• Shona McCarthy

Making Tea Out of Orange Peels: A Friend for Matcha

Updated: Mar 16

(Image by Unsplash, 5/3/21)

If you've been watching my Instagram or my Facebook, you'll know that the upcoming sakura season in Japan has me missing my trip to Kyoto like crazy, and looking for ways I can (affordably) experience some Japanese culture right where I am. So, I've been tracking down various Japanese snacks for me to eat, some of which I'm planning on talking about here in this blog! Some of what I have bought is a little expensive for the quantity, but is of excellent artisan quality and absolutely worth the money. Especially since traditional Japanese candies and cakes aren't meant to be wolfed down while binging Superman and Lois. They're meant to be quietly savoured as you sip Japanese green tea aka matcha and take a moment to be still and think about the meaning of life. So, I intend to make every snack I eat into a moment, and I'm going to look for ways to make my purchases last. I'm going to discuss my process in a future blog post.

(Image by Unsplash, 5/3/21)

But what do you do if the snack or cake is already made of matcha? Or what if you can't handle caffeine at all but still want an experience of Japanese culture? Well, luckily, there are options! If you're find with drinking all the tea you want, but you don't really want to drink matcha tea with matcha snacks, you do have the option of a type of brown Japanese tea called "hojicha", which is green tea that has been roasted in a pot over charcoal. It has a pleasant flavour that is sort of what you'd get if you took tea to one side and told it, "Please, do your best to be as much like coffee as you can be. But please still be tea."

It turns out there is a Kyoto based company that sells Hojicha and has their own website on the concept you can see right here.

Some people, in efforts to increase the antioxidant value green tea is already famous for will even have it with coffee or chocolate. But many would consider this to be too non-traditional.

(Image by Unsplash, 5/3/21)

If you aren't so keen on loading up with so much caffeine, you do have other options.

(Image by Unsplash, 5/3/21) In Japan, toasted barley is often drank as a tea. You simply take an amount you like and put it in water. It's said to be helpful for people who struggle to get to sleep and easily obtained. I took mine and ground it into a fine powder with some lotus sprigs mixed in for added relaxation, but you might find that too bitter.

(Image by Unsplash, 5/3/21)

Chrysanthemums in tea is also a popular choice in Japan. They're said to be rich in antioxidants. But both of the above are just improvisations. I wanted to find out what the best possible combination with matcha could be, and the answer really surprised me: Citrus.

(Image by Wix, 5/3/21)

I didn't expect it at first, given how reputedly bitter matcha can be in the first place. But most sources recommended *against* the traditional combination of matcha and azuki beans, stating that chemical compounds in matcha, while highly nutritionals in of themselves, would strip the beans of their iron and therefore mean a loss of nutrition in the body. The foods that pair best with matcha both in terms of flavour and nutrition are fruits like oranges, lemons and limes. But when I thought a little more, I realised this makes a kind of sense. Citrus fruits like yuzu and mikan are time-honoured favourites in Japanese culture. The peels of mandarins even hold a place in some forms of Asian herbal medicine. So then I thought: What if you could make orange peels into tea?

Of course, it's not hard to take an orange and grate it into hot water. I had two oranges in my kitchen I could do that with. But I wanted to take the concept a little further and try to make something that would be more similar to the usual tea-drinking experience. That Japanese teas can come in the form of powder makes them easier to prepare. So, I wanted to try to make a kind of powdered orange peel I could easily mix with other drink powders and teas. I had to experiment and research a fair amount to work out this process. All the photos you are about to see were taken by me.

The first part of this process involves parting the orange from its skin. I found the easiest way to do this was to cut the orange into segments and then remove the flesh.

If you bend the peel backwards against itself so that it's natural curve is turned inside out, the flesh will start to come apart, and to fold away from the peel a little bit.

Then you can wedge your thumbs and fingers under the edges of the flesh chunks till they come off. You can put these segments in a bowl, or into your mouth. Whatever makes you happy. There will be some of the pith or white part of the peel stuck to it, but that's okay. It will give you more fibre.

Then I put the peel pieces into a blender and ground them up till they seemed to be roughly the texture of loose tea leaves. This made dehydrating the peels quicker. So I smoothed them out on a baking tray covered with grease proof paper.

I've seen some people leave citrus peels on the window sill to dry out. But if you're living somewhere humid or with people who will only throw them out, you might need another way.

The aim is to dehydrate the orange peels to condense their flavours and make them easier to keep over the long term. So you don't want to cook them, you want to simply get the moisture out. This means putting your oven on its lowest setting. How long you actually leave the orange peels in there will vary depending on your climate, your oven and your oranges, but I found that three and a half hours was about right for me. I found that checking every now and again helped.

Once the rinds were dry, I found the tiny pieces were clinging, and still wasn't quite as much like powder as I wanted. So I put them back into the blender for a little while longer, till they were a texture I wanted.

Then I put the powder into a jar I labelled. I had saved a desiccant from another food product to put in the jar with the powder to keep it dry. Never consume a desiccant! They can be poison!

Finally, I wanted to sample my wares. So I scooped a little of the powder into a cup with some hot water. I put in just a touch of stevia for sweetness. Then a let it steep for a few minutes. The orange peel aroma had been pleasant throughout this whole process. And now it and a slight orange colour were in the hot water.

I took a taste and was blown away! The warmth of the water, the sweetness, the citrus flavour all perfectly came together! It was somehow juicy and with none of the sourness you would normally find in an orange! I honestly regret not doing this with every citrus fruit I ever had! I'd had an upset stomach most of the time I'd been trying the "orange tea". But a few sips was making it go away!

To see how it would pair with matcha, I took out a matcha kit kat and tasted them together.

And wow! They did seem to add something to each other! I can imagine it would have been even better if my orange tea had been more potent! I did what I said I would, and I ate the kit kat slowly as I sipped the tea. Truly, this does seem to be a way to make Japanese snacks go further. I'm still in shock that I was able to make something so decadent so cheaply!

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