Green Tea, the Eighth Wonder of the World


by Jeff Mares, Co-Owner of Infinitea Tea House

White tea, red tea, green tea, black tea, hot tea, cold tea, herbals, tisanes, blooming, bricked, flowering, spiced, Ceylon, Assam, Lapsang Souchong … There are a lot of teas out there! What does it all mean? And what are their benefits?

Let’s start with the basics: “Tea” in the traditional sense, comes from only one family of plant – Camellia sinensis. In the US, we use “tea” to describe any infusion of leaf, flower or fruit steeped in hot water. To the rest of the world this is a generalization, and the word “tea” describes only our good friend, Camellia sinensis.

Once the leaf is plucked, it can then become many different things. Primarily, we sort into different levels of oxidation (a fancy word for wilting): White & Green tea (0% Oxidation) to Oolong tea (20-70% Oxidation) to Black and Pu-Erh tea (100% Oxidation).

The Origins of Tea
As a beverage, tea is believed to be roughly 5,000 years old. The origins of the tea tree are rooted in China and India, but the origins of the beverage vary greatly. According to a common and widely accepted legend, tea was said to have been discovered by China’s mythical second emperor, Shen-Nung in 2737 BCE. One day while walking through his garden, a dead leaf from a wild tea plant fell into his cup of boiled water, turning it a brownish color. The emperor drank the tea and found he enjoyed the taste and tea was born.

Luck or Fate:  The story goes that the first brewed tea occurred in 2737 BC when when Camellia sinensis leaves blew into a pot of boiling water. The accidental teameister who boiled that water, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, concluded the new brew gave “vigor of body, contentment of mind, and determination of purpose.”

The World of Green Tea
In the world of tea, there are two major kinds of green tea, Japanese and Chinese. In Japan, tea is steamed (yes, just like in a steam bath) when it comes into the tea factory. There, it is lightly rolled and then fired. This gives the resulting beverage a rich green color and delicate flavor. In China, the majority of green tea is pan roasted instead of steamed. For this reason, Chinese green teas are less green, both in leaf color and in the cup, than their Japanese counterparts.

In my experience, green tea is the most misunderstood tea by the American audience. At our store, we often are told by patrons that green tea is the bitter/grassy tasting tea that their grandmas give them when they are sick. A few green teas are grassy (such as our Japan Sencha), but none of them, prepared correctly, are bitter.The common bitter taste associated with Green Tea comes from the naturally high level of tannins in Camellia sinensis. Tannins are a bitter and astringent plant polyphenol that causes that dry puckering of the mouth. Tannins in green tea are released only at very high temperatures (as water approaches boiling at sea level) or under long conditions of steeping (generally more than five minutes). For best results, use water that is about thirty degrees less than boiling and steep from one to five minutes.

Green Tea Apple Spice Infusion

Try this infusion to take the chill our of your day or serve it over ice when its warm. Either way it tastes great and is great for you!
Prep: 5 minutes Total: 20 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, seeded and coarsely chopped, plus slices for serving
  • 4 strips orange zest, from 1/2 an orange
  • 1/3 cup loose green tea

Combine water, honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, apple, and orange zest in medium pot; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep 15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve over the green tea leaves, pressing all the juices from the apple. Let steep for 1 minute. Strain out the tea, reheat if necessary, and serve.

What Makes Green Tea So Special? The secret of green tea lies in the fact that it is rich in polyphenols and anti-oxidants, particularly EGCG. EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant. Besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. EGCG has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. Green tea can even help prevent tooth decay! Just as its bacteria-destroying abilities can help prevent food poisoning, it can also kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque. Also, because green teas are oxidized less than black or oolong teas, they contain less caffeine. An average green tea contains roughly 25% that of coffee. Links are also being made between the effects of drinking green tea and the “French Paradox.” For years, researchers were puzzled by the fact that, despite consuming a diet rich in fat, the French have a lower incidence of heart disease than Americans. The answer was found to lie in red wine, which contains resveratrol, a polyphenol that limits the negative effects of smoking and a fatty diet. In a 1997 study, researchers from the University of Kansas determined that EGCG is twice as powerful as resveratrol, which may explain why the rate of heart disease among Japanese men is quite low, even though approximately seventy-five percent of them are smokers.

Questions: email us at info@infiniteateahouse.com, or stop in to our store at 112 East Grand Avenue in Downtown Eau Claire near Wells Fargo.

Natural Egg Dyeing

Red cabbage, onion skins, and coffee can be used to transform plain white eggs into colorful Easter gems. Kids can color experiment using hard-boiled eggs and bowls of cold dyes. You may get surprising results, but that’s part of the fun!

Tools and Materials
Natural dyeing agents (red cabbage, turmeric, onion skins, beets, and coffee)

  • 3-quart pot (or larger)
  • White vinegar
  • Strainer
  • Small bowls
  • Eggs
  • Large metal spoon
  • Paper towels
  • Drying rack

Dye Recipes
Select a dyeing agent, and place it in the pot using the amount listed below. Add 1 quart water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar to pot; if more water is necessary to cover ingredients, proportionally increase the amount of vinegar. Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Allow the ingredients to simmer for 30 minutes. Strain dye into a bowl.

  • Red-cabbage dye: 4 cups chopped cabbage
  • Turmeric dye: 3 tablespoons turmeric
  • Onion-skin dye: 4 cups onion skins (skins of about 12 onions)
  • Beet dye: 4 cups chopped beets
  • Coffee dye: 1 quart strong black coffee (instead of water)

Cold-Dipping Method
With this method, the eggs and the ingredients for the dye are boiled separately. Using a metal spoon, lower cooled hard-boiled eggs into a bowl of cooled dye, and let them soak for as little as 5 seconds or as long as overnight, depending on the depth of color you desire. Remove eggs with spoon, pat dry with paper towels, and let dry on a wire rack. The cold-dipping method produces subtle, translucent shades, but can result in uneven coloring unless the eggs are rotated vigilantly while in the dye. For hollow eggs that will last indefinitely, cold-dip raw eggs, then blow them out after they are dyed.

Boiled Method
This method involves boiling the eggs with the dye; the heat allows the dye to saturate the shells, resulting in intense, more uniform color. Set raw eggs in a pot of strained dye; bring to a boil for the amount of time specified in our color glossary. Remove and dry eggs as with the cold-dipping method.

(Information adapted from www.marthastewart.com)

COLOR GLOSSARY

  • Deep Gold: Boil eggs in turmeric solution, 30 minutes.
  • Sienna: Boil eggs in onion-skin solution, 30 minutes.
  • Dark, Rich Brown: Boil eggs in black coffee, 30 minutes.
  • Pale Yellow: Soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes.
  • Orange: Soak eggs in room-temperature onion-skin solution, 30 minutes.
  • Light Brown: Soak eggs in room-temperature black coffee, 30 minutes.
  • Light Pink: Soak eggs in room-temperature beet solution, 30 minutes.
  • Light Blue: Soak eggs in room-temperature cabbage solution, 30 minutes.
  • Royal Blue: Soak eggs in room-temperature cabbage solution overnight.
  • Lavender: Soak eggs in room-temperature beet solution, 30 minutes. Follow with room-temperature cabbage solution, 30 seconds.
  • Chartreuse: Soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes. Follow with room-temperature cabbage solution, 5 seconds.
  • Salmon: Soak eggs in room-temperature turmeric solution, 30 minutes. Follow with room-temperature onion-skin solution, 30 minutes.

The Awesomeness of Chia Seeds: Energize Now!!


by Heather Rothbauer-Wanish

In today’s fast-paced society, everyone is looking for ways to maintain health, elevate immune systems and boost their energy levels. Similarly, people typically want something that is easy to do, fits well with their lifestyle and is fairly simple to accomplish. With recent publicity toward natural health methods and organic foods, more and more people are enjoying the benefits of eating chia seeds.

Although many people may have first heard of chia seeds through the novelty item, Chia Pets, these seeds have actually been in use as a dietary supplement as far back as the ancient Aztecs. For many years, this tiny little seed was used as a main food source by Indians of the southwestern United States and Mexico. Throughout history, it has been said that the Aztecs ate as little as a teaspoon of chia seeds when going on forced marches and conquests.

One of the benefits of the chia seed is its ability to slow the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. This makes it easier for chia seeds to create more endurance for people. Prolonging the conversion into sugar gives people additional energy and stabilizes metabolic changes. This can be especially important for those suffering from diabetes.

Another positive and useful aspect of the chia seed is its hydrophilic properties. Because the seeds themselves have the ability to absorb more than 12 times its weight in water, the water offers the ability to keep hydrated for longer periods of time. The fluids and electrolytes that are maintained are able to offer a better environment for all of the body’s cells. Eating chia seeds allows people to maintain a healthier balance of electrolytes.

Local business owner, Kathy Steinke, also believes in the health effects of chia seeds. In fact, you can purchase these potent seeds at her business, Seattle Pride Coffee House, located inside Gold’s Gym. Kathy and her husband, Dennis, sell the seeds as part of their business and believe in the positive effects of this food.

For those that watch daytime television and especially talk shows, Dr. Mehmet Oz has become a well-known doctor. For over five seasons, he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and now has his own talk show, “The Dr. Oz Show.” Dr. Oz is currently Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University. In addition to appearing on talk shows, he is a well-known cardiac surgeon and performs many procedures each year. Dr. Oz has proclaimed his support of the chia seeds for some time. “The truth is, chia seeds are actually good for you—we’re talking really good for you! In fact, they just may be one of the healthiest things around,” Dr. Oz said.

A quick search on the Dr. Oz website shows his many comments and answers regarding the chia seed. “Chia—a harvested, unprocessed, nutty-tasting, nutrient-dense whole grain with omega-3 fatty acids—has more antioxidant activity of any whole food, outdistancing even fresh blueberries,” Dr. Oz commented through his website. The chia seeds can also decrease inflammation because of the omega-3 fatty acids.

Here are some other reasons to consider adding chia seeds to your diet:

  • More omega-3 than Atlantic salmon
  • More fiber than bran flakes
  • More protein, fiber and calcium than flax seed
  • More antioxidants than fresh blueberries
  • More calcium than 2% milk
  • Overall, the major benefits of chia seeds are as follows:
  • Chia seeds are nutritious: they are loaded with omega-3, antioxidants, calcium, protein, fiber and other vitamins and minerals
  • Chia seeds are energizing: they provide hydration for athletes, added stamina, and endurance
  • Chia seeds reduce food cravings: helps release unrefined carbohydrate energy slowly into the bloodstream
  • Chia seeds are easily digestible: Chia seeds do not need to be ground up prior to ingesting
  • Chia seeds can help reduce your blood pressure
  • Chia seeds and omega-3: the seeds are the richest plant source of omega-3
  • Chia seeds and diabetes: studies indicate that the seeds help control blood sugar
  • Chia seeds vs. flax seeds: Chia seeds are easier to ingest than flax seeds and do not need to be ground up

Overall, if individuals are looking to maintain or increase their health levels, investigating the Chia seeds may be an option for them.