Pine - Masson
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Masson Pine.
Pinus massoniana
Pine - Masson

Uses: Needles, bark, pollen
Acquired: tbd
How started:
Source: Fremont Gardens (closed), Seattle, WA

Masson Pine is also called Chinese Red Pine. I acquired this tree thinking it was another Chinese Pine that produces large pinenuts. Masson Pine is not known for its nuts. Oops. Masson Pine has some other interesting features, so I am proud to have it in my collection. The branches are burned to flavor black tea as it ferments, the bark contains a potent mix of antioxidants, and the pollen is classified as a superfood by some.

Tea Falvoring
A black tea called Lapsang Souchong acquires a unique aroma from the smoke of buring Masson pine braches that contain longifolene and α-terpineol. Longifolene has an odor that is sweet and woody, and is a main component of clove oil. α-terpineol smells like lilacs.

Here are some facts about the use of this pine tree for flavoring tea [1]:
The real story about why these teas from Fujian province have a smoky flavour is that in the early 17th century when the Chinese tea producers began to export their teas to Europe and America, their traditional green teas did not travel well and quickly lost quality during the 15-18 month journey across land and sea. The producers developed a method of rolling, oxidising and drying their teas so that they would hold their quality for longer. Once the teas had been oxidised, they were spread on bamboo baskets which were placed on racks in the drying room. This was built over ovens that allowed the heat to rise up through vents in the ceiling and into the drying room above. To fire the ovens, the tea manufacturers used the local pine wood from the forests that surrounded (and still surround) the factories, and as the wood slowly burned, it gave off a certain amount of smoke that was absorbed by the drying tea and gave it a lightly smoked, sappy, pine character.

In 1604, the Dutch began to import Lapsang Souchong to the West. At that time,it was regarded as a precious medicine and sold at pharmacies. The Dutch dominated the trade in Lapsang Souchong until 1669 when the English imported it on a commercial scale. By the time the English East India Company began trading in tea, lapsang Souchong was well established at the English courts, where it was no longer valued for its medicinal benefits, but was drunk as an invigorating beverage.

According to historical records,It was Princess Catherine who in 1662 brought Lapsang Souchong tea to England. She was a Portuguese and was married to Prince Charles. Her passion for Lapsang Souchong helped to promote the tea in England. Lapsang Souchong was treated as a luxury drink in England,France, Dutch and The Netherlands. In England itself,Lapsang Souchong tea is recognized as the representative of Chinese Tea and used to serve England’s Royal Family so it was known as the Royal Black Tea in England.

After plucking,the leaves are withered over pine wood fires. In the Wuyi mountainous area,the withering has to be carried out with additional heat from burning pine firewood because of the shortage of sunny days. It is a common practice in the production of tea of Wuyi Mountain including Lapsang Souchong, The firewood is burned with a strong fire,generating heat to help water evaporate but which only does not contribute to the smoky flavor of end product. Tea leaves is placed on bamboo mat, piled at 3-7 cm thick,and the mat is placed on the wooden rack. At the bottom of rack, pine wood is collected and burned. In the withering room,the atmospheric temperature is controlled at 30˚C,and the tea leaves are turned over and mixed well every 20 minutes. When the leaves become soft and are not shiny anymore,they are removed from the wooden rack and placed on the floor to cool down. The leaves are then to be rolled into taut strips (called Rou-nian,which means maceration).

After the rolling process,tea leaves are placed into wooden barrels and covered with cloth to allow enzymatic oxidation to take place. At high altitudes of the mountainous area,the tea leaves are gathered together and kept in the barrels in order to maintain the optimum temperature for enzymatic reaction. When it gets cooler,the barrels will be placed near the cook-stove to keep tea leaves warm. When 80% of the tea leaves have turned into a copper color and begun to emit their own pleasant fragrance,the oxidation is sufficient.

Unlike any other black tea which is dried immediately after the oxidation process,Lapsang Souchong tea is instead pan fried before drying. During the pan-frying session,the high temperature in a short time will inactive the enzyme instantly,prevent prolonged oxidation and stabilize the quality and characteristic of fermented tea leaves prior to long hour drying (8-10 hours). When the pan temperature reaches 200˚C,oxidized tea leaves is placed into the pan and fried. It takes 2-3 min to give off the greenish and grassy smell of tea leaves,further improving the aromatic fragrance of tea leaves.

While the fried tea leaves remain hot,it is quickly macerated for the second time. The tea leaves are rolled and tightened, more tea fluid is squeezed out and remains on the leaves’ surface. The expression of the juice over the leaf particles increases the strength (i.e. the soluble matter in the liquor when brew). In addition, it helps to absorb the smoke during the later stage.

In China, regardless of what is green tea,black tea or yellow tea,the common final step is drying in the bamboo basket called Hong Long that is heated over burning firewood. However,for Lapsang Souchong tea,there are two critical differences which contribute to the Dried Longan aroma and smoky flavor:
1.Unlike any other kind of tea, pine tree was used as the firewood for Lapsang Souchong. Pine tree contains amber (Hu-po), i.e. pine tree resin.
2.For the other teas,they are dried with strong flame (Ming-huo) throughout. However, Lapsang Souchong is dried with strong flame during the first drying stage to reduce the moisture content to 20%. Late, when the burning of pine wood is suppressed, the additional drying with smoldering fire (“Wen-huo”) is carried out until the tea leaf is dried to moisture under 5%.

Due to the incomplete combustion,the smoldering pine fire generates smoke containing vaporized amber essence, which absorbed by tea leaves gives Lapsang souchong typical pine smoke flavor. The drying process takes 8-10 hours in order to ensure complete drying and develop the distinctive flavor of Lapsang Souchong. In addition,this crucial step also gives rise to the luster dark reddish color (Wu-run) of tea leaf because of amber essence absorbed by dried tea leaves.

In the past,it is widely believed that Lapsang Souchong tea has the typical dried longan flavor as the result of unique tea leaf used – it is proven to be wrong. Another tea cultivar, Zheng-he Xiao-zhong (tea cultivar named after the Zheng-he County in Fujian Province), was used to produce both Keemun black tea and Lapsang Souchong. The result is that only Lapsang Souchong tea gave the dried longan flavor not the Keemun black tea. Apparently, the crucial drying process using smoldering pine fire is the decisive step in making Lapsang Souchong tea with unique dried longan aroma and smoky flavor.

Bark Extract
Pine bark extract, rich in proanthocyanidin, is a bioflavanoid complex extracted from the bark of the Pinus massoniana Lamb pine tree. It is a powerful antioxidant. Pine bark extract has been shown to help strengthen and repair tissues made of collagen, a protein that builds blood vessels, skin and connective tissue. Pine bark extract has been shown to be a more effective antioxidant than either vitamin C or vitamin E, because absorption in the bloodstream only takes 20 minutes and works for up to 72 hours. Pine bark extract also works synergistically with vitamin C to assist the body in recycling vitamin E, and is one of the select antioxidants that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier to help protect brain tissue. Pine bark extract is valued for its high levels of oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), antioxidants that can scavenge free radicals from the human body. Pine bark extract also appears to recycle ascorbyl and tocopheryl radicals, thus helping to preserve healthy vitamin C and E levels. Preliminary evidence suggests that pine bark extract might stimulate the immune system. It seems to stimulate and bolster natural killer cell activity and enhances T- and B-cell function in animal subjects.

Pollen Superfood
Pinus massoniana produces a very potent and powerful superfood. Pine Pollen is one of the ultimate superfoods in the world, which should be a staple in ones daily diet. Pine Pollen has over 200 bioacitve natural nutrients, minerals and vitamins source in one single serving, that is completely absorbed by the human body.

Over 20 Amino Acids and 8 Essential Amino Acids Making Pine Pollen A Complete Protein:
Alanine • Arginine • Aspartic • Cysteine • Glutamic • Acid • Glycin • Histidine • Isoleucine • Leucine • Lysine • Methionine • Phenylalanie • Proline • Serine • Threonine • Tryptophan • Tyrosine • Valine

Pine Pollen also contains these important compounds:
Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) • Androstenedione • Androsterone • Antioxidants • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) • Fiber • Flavonoids • Lignin • Living Coenzymes • Living Enzymes • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) • Monosaccharides • Nucleic Acids • Oleic acid • Polysaccharides • Superoxide dismutase (SOD) • Testosterone • Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Vitamin A B-Carotene • Vitamin B1 • Vitamin B2 • Vitamin B3 • Vitamin B6 • Folic Acid • Vitamin D • Vitamin E

Calcium • Copper • Iron • Manganese • Magnesium • Molybdenum • Phosphor • Potassium • Selenium • Silicon • Sodium • Zinc

Pine pollen is also a goof source of fiber, comparable to wheat bran. It has been used traditionally in China as a laxative.

Pine Needle Tea
You can use any variety of pine needles to make a green herb tea. Here are some facts [3]. You may not realize that Pine Needle Tea contains 4-5 times the Vitamin C of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and is high in Vitamin A. It is also an expectorant (thins mucus secretions), decongestant, and can be used as an antiseptic wash when cooled. So not only does it taste good, but it's good for you! Each varietal of pine has it's own flavor to impart, so experiment and see which needles you like best.

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