Thursday, June 12, 2014

APCC Tea Experience: Thailand

Asia Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) offers a Tea Experience on the first Saturday of each month.  It's an opportunity to discover and learn more about the teas, the culture, and the traditions of Asia and the Pacific Islands.

On June 7th, I attended the Thailand Tea Experience presented by Aime Harrell.

One of the first teas we were introduced to was a blend of lemongrass and pandan leaves which has a bold and invigorating aroma and flavor.  This is used for aromatherapy during massage and may be added to a bath or in boiling water for steaming.  It is most popular in winter during flu and cold season to help with breathing.  This particular blend is only available in Thailand, but can easily be reproduced with lemongrass and fresh (not frozen) pandan leaves.

We were introduced to a second herbal tea known in Thailand as Rang Dang.  It is just recently becoming popular there for medicinal purposes as it is believed to help with cholesterol, blood pressure, digestion, and sleep. Its official name is Ventilago denticulata and it originates in Australia.  It can be prepared hot or cold and has a light aroma with a sweet flavor.  

While Thailand does produce tea, they generally use a strongly brewed Ceylon for their famous Thai iced tea or a Thai tea mix which is often made with Assam.  For the purpose of this event, we were introduced to Thai tea mix which is used in most restaurants and has a wonderful roasted chestnut aroma.

In Thailand, people often drink their tea hot in the morning. The tea (Cha Ron) is very dark and strong and best when served with milk or half and half with the option of adding sugar.

As the day gets hotter, iced tea becomes the preferred beverage.  There are two popular variations on Thai iced tea, both brewed with a fairly large amount of sugar and sometimes sweetened condensed milk.  The most recognized version is Cha Yen (literally "cold tea").  

To make Cha Yen: Fill a cup almost to the top with ice.  Fill the cup halfway with sweetened tea, then fill to the top with half and half, whole milk, or coconut milk.  Add a sprig of mint for garnish.  

The other popular variation (and my favorite) is Cha Ma Nao (lime tea).

To make Cha Ma Nao:  Mix lime juice with sugar and pour about 1/2 inch in the bottom of the cup.  Add ice to the top of the cup and fill to the top with tea.  Add a sprig of mint or lime leaf for garnish. 

APCC's Tea Experiences are always entertaining and informative.  Thanks to Aime for the wonderful presentation!

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