Bubble Tea: Where Did it come from?

Every summer I have a tendency to picture myself in various settings. The top choices tend to be in a hammock between two big trees with an enthralling book and a glass of tea so cold there’s condensation on the glass. The second is on the beach, preferably on the deck of a beach house where the sand is waiting just off the front porch.

I don’t think I’m alone in craving the crisp, refreshing taste of my favorite iced tea in the summer. The chink of ice in the glass is hypnotic. The color when sunbeams hit it just right is entrancing. For me, a chilled jasmine has always been perfection itself.

Nowadays, it’s difficult to think of iced tea without including bubble tea. It comes in a wide range of flavors, and colors, variances of sweetness. If you don’t know what a bubble tea is, typically it’s a sweetened and iced tea most popularly served with milk. The bubbles are traditionally tapioca balls (or pearls) but ever since its rapid spread from continent to continent, the ever-popular bursting boba (clear balls filled with flavored syrup) have made an appearance. Not only in our tea but as a topping at frozen yogurt shops as well.

Despite its growing popularity, few people know where it originated. It’s the sort of story where, at its roots, repeats again and again over the years. A story about turmoil, cultural shifts, and a blending of tradition, fashion, and flavors.

'Vintage Style' image of a World War 2 US fighter plane shooting down Japanese torpedeo bomber over Saipan. (Artists Impression)The Chinese Revolution of 1949 was a chaotic time in the world. World War two was more or less over, but these things have a tendency to leave deep aching wounds behind. For China, in particular, much was already underway before the war, and China is where our story begins.

1926: Chinese communists join with the Nationalist army to eradicate warlords throughout the nation.

1927: The Nationalists turned on the Communists.

1931: The ROC ( The Government of the Republic of China) face the triple threat of Japanese invasion, Communist uprising, and warlord insurrections.

And it goes on.

By the time 1945 rolled around the leaders of the Nationalist and Communist parties, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong met for a series of talks on the formation of a post-war government. The result was a huge failure, resulting in all-out civil war by 1946.

How, you may ask, does this relate in any way to bubble tea?

History focuses a lot on names, dates, generals, military movements, and often neglect the everyday person trying to live their lives the best they can amongst the chaos. In times of great chaos, sometimes the best hope for a well-lived life is to leave your homes behind you. This is exactly what happened during the Chinese Civil war. Many civilians immigrated to Thailand, bringing with them their rich love and tradition for tea.

Cultures melded, as they tend to, and the result was an iced tea known as Thai Cha Yen – a combination of Assam or Ceylon with condensed milk and sugar. Often flavors like star anise, orange blossom and tamarind were added.

It wasn’t until 1988 that bubble tea came about quite by accident. Lin Hsiu Hui, a womanbubble tea and aiyu jelly, Taiwanese drink and dessert working at a teahouse, was eating a dessert with tapioca pearls called fen yuan. On a whim, she added the tapioca from her dessert into her tea during a staff meeting. The rest, as is often said, is history.

Bubble tea today comes in a multitude of flavors including Matcha, and an endless variety of toppings including fruit. But did you know not all Bubble teas are made equal? Over the years of its spreading popularity, this sweet treat changed from brewed tea to powders or syrups with added color, flavor, and sugars, taking away much of its nutritious benefits. We at The Green Teahouse, keep to the tradition of using real tea in all our recipes.

As always stay healthy, and drink lots of tea.

~The Tea Barista.

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea

If you were to look, you’d find legends for nearly every variety of tea throughout the east. It’s been steamed and ground into powder, plucked and pan-fried, oxidized and aged deep inside caves. It was a beverage suitable for rulers and only after trade boomed did it start to spread far and wide until we come to where we are today.

Despite this vast history, tea is a relatively new fad this side of the world, and very few people know much about it. Studies are being done to show all the health benefits of green tea, pu-erh, and the like, but these are tidbits of knowledge that have many cultures smiling our way and saying, “we tried to tell you.”

There has been a small setback with this trend and that is, people want tea. You might be thinking, well that’s a good thing, isn’t it? I’d have to agree to an extent, but because the industry focuses so much on the benefits and so little on everything else, what can be an indulgent, potentially life-changing daily ritual, has many people pinching their noses and throwing it back like medicine.

Every type of tea has unique characteristics and qualities. The leaves can be picky, and to get it right there’s a bit of know-how that goes into it. I’m going to cover a few tricks to help make sure you can enjoy a near perfect pot of your favorite tea.

Green and White Tea

Specially selected early in the morning fresh white tea leaves spread curing in bamboo basket tray after harvest.Chinese silver needle white tea of premium quality. Tea orchard in the background.

Green tea tends to be the most notorious for being bad, bitter tea and that’s usually because it can be the most finicky when it comes to brewing it. Green tea can be popularly categorized in two. On the one hand, we have Chinese green tea which is harvested, pan-fried and quickly dried to prevent oxidation. Then, there’s Japanese green tea which is harvested, steamed and quickly dried. Chinese green teas are often a bit sweeter and more fragrant while Japanese green teas tend to be a deeper green color and have a grassy taste.

One of my favorite green teas is our Snow Jasmine. It’s a sweet green tea that’s very fragrant and easy to brew. But the Starfruit green is one of our most popular summer drinks. We blend some tropical fruit in with a delicate Chinese green tea. It makes a refreshing and tantalizing cup.

To make the best cup of green tea, you want to make sure to use hot water that’s at most 170. A good way to tell this without a thermometer is to keep an eye on the bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot. If they’re small and a few are starting to zig-zag to the surface, that’s perfect.

You also want to keep an eye on the time it steeps for. Green tea is great for many infusions, but you only want to steep it for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

White tea, on the other hand, is primarily a Chinese tea. It tends to be sweeter and much more delicate than green tea. That’s because white tea is made from the soft, new buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant – the tea plant. It’s quickly pan fried to prevent oxidation and then dried. Because the leaves are so young it tends to be delicate and boiled water will scorch the dried leaves. For this reason, like green tea, you want to use water at about 170. Unlike green teas, many white teas won’t get overly bitter if left to steep for long periods of time.

One of our most popular white teas is our Pink Cherry Cider. We blend our silver needle with a collection of fruits to make a pot that’s subtly sweet all on its own.

Oolong Tea

oolong green tea in olive bowl

Oolong tea tends to be the most complex flavor wise. It’s designed for multiple infusions, and for having a gradually maturing flavor as the infusions progress, and the leaves fully open. You can use fully-boiled water with this tea and steep it for about three minutes every time. Some have a tendency to get bitter, so keep an eye on it.

My favorite Oolong is our Buddha’s Favor, also known as Ti Kuan Yin. If you want to know the legend behind it, click the link here. But, by far the crowd favorite had been our Blackberry Oolong. We mix premium rolled oolong leaves with dried blackberries, elderberries and more to make a deep red elixir. It’s sweet and tangy and fantastic iced.

Black Tea

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Black teas are typically very strong and dark teas. The leaves have been fully oxidized after harvesting which gives the leaves their dark color and flavor. You can use boiled water but only steep it for two minutes. Some black teas can get very bitter if over infused. Our Keemun is a traditional Chinese black tea. If you want to learn more about it, you can read a little here. It’s a robust black tea with some nutty, chocolate notes and pairs wonderfully with warm milk and honey.

Pu-erh

Black pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea is one I consider to be right up there with herbal teas in terms of how easy it is to brew, especially if you like your tea as strong as I do. This is a fermented tea that actually came about by happy accident.

You can use fully-boiled water. Pu-erh is a dark tea without much of the bitterness and astringency of a black tea. Some can get bitter if left in the water too long, but I find a good quality of pu-erh will often get deeper and darker the longer it steeps. If you want more infusions out of it (and this tea can go for a long time,) then steep it for about four minutes before removing the leaves.

I prefer classic pu-erh blocks myself. I can’t resist the deep woodsy notes and the full mouth flavor. Our Strawberry Slim comes in at a close second. The strawberries give you a slash of summer flavor that’s mellowed out by the lingering effect of pu-erh tea.

Herbal Tea

Cup of herbal tea

Most people think boiled water when it comes to Herbal teas, but did you know some are prone to burning the same way a white tea would? When you have an herbal tea with lots of flowers it’s best to use under boiled water like with white or green tea. The good thing is, it’s difficult to make a bad cup of herbal tea. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the flavor.

A few more tricks for the road

One of the biggest downsides to tea bags and tea balls if the lack of room the leaves have to move around. Tea likes to breathe and it likes movement. You’ll get the best flavor by steeping your tea in a pot where it can move, and to stir the leaves around while it’s steeping.

For Iced tea, the trick is to make a tea concentrate first. You add a heaping tablespoon of leaves to the pot and steep it in about half the amount of water you normally would use before pouring it over a cup full of it. That way, when the ice melts, it’ll dilute the concentrate and give you a fully flavorful cup of refreshing iced tea.

If you have any questions about tea leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer! We sell our teas online too, just click this link here to visit our website and check it out.

~Tea Barista

Amazing Green Tea Benefits

Throughout the years, green tea has been used to relieve headaches, aid in digestion, and boost alertness. Since then, the benefits have become widely known. Where it was once the drink of Emperors and Kings, now you’d be hard-pressed to find a weight loss supplement without some kind of tea extract on the ingredient label.

It’s been well known for a while that green tea has a bounty of antioxidants to help the body fend off free radicals and thus a variety of diseases. The one getting the most attention from health experts and nutrition-conscious folk alike, is a little something called Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG for short.)

One of the more exciting things, and something that may give a little insight into the whole, green tea may help prevent some forms of cancer, is that EGCG specializes in interfering with oxidization. That means it may reduce oxidative damage in cells. In case you didn’t know, cell oxidation is a potential contributor to many illnesses, including some forms of cancer. Some even suggest that this antioxidant may protect newly developed neurons in the brain, enhance memory function.

It’s worth noting that the caffeine in tea is a bit gentler then what you get in coffee. Coffee has a tendency to lift you high and crash you hard. Counter that, the caffeine in tea gives more of an alert feeling that can help in focusing during those arduous finals and deadlines.photo 1

Other studies suggest that green tea may help break down fat into our bloodstream to be better used as energy during workouts. Next time you reach for that pre-workout drink, you might want to consider something a bit more natural. Something that may aid in multiple functions while trimming away all the winter pounds.

The Green Teahouse has a variety of green tea to choose from, including matcha, which is everything that green tea is multiplied. It’s also a great way to get some of that EGCG without drinking the tea since it’s easy to toss into some baked goods and smoothies.

One of our customer favorites is the Matcha smoothie. All you need is one banana, 1/4 a tsp of matcha whisked into 4oz of hot water with desired sweetness and a full cup of ice. (Ideally a 16oz cup.) Throw it all into a blender and flip the switch.

Green tea has come a long way from its birth home in China, and we still have a lot to uncover about this ancient beverage. As always, consult your doctor, eat well, and exercise daily.

Drink Matcha, Stay Healthy

matcha-1 spoon

MATCHA is truly a magical tea. It has numerous health benefits & is considered the healthiest green tea for you. It originates from Japan, and is the entire green tea leaf stone ground into a powder (matcha means powder in Japanese). One cup of MATCHA has 10 times the antioxidants of a regular cup of green tea.

MATCHA is a great alternative to coffee. It doesn’t increase blood pressure. And it also gives you long lasting energy without the caffeine crash & jitters like coffee. It contains an amino acid (L-theanine) that improves cognitive function, increases alertness, and promotes relaxation…also known as zenergy. Studies have shown MATCHA can offer many health benefits, read below to learn more!

15 REASONS TO DRINK MATCHA

  1. Boosts Metabolism
  2. Strengthens Immune System
  3. Antioxidant Rich
  4. Increases Endurance
  5. Promotes Healthy Skin
  6. Mood Enhancer
  7. Lowers Cholesterol
  8. Detoxifies
  9. Helps Prevent Cancer & Shrink Tumor Growth
  10. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
  11. Rich in Vitamin A, C, Iron, Potassium & Calcium
  12. Anti-Inflammatory
  13. Relieves Stress
  14. Burns Fat
  15. Improves Memory

 

Matcha Isn’t Just for Drinking!

Because MATCHA is a fine powder, you can cook with it too! Try some of our delicious recipes:

Matcha for The Mind!

 

matcha-1 spoon

  The start of a new school year can be hectic, overwhelming & exhausting to say the least! Summer is winding down, which means it’s time to re-focus and adapt to a new busy schedule.

Abandon your worries & let MATCHA help you through this stressful time!

*Did you know Matcha means powder tea in Japanese? It’s the entire green tea leaf ground into a fine powder!

WHY MATCHA WILL BECOME YOUR FAVORITE FALL DRINK:

  • Enhances Memory & Concentration – Matcha is high in L-theanine (an antioxidant rich amino acid), that increases the production of dopamine & serotonin. Both help improve your mood, enhance memory, & increase your ability to concentrate.
  • Calming Effects – L-theanine is a natural stress-relieving amino acid. It helps promote relaxation and increase overall calmness.

Start the new school year off right with MATCHA!

Visit The Green Teahouse online or in Blue Back Square to purchase MATCHA.

Choose from the following:

Organic Grade A Matcha

Blueberry Matcha

Raspberry Matcha

Matcha Peach Oolong

Matcha Genmaicha

Matcha Jade Green

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Visit The Green Teahouse in West Hartford to try Matcha!