Myanmar's 1,000 year-old superfood turns it up

the superfood that powers your night onward

For the past 1,000 years, Myanmar people from all walks of life have energized their evenings with their national superfood, Laphet So.  Ok, we don't know exactly how many years back Myanmar's tea-eating culture goes.  But we do know that Myanmar's queens and kings had for a long time taken their tea differently.  One of the legends tells us that King Alaungsithu brought the tea seed to the Palaung tribe, who to this day cultivate and age tea as a fine food, not solely as a drink.  Laphet So literally translates to 'wet tea', distinguishing it as a fermented edible tea, as opposed to Laphet Chauk, or 'black tea' for drinking. 

...the must have, bone-deep, old school favorite around here, Laphet Thoke. The salad of fermented tea leaves. I know...that does not sound good. But you'd be wrong to think that....

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown  

There are 3 main health-related characteristics one encounters when eating Myanmar Laphet So, or edible green tea leaves:

1. Myanmar's original "redbull"

One thing Anthony Bourdain didn't mention in his description of Myanmar Laphet is the list of benefits of tea leaf, depending on your perspective and energy level.  Laphet So brings the trifecta of benefits -- live culture bacteria, a hefty kick of caffeine, and antioxidants.  There are many types of tea salads in Myanmar, the most well-known being the traditional Laphet Thoke that is served at tea shops and bars throughout the country.   University students and club-goers all eat various forms of Laphet for the caffeine buzz and to keep the night on point.  Perhaps the coolest thing about eating tea in Myanmar is that it's a social activity, shared with friends.  Almost like the role of a hookah/sheesha, eating tea is that much more addictive when combined with the camaraderie of friends and the presence of alcohol. 

laphet rice salad

2. Raw Fermented Food

Laphet So is a fermented food when eaten in the live raw form, not the shelf-stable laphet so in the jar.   Laphet So is produced in the same manner as most fermented foods, using anaerobic fermentation.  Fermented foods are well-known for their various health benefits. 

3. Ancient antioxidant powerhouse

As with your typical 'drinking' green tea, Laphet So contains polyphenols that are well known for their health benefits, as detailed in this study in the Journal of Ethnic Foods   Just like the tannin you taste in wine, the flavor of Laphet So has a trademark bitterness, which complements the other flavors found in the plethora of Laphet recipes.  

Next time you're chewing on some tea leaves, you'll have a few options to decide how you'll justify the tasty snack.  Although Laphet is often paired with high-salt and high-fat content foods, there is an emerging tea food culture expanding the ways in which we can eat Laphet.  There is always the simple option of eating Cultured Tea Leaf's olive-oil infused Laphet So on a healthy sesame cracker.  With the addition of olive oil, we have added another healthy component to Laphet.  We will be adding new recipes soon, so please stay tuned!  Below is a quick video clip from Anthony Bourdain's classic episode on Myanmar, quoted above. 

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

In his famous Myanmar episode, Anthony Bourdain details the eating of tea leaves.  

LiberatedState is our community for all things Cultured Tea Leaf, Hawai'i Loa, and tea food culture.  

By Michael Guarino & Billie Thoidingjam