Unlike the other three Japanese post-fermented teas in this series, this tea is a single fermentation. The leaves are inoculated with koji, which is essentially magic.
Koji is the fermentation agent used to make miso, soy sauce, and several forms of sake. It also makes an intensely good marinade: rub shiokoji on salmon (or pretty much anything else), let it sit for up to a day, rinse and dry, and then air fry it for amazing results.
So of course I wanted to give this tea a try.
This tea is not pu-erh. It’s also not fermented with the exact same inoculants as pu-erh is. But it feels a lot closer to pu-erh than the double-fermented teas I’ve tried so far. It’s not sour at all; the soup is quite dark and colored in the red spectrum. Even in the final steeps, it’s closer to orange than gold. The taste is robust and just a little nutty, with a tiny hint of charcoal that gets stronger the longer you brew it. As far as flavor goes, I would call this “good” without being “great.”
But the stand out quality of this tea was how it made me feel. To put my mood in context: I had this after a very frustrating morning making phone calls to my health insurer about billing. This tea was restorative. I could feel my annoyance slowly seep out of me around my second steep. By the time I’d finished the fourth steep, I felt up to making jokes again. I don’t know if it was the tea, the hot water, or the act of sitting down and concentrating on just the one thing, but by the time I’d finished my session, I felt ready to go and tackle the next item on my to-do list.
Note: if you search this tea out on the vendor’s website, you’ll find claims that are..I don’t know if they’re dubious, but I often see scientific health claims about tea, they’re based on someone isolating a compound in tea and then administering something like 100x more than you could get from a handful of steeps of tea.
I’m personally skeptical that results obtained under these circumstances are applicable to tea drinking. Most of the scientific trials I’ve seen don’t involve having people brew and drink tea themselves. Which is a shame, because honestly you had the opportunity to make people drink tea for science, and you went for a capsule instead? Tsk, tsk. (I know that they do this for purposes of standardization, but also: tsk, tsk.)
But I digress. Most of the time I just shrug at these claims. But in the case of this tea, the claims are related to weight / appetite / diabetes, and so if that is the kind of thing you don’t want to see, be aware when looking for this one.
my perfect breakfast
For the last two months, I’ve found myself falling into a breakfast routine that takes me (I timed it) 12 minutes (with a little more prep on the weekends). It’s not simple, and it’s probably not for people who don’t enjoy cooking. But this makes me really, really happy.
Some background: I have found through extensive experimentation that the thing my body wants in a breakfast are protein and fiber, and the thing my brain wants in a breakfast is enough variety that I don’t get bored. For a very long time these things were at cross purposes: I would try one thing, have it work, say “whew, I solved breakfast!” only to get bored after two weeks.
But I’ve finally found something that appears to work for both my brain and my body. Here’s what it looks like.
There are three high-level components to this:
A bowl of vegetables. I try to have at least five separate colors. What I normally do is prep veggies after shopping on the weekend into separate containers, so I just need to throw them into the dish and microwave it. To make this ridiculously stupidly good, I’ve also started making compound butters once a month (butter + herbs + seasonings) and freezing those, so I just throw a little of that on top before nuking it.
Chawanmushi: this is an egg custard. I do this with ½ cup hot water + soy sauce + either dashi granules or a spoonful of better than bouillon. Add an egg. Mix until egg is dissolved in water. Microwave, covered, for 6:30 at 30% power. Top with chopped herbs/scallions/if you’re feeling luxurious and you like it, salmon roe. I don’t even really measure the water going in because I like it when there’s extra warm soupy broth when you spoon the egg custard out. If you like it less soupy, use ⅓ cup water. Use more ingredients if you want more than one egg.
Mini-toasts: I love avocado toast, but I don’t tolerate commercial bread much anymore and I hate commercial gluten-free breads. Over the last year, I’ve been working out a recipe for a yeast-risen bread that has no kneading, contains no wheat, a tiny number of ingredients, and a much larger amount of protein and fiber. It requires you to have a high-speed blender. I usually make about 3 weeks worth of mini-bread in one go and freeze it, and then drop the frozen slices in the toaster. The mini toasts give me a lot of variety to make my brain happy: I can have avocado toast, peanut butter toast with raspberries, or what have you. (The avocado toast here is topped with a quail egg, if you’re wondering on scale).
I can change the vegetables, change the toppings or the broth for the chawanmushi, change the toppings on the toast (or what I make the bread with), and the end result is a beautiful and varied breakfast that doesn’t take a stupid amount of time to make and which I can vary enough that my brain doesn’t stomp away shouting, “oh really, we’re eating this AGAIN?”
The recipe for the bread is at the end of this newsletter.
Once upon a Marquess
So I mentioned in this that I don’t do well with commercially produced bread. I know now that it’s probably some additive that my gut doesn’t like; I’ve done enough experimentation either making my own bread, or getting really good sourdough that isn’t filled with whatever they put in bread, or making other things with wheat flour to be sure that whatever’s bothering me about bread isn’t the gluten.
But while I was writing this book, I knew only that bread seemed to be causing me intestinal distress, and that made me sad because I love bread. Anyway, I now suspect that the scenes in this book involving bread and sandwiches exist because I was bread-deprived.
Requires: kitchen scale, high-speed blender, food thermometer, spray bottle of water, a little bit of executive function so you don’t forget to make bread after soaking the ingredients the night before
The night before, set up a nonreactive bowl where you can soak for long periods of time (preferably glass) with:
* 300 g (10.5 oz) of small lentils : black gram, red lentils, etc
* 60 g (2.1 oz) of rice: you can use anything, I like using red rice which is really high in fiber
Rinse these once; discard the rinse (or use it to water your plants; your plants love this water!)
Then add water with several inches at the top (they’ll expand as they soak). Cover bowl and put in fridge for food safety reasons, or leave it out on the counter if you’re feeling lucky.
The next morning:
Strain lentil+rice mixture (you can give the water you strain to your plants again!)
Get out mini loaf pans and lightly oil them. Preheat oven to 375. (I always hate when recipes tell you to preheat the oven at the end of a recipe. Why do you do this to me. I can’t read ahead. Come on.)
Put the now plump lentils + rice in a blender container along with:
200 g (7 oz, around ¾ cup) of water
45 g (3Tbsp) of vegetable oil
6 g of salt
25 g of date sugar (or brown sugar or maple syrup or I guess regular sugar although I’ve never tried it)
7 g of instant yeast
1 egg (or egg replacer if eggs don’t work for you)
Blend all of these ingredients. You really need a high speed blender for this: it has to be fast enough that the temperature will rise as you blend. In the beginning, you kind of have to baby the blender so that everything is mixing. Once it’s mixing, turn it on to its highest setting, and watch the temperature. The mixture will heat up. You want it to get to about 102 degrees (but not much hotter or you will kill the yeast).
As soon as it hits temperature, pour your liquid into your mini loaf pans until they are half full. Spritz the top of the loaves so they don’t dry out. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
Then put them in the oven (you preheated it to 375, right?) for 35-70 minutes, depending on how large your loaf pan is.
(This recipe can make full-size bread, but it’s very hard for it to actually rise without falling because there’s no gluten in the bread to sustain the rise. Smaller loaves have better structural integrity.)
Try to let your loaves cool before you slice them, but if you fail, that’s fine.
The inspiration for this came from Emmy’s YouTube channel: she did a version that was all rice which is delicious and fluffy and perfect but I wanted something that had more fiber and protein.
These don’t taste super-lentilly to me, and especially when toasted make a nice, crunchy vehicle for avocado. Your tastebuds may differ!
Until next week!
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