Saturday, October 4, 2008

Lao Ying Cha

When Sunee and I started our first tea adventure in Ya'an, we were looking for a place to get some noodles. We walked about two or three blocks from our hotel and found a small place offering noodles. Along with their nice noodles we were served a tea which was new to our tastes. It was a bit spicy but pleasant with a very good and mild aftertaste. When we asked about it, we were told it was Lao Ying Cha or Eagle Tea. Never heard of it.

While visiting Shangli the ancient town in the Mengding mountains, we found some of this Eagle Tea along with the Mengding Mao Feng so we bought some. Here is the pictures of that tea.


Laoying Cha (eagle tea) is made from the dried leaves of a type of a Laurel tree, Actinodaphne cupularis. The tree is evergreen
with thick dark green leaves, and it grows abundantly in the mountainous areas of Sichuan province. The family of Laurel trees (Lauraceae) includes the well-known Chinese herb sources for cinnamon and lindera. These herbs, like Laoying Cha, have essential oils that give them their characteristic fragrance and taste (see Appendix 2 for related plants, and Appendix 3 about
use of their oils). In the case of Laoying tea, the main essential oil components that have been identified are sesquiterpenes:
isocaryophyllene and germacrene. These ingredients are found in some of the mint family herbs, including the Chinese herb elscholtzia (xiangru) that is sometimes used as an aromatic beverage tea. Germacrene is also found in the aromatic bark of magnolia; isocaryophyllene is also found in the spicy herb cloves.

Laoying Cha has been consumed for centuries in Sichuan Province, particularly in the city of Chongqing. This tea is made
available in tea houses and restaurants along with ordinary green tea or black tea and is considered a must to consume with the typical oily dishes of Sichuan to balance the taste, promote digestion, and help clear the fats from the system. It has a reputation for lowering blood lipids, including cholesterol.

A variety of Laoying Cha grows in neighboring India: leaves from the tree Actinodaphne hookeri. It is commonly called "pisa" and is reputed to help people with diabetes control their blood sugar (cinnamon bark also has this use). In India, pisa is known for its ability to remove excess heat of the body, thus lowering pitta (fire). In the Chinese system, Laoying tea is said to aid in cooling the body, but it is classified as having a warm nature; it cools by aiding the surface circulation (alleviating heat through the surface). In this, it is like the botanically unrelated herb elsholtzia, mentioned above, which has a pungent and warm nature, but is used to dispel summer heat and reduce feverish feeling. The taste of Laoying Cha is very pleasant, and the spiciness is mild, not like the hot spiciness of some herb teas, such as ginger.