What can China teach us about the health benefits of tea?

Green tea contains antioxidants which supports weight loss and promotes health
Health benefits of tea is known for thousands of years in China, let’s learn from it.

Or better said what more do we need to learn about the mystery of tea for our enjoyment as well as for its positive side effects on our health?

Let’s be honest before I travelled to China I did not really think much about tea, being a Central European I have learned that we drink tea when we are sick at the winter time with tons of honey and lemon. There is absolutely nothing spiritual about it.

My travel to China was a great opportunity to learn more about tea directly from its actual birth place. Besides many things the tea was also invented in China sometime B.C. It served as a medicinal drink and was mainly consumed by monks and the emperor at the early days. Even today there is a huge cultural aspect drinking tea in China which is also a way to show appreciation and respect for each other.

Ancient district of Beijing where tradition still lives

But how do you taste tea in China? Not having much of experience and wanting to avoid the typical tourist traps offering tea ceremonies for foreigners, I hit the road to look for the “real thing”. After arriving to Beijing I got myself into the middle of the Hutong district at the east side of the Forbidden City as I heard that this place is the most ancient part of the city and in some of the traditional alleyways the old communities remained intact despite of the best effort of the city for rapid transformation. It is amazing what a different world opens up for you as you enter; tiny little neat streets with small stores and tea places hosted in those typical Hutong style houses some of them dating back to the Yuan Dynasty. Each gate to the grand country yard tells you a genuine story of who lived behind the gate, which social class the family belonged to and some other family characteristics, just like medieval time Facebook.

After I got the right setting it was only a matter of time finding the perfect place. Walking into a little store I asked the shop assistant if we could taste tea. Slightly embarrassed about my little knowledge I let myself guide through the whole assortment. Despite of some language difficulty I have learned a whole lot of what it really means drinking tea in China. We were served organic green, black and oolong tea in a traditional way, everything was prepared on a meticulous order like it would be something more sacred. Teeny tiny cups were filled with this delicious liquid, just enough to savor every bit before a new and fresh portion was served in a perfect temperature and taste combination (that is right Starbucks, smaller is better). For my surprise green tea was not at all bitter but refreshing and extremely smooth and black tea (which I normally dislike) was slightly sweet with an amazing flavour, so this is like drinking a good tea. The time was passing by and we were sipping our tea in a little quiet corner in the big and crazy city of Beijing.

Lessons learned:

  1. Quality of the tea does matter.
  2. Smaller is better, you can easier control the temperature and taste if you use small cups and pitchers to pour water. It should be an enjoyment rather than dipping your tea bag into a half litre mug.
  3. You do not need to soak your tea in the water for 5-10 minutes, for green tea only 3-10 seconds is enough to enjoy the smooth comforting taste of the tea leaves.
  4. Do not use boiling water as it spoils the delicious aroma and turns the tea bitter. Best temperature is between 60 – 80ºC, which is the easiest to achieve by boiling the water and pouring it into a pitcher to sit for about 5 minutes.
  5. You can reuse your tea leaves several times (approximately up to 8 times). Every time you pour water over  the tea, soak them a little longer (approx. 10 more seconds each time).
  6. Tea tasting takes time so lay back, relax and enjoy.

And know about the health benefits:

  1. Green tea being one of the least processed tea is full of antioxidant which promotes lower cholesterol, better mental health and some say also helps in weight loss.
  2. Oolong tea is coming from the same plant than green tea however it is partially fermented. Studies say that it can be used to control the metabolism of fat and reduce obesity.
  3. Black tea is fully fermented which can help to lose fat, protect heart and bones.

The DesiredMe in China

Like everything else, moderation is a key to enjoy all the benefits the tea can offer and I’m happy to be able to share with you this first-hand experience right from the source.

Xie Xie

The DesiredMe

Ota Ika – Traditional Tongan Fish Recipe

Delicious traditional Tongan fresh fish recipe with coconut, lime and vegetables
Delicious traditional Tongan fresh fish recipe with coconut, lime and vegetables

Ota Ika is a Polynesian coconut based fish dish which is very similar to the Latin American ceviche. No wonder that this recipe is so popular among the visitors and was one of my favourite during our trip in Tonga, the nutritious fresh fish caught by the local fishermen combined with refreshing lime, the creamy slightly sweet coconut milk and fresh vegetables picked up directly from the market is a delicious mix of all the goodies this country has to offer.

We had it over and over again throughout our travel. In Tonga they normally serve it as a starter but it is also perfect as main course combined with fresh salad. Thanks to the short preparation time this could be an ideal meal to have guests over or an easy dinner after a long working day.


Ingredients for 2:

  • 200g fresh high quality snapper or tuna skinned and filleted
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 red paprika, deseeded and diced to small cubes
  • 1/2 cucumber (or 1 small one), seeded, peeled and diced to small cubes
  • handful of cherry tomatoes diced
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 to 2 limes
  • 1 fresh chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ground black pepper

Directions:

Dice the fish fillets into small 1cm cubes and marinate it in the lime juice for about half an hour. Take the marinated fish and discard some of the juice if necessary, then mix it together with the paprika, cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions, chilli and coriander. Add the coconut milk to the mixture and season it with salt and pepper. Serve it immediately and do not leave any for the next day!

Enjoy!

Why travelling to Tonga? The kingdom of the humpback whales

Amazing underwater adventure with humpback whales in Tonga
Amazing underwater adventures with humpback whales in Tonga

Imagine a world without traffic, advertisements, hotel chains and fast food restaurants…instead genuine people, breathtaking nature and infinite tranquility. “Wake up now, you are not dreaming”, says the flight attendant, “welcome to the Kingdom of Tonga”.

Day 1:

After 30 hours flying, 10 Hollywood movies and 5 times airplane food I was longing for finally setting foot on this exotic faraway land which called Tonga.

What does an average European know about Tonga, not much. “Is it close to Africa? “False. “Are people wearing Thong all year around?” False (but good one). Well, to be honest I did not know much about it either, but what I did know is that one of the most amazing encounter is waiting for me, let’s just say between 2 mammals, and one of them weight more than 40 tons.

I could not sleep that night, even though our “Robinson Crusoe” like beautiful beach bungalow did not leave any wishes open. Neither our great hosts who were waiting for us with local fresh organic food, what a relief after all the junk food you get on your journey across the world.

Day 2:

Finally the day has arrived, such an excitement. Fins (check), snorkel (check), mask (check), wet suit (check), cameras (check), sickness pill – after a long debate – (check). All on board, it is getting real now, it was so long on my bucket list and finally it is happening.

Our boat is cruising along picturesque tiny islands surrounded by white sandy beaches and coral reefs, but my eyes are fixated on the horizon. Holding myself on my GoPro instead of the boat (not very clever), when it happens. I can see from far a couple of meter high water jetting up from the surface and then a huge fin. It was the sign that we found them, the humpback whales are HERE.

“We all wish for friendly whales”, as our tour guide explains, the ones who do not mind the company of humans and might be even a bit curious. Well, I’m damn curious I know, fully geared up to jump into the water and start the encounter right here and right now, but it was not yet our time to go. Instead the whales started to deliver an amazing acrobatic show, full body splashes and incredible screw driver movements. Mother and her calf simultaneously jumping out of the water, and with the power of 40 tons landing on the surface over and over again. Can whales really do that? Well, they can and with the lightness of a feather, breathtaking.

Humpback whales breaching out of the water in Tonga

Days 3-5:

“Let the luck be with us and bring us a friendly whale” – become our mantra for the next days, and if the universe was listening to our request the miracle happened. We got the sign from the captain and within seconds we were in the water with our guide and 2 other guests, feeling very excited. After some paddling the shadow of a giant emerged in the deep blue right in front of our eyes. Did not take much to realise that there are not only 1 but 3 whales around, under, above us. Small hesitation and evaluation of the survival chances of being in a way of one of biggest animal in our planet, hoping my humble presence would hold them back being just to much jolly to launch their famous triple flip me on the top. But my instinct took over the control of my body and I was with full speed approaching the head of the mother whale. What a majestic animal. With its tiny eyes, one is fixated on her calf at all times and the other following my movements. I kept just enough distance to be able to observe her but respect her territory, I do not want her to be scared and swim away, I do not want this moment to end. My eyes start slowly to wander over to the calf, playful creature with no fear and full of energy. Balancing around its mother, if it would just learn right now how to become a real whale. I would love to play with it but I do not want to stress its mother, who knows what her motherly instinct would do to me. Instead I just enjoy this moment, take it all in…and I know this will not be the last time.

Every time we were in the water during the 3 days, it felt like the first time. Every day brought a new experience, a new whale, new discovery and great interaction both below and above the water. I’m very thankful that I was given the chance to see them in their natural habitat and swim side by side with these wonderful creatures.

Beach Food Series – Refreshing Fish Ceviche

Fast and healthy beach food fish ceviche
Fish ceviche salad with refreshing lime juice, mint leaves and chilli for hot summer days.

What are we going to say about Summer 2015? I have one word for it HOT! What can be a better food choice for these hot days than a refreshing and healthy dish like ceviche? What makes the ceviche so healthy is that all the ingredients are raw, including the fish. No added sugar or fat required, everything is natural. The taste is fantastic thanks to the combination of fresh lime, mint leaves, coriander and chilli. Refresh yourself with this recipe with no guilt.


Ingredients for 2:

  • 200g sea bass, snapper, halibut or tilapia skinned and filleted; other seafood can also be added e.g. shrimps
  • 1 red paprika, deseeded and diced to small cubes
  • 1/2 cucumber (or 1 small one), peeled and diced to small cubes
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 to 2 limes
  • 1 fresh chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • ground black pepper

Directions:

Dice the fish fillets into small 1cm cubes. In a bowl mix the fish together with the paprika, cucumber and spring onions and put it aside back to the fridge. Prepare the refreshing dressing by squeezing out the lime juice and mixing it with salt and chilli. Now you can assemble the ceviche by mixing the dressing with the fish mixture and adding the chopped herbs and little olive oil. Do not leave the fish marinated too long in the acidy juice as it will cook the fish. Discard rest of the dressing and serve the ceviche immediately.

Enjoy!

Beach Food Series – nutritious avocado tartare

Fast and healthy avocado tartare which is extremely nutritious and delicious
Fast and healthy option for a beach vacation or nutritious alternative for a summer grill party

I have just returned from the wonderful island of Mykonos, so many beauty at one place and amazing healthy food options. If you are planning your holiday or just want to spice up the usual summer barbecue party with a really delicious and nutritious dish, this is a perfect recipe for you. It is not only very fast to prepare but you get all the health benefits of avocado, not surprisingly called this fruit a super food, and last but not least you can also keep your waistline under control.


Ingredients for 2:

  • 1 medium avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbs red onion, minced
  • 1/2 red paprika, minced
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs chopped mint leaves, keep some for decoration
  • 1 tbs chives, keep some for decoration
  • 1 ts Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbs fresh lime or lemon juice
  • 2 drops of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • sour cream or Greek yoghurt for the top
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Take a medium bowl and stir olive oil, onion, mustard, lime juice, parsley, mint leaves and chives together. Add the paprika and Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper. Carefully add the avocado to the mix. Chill it down shortly. Before serving form cubes and place the sour cream or Greek yoghurt on the top. Decorate it with mint leaves and chopped chives.

Enjoy!