Honeybush

Honeybush packetI’m a long time fan of rooibos but hadn’t tasted its honey-flavoured relative, honeybush, until I was in South Africa two years ago. Even in South Africa, honeybush is the underdog to rooibos but I happened across this packet from the Langkloof mountain and ended up regretting that I hadn’t bought more. A lot more!

The honeybush plant grows naturally in the mountains of the Eastern Cape and spreads down along the Langeberg and Swartberg mountains into the Western Cape towards the coast as far as Bredasdorp. It comes from the same Fabaceae family as rooibos and is similarly low in tannins and caffeine-free. There are ~24 known species of honeybush in the genus Cyclopia but only a few have been successfully cultivated. As a result, most of our honeybush is harvested in the wild (70%) and the remaining 30% is produced from the 230 hetares of cultivated honeybush. A recent report from the South African Broadcasting Corp. (SABC) warned about this unsustainable harvest putting honeybush at risk of extinction.

Honeybush loose teaIt’s not surprising that demand for honeybush far outweighs supply. Honeybush is consumed worldwide but Germany accounts for over half of the 220 tons of exported Honeybush. Together with the US and the Netherlands these three countries buy nearly 90% of all the Honeybush that leaves SA.

In terms of taste, it is sweet and has less of that distinctive malty rooibos taste, which some people dislike. It is soothing but the bright honeyed flavour makes it less of an after-dinner tea. Because of the natural sweet flavour, I think it works best as an afternoon tea.

To prepare, 250-300ml of freshly boiled water (100° C) is added to 5g of loose leaf tea. I leave it for several minutes for a deeper taste because unlike real tea it doesn’t get bitter when steeped for a long time.

For more information on honeybush there is an good profile report available from the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

 

Book Review: Teatime for the Firefly

Teatime Book CoverTeatime for the Firefly is a debut novel from Shona Patel that was published last year by Harlequin. It is set in 1940’s Assam and described as historical fiction. The author stresses that while the book contains actual historical facts and references to real places that it is purely a work of fiction.

Layla, the main character, witnessed her mother’s suicide as a young child and describes herself as “astrologically doomed and fated never to marry”. She lives with her grandfather, who is a retired district judge and is brought up with a liberal education. The first half of the book is set in a traditional village where the Layla contends with the local traditions and expectations. The second half of the book is based on her life after she moves to the Assamese tea gardens. In this setting traditional Indian customs are replaced with the unique rules and customs of the tea-plantations. Throughout the book we get glimpses of Indian life after the Second World War, the effect of British colonialism,  Hindu-Muslim tension and of course, day-to-day life in the tea plantations.

It’s a fascinating read but it’s also an enjoyable story. The author credits a number of other books and websites for vivid backdrops that she created. These have been added to my reading-list and I hope they are as enjoyable as “Teatime for the Firefly”.

Here is the book’s official description:

Layla Roy has defied the fates.

Despite being born under an inauspicious horoscope, she is raised to be educated and independent by her eccentric grandfather, Dadamoshai. And, by cleverly manipulating the hand fortune has dealt her, she has even found love with Manik Deb—a man betrothed to another. All were minor miracles in India that spring of 1943, when young women’s lives were predetermined—if not by the stars, then by centuries of family tradition and social order.

Layla’s life as a newly married woman takes her away from home and into the jungles of Assam, where the world’s finest tea thrives on plantations run by native labor and British efficiency. Fascinated by this culture of whiskey-soaked expats who seem fazed by neither earthquakes nor man-eating leopards, she struggles to find her place among the prickly English wives with whom she is expected to socialize, and the peculiar servants she now finds under her charge.

But navigating the tea-garden set will hardly be her biggest challenge. Layla’s remote home is not safe from the powerful changes sweeping India on the heels of the Second World War. Their colonial society is at a tipping point, and Layla and Manik find themselves caught in a perilous racial divide that threatens their very lives.

 

Matcha muffins

When-life-gives-you3

I agree it’s not as catchy as the lemons and lemonade but I’m trying to make the best of a bad situation here (i.e. 100g of bad matcha). These muffins are easy to make and taste great but they are not the bright green I was hoping for. To fit the part for this weekend I’ll try making them again with maybe 3 tbsp of matcha.

This recipe is adapted from a breakfast muffin recipe that a friend gave me but these muffins could not be considered healthy. To gain the benefits of matcha it probably needs to be taken withouth sugar and white flour. ;-)

Matcha muffins:

  • 2 eggsmatcha muffins
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml rapeseed oil
  • 200ml plain low-fat yoghurt
  • 220g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp matcha
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 100g chopped hazelnut

Whisk eggs, sugar and oil together in a bowl. Then add the yoghurt.

Sift flour, salt, matcha and ginger together and stir into egg mixture.

Add hazelnuts and then spoon into muffin cases.

Bake for 20 minutes at 175°C.

High Mountain Oolong

This is a light Oolong from the Taiwanese mountains. High mountain teas mostly come from central Taiwan and the particular growing environment at high elevation gives these “Gaoshan” teas a distinctly rich sweetness. It is semiball-rolled with the attached stems and was harvested in Spring 2013.

High Mountain Oolong

Preparation: To prepare this tea, I put 4g of the tea in a warmed porcelain teapot. I add a little water at 85 °C (when medium bubbles appear in the water). This water is discarded as a rinse and then I add about 175ml of water and let the leaves unfurl for 30 seconds. The steeping time increases for each subsequent steeping and I find that I can get at least 5 steepings from this tea. The liquor is pale yellow in colour but the sweet floral aroma is magnificent. To taste, this tea is subtle, creamy and gentle and has a long aftertaste. Overall, I think that the price of £9.95 for 50g is worth it for this level of quality.

High Mountain Oolong is available from Postcard teas.

Note: As with all reviews on this site, I purchased this tea and have no affiliation with the sellers or the tea estate.