Finding Tea in Martin Yan’s Hidden China

I wasn’t very familiar with Martin Chan until I recently ran across a TV show called Martin Yan’s Hidden China. For anyone else who might have been living under a rock, suffice to say that Yan has been the host of the PBS show, Yan Can Cook, since 1982 and has also hosted various other cooking shows, as well as appearing on popular shows like Iron Chef America.

Martin Yan’s Hidden China: Ancient Lijiang: A Journey Through Time (Photo source: screen capture from site)
Martin Yan’s Hidden China: Ancient Lijiang: A Journey Through Time (Photo source: screen capture from site)

As the name suggests, Martin Yan’s Hidden China finds the host traveling to lesser known corners of that vast country. Not surprisingly, given Yan’s background, much of the focus is on food. It’s also not surprising, given that China is the world’s largest producer of tea, in total quantity and arguably in the number of varieties, that several of the episodes deal with tea.

While it’s apparently not being produced anymore, you’re likely to still catch episodes of the show on your local PBS station. Some of the more notable episodes, from the perspective of tea fans, include the fifth one, in which Yan visits the Musuo region of southwestern China. Located in the same general vicinity of Tibet, it’s no coincidence that, as in Tibet, the tea most often served there is strong black tea flavored with sizable quantities of yak butter. Episode seven, which takes the host to the important tea producing province of Yunnan, features a recipe for Tea Infused Chicken Kabobs.

Episode ten, For All the Teas in Western China, also focuses on the Yunnan region. As the name indicates, it is devoted almost wholly to tea production and customs. China’s Yunnan region is known for several types of tea, but most notable among them is probably Puerh, which happens to be the primary focus of this episode. Yan visits the tea fields, where he learns how leaves are harvested and takes a crack at it himself. He also provides a look into the processing of the leaves. In the case of Puerh this often means pressing the tea into a shaped brick of some type before the aging process begins, which the host also tries his hand at. Also in this episode, a visit to a local tea museum to examine a number of aged tea cakes and more on how tea is used as an ingredient in local cuisine.

More on Martin Yan’s Hidden China, here.

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