Tested: Anji Baicha (Spring 2013)

When hearing the name Anji Baicha (Anji’s White Tea) you might think that this tea belongs to the category of white teas, but this is not so. Anji Baicha is a rare and exclusive Chinese green tea with a long history. Its leaves are surprisingly pale green – almost white – and they are harvested in Anji county, Zhejiang province, in eastern China.

When emperor Huizong (1082–1135) compiled his Thesis on Tea During the Epoch Dàguān he wrote a whole – but also very short – chapter about a tea called ”Baicha”. He explained that this was no ordinary tea, so he appears to have thought very highly of it.

Huizong said that it grew amongst the cliffs and trees, and he furthermore compared the colour of the leaves to beautiful light green jade. This ”Baicha” is believed to have come from the same type of “white-leaved” tea plant as the modern Anji Baicha.

Anji Baicha

The tea leaves have a light green colour. Photo: © Rickard Nygårds (www.omte.se)

The dry and slender tea leaves look almost like pine needles. They give off a somewhat grassy, salty, and roasted aroma. And the beverage is quite mild and sweet. Anji Baicha costs about 200 SEK per 100 gram.

Anji Baicha

The tea leaves look like pine needles. Photo: © Rickard Nygårds (www.omte.se)

BREWING:

Water temperature: ~80°C (or 176°F).
Steeping time: ~2 minutes.

Tested: Huangshan Maofeng (Spring 2013)

Huangshan Maofeng is a Chinese green tea whose leaves was picked in early spring, that is only about a month ago. And already has this golden beverage found its way into my teacup here in Sweden, waiting for a review – a positive one I might add.

The beautiful Chinese name Huangshan Maofeng means “Hairy Peak of the Yellow Mountain”. The name is most probably derived from the appearance of the white downy tea leaves that look almost like snowy-white mountain peaks. This tea is relatively expensive and costs over 200 SEK per hecto.

Huangshan maofeng 2013

Huangshan Maofeng tea leaves. Photo: © Rickard Nygårds (www.omte.se)

Huangshan Maofeng is thus a fine spring tea of high quality and therefore also considered wholesome. During winter the tea bushes get a well needed rest, and during which they gather nutrients from the soil.

It is difficult to describe the delicate scent and flavour of this tea. Do I smell something similar to smoked ham or smoked fish? And does it taste like leather? I really cannot say.

To put it simply, one can conclude that Huangshan Maofeng is a very delicate green tea with an elegant and sweet taste. And the presence of polyphenols is not as obvious as in the exclusive and even more expensive Biluochun.

BREWING:

Water temperature: ca 80°C (or 176°F).
Steeping time: 1–2 minutes.

You can also let the tea leaves remain in the cup as you drink. This is often how they drink tea in China. And also, why not use a lidded cup – a so called gaiwan?

Tested: Biluochun (Spring 2013)

This is a green Chinese tea of high quality that was harvested in April/May of 2013. You will however have to open your wallet wide and pay 600 SEK for 100 gram in order to enjoy this exclusive tea. Its Chinese name Biluochun could be translated as ”Green Snail Spring” or ”The Green Snail’s Spring”.

Biluochun 2013

Biluochun tea leaves. Photo: © Rickard Nygårds (www.omte.se)

Since Biluochun is a delicate spring tea of the highest quality, it is extra rich in theine (caffeine) and other nutrients. And the high content of polyphenols (antioxidants) is supposed to make this type of tea extra nutritious. The presence of the polyphenols is felt as a dry sensation on the tongue and palate.

The flavour could be described as grassy and roasted. There will often be a roasted flavour noticeable in most Chinese green teas, since they are roasted in big woks, and are therefore often compared to roasted chestnuts (or perhaps nuts).

And provided that a relatively low water temperature is used, there will also be a certain sweetness present in this fine Biluochun. The bitterness will however take over if the temperature is too high. It’s therefore a good idea to use a thermometer when boiling the water.

The flavour of Biluochun is quite reminiscent of another famous Chinese green tea called Longjing, but the flavour is more subtle. One can conclude that Longjing is a more price worthy tea when comparing the two.

BREWING:

Water temperature: ca 80°C (or 176°F).
Steeping time: 1–2 minutes.

It is also perfectly fine to let the tea leaves remain in the cup when drinking, but then you must not drink too slowly. Biluochun will become quite astringent after just a few minutes.

Afternoon Tea with Low-Carb Bread (recipe)

Here is a recipe for those who are looking for a delicious low-carb snack with their afternoon tea. The following recipe will make two baguettes. You can also add walnuts, or curry and dark chocolate to spice them up!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Eggs (0.4% carbs)
  • 1.5 dl Almond flour (5% carbs)
  • 2 tbsp, or 30 ml, Psyllium husks (0% carbs)
  • 1 tbsp, or 15 ml, Coconut flour (17% carbs!)
  • 1 dl Sesame seed (4% carbs)
  • 0.5 tspn, or 2.5 ml, Salt (0% carbs)
  • 1.5 tspn, or 7.5 ml, Baking powder (42.4% carbs!)

Optionally add:

  • ~1 dl Walnuts (13% carbs!)

Or, if you want something a bit sweeter you could instead add:

  • 2 tspn, or 10 ml, Curry
  • 50 g Dark chocolate with ~80 per cent cacao (~50% carbs!)

You can skip, or replace, some of the “high-carb” ingredients if you want to bake a bread with even less carbohydrates. Baking without baking powder also works just fine!

How to make the low-carb bread

  1. Turn on the oven and set it to 190°C (or 374°F)
  2. Whip the four eggs for a few minutes
  3. Mix the other ingredients separately, and then mix with the eggs
  4. Let the dough rest for ten minutes
  5. Form two baguettes with your wet hands (apply water) and put on an oven tray
  6. Bake them for 28–30 minutes
  7. Let the baguettes cool under a towel on an oven grid. (I sometimes put them in the freezer for a few minutes, because I don’t want the bread to lose too much liquid).

How to serve

Slice the bread and butter it. Put smoked ham on the walnut bread (this is a great combination!), and put some aged cheese on the curry and chocolate bread (this tastes wonderful too!). And then you must of course put the mandatory slice of cucumber on top! This is after all supposed to be a traditional British afternoon tea, but without all the sugary pastry!

Low-Carb Bread with Curry/Chocolate and Walnut

These dainty sandwiches are now ready to be served. Photo: © Rickard Nygårds (www.omte.se)

What kind of tea to drink

The ideal beverage to drink in the afternoon is Darjeeling tea (but I must admit that coffee also goes very well with aged cheese). A few examples of such teas are Badamtam, Margaret’s hope, Sungma and Tukvar. The truth is that every Darjeeling tea that I have ever tasted has been quite delicious! But be aware that only about 10 million kilos are produced every year, and still some 40 million kilos are sold, so there is apparently lots of counterfeit Darjeeling tea on the market.

Heat the water to about 95°C (or 203°F) and let steep for about three minutes.

And another thing, don’t do like the British who often spoil their tea by adding milk and/or sugar!

Darjeeling tea with the perfect colour and taste. Photo: © Rickard Nygårds (www.omte.se)

Enjoy!

The First Tea Farm in Canada

This organic tea farm is situated some eight kilometres north of Duncan city on Vancouver Island (in the southwestern part of Canada). Tea-growing pioneers Victor Vesely and Margit Nelleman told the newspaper Vancouver Sun that there are – at least to their knowledge – no other tea farms in Canada.

Tea leaves. Photo: © Rickard Nygårds

The first 200 tea plants were put into the ground three years ago, and the couple expects to be able to bring in the first harvest in another two years. And despite some minor setbacks – for example, deer appears to be fond of their tea leaves – they have decided to expand the plantation with even more plants in the near future.

Thus far they have only been experimenting with the tea leaves: “We’ve worked with local chefs and done fun things like rolled tea leaves dipped in chocolate.” The couple has furthermore opened a tea room and they also hold tea events. Their ambition is to start selling their local “Cowichan tea” from Cowichan valley within just a few years.

Visit their website at: www.teafarm.ca.

Earthquake Affects Spring Harvest in Mengding Mountain

The fine and delicate spring harvest is now being picked in China. Unfortunately, the earthquake that hit Sichuan province last Saturday – on April 20, 2013 – has even affected the tea production in areas nearby.

High quality imperial tea has been produced in the Mengding mountain since the Tang dynasty. And this region is situated only some 10–15 kilometres south-east of the epicentre in Lushan county, Sichuan province.

China Daily reported yesterday that about 40 factories was forced to close as a result of the earthquake. This according to Jiang Weiming who owns a tea company in the Mengding mountain.

Many buildings have been destroyed by the earthquake, but none of the tea bushes in the plantations appears to have been damaged. Jiang Weiming furthermore told the state-controlled newspaper that some of the factories are now beginning to open up again as the fear of aftershocks has subsided.

Tea is Still the Hottest Drink in Britain

A recent study reveals that 166 million cups of tea are consumed every day in Britain. And Britons drink 3.5 cups on average.

Coffee is far behind with its mere 70 million daily cups. This means that tea is still the hottest drink in Britain, and has been since the first half of the 18th century.

One in three (30 per cent) claim to be so addicted to tea that they must have a cuppa every morning to be able to function during the day. And one in four (24 per cent) say that they drink more than five cups a day.

The survey was conducted by ICM Research for the charity organization WRVS that helps elderly people. ICM interviewed 2,000 adults during the period March 8–10, 2013.

Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup of Tea

The British comedienne Victoria Wood has produced a documentary about tea and its history. This two-part programme was broadcast on BBC One last week.

In part one Victoria Wood visits China and India in order to learn more about tea, and to try to find out why the British love tea so much. And in part two she learns how to slurp and spit tea.

It is quite an interesting programme for anyone who is interested in tea. And those who don’t have access to BBC One, or BBC iPlayer, can probably still find the programme on Youtube. The documentary is called ”Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup of Tea”.

Tea During Pregnancy Reduces Infant’s Weight

Researchers at the Swedish Sahlgrenska Academy and the Norwegian Institute of Public Healthy have found that coffee and tea during pregnancy reduced the infants’ weight.

There were 59,123 pregnant Norwegian women who participated in the study. Only two cups of coffee per day increased the risk of a lower birth weight, but it’s not clear whether it was the caffeine that caused the lower weight. More studies are needed, said researcher Verena Sengpeil.

The study was published in BMC Medicine on February 19, 2013, under the title Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is associated with birth weight but not with gestational length: results from a large prospective observational cohort study.

Liptagram – Photo Challenge from Lipton Tea

Lipton tea has launched a marketing campaign on Instagram for young people (aged 22–30). It’s a photo challenge that will be running for four weeks, and there will be a new theme each week. One overall winner will also win a trip to Kenya for two.

The scope of this campaign, called Liptagram, includes 11 countries:

  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • France
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Pakistan
  • Poland
  • The Netherlands

More information available on Lipton’s Facebook page.