Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Grand Marnier® What is it? Why is it so good & can I please get a copy of that recipe...?

My love affair with Grand Marnier is totally my mom's fault. As a kid, every Easter I waited for her Grand Marnier Sauce, to pour over the sliced strawberries after dinner. That was my yearly chance to have some Grand Marnier. So good is it, and so simple to make, I just have to share it with all of you so I've included the recipe here for you to make for yourself and decide. I guarantee once you pour this heavenly concoction over any type fruit, your world will be transformed as you know it. Ok, well that may be a bit melodramatic, but you will really enjoy this recipe, I promise. That said, let's explore Grand Marnier.

Curaçao oranges
So what is it?
Grand Marnier is a triple sec liqueur invented in 1880 and still produced by the same family in France, the Marnier-Lapostolles. To define triple sec liqueurs: Triple sec is a liqueur made from the dried peels of Curaçao oranges. The term “triple sec” is used to describe any generic beverage made from Curaçao oranges, and technically, specialty beverages like Cointreau, Curaçao and Grand Marnier.

Without a doubt, the most popular of these is Grand Marnier, created by Louis Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle. Oranges at the time were a rare and exotic fruit, and by blending them with high-quality brandies, Marnier-Lapostolle was able to create an enduring legacy.

Louis-Alexandre Marnier
The History
The Grand Marnier story began in 1827 when Jean-Baptiste Lapostolle founded a distillery in Neauphle-le-Château, France that produced fruit liqueurs. It was in 1876, when his granddaughter married Louis-Alexandre Marnier,  the son of a wine-making family from the Sancerre region that the Marnier Lapostolle family was born. Louis, who had learned the basics of distilling spirits from his father, a wine and spirit merchant, soon took a major role in the distillery.
Chateau de Bourg

After receiving a blended orange cognac from the Cognac region of France, Louis fell in love with the product and decided to produce a similar liqueur of his own. He then moved to the Chateau de Bourg, (below) a 17th century castle in the Cognac region. He used the Citrus Bigaradia oranges from the West Indies and to enhance the aroma, he separated the orange peels and macerated them in neutral alcohol, before subjecting them to a steam distillation process. Grand Marnier still uses the Citrus Bigaradia bitter oranges selected from plantations around tropical regions of the world. The reason for this specific sort is so when the peel is dried, it will still retain a very strong perfume that gives the unique aroma and character to the liqueur.

César Ritz
In 1880, Alexandre's creation, Grand Marnier was introduced in the stylish bottle with the famous red ribbon and seal on the label and just 4 years after the launch, it won the first official prize, the Grand Prix at the international Exposition of Nice. The liqueur was originally named “Curaçao Marnier”, but when Louis had his friend César Ritz (yes, that Ritz) taste his creation, the famed hotelier was so taken with it that he suggested a new name. He is reputed to have said, “Grand Marnier, a grand name for a grand liqueur.

Crêpe Suzette
In the 1900s, the chef, Escoffier, father of modern French cuisine, made the Crêpe Suzette and the Grand Marnier soufflé famous throughout the world. Both desserts were enjoyed by the Prince of Wales, a great fan of the liqueur, and are still considered masterpieces of French cuisine.

In 1927, the Marnier-Lapostelle family released a special cuvée , the Cuvée du Centenair to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the company and its founder Jean-Baptiste Lapostolle in limited quantities. Fifty years later in 1997, Grand Marnier launched the limited edition of 150th anniversary bottle. In 1975 Jacques Marnier-Lapostolle, grandson of Alexandra established a new bottling plant to meet the market demand and today the brand is marketed in over 150 countries. The company boasts that it is the most exported liqueur in France, as well as being France's first exported liqueur as well. It is sold in over 150 countries and used in a wide range of drinks and desserts.

The House of Grand Marnier celebrated the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana on July, 29, 1981, with a special cuvée and a special liqueur was offered as a gift to Queen Elizabeth II in April 2006, on the occasion of her 80th birthday. This unique cuvée, resulting from a blend of very old, rare cognacs and a special twice-distilled orange essence, was presented to Her Royal Highness in a purple bottle, one of her favorite colors.

Grades of Grand Marnier:
The quality of cognac used in Grand Marnier depends on the type of Grand Marnier, and ranges from lower-end cognacs to extremely high-grade 50-year-old cognac.

Cordon Jaune
Cordon Jaune or "Yellow Ribbon" Grand Marnier is scarce in North America. It is only sold in some European countries and at some major international airports. Yellow Label Grand Marnier is generally regarded as being the lowest quality. It is made with neutral grain spirit rather than cognac. It is used for mixed drinks and cooking purposes, such as Crêpes Suzette. It comes from the region of Cognac.

Cordon Rouge
The most common grade of Grand Marnier, and that which most people are acquainted with, is known as Red Label, or Cordon Rouge. Cordon Rouge Grand Marnier is made from cognac, using essentially the same technique as the original Grand Marnier in 1880. Cordon Rouge is often used in cooking, but may also be enjoyed in various mixed drinks or by itself.

Cuvée du Centenair
The next level of Grand Marnier is the Centennial Edition, or Cuvée du Centenaire, which is made using the same technique as the Red Label, but substituting 25-year-old Cognac for the normal Cognac used. Cuvée du Centenaire was first released in limited quantities in 1927 to commemorate the 100th anniversary. It is made with 25-year-old fine cognacs and is consumed neat. It is more expensive, at about $145 USD per bottle.
Cuvée Speciale Cent Cinquantenaire
Grand Marnier 150, technically called Cuvée Speciale Cent Cinquantenaire ("Special Sesquicentennial Edition"), is made with 50-year-old cognacs sealed within hand-finished frosted glass bottles featuring hand-painted Art Nouveau decorations. At approximately $220 USD per bottle, it was previously marketed under the slogan "Hard to find, impossible to pronounce, and prohibitively expensive."

Cuvée Louis-Alexandre Marnier-Lapostoll
Cuvée Louis-Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle is a special selection of cognacs taken from the best known districts (Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois and Bons Bois) and aged at length in oak casks. It is only available in duty-free shops in Canada, Holland and France and liquor stores in Quebec.

Grand Marnier Sauce

5 egg yolks, beaten well
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
1 cup whipping cream (whipped, but not too stiff)

Mix egg yolks and sugar together in a sauce pan. Whip this mixture over low heat until it becomes thick and creamy. Remove the sauce from the heat and pour into a to a large chilled, bowl, (I have a large bowl ready, sitting in ice water) Add the liqueur slowly and blend. Begin folding the whipped cream to the mixture very slowly and gently until it is completely incorporated. Chill well before serving.

Bon Appetit!



Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Truffles; 'Diamonds of the Kitchen.'

Truffles~Talk to any true gourmet or food lover and most will say that truffles are the most glorious thing to come from the ground of planet earth and I would be hard pressed to disagree. Brillat-Savarin referred to them as the 'Diamonds of the Kitchen.' They are the one most decadent of ingredients a chef can use when cooking and per pound, are arguably  one of the most expensive as well. I will openly admit, I am obsessed. I can eat truffle with anything, on anything and in anything. And I mean anything. I have an awesome recipe for Champagne/Truffle Mac 'n' Cheese that I think you will enjoy. It uses White Truffle Oil, but by all means, if you have truffle in the house, shave some on top to make the dish that much more special.

To enjoy the most wonderful aspects of truffles, you must eat fresh, uncooked specimens shortly after they have been harvested. The strength of the truffle flavor decreases rapidly with time, and much of it is lost before some truffles ever reach the market. However lovers of these earthly gems, freshly harvested truffles can be purchased in advance from most gourmet specialty stores and if you are friends with a chef, some will order them for you if you ask nicely. Wholesalers cover them with rice on restaurant serving trays in a refrigerated room as soon as they arrive. The next day they are delivered to the store where your order was placed. When you spend as much money as will be needed for such a culinary indulgence, use care to assure that you get truly fresh truffles.

The term "truffle" as commonly used, refers to members of the genera Tuber and Terfezia. Truffles are hypogeous (underground) versions of mushrooms. They don't form a prominent stem and their spore-bearing surfaces are enclosed. They rely on animals eating them (mycophagy) to distribute their spores, instead of air currents like mushrooms. They resemble small potatoes, and often between the size of a marble and a golf ball. There are hundreds of different kinds of truffles and while none are known to be poisonous, only a few of them are considered to be delicacies by humans. Truffles (and mushrooms) are only the "fruit" of the fungus (like an apple to an apple tree); the main perennial fungal body exists as a web of filamentous hyphae in the soil. All of the truffle fungi form mycorrhizae with the roots of trees, and are essential to the trees' ability to acquire nutrients. The below ground fruiting habit of truffles is thought to be an adaptation to forest fires or dry or frosty periods, in which above ground mushrooms are more vulnerable.There are many other kinds of subterranean fungi, "false truffles," which outwardly resemble the ones we eat, and they are actually far more common than the ones collected for food, with some poisonous as well. Truffles are round, warty, and irregular in shape and vary from the size of a walnut to that of a man's fist. The season for most truffles falls between September and May.

The mention of truffles conjures up images of the expensive French black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) from the Périgord region of southwest France, used in making pâté de foie gras, or the renowned odorous white truffle (Tuber magnatum) of Alba, in the Piedmont district of Italy. Since the times of the Greeks and Romans these fungi have been used in Europe as delicacies, as aphrodisiacs, and as medicines. They are among the most expensive of the world's natural foods, often commanding as much as $1,950 per pound.

The Tuber magnatum truffles sell between $2,200 and $1,000 US per pound. Giancarlo Zigante (pictured above) and his dog Diana found one of the largest truffles in the world near Buje, Croatia. The truffle weighed 1.31 kilograms (2.9 lb) and has entered the Guinness Book of Records.

The record price paid for a single white truffle was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid US $330,000 (£165,000) for a specimen weighing 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lb), discovered by Luciano Savini and his dog Rocco. One of the largest truffles found in decades, it was unearthed near Pisa and sold at an auction held simultaneously in Macau, Hong Kong and Florence.

Truffles have been found in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America, but only three species are commercially important. Truffles are harvested with the aid of female pigs or truffle dogs, which are able to detect the strong smell of mature truffles underneath the surface of the ground. The use of pigs is risky, though, because of their natural tendency to eat any remotely edible thing. For this reason, dogs have been trained to dig into the ground wherever they find these odors, and they willingly exchange their truffle for a piece of bread and a pat on the head. Not a bad trade for the truffle hunter! Some truffle merchants dig for their prizes themselves when they see truffle flies hovering around the base of a tree. Once discovered, truffles can be collected in subsequent years at the same site.

So what does a truffle taste like?
The flavor of the truffle is directly related to its aroma. The chemicals necessary for the odor to develop are created only after the spores are mature enough for release, so they must be collected at the proper time or they will have little taste. This is the only sure indication that the mushrooms are ready to be harvested. This is the very reason why animals have proven to be the best means of assuring that the fungi collected will be flavorful.

Gaining in popularity and comparing favorably with the Italian truffle, the Oregon truffle is harvested in sufficient quantity to support commercial sales. Although the Oregon truffle industry is in its infancy, it commands as much as $150 per pound for its truffles. James Beard claimed that the mature Oregon white truffle could be substituted for European varieties.

Originally found in California, the Oregon truffle grows in association with Douglas fir trees and is a major food source for many small rodents and other mammals. These underground fungi depend on animals to remove them from below the surface of the earth and to disperse the spores that result in the continuation of their species. Here is an example of complex ecology in which the tree, the fungus, and the animal depend on each other.

Cooking with truffles

Truffle oil is a modern culinary ingredient added to foods, which is intended to impart the flavor and aroma of truffles to a dish. Most truffle oils are not, in fact, made from actual truffles, but are instead a synthetic product that combines a thioether, one of numerous organic aromatics odorants found in real truffles, with an olive oil base. A few more expensive oils are alleged to be made from truffles or the by-products of truffle harvesting and production, though the flavor of truffles is difficult to capture in an oil.

Truffle oil, available in all seasons and steady in price, is popular with chefs (and diners) because it is significantly less expensive than actual truffles, while possessing some of the same flavors and aroma. The emergence and growth of truffle oil has led to an increase in the availability of foods claiming to be made with or flavored with truffles, in an era when the price of truffles has pushed them out of reach for most chefs/diners.

When using raw truffle
The fungus is scraped or grated onto food and into sauces and soups just before eating. Truffle slicers have been specially designed for this purpose. Experts recommend that veal, chicken, fish, soufflés, omelets, pasta, and rice can be glorified with thinly sliced truffles. Cream and cheese sauces avidly take up their flavor. Insert thin wedges of truffle under the skin of a chicken and store it overnight in the refrigerator before roasting. A well-known chef prepares a high-quality pâté de foie gras baked with a stainless steel tube running through the center. As soon as the pâté is cooked, he fills the tube with diced uncooked truffles and then removes the tube. Ok, I agree! OMG!

To keep and store truffles
The pungent odor of a truffle will penetrate the shells of eggs and flavor kernels of rice when stored with them in a closed glass jar, placed in a refrigerator. Once the prize truffle has been consumed, the eggs may be enjoyed in an omelet and the rice in pilaf.

Not cleaned to be used immediately:
Gently wash them with water and brush (best if with a vegetable brush, clean toothbrush or nail brush), and lightly pat dry with a paper towel.

Not cleaned, and stored:
Do not wash or brush until the day of use. To delay their ripening wrap in an absorbent paper towel or cloth, and store in the back or vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Change the paper once a day. Alternatively, store in a jar of rice to absorb moisture and keep dry (plus the rice will absorb the truffle aroma and flavor, and will make a great risotto later).

If Cleaned:
Roll separately in an absorbent paper towel, paper bag, or absorbent cloth. Alternatively, store inside a jar or bag of rice. Change the paper towel every day, to absorb any moisture that may cause rot. Store in the back of the refrigerator or the vegetable drawer. Truffles can be frozen for two weeks in a freezer-proof glass jar. Another recommendation is to store them whole in bland oil.

Types of Truffles
Oregon white truffle (Tuber oregonense and T. gibbosum)
Reasonably common in the Pacific Northwest from the west side of the Cascade Mountains to the coast from British Columbia to northern California. Tuber oregonense is generally found from October through February. Its exterior perideum is whitish when young, developing orangish-brown tints as it matures, and finally becoming orangish-brown overall. By February, most of the Tuber oregonense should be pretty mature and the T. gibbosum will just be getting started.

Oregon brown truffle (Leucangium brunneum)
The Oregon brown truffle was discovered by NATS members in the early 1990's. It grows in younger Douglas-fir forests in the Oregon Coast Range and western foothills of the Cascades. It has a reddish-brown exterior and a greyish mottled interior. When mature the odor can be quite garlicky.

Oregon black truffle (Leucangium carthusianum, formerly Picoa carthusiana)
Less common than Oregon white truffles, Oregon blacks are larger (golf-ball to baseball size), and are often much deeper in the soil than Oregon whites (commonly 4-10" deep). They are very dark inside and out, and have a very pungent, earthy odor when ripe. Some equate the aroma to a strange mix of pineapple, port, mushrooms, rich soil, and chocolate. Looking like irregular lumps of coal, with white-veined flesh, the Oregon black truffle has a texture of moist Parmesan and ground almonds.

Italian white (Piedmont) truffle (Tuber magnatum)
Considered by some (mostly the French) to be second best to the French black truffles, its cost can exceed that of the perigord. It is native to the foothills and mountains of northern and central Italy and southern Yugoslavia. They grow in conjuction with oak, hazel, poplar, and beech trees. The flesh is solid, light-coloured, and very brittle; it is not unheard of for a fresh truffle to shatter if dropped on the floor. Large specimens can weigh as much as a pound, but most are the size of large walnuts. The white truffle is slightly more perishable than its darker cousins, and the flavor and aroma diminishes within a week or two after harvest. The white truffle has a distinctive pepper edge and is often eaten raw. The skin is a dirty beige when fresh, turning a darker brown with age.

Burgundy, or Summer truffle (Tuber aestivum, formerly Tuber uncinatum)
Native to France, Italy, and Spain, the summer truffles are usually at their best in July, but can be found from May to October. They have a black exterior and off-white interior, and a relatively light scent. This truffle has been established on plantations in Sweden and New Zealand.

Tuscan truffle (Tuber borchii, formerly Tuber albidum)
Similar to the Italian white truffle in appearance, having a chestnut to muddy tan exterior and a softish interior equally divided between chocolate brown and white. The flavor can be distinctly garlicky.

Pecan (Texas) truffle (Tuber lyonii, formerly Tuber texense)
Pecan truffles (also called Texas truffles) are found from New Mexico to the gulf coast and eastern seaboard to the great lakes and eastern Canada. It is not limited to areas with pecan trees, but was named based on the habitat in which it was discovered.

Chinese truffles (Tuber sinense, Tuber indicum, and Tuber himalayense)
These are three distinct species found in South China, but pickers tend to lump them together as Chinese truffles. This is unfortunate since the flavor and quality vary from one species to another. First marketed in France in 1994, these truffles are now found in American restaurants at fairly reasonable prices, but their flavor and aroma do not come close to that of the French truffles, perhaps for the same reasons as Oregon white truffles (too many immature specimens). T. indicum is recognizable by its brown interior and very fine white veins. T. sinense has a dark brown interior with large ivory veins, and is said to be chewy and oily with a bitter aftertaste.

Desert truffles (Terfezia boudieri, Terfezia pfielii, Terfezia claveryi, and others)
Native to northern Africa and the Middle East, these truffles have been a staple for many nomadic tribes for millenia. Sometimes called the Lightning Truffle, they often fruit shortly after thunderstorms wet the desert.

For many years, it was thought that truffles were simply to grow wild and man would never be able to tame this tuber. So convinced was Brillat-Savarin that he noted, "The most learned men have sought to ascertain the secret, and fancied they discovered the seed. Their promises, however, were vain, and no planting was ever followed by a harvest. This perhaps is all right, for as one of the great values of truffles is their dearness, perhaps they would be less highly esteemed if they were cheaper." Well much the expert that he was, he was also a bit of skeptic, critic and was known for his sarcastic wit. In this case however, he was to be proved wrong.

As early as 1808, there were successful attempts to cultivate truffles, known in French as trufficulture. People had long observed that truffles were growing among the roots of certain trees, and in 1808, Joseph Talon, from Apt (département of Vaucluse) in southern France, had the idea to sow some acorns collected at the foot of oak trees known to host truffles in their root system.

The experiment was successful: years later, truffles were found in the soil around the newly grown oak trees. In 1847, Auguste Rousseau of Carpentras (in Vaucluse) 17 acres of oak trees (again from acorns found on the soil around truffle-producing oak trees), and he subsequently obtained large harvests of truffles. These successful attempts were met with enthusiasm in southern France, which possessed the sweet limestone soils and dry hot weather that truffles need to grow. He received a prize at the 1855 World's Fair in Paris. In the late 19th century, two unrelated epidemics destroyed much of the vineyards and most of the silkworms in southern France, making the fields of mulberry trees useless. Thus, large tracts of land were set free for the cultivation of truffles. Thousands of truffle-producing trees were planted, and production reached peaks of hundreds of tons at the end of the 19th century. In 1890 there were 190,000 acres of truffle-producing trees.

In the 20th century however, with the growing industrialization of France and the subsequent rural exodus, many of these truffle fields (champs truffiers or truffières) returned to wilderness. The First World War also dealt a serious blow to the French countryside, killing 20% or more of the male working force. As a consequence of these events, newly acquired techniques of trufficulture were lost. Also, between the two world wars, the truffle fields planted in the 19th century stopped being productive. (The average life cycle of a truffle-producing tree is 30 years.) Consequently, after 1945 the production of truffles plummeted, and the prices have risen dramatically. In 1900, truffles were used by most people, and on many occasions. Today, they are a rare delicacy reserved for the rich, or used on very special occasions.

In the last 30 years, new attempts for mass production of truffles have been started. Eighty percent of the truffles now produced in France come from specially planted truffle-fields. Nonetheless, production has yet to recover its 1900s peaks. Local farmers are opposed to a return of mass production, which would decrease the price of truffles. It is estimated that the world market could absorb 50 times more truffles than France currently produces. There are now truffle-growing areas in the United States, Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and the UK.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the world of truffles. If you are lover of them, then today you have learned a little more about why. If you have never tried them, my suggestion is; the next time you see them on a menu, or on the shelf at your local gourmet food store, take the plunge and try them. I promise you won't be dissapointed. Hey, have I ever steered you wrong yet? Exactly! Viva la truffle!

Bon Appetit, 



Monday, April 02, 2012

Green Tea: I mean, seriously, is it really better for us? Well...yea, it is...

Green Tea
We have long heard all the accolades of green tea, from it's anti-aging effects to weight loss, to it's proven ability to help prevent cancers. But what do we really know about it and it's origins? Although green tea originates from China, it is associated with many cultures in Asia from Japan to the middle East. It has recently gained widespread popularity in the west now being included in everything, from entrees to ice cream and candy. Many varieties of green tea have been created in countries where it is grown and they can differ substantially due to the variable growing conditions, processing methods and harvesting time. It is said aid to help boost metabolism, to aid weight loss, block allergic response, slow the growth of tumors, protect bones, fight bad breath, improve skin, protect against Parkinson's disease, and even delay the onset of diabetes. But, what's in it that actually makes it good for us?

The secret of green tea was passed to me by a yogi, high on a mountain top, in a ceremony where I endured great pain in order to bring you this information, such is my dedication to you, my reader......ok, ok...I looked it up in a journal and talked to a tea-ologist. You people are just no fun.

Anyway, the secret lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Now say that 5 times fast. I was ugly. EGCG, (much easier to say,) is a powerful anti-oxidant: 1. Besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells,  it:  2. kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter, takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke. 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. Meanwhile, skin preparations containing green tea, from deodorants to creams, are starting to appear on the market.

New evidence is emerging that green tea can even help dieters. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a study at the University of Geneva in Switzerland where men who were given a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those given only caffeine or a placebo. Wow, almost sounds like those snake oil sales pitches from the old west, you know, "You can wash the dog with it AND, it's great in salads." There are a number of varieties of green tea, both Chinese and Japanese and well cover them all, but the first and coolest thing I wanted to share with you is, Flowering or Performance Teas. My personal preference is TeaPosy, but there are many on the market from which to choose.

Flowering teas, also known as blooming teas, performance teas, and display teas, among other names, are hand-sewn individual tea leaves forming a ball, and designed to perform an action when steeped in hot water, usually unfurling into decorative flower-like arrangements. Flowering teas are usually prepared in glass or otherwise transparent cups or mugs so that the performance can be seen. Flowering tea primarily uses green, white and jasmine tea. This video is so cool!

Chinese Green Teas

The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of green tea since ancient times, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression. Today, scientific research in both Asia and the west is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking green tea.

  • Longjing- The most famous of green teas, originates from China, in the region known as Hangzhou, specifically the Zhejiang province, where it is produced mostly by hand and is renown for it's high quality. It is divided into 7 grades : Superior, Special, and the grades 1 down to 5.It's name in Chinese means dragon well. It is pan-fried and has a distinctive flat appearance. Falsification of Longjing is very common, and most of the tea on the market is in fact produced in Sichuan Province and hence not authentic Longjing.
  • Hui Ming-Named after a temple in Zhejiang.
  • Long Ding-A tea from Kaihua County known as Dragon Mountain.
  • Hua Ding-A tea from Tiantai County and named after a peak in the Tiantai mountain range.
  • Qing Ding-A tea from Tian Mu, also known as Green Top.
  • Gunpowder-A popular tea also known as zhuchá. It originated in Zhejiang but is now grown elsewhere in China.

Japanese Green Teas
  • Gyokuro (Jade Dew) -The highest grade Japanese green tea cultivated in special way. Gyokuro's name refers to the pale green color of the infusion. The leaves are grown in the shade before harvest, which alters their flavor. Gyokuro has a high caffeine content , but the significant L-Theanine content of Gyokuro slows down and counteracts the caffeine assimilation, and also the amount ingested is very small.
  • Matcha (rubbed tea)-A fine ground Ten-cha ( has very similar cultivation process as Gyokuro) used primarily in the tea ceremony. Matcha is also a popular flavor of ice cream and other sweets in Japan.
  • Sencha (broiled tea)-The first and second flush of green tea, which is the most common green tea in Japan made from leaves that are exposed directly to sunlight.
  • Genmaicha (Brown-Rice tea)- Bancha (sometimes Sencha) and roasted genmai (brown rice) blend. It is often mixed with small amount of Matcha to make the colour better.
  • Kabusecha (covered tea)- Kabusecha is sencha tea, the leaves of which have grown in the shade prior to harvest, although not for as long as Gyokuro. It has a more delicate flavor than Sencha.
  • Bancha (common tea)-Sencha harvested as a third or fourth flush tea between summer and autumn.
  • Aki-Bancha (autumn Bancha)- is not made from entire leaves, but from the trimmed unnecessary twigs of the tea plant.
  • Houjicha (pan fried tea)- A strong roasted green tea.
  • Kukicha (stalk tea)- A tea made from stalks produced by harvesting one bud and three leaves.
  • Tamaryokucha- A tea that has a tangy, berry-like taste, with a long almondy aftertaste and a deep aroma with tones of citrus, grass, and berries.
Tea's Origins

There is archaeological evidence that suggests that tea has been consumed for almost 5000 years, with China and India being two of the first countries to cultivate it. Green tea has been used as traditional medicine in areas such as India, China, Japan and Thailand.

Legends about the origins of tea have been passed on from generation to generation. One such story, dating back to 2700 BCE, describes how tea leaves, blown by the wind, accidentally fell into a Chinese Herbalist's pot of hot water. The water now tasted of these wild leaves, and the herbalist, Shen Nung, found its soothing taste and fine flavors so irresistible that he instructed all of his people to drink in the wonders of the beverage.

Another story explains how the Indian Monk, Bodhidharma, sailed to China and went into a nine-year meditation. During this "Zen experience," he began to dose off and closed his eyes for a moment. He instantly cut off his eyelids to avoid sleeping, and where they fell to the ground a tea bush sprouted from the earth. The plant found then another home with Buddhists in their meditation, helping them to stay awake and to maintain a high level of alertness and concentration

There are many other stories about the origins of tea and how it found its way into our cup of boiling water. But the wonderful fact is we did not discover tea, "tu", "cha" or "tay", it discovered us through our openness and willingness to take in its beautiful offerings. Whether it was a Buddhist monk, an Emperor or a cultivator of the times, tea was, and still is, used to nurture the body and uplift the soul. The subtle flavors and health benefits of this magnificent plant make it the world's most popular beverage after water.


Green tea brewing time and temperature varies with individual teas. The hottest brewing temperatures are 180°F to 190°F (82°C to 88°C) and the longest steeping times 2 to 3 minutes. The coolest brewing temperatures are 140°F to 150°F (60°C to 66°C) and the shortest steeping times about 30 seconds. In general, lower quality green teas are steeped hotter and longer, while higher quality teas are steeped cooler and shorter. Steeping green tea too hot or too long will result in a bitter, astringent brew. High quality green teas can and usually are steeped multiple times; 2 or 3 steepings is typical.

Generally, 2.25 grams of tea per 6 ounces of water, or about one teaspoon of green tea per cup, should be used. With very high quality teas like gyokuro, more than this amount of leaf is used, and the leaf is steeped multiple times for short durations.

Gaiwan Tea Preparation

Prior to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) tea was usually prepared in and drunk from the same vessel, as described by ninth century tea master Lu Yu in the Cha Ching (Tea Scripture). This special bowl had to be large enough to accommodate the implements and actions of tea brewing, yet small enough to be held comfortably in the hands for drinking. The term for this versatile piece of equipment was simply chawan tea bowl. It was during the Ming dynasty that changes both in tea ritual and in tea itself gave rise to a smaller, yet equally functional vessel called a gaiwan (covered bowl). Technically, because of its small size, usually no more than 4 inches across, the term should be gaibei (covered cup) but since the traditional vessel for tea drinking had always been some form of bowl, “gaiwan” was adopted.

As its name suggests, the significant feature of a gaiwan is its lid, which is not merely a cover, but is designed to fit snuggly inside the lip of the cup. When the form of tea changed from whisked in a bowl to infused (as tea is prepared today), a way was sought to simplify the tea making process. The small porcelain cup used for drinking this type of tea was modified and fitted with a special cover which allowed the leaves to be infused right in the cup and the tea either drunk directly from there or decanted into smaller tasting cups and served to guests. The addition of a third element, the accompanying plate or saucer, completes the set, ingeniously insulating the bottom of the cup so that it may be handled when hot.

1. RINSE- Whatever the type of tea being brewed, the first step is always to rinse cup with hot water. This performs two functions: first, it purifies the cup (both practically and symbolically) by rinsing away any dust or residue and symbolizing that the cup is clean, empty and ready to receive the tea. Secondly, rinsing with hot water warms the cup, which, at room temperature, is quite cold and therefore inappropriate for brewing most fine teas whose temperature must be carefully controlled. The water should be poured from the gaiwan into the serving pitcher and from there into the tasting cups to warm them and then discarded.

2. TEA LEAVES- The tea leaves should be prepared in advance and ready to be placed in the gaiwan as soon as it has been warmed. (A tea caddy or “tea presentation vessel”, as shown, is recommended for this purpose, as is a proper set of tea tools. Approximately one to two teaspoons of leaf is a good quantity to begin with and is easily adjusted to taste after the initial infusion. Keep in mind that due to the many variations of tea processing, some leaves are a lot more compact than others. For instance: you’ll need a lot less Dragon Well or Jasmine Pearls than Silver Needles or Formosa Oolong.

3. AROMA- Before infusion a few drops of water from the kettle should be added to the leaves. This releases the tea’s aroma and should be savored prior to infusion in order to prepare the palate to appreciate the full flavor of the tea and also suggests to the experienced tea maker how to approach the infusion. Alternatively, some people like to cover the leaves with hot water and quickly pour it off. This is known as “flushing” the tea and is recommended particularly for tightly rolled and aged teas, such as oolong and Puerh. As above, the wet leaves’ aroma should be appreciated before brewing.

4. WATER- 99% of tea is water, so it’s important to give some thought to the water you use for brewing. Tap water should be avoided since its chemical treatment imparts undesirable flavors and odors which interfere with the delicate aromatics of tea. Home filters and other water purification systems can minimize and, in some cases, eliminate these problems. The best water for tea brewing is spring water with a natural mineral content that’s neither too hard nor too soft. Since T.D.S. “total dissolved solids”, or mineral content measured in parts per million varies greatly from water to water, you may want to do your own taste-test of waters available in your area to determine which one has the best flavor, body and compatibility with the tea you drink.

Is there anything quite as humble yet so essential as the teapot? One of man-kind's great inventions to be sure. Whether made of clay, metal or glass, be they plain or elaborate in design, traditional or contemporary in style, and from whatever country, they all serve one purpose, to produce a beverage that is comforting, calming, and of course, delicious.There are many different styles to choose from so picking one that fits your taste should be easy. There are many online companies that have teapots and tea sets available, or you can seek out an Asian Specialty store in your area to find whats right for you.

Whatever your preference, open your mind and your body to 'Good Living' and discover the joys and benefits of Green Tea.

Bon Appetit,