Sometimes it's the adventure that calls, and other times it's the chill. Steeping tea is relaxing to me both to do and to watch. It calms my mind and my body and I hope it will do the same for you. This session is without music, along the lines of ambient and ASMR experiences it is just the sounds of the tea making, the water, the room the movement.
I am steeping a milk oolong here. It isn't a super high quality one so I only did four rounds in this gongfu inspired session. The creaminess disappeared quickly, but gave way to the feeling of a beach at the ocean with the salt water flowing over slate. The leaves did a beautiful unfurling in the water. Enjoy.
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I am not ashamed that during this past year as an artist I became a member of the covid cocktail club (can I hear a “yes” from my fellow members?) I’ve often used tea in cocktails and to infuse spirits, but not long ago I discovered a new way to get tea in my more potent drinks - tea bitters.
Thanks to moderate reopening I was at an awesome vintage bar with a friend. This place has actually been around since the 1700s and has so far survived the pandemic. I was looking for something simple, so I went for vodka and soda with bitters on the rocks. I asked about the bartender’s selection of bitters. That got me wondering if there are any tea bitters out there. Smart phone at the ready I found a few of them. One was chai-based with a ton of spices and another where the tea seemed like a background player. But then I found 18-21 Earl Grey tea bitters. That sounded much more like tea was the star (as it should be), so I tried them out.
They weren't as Intense or aromatic as I thought they would be. There are many versions of Earl Grey out there and this is more a subtle version than a triple bergamot version, but still a tasty easy way to get a tea buzz. I found myself using more than just a few drops of them in the simple cocktails I was making. First, it was great just having the bitters and vodka over ice with club soda or plain seltzer. Then I started playing around and found a couple of other satisfying combinations.
Most of the recipes I found online were more complex than I wanted to be (or had the access to be at the time). Sometimes simple is what’s needed. I played with what I had on hand and came up with the following. One cocktail uses St. Germain liqueur and another, inspired by a tea I used to drink, uses fresh blackberries and fresh sage. The recipes are below. These are our household names for these cocktails. It's 2021, we're not out of the woods yet, so get your tea cocktailing on!
Bring Me Flowers and Tea
1 dropper full of Earl Grey tea bitters (or to taste)
½ oz. St. Germaine
1 ½ oz. vodka
Top with seltzer or club soda to taste
You can either put the top 3 ingredients in a glass with ice, stir and then add seltzer, or put the top 3 in a shaker with ice, shake, strain into glass and then add seltzer. I tried both and prefer the first.
Note: Often bitters are used in cocktails as a little extra spice, just a few drops in a recipe. To keep it simple I'm using the tea bitters more strongly here. Alternatively, you could brew a plain black tea in a couple ounces of water, use that in the cocktail with a few drops of these Earl Grey bitters for extra panache.
4-5 fresh blackberries
2-3 fresh sage leaves
Sugar to taste
1 dropper full of Earl Grey tea bitters (or to taste)
1 ½ oz vodka
Seltzer or soda to taste
Muddle together the fresh blackberries, Sage leaves and sugar in a glass or shaker (If you want a chunky cocktail use a glass, if you want to strain it clear use the Shaker. No judgments.) Add bitters, vodka and ice and either stir if using the glass, or shake and then strain into a glass if using the shaker. Add Seltzer or soda to taste.
If you give these a try let me know on Twitter or Facebook. Happy cocktailing!
Here are some more entertaining articles from fellow covid cocktailers:
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Tea companies send me tea and tea accessories for review, but for the first time I was invited to an online tea ‘experience’. Arigato Japan is a company that does food and culture tours in Japan. Considering the limitations that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on live events and travel, Arigato has pivoted to create online experiences that bridge the gap for those looking for insight into Japanese culture. They contacted me about their green tea experience. So I joined them via the ubiquitous Zoom, which has been so helpful in connecting us during these crazy times (I’m not sponsored by Zoom, by the way, but I’d welcome it).
At 8pm Japan time (which got this musician out of bed waaay too early my time, lol) I joined an international group of tea enthusiasts for a little over an hour of tea immersion. The event was hosted by Lauren Shannon, an American who has been living in Japan for over 20 years. The usual group is roughly 6-8 but we had about a dozen on the call from all over including Australia, Britain, Japan, Singapore, Columbia and the US.
Lauren had one screen showing her as she spoke and another screen of her tea table. Part way through her presentation she invites attendees to make tea along with her.
If you are a tea fan you might know some of what is shared in the experience. With all of the classes and self study I’ve done I still walked away with new bits of info. However, I’m not going to detail what is covered in this event, so that when you take it you can more fully enjoy it. No spoilers. Spoilers are rude.
Aside from the information there are other benefits of this kind of online experience. There are opportunities to contribute to the conversation during the event and there is a Q and A. Also the energy of sharing an experience with fellow tea lovers from across the globe is a unique energy boost during this time of limited contact.
You can find out about the Arigato Japan Green Tea experience and other online offerings at arigatojapan.co.jp. Tell them Tea Deviant sent you.
Disclosure: Though Arigato invited me to their experience I am not an affiliate for them. Not that I am against being an affiliate. I am for other companies. And not that you would be against me being an affiliate. I don't think you have anything against me actually making money and there being financial value to what I do. I think you would support me in that or you wouldn't be here. I'm just trying to make sure you know what's up.
My intent is for Tea Deviant to be a positive place to inspire curiosity and have fun while exploring, but I can’t ignore the proverbial elephant in the room. Considering COVID-19 still has a daily impact on our lives and a study on tea and the virus in vitro has been done I feel it’s worth sharing and hope you do too. I’m not interested in fake news. This is not about a definitive cure. It's about studies that show the potential for compounds found in tea to be helpful against the virus and staying informed.
In November 2020 Nara University in Japan conducted a study on the effect of catechins in black and green teas on COVID-19 in vitro. Various teas were used with the most effective being black tea brewed from tea leaves. The study showed that when that black tea was introduced to coronaviruses it reduced their ability to infect by 99% after one minute and 99.9% after 10 minutes.
I first saw news of this study on the Japanese Greentea Co website. I did some further searches, but could not find an abstract though I did find other articles:
“Nara University study finds some common teas can neutralize COVID-19”
“Detoxify the New Corona with Tea…”
Human beings are more complex than a petri dish in a controlled environment for sure. Still, this study combined with others on tea and COVID-19 along with tea and other illnesses have me thinking there is something to this idea.
Other Tea and COVID-19 Studies
Before the Japan study, in July 2020 the National Institute of Health released info on studies that focused on 2 tea polyphenols: EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) derived from green tea and theaflavins from black tea. In short, they found both to be worth studying more as they are bioactive with the ability to support physical health in multiple ways . Here is an excerpt :
“Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is one of the most abundant polyphenolic catechin found in Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze (tea plant), especially in green tea. EGCG has been tested for its antiviral activity against several viruses and found to be a potential treatment option over synthetic chemical drugs. It is recognized as a multi-functional bioactive molecule exhibiting antitumorigenic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidative, and antiproliferative properties in addition to its antiviral effects (Chacko et al., 2010). Theaflavins (TFs) are another class of polyphenols found in abundance in black tea. The TF derivatives found majorly in black tea are theaflavin (TF1), theaflavin-3-gallate (TF2A), theaflavin-3′-gallate (TF2B), and theaflavin-3,3′-digallate (TF3). All these TFs are being researched for their bioactive properties and are known for their broad-spectrum biological properties, like anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anti-bacterial properties. Since EGCG and TFs are of natural sources and consumed regularly by a majority of the population, investigating the anti-viral properties of these polyphenols against COVID-19 could be an advancement in finding a treatment to this latest pandemic.”
EGCG would not appear to be effective taken orally though:
“However, EGCG is unstable and when consumed orally has low bioavailability. It tends to get oxidized quite easily before it reaches the target. Hence, many studies have suggested structural derivatives of EGCG to enhance its bioavailability.”
Tea Fights the Common Cold and the Flu
In previous studies tea catechins have been found effective against other viruses including influenza and the common cold. They showed antiviral capability and immune support. References to studies done since the 90s indicate that drinking green tea with consistency reduces the chance of flu.
I think tea just feels good too, and feeling good has also been linked to higher immunity.
Does the addition of milk affect the benefits of these powerful tea compounds? I found this scientific review from 2015 that covered various studies on the effect of milk (even non-dairy) on the beneficial properties of tea. The studies referenced resulted in wide ranging results thought to be caused by variables like type of tea, brewing method, type of milk and ratio of tea to milk. Even though some studies indicated a positive effect, overall the review stated that milk in tea was more likely to have a masking or negative effect.
This article from Food Chemistry details that though regular sweeteners like sugar had a negative effect on antioxidants in tea, stevia did not. I am not ready to give up my raw honey in my morning tea, but I am happy to have my tea au naturel during the day. How about you?
Whether it’s the taste of your tea, the ritual of it, or the relationships forged over it I hope it brings you joy. We need every ounce of that to come out on the other side of this viral war intact.
Here are some more sources if you want to dig deeper:
"Green Tea" - Mount Sinai
"Research Suggests Black Tea Inhibits COVID-19"
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