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!

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!

 

Energy Booster – frozen strawberry and mango smoothie

Healthy energy booster smoothie with strawberry, mango and goji berry
Boost your energy with strawberry, mango and goji berry smoothie

The summer has finally arrived with all the goodies, fresh fruits and vegetables ready to pick. Couple of weeks ago I went to collect fresh strawberries from the field, I came home with few kilos. The ones I could not eat at once (believe me I tried my best), I put into the freezer. The strawberry season is slowly coming to the end but how great it is to have your supply ready waiting for you to make delicious and healthy smoothies at home.

One of my favourite energy booster recipe is the frozen strawberry, mango and goji berry smoothie.

Frozen strawberry smoothie ingredientsIngredients for 2:

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1 chili (if you like it spicy)
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • mint leaves
  • ice cubes

Cut the mango and put all the ingredients into a blender, and here you go, your smoothie is ready to drink! Enjoy!

Frozen strawberry and mango smoothie