February 25, 2009

White Wine

Different from its cousin, red wine, which derives its name from the red color, white wine gets its name from the misconception of the society who blends clear color as white. White wine has a clear color of yellow, golden or straw-like color, not white like milk. However, the former society has already called it white, maybe because it’s not nice to call it Clear Wine, or maybe because if there is Red then there is White, but not Clear color. The misconception continues from generation to generation and will last until who knows when.

Well, for now lets just called it white, especially when we are invited to a dinner in a restaurant or in your friend’s place. Otherwise we will make people assumed that there is a new variety of a Clear Wine, and of course we can imagine the confusing looks of the sommeliers (wine advisor). Let’s not put them into trouble. Simply because we still need them when choosing the most appropriate beverage to accompany our fantastic dinner. Fantastic food should be combined with fantastic beverage, isn’t it?

Then, if the waiter asked you which one would you like, Red or White? What is your choice? First of all, that would highly depend on your appetite. If you are a red lover, say red, or say white for white lover or if you do not drink alcohol you can also simply choose other beverage. The problem is: what if you want to get the best companion for your meal. The best answer is to ask the waiter or sommelier since they are already familiar with the taste of food or the wine. Do not hesitate to ask their opinion as they will give you their best experience and expertise.

What if you are not eating in the restaurant and there is no waiter or sommelier? Well, there is a basic guideline: choose red wine for red meat, and choose white wine for white meat. And what if they serve red and white meat together? Are you going to ask a mixture of red and white one also? You can try that revolutionary but not so crazy idea, but I will suggest you to ask your self deep in your heart, what is your favorite? Red wine or white wine, it’s your choice.

February 13, 2009

Red Wine

For some people, having a dinner without wine is sometime felt incomplete. Yes, wine has become a way of life for some people, especially in the western country. There are several kinds of wine available in the market: Red, white and sparkling wines are the most popular, and are known as light wines because they are only 10–14% alcohol-content by volume. ApĂ©ritif and dessert wines contain 14–20% alcohol, and are sometimes fortified to make them richer and sweeter. In this topic we will focus more on red wine.

Red wine can be identified easily from its color, which is dark red. The color indicates the high concentration of antioxidants flavonoid phenolics. Among other components, there are two phenolic constituent which are extensively studied, i.e: resveratrol and flavonoids. Resveratrol, found in grape skins and seeds, increases HDL cholesterol and prevent blood clotting, while Flavonoids exhibit antioxidant properties helping prevent blood clots and plaques formation in arteries.

The red color is derived from a vast assortment of grape varietals ranging from grapes that are reddish, deep purple, and even a beautiful blue on the color scale. The different color of the varieties involved in the slight difference of the red wine colors which range from garnet, almost black, dark red, light red, ruby red, opaque purple, deep violet, maroon, etc. It is the grape skins that are responsible for the red wine’s distinct color spectrum. Why? It’s because the skins are in contact with the grape’s juice during the fermentation process, allowing the dispersion of both color and tannins.

The quality of red wine may vary due to several reasons: the varieties of the grapes, the location of where it’s grown, the fermentation processes, the temperature and humidity of the storage site and last but not least is how long it has been store. Bordeaux, a city in France, is known to be the best grower and producer of red wine. They have the longest tradition of wine producing combine with the best geographic location for growing grapes, processing, fermenting and storing red wine.

Red wine is a legendary beverage in France.


Ginseng (panax) is a legendary herb to help maintaining overall body health, and especially sexual heath. Korean and Chinese are said to be the first to find out and use them in their medication process. However, Ginseng doesn’t grow only in these two countries. Ginseng grows in the Northern Hemisphere in eastern Asia (mostly northern China, Korea, and eastern Siberia), typically in cooler climates, and also in America and Canada. Panax vietnamensis, discovered in Vietnam, is the southernmost ginseng found.

However, only Chinese and Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) are considered to have beneficial medical effect since they contain ginsenosides, a class of chemical compounds responsible for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cancer preventing properties. Siberian ginseng, or Eleutherococcus senticosus, is not a real ginseng but a whole different plant named ginseng as a marketing effort to try to confuse the public with a cheaper but unbeneficial product. Instead of containing ginsenosides and has a fleshy roots, Siberian ginsengs contain eleutherosides and has a woody roots. Please make sure that you get only Panax ginseng or Panax quinquefolius and not the other one.

As mentioned above, ginseng is normally used to maintain overall body condition not specific organ. However, the effect may be seen on some specifics organ. Caution should be taken before consuming ginseng as there may be adverse effects such as insomnia, headaches, uterine bleeding, or diarrhea if ginseng is consumed over a period of time or with other medications. Ginseng is also considered to be a stimulant, so caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided when using ginseng. Check with your doctor for contraindications before using ginseng products.

As with any herbs or medicine, avoid excessive or prolonged use of ginseng even though it is a non-toxic herb. The recommendation is 0.5 to 2 grams of rhizome or equivalent to less than 5 thin slices of rhizome per day. Do not consume ginseng more than three consecutive months without a 2-week break.

Ginseng is normally consumes as tea or soup. To make a cup of tea, you can use rhizome which is already pre-cut or a whole rhizome which you slice by yourself. Make sure it is firm with no fungi, no soft spot and no discolorations. Pour hot water on to 3 to 5 slices of rhizomes on a ceramic or glass cup and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so. The longer you simmer, the stronger the taste. If you like, you can put sugar or honey as sweetener. This is the instant way to make the beverage.

If you want to try the Korean way, pour the honey first to the rhizome slices and let it put for 30 minutes or so. After that, pour the hot water to the mixture. I don’t know why the Korean like it this way, maybe the honey and ginseng will strengthen each other better, compare to the instant way. It is the secret of the ancient Korean empire. Anyway, just enjoy your delicious ginseng tea.

February 10, 2009

Green Tea

Although harvested from the same tea species, Camellia sinensis, green tea differs from its cousin, black tea, in the way of the processing. Green tea undergoes minimal oxidation or fermentation process, much less than black tea. Since it only expose to a short oxidation, green tea is considered to be healthier than the black one. Nevertheless, the negative side of minimal oxidation is that green tea can only retain its flavor in a short period of time usually within one year. After one year, the taste will slowly decrease compared to the black, which can retain its flavor for several years.

The name green is derived from its color after being brew with hot water, the beverage somewhat looks green. The green color also reflects the high concentration of powerful antioxidants called catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It is also effective in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The formation of abnormal blood clots, called thrombosis, is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.

Green tea has been extensively studied in people, animals, and laboratory experiments. These studies suggest that green tea may be useful for the following health conditions: atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, cancer, Inflamatory Bowel Disease (IBD), diabetes, liver disease and weight loss.
However, green tea, like other herbs, contains active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements or medications. That’s why people should take herbs with care. Supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine is needed. For those who have problems such as heart problems, kidney disorders, stomach ulcers, and psychological disorders (particularly anxiety) should not take green tea. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid green tea.
Nowadays, green tea is available everywhere whereas China is known as the best producer and also the biggest consumer, followed by Japan. This fact is not surprising since green tea had been use as a medication as early as 4,000 years ago, during the Song dynasty in China. The best producer of green tea in China, are: Zhejiang province, Jiangsu province, Hubei province, Henan province, Jiangxi province and Anhui province. Each province produces its own unique tea.
Enjoy your tea! A tea toss shall we :)

February 9, 2009

Black Tea

Who don’t know about black tea? It’s the most popular tea in the world. Almost everybody have taste this delicious tea at least once in their life time. Many are routinely enjoying several cups every day. This is because black tea has many benefits to the body and can be consume by everyone at any age, from children to elderly people. The new trend to put various flavor to the original tea, such as fruit and citrus flavor, has increase the popularity of this beverage especially on teenagers.

Black tea gains its popularity due to its unique flavor and smell. The processing of black tea which is oxidized or fermented longer than white, green or oolong tea makes it last longer and give the specific taste. If the green tea’s taste will decrease within one year, the black’s taste will remain the same for several years.

Black tea is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis, a perennial evergreen shrub. After being harvest, the leaves are withered with air. Then they will be processed either using CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) method for low & medium quality leaves, or orthodox method for the high quality one. The quality refers to the leaves whether they’re broken, which is considered lower quality, or not. Next, the leaves are oxidized or fermented with a controlled humidity and temperature. Then, they will be dried to arrest the oxidization process for some time and finally are graded according to their size (whole leaf, brokens, fannings and dust).

China is known as the best and biggest producer of black tea, follow by India and Srilanka, and then by other country such as Kenya, Vietnam, Nepal, Turkey, and Indonesia. This is not a surprising fact since tea tradition begins from the Chinese’s dynasty as far as 5,000 years ago. From China, tea spreads to the whole world including to Europe and America.

Black tea is a source of caffeine, a methylxanthine that stimulates the central nervous system, relaxes smooth muscle in the airways to the lungs (bronchioles), stimulates the heart, and acts on the kidney as a diuretic (increasing urine). Experiment shows that one cup of tea contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the strength and size of cup (lower than coffee, which contains 65 to 175 milligrams of caffeine per cup). Tea also contains polyphenols (catechins, anthocyanins, phenolic acids), tannin, trace elements, and vitamins.

February 7, 2009

Es Dawet

Another Indonesian traditional drink is Es Dawet. If Wedang Secang is to remove the cold from your body, in contrary Es Dawet will make you cool and fresh. Es Dawet is nice to be enjoyed on the hot day an serve chilled with ice. It contains dawet, slices of jack fruit, coconut milk, palm sugar sauce and of course: crunch of ice. The taste is sweet, salty, cool and refreshing.

Some people have a mix conception of dawet and cendol. Actually they both are almost the same, the only different is in the ingredient to make them. Dawet uses rice flour whereas cendol uses hungkwe flour. Their taste are almost the same and delicious.

To make dawet: prepare 150 grams of rice flour, 50 grams of tapioka/cassava flour, 450 ml of water and 50 ml of pandan (Pandanus amaryllifolius) leaf water (blend several pandan leaves with the water and then filter it). The pandan water will give a nice green color and also a nice smell. Boil all of the ingredients above until they are boiled and them pour them in a hot condition to the dawet shape maker. Keep pushing them to make them come out of the bottom of the shape maker. Place a container, filled with ice and water, below it to receive the dawet. This will make them hard but elastic.

While waiting for the dawet harden, we can prepare the sauce. Boil 1 liter of coconut milk, several pandan leaves, salt and palm sugar. Turn of the stove to cool the sauce. Prepare slices of jack fruit as an add on. Put the dawet, sauce, jack fruit and ice in a glass, and it's ready to be enjoyed.

Don't forget to try this natural yet tasty beverage when you visit Indonesia. You can find it anywhere from streets to five star hotel. I guarantee that you will like it. Enjoy!

Wedang Secang

Wedang Secang is a traditional beverage from Indonesia, specifically from Central Java. In the past, it was the drink of the Javanese Royal Family, but nowadays Secang is available in many places for everybody. In several traditional market, like Pasar Beringharjo Yogyakarta, we can find it in the herbal corner as a dry herbal. In several supermarket, it even comes in a instant sachet package, likr in a tea bag. The easinest to find the different form of Wedang Secang have made it's the popularity rise again, after it was almost forgotten.

What is Secang? Secang is actually a herbal tree which grow in a tropical country espescially in an open space up to 1000m above the sea. It's latin name is Caesalpia sappan L. and belong to the Caesalpiniaceae familia. To make the beverages, we need the wood of the tree. First the wood need to peel from its skin, then copped into small pieces and then dried. The copped wood is then combine with other herbal to make the beverage.

To make the beverage: boil 100 grams of Secang, 100 grams of ginger (red ginger if possible), 2 pieces of lemongrass, 10 grams of cinamon, 5 grams of cloaves in 2 litres of water until the water boils and the color change to reddish. Add 200 grams of sugar and it is ready to be enjoyed in hot. The taste is a combination of hot, fress, and spicy. This is a good beverage to remove the cold from your body.

It is believe that secang is an herbal that can cure diare, disentry, TBC, infection, siphillys, dirty blood, blood vomit, malaria, tetanus, tumor, etc. The wood contains gallic acid, tanin, resin, resorsin, brasilin, brasilein, d-alfaphellandrene, oscimene and aetheric oil while the leaves contain 0.16 - 0.2 % of nice smelling and almost uncolored aetheric acid. If you are interested to try the original Wedang Secang don't forget to ask your hotel to provide it for you when you come to Yogyakarta, Indonesia.