Aug 31, 2006|
“Green tea, presumably due to its polyphenol content, has been mainly shown in animal and cell systems to include antioxidant effects, anti-mutagenic (anti-cancerous), and even reduce blood cholesterol (fat) levels,” says Georgia S. Guldan, associate professor of the Food and Nutritional Sciences Programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Unlike exercise and taking medicine, drinking tea has no side effects and it does not increase the heart rate,” says managing director of MingCha, Leo Kwan, a tea master.
Examples of green tea are Biluochun, Dragon Well (Longjing) and Gunpowder tea (Lo Chu Cha). It has a strong fragrance and a rich, natural, fresh taste. It has the greatest health benefit since most nutrients and anti-oxidants are preserved. But watch out: those “healthy” ice tea drinks found at your local convenience shop are loaded with sugar and contain barely a splash of the good stuff. A recent study carried out by the Consumer Council shows that a bottle of green tea drink may contain similar levels of sugar as a can of cola and some have less than half the healthy components of a traditionally brewed cup. Both the tea expert and nutritionist advised us to stick to traditional teas. “Bottled green teas, as available in Hong Kong, may not be the best idea,” says professor Guldan, “And since standard nutritional labeling is not yet required on foods sold in Hong Kong, consumers cannot distinguish the exact contents from their current labels.”
White Peony (Bai Mu Dan), Long Life Eyebrow (Shou Mei) and Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yinzhen) are great examples of white tea. A delicate lingering fragrance and a fresh mellow sweet taste, devoid of astringency or grassy flavor, and a favoriite to serve guests.
When we talk about yellow tea, you may think of Junshan Silver Needle and its smooth, fresh and lively taste. Yellow tea is quite rare in Hong Kong and, as it used to be served to the Imperial Court, it commands a higher price.
Wuyi Rock tea and phoenix supreme are known for their long-lasting sweet, fruity aroma. It’s also used as a digestive and refresher.
Pu’er is the classic among black teas, and these days the market is hot for pu’er. A fine pu’er should be rich, dark, smooth and sweet. This functions as a kind of espresso, packing flavor with little caffeine, and serving as a relaxing and warming digestive, great after meals or desserts. It is common for Hong Kong’s older generation to drink pu’er which may have you thinking that pu’er improves life expectancy, but Kwan tells us green tea is better for this because green tea helps decrease toxic absorption. Pu’er, however, helps more to actively detoxify. Therefore, green tea works as a proactive measure in strengthening your body while pu’er is a curative measure. Kwan suggests readers drink 800ml-1.2L of tea per day.
Red and black tea undergo full fermentation but with a different process. The most popular is Fujin Gungfu Red tea as well as Keemun Gungfu Red Tea. An interesting strain is the full-bodied Red Plum Classic, which is made of Longjing tealeaves and is served as a jelly in restaurants.
Morning: Longjing tea - fresh and relaxing. And rinses you out, so to speak.
After lunch: Oolong. It helps digestion and clears MSG toxics.
Tea time: Medium to strong, as much as you can drink, except for pu’er.
All day: Honey Pearl Pekoe and Green Spring Classic. Keeps up one’s spirit.
Believe it or not, the invention of tea, one of the most popular beverages in the world, was just a sheer coincidence. Though our British friends might howl with indignation, legend has it that tea was accidentally discovered 5,000-years ago by Shennong (The Divine Farmer), a legendary ancestor and emperor of China who would spend his days personally testing and identifying hundreds of medicinal herbs on his farm. One day, he was boiling water and some tea leaves were randomly blown into his cauldron. He drank the resulted pale-yellow beverage and found the bittersweet taste both quenched his thirst and increased his concentration. Shennong believed he had found a new medicinal herb and the first cup of tea was “born.”
Tea drinking didn’t become a national custom until the Tang Dynasty (618-907) because tea trees were extremely rare and could only be found in the wild. But slowly, the trend of tea drinking spread from the royal family and upper-class to common people. "The Classic of Tea" written by Lu Yu, the earliest comprehensive study on tea in the world, appeared during this period. Oh, and apparently the British had a bit of a fondness for the odd cup and camped out in Hong Kong for a while. Today, tea is recognised as the national drink of China and is the most common drink that people offer to visitors at homes. It has many meanings including respect, gratitude and welcoming. For example, in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, the couples express thanks to their elders by offering them tea. Both the bride and groom kneel before their parents and serve them tea. Drinking the tea symbolizes acceptance into the family while refusal to drink symbolizes opposition to the marriage.
Tea master Leo Kwan heads this internationally recognized tea haven. Basement, Seibu Department Store, Pacific Place, 10am-10pm daily. 7 Star Street, Wan Chai, noon-9pm (Wed to Mon), noon-7pm (Sun). 2520-2116.
One of the last places in town serving fragrant tea in old-fashioned individual teapots. G/F, 160-164 Wellington St., Central. Open daily 6am-11pm. 2544-4556.
This is one of the most historic yum cha spots in Hong Kong, old-fashioned and historic. 24-26 Stanley St., Central. Open daily 7am-11pm. 2523-5463 / 2523-5464.
Great Supermarket. Famous for its organic tea. Great, LG/1, 2 Pacific Place, Admiralty. Open 10am-10pm. 2544-6006.