Lahpet, also spelt laphet, is Burmese for fermented or pickled
tea. Myanmar, formerly Burma, is one of very few countries where tea is eaten as well as drunk. Its pickled tea is unique even in the region, and not only regarded as "the" national delicacy but it plays a very significant role in Burmese society.cite web|url=http://www.innwa.com/dev/kitchen/news/get-news.asp?id=142|title=Lephet - Green Tea Salad|last=Haber|first=Daniel|date=March 31 2002|publisher="Swe Sone" magazine|accessdate=2007-04-10] Its place in the cuisine of Myanmaris reflected by the following popular expression::"Of all fruit, mango is the best, of all meat it's pork, and of all leaves it's lahpet".cite web|url=http://www.mizzima.com/archives/news-in-2003/news-in-may/20-may03-25.htm|title="Laphet" Companies Contribute to Junta's Human Rights Violations|author=Moe Thee Zun|date=May 20 2003|publisher="Mizzima News"|accessdate=2007-04-10]
*"Lahpet chauk" or dried tea leaves, also called "a-jan jauk" (crude dry), are used to make
green tea- "yei-nway jan" (plain/crude hot water) or "lahpet-yei jan" (plain/crude tea); it is the national drink in a predominantly Buddhistcountry with no national drink other than the palm toddy.
*"A-choh jauk" (sweet dry) or
black teamakes sweet tea ("lahpetyei jo") with milk and sugar.
*"Lahpet so" means wet tea to distinguish it from dried tea and indicates pickled tea although lahpet is generally synonymous with pickled tea.
Tea is native to Myanmar, as in
Assam, Laosand China, both Camellia sinensisand Camellia assamica, and grown mainly on the hills in northern Shan Statearound Namsan in the Palaungsubstate of Tawngpeng, but also around Mogokin Mandalay Division, and Kengtungin southern Shan State. "Zayan" leaves, which make up about 80% of the harvest, are best picked in April and May before the onset of the monsoons, but they can be picked until October.cite web|url=http://www.myanmar.gov.mm/myanmartimes/no221/MyanmarTimes12-221/c14.htm|title=Pickled tea leaves still a Myanmar favourite|author=Zin Min|publisher=" Myanmar Times" vol.12 no.221|accessdate=2007-04-09] cite web|url=http://myanmartravelinformation.com/mti-myanmar-food/laphet.htm|title=Pickled tea leaves or laphet|publisher=Myanmar Travel Information 2007|accessdate=2007-04-09] Another old adage goes thus: "For good lahpet let the Palaung take their time up the hills".
Over 700 square kilometres of land are under tea with an annual yield of 60,000-70,000 tonnes. Of this 69.5% is green tea, 19.5% black tea and 20% pickled tea. Annual consumption runs at 52% green tea, 31% black tea and 17% pickled tea. [cite web|url=http://www.myanmartea.com/production.htm|title=Myanmar Tea|accessdate=2007-04-10]
The best tea leaves are selected for fermenting and the rest for drying. They are steamed for about five minutes before either drying or fermenting. Young leaves are packed into bamboo vats set in pits and pressed by heavy weights; the fermentation process is checked at intervals and the pulp may occasionally require re-steaming.
"A-hlu lahpet" or
Mandalaylahpet is served traditionally in a shallow lacquerwaredish called "lahpet ohk" with a lid and divided into small compartments - pickled tea is laced with sesameoil in a central compartment surrounded, in their own compartments, by other ingredients namely crisp fried garlic, peas and peanuts, toasted sesame, crushed dried shrimp, preserved shredded ginger and fried shredded coconut. A rare treat in Mandalay may be a delicacy, dried and lightly panfried, called "twin poh" - a species of aquatic grub that is found only in a lake within the crater of an extinct volcano called Twindaung near Monywa.
No special occasion or ceremony in Myanmar is considered complete without lahpet. "A-hlu" means alms and is synonymous with a novitiation ceremony called "
Shinbyu" although lahpet is served in this form also at "hsun jway" (offering a meal to monks), and weddings. Nat (spirit)worship features lahpet offered to the guardian spirits of forests, mountains, rivers and fields.cite web|url=http://www.myanmar.gov.mm/myanmartimes/no184/MyanmarTimes10-184/049.htm|title=Pickled tea - a traditional favourite|last=Balun|first=George|publisher=" Myanmar Times" vol.10 no.184|accessdate=2007-04-10] Invitation to a "shinbyu" is traditionally by calling from door to door with a "lahpet ohk", and acceptance is indicated by its partaking.
It may be served as a snack or after a meal holding centre stage on table with green tea; it may be just for the family and visitors. Apart from its bittersweet and pungent taste and leafy texture, many also believe in its medicinal properties as beneficial for the digestive system and controlling bile and mucus. Its stimulant effect to ward off tiredness and sleepiness is especially popular with students preparing for exams, "pwè" goers at all-night theatrical performances, and helpers at funerals who keep watch overnight.
"Lahpet thohk" or
Yangonlahpet is pickled tea salad which is very popular all over Myanmar, especially with women,Fact|date=August 2007 and some teashops would have it on their menu as well as Burmese restaurants. It is prepared by mixing all the above ingredients without the coconut but in addition includes fresh tomatoes, garlic and green chilli, sometimes shredded cabbage, and is dressed with fish sauce, sesame or peanut oil, and a squeeze of lime. Many would have lahpet together with plain white rice, again a student favourite.
Some of the most popular brands sold in packets include "Ayee Taung lahpet" from
Mandalay, "Shwe Toak" from Mogok, "Yuzana" and "Pinpyo Ywetnu" from Yangon. Mixed ingredients of fried garlic, peas, peanuts and sesame have become available as "Hna-pyan jaw" (literally twice fried) for convenience although traditionally they have been sold separately. Ayee Taung has been around for over 100 years and its new recipes such as "Shu-shè" (extra hot) and "Kyetcheini" (Red Cross) are quite popular. "Zayan lahpet" is mixed with carambola(star fruit), and pickled young leaves may be cut together with coarse leaves. Many prefer Mogoklahpet as it uses only young tea leaves.
In Northern Thailand, "lahpet thohk" can be found at restaurants where Shan ethnic food is served. In Thai, it is called "yam miang" (ยำเหมียง). Provinces where this can be found include Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son.
Lahpet was an ancient symbolic peace offering between warring kingdoms in the
history of Myanmar, and is exchanged and consumed after settling a dispute.
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS9B65hYLyw Tea in Burma ] YouTube
* [http://www.kepu.net.cn/english/banna/folk/fol107.html Eating Tea in
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