Natural and Artificial Flavors – Part Two


What about artificial flavors in tea?

Then there are artificial flavors, and it is a tendency to look at them negatively. However, not all artificial flavors are the same.  I’m sure most people think of some giant vat of toxic chemicals that dissolve metal as the basis for anything labeled ‘artificial’. However, in loose tea, most blenders will use an artificial flavor categorized as ‘nature identical’. Here is where things get real interesting. In Europe, products with nature identical flavors are not labeled as artificial, but cannot use the term natural flavor.  A nature identical flavor means it’s the same molecule as what is found in nature, except it is isolated or synthesized to produce the equivalent compound. In the US, nature identical is considered artificial. The term ‘nature identical’ is also no longer used in Europe, probably because some companies took the liberty of putting NATURAL all over the box, confusing customers. 

Artificial flavors and those that need to be labeled as such in EU standards are compounds that do not exist in nature. There are regulations regarding which chemicals can be used, but FDA labeling requirements don’t differentiate between these types or nature equivalents.

But it’s important to note the following – many modern medicines are highly refined extracts from botanical sources, and if they were considered food nearly all would be artificial. Pond water is ‘natural’ and there is even someone selling ‘raw’ water (i.e. unfiltered) which is natural, but combining hydrogen and oxygen in a lab would be considered artificial.

Why would tea blenders use artificial flavors?

In reality, some types of natural flavors can get very expensive. And there have been instances where supply crunches cause the natural flavor to become unavailable.  The other issue is that some natural flavors can dissipate quicker than some purer, manufactured versions. There is a quite large segment of the population that are casual or new tea drinkers. When a tea is labeled with a particular flavor, let’s say strawberry – then they are going to expect that tea to taste like strawberries. In other cases, a particular natural flavor may simply not be available that has the taste a blender is looking for, such as graham crackers. Sometimes, an artificial ‘nature equivalent’ flavor is used to complement a natural flavor – so a blender will use a combination of both, just like a beer brewer will use different types of hops for flavor and aroma.

What to do?

Chemicals exist all around us, both man-made and natural, and both can be toxic. So while the knee-jerk reaction is to shun ANYTHING with artificial flavors when it comes to tea, look at it this way – you can get a pure, nature identical flavor added to a tea or eat a conventionally grown strawberry which can theoretically have more contaminants. Some blenders (mainly mass market) may use artificial flavors to cover up poor quality tea, some of which can have more chemical residue from pollution or herbicide. Therefore, it’s worth scrutinizing the source if you plan on drinking a lot of a particular tea.

There are those that will lump in both natural flavors and artificial flavors as bad for you. For a new tea drinker, flavored tea is often an alluring reason to drink tea, especially if you are coming off coffee or a sugary soft drink. Virgin tea drinkers will often think plain tea tastes like water. But most tea, regardless if it’s flavored is a better option than more harmful drinks such as energy and soft drinks.

Dosing is always the main issue. The term natural doesn’t imply healthy. It is a balance between the health benefits and any potential side effects. There are some that shun flavoring in any way because ‘the doses are much higher than what is found in nature’. However, there is not a lot in the way of clinical evidence that avoiding these flavors helps you live longer. After all, the overall diet needs to be considered in totality. And one could argue there are a lot of toxins in nature that aren’t good for you – think poison mushrooms as one example.

In general, the loose tea market is very selective, and most blenders care a lot about what goes into the tea. The use of artificial flavors in general is very minimal and used only when there are no natural alternatives. Most blenders (in fact all that we spoke to) all use natural equivalents in any instance where a natural flavor is not used.

Additional resources:
http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/the-flavor-rundown-natural-vs-artificial-flavors/



Natural and Artificial Flavors – Part One


Flavoring tea has been around a long time, and originally flowers and other fragrant botanicals were layered in the tea which readily absorbed their aromas. Jasmine is a classic example. While botanicals, fruits, and spices are still used, some blenders use additional flavors to achieve the desired taste.

What is a natural flavor?

A point of controversy is the term ‘natural flavors’ which have been derided as intentionally misleading by some. Natural flavors is indeed a regulated name by the FDA and is as follows:

‘The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.’

Anything not following the above guidelines would require an artificial flavor label. But the EU has a different set of standards. This excerpt provides an example to make it more clear:

“To make the regulatory complexities more tangible, let us apply the US and EU regulatory variations to vanillin, the molecule that gives vanilla its flavor. This flavor ingredient can be produced in a number of different ways, and the method used to produce it determines whether a natural claim will or will not be allowed.

When vanillin is extracted directly from vanilla beans, both the US and EU regulatory authorities allow a natural claim. When vanilla extract is subjected to fractional distillation to isolate the vanillin component, the labeling on the consumer product may be indicated as ‘natural vanilla flavor’ in the US and Europe.

Vanillin can also be made through different fermentation processes. Fermentation from a starting material such as ferulic acid, allows for the extraction of the vanillin from a variety of natural sources including coffee beans, apple and orange pips, and wheat bran. If vanillin is made using the ferulic acid fermentation process, a ‘natural flavor’ claim can still be made in both the US and Europe. If the vanillin is produced through fermentation from another source, for example guaiacol, the labeling of the products begin to differ. In the US, if the process is not approved the material is labeled as both ‘artificial’ or ‘synthetic,’ whereas in the EU the material may still be labeled as ‘natural’.

Other starting materials can also be converted to vanillin by chemical processes – for example, lignin can be heated with an alkali and an oxidation agent to create a synthetic (or artificial) version of vanillin. In this case, the product would be labeled in both the US and Europe as ‘artificial’ or ‘synthetic’ vanillin.

Finally, there is the molecule ethyl vanillin that is not found in nature and is typically produced using synthetic chemistry. The US label claim would be ‘artificial vanilla flavor’ but in Europe, the label claim is ‘vanilla flavoring’. The absence of the word natural in Europe implies that it is an artificial flavor.”

To top it off, another vanilla flavor substitute is Castoreum, which is a secretion of the anal glands and castor sacs of beavers. Even though usage of the flavoring is rare, it is technically considered a natural flavor. 

There you have it. A simple flavor like Vanilla has a lot of variations, so simply relying on a label and the word natural gives you only half the story.

Natural Flavors in Tea

Of course, tea is an ideal complement for natural flavors. The amount of flavoring needed is minimal-about a teaspoon per pound. A large portion of that is ethyl alcohol, which is used as a carrying agent (as it evaporates, the flavor is carried through the tea via the evaporating alcohol). The flavor and the alcohol are water-soluble, so water is used to combine the two. In all, once the alcohol and water evaporate, you are looking at minuscule amounts of flavor.

While natural flavors in tea are typically botanical, it doesn’t always mean that 100% of a particular botanical is used in a tea. So as an example, a pineapple tea may include pineapple flavors, but it might also include carrot, strawberry, or whatever other ‘natural’ flavors a blender decides to use.

Images provided by author.



How to Throw the Perfect Outdoor Tea Party


Guest article by: Derek Lotts

Tea parties, especially outdoor ones, are something we all simply love. There is nothing nicer than gathering with a bunch of dear friends and reminiscing about all your memories together while sipping this magical beverage.

However, just like any party, even a tea party needs preparations. Here is how to throw the perfect outdoor tea party you and your friends will remember forever.

Ideally, you should schedule your tea party at least one week in advance so that people you invite have enough time to incorporate the event into their calendars. When it comes to time in particular, probably the best choice is the weekend afternoon, since most people are usually off from work and want to have a good time. Also, an afternoon tea party is a great midday refreshment.

Another great idea is to schedule the party around big events or holidays, so more guests will be totally free to attend.

Firstly, of course, you should make a list of people you want to invite and address invitations to each one of them individually. And rather than sending a plain white card with the time and date in Times New Roman, set your creativity free and get a couple of those colorful cardstocks and cut them in teapot shape, for example, or you can even mail your invitations in envelopes containing bags of your favorite tea.

Make sure you don’t forget to specify on the invitation if there will be refreshments included – you want your guests to bring their appetite as well.

A tea party is definitely a special occasion, so setting the mood is also an important part. Since this is an outdoor party, there are some things that need to be taken care of. Firstly, even though we all love to relish in the summer sun, none of us likes sunburns. Plus, there is also that summer rain factor that shouldn’t be neglected. This is why your first job is to provide your guests with proper sun- as well as rain protection. And there is nothing that can solve this issue like a marquee can – check out those cool instant marquees at Sydney Shade that will protect you and your guests from all the weather surprises. They are also offering things like multi-mast cantilever umbrellas, wall mounted umbrellas, commercial shade umbrellas etc. – so you can pick whatever fits your needs best.

The second part is the seating area – you have to make sure everyone has a place to sit and put their teacup.

Finally, there are the decorations. And we all know that the outdoor tea party is not complete without flowers. Make a couple of colorful spring nests to decorate the tables, or make cute little floral place cards. Everything should be floral, colorful, and happy.

Since, as said, a tea party is a special occasion, you should dress appropriately for it. In other words, try looking kind of fancy, but not too much. You should put some effort in it, but shouldn’t make a huge deal out of it.

In other words, put on that favorite floral dress of yours, or throw on those suspenders and whip out the aftershave. Maybe you will want to wear your hot pink stilettos, or maybe you are already ironing your button down and searching for your fedora. It is up to you and your vision of fancy.

While everything about this part is up to you, there is one rule you should follow: Offer the widest possible variety of teas you can. Tea bags, loose tea, plain or flavored; green, white, or black; expensive or cheap… you just cannot go wrong because serving tea at tea parties is the main purpose of tea parties, right? You can also tell your guests to bring their favorite tea with them so that everyone has at least one tea they certainly love AND you will also be able to try something new.

Is there anyone who doesn’t like finger sandwiches? Probably not. You can use cookie cutters and make cute shapes or you can simply spread some margarine and put a couple of pickles on a slice of bread and call it a day. As long as you are eating a sandwich-y thing with your fingers – it is a finger sandwich.

Also, those tiny snacks that you can pop into your mouth in just one bite are also a must, whether they are savory or sweet. Biscuits, cookies, petit fours, cheese plates, tiny cupcakes – whatever you can think of is definitely a perfect option. You can even make a cake!

So there you have it, the tea party basics. The rest is really up to you and your preferences. Cheers!

Images provided by author. All are creative commons.



Moving Tips for Tea Drinkers


Article by Paula Geerligs

Moving is tough, especially if you’re a tea drinker.

Tea drinkers are likely to have a wide assortment of teas at home and a collection of delicate teaware.

But if you keep your tea spaces at least somewhat organized, moving can be easier.

I’ve moved three times within the past 4 years, and each time my tea haul has been lighter and easier to pack.

How do I move my tea so easily, now?

First, downsize! I had to say goodbye to some teaware and reduce how much tea I was carrying on the journey. It might take some courage to admit that tea has the potential to lose flavor and aroma over time, so hoarding is not an ideal situation. Drink your tea! Share it with friends! And say goodbye to any teaware pieces that you don’t exactly love.

Stop buying things you don’t need… unless it’s something you really, really, really want. I’m not joking when I say that in the second move, I had so much tea that I had to practice cutting myself off from tea shopping. It was for my own good. I want my cup, not my cupboards, to overflow. But my rule is: If it’s something I absolutely can’t let get away, like a doll head mug, or an unusual tea that I must try, then go for it!

Stay organized. I like a balance of stylish yet practical* when it comes to organizing my tea haven. *”Practical” with consideration that I’m a crazy tea person, not a regular tea person.

I keep a small assortment of every loose tea that I have on one shelf inside a cupboard. That way, my teas are visible and easily accessible, but still safe from light exposure. I store this assortment in small jars and food-grade bags, labeled with both name and date. And, I have a tea menu attached to the inner door of the cupboard!

My tea “backstock” is kept in decorative boxes, in a separate storage cupboard, organized by tea style. I’m also an herbalism student, so my herbs are organized in a similar fashion, but loosely alphabetically (A-L, and M-Z) and with a record of what’s “in stock”.

Above my tea shelf, I keep my most-likely-to-be-used mugs and teaware. The rest are safely stored in wooden cheese crates.

Since mostly everything is organized inside some type of box, moving is just a matter of stacking and transporting.

The key with moving your teaware is to consider the total weight of what’s packed together (cast-iron can get heavy), and the size of the container. I find that smaller boxes are best, and even better with built-in hand holes! Teaware is also easily transported cushioned inside of wooden wine boxes.

Now, if only moving my hoard of houseplants were as easy!

All images provided by author.



An Assam Tea Grower On Orthodox Processing and Sustainability


At my favorite tea shop, Jip Eu, with Maddhurjya second from right

I recently met an Assam tea grower who was visiting Bangkok, and we talked a bit about his personal history with tea, about sustainability, organic production, and development of orthodox tea processing in Assam.  His name is Maddhurjya Gogoi. 

I mentioned more about that meeting in this post about sharing tea with a Thai princess, and covered a lot of his personal and tea-oriented biography in this post.  As for contacts he’s on Facebook, with another business page there, and a website contact here.

Sharing the ideas will require some summary on my part, and it introduces error for one person to re-summarize what another has already condensed, especially based on communication from a perspective of personal business interest.  Take it all for what it’s worth.  Passing on a little topic by topic will help with covering ground faster.

Small growers and co-ops in Assam are developing orthodox tea production

This isn’t really news, or controversial.  The extent to which individuals are successful and the overall volume of tea being produced seem to require more development to fill in this story.  Other parts relate to how demand changes relate to supply changes, to the end-effect difference it makes for tea growers and very small producers, and how this all fits in with what major producers are doing.  

I’ve reviewed a number of teas from Halmari, a large plantation producer, and those were fantastic (with more description on their site).  According to Maddhurjya that sort of an organization represents a different kind of success story, and progress on a related but different front.

His family farm

Organic farming related

Maddhurjya told a funny story about how they started producing tea organically because they couldn’t afford fertilizer.  That surely is one part of that broad theme.  He is more concerned about how chemical fertilizer really does increase plant productivity, weighed against there being other approaches that are more sustainable, and perhaps healthier for consumers.  

It doesn’t summarize well but he sees the whole range of issues as connected.  If growers are barely able to survive on what they produce their choices about growing methods, or any other aspects, have to reflect their best interest commercially.  Such conditions make it harder to consider the long term.  If demand is higher for organic products that can even out the plant material production issue, related to use of chemicals being more cost-effective.  In short, it’s complicated.

Maddhurjya’s tea; pretty good, but he said the spring production is much better

Higher quality tea orthodox production method related

Growers and small producers want to produce better tea, in order to make more from their final products.  Per my own understanding (which is limited; I’m not following the Assam tea industry) tea production has only relatively recently been de-regulated, with limitations on processing cooperative development still in effect in the recent past now being lifted.  

According to Maddhurjya the knowledge of methods and access to the machinery just weren’t there in the past.  I wouldn’t expect him to personally represent a lot of the range of paths to change and modernization for all of Assam, but he has played a personal role in importing equipment from Taiwan used in newer forms of orthodox tea production (with more about that in his life story).

The future

It’s not written yet, but people are working on that.  He’s trying to help with making changes himself, related to a limited scope business interest.  I reviewed a number of teas by Assamica Agro, which is based on more of a small cooperative model than a small producer model, what Maddhurjya and related small farmers are pursuing.  

To a tea consumer and enthusiast it all might boil down to one main concern:  how good is the tea?  The answer to that will change year to year, and company to company, as better production and processing methods are developed.  Even amounts of rain falling will change that, with changes to climate on major input and concern.  Right now the teas are pretty good, but plantations like Halmari are setting the bar pretty high, and Darjeeling is much better known for orthodox tea.  As for what I tried I’d give the edge to the teas from Maddhurjya over Assamica Agro’s teas (which were still pretty good), with Halmari’s slightly better, but as much just different in style.

Halmari oolong; it’s not TKY or DHP but it’s really good

“How good is the tea” misses a lot of scope of concern, doesn’t it?  If you could drink tea that’s really good, but not the absolute best you could find, at a great value for that quality level, and it helped a small production farmer raise the quality of life for his children and community, then those would make for other valid factors, wouldn’t they?  All of that is the case right now.  These limited scale producers selling more tea helps them take the next steps.  

Of course as with tea production and sourcing anywhere believing stories is a concern, about who benefits most, an original producer or reseller, and organic claims, and so on.  Not all the stories everyone is telling are true.  But I believe there are common threads and general truths emerging from people like Maddhurjya, along with other exaggeration and marketing spin, and as a groundwork for all of it some real progress is being made.  

Wholesale vendors and supply chains aren’t necessarily the “bad guys” in the story but new options can and will help local producers.  These are people whose standard of living really could stand to improve.  Of course, Assam isn’t the only tea producing region facing such issues, or even the one that tends to get talked about most.  But it is interesting hearing more direct versions of such accounts from different places and different types of sources.

Image 1 source
Image 2 source
Image 3 provided by author
Image 4 source



You Must Believe In Spring


Spring conjures images of idyllic deep green expanses, perhaps even the finely
manicured terraced tea gardens in Japan. Closer to home, the hills that were once
brown or even blackened by devastating fires that perennially beset our region
show hopeful signs of regenerating and green appears once more. On the food
front, spring connotes a few special ingredients that make this time of year a chef’s
paradise. Rhubarb, morel mushrooms, fresh green peas and tender pea shoots all
vie for my attention on local farmers’ market tables but it is those pinkish green
stalks that I reach for first. Their bracing grassy and earthy flavor, when cooked
with only the smallest amount of sugar, are mellowed even further by a creamy
mousse made from the greenest matcha tea I can find. Here’s my vernal
celebration in a glass. Use clear undecorated glasses for the nicest presentation,
allowing the colors of the ingredients to shine through.

Matcha Mousse with Fresh Rhubarb
4 servings

For the Mousse:

  • .15 oz or 4.5 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) unsweetened gelatin powder
  • 7 t. cold water, used to soften the gelatin powder
  • 1 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 1-3/4 ounces ( approximately 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 5.3 ozs (2/3 cup) milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the rhubarb:

  • 1 medium-sized stalk of fresh rhubarb, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • Granulated sugar to taste

Over low heat, cook the rhubarb with the sugar until it is just beginning to soften.
(Watch carefully as it will disintegrate into mush in the blink of an eye). Cool.

Sprinkle gelatin powder over the 7 teaspoons of cold water, stir and let soften.
Combine matcha powder and sugar in a bowl. Now heat milk to boiling. Whisk
boiled milk slowly into the matcha and sugar mixture.
Heat softened gelatin in a microwave proof glass or other vessel for 5 seconds
(and again for 5 seconds more, if necessary, stirring to check that it is fully
melted), then stir into matcha, sugar, and milk mixture. Strain and let cool.
Using a whisk, beat heavy cream to soft peaks, then fold into matcha mixture.
Place some of the rhubarb in the bottom of each glass. Spoon mousse over this
layer and top with the remaining rhubarb. Serve immediately, perhaps with a
ginger cookie.



Blast From the Past: Yerba mate – the gaúcho way


Written by Laura Logsdon.

While having dinner with some friends from Brazil, our conversation turned to traditional Brazilian cuisine – the seafood in aromatic sauces, the barbecued meats seasoned with garlicky marinades, the cheese rolls that melt in your mouth, and the tea culture of Southern Brazil.  It turns out the South American cowboys, or gaúchos, have a long and unique tradition of drinking chimarrão.

cuiaChimarrão is a tea made from yerba mate (erva-mate in Portuguese), a plant indigenous to South America.  Dried leaves and stems from the plant are placed in a container made from a gourd that has been hollowed out and dried, called a cuia.  The cuia is often decorated with gold or silver.  Hot water – never boiling water because it makes the tea bitter – is then poured into the cuia.  After a few minutes of steeping, a bomba, which is a metal straw with a filter on one end, is placed in the gourd and the light, earthy, highly caffeinated tea is ready to be consumed.

bombaChimarrão can be sipped alone, but it is often consumed in a group as part of a ritual to foster social bonds.  There is an etiquette when drinking chimarrão with others that must be obeyed.  The host is the first person to pour water on the tea and then drink it.  This is thought to be polite because the first infusion tends to more bitter than the subsequent ones.  Once all the tea is consumed, the host fills the cuia with water and passes it to the next person.  Usually, the cuia is passed from person to person based on economic or social status, but it can also be simply passed to the next person on the right.  Each time it is passed, the cuia is refilled with water.  It is considered bad manners not to drink all the chimarrão in the cuia.  So, making a gurgling noise with the bomba, which indicates to the group that all the liquid has been consumed, is considered a polite gesture.  This ritual is done with family, friends, and colleagues to create unity and show allegiance to the gaúcho way of life.

Tea continues to amaze me.  Not only does tea stimulate the palate with its never-ending flavor varieties, but it has historical, social, and medicinal significance on every continent and across every culture.  When man evolved from the apes to become a distinct species, he discovered fire, invented hunting and farming, created language, and made a nice pot of tea.

This article was originally posted in April 2010.



What You Should Know About Using Matcha and Green Tea For Bread: Baking with a recipe for Matcha Green Tea Milk Buread


The best part about baking is the creative freedom of making something one of a kind with your own hands. Choosing your favorite fresh ingredients and trying new things leads to delicious discoveries about taste and health. Adding green tea or matcha to baked bread is a great way to incorporate a tasty superfood that you already know and love to your diet. Fresh tea leaves are not usually what comes to mind when choosing ingredients to bake bread, but many bakers across the world have already found the pleasure of baking with tea. Although an uncommon bread ingredient for most, green tea can lend not only benefits of a unique earthy flavor, but also incredible health benefits as well. The versatility of this superfood ingredient in bread baking alone is almost as impressive as the complete nutrition it provides the body and mind.

A suggestion for balancing out the earthy, sometimes bitter flavor of green tea or matcha is by adding sweetening. Raw sugar, honey, agave, and maple syrup all compliment the flavor and aroma that green tea presents and are easy to add to a bread recipe. This tip can be used in sweet or savory bread alike.

Adding a pinch of extra salt along with a sweet component to a savory bread recipe will allow the flavors to bring out the best in one another, adding complexity and depth to a fresh, homemade baked bread.

Whether you only have matcha on hand or simply prefer to use loose tea leaves, either can be incorporated into a freshly baked bread. Great matcha often comes with a large price tag, and loose tea leaves is more likely to be affordable. Be aware of the potency in both aroma and flavor of the amount of tea you choose to bake with, taking into account the matcha provides a more robust flavor in the finished bread. If you usually cook with fresh tea leaves, using the same amount when baking with matcha would not be wise! You will end up with a rich aroma but an overwhelming, unpleasant flavor! The best way to get the most delightful flavor is by using the freshest green tea or matcha available. Use according to your personal preference when baking for friends and family.

Matcha is subtle enough that it can be mixed in directly without causing issues with bread texture if done carefully and correctly. The most simplistic way to incorporate matcha into freshly baked bread is by mixing it in entirely with the dry ingredients. On the other hand, matcha can be known to slump significantly. Whisking the soft powder into a liquid is a little tip that will discourage heavy clumping that results in uneven flavor distribution throughout the bread. Whichever method you use, be sure that the matcha is wholly mixed in or dissolved. Although matcha is flavorful enough to not necessarily need to
be steeped or infused, attempting this in your baking process cannot hurt and may even yield satisfying results so feel free to give it a try.

When it comes to baking, infusing green tea or matcha does not have to compromise the soft, chewy texture of fresh bread. The following methods are helpful in achieving perfect bread baked using green tea. Loose green tea leaf can be ground but may come out too coarse and noticeable in the finished bread. It should be noted that powdered green tea is interchangeable with fresh ground green tea in a bread recipe, but the powdered tea will be much smoother and possibly more concentrated than regular green tea, affecting the overall flavor and outcome of your bread. If coarsely ground leaves are the only option, add them to the dough through brewing and straining through a cheesecloth to remove any possibility of grit. Steeping or infusing the fresh tea leaves is a better way of adding the benefits of tea into your baking.

Matcha Green Tea Milk Bread

Taking the above in thought, here is one recipe that you can try out yourself.
Yield: One standard (8½” x 4½”) loaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 120g tangzhong (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 2 tablespoons matcha powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons butter (softened)

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast into the bowl of a standing mixer. Using your fist or a spoon, make a well in the center. Add in all wet ingredients (butter, tangzhong, milk, and egg), and attach the dough hook onto your standing mixer and begin mixing at medium speed. Knead until your dough comes together, then add in the butter, and continue the kneading process. Knead until the dough has reached its proper consistency.
  2. Knead the dough into a ball shape, and split in half. Put half of the dough back into the mixer. Add in the matcha powder and continue kneading for about 2 minutes at medium speed or until the matcha powder is thoroughly mixed into the dough. Take 2 large bowls and grease them with oil. Place each dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with cellophane or a dampened towel. Let it proof until it’s doubled in size, about 40 minutes.
  3. Transfer the proofed dough to a clean surface and divide each dough into four equal portions. Knead into balls, cover with cellophane, and let rest for an additional 15 minutes.
  4. Roll out each portion of the dough into an oval shape using a rolling pin. Take one piece of matcha dough, rolled out into an oval, and put it on top of the white dough also rolled out into an oval. Run the rolling pin a few times on top so that the two doughs begin to stick together and merge into one piece of dough. Take one end of the dough and fold to meet the middle of the oval. Take the other end and fold it to meet on top.
  5. Flip the dough over with folds face down, and flatten it using a rolling pin.
  6. Flip the dough over with folds facing up. Now, roll the dough up. Place each of the rolls into the bread pan and cover the rolls with cellophane. Let them rise until double the size, approximately 40 more minutes.
  7. Brush egg mixture on top to create that shiny, desirable egg wash finish.
  8. Bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes. Take it out, and you’re ready to go!

Above is one chapter and recipe from my newly published book Cook with Green Tea. This recipe book has more visual images for baking matcha bread, cakes, smoothie, cocktail and a whole lot more. The book is an ultimate guide for cooking with matcha and green tea.

Please check out this book on Amazon.



Green Tea: Healing And Serenity In A Cup


Freelance Contribution by: Lucy Wyndham

Aaron Fisher in his book – The Way of Tea: Reflections on a Life with Tea, notes – “Tea’s ability to both stimulate our awareness and calm us down at the same time makes it the ideal center for a natural and spontaneous meeting with the Tao.” Every tea drinker knows that nice, uplifting feeling that comes after taking a sip from a cup of warm tea. It is since the ancient times that this warm infusion of herbs which today we call green tea has been traditionally used for calming the troubled mind and soothing various physical ailments, from the common cold to insomnia. Monks have often described how drinking green tea can awaken you spiritually. Some describe how a few sips of an herbal tea infusion can effortlessly make you flow into a state of serenity from where inspiration takes wings.

Spiritual messages in tea

For ages, people have been peeking into their teacups to find their soul’s messages in the brewed tea leaves. The herbs and the brew have long been known to hold spiritual energy. Tea leaf reading is in many ways similar to tarot reading for spiritual awakening and just like tarot, it is an ancient practice. The Buddhists believe that the bitter taste of tea leaves is very symbolic. It reminds us of life’s suffering which is inevitable. The clear liquid symbolizes the monastic life, which is of calmness and self-discipline. No wonder it is part of their daily ritual, which is a form of meditation in itself.

Brewing the spiritual herbs

The very concept of a tea ceremony is to immerse oneself in the process of making tea which naturally allows one to calm down and go within. The thoughts mellow down, allowing the voice of the intuition to become clearer. That moment is the very root of where spiritual awakening sprouts. The art of making spiritual green tea lies in brewing the tea in a lidded pot or cup, for around 5 minutes or so. This aids in recirculation of the aromatic qualities of the herbs.

Calendula tea is known to awaken the innate healing qualities of the spirit as it clears your aura and forms a protective energy shield around you. The pleasant Chamomile tea which is much cherished for its qualities in treating insomnia, anxiety, depression, and skin disorders, is also a prized spiritual infusion which calms you to make you more receptive to the Divine energy. Fennel tea is yet another such tea that awakens your spiritual qualities by physically inhibiting your sugar cravings while reminding you on an energetic level to take out time for yourself.

Mother Earth has blessed us with herbs which the sages view as God’s sacred medicines, to heal our scarred souls that often manifest physically in the form of pain and disease. The instant tea is just a cup of flavored warm water which is not the same as spiritual green tea. Green tea heals you from outside just as it does from within and connects you to your Source.

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In Three Cups of Tea


April is National Poetry Month – January is National Hot Tea Month – for those of us
that do not wait for these months to celebrate either of our loves; it is my pleasure to
share this poem with you. I wrote this poem several years ago after meeting the author
of Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson before the “sand storm”. It was not the man, nor his book that captured my attention. It was the story behind the title that captivated me.

In Three Cups of Tea

Faraway lands.
Customs that are new.
Eyes darken with caution – faith has been lost.
Be wary of the stranger.
What is it really that he wishes to do?
Hidden in the desert hills awaits the danger.
From the storms that blow and stir up the sands,
the tea will always be murky.
Let the sleeping dogs lie.

Offer the stranger his first cup of tea.
Time waits for no one and no one rushes time.
Sip slowly to see what is truly in his heart.
Then let things settle – the sediment allows for clarity.
Not everyone is who they appear to be.
In days to come pour him another one.

Offer the stranger his second cup of tea.
Laughter and gestures indicate a change.
The visitor from another land becomes an honoured guest.
Seems he is not so strange.

Everyone sips their tea.
Hills, rock, and sand as far as the eye can see;
there are many other places he could be.

Invite him now for his third cup of tea.
A soul that has found his way back.
The long-lost stranger is now part of the family.

All of this, discovered in three cups of tea.

~ Dharlene Marie Fahl ~
A Passion for Tea

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