Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yunnan Puer tea

Named after a town in Yunnan province, the place where it originated,
 pu-er tea is a winner of teas.

  It is made from rather large leaves that are oxidized twice 
in a process that imparts a very special earthy flavor. 
You may know this tea as Bo-lay or Bo-lei tea,
 both of these are Cantonese pronunciations. 
In the past, this broad-leaf tea was called nuo-shan and it came
 from a plant that may be related to pre-glacier trees. 
That Quingmao tea tree, as it is called, is in the family of Camellia or tea plants.
 It has long ovine-shaped leaves and grows mainly in the highlands in and near Xishanghanna along the Lancanjiang River in the southwestern region of China.

One tale about Pu-er tea tells about Kublai Khan's troops having

 introduced this earthy tea to the rest of China. 
Some say that a Chinese emperor was first to introduce this variety of tea to the west. 
He sent some to the king of England in 1806. 
One thing that is guaranteed is that in 1986, Pu-er tea garnered an international award at a fair in Barcelona, Spain.
Pu-er tea is considered a mild tea.

 Those leaves with a light coating of mold are considered the best. 
Traditional medicine practitioners recommend the tea to relieve indigestion and diarrhea and to reduce cholesterol.
 These are only some of the medicinal effects attributed to this tea. 
There are many others.

Popular since Tang Dynasty times (618 - 907 CE), this tea is mistakenly spoken of as a black tea. 

Professionals understand why, because it is semi-fermented twice 
and this process is done longer than most oolong or semi-fermented teas, 
close to the cusp of what is done for black teas. 
Several call teas that are not quite black, as is pu-er, a 'Formosa oolong.' 
Tea made this way keeps its flavor through many infusions, 
more than almost all other teas. 

One thing to note about pu-er tea is that it is the only tea the Chinese like to age.

 Another notable fact is that they drink it with the same 
respect Westerners give to a fine wine that is well-aged.
 A third is that this is tea afficionados like to consume this tea in a leisurely fashion and after a extremely good dinner.

Should you like to so indulge, buy the very best. 

Order a pot of pu-er for the table at a good Chinese restaurant. 
The potof tea has many refills throughout the dinner. 
You may gulp at the price of the pot of tea, but is only cost about the same price per person as a decent cup of coffee, and lots less than a decent glass of wine.
 And you will be able to have not one but many cups full.
 Why does this particular tea so much? 
because it is a vintage variety of  pu-er that may be about 40 or more years old.

Unusual among teas, pu-er teas are fermented (but the technical term is really 'oxidized') as a white tea or green one, or they are semi-oxidized and called an 'oolong' tea. 

 They can also be fully oxidized and be a black tea. 
Except for the oolong variety, the others are rare and often not very good.
 The very best leaves are usually prepared as an oolong tea.
 Emperor Zhong of the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE) learned how great this tea was when he ordered his steamed; he used only the buds with hair on them and said that was the best. 

Pu-er is versatile in other ways. 

Some like it mixed with chrysanthemum tea. 
That is called gupa cha. 
Made with white tea as the Emperor had it, it is called pu show.
 Pressed into a bowl shape, as are many other fine teas, it is called tou cha. 
And as a seven layer cake-tea, it is called bing cha. 
Made into balls, it is called tuan cha, and in a rectangular cake, it is fang cha.
No matter the shape, be sure to learn how

 long the tea has been set aside and properly aged. 

Teabags of pu-er found in a Chinatown supermarket were labeled as two-years old, others said 'five-years-old,' and some had no age. 
They tasted less good than either of the others. 
Do not expect the broken leaf teabag types to taste anywhere as good as the longer aged whole leaf varieties; but they are better than some other teas, particularly by the third and fourth infusion.

When making your tea, except for the white or green renditions, 

be sure the water is at a rolling boil. 
Most formosa oolong and black teas need water that high, past when they just start to boil. Green teas brew better at thirty degrees lower than that.
 And, if you want to make the very best tea eggs, 
use a pu-er tea, aged from two to five years.

If you want to emulate the French in their tea-drinking, 

as in many other food behaviors, do drink aged pu-er tea.
 About one-quarter of all tea consumed in France is pu-er tea. 
Mr. Twining, one of England's favorite tea packers, has a fine new pu-er tea. 
The first tea brought to England in 1712 was a pakho or 'pekoe' tea. 
Not the pekoe of today, the tea then was white-haired tea,
 the kind loved by the Emperors of China. 
Today the English also import lots of pu-er tea.

Researchers at Xiyuan Hospital and others at the Beijing Academy 

of Traditional Medicine have been going through old records. 
They report that in the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911 CE),
 pu-er tea leaves and medicinal herbs were decocted together. 
Called 'Elixir Tea' and recorded in the Secret Recipes of Pills, Powders, Ointments and Pellets of Chinese Medicine in the Imperial Hospital. 
A recipe for it appears eight times in the Records of Pulse Conditions of Concubine Ying of Emperor Jiaqing. Medicinals using pu-er tea during Qing court times (1644 - 1911 CE) were mixed with purple leaves of perilla and grass-leaf sweetflags.
 Also included were the rhizome of water-plantain and Chinese hawthorn slices, among other things.

Other items about this tea were touted in Ming times from Tao Hongjing's (456 - 536 CE) annotations about bitter tea. 

They recommended using it with asparagus shoots and China-greenbriar leaves. Then and now, 'Elixir Tea' is thought useful for the aged. In the Records in Pulse Cases of the Qing Courts, this tea was recommended to cure chills and fevers, headaches and pains from colds, indigestion after a sickness, and nausea.
The nobility of the time, who had a liking for and overindulged in greasy and sweet food, believed in drinking pu-er tea. 

To them, in any of the above mixtures, it was useful in reducing obesity, improving digestion, alleviating depression, and promoting blood circulation. 
They also liked its taste and its effects on their mood.
 'Elixir Tea' can be purchased in upscale Chinese supermarkets and tea emporia. 
It is still thought to be relieve indigestion and diarrhea and to reduce cholesterol. 
In China, it has been successfully tested on animals. 
Do not be fooled, however, should you want to use it to lose weight.
 Not all teas sold as a diet tea have it or any of the combination of ingredients used in Elixir Tea, nor are there any guarantees it will work.

The Chinese classify tea as a cold and bitter food.

 Its contribution when used for herbal purposes dates back at least to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE). 
Mixing teas with herbs is thought to have begun with the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 - 581 CE) and continued to today. 
Large-scale consumption, that is every day drinking of tea in China started in early Tang Dynasty times (618 - 907 CE).
 It was the great poet Su Dong Po (1037 - 1101 CE) when writing about the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE) who said that tea drinking was essential for (his own) good health.
 His living to age sixty-four was cause enough for other Chinese to follow him. 
They believed and took his words to heart.
 Jing Xinbo in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 CE) went further, he wrote about different teas in his book Food and Drink Recipes and said that one should drink it because it aids when needing to cure a disease, and it prolongs life.

Have you had your tea this day? 

Invest as the emperors did and be sure that at least some of the time you drink pu-er tea.  The Chinese believe in its many positive effects including its mood-enhancing effects and reduction of melancholy. 
They confirm that it stimulates digestion and should always be consumed after a large meal.
 In addition, they drink pu-er tea to help in weight reduction and detoxification as they say it cleanses the body of damaging substances. 
For those who drink it regularly, the Chinese believe that all tea stimulates their Qi and aids in assuring a long and healthy life.

By Explore Cultural China

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Part 7 of Tea Journeys - Black Teas

Other frequently consumed Chinese teas include Keemun, a mellow black tea with a strong aroma; some call it 'the wine of tea.' 
There is also Lapsang Souchong, a large-leafed tea from the Lapsang region of China. Oxidized to have a smoky flavor and aroma, it is large-leaf tea with a tiny taste of ripe peaches and is a Formosa Oolong. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tea - tracing its flavorful journey - Part Six

Tea Museums and clever tea packaging come from or are available abroad. 
Should you travel to Europe to get either of the above, try to go to Butler's Wharf in London where tea was unloaded hundreds of years ago. 
There, near the Tower Bridge, you can visit the Bhamah Tea and Coffee Museum on Maguire Street in the Clove Building.
 You may want to phone ahead to check their hours. 

They have information about tea's arrival in Britain, more about the teabag, and about hundreds of tea leaf kinds. 
You can even buy Chinese tea, though they only have a handful of varieties from that country.
 They also have a wonderful book written by Mister Braham, published by Hutchinson in 1972, called Tea and Hsee.

In Paris, visit Mariage Freres, a tea house situated at 30 Rue du Bourg-Tibourg in the 4th district or arrondisement.

 This tea mecca has been selling tea since they opened their shop in 1854. 
They now have about four hundred teas from thirty-two countries, China included. 
Most of their Chinese teas come from Fujian, Hunan, Anhui, Jiagsu, Zhejiang, Hubei, Guangzi, and Jiangzi, as well as from Taiwan, other Asian countries, and other places around the world. 
The upstairs museum houses teapots, tea cups, samovars, and wooden tea chests, among other things.
Buying loose tea and tea varieties requires knowledge. 

So teabags and museums aside, to be a tea connoisseur, you need to learn what is considered the best and where to shop and taste different teas to determine your own favorites.

If you live in or near San Francisco, try the Imperial Tea Court. 

Roy Fong, its owner, has his own tea plantations in China where he supervises tea from tree to thee.
 The tea he sells is very fresh, very flavorful, and very good. 

So is tea at the Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng Company, a source for good tea from Taiwan. Fong has but one place, Ten Ren has dozens of stores in many cities in the United states and in other countries including Taiwan.

Tea varieties you should taste are Snow Tea, White Tea, Green Peony Tea, Lung Ching, Jade Ring, Jasmine Pearl (also known as Jasmine Balls), and Tung Ting. 

These teas are white, green, or oolong, some more oxidized than others. 
You can also try a black tea such as Lychee Black, Hao Ya B, or any other black tea.
There are quality levels of each of these and in some tea emporia they may have other names.

 Every tea and every price level makes for differences. 
You may not prefer the most expensive of any of these but you do need to try several in order to make educated taste decisions.
 A good vendor will encourage tasting as you make your purchasing decisions.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tea - tracing its flavorful journey - Part Five

All teas can be processed by hand or by machine and all teas are graded by size of the leaf. They can be scented or flavored, and only a small proportion of them are. 
Most often, oolong or black teas are so treated.
 Blossoms, petals, or pieces of fruit can be added to flavor teas as can the addition of commercial essences, oils, or fragrances. 
Flavors such as jasmine, rose, litchi, orange, and orchid are popular, in that order. 
It is common practice, that when essences or oils are used that a large piece of cotton be saturated with same and put in a big box of tea leaves and left there for hours or days, depending upon the depth of aroma desired.

Everyone should know that teabags and compressed teas are neither new nor an American invention. 

Tea used to be compressed in large blocks or rounded shapes. 
For shipping, they were packed in bamboo then further protected by a wooden chest or a leather bag for their long journeys.
 Sometimes these bags got wet. 
The caravan stewards saw infused tea leaking from them and more than one of them thought of making a batch of tea in that manner in a bag of one sort or another.

Orange Pekoe means long leaves; 'pekoe' alone means shorter leaves. 
Other tea leaf words for their sizes include: 'souchong' meaning coarse leaves, and 'fannings' and 'dust' as words for the left-overs of any of the above.
The above terms do not connotate flavor, rather they speak of tea leaf size, and therefore quality. 

Tea bags, flow-through or otherwise, can be and usually are mixtures of fannings and dust and perhaps some other known tea leaves ground small. 
They rarely, if ever, have small spring-picked leaves so beloved by the Chinese.
Flow-thorough tea bags do brew better tea than flat tea bags because there is more room for leaf expansion.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tea - tracing its flavorful journey - Part Four

Historically tea was traditionally made in a shalu or very large clay pot, in a gaiwan or covered individual bowl, or in a gongfu or very small pot. 
 When using a small earthenware pot, teacups are placed together in a cha chuan or tea serving saucer.
 One of the best known teapots is the 'Yixing Dragon Teapot' made with wet reddish-purple clay. 
This pot enhances and conserves flavor and heat, and holds the aroma of the tea.

The Chinese discuss tea categorizing it by the color of tea leaf, as follows:

1. White Tea is also called silver tip. 
  • This tea is mostly new buds plucked before they open, then withered to allow much of their moisture to evaporate. 
  • These unfermented tea leaves are gently dried in the sun, usually in bamboo trays or in low temperature ovens. 
  • The tea infusions from them are referred to as white or light yellow, and are known as the champagne of teas. 
  • They are rare, harvested but once a year usually in early July, and gathered within a two week period. 
  • It is the only tea that is considered non-astringent. All other teas have some or a considerable amount of astringency.  
2. Green Tea is also an unfermented tea. 
  • It is from leaves allowed to dry somewhat, then heated, also called roasted, in ovens or pans to stop the oxidation process sometimes incorrectly referred to as fermentation. 
  • Some green teas are steamed first then rolled into balls or around a very thin stick. 
  • If on a stick, they are slid off. 
  • As such or as balls, they are then put to dry. 
  • Infusions from these teas are considered yellow to yellow-green and are considered very astringent.
  3. Oolong Tea, is a semi-fermented tea with leaves dried and as they are so doing, shaken periodically to bruise them. 
  • Then they are heated, fried, roasted, fermented, or whatever you'd like to call them, to further the oxidation process. 
  • Puchong oolong teas are oxidized the least, Formosa oolongs the most. 
  •  This provides infusions from pale yellow-orange to a deeper orange-red, respectively.
4. Black Tea is also dried first, in the sun or in the shade. 
  • The leaves are then rolled or not and set aside in a reasonably moist place until the leaf turns reddish brown. 
  • After the correct color is achieved, they are put into large woks and heated, fried, fired, or which ever expression you prefer, or they can be put into pans and oxidized in an oven. 
  • The infused brew is reddish in color.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tea - tracing its flavorful journey - Part Three

All teas come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. 
The best of them grow at high altitudes and in damp tropical regions. 
The way and length of time tea is processed is what makes teas different.
 Fine teas, like fine wines, come from many regions, the best from one or another particular producer and from one or more growing places referred to as tea plantations or tea gardens.
 As with wines, different years produce different tea qualities, and different soil and the kind of water makes a difference. 
Freshly drawn spring water makes the finest tea.
With the exception of one variety, tea does not improve with age, as does wine. 

Storage in a tightly sealed tin is best. 
Though some say tea stored that way can last a year or so, be advised that tea less than six months old is better because fresh leaves make better tea.

Tea leaves are picked three or more times a year. 

How they are handled makes for differences as does whether the leaves are sprayed, the types of fertilizers used, how the leaves are picked, and how the four-part oxidation processing is done.
Tea leaves must be carefully dried and withered. 

Then they can be rolled, and are fermented, heated, or fired at near 200 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce their moisture content to about five percent. 
After that processing, whole leaves can be broken further. 
They are then graded and sorted. 
The color of tea is known by the color of the leaf in the Western world. 
In China, tea is discussed by the tint of the brewed infusion.

Teas are brewed at different temperatures and for different amounts of time. 

Some suppliers put instruction labels on their teas to help novices do it right. 
Others assume that they know or that it is not important, so they leave it to chance. 
Some labels are illustrated (and can be seen in the hard copy, thanks to the Imperial Tea Court), so that you can learn from them.

Most tea in the United States is made using a tea bag. 

More recently, large quantities of tea are consumed as beverage in a can or a bottle. Almost all of these are black teas made by crushing, tearing and curling fully oxidized tea leaves. 
Only about two percent are made from green tea leaves or from loose leaves that were plucked by hand; more than a thousand needed for a pound of tea. 
Incidentally, brewing tea leaves became popular in China during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 CE) when an Imperial edict said loose tea is a sign of offering tribute.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tea - tracing its flavorful journey - Part Two

In Dali, 'three-course-tea' is still enjoyed. 
It became popular at court during the Nanzhao Kingdom. 
That tea is made with the best well water and served with walnuts, honey, and ginger. That is one of the sweet sides of tea. 
Another side is the anger expressed over tea taxes.
 These were collected during years of the Qing Dynasty when, annually and as tribute, more that thirty thousand kilograms of Pu-er tea was delivered to the Imperial Court.
An article about some tea history and inroads in Europe and England, appeared in Flavor and Fortune's Volume 2(4) on pages 9, 22, and 23. 
That article included a recipe for Tibetan Tea called Boeja.
 It discussed processing of the leaves and how the Dong, Miao, Tibetans, and Uygur minority populations in China use tea. 
It also suggested books to learn about this beloved beverage including Imperial Master Lu Yu's first extensive treatise on tea.
It did not mention that the Sichuan-Tibet and Qinghai-Tibet highways, ships and the airways were thoroughfares replacing the ancient tea caravan routes, and that the Karakoram highway is but a dozen years old.
 It did not say that in 641 CE, Princess Wen Cheng married a Tibetan king and brought tea and tree seeds to Tibet. 
That small gesture reduced the arduous half-year journey from China's Eastern tea gardens spreading plantings of tea more widely.

 In 1951, other tea seeds and tiny tea tree saplings were shipped to many other new mountainous locations in China. 
With easier access, anyone can travel this route that endied in Xian and was used for more than a thousand years. 
It did not say that anyone can now bring things in and spread new ideas and new things.

Since circa 2737 BCE, when Emperor Shen Nung drank hot water with leaves from an evergreen that fell into it, tea now known as Camellia sinensis, has been consumed in China. 
It has been about five thousand years since the Emperor found this hot water to be sweet, bitter, fragrant, stimulating, and very tasty.

Called ming in ancient times, the leaves of the tea plant have been prescribed for preventing and curing many an illness. 
The Emperor knew tea as a stimulant and we know that the caffeine and theobromine in it increases the activity of digestive juices. 
We also know that tea's tannins strengthen capillaries and stimulate the adrenal gland; and we know that the esters in it are touted, in China, to prevent radioactive injuries. There is a small but valuable amount of manganese, selenium, and fluorine in tea along with many polyphenols.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Palm sugar and Coconut palm sugar

Palm Sugar

This sugar is commonly known as Gula Merah/Gula Jawa or Gula Melaka in Malaysia. It is made from the sap of the date palm - Palymyra Palm or the sugar date palm - Phoenix Sylvestris.

The sap/honey is harvested by making several slits into the bud of the palm tree. Upon collection of the sap/honey, it is boiled to thicken the sugars and then traditionally poured into bamboo tubes that have 3 to 5 inch diameter. The sugar is left to solidify forming cylindrical blocks.

It is used in South East Asian cuisine and in their traditional herbal medicine.
It is known to liquefy phlegm in the lungs and soothes a sore. Due to the growing pandemic of diabetes, this sugar fulfills the requirements for a healthy sugar substitute because it has an extremely low glycemic index and high nutrition content.It can be used as a substitute for any sugar or sweetener.Use it is cakes, to sweeten coffee, cookies or salad dressings.


Coconut Palm Sugar

This sugar is harvested from the watery sap that drips from the flower buds of the coconut palm or the sap of the sago, Arenga pinata palms.This is not the same as palm sugar - Gula Jawa/Gula Melaka.This sugar is also known as Arenga sugar. 

This sugar is  high in nutrients and has an extremely low glycemic index.The sap honey is harvested every morning. It is then boiled down in woks to resemble sticky sugar.The substance is then whipped and poured out into lumps on cellophane or filled into containers.This is not a highly processed sugar therefore the flavor, consistency, color and level of sweetness will vary from each harvested batch. The flavor of this sugar has a more rounded caramel and butter scotch notes. It must not have a metallic flavor like brown sugar. It has a rich flavor. All palm sugars melt at a low temperature and an extremely high burn temperature. Usually comes in blocks or liquids.

This sugar can be used as a substitute for any recipes that calls for sugar.It has a rich caramel taste, and a slight smoky coconut aroma to it.It offers a far richer taste and flavor than any other sweetener. It is after all the nectar of the coconut palm flowers.Use it as a coffee or tea sweetener or in pies, cakes and cake icings/frosting. Follow the link below for more information and recipes.

Coconut palm sugar and palm sugar are not the same products.  Coconut palm sugar comes from the coconut palm tree – Cocos Nucifera and palm sugar comes from the Palmyra palm tree – Borassus Flabellifer. The sugar is extracted from the sweet watery sap/honey that drips from the flower buds, by making several slits cut into the bud. A pot is then tied underneath the bud to collect the honey sap.

These sugars have been used from ancient time in the Asia;

   Burma: jaggery, htanyet

   Cambodia: skor tnot

   Telugu: nalla bellam, thaati bellam (Palm Jaggery)

  Kerala: panam kaLkaNdu(White crystal), Karippatti, KarippOtti (Dark palm sugar)

   Bangladesh/Bengal: jaggery (cane or palm sugar), gur (date palm sugar);

   Tamil Nadu: panam kaRkaNdu, karuppatti

   Indonesia: gula jawa, gula aren, gula merah, gula semut

   Philippines: Pakaskas

   Malaysia: gula melaka, gula anau

   Sri Lanka: jaggery, kitul-hakuru, tal-hakuru, pol pani

   Laos: num taan

   Thailand: nam taan pep, nam taan bik, nam taan mapraow

   Vietnam: đường thốt nốt

Scent sweet as sugar


Harvesting: Ovan Diputra, Luh and Nyoman’s son, is both a university student and a palm sugar farmer.
For centuries past, the people of Kawan Besan in Klungkung have been cooking up the palm sugar or gula merah that is the lifeblood of their town.
Made from the sap of coconut palms, gula merah producer, Luhwirasamini, says its origins are lost in the minds of her ancestors.

“I learned to make gula merah from my mother and her mother before her — it comes from the knowledge of our nenek moyang [ancestral grandmothers],” says Luh as she is known locally.
Palm sugar is known throughout Java where it is produced in staggering amounts, however the gula merah of Bali is in a different league, according to Luh who says Bali’s variety is still pure and made without preservatives or additives. This means the sugar has a limited shelf life and as yet, cannot be exported.
Produced in smoky family kitchens over a wood fire, Bali’s gula merah is an integral food during holy days when its price almost doubles from Rp 12,000 (US$1.39) to Rp 20,000 a kilogram. The sugar’s price reflects the supply and demand and also the labor involved in collecting palm sap and its preparation from sap to sugar.

Luh’s husband is an athlete that could take down Olympians. Now 53 years old, he has been harvesting the sap since he was just 15. His work is arduous and extremely dangerous.
“We have 16 producing coconut palms. Every morning and evening I climb the trees and collect the sap and replace the beruk [containers made from coconut shells]. That’s about 40 kilos of sap each day,” says Nyoman Sartr of the 32 coconut-palm climbs he makes daily.

All natural: Like the sugar, tools of the red sugar farmer’s are formed in the forests.
The trees stand taller than three story buildings and the wiry, tough Nyoman springs from foothold to foothold as he scales their heights, approaching the most dangerous section of the climb as he reaches the palm fronds and swings his weight into palm’s crown. He uses no ropes, no harness, depending on his lifetime learning the ways of the coconut palm.
“No I have never fallen, but it is very tiring work,” says Nyoman on the verandah of their modest home in Besan.

In much of Indonesia as in the rest of world, young people are moving away from the farm, seeking better paying jobs in factories or offices, hoping for better education choices for their children, better qualities of life amid the trappings of progress, but for Luh and Nyoman and the people of their village, the sugar offers the sweetest
of lifestyles.
“Most of the young people here are continuing the gula merah tradition. Our son is doing his university thesis on Bali’s gula merah — it is the result of the sugar that we can send him to university,” says Luh who can produce 35 kilograms of palm sugar weekly from the family’s coconut palms.
Luh’s son, 22-year-old Ovan Diputra, plans to continue in his father’s coconut palm footsteps after he completes his degree. He admits, however, to still being deeply afraid of climbing his father’s tallest palms.

Subtle taste: The palm sap is soaked in jackfruit wood to enhance the flavors ahead of cooking.
“I am still learning to climb. I am happy climbing the lower trees, but I am still really scared of the tall palms. It is very dangerous, particularly after the rains when the palms’ fronds are slippery,” says Ovan who honors his parents in his thesis.

“I am doing my thesis on gula merah, because Mom and Dad make this traditional food and I am looking at the distribution of gula merah production in Bali. The tradition is continuing here in Bali, but it is difficult to compete with palm sugar from Java. For me it’s very important to keep alive our industry, because towns like ours depend on the red sugar to survive.

“Javanese palm sugar has preservatives, so it can travel. Our Bali sugar is natural, organic, so it melts quickly. Research is being done on how to preserve the sugar without using chemicals, so it will be still be pure Balinese gula merah with a longer shelf life that could allow for export, but to date natural preservatives have not been successful,” says Ovan.
He adds there are 72 men in his village who, like his father, harvest palm sap daily which the women cook up to make the coconut-shell-sized blocks to be sold in traditional markets.
Lengthy process: Luhwirasamini boils the sap over a wood hearth for more than four hours a day to reduce the sap to sugar.
“The economic value of gula merah to our village is very important. In Bali we still have religious ceremonies where the gula merah is used in many of the Balinese snacks eaten on holy days. Also most of the farmers here have not gone beyond elementary school, so if they were to look for other jobs, it would be impossible for them.

Here they have a home industry that offers a good business, and we see the young people, like myself want to continue this and expand,” says Ovan.
Concerns that the commercial development of Bali could entice the red sugar farmers to sell their lands is an issue the villagers of Kawan Besan are already familiar with. However, they say their cultural and religious laws are still strong enough to face down the promise of big dollars.
“The head of the village farms gula merah. We continue this for our ancestors and our families. We have adat [cultural and religious laws] to protect our area. There was once a developer who wanted to set up a zoo here, but the project was banned. We work together to protect our environment and our families so we can keep growing our gula merah into the future,” says Ovan.

Tea - tracing its flavorful journey - Part One of seven

The most famous American tea party was in Boston Massachusetts, the year, 1773 CE, when about fifteen thousand pounds were dumped into the harbor. 
Nowadays, smaller tea parties are popular and they don't waste good tea. 
They drink and enjoy tea and consider it a healthy potable. 
This is not new to the Chinese. 
Lin Yutang wrote that Chinese are happy as long as they have a teapot. 
He knew that tea is one of the Chinese seven basic daily necessities. 
 The others are fuel, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar.

Many people are learning that tea, the most popular beverage in the world, is an excellent one with many positive health claims made for it. 

One of these is that tea, especially green tea, may prevent some types of cancer.
 In spite of this popularity and the health aspects of tea, little is known about it. 
People don't know where tea comes from, how to consume it, and most importantly how to brew the thousands of varieties and brands available. 
They may know that tons were dumped in Boston, but not that the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan are original sites of tea culture.

For thousands of years, traders transported tea by caravan. 

They took tea on horseback, the backs of other animals, and by rudimentary vehicles to border towns and to places beyond China's borders.
 In the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736 - 1795 CE), hundreds of caravans needed thousands of horses. 
A caravan could have several hundred horses but several caravans were known to regularly travel together carrying tea leaves to Tibet and beyond Tibet every year. 
These caravans scaled mountains, crossed rivers, trekked through rain forests, traversed fog-filled valleys travelling with heavy loads of leaves to bring them westward.

Along the way, the caravan traders may have eaten nang, a staple food in Xinjiang and other areas of their route. 

Maybe they had lamb kebabs, a shredded carrot and lamb dish that they ate with their fingers, and some pears, apricots, or Hami melons. 
In many locations along this Silk Road, the nang, sort of bagel shaped, but only baked, not boiled, was eaten when drinking tea.

The ancient State of Shu had tea growing in plantations on Mount Mendong sending it to market in nearby Pengshan County. 

The Sung Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE) and the Imperial Court had tea caravan offices in Xishuangbanna in Yunnan and elsewhere. 
Some sites and artifacts have been found; but most remain undiscovered.
At least one tea tree, planted eight hundred years ago, still provides fine tea leaves. Another ancient one, a seventeen hundred year-old wild primitive tea tree, does as well. Both are producing leaves that are gathered and sold in the marketplace. 

There are other oldies approaching the age of the younger tree, however, they are not considered noteworthy.

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