Laphet, a Burmese Tea Snack
Northern Burma (Myanmar) is an area often overlooked in the search for tea. However, it is in this region (along with Laos and Yunnan, China) where the tea plant originated.
Sebastian returned yesterday from a tea-buying trip in Asia, and added a stop in Burma on his way. Although he didn't find tea in Burma that we immediately wish to import, he discovered something else - He writes below:
I debated visiting Burma for some time because of the repressive government but finally decided to go. By doing your homework and staying in private guesthouses it's possible to support local people and not the government. The news today is that the military government plans to release Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sun Suu Kyi this weekend. This is great news.
Every other tea-growing country usually does so to drink tea, but that is not necessarily the case in Burma. The tradition that I found there is not known nearby in China's Yunnan Province or in Thailand or Laos.
Known as Laphet, Burma's most common snack is pickled tea leaves. It's eaten both at informal get-togethers and formal events such as weddings and funerals. The tradition dates back to the time of the Burmese kings. Laphet is essentially a green tea; young leaves plucked and fired before being buried underground anywhere from four to seven months; it's kept underground till it is sold at market. The pickled (sour-tasting) tea leaves are mixed with ginger, garlic, chilis, oil, and salt and all eaten together. It's a great snack to have with a beer, for instance. It has a slightly bitter taste that, when mixed with the other ingredients, makes for quite an addictive snack or dessert.
The best Laphet is made in the Shan hills. They also produce black and green tea to drink. Most tea shops throughout Burma serve a locally made green tea. There are beautiful lacquer Laphet containers which are common in many households. The lacquerware techniques are exceptional, and something that Burma is known for.
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