Dec 5, 2009

Made my own Tea Grapefruit!


My mom and my partner's mom both have chronic bronchitis problems. So one day, we thought, why don't we make some Tea Pomelos for moms! Tea Pomelos and Tea Citrus are long-time traditions of Cantonese and other Chinese southerners. By putting puerh or roasted oolong into citrus fruit peels, people would preserve tea for many years, and believe "after 3 years, tea becomes a perfect herbal medicine". This tradition has largely faded in modern time, and neither of us has seen any home-made Tea Citrus, and we don't know how it tastes like.

After some time groping around, I finally decided I liked grapefruit the best for this project. Pomelo actually is more preferred. But it's not easy or cheap to find pomelos where I live, let alone organic ones (organic is preferred since the outside of the peel will have long-term contact with the preserved tea). Besides, pomelos are big. Grapefruits are just more convenient to control and to preserve. As for tangerines and oranges, I had a hard time turning inside-out the peel without breaking them!

In the first grapefruit, I put in some loose shu puerh. Since I don't have much of it and I am not a big fan of puerh, later I decided to put a Taiwan Wuyi in most of the grapefruits. First because I subjectively think this Taiwan Wuyi is much richer in taste than shu puerh. Secondly this Taiwan Wuyi is in fisted shape, which makes it very easy to fit the tea into the grapefruit.

It takes a few days to let the grapefruit dry. Luckily climate is dry and nice here. I heard in southern China, usually only early autumn is the suitable season to make tea citrus and sometimes the citrus fruits and the tea can grow mold if they don't try thoroughly.

I have seen some tea citrus products before but none of them looked too appealing to me. Puerh Tangerine (桔普)is a tradition of Cantonese. The tangerines from Xin Hui (新會)are the best material for Aged Peels (陳皮)because they have unusually large oily sacs on their peels, which are sources of therapeutic ingredients. Tea Pomelo (柚子茶) is another southern Chinese tradition and roasted oolong was often used.

The biggest difference between commercial and home-made tea citrus is which side of the peel is in contact with the tea. Ideally the peel should be turned inside out, so that the oily sacs of the peel will have direct contact with the tea. But that's is not possible in mass production, because it takes time, with skillful hands, to do it.

Good thing about the industrially made tea citrus is, the products are usually heated and with tea steamed before stuffed in the citrus fruit. Thus the tea may blend with citrus oil faster and better. But the roasting treatment may damage some nutrients of the citrus, and most of the nutrients are on the citrus surface, without thorough contact with the tea.

Besides quality control, a best thing about home-made citrus is the flexibility of tea choices. I don't plan to use the most tasty teas (sounds like a waste sitting them for years). The current plan is using mainly shu puerh, roasted oolong and maybe some black tea, those teas that seem good as "background teas".

Next step - they will be wrapped in paper and stored in a dry place. Then I plan to open a tea grapefruit for inspection a few months in the future, to see how the tea tastes, and "guestimate" how long the tea should be preserved before using. Besides, in every a few years, at certain points, I guess the grapefruits should be light-roasted in warm temperature, to have any possible moisture removed.

If the procedure is well-established in future, sheng puerh can also be considered for long term tea grapefruits :D

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