Drinking Tea has always been an important part in the daily routines of most Chinese people, but Morning Tea specifically has been enjoyed by Cantonese Chinese for hundreds of years. Nowadays Morning Tea, Yum Cha, or Zao Cha are all ways to describe the activity Westerners might call “Brunch”, and Dim Sum refers to the dishes that are served at this leisurely mealtime. As with much international Chinese culture, this tradition has it’s roots in Guangdong province, but is practiced regularly throughout Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Chinatowns worldwide. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for first-time morning tea patrons!
Kung fu Tea
Don’t miss the chance to Pao Cha with your hosts while you sip on piping hot kung fu tea in small tea cups. All Morning Tea establishments provide the option of small tea sets with boiling hot water that you can use to make tea at your table. Sometimes the tea alone costs as much as the food, but worth it for first-time visitors. A common favorite among Cantonese is Pu-er tea, which is a darker tea that reminds me of coffee. It’s known for aiding disgestion and doubles as a dieting tea.
Western science has discovered that the health benefits of tea greatly outweigh the benefits of coffee. But if you like coffee, keep drinking it. But challenge yourself today by drinking 1 cup of tea for every cup of coffee. That way you are not depriving yourself of the cancer-fighting polyphenol antioxidants in tea, especially green tea.
In the West we have a basic grasp of the health-related properties of red wine, especially French wine. In China, there exists a family of alcohol referred to as “保健酒” (Bao Jian Jiu); or medicinal alcohol. In fact, I’m enjoying 125ml of it while I type this post.
All of my guests who have visited China notice the basics: delicious food, hospital people, beautiful landscapes, questionable hygiene, and ancient customs. One aspect of Chinese culture I often get asked about is tea culture. One specific part of the tea culture has been left untouched on AL.ME for years: Green Tea To-Go! So today I finally weigh in on an ancient custom that has been born through thousands of years of medical practice and remains a cornerstone in modern Chinese culture. Continue reading Green Tea To-Go!
Back when I was living in the States as a student, I was definitely hooked on take-away coffee. It was the ultimate wake up juice, even though the sugar was probably what helped out most. But when I think about it a bit harder, it was probably that scent which pulled at me most. Drinking the coffee was nice, but smelling it was even better… Charlie Harper once said (in his infinite wisdom) that his coffee tasted “Christmasy… and anything was possible!” In my case, my coffee smells Sunrisey and anything is possible!
Fast-forward six years. I’m in the tea capital of the world, China. Tea is served for free at meals with little bits ‘n pieces swirling around in every cup. It’s enjoyed by 100s of millions in travel mugs, much like how we carry coffee. But, the benefits of green tea deliver a scientifically-based pounding on coffee. Their culture started to drink it because it was healthy first, and tasted good second.
For vinegar, I don’t taste much of a difference between brands, although color is important. Dark vinegar, or “Chen Cu” 陈醋, is the standard in China and the famous ones always come from Shanxi province 山西. While cooking with a very experienced coworker, I learned that a particular brand is famous here: Dong Hu, literally East Lake brand. You could search for it, but I’m not sure if it is available outside of China.
Medicinal benefits: A study has shown that putting vinegar in the food you eat can increase satiety, which leads to less food intake.[*2000] This is a great natural benefit for people fighting obesity. Other potential benefits include fighting infections, but there are other things out there which are more effective.
Apple (cider) Vinegar is a common drink I see in supermarkets here. Some studies have hinted that it could help with conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Maybe you should get a bottle and try sometime. Shake things up a little!
Is Oolong tea a kind of green tea? Is Long Jing a kind of tea or a brand? Which one does what for you? These questions have been on my brain longer than my stay here in China (since 2005). After all, tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water. There are certainly more than a few reasons for that! After discussing the specifics with Chinese friends, tea aficionados, and tea shop owners, I can safely say that the mystery around tea is not so complicated after all. Let’s start generally and get more specific as we go along!
One Plant: All (leaf) tea comes from the same species of plant. Just like apples all come from apple trees… Varieties exist among all species and those varieties include: Green, Oolong, Black, White, Yellow,and Pu’er. Processing and growing techniques are other ways that teas get their distinctive colors, flavors, and characteristics. For specifics on processing, check out the image on the right. The following disambiguations are listed from lighter to darker tea varieties.
After starting to type “soy…” into google, I got a quick suggestion of “soy milk dangers” and I immediately chuckled. Anyone who is saying that “soy products are harmful to you! Don’t drink them!” are just trying to sell you something in its place. I promise. As with all health-media frenzies, it is about controlling a multi-billion dollar industry: FOOD. We all think that nutrition scientists have something important to tell us, but they really don’t. As long as you eat and drink products that are as close to natural as possible, and in moderation, you will be fine. But avoid too many modified products, because you don’t want scientists getting between you and your food, right?
Sometimes I drink Vitasoy, which is a Hong Kong company’s export to the Mainland. The Original flavor is pretty low in sugar and contains no GM soybeans. [Genetically Modified] Sometimes I’ll drink 100% fruit juice from Huiyuan, a chinese juice company, and it is not cheap compared to other juice alternatives. (Coca-cola attempted to buy Huiyuan a year ago) But that is the reality of the modern grocery store; companies often disguise corn-based additives, sugar, and water by putting a flashy, fruit-cornucopia label on it. Spend a little more on real food now, so that you spend a little less at the doctor’s office later.
I’m not sure where this all came from, but while I was growing up in Middle-America 1990s, I specifically remember people getting called out as “Health Freaks” or “Health Nuts.” For whatever reason, which I’m finding bewildering today, a person who chose to eat Toufu or drink Soy products was trying too hard to be healthy. As clear as day, I remember other kids saying “my mom drinks soy milk at breakfast and its gross!” Another would say “What a health freak!”
Well, we all avoided those too-healthy things and stayed in the safe zone. Phew! But what is so scary about soy milk? I drink it a few times a week now that I’m in Asia. Its popular with children here too. Its part of a balanced breakfast, which also includes porridge(congee), hard boiled eggs, scallions and salty tubers. It’s delicious with a little bit of sugar too. (And I’m sure its healthier than coffee!)
As I enjoy the Asian diet everyday here, I find that a lot of my Western diet starts to disappear. I only eat toast with peanut butter because I miss home sometimes. I only eat a large hamburger or pizza when I go on a pricey date with my girlfriend. I eat chips with salsa or dip when I’m home for Christmas. Sandwiches have lost their flavor for me. Salad is also flavorless, and is nothing more than uncooked vegetables in my mind. I’m not a health nut, I just like Asian food better.