year.
  •  The value of global  tea imports from all importing countries in 2015 was        down by an average of 8.6% since 2011. This translates to $6.5 billion in 2011, down to $5.9 billion in 2015.

They say numbers don’t lie. As you look at these numbers, they seem to defy logic or practice. The average consumer would think the consumption of tea has only gone up with more varieties of tea on supermarket shelves and with more marketers and producers vying for consumer attention. Apart from being a regular beverage, tea has come to the forefront of the health bandwagon. Historically, tea was consumed In China and other parts of Asia for centuries before the British discovered it. They took it, patronized it and consumed it in copious quantities.

Over time, tea became an important part of local culture and cuisine of much of non-Christendom. It developed into specific rituals and practices based on local culture and custom. The south Asian version of steeping tea, the central European version of using elaborate customs including a samovar that migrated to Central Asia ( or maybe vice versa) to Africa where countries like Turkey and Egypt developed their own method of brewing and built a strong social culture around it.

Over decades, this beverage found its way into many homes across the globe. Industrialization and technology led to better farming methods and a freer trade meant consumers had options in choosing the source of their teas. This whole process became so sophisticated that it involved big bucks, which led to rampant commercialization. Commerce and politics are two sides of the same coin. Over time, as consumers developed their tea culture and concentrated on consumption, countries included tea in their trade and bilateral discussions. Countries and corporations began investing in tea gardens outside their own boundaries. Most of the tea in Egypt is imported from Kenya and Sri Lanka and it is unlikely that the average consumer is aware of this. Similarly, most of the tea imported in CIS countries are imported from India and China.

Green tea became popular as a great source of antioxidants and stimulants. Since green tea has less caffeine content than coffee, it was considered safe for all adults including those convalescing and nursing mothers. All of the above seems like a fairy tale that would last forever with the consumer, traders and countries balancing each other out perfectly for mutual benefit and a cup of health.

The above statistics however, seem to belie the climax of the fairy tale. Maybe it’s just a technical correction which should sort itself out in a few years. However, it could also be a result of strong competition from another beverage that, until recently, wasn’t considered healthy because of its high caffeine content – Coffee. And thus opens a new chapter in the annals of beverages. Just like that.

The benefits of coffee are now being discovered. It is entirely unclear whether this changing status of coffee is a result of a campaign by marketers, exporters or the medical fraternity, but one thing is very clear. Coffee is gaining a lot of ground as a stimulant, as anti-carcinogenic and simply as a great beverage. While the tea culture developed into elaborate rituals where people came together socially, coffee has become a personal choice.

Moreover, the whole process of extraction of the coffee from the beans roasted to one’s liking ( medium, rare or premium) , the grade of coffee ( Plantation, Peaberry, Arabica, Blends)  and the paraphernalia needed to extract it, is encouraging people to become connoisseurs. It is becoming fashionable to own all the equipment and develop an expertise similar to a barista, much the same way photography became a passion where amateurs went to great lengths putting together the ‘ dark room’  before the advent of digital technology.  Add to this the now accepted belief that green coffee is a great metabolism booster, some consider even more so than green tea, it’s no wonder that the tides are turning. Thus sparks the demand for green coffee from non-drinkers of coffee. IF you put this scenario into the mix and throw in the might of a global corporation like Starbucks, you realize it’s no longer an even match.

As people discovered various exotic flavors and options, coffee did not remain espresso or cappuccino. Consumers and countries developed their own version of coffee from the Americano to the Flat white. Countries began to get divided based on their consumption of tea or coffee. If England was a tea country, the U.S. became a coffee country. If most of western Europe reveled in their bistros and cafes, all of Asia took to tea with a vengeance. Corporations like Nestle added new technology in products like Nespresso, making the whole process of extraction simple, yet retaining the allure of coffee extraction.

As we look at some of this information, it is becoming evident that coffee is slowly gaining lost ground. A coffee house is no longer a shack for the blue collared but a place for a family to sit and sip. It is, of course, going to be very interesting to see how the overall numbers add up, but the consumer has never had it so good. Spoilt for choices, many are turning to coffee before noon for the additional ‘pick me up’ and tea in the afternoon for the calming, relaxing end to the day.

Whichever way the cookie crumbles, it surely tastes good with a cuppa. Tea or coffee.

The post Not So Green Anymore? appeared first on T Ching.

Why Runners are turning to matcha for Health and Performance

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 12:52

With the increasing focus on health and natural foods, many runners are turning away from traditional pre-workout drinks and artificial nutritional substances and instead looking to natural alternatives. Rising in popularity is matcha green tea which is increasingly becoming the focus of scientific studies that are showing its role in assisting with weight loss & weight management, boosting energy & endurance, reducing & relieving inflammation, supporting the immune system and protecting from cancer.

So what is matcha?

Matcha green tea is the whole green tea leaf which is briefly steamed, dried and ground into a fine vibrant green powder. The powder dissolves in water so you consume the whole tea leaf, not just the steeped water. As a result matcha green tea contains 137 X the antioxidants of standard green tea and has the highest concentration of the antioxidant EGCG which is one of the most powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants.

Here are some of the reasons behind just a selection of its health benefits:

Assists with Weight loss and Weight Management

Matcha assists with weight loss and weight management in four specific ways:

  1. Boosts fat burning:  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming matcha can raise the bodies fat burning rate (thermogenesis) from the normal 8-10% to 35-43%.
  2. Reduces Fat Absorption: Matcha helps block the ability of digestive enzymes to break down fat so the amount of fat entering cells is reduced and instead this fat is passed through the body in digestion.
  3. Reduces hunger: Matcha helps regulate the hormone Leptin helping to reduce your hunger cravings.
  4. Stress reducer:  Matcha helps reduce stress and as a result, your body does not produce as much of the stress hormone Cortisol which is a known contributor to stubborn midsection fat.

Boosting Energy & Endurance

Matcha is a natural source of sustained energy due to the unique way it delivers caffeine into your system. With matcha, the natural tea caffeine is absorbed and released slowly by the body over a period of 6-8 hours. This means that matcha provides a sustainable energy boost and does not deliver the rapid 30-minute spike, slump and “jitters” associated with coffee.  You will feel alert, energized, and calm when you drink matcha.  This is perfect for marathon runners who need constant and sustained energy.

Supporting and Relieving Inflammation

Studies have shown green tea can help reduce inflammation and joint pain because of its active ingredient EGCG which is a powerful antioxidant that works to stop the production of certain inflammatory chemicals in the body. Matcha contains a much higher level of EGCG compared to standard green tea bags making it the perfect anti-inflammatory drink.

Supports the Immune System

Matcha has an anti-inflammatory effect on the immune system. The more matcha you drink or use in your food, the better allergic reactions (IGE) are suppressed. The catechins and L-Theanine in matcha have an anti-viral effect in flu. The EGCGs have an anti-bacterial effect on different sickness-causing micro-bodies, including Candidias Albicans. Matcha inhibits the growth of parasites. Matcha thus curbs infections, clears up free radicals, reduces oxidative damage and protects the kidneys.

Protects from Cancer

Matcha contains the highest levels of cancer-fighting EGCG antioxidants only found in green tea. Researchers believe that  the EGCG in matcha:

  • Can prevent free radicals from damaging cells which can lead to cancer
  • Can help to suppress tumour size
  • Can slow the progression of cancer cells

So what does matcha taste like?

Surprisingly, matcha is very light in flavour- it does not have any bitterness and is delicious to drink as a hot or iced tea and is also a perfect additive to smoothies or juices. You can add a teaspoon to your drink bottle and consume this before and during your run.

You can read more about matcha or buy high-quality matcha from my Australian business Zen Green Tea.

The post Why Runners are turning to matcha for Health and Performance appeared first on T Ching.