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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Benefits of drinking green tea adds to its delight

By Kaui Philpotts

The more that's discovered, the more amazing tea gets — green tea, that is. I picked up a brochure from a producer of high-quality Japanese sencha, being promoted at Shirokiya recently, to find claims that the tea not only fights cancer, reduces high blood pressure and inhibits the increase of blood sugar in the urine, but staves off cavities, food poisoning and bad breath.

While I'm not making any claims about its healing powers, this tea is so good, in fact, I'm sitting here this moment downing a cup. Sencha is produced from the first buds of tea, found for a short time in May and June of each year. It is not allowed to ferment (as is oolong or black tea) and is steamed, rather than roasted in the Chinese fashion, before it is dried and packaged. The result are "needles" of green resembling grass cuttings. The tea is then steeped with hot, but not boiling, water for the best results.

The genmaicha, or "popcorn" tea so popular in Hawai'i, is actually made from a lower grade of sencha to which popped rice kernels have been added. This tea can be brewed with the hotter water and drunk in the evening without causing sleeping problems.

Although it is possible to purchase tea bags, you can fill a bag or infuser with your own loose tea and brew just a cup at a time. The ideal way to drink tea is to steep loose leaves in hot water and then strain out the swollen leaves before drinking. A teaspoon of loose leaves per cup is just about right for most people.

Store it carefully

Once you have opened the package of tea, you need to keep moisture from getting to it. Six months is about the shelf life of an opened package of green tea. Light is its enemy, so keep your tea in a dark cupboard in an airtight tin.

If you want to store tea in the refrigerator, place it first in a tin and then place the tin in a zippered plastic bag, as the tea has a way of absorbing odors. This applies to black teas, as well.

Tea and talk

Tea lovers now have a delightful new spot to gather for afternoon and evening tea drinking in Kaimuki. Teja (teh-ah), which is Latvian for tea, is on the second floor of a renovated building at 1137 11th Ave.

Originally named the Tea Loft, Teja not only offers more than 200 different teas with names like Shanghai Dawn, African Dew, Rajini and the smoky Gengis Khan. The aromas and tastes are equally exotic.

You can have your tea leaves read Thursdays through Sundays from 4 to 9 p.m., or shop for small, crafty gifts. All this is in an earthy, stylish setting designed by architect and furniture designer Michael Dalke.

If you have a sweet tooth, that can be satisfied, as well. Try the following dessert when you brew up your own cuppa at home.

Ginger Custard

  • 1/3 cup egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • Ice water

Ginger topping:

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 2-inch of ginger, peeled and minced
  • Ice water

In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks and sugar together. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat the cream, milk and ginger until hot, but not boiling. Remove the pan and slowly add the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

Pour all of it back into the saucepan and return to the heat, mixing continually with a wooden spoon until the liquid coats the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat. Stir gelatin into 2 tablespoons water, then stir this mixture into the custard.

Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, and discard the solids. Place the custard bowl over a bowl of ice for about 15 minutes until cool, stirring occasionally.

Do not let the custard set all the way. Pour into custard cups while it's still liquid and place in the refrigerator for about an hour to set.

Make the ginger topping by placing 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl and sprinkling the gelatin over it. Set aside.

In a saucepan, place the remaining 1 cup water, sugar and ginger. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Pour the gelatin into the ginger mixture. Put the solids through a fine sieve and place the mixture in a bowl, and the bowl into an ice water bath (as you had done with the custard). Stir until cooled, but not set.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of the topping on top of each of the set of custards, and return to the refrigerator until the topping has set. Serves 6 to 8.