Diet, health, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Uncategorized

How do you make tea?

Sri Lanka Tea Pedro BOPHow do you make tea? Well not how do YOU make tea, but how is tea actually made?

Firstly I have an image warning! You are in for some damn fine images of tea porn here – hot, steamy, bushy and breathtakingly gorgeous. ūüėČ

I love tea in pretty much in all its forms (well maybe except for the black tea bag variety with cow’s milk poured in – but that’s mainly because I don’t tolerate dairy and didn’t ever develop a liking for it). ¬†In fact it’s probably the beverage we love most in Chinese Medicine. I’ve been to China and learnt a lot about the various forms of green teas, I’ve even done¬†a tea appreciate course¬†but I’d never seen how this delicious, medicinal and incredibly popular drink was actually made to give us those medicinal qualities (from bush to cup that is). Just so you know whatever research says I don’t believe a microwave forms part of the tea making process. So I trotted off to Sri Lanka, where some would say is the source of the best black tea in the world (Ceylon tea anyone?), to find out. I visited no less than four tea plantations and their factories to try to get an understanding of how the cammelia sinensis leaf is transformed to make a delightful cup of tea. (For those not in the know, all true tea comes from the leaves of just one plant – cammelia sinensis – be it black, green or white. (Herbal and rooibos teas are¬†made from different plants altogether.)

So here is a photographic journey of the tea making process from the Handunugoda Tea Estate, at Ahangama in the south, where they produce their tea with beautiful, old machinery. They are also famous for their virgin white tea and a range of flavoured teas.

Sri Lanka Tea factory 1 picking
Tea leaf picking
Sri Lanka Tea factory 1 drying
The moisture is dried from the fresh leaves Рsmells good

Rolling the leaves in the heavy rolling machine.

The rolled leaves further ferment and then are heated as part of the firing process (the leaves turn black at this stage).

Ungraded leaves are put through the grading machine. Four grades are produced – from small pieces to large pieces. Small pieces are used for tea bags and large for the loose leaf tea. The small pieces produce a stronger black tea and the larger pieces a lighter black tea. The size does not indicate quality. This tea making process is followed to maximise the medicinal benefits and flavour of the tea.

The finished product – black tea ready to be sold at the Colombo tea markets to the big brand names.

I mentioned earlier that I visited four tea factories. Handunugoda Tea Estate was the first. Later, I visited the towns of Ella and Nuwara Eliya which are in the high country. The area is famous for tea and the scenic railway that shows off the tea plantations.

Enjoy these images from the  Newburgh Estate Green Tea Factory (Finlays) (Ella), Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory (Ella) and Pedro Tea Estate (they pride themselves as an ethical tea producer) (Nuwara Eliya) and the railway trip between.

Newburgh Green Tea Factory (Ella) – the process is similar without the ‘firing’ part of the process that black tea goes through. This factory was small and cute; it smelled fantastic!

Halpe Tea Factory (Ella) – these images do not do this factory justice. It is the largest tea factory (or so I was told) and has sweeping views of the local tea plantations. They have a lovely variety of flavoured teas also.

Pedro Tea Estate (Nuwara Eliya) – This factory produced my favourite cup of broken orange pekoe of the trip (the gorgeous orange cuppa pictured above as the very first image of this blog). The factory tour was interesting and the plantation is incredibly beautiful.

And here is one of the most beautiful railway journeys you might take (from Ella to Nuwara Eliya and just beyond) and those magical leaves:

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

food, health, herbal medicine, motivational, nature

Discovering the traditional medicine of Sri Lanka

rooster-year-of-qing
Year of the Rooster: this cocky fellow is a Chinese incense burner crafted in the Qing Dynasty.

Hello! Happy new year! And happy Chinese new year too! May the Rooster be good to you all.

It seems like it has been such a long time since I have written a blog. The good news is that I’m excited to get back into it and share so many interesting regarding acupuncture, Chinese medicine, traditional medicines, good food (and recipes) and all things wellness related.

Some of my patients will know that in December I closed the clinic for a month and headed to Sri Lanka for a study tour of traditional medicine, yoga and learning about that fabulous medicinal drink, tea.

I’m going to walk you through what I’ve learnt about traditional Sri Lankan medicines and what one might have to gain by visiting an ayurvedic retreat. We’ll visit herb gardens and farms, discover some delicious traditional Sri Lankan recipes, several different types of tea plantations and factories (so that we can understand the process of making tea and how that process changes the flavour and qualities of the tea), visit some stunning natural scenery to remind us of the power of green spaces and finally visit an acupuncture college where students treat patients in desperate need of good care.

I’m looking forward to sharing this with you all over the next few weeks and months. But until then you can find me at my Broadbeach clinic¬†every Friday.

Also if there is a topic you think I should write about this year feel free to leave it in the comments.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

 

Diet, food, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Tea and you: brewing it, enjoying it & getting the health benefits

tea oolong cup
A delicious oolong tea known as Big Red Robe from the MayKing Tea range.

I really love tea so it’s no surprise that I snapped up an opportunity to do a tea appreciation course¬†through Bright Learning with tea educator and enthusiast, May King Tsang (founder of¬†MayKing Tea). With British Chinese heritage, May King brought the traditional English white and two sugar lovers and the green tea purists¬†together giving us a lesson in making good tea (from picking the tea leaves, brewing them well and then appreciating them) as well as teaching us about some of the styles of tea, their flavour characteristics, health benefits, some tea-tech-talk, all¬†while we enjoyed¬†several cups of very tasty, good quality, loose leaf tea.

Here’s 10 things you may or may not know to ponder while you sip your cup of tea:

  1. Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant with Chinese and Indian varietals. Herbals (eg. chamomile and peppermint) and rooibos are technically not tea as they come from different plants and are more correctly known as infusions, although we all call them teas anyway due to the preparation method.
  2. There are six types of tea: white, green, yellow, oolong, black and pu-erh. They are all made with the same tea plant but the leaves that are used, oxidisation and processing methods vary for each one. White and green teas are less oxidised than black teas are. White teas are made with just the bud and two first leaves from the branch. As tea leaves are oxidised they become sweeter (although this is only to a point and then they are more bittersweet like dark chocolate).

    MayKing Tea's delicate, white tea called 'white peony'.
    MayKing Tea’s delicate, white tea called ‘white peony’.
  3. Antioxidants are not only found in white and green teas. All tea leaves contain antioxidants and the content is much of a muchness between the six types of tea, so drink the type of tea you like best.
  4. Tea leaves do contain more caffeine than coffee beans per gram of raw material. However less tea leaves are used in making a cup of tea so there is actually less caffeine in a cup of tea than a cup of coffee.¬†Black tea does contain the most caffeine of the tea types, there is less in green tea and less again in¬†most white tea. A type of white tea known as ‘silver needle’ contains a high level of caffeine as it is made with only the bud at the tip of the tea plant branch, and caffeine is more highly concentrated in these leaves. A Japanese style of tea known as matcha also has a high level of caffeine. Caffeine gives tea a ‘Yang’ property and l-theanine gives tea it’s ‘Yin’ relaxing, mood-enhancing property. This is why Asian and British¬†cultures consider most problems can be fixed with a “nice sit down and a good cup of tea.” Choose the type of tea that you need according to your taste, mood, energy and the time of day.
  5. Tea can be flavoured by having herbs added to it (think Moroccan Mint green tea – which is actually a traditional Chinese blend that traveled with the spice trade). Tea leaves can also be flavoured by having herbs placed with the fresh pickings and infused¬†under the sun for several days, the herbs¬†are then removed so your brew is only made with the flavoured tea leaves. Some highly valued jasmine green teas are made this way. Some teas are ‘enhanced’ with artificial flavours so make sure to¬†read the labels.

    MayKing Tea's osmanthus oolong tea. I loved this one, it reminded of my boat trip down the Li River in Guangxi.
    MayKing Tea’s osmanthus oolong tea. I loved this one, it reminded of my boat trip down the Li River in Guangxi.
  6. The water temperature required varies depending on the type of tea you are making. And you don’t need a fancy kettle or thermometer to measure this. Use fresh water (pH 7 is ideal) in the kettle each time and study the bubbles in the water level gauge to get the right temperature for the leaves you are using. Generally white and green teas need cooler water (70-80¬įC) and oolong, black and herbals need hotter water (around 90¬įC+). Here’s a guide to the temperature and bubble size to expect for each type of tea.
  7. Tea bags don’t contain the ‘sweepings from the factory floor’ but they aren’t usually made with excellent quality tea leaves either. Tea quality is best judged by examining the tea leaf itself so this is a reason to buy loose leaf tea. Also the more times a tea leaf has been cut, the darker your brew will be. The new triangular shape tea bags doing the rounds now often do contain better quality leaves than regular tea bags however they are usually made from a ‘plastic silken gauze’ which doesn’t biodegrade well, so not an environmentally friendly choice.
  8. You can leave your tea leaves to infuse in a white or green tea for about 3 minutes. Black and oolong teas can stay in contact with the leaves for as long as you like. The infuser size is considered to best if smaller for black teas and larger for green teas.
  9. Medicinally, in Chinese medicine, we consider that tea is slightly bitter-sweet, cooling to the body and benefits the Heart, Liver, Stomach, Bladder and Large Intestine channels. White and green teas are the most cooling and black teas are warmer. Tea is considered to be useful taken at the start of a ‘hot’ common cold, to assist in the digestion of heavy, rich and fatty foods, for scanty urination or taken as a strong brew for diarrhoea.
  10. It is considered that in brewing your cup of tea a process termed the ‘agony of the leaf‘ occurs: there will be a ‘tumble between the leaf and the water’ to produce that wonderful ‘liquor’ we know as tea.

    A delicious cup of osmanthus oolong tea.
    A delicious cup of osmanthus oolong tea.

Here’s more on tea and happiness, how to make corn silk ‘tea’ infusion and how to make chai.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

Diet, food, health, herbal medicine, recipe, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Spice up your life, with chai

Chai is a personal favourite beverage and is best enjoyed in cooler weather.  As the first day of Winter is just tomorrow, I have chai on my mind and by the time you have read this blog I hope you will too.

left – black tea chai, right – herbal chai

There’s something really comforting about having a ‘sit down and a nice cup of tea’.¬† Chai takes this experience up a notch – we spice¬†the tea¬†up.¬† This style of tea is wonderfully fragrant and warms you from within.

The word ‘chai’¬†is¬†the name given to tea in India¬†and refers to the way in which Indians often take their tea.¬† Most chai teas use a combination of spices that are¬†often found in Indian cooking and herbal medicine such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom¬†and black pepper, but the ingredients vary from chai to chai.¬† It can¬†include black tea, green tea or simply the spices¬†alone as an herbal tea.¬† Likewise, milk is optional, and even then you can choose from cow (not for the vegans or dairy-free amongst us), soy, rice or nut milks.¬† Your chai can be sweetened with honey or sugar.

As for the wellness aspect of tea in general, the Japanese Buddhist priest, Myoe (1173-1232), is said to have inscribed this into his teakettle:

Tea has the blessing of all the deities
Tea promotes filial piety
Tea drives away all evil spirits
Tea banishes drowsiness
Tea keeps the five internal organs in harmony
Tea wards off disease
Tea strengthens friendship
Tea disciplines body and mind
Tea destroys the passions
Tea grants a peaceful death

So, given that the weather is cooler now it is time to ditch your iced tea (although strictly speaking in Traditional Chinese Medicine chilled liquids are frowned upon all year round anyway) and opt for a health-restoring steamy cup  of delicious chai, as this quote describes:

“Tea should be drunk when hot.¬† Cold tea will aid the accumulation of phlegm.¬† It is better to drink less of it, rather than more.¬† Better yet!¬† Don’t drink it at all.”¬†Chia Ming, Yin-shih hsu-chih, fourteenth century

Bare in mind the milkier and sweeter your chai is, the more likely it is to also create phlegm, although, the warming spices should aid digestion to some degree. So, as usual, moderation is the key.

You can make your own chai with a recipe like this one or purchase some loose leaf chai¬†from a shop that supplies good quality teas, don’t bother with the supermarket ones.

Now, would you like a cup of chai?¬† Go on…

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.