How Green is my Pantry?
By Katherine Burnett
My personal green tea journey has taken me to an exotic place unattained and unimagined before semi-retirement. That place is a glider rocker in the corner of my bedroom, footstool draped with a very old handspun afghan and a miniature cupboard from my childhood made by my grandfather. There I sit and there my teapot sits each morning. Before I break my fast, I am gently activated by the caffeine from a pot of white, green or oolong tea. I find myself whispering
“oh, that tea is so good!”
I always started my day with a cup of black tea. But I’ve been much more aware of my age and health and all that makes me tick since stepping back from full-time busy-ness! But I am not suggesting you have to retire before discovering the green teas in Lady Baker’s Pantry.
A bit of history…Did you know?
North Americans once consumed great quantities of green tea. Did you know that the Bostonians heaved 75 chests of Chinese green tea overboard in 1773 in protest of King George’s taxes?
Jane Austen’s beverage of choice at the dances in Bath was Chinese green tea.
General stores across America in the late 1800s kept tea bins of Japanese green tea.
And more recently, research on green tea and health benefits determined enough positive results to allow it to be stated on our packaging the following:
‘Consumption of 1 cup (250 ml) of green tea increases antioxidant capacity in the blood.’
Although much research has been done on other types of tea, and studies are very satisfactory, approval has not been determined yet to make the claims on packaging. The Tea and Herbal Association of Canada keeps us updated on the latest!
Green teas are most prestigious when plucked in early spring and over a 3 to 4 week period when several harvests take place.
“As the first signs of spring announce the rebirth of the tea fields, a sense of excitement stirs amongst the producers. The tea plants are awakening and reinvigorated by the new season, their fresh shoots burst with aromatic compounds.” from the book Green Tea
Fixing the green
Green tea is not oxidized. In other words, the process used does not allow the leaves to turn black. There’s a term for that amongst tea producers called ‘fixing the green.’
The China process roasts the wilted leaves. Roasting neutralizes the enzymes responsible for oxidation. They are soft and flexible at this point and can be rolled into various shapes.
Japan’s method includes steaming rather than roasting and the difference in flavours is quite distinguishable. Think of broccoli! If you roast it on the grill it tastes and looks different from steaming it in a pot. Roasted green tea is naturally vegetal and slightly smoky compared to the steamed leaf which is herbaceous and marine-like with a hint of sweetness.
Japan’s teas are almost entirely mechanically harvested. Their tea gardens are arranged in straight well-manicured rows to be able to produce as much tea as possible on their small hilly island surrounded by the salty Pacific.
The green teas in Lady Baker's pantry are from China, Japan and Taiwan. Choosing from such a vast and diverse selection of green teas was not easy. As recommended, we looked at the premium teas considered for everyday use so as to be affordable and available.
Sencha is Japan’s most popular green tea with glossy leaves that are uniformly shaped. Its flavour is delicately herbaceous (sometimes called ‘new mown’) and mildly astringent. If you want to try your hand at tea and food pairing, serve hot or cool Sencha with a plain gouda cheese on an herbed cracker. It makes such a charming afternoon teatime! Or at brunch, a cup of Sencha compliments a quiche for a nice light treat!
We just recently added an Organic Sencha from China (made to Japanese specifications) to our growing organic collection.
Our tea team wanted to rename our Gunpowder choice to give it a more curious imagery and so we called it Green Explosion. The name is unique to Lady Baker's online Tea Shop. But the tea is famous around the world for its smooth and satisfying cup.
It is from Taiwan which is particularly well known for its gunpowder teas. The leaves are rolled into pellets. Be careful not to oversteep gunpowder tea. It will be bitter.
If brewed properly in less than boiling water, you will get the tastes of sweet grass and honey. Now, that's a combination! It’s super delicious paired with barbecued meat or fish.
What’s in its name? Here's what Wikipedia says:
The origin of the English term may come from the tea's similarity in appearance to actual gunpowder. The name may also have arisen from the fact that the grey-green leaf is tightly rolled into a tiny pellet and "explodes" into a long leaf upon being steeped in hot water (I like this sentiment). Another explanation is that the tea can also have a smoky flavour. It also is possible that the English term may stem from the Mandarin Chinese phrase, gang pao de for 'freshly brewed' which sounds like the English word 'gunpowder.' (The latter makes the most sense to me!)
Genmaicha sits close to the front of my pantry. I think it's my favourite! The Japanese translation is brown rice tea. Blended together are medium grade sencha and well roasted and popped rice. It was once considered the people's tea, being diluted with grains of rice to make it affordable but it has developed a reputation in this century of being a much desired and delicious libation with a slight nutty taste. It’s really scrumptious with buttered whole grain toast! I also have used it as a soup stock, adding garlic and veggies and herbs.
Matcha tea powder of Japan has its own unique production from shading the bushes in the last 3 weeks before plucking to drying the leaves, then deveining them before grinding into powder in a stone mill The leaf is consumed in its entirety providing more nutrients!
We had some difficulty accessing plain organic matcha from Japan. So many matcha teas are mixed with other ground teas and therefore not true matcha. We’re happy to have found a company in western Canada who could provide it for us.
We have noticed a surge in Matcha sales locally and this is quite encouraging! Lattes and other beverages, like smoothies are enhanced nutritionally by adding matcha. There is a host of recipes that now include matcha in the ingredients. I have tried several and have been very impressed with the flavour it adds to cookies and cakes.
We also have in our pantry, the bamboo matcha whisk and a set of miniature bamboo accessories. In Japanese culture, matcha is whisked in very small bowls and sipped in tiny slurps. Traditionally, it has been the tea served in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
All green teas are high in antioxidants and low in caffeine content. However, the caffeine content can vary and so we give a range of 24mg to 35mg per cup compared to 142mg per cup of coffee.
The Jasmine and Flowers and Jasmine Dragon Tears are scented with freshly picked jasmine flowers layered between the leaves for several hours. That is a process I would love to see and smell!
I encourage all our tea lover friends, no matter your preference, to engage your taste buds in the green tea experience. I do wish our pantry had more for you to try. It is our dream to continue to grow our green tea inventory as we hear from you.