Friday May 3, 2013 | 1 comment
By now, you have probably noticed a trend with my posts. Below are more of my observations of tea in Myanmar.
Myanmar Tea-Leaf Salad
When it comes to Myanmar tea, it is impossible not to mention Myanmar tea-leaf salad. What sets this salad apart is laphet, that is, fermented or pickled tea leaves, which are regarded as a national delicacy in Myanmar. It is said that “of all the fruit, the mango’s the best; of all the meat, pork’s the best; of all the leaves, laphet’s the best.” This will give you some idea how much the Burmese like their laphet.
Although I strongly suggest that travelers try Myanmar’s tea-leaf salad, I also suggest that they pair it with a bowl of plain rice. That is because the salad is very salty. The first time I ordered it, I was not very hungry, so I just ordered the salad, not aware of its saltiness. Although it is referred to as tea-leaf salad, it only contains small bits of tea leaves, and after the pickling process, the tea leaves lose most of their tea flavor. Together with other ingredients, the overwhelming experience is that of a strong salty taste with a bit of spiciness. So, do try tea-leaf salad with a bowl of plain rice.
In addition to laphet, tea-leaf salad is a collection of fried beans, toasted sesame seeds, fried garlic, and dried shrimp, dressed up with fresh tomatoes, green chiles, fish sauce, peanut oil, and squeeze of lime. So although it is called tea-leaf salad, it is comprised of only a small amount of laphet. Laphet reminds me of the taste of homemade pickled vegetables from my childhood. When I was a child, people did not always have a lot to eat, and unlike today, there weren’t always fresh vegetables in the market, so homemade pickled vegetables were necessary. They were very useful when food was scarce because of their strong saltiness or spiciness and the fact that they contributed to eating more rice. Of course, people still eat pickled vegetables even today in China, but since people pay more attention to their health, they tend to eat fewer pickled vegetables than before.
Sadly, I have never found Puerh tea in Myanmar, presumably because it is not readily available in markets. To find Myanmar Puerh tea, it is best to contact Myanmar Puerh tea businessmen directly. As I found out, Myanmar Puerh tea has gradually become accepted by Chinese Puerh tea lovers. Sometimes, Myanmar Puerh tea is sold under the name of Yiwu Puerh tea, but it is easy to tell the difference between the two if you know Puerh well. For one thing, there is a large price difference between Myanmar Puerh and Yiwu Puerh. However, since the Chinese tea market is so vast, it is still possible to pass Myanmar Puerh off as Yiwu Puerh, allowing the fake tea market to prosper.
Myanmar Green Tea
Before I left Myanmar, I went to the only tea shop I could find that sold Myanmar green tea. I bought almost all of their stock (since it was a very small shop). Based on the look of the tea leaf, I think the green tea I bought was made from big arbor tree leaves. According to Chinese preferences regarding green tea, the tea I purchased was over-cooked and over-fried. For green tea, it is important that it keep its pure tea flavor. However, it is possible that the Burmese like the over-fried flavor given that they like strong tastes. There were two kinds of green teas sold in this tea shop. One was a pure green tea and the other was a blend of the same pure green tea and other leaves with a strong smell. The smell made the blended tea very strong and more expensive than the pure green tea. When the Burmese make green tea, they put the green tea leaves in a tea pot with 100-degree water for at least five minutes! Since the tea leaves are big arbor tree leaves, this may be reasonable, particularly since they usually use big tea pots with relatively few tea leaves.