Last week, the Boston Globe’s photography platform The Big Picture featured a collection of photos highlighting tea culture and production in China. Here’s the description:
According to a legend, tea was first discovered by the legendary Chinese emperor Shennong in 2737 BC. Today, China is the world’s biggest tea producer, selling many varieties of tea leaves such as green tea, black tea, oolong tea, white tea and yellow tea. It is the most highly consumed beverage in the world. China still boasts many teahouses, particularly in cities with a strong teahouse culture such as Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Chengdu. Different regions are famous for growing different types of tea. Hangzhou is famous for producing a type of green tea called Longjing or the Dragon Well tea. Tea tastes also vary regionally. Drinkers in Beijing tend to prefer jasmine tea while in Shanghai prefer green tea. Processing raw tea leaves for consumption is a time and labor-intensive activity and still done by hand in many areas in China. The Chinese tea industry employs around 80 million people as farmers, pickers and sales people. Tea pickers tend to be seasonal workers who migrate from all parts of the country during harvest time. The pickers work from early morning until evening for an average wage of around 120 RMB (around 16 euros) a day. Tea can be sold from around 80 RMB (around 11 euros) to over 4,000 RMB (around 525 euro) per kilogram. In 2016, China produced 2.43 million tons of tea. Chinese people believe that the practice of brewing and drinking tea can bring the spirit and wisdom of human beings to a higher level.
If you’re a tea lover, and interested in the history of tea in China, I highly recommend the China History Podcast 10-part series, The History of Tea. You can find links to all 10 podcasts on this page (start at the bottom).
Everyone needs to have take comfort food with them when they travel. According to this story, the comfort food of choice for Chinese travelers is instant noodles.
A recent survey showed that more than 30% make sure they have a supply of instant noodles with them when they travel:
The practice is popular among both people making 5,000 yuan ($750) a month and those making 20,000 yuan a month, according to the findings.
The habit persists in China even though president Xi Jinping in 2014 asked citizens (paywall) to eat fewer instant noodles abroad, and sample more of the local cuisine. In 2013, a Maldives in hotel reportedly stopped installing kettles in its rooms to stop Chinese tourists from cooking noodles in their rooms instead of spending money on food in the hotel.
Noodles need side dishes, naturally, so tourists are also bringing pickled vegetables, sausages, and chili sauce with them, said the survey.
When I travel, there are certain comfort food items that always make it into my suitcase:
Peanut butter. Like any good American, I can face anything as long as I have access to peanut butter.
Granola bars; preferably Quaker Oats chocolate chip and Nature Valley honey and oats. If you’ve got a granola bar, you’ve got lunch!
Almonds. I like all kinds of almonds, but raw almonds are the best!
What about you? What food items are essential for you when you travel?
If you’ve ever driven across Nebraska on I-80 looking for something to eat, you probably found yourself facing a choice among all the fast food standby’s that are clustered around the exits.
But if you’re looking for something different, take Exit 248 (near Overton), and head to the gas station/convenience store on the north side of the freeway called Jay Bros. There you’ll find a fantastic Indian restaurant run by a family from Gujarat, India.
Last week my sister and I took my mother on a road trip to Colorado so she could visit with friends that she has known since she was a child. We decided to check the place out. Fortunately, it did not disappoint. We had a fantastic lunch, and my mom was even able to use a bit of her Urdu with the owner.
So the next time you are driving across Nebraska and want to eat something other than a burger, head to the gas station/Indian restaurant at Exit 248 for some butter chicken, chicken tikka masala, and naan. You will NOT be disappointed!
Bear with me for just one last post on the great food that I ate in Beijing earlier this month. You may want to protect your keyboard from drooling.
One of my favorite dishes is called ma la xiang guo (hot and spicy dry hot pot). You choose the ingredients, and the chef stir fries them up. Those are peppers, not tomatoes. Don’t worry, this was a dish for 2 people!
Home-made jiaozi, lovingly “wrapped” by a friend, waiting to be boiled. Yum!
If you can’t get to a friend’s house for home-made jiaozi, not to worry; there’s usually a mom a pop shop nearby that makes delicious jiaozi and baozi.
Not all meals in China are created equal. One day Amy and I found ourselves dining in the cafeteria of a large company. The food wasn’t that bad; it just never tastes as good when served on a metal tray!
And finally, I stopped into one of my favorite American burger joints, Fatburger. I’ve never been to one in the US, but it serves up a great plate of comfort food in Beijing!
I have some friends from Beijing visiting for a couple of weeks, which is always a rip-roaring good time. One of the fun (and sometimes challenging) things is keeping them well-fed. They are not enamored with a lot of American food, so I’ve been trying to make sure they get a Chinese meal in every other day or so. We all know about comfort food, right?
Last week, my sister and I took them to Leann Chin, a local “Chinese” fast-food place for their much-needed fix. My sister loves the place, but I am not a fan. It is, however, cheap and fast and the food is stir-fried so I suspected they would be satisfied. Bad Chinese food is better than good western food, right?
As they were (happily) eating, I asked the husband (who is a bit of a foodie) what he thought of the food.
He stopped eating his noodles, and looked up at me… “Better than a sandwich,” he said, smiling.
Now, whenever I need to keep him in line I threaten to make him eat a sandwich!