India's Most Expensive Tea Is Only Picked Under a Full Moon

iStock.com/alextenghauran
iStock.com/alextenghauran

Darjeeling is best known around the world as a type of tea, but it's actually named for the Indian hill station in West Bengal from which it comes. As the BBC reports, this Himalayan region is also home to the country's most expensive and exclusive tea: a rare variety that's only plucked under a full moon during the harvesting season. That ends up being just four or five times per year.

This so-called "Champagne of teas" is called Silver Tips Imperial, and it's harvested by pickers from Makaibari, the oldest of Darjeeling's 87 tea estates. A standard 50-gram package of this semi-fermented Oolong tea will set you back at least $30. Makaibari's website describes the tea as a "relaxing and anti-aging liquor ideally sipped at bedtime."

It's believed that the aligning of the sun, moon, and other cosmic forces produces the right conditions for an optimum harvest. This "biodynamic tea farm" relies on a celestial calendar to know when to harvest, but the plucking season is generally held from March to October. On a full moon night, Silver Tips Imperial tea leaves are picked and packed before sunrise to maintain the integrity of the aroma. A spiritual ceremony at dusk with drummers, dancers, and prayer chanters kicks off each picking ritual, and the event has become a popular tourist attraction.

As for the tea itself, it's sipped by affluent and diverse customers around the world. "These teas are even liked by Buckingham Palace and these teas were also there in the World Cup recently held," Sanjay Das, manager of the Makaibari Tea Estate, tells the BBC. "In 2014 we made the record price of $1850 per kilo."

While Silver Tips Imperial may be India's priciest tea, it's not the most expensive tea in the world. China's rare Da-Hong Pao tea is worth more than gold and costs about $1400 per gram.

[h/t BBC]

What's the Difference Between Apple Juice and Apple Cider?

iStock/Alter_photo
iStock/Alter_photo

In a time before pumpkin spice went overboard with its marketing, people associated fall with fresh apples. Crisp and fresh, they practically beg to be crushed and pulped into liquid. But what’s the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

According to the state of Massachusetts, home to a variety of apple-picking destinations, both apple juice and apple cider are fruit beverages. But apple cider is raw, unfiltered juice—the pulp and sediment are intact. To make cider, the apples are ground into an applesauce-like consistency, then wrapped in cloth. A machine squeezes the layers and strains out the juice into cold tanks. That’s the cider that ends up on store shelves.

Apple juice, on the other hand, takes things a step further—removing solids and pasteurizing the liquid to lengthen its shelf life. It’s typically sweeter, possibly with added sugar, and may lack the stronger flavor of its relatively unprocessed counterpart. It’s also often lighter in color, since the remaining sediment of cider can give it a cloudy appearance.

But that’s just the Massachusetts standard. Each state allows for a slight variation in what companies are allowed to call apple cider versus apple juice. The cider may be pasteurized, or the cider and juice may actually be more or less identical. One company, Martinelli’s, states in its company FAQ that their two drinks are the same in every way except the label: "Both are 100 percent pure juice from U.S. grown fresh apples. We continue to offer the cider label since some consumers simply prefer the traditional name for apple juice."

The US Apple Association, a nonprofit trade organization that represents growers nationwide, indicates that apple juice can be made from concentrate, which is why you might see water as the first ingredient on the label. Generally, cider is the hard stuff: Crushed apples with minimal processing. Because it can ferment, it's usually found refrigerated. Apple juice can often be found elsewhere in stores, where it can remain stable.

Which you should buy comes down to personal preference. Typically, though, recipes calling for apple cider should use apple cider. Processed juice may be too sweet an ingredient. And you can always try making a pumpkin spice hot apple cider, although we may stop talking to you if you do.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Europe's First Underwater Restaurant Is Now Taking Reservations

MIR, Snøhetta
MIR, Snøhetta

The choppy waters off Norway's coast may not seem like the most relaxing dining atmosphere, but thanks to the work of the architecture firm Snøhetta, the North Sea is now home to the region's hottest new restaurant. Under, Europe first underwater restaurant (and the world's largest), opens next year, as Forbes reports—and reservations are already filling up fast.

From the shore, Under looks like some sort of toppled ruin jutting out of the water. Guests enter at sea-level, then descend to the champagne bar and finally to the 100-person dining room, which is submerged 18 feet beneath the ocean's surface. From their seats, diners can gaze through the restaurant's 36-foot-by-13-foot panoramic window. Lighting installed both inside the room and along the seabed outside illuminates nearby marine life, providing a stunning underwater show any time of day or night.

A rendering of the top of Under jutting out of the ocean
MIR, Snøhetta

In addition to designing Under to be a breathtaking experience, Snøhetta built the restaurant to durable. The building's 3-foot thick walls protect guests and staff from water pressure and violent tides. The architects were so sure of the restaurant's safety that they intentionally built it in notoriously rough waters near the town of Båly off Norway's southern coast. According to Snøhetta's senior architect Rune Grasdal, a storm is the best time to dine if guests want a truly dramatic view.

A rendering of the exterior of the underwater restaurant
MIR, Snøhetta

The over-the-top atmosphere will be accompanied by a world-class meal. The seasonal menu comes from Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard and dishes are served over the course of three-and-a-half to four hours.

Under doesn't open to the public until April 2019, but the restaurant is already taking reservations. Adventurous diners can attempt to book a table here, or, for parties larger than eight, email the restaurant.

[h/t Forbes]

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