I was unaware of the fading of traditional tea drinking culture in Japan. Apparently it is mainly the older generations that drink traditional tea with younger ones going for sweet RTD beverages. You can read more about this interesting challenge to the Japanese tea trade here: http://www.tching.com/2018/02/japanese-tea-farm-fighting-japans-biggest-problem-age-part-one/ It is wild to think the 8th largest producer of tea, Japan, is losing their own tea drinkers.
When the CEO of Japanese Green Tea In, Kei Nishida, asked me to try his company’s newest teas I anticipated that the quality would be good as in my past experience. It is the story of how these teas came about that makes them doubly interesting. The Arahataen Tea Farm is where the tea for Japanese Green Tea In is grown. This tea farm partnered with a local High School for a year teaching tea farming, production and business. Another goal of the partnership was to discover a new way to engage young people and get them interested in drinking tea. Nice! Like businesses listening to their customers this company decided to court a new customer base by actually working with some of their demographic to create a tea product targeted to their preferences.
By defining commonalities among drinks popular with the teen crowd prototypes were created then tested among all the High Schools in the region. Sweet and sour were the most popular tastes across the popular drinks analyzed. There was also a desire for something easy to make that didn’t require a tea pot as most of the students did not have one at home.
The result was a powdered green tea mix including light amounts of natural sugar and locally sourced lemon that can be made equally easily with hot or cold water. A second blend was made using mikan, which is called the Japanese tangerine, instead of lemon. Even though lesser quality tea is often used in powdered versions the decision was made to use high quality tea for these creations. The tea in question is grown using what is called the Chagasuba method. This method of tea growing uses sugar cane and other beneficial natural elements to cover the roots adding nutrients to the soil, preserving moisture and warmth. This results in a natural sweetness to the tea itself aside from the sugar added to these blends.
I sat down with a fellow tea lover, Elexis, to taste these creations and this what we experienced:
Green Tea with Mikan
I used the suggested 2 tsp. of powder to 7 oz. hot water
SCENT – Super fragrant, fruity nose, almost flowery; Scent of the green tea is mild but still present; Initial thought on the fruit was citrus but hard to get specific on likely because neither of us had ever had this particular type of orange
TASTE – Unlike any green tea I’ve ever had; A surprisingly mild, friendly, high end taste with a gentle balanced sweetness. The tea taste is there but it’s like it is holding hands with the mikan and allowing the fruit to step forward. The mildness of the sweetness was a pleasant surprise. To many western palates it may not be sweet enough which is easily remedied by adding a sweetener of choice, but it is cool that it doesn’t start off mega-sweet so the drinker has that choice. The mikan orange reminded me of San Pellegrino’s Aranciata Rossa made with Italian oranges and blood oranges.
I was advised by Kei that when the tea is made with hot water some prefer using 1.5 tsp. per 7 oz. water instead of the 2 tsp. I used the 2 tsp. and I and my friend Elexis (who kept saying “I really like this!”) both thought it was great that way.
Green Tea with Lemon
SCENT – Clearly lemon; Less fragrant than the Mikan, but inviting; Sharp, fresh real lemon scent (not at all like strong lemon scented cleaners or anything like that, more like the explosion of scent from peeling a lemon by hand releasing the real lemon oil)
TASTE – Mild though the pleasing bitter bite of the lemon is present; I would consider using the 1.5 tsp. per 7 oz. water as opposed to 2 tsp. in hot water version more because of flavor profile than sweetness level. The lemon tastes stronger than the tea to us here. Still it is a mildly sweet, instant gratification option for green tea goodness on the go.
Ingredients: Lemon (or mikan), green tea, Sugar, Dextrin and Sucralose
According to Kei sugar is less than 5% of the entire tea
You can find these teas here:
Thanks to Kei at Japanese Green Tea In for providing the tea for this adventure
This is not a sponsored post
When you think of something called the FitExpo it may bring to mind testosterone and steroids, men made of muscle and women kickboxing their way to their best butt ever. Yes, there were best arm competitions, workout classes and the Marines were there with their chin-up challenge but there were many people there who were just starting their fitness exploration and even families just looking for healthier options. This was most apparent in the food and beverage section.
This was my first time at the FitExpo LA and I had a feeling I would encounter tea somewhere in the sea of booths, and sea of people. Someone likened it to a night at a club just set in a convention center. They were accurate. It was like moving through a crowded amusement park, just with the majority of people having almost double the shoulder width of the average person. I even ran into an awesome wrestler I’ve seen live at Lucha Underground, Brian Cage! (yes, I am a proud wrestling fan) His catch phrase is “he’s not a man, he’s a machine!” In person I can see why!
Still I found a few companies hawking their tea wares. First up:
The guys working for Honest Tea had great attitudes and seemed to be having a good time sharing tea with the FitExpo’s many, many attendees. They had some of their line of RTD (ready to drink) teas with an iced focus.
Organic Unsweet Peach Ginger Tea
SCENT - peachy nose, fragrant, satisfying scent
TASTE – Ginger mutes the sweetness of the peach, but doesn’t kill it. Slight bitterness but not overpowering. The first time I had it I felt it was more bitter than the second time. It may have been where my palate was at the time, what I had eaten, etc. Tea flavor is light to mid-level – not robust. If you prefer your tea with additional flavors and no sugar this may fit you.
Organic Honey Green
SCENT – faint nose, minute green and honey notes
TASTE – It is said to be ‘a tad sweet’. This may be true in comparison to the American palate, as it is 19g sugar per bottle compared to many RTD drinks that have 30-60g per bottle. If you are used to your tea without sweetener this may taste sweeter to you that just a tad. There is sugar in the ingredients as well and that taste is more forward with the honey a ghost in the background. Green tea flavor is very light.
Pomegranate Blue Flavored Herbal Tea
What does blue flavor taste like? I think is referring to the use of organic blueberry juice concentrate, but I thought it sounded funny.
SCENT – Smells like a fruit punch
TASTE- Tastes like a fruit punch. There is no tea here and the ingredients include organic pomegranate and concord grape juice concentrates so that makes sense. It is a satisfying fruity taste with moderate sweetness at 23g per bottle. Sugar is the second ingredient after water so this is not juice, per se. The hibiscus doesn’t add too much bite thankfully. It is essentially adult fruit punch with a bit less sugar.
Aged Earl Grey
SCENT – This RTD smells like tea. The bergamot doesn’t drown the tea itself, but acts like a partner which is great.
TASTE – It is also great that they indicate it is an Assam tea base. The tea taste is milder than the tea scent, which is surprising considering it is an Assam which is known for boldness. The flavors are well blended and it is closer to a home brewed iced tea than most and only has 14g sugar per bottle.
Matcha with Monkfruit
Lakanto is mainly a supplier of monk fruit as a sweetener. They created a Matcha powder you mix with milk of choice that has their monk fruit in it. This is far from a traditional Matcha experience. It is more of a bridge for the sugar-dipped western palate looking for a sugar alternative. The monk fruit is the focus here rather than the tea. Monk fruit is touted as zero glycemic index and zero calorie yet can replace sugar in equal amounts. In their Matcha it has a malty result. The packet I tried indicated it was to be mixed with 8oz. of milk substitute. I used regular milk because right now it is my preference and how I am rolling. I found it to be too sweet for my palate. I prefer the traditional grassy taste of traditional Matcha but the sweetener itself is intriguing. It has a natural taste free of the bitterness of many other sugar substitutes. I would just prefer being able to choose the amount I use so the pre-measured thing isn’t for me. This is in the sweetness level category of a Starbucks drink, but without the calories or sugar spike.
If fitness and healthy living are of interest to you, the FitExpo is still making it’s way through many major cities in the US with Philadelphia, Chicago, San Jose, Anaheim and San Diego still on deck for 2018. Maybe you’ll find some tea gems I missed. Cheers!
This is not a sponsored post
by Cassandra Vincent
I appreciate a high quality single origin tea – the fragrance of a High Mountain Oolong or the depth of a good vintage puerh, but I am all for innovation, play and fun too! Tea is a multi-faceted piece of deliciousness. I would never confine it to only a few methods of experience when it is in the nature of humans to create. Tea is an ingredient too! Like a spice or a beautiful fruit – there are many kinds from many places with many applications. This thought made me wonder if tea was ever a secret ingredient on the Iron Chef. It was! I had to find the episode even just to hear the Chairman say ‘TEA!!” with his customary unique power delivery. It is from Season 11 Episode 4, Forgione vs. Kittichai.
Recently when the weather became blisteringly hot (we’re talking record breaking) I dabbled in some tea ‘trends’ like the tea float. Based on the soda/ice cream float, it is an iced tea with ice cream in it (make variations at will). I used Irish breakfast tea and caramel praline ice cream and it was bliss. I also had what is probably the best milkshake I have yet encountered: Earl Grey ice cream with a bit of Thai iced tea to blend it with. It was sweet, it was creamy, it was cool and it was memorable.
Then I tried the salted cream tea thing. If you are not familiar it is taking an iced tea and placing a salted whipped cream layer atop it. Kind of like the cheese tea idea but to my knowledge this one only uses cream and salt. I decided to try a version at home before plunking down $5-$8 for one at a specialized tea shop. Plus I like experimenting – like a mad scientist of tea or something. If you’d like to try it for yourself at home here is what I did:
1. Make an iced tea of choice – I used an English Breakfast blend. If using bags I suggest 2 bags for a 16 oz. tea. As I like my tea strong I used a tablespoon of a loose broken leaf blend. You can use the quick steeping in a small amount of boiling water version then adding ice/cold water to make 16 oz. or do the cold brew overnight thing – leaving the leaves/bags in the 16 oz. of water in the fridge to steep for 8-12 hours or to taste.
2. Add sweetener of choice – honey, sugar, whatever suits your taste. You can leave the sweetener out if you prefer but then you will be without the salt/sweet mélange that this bevy is aiming for.
3. Make the salted cream - Whip 1/8 to 1/4c. COLD heavy whipping cream with a few pinches of sea salt. I suggest sea salt or a good mineralized salt. Regular table salt is too meh. I used my blender to do this and just kept checking to make sure I didn’t go too far. You are looking for a pudding-like whipped texture not stiff peaks or butter. You can also shake it in a container with a tight fitting lid. The key is for the cream to be very cold or it will not achieve the desired texture.
4. Layer the cream atop the tea and finish – I used a spoon to layer the cream. You can then add a sprinkle of a black or pink salt, sea salt or a spice to the top for extra panache and flavor.
I tried sipping it layered and stirring the cream in. I think I preferred sipping it layered. Using a straw didn’t allow for both flavours to blend unless it was stirred and then it lost something. I have heard it compared to a salted caramel latte when using a black tea, but I did not taste that myself. Maybe with a maltier blend or a flavoured blend. I thought it was more like a tea version of a breve just cold. I think a toasted oolong may be another tea that would be good or even a rooibos that has caramel pieces in it if you’re feeling the herbal vibe. I suggest starting with less cream as I found with too much it was just cloying on the tongue rather than satisfying and creamy. But everyone has their unique taste sweet spot so I say use this as a base and test out what works for you.
To the purists: None of these experiments will stop me doing gongfu style brewing of Formosa Ali Shan and the like in my Yixing teapot. I haven’t been corrupted or anything I just had a different bit of fun. I’ve had nitro tea, put matcha in my smoothie and have plans to try this cheese tea thing I keep hearing about which has made its way Stateside from Asia. Tea is fun and I encourage you to have fun with it too!
by Cassandra Vincent
‘Fast food’ has garnered negative connotation in our society. But not all things that are fast to prepare are inherently bad. I mean how long does it take to wash an apple, and ‘boom’ it’s ready for you to sink your teeth into it. I love juicing but sometimes don’t have time to [or don't want to] wash, peel and cut everything and then clean all 7 parts of the juicer afterwards! I’ve made my own chai too using a variety of spices but sometimes I appreciate a shortcut.
There is a tea house called SaKu Tea that is launching a line of latte powders that use superfoods and some also include tea, Matcha specifically. They reached out to me about their online funding drive and I thought I would give their blends that include tea a try.
Their Maca Cocoa Jade combines the energies of Matcha green tea and maca, a South American root that is used to balance hormones and energize the body among many other positive effects. I used to use maca regularly – it has a decent malty taste but it was far more enjoyable when mixed with the Matcha, cocoa and spices. They suggest adding maple syrup to this blend but I had it both plain and with a raw honey and thought it was tasty both ways. Their other blend incorporating Matcha is Vanilla Maple Jade. The vanilla in this is at a great level – not overpowering or candy-like, but more subtle and acts as a blending element. The maple adds a gentle sweetness and I felt no need to add more sweetener. There are spices and coconut in this blend too but they work with the other flavors to create a good taste collaboration.
They have 2 blends that highlight beetroot and 2 that focus on turmeric. I really liked the Golden Chai – though it did not contain tea it has all the spicy goodness of a classic chai with a heavy dose of turmeric, which I love. I’ve been drinking turmeric milk for years as it is great for so many things including anti-inflammatory properties, easing the body after heavy workouts, good for congestion… The balance of the spices to the turmeric is good with a peppery kick. My understanding is that pepper assists the body in getting the most out of turmeric too.
So if you like the convenience of pre-blended easy to use superfood and tea powders that are low in sugar but tasty you can check out SaKu Tea and their kickstarter here: www.sakutea.com
Cheers to your ongoing exploration of new flavors in tea!
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