July 9th, 2012

tea eggs

Photo via globetrotterdiaries.

I just discovered the aggregatator/blog Tasteologie, home to some intriguing and experimental recipes. I have spent and will spend quite a while fishing for ideas here.

I will share two egg dishes that impressed me. One is the Chinese ‘tea egg’. Wiki:

Fragrant and flavorful tea eggs are a traditional Chinese food. The original recipe uses various spices, soy sauce, and black tea leaves. A commonly used spice for flavoring tea eggs is Chinese five-spice powder, which contains ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns. Some recipes [1] do not use tea leaves, but they are still called “tea eggs”. In the traditional method of preparation, eggs are boiled until they reach a hardened, cooked state. The boiled eggs are removed from the water, and the entire shell of each egg is gently cracked all around. Smaller cracks produce more marbling when the egg is peeled for eating. The extra water from the boiling should be allowed to seep out of the eggs on its own. After about ten minutes, the cracked eggs are ready to be put into the prepared spiced-tea liquid and simmered at medium heat. The simmering allows the spiced fluid to seep into the cracks and marinate the eggs inside their shells. After about 20 minutes, the eggs and the spiced-tea liquid should be transferred to a glass or ceramic container for further steeping in a refrigerator. For best results, the eggs should be allowed to steep for two days. The dark color of the spiced tea gives the egg a marbled effect when it is peeled to be eaten.

The other recipe is simply an egg cooked inside a small courgette.

I would like to try the same but inside a small, white eggplant, like this one.

Eightball-Zuchinni Egg recipe

June 29th, 2012

tea caddy

Ornate tea chest for storing loose leaves. Image by Hans Grobbe via wikipedia.

October 8th, 2010

the best tea leaves must curl like the dewlap of a mighty bullock

From The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura:

It needed the genius of the Tang dynasty to emancipate Tea from its crude state and lead to its final idealization. With Luwuh in the middle of the eighth century we have our first apostle of tea. He was born in an age when Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism were seeking mutual synthesis. The pantheistic symbolism of the time was urging one to mirror the Universal in the Particular. Luwuh, a poet, saw in the Tea-service the same harmony and order which reigned through all things. In his celebrated work, the “Chaking” (The Holy Scripture of Tea) he formulated the Code of Tea. He has since been worshipped as the tutelary god of the Chinese tea merchants.

The “Chaking” consists of three volumes and ten chapters. In the first chapter Luwuh treats of the nature of the tea-plant, in the second of the implements for gathering the leaves, in the third of the selection of the leaves. According to him the best quality of the leaves must have “creases like the leathern boot of Tartar horsemen, curl like the dewlap of a mighty bullock, unfold like a mist rising out of a ravine, gleam like a lake touched by a zephyr, and be wet and soft like fine earth newly swept by rain.”

The fourth chapter is devoted to the enumeration and description of the twenty-four members of the tea-equipage, beginning with the tripod brazier and ending with the bamboo cabinet for containing all these utensils. Here we notice Luwuh’s predilection for Taoist symbolism. Also it is interesting to observe in this connection the influence of tea on Chinese ceramics. The Celestial porcelain, as is well known, had its origin in an attempt to reproduce the exquisite shade of jade, resulting, in the Tang dynasty, in the blue glaze of the south, and the white glaze of the north. Luwuh considered the blue as the ideal colour for the tea-cup, as it lent additional greenness to the beverage, whereas the white made it look pinkish and distasteful. It was because he used cake-tea. Later on, when the tea masters of Sung took to the powdered tea, they preferred heavy bowls of blue-black and dark brown. The Mings, with their steeped tea, rejoiced in light ware of white porcelain.

In the fifth chapter Luwuh describes the method of making tea. He eliminates all ingredients except salt. He dwells also on the much-discussed question of the choice of water and the degree of boiling it. According to him, the mountain spring is the best, the river water and the spring water come next in the order of excellence. There are three stages of boiling: the first boil is when the little bubbles like the eye of fishes swim on the surface; the second boil is when the bubbles are like crystal beads rolling in a fountain; the third boil is when the billows surge wildly in the kettle. The Cake-tea is roasted before the fire until it becomes soft like a baby’s arm and is shredded into powder between pieces of fine paper. Salt is put in the first boil, the tea in the second. At the third boil, a dipperful of cold water is poured into the kettle to settle the tea and revive the “youth of the water.” Then the beverage was poured into cups and drunk. O nectar! The filmy leaflet hung like scaly clouds in a serene sky or floated like waterlilies on emerald streams. It was of such a beverage that Lotung, a Tang poet, wrote: “The first cup moistens my lips and throat, the second cup breaks my loneliness, the third cup searches my barren entrail but to find therein some five thousand volumes of odd ideographs. The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration,—all the wrong of life passes away through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified; the sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals. The seventh cup—ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of cool wind that rises in my sleeves. Where is Horaisan? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.”

The book is a poetic guide through the history of tea culture in China and Japan. The fascinating relationship between tea, Taoism, Zenism and Confucianism is explained by Okakura, who is (was) skilled in writing for the Western perspective.

I feel inclined to quote the whole book, but instead I’ll just provide the link to where it resides online at the Gutenberg project. I’m reading the hardback version though — suitably more romantic.

May 6th, 2010

under the influence and canopy of the linden

Above: Lindenallee, Berlin, circa 1961. Johann Stridbeck.

The [linden tree] was a highly symbolic and hallowed tree to the Germanic peoples in their native pre-Christian Germanic mythology.

Originally, local communities assembled not only to celebrate and dance under a [linden] tree, but to hold their judicial thing meetings there in order to restore justice and peace. It was believed that the tree would help unearth the truth. (wiki)

I remember studying the poem “Under der linden” by Walther Von Der Vogelweide at university:

Under der linden
an der heide
dâ unser zweier bette was
dâ [muget]1 ir vinden
schône beide
gebrochen bluomen unde gras
vor dem walde in einem tal!
schône sanc diu nahtegal.

The full text can be found here in the original Middle High German, with an English translation.

There are many interpretations of the poem on YouTube. I don’t know which of them would be considered most faithful to the original pronunciation or most appropriately accompanied musically, but certainly these were amongst the most harmonious:

And this was perhaps the most original interpretation I came across:

I was led back to the above poem today after drinking a cup of “tila” and orange leaf tea here in Spain and not knowing exactly what the tila part was. Tila, I have learned, is the Spanish for “Linden”. So it was tea made from the blossoms of the Linden tree. The clue would have been in the latin name for all trees in this family: Tilia.

According to some web sources, linden tea is commonly drunk in South America, particularly in Mexico and, historically, by the Aztecs who claimed its possession of the following medicinal qualities:

* Tranquilizes the Nervous System,
* Cures Insomnia,
* Favors Digestion,
* Calms Menstrual, Hepatic and Renal Cramps,
* Disinflames the Digestive Tract,
* Is a Laxative,
* Sudorific
* Diuretic
* Useful in Bronchitis Cases

Apparently the species Tilia cordata is used not only in landscaping in Central Europe and the former Yugoslavia, but also traditional herbal medicine.

Wikipedia has a (rather impressive) paragraph of the purported health benefits of Tilia:

Tilia flowers are used medicinally for colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. New evidence shows that the flowers may be hepatoprotective. The flowers were added to baths to quell hysteria, and steeped as a tea to relieve anxiety-related indigestion, irregular heartbeat, and vomiting. The leaves are used to promote sweating to reduce fevers. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and cellulitis (inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue). That wood burned to charcoal is ingested to treat intestinal disorders and used topically to treat edema or infection such as cellulitis or ulcers of the lower leg.

I certainly feel tranquillized. And the tea is very agreeable to the tastebuds. I may start drinking it more often.

April 17th, 2010

never has a chart flowed more sweetly


This flow chart visualizes the difference in processing between teas made from the camellia sinensis plant.

(via reddit/r/food)

February 15th, 2010

ayurvedic tea

Sri Dhanvantari

A friend sent me some “kapha” tea — a stimulating blend of spices — and this led me to do a little reading on what kapha means. It led me to Ayurveda, an ancient but persisting philosophy of medicine, originating in India over 5000 years ago.

Ayurvedic medicine places individuals into one of three types or “doshas”. Following ayurvedic medicine, one is encouraged to adopt certain dietary and lifestyle habits specific to their dosha, in order to attain balance and a feeling of well-being.

Out of interest I took a (probably not very reliable) test that placed me in the Kapha type (as opposed to Pitta or Vata).

Good thing I was already sent the appropriate tea, then.

Whether or not i’m entirely sold on Ayurveda, I do like the kapha tea, especially with a drop of milk (although that’s probably not traditional). There’s a recipe for kapha tea online, but it differs from the commercial blend I have. The recipe here lacks black pepper, for one thing, which gives the commercial blend a nice kick.

(Right: Dhanvantari who, according to wikipedia, is “said to be an avatar of Vishnu from the Hindu tradition and God of Ayurvedic medicine”)

November 29th, 2009



From Just Hungry:

Ochazuke is rice, tea and a lot of very Japanese stuff.

Ochazuke combines two quintessentially Japanese ingredients, plain white rice and green tea. Ochazuke is commonly served at the very end of an elaborate Japanese full course meal. It’s also favored as a midnight snack, a hangover cure, or just when you want something hot and filling. It’s commonly made with leftover rice, though ideally the rice should be heated up if it’s cold.

The stuff that goes on top makes it flavorful. Nowadays most people use ready-made ochazuke packets, from companies like Yamamotoyama. These come in flavors such as pickled plum, salmon, wasabi and sea urchin. If you can’t get a hold of such packets, here is a recipe of sorts. It’s basically about rice, tea and “stuff” on top. Despite the fact that this is a make-in-a-minute kind of thing, the very Japanese-ness of the “stuff” that goes on top makes authentic ochazuke a rather difficult dish to assemble outside of Japan, unless you have a Japanese food store nearby.

Great — another excuse to consume tea! There’s a recipe for Ochazuke at Just Hungry.

Similarly of interest: Brown rice and green tea porridge or ‘genmai chagayu‘.

September 24th, 2009

Blooming Tea

Speaking of tea ceremonies, here’s a video demo of “blooming tea” in action. Obviously not for everyday consumption, but certainly an attractive and fun bit of ceremony.

From the wonders of tea blog.


Now I think of it, it’s like a more tasteful teapot version of those razzle-dazzle Chinese birthday candles that open up and sing when you light them. I naively lit one of these at my housemate’s birthday party and it roared into action like a garden firework, taking us all aback.

September 24th, 2009

The East Frisian Tea Ceremony

h2g2 has a little article about the unexpectedly interesting history of tea in East Frisia.

The tea is always served with a special kind of sugar and a certain kind of cream.

The sugar traditionally used is called ‘Kluntjes’. These are large, single clear crystals of sugar, which are impossible to bite and almost impossible to suck! They are left to dissolve in the tea. Stirring, as we shall see later, is strictly frowned upon!

The story behind this is that, in the early days of European sugar production from sugar beet, the lower classes could not afford to buy it, but collected the residue from the bottoms of the sugar barrels, where the last of the syrup had solidified during refining. This was considered really precious and each little lump of sugar had to serve several cups of tea. The last tiny bit left in the cup was then given to the children as a treat.

The cream, however, was in plentiful supply, as each household had a goat which they could milk at will.

The most interesting part is the ceremony and tradition with which they drink it. Click here to read.

That article links to another one on h2g2, which I think is by Douglas Adams, who explains how to make a good cup of tea.

One or two Americans have asked me why it is that the English like tea so much, which never seems to them to be a very good drink. To understand, you have to know how to make it properly.

Read more.

And while i’m railing on about tea I should mention that I posted a similar article to that last one before, by George Orwell, in which similar ground is covered:

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

Read more.

July 4th, 2009

iced tea and hot boiled peanuts


The Kitchn recently posted a few cool articles.

I’m fascinated by their recipe for hot, boiled peanuts — apparently a delicacy of the American state of Georgia.

One of my cherished past times is driving along winding country roads and stopping at “HOT BOILED P-NUT” stands along the way, and purchasing a paper bag full of addictive, salty, soft peanut snacks. But when I am not in Georgia, I make these tasty treats at home.

Also intriguing is their super simple method for making iced tea

We simply fill our 4-cup bottle with cold water, add a tea bag, and put it in the fridge overnight. By the time we get thirsty the next day, the tea is ready. When using loose-leaf tea, Bill Waddington of TeaSource suggests using two large tablespoons of tea per quart of water, and then letting the mixture steep at least 8 hours.

No matter what kind of tea we brew, the flavor has been delicate and well-balanced without any of the astringency or bitterness we sometimes get when brewing hot tea. So far we’ve tried a jasmine green tea, a spicy black chai, and a peach white tea, and all have been delicious. We prefer it plain, straight from the fridge, and without any ice to dilute it.

And if I had an apartment I’d surely be all over their strategy for creating and stocking a home bar.

April 22nd, 2009

tea for sleeping

While looking for suggested teas to help aid sleeping, I found a piece about a study that has found that green tea (or, more specifically, an agent found in green tea) improves the quality of sleep in young men (perhaps everyone else too, but that’s not what the study was focused on, as far as I know):

The small study used the pure, enzymatically produced L-theanine dietary supplement Suntheanine manufactured by functional ingredients company Taiyo Kagaku Japan.

“Our clinical study strongly suggests that Suntheanine supplementation of young men can improve both the quality of sleep and the mental state of being refreshed on waking up,” said the study’s author, Dr Shuichiro Shirakawa, a professor at The National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Tokyo.

Rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants, green tea extracts are steadily being introduced into food and beverage products. The tea’s active agent Epigallocatecin-3-gallate, is thought to aid a wide range of health conditions, notably lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, fight bacteria and dental cavities, possibly aid weight loss and slow tumor growth in breast and liver cancers.

Only 22 people were tested though so it’s hardly conclusive. Read more.

Oh, and my original search found peppermint, chamomile and rosemary tea to be the most frequently recommended for helping one get to sleep. Although one website also listed peppermint as a refreshing tea for helping you wake up — so perhaps there is no inherent agent that aids sleep, rather it is the warming effect that is soothing when one is ready for bed (and softly invigorating upon waking).

Posted in Biology, Tea | No Comments »
March 27th, 2009

cool it (or die!)

Drinking hot tea has been linked with increased risk of oesophageal cancer. Scientists recommend letting your tea cool from “scalding” to “tolerable” before slurping. The speed at which you drink also affects your risk, they say!

Compared with drinking warm or lukewarm tea (65C or less), drinking hot tea (65-69C) was associated with twice the risk of oesophageal cancer, and drinking very hot tea (70C or more) was associated with an eight-fold increased risk.

Who would have thought drinking a cup of tea were such a dangerous pursuit! I should say in tea’s defence that when drunk at a reasonable temperature, tea has anti-carcinogenic effects.

Read more at BBC Health

March 8th, 2009

tea for indigestion

After leaving some of my dignity on a friend’s lawn yesterday evening, my stomach is feeling a little sensitive at the moment. So I was just googling for advice on what I might do to soothe my upset stomach, and I found this terrific article which explains the biology of indigestion and offers various interesting remedies.

Most interesting to me were the various teas recommended: Caraway seed, cinnamon, fennel seed, peppermint (already a favourite of mine), thyme and ginger.

Snack on caraway seeds. These seeds act very similarly to fennel seeds. They help with digestion and gas. You can either make a tea from the seed or you can do what people in Middle Eastern countries have done for centuries — simply chew on the seeds after dinner. Caraway seed tea: Place 1 teaspoon caraway seeds in a cup and add boiling water. Cover the cup and let stand for ten minutes. Strain well and drink up to 3 cups a day — be sure to drink on an empty stomach.

Three that were particularly exciting for me as a tea fiend were ginger tea (which I have already tried, but not as a remedy — interesting), fennel seed tea (a teaspoon of fennel seeds are steeping in a mug beside me), and caraway seed tea (I shall have to buy some caraway seeds before I can try that one). I’d never heard of fennel or caraway seed tea before…

The fennel seed tea has just brewed and it’s unexpectedly delicate and complex. Would be very nice with soya milk I think.

Read about more remedies here — they’re not all tea by the way.

March 6th, 2009

light emitting teabag


Lighting Bag by Wonsik Chae from Takashi Yamada on Vimeo.

Something tells me this tea is not for drinking. Nevertheless — very pretty and fun design.

January 25th, 2009

Drink Your Tea

Thich Nhat Hahn is a contemporary Buddhist Poet, and he certainly appreciates a good cuppa.

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
– slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

Well yes I was being facetious; it’s not really about tea so much. But it’s certainly a philosophy I can wholeheartedly get behind.

Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han) is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. During the war in Vietnam, he worked tirelessly for reconciliation between North and South Vietnam. His lifelong efforts to generate peace moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He lives in exile in a small community in France where he teaches, writes, gardens, and works to help refugees worldwide. He has conducted many mindfulness retreats in Europe and North America helping veterans, children, environmentalists, psychotherapists, artists and many thousands of individuals seeking peace in their hearts, and in their world. (read more)

Here’s another biographical page
, including Hanh’s 14 highly admirable precepts. Here are the first three:

Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.

What a person! You can read more of his poems here, here and here

November 30th, 2008

What’s in a brew?

Why is white tea white? The white tea wikipedia page is quite illuminating.

White tea is the uncured and unoxidized tea leaf. Like green, oolong and black tea, white tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. White tea is fast-dried, while green tea is roasted in an oven or pan (while kept moving for even curing). Oolong and black teas are oxidized before curing.


In hard times, very poor Chinese people would serve guests boiled water if they could not afford tea. Host and guest would refer to the water as “white tea” and act as if the tradition of serving guests tea had been carried out as usual. This usage is related to plain boiled water being called “white boiled water” in Chinese.

November 23rd, 2008

Jonas Trampedach’s Teabag Coffin


Mr. Trampedach’s solution to the age old predicament of the homeless expired teabag is quite elegant in its simplicity! The Teabag Coffin is a saucer with a little shelf for your used teabag.

via notcot

Posted in Design, Ha!, Tea | No Comments »
November 16th, 2008

a sweet read

I just came across a surprisingly interesting article on the topic of sugar vs. artificial sweeteners, which google dredged up as part of a search I made after wondering just what it is exactly that is in these sweeteners I put in my tea 3+ times a day. An excerpt:

Likewise, if all the sugar we ever got were in the form it is found in nature, we’d probably be okay. How is sugar found in nature? In modest quantities in fruits and vegetables, where it’s combined with lots of fiber, which A) fills you up, so that it’s difficult to overeat and B) slows the absorption of the sugar into your blood stream, thus damping blood sugar spikes and big insulin releases. ( Keep in mind, too, that the fruits and vegetables we know today have been bred for higher and higher levels of sugar, in the interests of flavor, so that even these have a somewhat “unnatural” level of sugar.)

With the above quoted article, and this article from About.com, which goes into further detail on how the various kinds of artificial sweeteners function and how they are made, I feel better informed. The about.com article is also surprisingly interesting:

Splenda is the brand name for a sucralose sweetener. Sucralose is made from natural sugar, by a process of chlorination. The addition of chlorine to the sugar molecule makes it unusable by the body, and it is not broken down by your metabolism. Splenda (sucralose) is 600 times sweeter than natural sugar and contains no calories.

Update: Oh, fucking fantastic – thanks Lidl: The sweetener I’ve been using for the past two months (“cologran”) is composed of Saccharin and Sodium cyclamate — the latter being a compound that has been banned in Japan since 1969, after it was used in sweeteners and found to metabolize into a carcinogenic substance (though another source — a company selling the compound — claims it’s “harmless to health”). This might be a good time to start drinking unsweetened tea (like tea-purist George Orwell recommended).

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