What is Matcha tea? And how can it benefit my health?

by Steven Popec 25. September 2012 11:27

You may have heard of ‘matcha’ tea. In fact, matcha comes in a variety of products. There’s matcha ice cream, matcha cupcakes, and matcha noodles. Matcha is found all over the grocery store, and many people have no idea what it is.

Basically, matcha is finely powdered green tea. Normally, green tea consists of a blend of fresh tea leaves. As opposed to other types of tea, which have been left to ferment, dry, and curl up, green tea is usually left unfermented. When green tea is ground into a fine powder, it retains its natural green coloring, giving it a unique appearance and natural food dyeing properties. Matcha has also been linked to a range of health benefits.

Creating matcha

The Japanese word for matcha means ‘fine powder tea’, and that is exactly what matcha is. Matcha is made from tea bushes that are ‘shaded’. 20 days before being harvested, tea plants are covered in order to prevent exposure to sunlight. This stunts growth of the tea and causes the shades to turn a deep, leafy shade of green. In terms of health benefits, shading the tea also stimulates the production of amino acids. Interestingly enough, these amino acids also contribute flavor to the matcha.

After being harvested, the leaves are laid out flat in order to dry. This causes parts of the leaf to crumble. The veins and stems of the leaves are then removed. Finally, the remainder of the leaf is ground into matcha powder.

In the past, creating matcha was a very labor-intensive process. If the tea producer made an error while grinding the tea, it could become ‘burnt’, in which case the matcha was declared to be of an inferior level of quality. Today, most matcha production is performed by machines. 

Uses for matcha

Today, matcha is used in a variety of food products. It plays a particularly important role in Japanese tea culture. It’s also used to make all of the following food products:

-Matcha chocolates

-Matcha tempura

-Green tea ice cream

-Matcha cookies

-Matcha milk

-Matcha rice

Matcha is even used in Green Tea Lattes from Starbucks, which shows that it’s popular in both Japan and other parts of the world.

Health benefits of matcha

Most people know green tea is a healthy beverage. Like green tea, matcha has been linked to a number of different health benefits. However, since matcha tea is ingested (as opposed to regular green tea just being steeped in green tea leaves), its health benefits are often magnified.

Here are a few of matcha’s most popular health benefits:

-Increases antioxidant EGCG

-Boosts metabolism

-Lowers cholesterol

-High in antioxidants

-Mental health benefits.

Because of these health benefits, you can find matcha tea in health products like cereals and energy bars.

How is fruit tea made?

by Steven Popec 18. September 2012 22:20

ESP Emporium has a wide selection of fruit tea available for purchase. Fruit tea comes in a wide variety of flavors and blends, and our fruit teas include everything from blueberries and pineapples to watermelon.

You might be wondering how fruit tea is made. How is it possible to create such delicious and interesting blends of flavors with only a few pieces of dried fruit? Today, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about fruit tea production.

Essentially, fruit teas are made by taking and then mixing in blends of dried fruit, hibiscus, rosebuds, leaves, blossoms, petals... etc. The hot water extracts the flavor from all of the ingredients, which is why strong fruit flavors can be experienced when only a small amount of fruit is actually included in the blend.

It’s even possible to make fruit infused tea for yourself at home. Here’s how:

Step 1) Create extra strong tea by pouring 6 cups of water into a pitcher with six tea spoons of loose leaf tea.

Step 2) Select whichever fruit you would like. Popular options include lemons, oranges, strawberries, pineapples, and peaches.

Step 3) Extract the juice from your chosen fruit. To do this, peel it, slice it, and remove the pits or core.

Step 4) Create approximately 3 to 4 cups of squeezed juice, then add it to the tea and stir well.

Step 5) Add sugar to taste

Fruit tea can be served either chilled or hot. If you do choose to chill the tea, simply leave it in the fridge for a few hours. 

Benefits of fruit tea

Fruit tea, like any food with fruit in it, contains high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are powerful compounds that have been linked with all sorts of benefits, including reducing the effects of aging and contributing to a better complexion.

Fruit teas are also high in Vitamin C, which has a number of unique and powerful benefits on our bodies. Vitamin C helps improve our immune system and reduces the risk of infections. It also helps regulate blood pressure and has been used to treat hypertension. In short, Vitamin C leads to a healthy body and a healthy heart. ESP Emporium even offers special Vitamin C rich tea blends to help you unlock all of these benefits.

With so many different types of fruit tea available, it’s difficult to be specific about the benefits of fruit tea. We have a number of different blends of fruit tea, including fruit teas will unique names like Miami Ice or Grandma’s Garden. These tea blends feature a wide range of fruits and truly have to be tasted in order to recognize their unique flavor and powerful aromas.

Whether you choose blueberry, strawberry, or pineapple fruit teas, each blend is delicious in its own unique way.

What’s The Story Behind Japanese Tea?

by Steven Popec 10. September 2012 01:11

Many Asian countries produce loose leaf tea. However, Japan is one tea-producing country that you don’t hear a lot about. Much of the attention is focused on Indian, Chinese, and Sri Lankan teas.

This has given Japan plenty of time to quietly refine the quality of its tea. While Japanese green tea might not be as well-known as the tea of its neighbors, teas like Genmaicha, Bancha, and Sencha remain popular to this day. In fact, Japan has developed a rich tea culture for hundreds of years, and today, ‘Japanese tea ceremony’ plays an important role at social events.

The history of Japanese tea

Tea has not always been grown in Japan. Unlike other parts of Asia, tea does not grow naturally in Japan, which means that the original seeds had to be imported. This didn’t occur until the 9th century, when Japanese explorers began traveling to and from neighboring China to learn about its culture. After these travelers discovered how important tea was to the Chinese, they decided to bring it back to the islands of Japan. 

Tea grew in popularity in Japan from that point forward. Japanese travelers to China continued to bring back different varieties of tea over the next few centuries, and Japanese priests were particularly interested in the beverage due to its healing properties. In fact, some of the most frequent tea drinkers in Japan during this period were priests.

Just how important was tea to Japanese health? One of the oldest tea specialty books in the world was written in Japan in 1211. It was called Kissa Yojoki, which means “How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea” in Japanese. That book begins by stating “tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.” This is quite the spectacular endorsement, and the beverage continued to grow in popularity among all classes in Japan.

Modern Japanese tea

All different types of tea are produced in Japan. However, certain types of tea – like green tea – are particularly popular. The Japanese make several different varieties of green tea, including the popular Japan Sencha green tea.

In the past, Japanese tea was rolled, dried, and steamed by hand. Today, that is no longer the case. Except for the most expensive tea blends, all Japanese tea is produced by automation. However, due to the quality of Japanese manufacturing, automating tea production actually improved its quality as opposed to taking away from it.

Japanese tea ceremony

For hundreds of years, the Japanese have made tea an important part of their culture. ‘Japanese tea ceremony’ is an important part of welcoming guests into the home, and tea must be prepared and presented in a certain way. In more formal settings, hosts are judged by the artistry of the tea ceremony. Zen Buddhists played a key role in bringing tea ceremonies into Japan, as certain types of tea – like matcha and sencha - are important to the Zen Buddhism religion.

ESP Emporium has several popular Japanese tea blends from which to choose, including the Cherry Green Tea Blend and Bancha Green Tea. Whatever your tastes may be, Japanese tea has been refined over hundreds of years, leading to the quality flavor and rich history we know today.

The Secret of Peppermint Herbal Tea

by Elena Popec 7. September 2012 13:26

As more Americans become interested in a more natural and holistic lifestyle, many are turning to herbal remedies instead of pharmaceutical options for treating minor ailments.  With its aromatic and health properties, as well as a pleasing flavor, peppermint is a popular and readily available herb.  One of the most common preparations is peppermint tea, although peppermint tea isn’t a true tea.  This herbaceous plant is completely separate from camellia sinensis, the plant that produces all varieties of true tea.  The more accurate name for peppermint tea would be peppermint infusion, or peppermint tisane. 

A peppermint infusion is made by steeping the dried leaves of the peppermint plant in boiling water.  The essential oils in peppermint leaves provide a wealth of health benefits; for the strongest concentration of these oils in your peppermint infusion, cover the cup while it steeps.  A cover traps more of the essential oils in the cup, creating a healthier and tastier infusion.  These essential oils are packed with compounds that have a relaxing effect on the digestive system; the peppermint tisane is effective in, and perhaps best known for, its ability to calm an upset stomach.  Regular consumption of peppermint tisane has been shown to reduce the symptoms of certain chronic digestive conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome.  The analgesic properties of peppermint aid the associated discomfort, while the relaxing effect is calming and soothing.  Peppermint also has some anesthetic properties that may be effective against a number of other conditions and disorders.

Menthol, a main component of peppermint, is a powerful compound with multiple benefits.  Its strong and refreshing aroma has an invigorating and energizing effect; it can help to increase mental alertness and fight fatigue.  The physiological impact of menthol can bring welcome relief from the symptoms of allergies and the common cold.  The menthol in peppermint thins mucus; the steam from a hot peppermint tisane can be inhaled to clear the nasal passages, and ingested to break up congestion in the throat.  It also acts as an expectorant, and can soothe the pain of a sore throat.  In fact, frequent consumption of peppermint infusions may be more effective at easing the suffering of a cold or allergies than pharmaceutical remedies.  It’s also safer, gentler, and presents with far fewer side effects.

A peppermint tisane is also a great source of antioxidants, which can keep you healthy.  It’s hot and comforting in cold weather, and can be served over ice for a refreshing summer drink.  If the flavor and aroma of a pure peppermint infusion is too strong for you, there are plenty of options out there.  Peppermint is nicely complemented by a variety of other herbal flavors; berries, vanilla, cacao, and earthy herbs like jasmine taste great when blended with peppermint.  It’s easy to find a blend from the many brands on the market, or to create your own favorite combination with loose dried herbals.  Treat yourself to great flavor, energizing aroma, and countless health benefits with a refreshing and invigorating peppermint tisane.

Can Tea Be A Dish?

by Steven Popec 6. September 2012 06:38

Most of us think of tea as a healthy, flavorful drink to have at any time of the day. However, tea is one of the most versatile beverages in the world, and different cultures view tea in different ways.

As the oldest tea culture in the world, China knows a thing or two about serving tea. However, what many people didn’t know is that tea plays a central role in many Chinese dishes. The Chinese have used tea as a main ingredient in many classic dishes for hundreds of years. Today, more and more Chinese restaurants have adopted that tradition by serving tea-based dishes.

Instead of just being “infused” with tea or featuring similar flavors to tea, many of these dishes actually use tea leaves in the meal itself. This can draw out all sorts of different flavors from the dish.

Which types of tea leaves can be used for cooking?

Chinese restaurants that have started serving tea dishes do so with all different types of tea leaves. The only limit is the chef’s imagination. Today, modern Chinese cuisine uses some of the most popular varieties of tea leaves as a main dish, including:

-Oolong tea

-Jasmine tea

-Pu-erh tea

-Green tea

-And many more

Many of these tea varieties have been made more interesting by adding certain spices and flavors. For example, some chefs infuse chrysanthemum and kuding into their meals.

What kinds of meals can be made using tea?

Why haven’t more people used tea as a main ingredient over the years? Well, tea is a challenging ingredient because even the most experienced chefs find it difficult to extract flavor from tea leaves. In the past, any tea leaves that were added to dishes were purely ornamental. Most dishes do not fully absorb the elusive fragrance and flavor of tea leaves.

Fortunately, things have started to change today. More chefs are unlocking new ways to extract the flavor from tea leaves. One classic recipe involves adding infusing roasted duck with tea leaves. The duck is smoked using black tea leaves and camphor wood chips. The smoke pierces through the greasy duck skin, giving the meat a distinctly smoky taste. This dish is called “camphor tea duck” and it can be found at many restaurants in Sichuan, a province in China. The dish has even started to make its way to other parts of the world.

Chefs have also started using tea leaves in soups. The tea leaves are left to soak in the hot water, extracting their flavor. One particularly popular dish is called Huaiyang-style chicken soup. In this dish, chrysanthemum petals float around the bowl to extract flavor.

Tea also mixes well with seafood. One dish called salted tieguanyin mixes oolong leaves with deep-fried shrimp. Shrimp are fried to a point where they become crunchy, and the crisp tea leaves add to the crunchy texture of the dish.

To learn about more tea recipes and to find out where you can sample some authentic Chinese tea cuisine, click here. Or, if you’re ready to start preparing meals, check out ESP Emporium’s selection of green tea, oolong tea, and black tea varieties.

Why buy Herbal Tea: Part II

by Elena Popec 4. September 2012 09:36

Once you try herbal tea, chances are good that you’ll like them enough to keep drinking them.  Herbal tisanes are very flavorful, almost calorie-free, and packed with so many healthy compounds that many herbals are considered “super foods”.  Any visit to your local supermarket or specialty foods store will most likely result in the discovery that whole aisles are dedicated to true teas and herbal tea blends.  There are all sorts of interesting flavor combinations out there, and blends that combine herbals with similar effects to achieve maximum results (for example, just about every major tea manufacturer offers at least one herbal blend that is intended to soothe and relax you before you go to bed). 

These pre-packaged blends are a great place to start.  They give you the opportunity to try out a large variety of flavor profiles and to learn what benefits best fit your needs.  But no matter how big that aisle is, eventually you’ll exhaust all the options available there.  When that happens, skip the supermarket altogether and head for your local tea shop.  If you’re a true fan of herbal tisanes, the tea shop will open up a whole new world of beverage opportunities.  First of all, tea shops generally deal in loose teas and herbals, rather than the pre-packaged varieties.  Loose herbals are much more flavorful, they are comprised of higher quality plant parts, and you have more freedom to experiment and find the perfect proportions in your steeped infusions. 

You’ll also be able to experiment with new blends and adventurous flavor of tea ingredients combinations.  Sure, some combinations are obvious, like lavender and vanilla bean or cardamom and cinnamon, but once you’re familiar with the flavor profiles you love, you’ll have a lot of fun mixing them to discover delicious new blends.  If you’re not sure where to start, ask the proprietor of the tea shop; he or she will undoubtedly have some great blend ideas to get your started.  Are you ready to take your herbal drinking to the next level?  Try growing some of your own herbs.  Many herbs, like chamomile, rosemary, mint, and lavender, grow easily in a variety of different settings.  They’ll thrive in your backyard herb garden, but they’ll also be perfectly happy in an indoor or box garden.  To turn your herbs into herbal infusion blends, simply pick the leaves, petals, or fruits when they’re mature; left alone in an undisturbed area (with little or no direct sunlight), they’ll dry up all on their own.  Different herbs require longer drying times, and can vary from a few days to a few weeks.  You’ll know they’re ready when they crumble easily.  Then, just crush the dried pieces, place them in a labeled, airtight container, and store them in your pantry for up to a year – if they last that long.

The options in herbal tisanes are endless.  Whether you buy bagged blends, mix flavors from your tea shop, or grow your own herbs, you’ll always have several delicious tisanes ready to steep.

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