It has been a while since my last blog post, which has mainly to do with my emergency response job at the World Food Programme here in Myanmar. Our response to battling hunger in this country is complex and requires dedicated effort and lots of time in remote locations.
In the back of my mind I continued to think about the blog and how it can add value to the tea community. And when I saw an article in a local paper, that a German tea company has placed a large order for Myanmar tea… I knew I had to start sharing my stories about this wonderful tea country again.
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.
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.
A few weeks ago, while on vacation in the US, I went to an ordinary supermarket, curious what the regular consumer can expect when in the mood for tea.
I was a bit disappointed to see convenience ruling over quality. Rows of teabags of all sorts, not that there is something wrong with it, but it would be nice to give the regular consumer some choice; an avenue to explore towards new heights and infinite better quality.
In all fairness it is getting a bit better when compared to years ago as some loose leaf tea has found their way to the shelves. However it’s still a far cry away from the wonderful complexity and taste wonderland that is the loose leaf tea world.
As promised I would like you to take you with me on exploring tea finds in this wonderful part of Southeast Asia. I would to start with small daily observation. I noticed that in contrast to Italy, were I had to made quite an effort to find good tea, here in Myanmar tea will find me.
As a new tea sommelier my willingness to find new, exciting things about tea is omnipresent. As part of my journey with you I would like to share interesting little items I came across, some you might be well familiar with and some might come as a surprise to you.
Everywhere you go, there is an opportunity to drink some awesome tea. One amazing drink I discovered are matcha smoothies, a bright green colored drink with a strong presence of matcha flavors.
Green Teas are becoming more and more popular in the world and the varieties seem endless.
Almost every tea producing country is now producing a special green tea and the market is growing more and more. Green teas are more processed than white teas and have some oxidation in the processing.
After a withering process, leaves are fired to stop the oxidation and to retain the green color in the leaf. There are two main processes to accomplish this and it results in different types of green tea. Most green teas in China are pan fired before they are further processed. Green teas in Japan are steamed, very similar to what we do in the kitchen with broccoli and spinach. The result is a different texture and flavor.