‘Distinguished Leaves’ by Britain’s Tea Poet Elizabeth Darcy Jones simply oozes charm and is very British! She writes ‘poetea’. Her verses are jewel-like: a gorgeous, original gift! ‘Distinguished Leaves’ imagines 37 teas as characters with their own personalities. With a foreword by Nigel Havers! These tea poems are sensual, witty, clever, musical, charming, quirky, and graceful. For Elizabeth Darcy Jones we created Tea Poet’s Tisane, Organic Emperor Pu Erh 2008 vintage with whole rosebuds. Hear her read from ‘Distinguished Leaves’ at Chaya Teahouse, 2pm on Sunday 11 March!
Nian Gao cake is a gorgeous glutinous health-conscious Chinese New Year rice snack. Eat it with fresh grated coconut or in a yam or sweet potato sandwich, deep fried. It’s sticky & sweet to seal up the mouth of the tittle-tattle Kitchen God. This is my Mom’s recipe using her mom’s own caramel recipe. At Chaya teahouse we’re pairing it with intenser, darker oolongs & Chinese fruits. We wish everyone ‘Nian Nian Gao Sheng’: Increasing Prosperity Every Passing Year!
The second part of ‘Open Door Seven Items’ concerns ‘grains’. Wheat, millet, sorghum, rice & pulses are rich in ‘qi’ core energy, as the ancient Chinese wrote in their medical texts. To which we should add seeds and nuts. Ancient Chinese wisdom says: nutritional needs depend on our origins, our ancestors and our body type. A southern Chinese person moving to western China might find the rice too acidic or Yin, so they should add a little Yang cumin or cinnamon. Traditional Chinese Medicine explains some doughs need fermented ingredients or micro-organisms added to give them life and aid digestion. Thus Chaya Teahouse’s Hunan noodle sauce! The characters ‘Ji Er’ indicate 2 kinds of hunger: ‘er’ is the kind that comes from filling up on lots of the wrong foods. An aromatic bowl of steamed rice with a little vegetable, fermented bean curd or natto dish, is simple and satisfying.
We’re grateful for a thrilling 2011 at teanamu. We launched Chaya Teahouse – filled at weekends with friends taking pleasure in fine, properly brewed tea, pâtisserie & dim sum – ‘medteatation’ circles & tea poetry books by Elizabeth Darcy Jones & Lorraine Mariner, & created Tea Poet’s Tisane for Elizabeth. We plan new teas in 2012, menus, events, classes, a newsletter, even a study trip to China!
Firewood is the first of 7 essentials for living in a traditional Chinese home. Keeping warm is deemed important: insomnia is a sign of a hot ‘yang’ head with a cold, ‘yin’ condition in the rest of the body. To keep warm wrap salt crystals in muslin cloth, heat gently & apply to any aching part of the body. Or warm yourself by soaking feet in cold water, then gradually add warmer water till sweat appears on tip of your nose. Modern long-haul travel confuses the body, so I fall sick every time I go between tropical Singapore & chilly London. Traditional Chinese Medicine tells us to dress appropriately (if you don’t dress warmly in winter you grow extra fat to compensate!) The ancient Chinese used healthy underfloor or under-bed heating, better than our dry radiator or electric heat. Heating with the use of mugwort goes direct to the body’s core, prevents having cold hands and feet even in summer. At Chaya Teahouse we often use mugwort incense to cleanse the room & create a gentle warmth. Fuel choices are important in cooking too. In ancient China the wealthy brewed tea in water over a fire of pine cones, and duck is roasted over wood from fruit trees, and rabbit over peanut shells. Poaching, stewing, steaming are better than stir-frying, especially as meat’s already ‘yang’ or full of heat by nature. Traditional fuel materials like firewood and utensils like claypots are best, creating a gentle heat, not too ‘yang’.
In Chapter 6 of Lu Yu’s Cha Jing, he wrote about the mythical ShengNong said to have crystal stomach so he could see tea cure 72 poisonous herbs at once in own belly! He describes fascinating issues about tea including history and typology. Tea was sometimes drunk with dried ginger, cinnamon and scutellaria in China far back as 2nd century AD. He said we drink alcohol to remove stress/sadness, but tea for a clear head and he advised to not use water source that’s too fast flowing or stagnant agmonst various things.
One Victorian traveller brought rhododendrons, jasmine, azaleas, peonies, magnolias, kumquat (and tea) from the far east. The story of tea thief Robert Fortune, a botanist who served the British Empire by snatching tea to India. Robert Fortune (the Scot who stole tea from China) travelled in Chinese dress (& pigtail) to avoid unwelcome attention. How tea thrived in India/SriLanka only after Robert Fortune stole 20,000 teaplants and all the secret knowhow. Download Robert Fortune’s book ‘Journey to the Tea Countries of China’ free of charge.
Beijing’s ritzy Qianmen district was home to 2 very special shops little over 100 years ago, a teashop & a silks shop. 2 Beijing shops c1900 used very advanced marketing principles including Ming Cha An Bu 明茶暗布 (‘bright tea dim cloth’), Mary Portas would be proud! Fine teas should be viewed in good lighting as Zhang Yi Yuan Teashop showed back in 1908. Tea requires light to view whilst silks/cloths are best viewed in subdued natural light as at Beijing’s Rui Fu Xiang founded 1893. The fine Beijing teashop Zhang Yi Yuan was famous for its aromas because teas were scented onsite.
Bubble tea has become a ‘fast food’ kids drink from disposable plastic cups with an extra wide straw. Bubble tea’s called ‘bubble’ cos of the chewy pearls/boba of yam, tapioca, sago or jelly, or else the foam topping. Original bubble tea consisted of hot Taiwanese black tea, tapioca pearls, condensed milk, syrup or honey but are now mainly a mixture of coloured syrups. Delicious Dragon Well bubble tea caught my eye at a Hangzhou street stall & recreated in London with purple yam mochi. Recipe for Singaporean Nonya ice dessert called Chendol.