Sunday, March 18, 2007

St. Pat's Weekend Notes

Ah, spring is in the air! I’m sure you’ve noticed that tea vendors are offering the spring harvest already. Long Jing, Taiwanese oolongs, Mengding, etc. While I’m not a Japanese tea drinker, word on the street is that Shincha has already come out or about to. So much good tea…very tempting!

Unlike tea plantations, however, the grape vines are only budding right about now…there is still 5 to 6 months before harvest time. That doesn’t mean wineries aren’t buzzing. The good people of the grapey clan are busy re-racking or bottling the harvest of yesteryear(s), not to mention tending the vines.

I had a pretty nice weekend. Among other things, I dim-summed at the Empress Pavilion in Chinatown with the family (my younger sis joined). Loads of good dumplings! As usual, I brought my own tea…and this time instead of bringing some fisted oolong, I decided to take the Okayti Ivory Darjeeling oolong that I wrote about a few posts down. It was way much better than the restaurant’s tea to no one's surprise. I found out that this particular Darjeeling oolong is actually quite excellent when paired with dim sum dishes. Think of riesling or gewürztraminer with Chinese food, only this is tea. The fact that it is slightly more acidic (lively!), highly aromatic and it can take brewing abuse well, made the tea suitable in restaurants. When placed in a standard Chinese restaurant porcelain teapot and brewed over a long period of time, it didn’t get bitter and it remained pretty smooth.

After dimsum, we stopped by Wing Hop Fung where I bought 2 teacups to replace the broken ones. I also got some dragon pearl jasmine tea for my mom-in-law. While browsing around, something caught my interest. Among the Soumei and Baimudan teas, there was this green herbs that is labelled as "Yunnan Thien Ji tea" (it's not tea tea, but rather a type of herb). They look like tiny brocolli florets and fresh green in color. Two customers were chit chatting with the saleslady about this very thien ji. They were speaking in a Chinese dialect that I couldn't understand (Teochew?) when I approaced the saleslady, who recognized me from my prior visits and invited me to try the "tea" out. It's bitter-sweet in an herbal kind of way...almost like ginseng. I can't really describe it. It's not bitter like kudingcha and it leaves a certain pleasant aftertaste. The saleslady and the 2 customers proceeded to tell me to only put about 7 "flowers" if I want to drink it straight. It can be mixed with other teas as well, they said ("Don't put too much, though," they added). So I grabbed 2 oz of this herb, which cost me about $3.50. I took the photo above at home...haven't opened the sealed bag yet. I will write about it when I try it again. Does anyone know what this is and how to treat it right?

On the way back we stopped by a Russian grocery store for some everyday staples (sosisky, kevir, kalamata olives, etc.) when I found this (see pic, click to enlarge). My curiosity cost me $4.99 for the 250gr bag. When I opened it at home, the loose smallish, black leaves reeked of menthol / eucalyptus / mint. Very strong! I kid you not when I say it smells like a mosquito or insect repellant that is made from a certain tree oil that you can apply on your skin. How does it taste? I am still summoning the courage to brew it. Somehow, I think it’s beter suited as a bathroom deodorizer or a closet moth repellant. It smells toxic to me.

Hope you had a fun St. Pat's weekend!


sjschen said...

hmmm...any chinese characters on the packaging of the "brocco" tea?

~ Phyll said...

Tsk, the chinese characters don't appear on its computer generated price tag. I should have copied it down in the store.

Imen said...

I have some of these flowerettes too. They are quite soothing on your tummie.

davelcorp said...

As a TCM student, these are new to me. If anyone comes across another name or the characters, please post them so I can look it up in the school library.

davelcorp said...

Ahh, after looking at Imen's blog, I see that Tien Chi (Tian Qi) is the flower of the plant that produces San Qi. San Qi is an herb in the Stop Bleeding category and is used both internally and topically. Also called noto-ginseng.
I am unsure of the properties of the flowers. Different parts of the same plant often have different properties, so it is hard to know if it is in the same category as San Qi.
Imen, if you have any more info, I would love to hear it.

Imen said...


Flowers and leaves of Tien Chi have cooling effect when taken internally. Cool down body heat, blood heat; treats skin break out caused by blood heat; treats headache, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia caused by liver heat.

This should get you started. Have fun and let me know of your findings.

~ Phyll said...

I didn't know (forgot) that you wrote a bit about it, Imen. Sounds like this 田七 has many useful properties.

Davelcorp, thanks for finding out...I'm curious about dosage / consumption limit and cons / side effects if taken anyhow, if any.

davelcorp said...

Thanks Imen. I'm on a two week break right now, but once I get back to school I can look in some Chinese texts, and ask some of the instructors.

Just curious, what is your source of info?

Anonymous said...

If i am not wrong is ginseng...i dont think is the real ginseng..maybe is ginseng flower..i seen they labelled it ginseng at one of my local herb stall.

~ Phyll said...

Yes, it is in the ginseng family. I have found some reliable material about this tianqi and will post soon.

Imen said...


I googled 田七花, there are a million of claims needless to say, however the following 2 links is more credible and less commercial from my understanding. At least they are not claiming it's a magic cure of mankind. I wouldn't try hitting the translate button on these articles, it came out so out of wack, I was almost rolling on the floor laughing. Have fun.

Imen said...

oops, the links got mixed up.. here are the ones I was talking about:

davelcorp said...

Ok, with the help of some friends, I was able to come up with this:

Pinyin Name: Sanqihua; Tianqihua

Latin: Panacis Notoginseng Fl;

English: Sanqi (Pseudoginseng) Fl; Part used: Fl;

Nature: odour delicately fragrant (Qingxiang); Cool (Xingliang); Non-Toxic
(Wudu); Slightly Bitter (Weiku) / Sweet (Gan);

Channel entered: LV;

Hb Class: Disperse Wind+Stop Spasm / Convulsion (Xifeng Zhijing) & Calm
LV (Pinggan);

Has saponin (Zaogan), esp like Ginseng saponins Rb1¢Rg1¢Rg2 & small
amounts of Ginseng saponins Ra, Rb2, Rb & Re; also flavinoids
(Huangtonggan), starch (Dianfen), protein (Danbaizhi) & oil (Youzhi);

Oral dose, as Dec in boiling water: qs (as needed);

Actions: Clear Heat (Qingre); Calm LV (Pinggan); Hypotensor (Jiangya);

Used in: Hypertension (Gaoxueya), dizziness (Touhun), Dazzling spells
(Muxuan), tinnitus (Erming), acute pharyngitis (Jixing Yanhouyan);

~ Phyll said...

Davelcorp, thank you so much for the above information!