Genome in Tea Responsible For Tea Taste

A recent article published on cell.com reveals that a certain genome in tea is responsible for its taste and health benefits.

The scientists present a genome sequence for cultivated tea plants. This sequence provides a foundation for uncovering the genetic basis of important traits that affect the appearance, medicinal value, nutritional properties and taste of tea.

The article itself is written in highly scientific language, but here it is:

http://www.cell.com/molecular-plant/pdf/S1674-2052(17)30103-X.pdf

On 5th of June, India also announced it’s own genome mapping project. The project is not supposed to copy the Chinese study. The study aims to develop a climate smart plantation that is more resistant to extreme weather, which has become a bigger business risk in the past few years.

Tea During The Tang Dynasty

In the early days, tea used to be consumed as a medicinal beverage. Tribes in the North Western regions of China boiled the tea until all the all flavour and nutritions were extracted. The resulting tea was bitter, and definitely not for pleasure. Instead, tea was seen as a practical drink that prevents one from different ailments and keeps one warm.

But tea became more than just that during the Tang Dynasty. Cultivation, production and trade flourished. As a result, tea-drinking surged in popularity. You couldn’t go anywhere in the capital of Chang’an without seeing tea: at the imperial court, in the monasteries, on the street… Everyone drinks tea: monks, poets and even the common people.

Why Tea Became Popular During The Tang?

There are several factors that allowed tea to go mass market. First of all the Tang dynasty was a relatively peaceful period. Emperors such as Taizong and Gaozong not only practiced the ‘Art of War’ but had plenty of time to practice the ‘Art of Tea’.

But it wasn’t only the emperors who loved tea. With the backing of the Monks and famous poets such as Lu Yu, it was just a matter of time for common people to start appreciating tea.

Tea and Chan Buddhism (Zen Buddhism)

Chan Buddhism flourished in Tang Dynasty. It requires days of meditation practice. The monks found tea very refreshing and useful. It helped them stay awake and get rid of distracting thoughts. Tea became their favourite drink. Most of the Chan Buddhist temples located in the mountains. These mountains had the right soil and temperature for growing tea. The monks started to grow and produce their own tea. They planted more and more tea trees around temples. They were among the earliest big scale tea growers in China. The monks set the tea-drinking trend. They also discovered new growing and roasting method that improved the taste of tea.

Lu Yu and The Classic of Tea

During the heyday of Tang Dynasty, Lu Yu grew up in a temple with a tea-loving adopter. He learned to cook and wrote the famous book on tea-The Classic of Tea (Cha Jing).

The book showed the whole tea-drinking procedure and methods. It also listed 28 tea utensils and 8 growing regions of tea at its time. It marked the birth of Chinese tea ceremony and set a model for the development of tea culture in later ages. With his contribution, Lu Yu deserved the name “Tea Saint”.

Also read the Full History of Tea in this article: History of Tea in China & How It Spread Across the World.

Tea Trade During The Tang Dynasty

Early in Tang Dynasty, Princess Wencheng got married to Tibetan King Songtsän Gampo and introduced tea to Tibet.

princess wen cheng tibet tang

The Tibetan people had a diet based on meat and dairy, tea was the best drink for the vitamins they lacked. Soon tea was high in demand. But high altitude and tough climate there made it hard for tea to grow. However, there were plenty of good Tibetan horses that inland market needed for the expanding army.

tea horse road map

With the surging tea production and the market for horses, inland tea merchants started to transport tea through some tough routes to Tibet, and exchanged it for Tibetan ponies back. This was called “tea-for-horse” trade, a big part of the Tea Horse Road history.

The Word ‘Tea’ During The Tang

Before Tang tea was called “tu” (荼). It means tea as well as bitter vegetable and one kind of weeds. As tea gained more and more popularity, people found the need to give tea a specific name. They took out one stroke of the character “tu”, and called it “cha”(茶). This character meant “tea” only. Lu Yu used “cha” in his The Classic of Tea (Cha Jing). Famous tea enthusiast and poet Lu Tong also used “cha” in many of his poems. Since then, “cha” was tea, and it lasted until today.

Teaware During Tang Dynasty

Teaware became a big part of tea culture during Tang. The ceramics industry’s rapid development resulting in teaware to become more affordable. Common families were now able to drink tea from ceramic tea cups and store tea in ceramic jars.

At that time, the two most famous styles of teaware were Xing ware from Hebei and Yue ware from Yuezhou. The first, was known for its clean white appearance, while latter was appreciated for its polished jade look.

This Massive Pu Erh Tea Needs a Sawing Machine To Slice

In the past transporting tea from Yunnan to neighbouring regions was a difficult task. Pu erh tea used to be compressed tightly in massive sizes for easy transportation. We discovered this cylinder shaped pu erh during a tea expo, and the merchant was selling them while demonstrating how he gets a slice of it with a sawing machine!

What is Chinese Yellow Rice Wine (Huang Jiu)

Forget beer and wine made from grapes. Bloomberg recently published an article that the growth of the booze market in China is slowing done. The demand for beer is even in decline. However, there’s one bright spot in the industry: traditional Chinese Yellow Rice wine, known in China as ‘Huang Jiu’.

Together with beer and red wine, huang Jiu is considered as 1 of the 3 biggest traditional liquors by the Chinese.

What about White Rice Wine (Bai Jiu)?

The market for white rice wine (Bai Jiu) is still much larger than yellow rice wine. Bai jiu is expensive and popular among Chinese generals and government officials, but China is cracking down on corruption and extravagance since 2014, resulting in lower demand.

Huang jiu on the other hand is seeing a strong growth. Chinese people have enjoyed strong economic growth in the past decade and as a result consuming more imported Western goods. However, many Chinese are also rediscovering their own background and rediscover traditional Chinese food and beverages.

Why Is Yellow Rice Wine Popular?

Different from white rice wine, the yellow cousin contains much less alcohol making it more suitable for a larger crowd. In addition, it’s highly nutritious containing 18 kinds of amino acids. A wine with so much nutritional value is what makes it attract a growing crowd.

How Is Yellow Rice Wine Made?

Yellow rice wine is brewed directly from rice. Sometimes millet or wheat could also be used as an alternative to rice. Unlike white rice wine, it’s not distilled and contains not more than 20% alcohol due to the inhibition of fermentation by ethanol at that concentration.

Yellow wine is pasteurised, aged, and filtered before they are finally bottled and sold. Depending on the variation in production, the final color could range from beige to reddish brown. Yellow wine is mainly classified by production regions, each with their own variation of production methods. See below the list:

  • 山东即墨老酒 – Shāndōng jímò lǎojiǔ
  • 江西吉安固江冬酒 – jiāngxi jí’ān gù jiāng dōng jiǔ
  • 无锡惠泉酒 – wúxī huì quán jiǔ
  • 绍兴状元红 – shàoxīng zhuàngyuán hóng
  • 绍兴女儿红 – shàoxīng nǚ’ér hóng
  • 张家港的沙洲优黄 – zhāngjiāgǎng de shāzhōu yōu huáng
  • 吴江的吴宫老酒 – wújiāng de wú gōng lǎojiǔ
  • 百花漾等桃源黄酒 – bǎihuā yàng děng táoyuán huángjiǔ
  • 上海老酒 – shànghǎi lǎojiǔ
  • 鹤壁豫鹤双黄 – hèbì yù hè shuāng huáng
  • 福建闽安老酒 – fújiàn mǐn ān lǎojiǔ
  • 江西九江封缸酒 – jiāngxi jiǔjiāng fēng gāng jiǔ
  • 江苏白蒲黄酒 – jiāngsū bái pú huángjiǔ
  • 江苏金坛和丹阳的封缸酒 – jiāngsū jīn tán hé dānyáng de fēng gāng jiǔ
  • 河南双黄酒 – hénán shuāng huángjiǔ
  • 广东客家娘酒 – guǎngdōng kèjiā niang jiǔ
  • 张家口北宗黄酒和绍兴加饭酒 – zhāngjiākǒu běi zōng huángjiǔ hé shàoxīng jiā fàn jiǔ
  • 广东珍珠红酒 – guǎngdōng zhēnzhū hóngjiǔ

Besides the region yellow wine is also classified as: dry, half dry, half sweet, sweet.

making yellow rice wine

How is Huang Jiu Consumed?

Huangjiu mainly consumed in Mainland China and Taiwan and consumed in different ways.

Warming Yellow Wine

While drinking yellow wine cold is still the most popular way to go, the traditional way of drinking yellow wine is actually by warming it until a perfect temperature of 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). Drinking the wine warm is considered healthy for the stomach.

The older generations often drink the wine from a bowl instead of a glass or cup.

Enjoying yellow rice wine with food.
Enjoying yellow rice wine with food.

Drinking Yellow Wine Cold

Among younger people in China, Yellow wine is often drank cold. The wine is first refrigerated and then served with ice. Sometimes fresh fruits are added for additional taste.

Yellow Wine Pairing with Food

The Chinese love to pair yellow wine with dishes. Dry wines are paired with vegetables and cold appetizers. Semi-dry types are paired with red meat, crab and other seafood. Half-sweet types are paired with chicken and duck. At last, sweet-types are paired with desserts.

Yellow Wine for Cooking

In some regions Huang Jiu is also used for cooking traditional Chinese dishes. Popular dishes include huang jiu chicken soup and huang jiu steamed crab.

yellow wine jars

Canadian Tea Demand Gets Boost From Millennials

A recent report published by the Tea Association of Canada shows that there’s a brewing demand from millennials in Canada.

Who are they?

The fanatic brewing millennials are mostly based in Ontario and Western Canada. Surprisingly there’s only a slight majority of female tea drinkers (53%), while traditionally tea is more popular among women. What’s also interesting is that 44% of the millennial tea drinkers are parents and are part of a 3-4 person households. This suggest that parents tend to be more health conscious then non-parent millennials.

What Millennials Like

In the past there was still a preference for coffee over tea, but a mayor conclusion of the report is that they like tea and coffee equally. Millennials are curious and like to try new flavours. There’s a trending demand for loose leaf tea and tea infusers to brew them conveniently.

Reasons of Purchase

Tea is associated with many health perks including relaxation, improving sleep, reducing anxiety etc. While there’s a growing interest for artisan tea enjoyed for the flavour and aroma, buying tea for health benefits is still the major reason of purchase.

What Are They Drinking?

2 out of 3 millennials drink at least 1 cup of tea a week. This group accounts for 36% of all Canadian tea drinkers. However, they consume consume fewer cups per week (4.6 versus 6.1). This suggest that even though more millennials drink tea, they drink it less frequently.

Where Do They Buy Tea?

15% of the tea is purchased at specialty stores and this proportion is growing. However, still the majority of the tea is bought through grocery and mass merchandise stores (48%).

One major reason to visit specialty stores is because consumers want to explore new teas. Those millennials have a wide interest in variety, quality and expert advice. They also like the fact that they can sample small quantities and taste teas before buying. The best way to introduce teas to millennials is by introducing unique flavour and blends. It’s interesting to know that the brand of the tea is relatively unimportant when purchasing in specialty stores.