I’ve read conflicting stories about how Jasmine found its way to China. One suggests it originated from Iran and traveled along the Silk Road to China during the Tang Dynasty. And, that scenting green tea with jasmine flowers starting around the Song and Ming Dynasties which is around c. 1240 – 1368. Still another says it arrived in China via India during the Han Dynasty which is c. 206 BC to 220 AD, but did not really catch on until the Qing Dynasty c. 1644 – 1912.
Thats a huge span of time. Regardless of when Jasmine actually found its way to China and they started scenting green tea with doesn’t really matter, does it? The important point is that it exists and that we get to enjoy it.
The best is grown and produced in the Fujian Region but Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Guangdong and Zhejiang also produce high qualities versions. (Vietnam also has a rather fantastic version of Jasmine Pearls!)
Tea leaves are typically harvested in early spring, hand rolled into little balls or pearls and then stored until late summer when jasmine flowers bloom. Flowers are picked very early in the morning when the air is still cool and the buds are closed. In the evening the buds open and the flowers release their amazing aroma which scents the green tea. The jasmine flowers are placed in layers with the green tea alternating between tea and flower and stored over night. It takes roughly 4 hours or so for the fragrance and flavor to be absorbed into the green tea leaves. This process is often repeated many times to get the right amount of fragrance and flavor into the tea.
You don’t need too many Pearls to make a fine cup of this tea. And brewing it in glass is highly recommended so that the visual part of watching the leaves unfold adds to the tea drinking experience.
This tea is beloved by many people because it’s simply fantastic. It can be enjoyed hot or as a divine iced tea as well.
“Tea is the drink of the gods that loosens tongues and opens hearts.”
Day 3 has us scooting over to Northern Africa where drinking green tea with mint is legendary and an inherent part of its culture, customs and most importantly its hospitality. Tea is everywhere in Morocco: cafes, markets, businesses and especially at home. But the actual history of tea in Morocco is not clear.
Hot drinks, herbal infusions and remedies have been a part of Moroccan culture since before actual tea was introduced to the country. Some say that wasn’t until the 17th – 18th century when Chinese green Gunpowder tea showed up. By the late 1800s, trade increased and tea spread across the county as a luxury item and status symbol of ones wealth and high standing in the community. Eventually, like all things, tea found its way into local markets in cities and villages; on caravan routes into the mountains and desert.
Traditional Moroccan Mint tea is typically a blend of Chinese Gunpowder Green tea which is shaped like small pellets, and has a very bitter taste if brewed too long. The name “gunpowder” refers to the very tightly rolled, compressed dried tea leaves. The more compact, the better the quality. A slight sheen to the gunpowder tea indicates freshness and is what is most desired.
Moroccan Mint / Chinese Gunpowder Green Tea needs to be brewed with a lighter hand (less time), or even cold brewed for iced tea which always comes out perfect. If you want to try to make tea the way they prepare it in Morocco here are steps to follow:
“A traditional pot of Moroccan Mint (Attay) will include mint, sugar, green gunpowder tea leaves, and hot water. Served on a Sinia tea tray, gunpowder tea leaves, fresh mint sprigs and sugar cubes are first put into the teapot before it is filled with boiling water. After a few minutes of steeping, the first pot of tea is poured into the tea glasses, not to drink, but rather to warm the guest’s glass, as the second round of brewing begins. Once perfect levels of sweet and bitter have been achieved, the host will hold the teapot high over the tea glasses, to create a little bit of froth. The glass is then held at the rim of the cup, and sipped carefully.”
Our Moroccan Mint Green has been slightly modified recently and is even better than the long-standing blend we’ve had over the years. The melange of mint really shines through – especially the spearmint! This is one of our most popular teas in summertime when we brew it for local farmers markets and serve over ice, but its a truly wonder hot tea year round. And if the flavor of green tea with mint isn’t enough to entice you into trying this, the health benefits might:
Relieves stress and anxiety
Boosts Immune System
Fights Bad Breath
May help Cold and Flu
Improves Mental Awareness and Focus
Full of anti-oxidants
Makes you feel happy*
*Lots of field research went into the last bullet point.
Please use Code: TeaGiving3to get 25% OFF on Day 3 of our 25 Days of Tea Giving!
It’s the last tea kindness of the year! And what better way to end then with the revered Green tea:Jasmine Pearls!
We offered this as part of our 25 Days of Tealast Christmas. You can read about it here and learn a bit about its flavor profile. There is a lot of research around the healing and wellness properties of green tea and here are just 3 of them for you to ponder:
1. Bioactive compounds and loaded with polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins which work as a powerful antioxidant and help reduce free radicals in the body. Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), which has been studied to treat various diseases and may be one of the main reasons green tea has such powerful medicinal properties.
2. May improve brain functions due to its caffeine content which is a stimulant. Caffeine works in the brain to block inhibitory neurotransmitters called Adenosine – which helps increase the firing of neurons and the concentration of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. It also contains a powerful amino acid called: L-theanine, which has anti-anxiety effects.
3. May lower risk of certain cancers which are caused by uncontrolled growth of cells. “It is well known that oxidative damage contributes to the development of cancer and that antioxidants can have a protective effect.” Green tea is an excellent source of powerful antioxidants, which may help with:
Breast cancer: A meta-analysis of observational studies found that women who drank the most green tea had a 22% lower risk of developing breast cancer, the most common cancer in women.
Prostate cancer: One study found that men drinking green tea had a 48% lower risk of developing prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer in men.
Colorectal cancer: A study of 69,710 Chinese women found that green tea drinkers had a 57% lower risk of colorectal cancer.
Now that you have some information onJasmine Dragon PearlsandGreen Tea,what better way to end the year then with a wonderful TeaCocktailrecipe to ring in 2018! I first tried this delight at a bar in Harvard Square in Cambridge MA and was hooked! I hope you like it too:
Green Tea Martini:
Ingredients: 1/4 cup loose leaf jasmine green tea
3 or 4 ice cubes
1 liter vodka (or gin)
1/8 cup simple syrup
Add the loose leaf jasmine tea to the bottle of alcohol and shake well. Steep the tea for two hours, before straining the leaves from the infused vodka or gin Meanwhile, chill your martini glasses in the freezer for at least half an hour. Put the ice cubes in a cocktail shaker until two-thirds full, then pour in the infusion and simple syrup (1:1 ratio sugar to water). Shake for about 15 seconds, then strain into the cold martini glasses rimmed with sugar and enjoy!
For our last Random Act of (Tea) Kindness, please enjoy 20% Off our Jasmine Dragon Pearls! This sale ends at 11:59pm on Dec 31st! Please use code: RATKJAS at check out!
This is the last post for 2017! Thank you all for following along!
• Did you know that iced tea was first “officially discovered” in 1904 at the World’s Fair, St. Louis? • Or that prohibition and home refrigeration in the 1920s and 1930s helped increase the popularity of tea? • And that approximately 84% of the tea consumed in America is iced?
Welcome to National Iced Tea Month!
The most popular story goes something like this: In 1904 at the World’s Fair, Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner was planning to give away free samples of hot tea to visitors. It was so hot in St. Louis that year and no one was interested in hot tea – so he dumped cubes of ice into the drink. The rest is tea history. That said, there is also some information and a story about a Mrs. Tyree and her recipe for iced tea that was published in 1877 (well before the World’s Fair) in Housekeeping in Old Virginia – which is pretty darn cool. (Pun intended.)
In fact, many Americans were already familiar with and drinking iced tea in alcohol based punches as far back as the Colonial days. There is reference to the Philadelphia Fish House Punch from the early 1700s which was diluted with tea. David Wondrich, a liquor historian wrote that the recipe for Regent’s Punch (1815) “…also packed quite the potent wallop: Not only did it call for green tea and arrack, a rum-like liquor from South Asia, it also threw in citrus juice, sugar, champagne, brandy and rum.” That’s a significant difference from how we drink iced tea today.
When Prohibition rolled around and took effect in 1920, nonalcoholic iced teas took off. In 1921, The Spice Mill (a book on coffee and tea industry) wrote: “Since Prohibition has gone into effect, tea has been drunk in places not heretofore thought of.” In order for social clubs, hotels and bars to survive, they looked for substitutes for (hard) liquor sales. Enter the birth of virgin fruit punches and strongly brewed iced teas – both packed with flavor and perfectly legal. The real tipping point arrived with the availability of home refrigeration and freezers which meant that people didn’t have to leave their homes to attend a social club for an iced cold drink.
This brings us to America and its 84%. We stand almost entirely alone (American, Canada, Thailand) in terms of tea culture worldwide in that we are prefer our tea over ice – while the rest of the tea drinking world drinks its tea hot. In countries like China, India, Sri Lanka and Japan, tea is almost always served hot regardless of the season.
Is it because of our early access to ice? Or that Americans were “forced” to drink a strong nonalcoholic beverages during Prohibition? Perhaps! Regardless of the answer, iced tea isn’t going anywhere.
One of the best ways to enjoy real iced tea is to brew it yourself using loose-leaf tea. The quality and taste are far superior than anything you will make from packaged teabags. What I find most interesting and also surprising is how many people ask me HOW to make iced tea. I get this question almost weekly at markets. It’s really quite easy and takes little effort.
There are 2 ways to make iced tea: traditional hot brew method and cold brew. I’ve made both. My personal preference is to hot brew black teas and cold brew green teas.
For Hot Brew: The proportion I use is roughly 1 oz of loose-leaf tea to 1 gallon of water. I use boiling water for black teas, herbal and rooibos. With any herbal infusion or rooibos you can brew the leaves as long as you like without risking bitterness because there is no Camellia Sinensis (tea) in herbal infusions. You could walk away from rooibos (or herbals) for hours and return to perfectly brewed tea. It’s not the same for black teas. Time matters or you end up with a very strong, sometimes bitter brew. Most iced teas in restaurants are often brewed too long, and I believe it’s why so many people resort to sugar in their tea. Quality tea made correctly requires no sugar!
For Cold Brew: As mentioned I like greens (and oolongs) brewed cold. The ratio is slightly different in that you need more leaf to water. My preference is 1.5 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of ice/water placed in the fridge over night. When you wake up: Iced Tea! Depending on the tea, I might even use 2 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of water. What’s great about this method particularly for green tea, is that there is little to no astringency or bitterness. Some research even suggests that the caffeine level is lower and the anti-oxidants are higher with this method.
Our summer iced tea menu at our local farmer’s markets rotates between these 6 flavors:
For those of you that follow Pearl Fine Teas around the DC Metro area, or are one of our online customers, I’m offering 15% OFF these 6 teas for the rest of June during National Iced Tea Month.Enter code: ICE15at checkout to receive your discount!
Only blog readers will have access to this code which expires at midnight on June 30th! Grab some leaves and brew over ice!
If you haven’t made your way to Washington DC during Cherry Blossom Season, put it on your bucket list. It’s such a beautiful time of the year here and often the weather is pleasant: not too hot – not too cold. This year was unusual in that we had a very warm Jan/Feb and then it dropped to freezing in early March. The Cherry Blossom bloom time was moved up and then moved again. It’s a reminder that Mother Nature is always in control. The National Cherry Blossom Festival lasts for 2 weeks and there are activities and events almost every day. Not only is it a fun time, the entire city is glowing with pink and white blossoms!
We have Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo City to thank for giving Washington DC its first cherry trees on March 27, 1912 as a gift of friendship to the people of the United States. These flowering cherry trees are called “Sakura,” and is a symbol of the “evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.” You can read a bit more about this here.
To celebrate this time of year, (which happens to be my favorite), I source a very small amount of Sakura Sencha. It’s a very refined blend of premium Sencha green tea and cherry blossoms, but this years blend has added Matcha and a few rose petals for added visual appeal. This is one of my all time favorite teas and what makes it so special is that you have to wait a whole year before you can enjoy it again!
Here are some tasting notes on this delightful healthy, flavorful green tea. You can purchase 2oz of this tea on our website – and it comes in a lovely cherry blossom tea storage tin! I hope you will give it a try.
• Overview: Yabukita Species Green Tea from Shizuoka, Japan • Dry Leaf: Smallish, long and slightly flat • Liquor (liquid): Gorgeous bright green • Aroma: Fresh, green, cherry fruit • Flavor notes: Subtle notes of cherry show up at the finish. The matcha powder added is not overpowering, but compliments the blend nicely. A very easy green tea to drink. • Brewing recommendation: 170° Fº / 1 minute / At least 2-3 infusions • Caffeine: Yes
I love that we get 2 New Years. The New Year celebrated on January 1st of every year and the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year!
2017 welcomes the Year of the Fire Roosterand according to some some Chinese astrology predictions we can expect a year pushing us towards honorable deeds filled with supreme integrity. I like the sound of that. One of the other things it portends is a year to “temper ones ardor.” You can have some fun and look up your Chinese Zodiac Sign to see how 2017 may play out for you.
Chinese New Year is a 2 week celebration that begins on January 28th this year and continues all the way until February 15th ending with a Lantern Festival. During this period of time, people are often visiting with family and friends and spring cleaning their homes and offices to prepare for good luck in the coming year.
Eating is a big part of this festival and no menu is complete without the 7 Lucky dishes: Fish (prosperity), Dumplings (wealth), Spring rolls (wealth), Tangyuan Sweet Rice Ball (family togetherness), Good Fortune Fruit (wealth), Niangao Glutinous Rice Cake (higher income), Long Noodles (longevity).
What I was most interested in was learning something about the Chinese New Year Teatradition, which is evidently, a forgotten ritual. You can read a very nice article by the Tea Guardian on this ritual.
Green tea blend
Tea in Tin
Great for storage
To celebrate the Year of the Rooster, Pearl Fine Teas has a limited quantity tea tin filled with a fun and fruity green tea for $8.88.You can order it here.
The blend is comprised of green tea, strawberry, blackberry, pineapple and rose petals. Fruit is considered auspicious and the red rose petals are for good fortune. Whether or not you celebrate Chinese New Year or not, it’s another reminder of the importance of connection with others and of new beginnings.
Gong Xi Fa Choi (恭禧發財)! Happy Sipping ! – The Chief Leaf
Are you losing steam? Too much to do in the next 2 days to prepare for Santa’s visit down the chimney, gaggles of holiday visitors, cooking, cleaning, shopping, work projects, dog walking, cookie baking, present wrapping, sipping tea, reading blogs… your list is long.
I’m never more productive, focused and oddly calm then after a bowl of this green wonder. Matcha is gaining in popularity in the West for a heap of reasons with the obvious being its superior health benefits:
High antioxidants and EGCg (Epigallocatechin)
High in chlorophyll to aid wound healing
Anti-inflammatory, anti-aging properties
Lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar
Vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium
May boosts metabolism to burns calories
Protection against HIV
Cancer prevention from polyphenols
Helps Type-2 diabetes
Detoxification from high levels of chlorophyll
100% of the leaf is ingested and has 137 times more antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea.
One cup of matcha = 10 cups of regularly brewed green tea in terms of nutritional content
and last but certainly not least, my favorite: It enhances mood level, mental alertness AND is calming.
How does it do that? One of the chemical components of this treasure is L-theanine, a heavy-hitting amino acid that has anti-anxiolytic properties which boost alpha brain waves which encourages relaxation, seriously profound mental clarity and an alert state of mind – all while making you feel calm and in control. What else offers that without the need for a doctors prescription? Studies suggest that theanine acts as a neurotransmitter on the brain which is where that sense of calm comes from. It is said to help aid in deep concentration during meditation which Buddhist monks have known about for thousands of years. The anti-stress properties of theanine inhibits neuron excitation which helps lower physiological and psychological stress.
So what exactly is the wonder brew? Matcha is made from the raw material (leaves) called Tencha. Tencha is grown in the shade for about a month or so before actual harvest. The shading of the tea plant forces a reduction in photosynthesis which creates a higher lever of chlorophyll (resulting in a deep green color), and theanine which is what gives it a very robust yet slightly sweet flavor. Any gardener knows that shade grown plants usually have darker, greener leaves. Same is true for the tea plant camellia sinensis. As is the case with most fine teas, to produce Matchaonly the youngest leaves (two leaves in a bud) are used. After picking (which in Japan is often by machine), the leaves are steamed to stop the oxidation process, dried and cut. There is no need for Tencha leaves to be rolled or kneaded like Sencha or Gyokuro because the leaves (no stems or veins) will be ground into a powder using a granite wheel. A lot of work goes into producing Matchaand it is totally worth it once you see the rich, emerald green color and taste its distinct magical flavor.
There is a lot of history around Matcha, and many books and documents have been written on the subjest. A blog post could go on for days just discussing Matcha. Here is the super short version:
Tea was thought to have been introduced to Japan in the 9th Century CE by a Buddhist monk from China, where the custom of drinking tea for medicinal (and later pleasurable) reasons was already common. It didn’t take long for the Japanese to become smitten with tea. By the 12th century, Matcha, was introduced and used in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries. By the 13th century, Samurai warriors got in on the action and started drinking Matchawhich laid the foundation for the Japanese Tea Ceremony. It was during this period in Japanese history (Muromachi) that art and architecture when through a transformation to an extreme simplified style used by the Samurai. By the 16th century, tea drinking was widespread throughout all levels of society in Japan.
The Japanese tea ceremony (Chado), which means: the Way of Tea, is the ceremonial preparation and presentation of Matcha, a powdered green tea. It is practice meant to transform with order (rules) and refinement, humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, asymmetry, simplicity, and respect for the time and care it takes to engage in the practice of being present and sharing that time and a bowl of tea. Sen no Rikyu, one of the most well know historical figures in tea “introduced the concept of ichi-go ichi-e, (一期一会, literally: one time, one meeting), a belief that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced.” These principles still in practice in Japanese tea ceremonies today.
The tea ceremony (and just making an ordinary cup of tea) is a strong reminder to live in the moment, be present, and connect with others and with the earth. I can’t think of anything that tops that, especially this time of year.
So how do you make Matcha? Its actually quite easy and no need for an elaborate ceremony to enjoy. The classic way is to use a bowl and whisk, but as its gained in popularity many people are just putting the powder into smoothies. I’ve done that on occasion but still prefer to whisk up a bowl in the morning. A Japanese Tea Ceremony goes on for hours and no one has time for that in everyday life, so here is a shorted way to make Matchawith 3 tools: spoon, whisk, and bowl:
Step 1: Take a bamboo scoop (or measuring teaspoon) and scoop the powder into a bowl. A scoop or two is about right. Step 2: Heat water to about 175˚ – not boiling – and pour 2-4 oz of water into the bowl. Step 3: Take whisk, called a chasen, (which ideally has been soaked in warm water to soften the bamboo) and using a back-and-forth motion whisk the tea until it is frothy. Ideally you want to keep the whisk straight and make like you are whisking the letter “W”. There should be no lumps in your final product. Step 4: Sip your Matcha and enjoy the energy and serenity it will gift you. (If you are feeling cheeky, enjoy 1 simple butter cookie with your bowl of tea. The sweetness enhances the experience.)
Pearl Fine Teasoffers 3 grades of Matcha, but below are some general notes on the tea overall: • Overview: An ancient tea made from Tencha leaves that are ground into a fine powder. • Dry Leaf: Ground, bright green powder • Liquor (liquid): Thick and frothy, also bright green • Aroma: Vegetal, melon fruit, very slight toast • Flavor notes: Intense, crisp, clean, tangy, vegetal, artichoke, strong and slightly astringent, sweet notes on the finish • Brewing recommendation: 160-70˚F for 1-2 minutes. • Caffeine: Yes