Tea snacks, an integral part of Chinese culinary culture, add a delightful dimension to the tea-drinking experience. They can be broadly categorized into those made from tea and those served with tea, each offering a unique blend of flavors and textures.
Chinese Tea Snacks: A Historical Evolution
Traditional Chinese tea snacks are made from tea have a rich history, originating from royal tea banquets during ancient times. In the Qing Dynasty, the benefits of tea were discovered, leading to its incorporation into various dishes. Modern processing methods have further refined tea snacks, making them more delicate and health-conscious.
Teas as Ingredients: A Culinary Fusion
- Tea-Flavored Drinks: The market boasts popular tea-flavored drinks, with bubble tea being a favorite. Originating from Taiwan, bubble tea combines tea, milk, and unique elements like cassava balls or pudding.
- Soups Seasoned with Tea: Tea-seasoned soups, such as black tea soup with dates, green tea rice soup, and oolong tea with white fungus, serve as appetizers with digestive benefits.
- Tea-Infused Desserts: Cakes and desserts like tea cookies, green tea bread, and sweet tea dumplings are created by replacing regular water with tea water, resulting in distinctive flavors.
- Tea Candies: Many companies produce tea candies with flavors like black tea milk candy and green tea gum, enhancing the variety of tea-infused treats.
Snacks Served with Tea: An Artful Pairing
In southern China, pairing snacks with tea is considered an art. Different regions have varying preferences; for example, green and black teas pair well with sweet snacks, while oolong tea complements salty treats.
The Four Precious Tea Snacks
Historically, Huzhou, near the Changjing River delta, is renowned for its tea snacks. “The Four Precious Tea Snakes” include the rose crunchy candy, salty peach slice, sticky candy, and a chewy cake.
- Rose Crunchy Candy: Made with fresh roses pickled with sugar for five months, it boasts a strong rose scent, a half-crunchy, half-chewy texture, and a light pink color.
- Salty Peach Slices: Despite smelling like a baked peach, it’s made of rice powder, flour, sugar, salt, oil, walnut, and black sesame, providing a unique combination of flavors.
- Sticky Candy: A traditional snack from Yangzhou, chewy and never hard, it’s made of sugar, flour, peanuts, and white sesame, with various flavors developed over time.
- Chewy Cake: Made with sugar, flour, nuts, and other ingredients, its chewy and soft texture distinguishes it from other tea snacks.
Regional Delights: Satisfying Diverse Tastes
Different regions in China boast diverse tastes in tea snacks.
- Sichuan Spicy Chicken Feet: Soaked in a sauce of chili and vinegar, these chicken feet are crunchy and flavorful, offering a contrast to the tea-drinking experience.
- Fried Dough Twists: Originating from Tianjin, these twists made of flour, sugar, and salt are crunchy and flavorful after being twisted and fried.