Monday, May 22, 2006

The Tea Council of the USA responds to the FDA Decline of Green Tea Health Claim Petition

You may have read or seen on television that the FDA has recently rejected a petition for a qualified health claim for Green Tea. Unfortunately the media plays this up as if the FDA is saying that green tea does not have any health benefits, when in fact what it means is that the FDA will currently not allow a company to put health claims on a product label.

Please be assured that the body of scientific evidence linking tea consumption to a great many health benefits continues to build. I feel confident and have every reason to believe that in time, as more human clinical studies are conducted, that an official health claim will be granted.

On May 22, 2006 the Tea Council of the USA released this statement in response to the FDA's Decline of Green Tea Cardiovascular Health Claim Petition;

"Recently the FDA denied a health claim for green tea.

Government health claims communicate information about reduction of disease state. Therefore to qualify for such a claim, the research must show disease reduction through epidemiological and clinical studies on the disease state.

While there is a great deal of evidence suggesting that dietary flavonoids, including those found in both green and black tea, contribute to cardiovascular health, what is currently missing from the literature is epidemiological research on green tea consumption in the US population and clinical human studies showing that drinking green tea reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing risk of specific measurable endpoints associated with the disease, such as lowering cholesterol or blood pressure.

We anticipate that the research will evolve to support a health claim in this area in the future, since the anecdotal evidence certainly supports this position. Even thought the FDA has denied this health claim, we have no doubt that drinking tea contributes to overall health on a variety of levels. The research on this subject has been ongoing for decades. But as always, more research needs to be done and is being done now.

In the meantime, people should still feel good about drinking tea because it's an enjoyable beverage and the research to date certainly suggests that it may contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle".

Sorting out fact from fiction when it comes to tea can be very tricky. We welcome any questions you may have regarding tea. We will do our level best to answer your questions as long as we have the answer. If we dont have the answer and cant find acurate information we will say so. Thanks, Beth

Changsha, Hunan Province and Much More Tea

As our trip begins to wind down there is still a lot to see and experience. Today I had the pleasure of traveling to Changsha in Hunan Province to visit with one of the largest Chinese tea exporters in the country, Hunan Tea Company. I have known Linda and Hunan Tea for many years now and I look forward to finally meeting face to face.

Changsha is about an hour and a half from Nanjing by plane so I made the visit short traveling round trip in one, very long, day. If time had been available I would have visited the numerous gardens and factories that are run by this large company but this trip we visited only one medium sized garden and factory located about 2 hours outside of Changsha.

Linda picked me up at the airport and we were off to begin our very busy day at the main office located on one of the oldest streets in this modern city. I had the pleasure of meeting many Managers and staff at this large company including Mr. Zhou, General Manager who I chatted with briefly. My hosts for the day were Ms. Linda Wang, Mr. Wu and Mr. Xie who I sat with for a short presentation on the scope of the company which I found fascinating. This was my first look into a larger organization that recently became a public owned company converting from state ownership 2 years ago. This group was dramatically different then any other I had met with so I was eager to see more.

We set off to visit a couple of the companies tea shops, which total 50 throughout China. I was introduced to the rare, exquisite yellow tea named Junshan, pronounced June Shan, which to date has been sold only within the Chinese domestic market. This rare yellow tea is exclusively grown and processed in Junshan. The elegant needles are as intriguing to watch as the soup is to drink. As the tea brews the perfectly sized needles stand at attention as they float at the top eventually sinking beautifully to the bottom. Really quite a show.

It was time for lunch and we enjoyed the traditional Hunan lunch invitation of sounding the drums. We filled up rather quickly due to our short schedule with unique and spicy regional dishes. Then it was off to the garden and factory and the senic ride getting there.

Once we arrived we had a short stroll through the gardens and then on to the factory. The factory grounds were impeccably manicured with a lovely statue of Lu Yu in the center courtyard. Pictures were not allowed in the factory and our tour was rather short. We got back on the road to take care of the real business at hand cupping the enormous variety of teas!

I spent several hours cupping, cataloging and selecting teas. I sampled a couple of teas that were new to me, which is why sampling is always the highlight of my day. Including the Junshan a couple of these teas may be available for the first time in the United States, in limited quantities, when we publish our new tea menu.

Once I finished it was time to have a quick dinner and back to the Changsha airport for the trip back to Nanjing. I arrived back to the hotel in Nanjing sometime after midnight exhausted from the day but elated that I was able to make the journey, no matter how short, to experience Hunan and the many teas it has to offer. Tomorrow we are on the road again to Changzhou an unexpected stop on our tour of China and Yixing and a new adventure I am sure!

Until next time, Beth

Sampling Teas all Afternoon.

Visiting the Tea Farm and Factory.

A Ceremonial Invitation to Lunch.

Exploring a Temple in the Old City Area.

Enjoying the Beauty of this Rare Yellow Tea.

Hunan Tea Company is housed on the oldest street in Changsha.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Up Early to See the Qixia Temple and Lu Yu Teahouse

Up early and on our way to the Qixia Shan, the sacred Buddhist Mountain,the Qixia Si Temple and the Thousand Buddha Cliffs. About 9 miles northeast of Nanjing is one of the largest Buddhist seminaries in China, home to 200 Buddhist monks. As one of China's first monasteries, the Chinese Buddhist Association holds its collection of 7200 volumes of scripture in the temple's library.

The 1500 year old temple is surrounded by a dense blanket of maple trees and springs that trickle down the slopes. The name Qixia Si literally translates as "the temple where the dawn perches".

As you walk onto the grounds you are met by semicircular pond and a large statue of Kuan Yin the symbol of fertility and compassion. Beyond the pond lies two towers, the gong tower and the drum tower, both still in operation. Just past the towers is the main temple where prayers are offered daily by visitors and monks alike.

Behind the temple is the 1000 Buddha Cliffs were 700 carvings of the Buddha are tucked into niches of the mountain side. The first carvings date back to the Qi Dynasty while most were done during the Song and Tang Dynasties. Many of the carvings were defaced during the Taiping Rebellion and the Cultural Revolution but this very special place is still beautiful and very spiritual.

Along the path up the mountain I was completely taken by surprise to find a sign with Lu Yu Teahouse this way, or at least that was the English equivalent. So off we went to find the teahouse. Once there the doors were locked and it looked deserted. Eventually we found someone to let us in, a man who was living there to care for the property, and I got a picture with a statue of the founder of tea.

The temple was a wonderful place to visit but finding the Lu Yu Teahouse, even if not in operation, was the highlight of the day for me! Until next time, Beth

The Gateway to the Temple

Lilian and Amy Our Delightful Guides

Rounding the First Corner We Came Upon this Wonderful Statue of Kuan Yin Set in the Lake

Amy at the Stone Sign Meaning Rainbow Reflection

The Beauty of the Architecture and Grounds is Amazing

One of Many Ornate Statues in the Numerous Structures on the Grounds

Approaching the Main Temple to Pray

Lighting Incense in Preparation to Pray

Octagon Stone Pagoda with Carvings of Buddha's Life

Standing at the 1000 Buddha's Cliff

Buddha Cliffs

On Our Journey Up the Mountain We Discovered the Lu Yu Teahouse

Amy & I Trying to Get In


Lu Yu the Founder of Tea

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Nanjing China and More Tea

Let me point out that the blog is out of order. The download times can be long and as much as I enjoy sharing my trip and the wonderful world of Chinese teas it is sometimes difficult to sit and blog vs being out to see new sights!

Barb and I eventually met up in Nanjing late Friday evening. Her day had been much more stressful than mine so we decided to grab a bite to eat, chat and get to sleep in preparation for Saturday. One of the things that both of us really wanted to do is find a bookstore that stocked Chinese books in English so off we went to the Foreign Languages Bookstore. We ended up in the wrong store with limited titles in English and not what I was looking for. However while strolling around the store a young lady, Lilian, approached Barb and was excited to practice her English, like so many students we have met. Long story short she will accompany us tomorrow to the temple and get plenty of practice.

Eventually we arrived to the Foreign Language bookstore and much more of what I was looking for. So many interesting books how will we get them all home? Our luggage has already well exceeded the weight limits for flying! I picked up a couple of interesting books on tea written by Chinese Authors/Experts and have the young man in the store searching for another that was written as a follow up to the well known "Tea Classic". We spent a good part of the day wandering around the store reading.

We left and headed to an area called "1921" a young, hip hang out for students. Nanjing is not just beautiful but also heavily populated with young people and has a high energy that you can feel as you walk around. We stopped in for tea at the "Tea Station" and enjoyed a green oolong and a delicious dinner. I have to tell you ordering in a restaurant can be amusing if no one speaks English and you speak no Chinese. You can never be sure what you are going to get! Everywhere we go people notice us and this was no exception we met a group of young men who seemed really nice and cooperated, actually posed when I wanted to take their picture!

We strolled the city back to the hotel and called it a day. Tomorrow is the temple which we are really looking forward too, Beth

We Meet People Everywhere We Go

Having Tea in a Chinese Victorian Style Tea House

We Are Ready for Tea

The Beautiful Tree Lined Streets of Nanjing

Which Way Should We Go?
Just Read the Street Sign.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Chinese National Tea Museum Visit in Hangzhou

The Chinese National Tea Museum is situated at the Double Peaks, one of the ten famous sceneries in West Lake, Hangzhou. With Jiqing Mountain to it's north and Wulao Mountain to its south and beautiful gardens throughout this serene setting hosts many important tea competitions, exhibitions and trainings. An important historic facility the museum includes exhibits on topics including;
Tea Culture
Tea Utensils
Tea Varieties and Processing
Tea Water
The winner of numerous prestigious awards the museum does a great job in continuing to educate both foreigners and the Chinese about tea culture throughout the ages. We really enjoyed our visit here.

As you approach the museum from the gardens this lovely statue of Lu Yu, the founder and father of tea, stands to greet guests.

Tea seeds in one of the museums exhibits, they are the size of hazelnuts.

The tea gardens on the grounds of the museum.

The three university students we met at the museum, Catherine, Alice and Wendy.

The scenery around the museum is lovely.

This giant Pu'erh tuo cha hangs on the wall at the landing between the first and second floors of the Museum.

The Museum has an extensive Pu'erh exhibit with tuo cha's, compressed Pu'erh tea, in many shapes and sizes.

Planted just below Lu Yu is an oolong tea plant at the Tea Museum.

Arriving at the National Tea Museum in West Lake Hangzhou.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Tea, Food and Traveling by Train in China

The Chinese people are extremely courteous and once again my trip has been made delightful due to the polite concern of Marco, the young man who ended up my bunk mate on the train. Mr. Fong and Will got on the train with me to be sure that my luggage was attended too and that I was set to travel. We said our heartfelt goodbyes and off I went. While the soft car travel allows for 4 people in a compartment there was only Marco and myself. Marco spoke no English but immediately called a friend of his, Tracy, in Shanghai, to see if I needed help getting off the train with the luggage and to my hotel in Nanjing! We went back and forth on the cell phone talking about what I needed etc. and both of these wonderful young people gave me their phone numbers and said if I needed anything while in China please call them. The people here really know how to make their guests, whether they know them or not, feel right at home and well taken care of.

The train ride was loud but uneventful and arrived on schedule at 5am. Marco indeed help me off the train with my luggage, deposited me in a taxi and got me on my way. I don’t know if he and Tracy will read this blog but if so THANK YOU, you are great representatives of China hospitality. If you are ever in the states please contact me so that I can extend the same to you.

O.K. now that I have been traveling around China for 2 weeks I must say that it is nice that all of the hotels have kettles to heat water for tea and there are no coffee machines, a pleasant change. On the other hand I have been very disappointed in the tea that is made available to brew. All but one hotel has tea bags and one even had Lipton! This is China the tea Mecca of the world what is up with that? Well as usual I am traveling with my own stash, green tea, oolong tea and relaxing blend for the evenings not to mention that you can buy tea everywhere and until I shipped them all back yesterday, I had enough samples to keep me afloat for at least 1 month. I am just surprised that better tea is not made available for hotel guests, especially in the nicer 5 star hotels.

In terms of food we have just had one feast after another! The food is outstanding! I understand why the Chinese people are so trim. We have had vegetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner in unending variety. Each region, as you may well imagine, has different dishes and utilizes their local produce so it's always fresh and delicious. I don’t think we have had one meal without mushrooms, a treat for me, again in an awesome array of varieties.

Eating customs are very different here and take a little getting used to but we seem to have adjusted nicely. My use of chopsticks has gotten much better. As a matter of fact I have only used a fork and knife once since arriving and that is when I made the mistake of ordering from the "Western Menu" in one of the more remote areas. The larger cities have plenty of Western fare but we have chosen to experience the traditional food of the country while here. Although I must say that a dish of ice cream would be fabulous.

I am off to begin exploring Nanjing and can't wait to see what is next. Until next time, Beth

New Beginnings, Fond Endings

As I wrap up my stay in Huangshan, the Green Tea Golden Triangle, I am excited to move to the next stage of my trip in China. I always am looking forward to tasting new teas and food for that matter to experience the many regional differences.

At the same time I feel somewhat sad that we have to leave behind all of the new friends and acquaintances we have met. Will and Mr. Fong, our hosts in this area, have been beyond accommodating seeing to our every need and want. I have never been treated like royalty until now. We have met many political and social leaders in this area, had numerous dinners thrown in our honor and been taken everywhere we thought we might want to go. I must say we have a lot to learn about hospitality in the States!

I took one last trip to the main factory to say goodbye and picked up samples of a new harvest of organic Keemun Hao Ya black tea, yum. I will leave tonight on the train, another new experience, to Nanjing and the next adventure. I look forward to being back in the tea gardens in Hunan later in the week but first a visit to what is called the most beautiful city in China and Purple Mnt. the home of 1000 Buddahs and our outing to Yixing for clay tea pots. I am going to have so much to carry!

See the pictures below for some of our sites in the Tunxi (twin she) area.

Until next time, Beth

Visiting Old Street

Examples of the Huizhou Architecture (pronunciation we joe) are everywhere. Restored house dating back to the Ming era have been converted into shops and restaurants. The quality of the restoration gives visitors a clear picture of a typical Ming - era town.

A billboard advertisement of Mr. Fong's Tea Company.

Saying Goodbye at the Factory

Dinner with Will and his wife on my last night in Tunxi.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Green Tea Processing after Harvest

Getting photographs uploaded to the blog has been a challenge. So here are a variety of photos from different parts of our journey.

Processing Organic Green Tea at Mr. Fong's Tea Factory

Once the fresh tea leaves have been harvested the first step in the processing is halting the oxidation which is done by firing the leaves in this machine.

Fired Green Tea Leaves

Once the leaves are fired they are ready for the roller. This step in the process is done to create the appearence of the leaf style.

The leaves are then dried to remove any moisture.

The dried leaves are then baked to complete what is called the first processing.

These tea leaves, organic Chunmee to be exact, will go to the larger factory at this point to be sorted. Some green teas will go thru a second process, baked agian, but that would depend on the type of tea being processed.
We are getting ready to enjoy the newly processed leaves with our host Mr. Fong. If you served hot tea like this anywhere in the US you would get strang looks, but everywhere we have been this is how our green tea has been served in China.

Until next time, Beth