Longjing Tea

So this weekend was a tough one which means I was unable to get into the city and find a cafe or tea house to blog about but that does not mean I did not get my hands on a new kind of tea!

One of my good friends from school was supposed to go into the city with me on Saturday morning to come along and discover some new tea place with me while I soaked up some tea information for this blog. Unfortunately it just was not possible for me to make it into the city, so she decided to come to my apartment late Friday night instead.

She brought me some tea her family uses in Hangzhou, China. So you can imagine I got really excited. And if you can’t, trust me, I was beaming. She told me that that people who love this tea in China will drink it all day everyday. My kind of town!

The tea she brought is called Longjing tea, a green tea, also known as Dragon Well Tea. It has origins in Hangzhou, China, but it is currently produced in Zhejiang.

longjing_

 

I looked inside the tin and realized the leaves were huge! She told me to skip the infuser and to just pour the water right over the leaves. “Just don’t drink the leaves,” she said. So that’s what we did.

While I can now say that I have experience with loose tea, and love how “real” it seems compared to bagged tea, this loose tea was really tea leaves!

Leaf!

Several sips into my first cup, I noticed it got really strong, but I kept drinking…and may have ingested a few tea leaves, but it was so much fun and I don’t think I would have had such an experience if we went out to tea.

So we sat for an hour or so talking with my roommate about school and life and enjoyed our authentic Chinese tea at 1AM. Does anyone else do this with their friends? It doesn’t have to be so late at night but what about in the morning, afternoon or early evening?

I did a bit of research and found that Longjing Tea is traditionally brewed using an Yixing clay teapot. Owning a teapot like this is on my wish list!

I found this video and I think it’s worth checking out, let me know what you think!

How to brew Longjing Tea

For the love of antioxidants

I went to South 4th street on Wednesday to visit House of Tea. There, I picked up a few kinds of green tea because I wanted to learn about its health benefits.

20130918_160335

20130918_160432

I’ve read, and I’m sure you have too, that green and black tea are filled with antioxidants. But what does that mean exactly? They must be good for you, right? What are antioxidants and what do they do?

Now, I am no science expert, but I am capable of research. So here it goes, my version of the break down of antioxidants in tea:

As living organisms, we obviously need oxygen to survive. But oxygen is also a highly reactive atom that can become part of potentially damaging molecules called free radicals. Free radicals can attack the healthy cells of the body and contribute to cancer and heart disease, for example. Antioxidants can stabilize, or deactivate the free radicals before they attack cells.

How’d I do?

You may also know that all tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. It is the scientific name of the plant whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. Unlike black tea, green tea has been made from leaves that have not been fermented, which increases the levels of antioxidants in the tea. Below are the green teas I bought from House of Tea.

Green tea contains chemicals called polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties. The major group of polyphenols are called catechins. The most important catechin is epigallocatechin gullate (EGCG), which is what is believed to help prevent cancer cells. (American Cancer Society). Catechins can also be found in foods like apples and red wine.

While research shows an inverse relationship between consumption of green tea and risk of cancer and heart diseases, no specific recommendations of how much or what type of green tea to drink can be made (nutrition.ucdavis.edu). In other words, don’t drink tea with the sole belief that it will prevent or cure serious diseases alone. Instead, drink it because it has the ability to help support healthy cells.

Get out and drink already!

So you’ve brewed a few pots at home, sipped from your favorite mug before bed or after dragging yourself from it in the morning, but have you gotten a chance to go out somewhere and drink some tea?

Find a place that offers some really good loose tea and goodies to munch on, but try to avoid chains for a unique experience. Examine their menu, take a look at their social media platforms or website and see who is talking about them and what they have to say. Bring a friend, your laptop or a good book and settle in on a Saturday or Sunday morning for an hour or two.

That is exactly what I did.

This weekend I ventured into Fishtown with my friend, Julia, on Saturday morning to soak up some tea at a corner café. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s called Steap and Grind, Premium Steap’s café.

20130914_103432

I ordered a pot of Moroccan Mint, a green tea blend from China, and Julia got a pot of Sweet Strawberry and Ginger, a European herbal blend. We both ordered their cinnamon raisin bagels, one with crunchy peanut butter and Nutella  and the other with cream cheese.

A good piece of advice given to me from the staff was to add some ice cubes before the hot water to avoid burning the leaves. I never thought of that- I experimented all week with steep times to see how strong/weak I liked my tea but I’ve been pouring almost boiling water onto my infuser!

We sat and absorbed the atmosphere, which was clean, bright and modern. Steap and Grind is a place I’d like to come and write about tea while drinking it.

While the staff (which are very friendly and helpful, by the way) recommended to let the leaves steep about two minutes before taking out the infuser, I left mine in a bit longer because I like my green tea strong. Thinking back now, if I didn’t have homework to do later, I would have stayed and tried another one of their green teas to compare. Next time I explore a new café I will order two or three of the same type of tea at once. But the point of this post is simply to inspire  people like me who are new to tea to get out and immerse themselves in everything tea.

This took me back to my outings at Patisserie Valerie, a café/bakery popular in the UK, where you could pop in and get quality Afternoon Cream Tea (among other delicious cakes and pastries). I spent hours taking notes for a history paper there but I also took two good friends (including Julia) who were studying abroad at the same time, to witness my new-found obsession. It was experiences like that that have inspired me to create this blog.

And it is experiences like the one I had on Saturday morning to keep writing and developing this blog.

Please feel free to leave me any feedback. Am I missing something that you would like to see more of?

 

Going “Steap”: Welcome

On Wednesday I ventured into center city on 18th street to visit Premium Steap, a tea gallery, which houses teas from all over the world. Picture a bookstore, but replace the books with tea canisters, yes it blew my mind too. To begin, instead of taking you to a café, tea house or a tea room I thought I’d take you to a place that sells only tea and tea ware.

Disclaimer: This blog does not go near or take part in anything related to a tea bag-  I aim to immerse myself in tea culture and that means stepping away from the “Tea and Coffee” isle at the grocery store. Infusers are very easy to find, in fact, Premium Steap (as I am sure other places) sells them for brewing loose tea.

20130904_160840

I purchased one Black tea blend: Mt. Everest, Green tea: Organic Lu An Gui Pian and a Herbal tea: Holy Detox. I figured they were pretty basic (and best sellers) to start with. Have you ever brewed your own tea? I mean really brewed it- with loose tea (no teabags allowed). Below I have some simple directions to enjoy a black, green or herbal tea.

20130907_155109

Mt. Everest is a blend of spicy, golden-tipped Yunnan and malty, whole-leaf Assam. Best in the morning and if you wish, you can have it with milk, but I decided to try it pure first. Start with 8oz of water, heat until 212F and steep about 4-5 minutes.

20130907_160046

Lu Gui Pian, a green tea, was grown near the DaBie Mountain in Anhui Province. This tea is good in the morning or when you need a boost in your day. Use one tbsb for 8oz and heat water until 185F. Steep for 2 minutes. These leaves can be used twice, so save ’em if you’re coming back for some more!

20130907_161133

Holy Detox is a blend of earthy Tulsi (holy basil), rosehips, lemon myrtle, and spearmint. Like any herbal or caffeine free blend, it is good before bed or if you have a hurtin’ tummy. To brew simply use one tbs for 8oz of water, heat water to 212F and steep for 10 minutes. Very much worth the wait.

20130907_162831

Peggy, the lady I spoke with in the shop was very helpful and has a wealth of knowledge about tea, where it’s from, how to brew it, how different places in the world make their tea. I told her about my studies in London and she said the Brits like to “stew their tea.” I thought about the times I was out for an “afternoon tea,” and how long the leaves were left in the pot…yes I believe stew was the right word (not that there is a wrong way to make tea, I quite enjoyed every ounce of tea I had over there).

Now that you (and I) know how to properly brew loose tea, I hope to educate you, a little more thoroughly next time, on some of the contrasts between British teatime and how some Asian cultures have tea.