I often reflect back to the beginning of my tea studies.
Here I was in my kitchen in Rome, Italy, holding a thermometer in one hand and a tea timer in the other hand, nervously anticipating the right mix to get the optimal brew.
Fast forward now to my kitchen in Yangon, Myanmar, were I grab some tea leaves and throw it into hot water to get a wonderful cup of tea.
In a way the past year has liberated me from following the instructions on the box and use scientific instruments to make tea.
However the one area where I never felt liberated is how I always experienced buying tea.
In most shops a nice tea salesperson would carefully open a tin box based on my request and would allow me to have a careful glimpse into the box. In good stores they might let me smell the tea from a safe distance.
Many people around the world who love tea every day engage in the same ritual.
Grab a tea bag from a box, drop it into a cup and pour hot water over it. Wait until there is some uniform color appearing in the cup and pour some more ingredients into it like sugar, milk or a slice of lemon. Then take a sip and hope that this mixture will not be terrible.
Or sit in a plane and after the meal service the flight attendant will come around announcing the arrival of the tea (or coffee) to be poured into your little plastic cup.
And many of us who are attending a conference or workshop, grab a teabag from a ‘selection’ box and hope for the best.
This is the daily reality, mostly in the western world, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a beverage you made for yourself, you like it, it comforts you, and so of course that’s good for you.
As I started my tea education and my more structured engagement in the tea community in Italy, I had a set of tea companies which I was very passionate about. This blog post will walk down memory lane and at the same time will show the dramatic transition I underwent over the past 12 months moving from the European tea world to the Asian Tea world.
Tea life in Italy always has been a mix for me between tea salons, tea shops, local finds and the online tea world. My favorite local tea place in Rome has been Babbington’s, a wonderful place to relax and enjoy a high quality cup of tea or buy some nice loose leaf to take home. To this day I appreciate how patiently the staff at this tea room answered my questions and played along with my role play I did for my tea studies. Continue reading →
One of the big advantages of living in Myanmar is the ability to visit different countries in the region. Flights are relatively inexpensive and more and more carriers connect directly to Yangon. Every country in the region has their own tea culture and traditions full of tea surprises. Normally I just enjoy being with my family and somehow tea will find me. That was the case most surprisingly on our family trip to Hanoi, Vietnam.
My wife, Ms. Tea put together an amazing long weekend trip. I have been a fan of the Vietnam tea culture for a long time, most importantly for its famous Lotus flavored tea. The lotus flower gives the tea a unique taste. I was fascinated by the story of how high end lotus tea is made. Workers would carefully place tea wrapped in rice paper in the lotus flower in the afternoon. The lotus flower would close its pedals overnight and would flavor the tea. In the morning the workers would pick up the flavored tea. I had the privilege to taste such a lotus green tea and it has a very special and delicate taste. Continue reading →
It is hard to believe that I have now been living almost one year in Myanmar. Time is really flying by! While my life at the moment is mostly focused on my mission with the World Food Programme and the well being of my family, I did experience pockets of tea life over the past year.
I know my blog has not been very active this past year, but that is about to change. Seeing the World Tea Expo happening in Las Vegas I felt a renewed commitment to be a more active part of the tea community. My passion for tea is as strong as ever and I need to share some of my observations more frequently.
Here are my Top 5 observations one year into my tea life in Myanmar:
1.) Tea is everywhere and a big part of life. I started taking it for granted that with every corner you turn, tea is part of the culture in so many aspects.This goes beyond the tea as a classic drink, but tea as part of food, cosmetics and sweets. I slowly built a life where tea is an essential part of it. I wake up in the morning and shower with green tea shower gel. I make it a special moment of my morning to pick a special tea for the day, which I will sip at work over and over. (More on this in a separate blog post.) I eat a wonderful pickled tea leaf salad and munch on green tea chocolate sticks and have a green tea desert for dinner. So many choices and little moments of tea joy in the day.
Some thoughts over a cup of courtesy tea after living almost a year in Myanmar.
This is a guest post by Kristen Palana, aka: Michael’s wife, “Ms. Tea.”
It has been nearly a year now since I first moved to Yangon, Myanmar with my family. Initially I wondered if I would hate, like, or even love my new home. It’s one of the few places in my life that I moved to without having had the opportunity to visit first. (The other two were Edinburgh, Scotland and Los Angeles, CA. respectively.)
Inya Lake in Yangon
So over ten months in I can say with profound certainty that it is indeed love. Yangon, Myanmar is the most happening city in all of Myanmar and yet it doesn’t suffer (yet) from choking smog or that boxed-in feeling you might get from Bangkok, Hong Kong, or New York City from an over abundance of giant skyscrapers blocking out the sun. Continue reading →
The value of drinking green tea goes far beyond flavor alone. I absolutely enjoy the soothing comfort of a tasty warm cup of tea, but green tea is so much more than an enjoyable drink.
As an herbalist and cancer survivor, I have long respected and relied on this plant beverage for its exceptional healing properties. After all, green tea’s recognition for valuable heath benefits has been known throughout history.
How should I choose my tea and how can I trust that I am getting what I am paying for?
One thing is for sure: if you buy tea bags from the supermarket aisle from a big name brand, you will get exactly the same thing: small bits of tea dust or fannings which will turn the color of the water brown and will taste like the same thing over and over. For some that is what they prefer, but I am reaching out to you on this one! There is another, far more amazing world out there of high quality loose leaf teas!
Yes, you have to be adventurous and you have to trust someone that they will sell you something that is of good quality, comes from the area they are advertising, and is free from pesticides or other items which are not good for your body. So which way to go?
What is Cold Brew?
I have been receiving some queries from my tea friends on how to properly cold brew tea.
Personally I am a big fan of this tea brewing method as it gives you a unique tasting experience and you get to know a different, relaxed side of your favorite tea.
When you brew tea hot, over 400 different components are released into the water and some of them are released quicker at higher temperature. You will have noticed that if you brew a hot tea at a too high temperature or for too long it becomes bitter. Not so with cold brew tea, which will be more mellow, more balanced and sweeter as the high temperature components are less dominant.
Cold brewing gives you a whole new range of preparing tea. But you will need patience, as this is not your quick tea bag dunk for 2 minutes. Good cold brew tea will take several hours, if not even overnight to release the wonderful magic that is cold brew tea. Continue reading →