Tea Drinks

A Day For Red Pandas And Bamboo

International Red Panda Day was created by the Red Panda Network to promote the red panda and to find ways to fight for its survival. It is celebrated on the third Saturday in September. This year it falls on the 18th of September which is also World Bamboo Day. What a happy coincidence as bamboo is something red pandas love!

World Bamboo Day was created in the hopes it would increase global awareness about the importance of bamboo. The World Bamboo Organization encourages the use of bamboo in a sustainable fashion. They hope to introduce bamboo to new industries across the world and also protect traditional uses within local communities. The World Bamboo Organization is passionate about growing more bamboo around the world and have created the hashtag #PlantBamboo for this year’s celebrations.

Red pandas are all for planting more bamboo because they can’t survive without it. About 95% of their diet consists of bamboo. While the giant panda eats nearly every part of the bamboo, like the woody stem, the red panda is very selective and only eats the more nutritious leaf tips. They also eat tender bamboo shoots when they are available.

Thinking of red pandas enjoying nutritious bamboo tips reminded me of the bamboo leaf tea I bought a while ago. Bamboo tea is becoming popular as it is supposed to boost the immune system. It is good for the skin and can improve bone density. Bamboo tea also promotes healthy nail and hair growth, which may explain why red pandas have such beautiful, thick fur!

Bamboo tea has a subtle flavour, so you may need to experiment to find the right brew for you. I decided to pump up the flavour by using bamboo tea to make a spiced apple tea. This tasty tea can be served hot or enjoyed chilled as an iced tea. You can also make ice cubes with it and pop them into a gin or vodka cocktail. I mean why should pandas be the only ones having fun with bamboo! 🙂

Bamboo and Apple Tea

Ingredients
2 cups bamboo tea brewed to your liking
1 apple
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Instructions
Strain the tea into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
Cut the apple into thick slices crosswise so you can see the star shaped core.
Add the apple slices, cinnamon, cloves and sugar to the boiling water.
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Strain and serve with a slice of apple if desired.

Sydney Under The Stars

My home state of Victoria is famous for having a public holiday for a horse race. Now we are becoming infamous for having a public holiday for a football match. Actually, it’s a holiday for the day before the football match which makes it even stranger. I’m not complaining. I’m grateful for any public holiday we can get! And it’s on a Friday, which I think is a great day to start a long weekend.

This year we went to Sydney and stayed at the Ultimo Hotel which is purported to be the world’s first astrology hotel. Among the services they offer are astrology reading packages that you can add to your booking. We didn’t do this but there was still heaps of astrological fun to be had.

On arrival we were greeted in reception by staff eager to talk astrology. They had city guides based on your star sign and astrologically appropriate “do not disturb signs.” I told them I was a sun sign Taurus with a Moon and Rising Sign in Sagittarius so they gave me both the Taurus and Sagittarius city guides. They offered me both a Taurus and Sagittarius door sign too but I only took the Taurus one as it said all that needed saying!

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Shifting seamlessly from astrology to astronomy, I booked myself two tours at the Sydney Observatory. My first tour was at night. It was a full moon which isn’t great for star gazing but I loved it, especially when bats started flying around! Peering through the enormous telescope I got to see Mars and Saturn. On the day tour I got to see the Sun which is a real treat as you have to have a special filter on the telescope to view it. Many years ago I was lucky enough to see Venus (my ruling planet) transit the Sun. While this Sun viewing wasn’t as spectacular it was still amazing. Both tours ended with a visit to the planetarium which was fun and informative.

When I returned to the hotel I noticed a selection of “Astrolo-Teas” in reception. These teas are specially selected to match your star sign. I looked at the one for Taurus which was English Breakfast. Not bad! I love English and Irish Breakfast although my favourite tea is Earl Grey. I then went to the Sagittarius tea which was Lemongrass and Ginger. This was another great match as I love ginger tea. Naturally I wanted to experiment with these flavours when I got home. 

As the weather is heating up here, I wanted to make an iced tea. I decided to create a chai blend because it can be served hot or cold. I used English Breakfast for Taurus and added ginger for Sagittarius. The great thing is you can mix and match ingredients for your own personal taste or create a blend that you think reflects your astrological profile!

Astrological Iced Chai

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Ingredients
3 cups milk
4 cardamon pods
4 black peppercorns
4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
30g fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons black tea leaves (I used English Breakfast)
2 tablespoons honey
ice cubes for serving

Instructions
Place the milk in a saucepan.
Crack the cardamon pods open and place the seeds and shells into the milk.
Crack the peppercorns and add to the milk.
Add the cloves, cinnamon stick and ginger to the milk.
Bring very slowly to the boil (you want it to take about 10 minutes) 
Once boiling add the tea leaves and simmer for 2-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea.
Stir in the honey.
Strain tea and refrigerate until cold.
Serve over ice cubes.

Saline Solution

Next in my exploration of the five taste sensations through drinks is the realm of salt. When we think of salty drinks we think of soups and broths. Cocktails that may come to mind are ones that have salt encrusted rims such as salty dogs and margaritas. A favourite of mine growing up was the tequila shot – lick your hand between your thumb and forefinger, sprinkle with salt, knock back your tequila shot then bite on a slice of lemon or lime – we always used lemon. This classic shot has been the subject of much debate. One theory suggests that you salt a slice of lemon or lime, pop it in your mouth and chew on it, then drink down a shot of tequila. I haven’t tried this version  – yet 🙂

Synchronistically, my local bar Hopheads has tapped a couple of salted beers recently. I tried one and was really surprised. Even though beer is not usually sweet, the overt taste of salt takes you back at first. After a few sips I began to enjoy it but it’s definitely not a favourite. They also had a cucumber and mint soft drink seasoned with salt and black pepper. With salty drinks on my mind I knew I had to try it. My first sip sent waves of disappointment through me as I thought “it’s horrible!” but a few sips in and I began to really appreciate its flavours. It actually reminded me of the doogh I made for the sour drinks blog. I began to wonder what it would be like with a spoonful of yoghurt or a few shots of gin.

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For the recipe below I explored the world of salted teas. I have always wanted to make Tibetan butter tea as it combines some of my favourite flavours – tea, butter and salt. Sadly, the one I made was awful. I don’t know if it was me or the recipe but I really didn’t like it. Neither did my partner. Unperturbed I experimented with a different salty tea called Noon Chai – I just loved the name and happily the flavour! Noon Chai, also called Pink Tea, is a salted and spiced Kashmir tea with a surprise ingredient – bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). You can garnish it with chopped nuts like pistachios or almonds if you like.

Noon Chai

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Ingredients
1 teaspoon green tea leaves
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk

Method
Place the tea leaves and half the water into a saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk until combined. Add the remaining water, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Whisk until combined. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer.
Strain and serve.