Hong Kong Emigres Seek Milk Tea in Craving for Taste of Home

Kanis Leung wrote . . . . . . . . .

In London, Wong Wai-yi misses the taste of home.

A year ago, the 31-year-old musician was in Hong Kong, earning a good living composing for TV and movies and teaching piano. Today, she makes about half as much in London working part-time as a server alongside her musical pursuits. She chose the job in part because staff meals allow her to save money on food.

It’s a difficult adjustment. And Wong, who left Hong Kong with her boyfriend in January, has turned to a beloved hometown staple to keep her grounded: milk tea. She brings the beverage to parties with Hong Kong friends and gives bottles to co-workers as gifts.

“It’s like reminding myself I am a Hong Konger. It will be fine as long as we are willing to endure the hardships and work hard,” said Wong, who left as part of an exodus that began after Beijing passed a law in 2020 that curtailed civil liberties.

As tens of thousands leave Hong Kong for new lives abroad, many are craving a flavor from childhood that’s become a symbol of the city’s culture: the sweet, heavy tea with evaporated milk that’s served both hot and cold at diner-like restaurants called cha chaan tengs. Workshops are popping up to teach professionals to brew tea like short-order cooks, and milk tea businesses are expanding beyond Chinatowns in Britain.

In Hong Kong, milk tea is an unassuming beverage, something you use to wash down sweet French toast off a plastic plate. It’s so beloved that members of Hong Kong’s protest movement have called themselves part of a “Milk Tea Alliance” with activists from Taiwan, Thailand, and Myanmar, who drink similar beverages.

Following a law that silenced or jailed most political opposition, over 133,000 residents have secured a special visa that allows them to live and work in the U.K. and apply for British citizenship after six years. Official figures have not been released on how many have gone but most recipients are expected to do so, given the visa’s cost.

The pathway was introduced last year in response to China’s 2020 enactment of the National Security Law, which the U.K. called “a clear breach” of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The declaration included a promise to retain the former British colony’s rights and freedoms for 50 years after it was returned to China’s rule in 1997.

Exiled activist Lee Ka-wai said that immersing himself at a Hong Kong-style cafe in London with a cup of milk tea was a “luxury.”

The 26-year-old fled Hong Kong in March last year out of fear of being arrested. He is wanted by the city’s anti-graft body for allegedly inciting others to boycott the legislative election in December 2021. As an asylum seeker in Britain, he is not allowed to work and is living on savings.

Even if the taste is right, he said, the feel of a cha chaan teng and the sounds of customers chatting in Cantonese cannot be replicated.

“It’s strange because I can feel a sense of home overseas. But it also has another meaning — there’s something that cannot be replaced,” he said. “What we long for most is to go home and see a better Hong Kong. But we can’t.”

Some emigrants, like Eric Tam, a 41-year-old manager at an insurance company, enroll in milk tea lessons before leaving. Visiting Hong Kong this month, he stocked up on a milk tea blend, a recipe that evolved from British teas in the colonial era.

While tea is easy to find in England, he said, the taste isn’t the same: “British milk tea is just watery milk,” said Tam.

Before moving to Liverpool with his wife and two younger daughters in June, Tam signed up for lessons at the Institution of Hong Kong Milk Tea. The two-year-old organization teaches students skills like pouring tea back and forth between a kettle and a plastic container to enhance its flavor before mixing it with evaporated milk.

Yan Chan, the school’s founder, estimated that about 40% of the 2,000 people who have studied with her were planning to emigrate.

Milk tea only began to emerge as a symbol of the Hong Kong identity over the last 15 years, said Veronica Mak, associate professor at the sociology department of Hong Kong Shue Yan University.

Mak said that many young people began to think about Hong Kong identity after the government removed Queen’s Pier, a landmark from the city’s colonial past, in 2007. Childhood memories, marketing and a fashion for localism came together to make milk tea a totem of Hong Kong culture.

“When you ask young people what kind of milk tea they like to drink, they will tell you it’s the bubble milk tea,” she said, referring to a drink from Taiwan. “But when you come to the identity part … they will not say the bubble tea but the local style milk tea.”

Most milk tea lovers interviewed told the Associated Press that milk tea isn’t political. But Tam said it’s a form of silent resistance.

“We can choose to preserve the culture that we want to keep. It cannot be destroyed even if other people try,” he said.

Contemporary Asian tea culture is catching on globally. Outside Chinatowns, at least five Hong Kong-style milk tea brands have emerged over the past two years in Britain. One set up a pop-up cafe in the trendy London neighborhood of Shoreditch in September, attracting Londoners and tourists as well as Hong Kong emigres.

Eric Wong, a tea wholesaler, began selling bottled milk tea in 2021 after moving to the UK, and offers milk tea workshops. He said he’s making 500 to 1,000 bottles of milk tea a week, and his south London business broke even after about six months. His Trini Hong Kong Style Milk Tea products are available online and at major Asian supermarkets.

The taste of home can provoke strong emotions. A young woman from Hong Kong once shed tears after tasting his tea, Wong said.

Between people planning to leave and growing interest in local culture, Chan is busy. On Nov. 3, nine people attended her class, none of whom had plans to emigrate.

Cooking enthusiast Dennis Cheng had a class with her in late September and practiced the signature pouring while preparing to leave Hong Kong with his wife and children.

He said the taste will help remind him of Hong Kong and friends back home.

“This may help me feel emigrating overseas isn’t really that sad,” he said. “It’s just that I need more time to adapt to it.”

Source : AP

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How Cooking Food and Gathering for Feasts Made Us Human

Maddie Burakoff wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you’re cooking a meal for Thanksgiving or just showing up to feast, you’re part of a long human history — one that’s older than our own species.

Some scientists estimate our early human cousins may have been using fire to cook their food almost 2 million years ago, long before Homo sapiens showed up.

And a recent study found what could be the earliest known evidence of this rudimentary cooking: the leftovers of a roasted carp dinner from 780,000 years ago.

Cooking food marked more than just a lifestyle change for our ancestors. It helped fuel our evolution, give us bigger brains — and later down the line, would become the centerpiece of the feasting rituals that brought communities together.

“The story of human evolution has appeared to be the story of what we eat,” said Matt Sponheimer, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who has studied the diets of early human ancestors.

The new study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, is based on material from Gesher Benot Ya’aqov in Israel — a watery site on the shores of an ancient lake.

Artifacts from the area suggest it was home to a community of Homo erectus, an extinct species of early humans that walked upright, explained lead author Irit Zohar of Tel Aviv University.

Over years of “digging in mud” at the site, researchers examined a curious catch of fish remains, especially teeth, said Naama Goren-Inbar, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who led the excavations.

Many were from a couple of species of big carp, and they were clustered around certain spots at the site — places where researchers also found signs of fire. Testing revealed the teeth had been exposed to temperatures that were hot, but not super-hot. This suggests the fish were cooked low and slow, rather than tossed right onto a fire, Zohar explained.

With all of this evidence together, the authors concluded that these human cousins had harnessed fire for cooking more than three quarters of a million years ago. That’s much earlier than the next oldest evidence for cooking, which showed Stone Age humans ate charred roots in South Africa.

The researchers — like many of their colleagues — believe cooking started long before this, though physical evidence has been hard to come by.

“I am sure that in the near future an earlier case will be reported,” study author Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University said in an email.

That’s in part because harnessing fire for food was a key step for human evolution.

Cooking food makes it easier for the body to digest and get nutrients, explained David Braun, an archaeologist at George Washington University who was not involved with the study. So, when early humans figured out how to cook, they got access to more energy, which they could use to fuel bigger brains.

Based on how human ancestors’ brains and bodies developed, scientists estimate that cooking skills would have had to emerge nearly 2 million years ago.

“If we’re out there eating raw items, it is very difficult to make it as a large-bodied primate,” Braun said.

Those first cooked meals were a far cry from today’s turkey dinners. And in the many, many years in between, humans started not just eating for fuel, but for community.

In a 2010 study, researchers described the earliest evidence of a feast — a specially prepared meal that brought people together for an occasion 12,000 years ago in a cave in Israel.

The cave, which served as a burial site, included the remains of one special woman who seemed to be a shaman for her community, said Natalie Munro, a University of Connecticut anthropologist who led the study.

It seems her people held a feast to honor her death. Munro and her team found large numbers of animal remains at the site — including enough tortoises and wild cattle to create a hearty spread.

This “first feast” came from another important transition point in human history, right as hunter-gatherers were starting to settle into more permanent living situations, Munro said. Gathering for special meals may have been a way to build community and smooth tensions now that people were more or less stuck with each other, she said.

And while the typical feast may no longer involve munching on tortoise meat in burial caves, Munro said she still sees a lot of the same roles — exchanging information, making connections, vying for status — happening at our modern gatherings.

“This is something that’s just quintessentially human,” Munro said. “And to see the first evidence of it is exciting.”

Source: AP

 

 

 

 

Sedentary Lifestyle and Sugary Diet More Detrimental to Men

A new study from the University of Missouri School of Medicine is the first evidence in humans that short-term lifestyle changes can disrupt the response to insulin of blood vessels. It’s also the first study to show men and women react differently to these changes.

Vascular insulin resistance is a feature of obesity and type 2 diabetes that contributes to vascular disease. Researchers examined vascular insulin resistance in 36 young and healthy men and women by exposing them to 10 days of reduced physical activity, cutting their step count from 10,000 to 5,000 steps per day. The participants also increased their sugary beverage intake to six cans of soda per day.

“We know that incidence of insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease is lower in premenopausal women compared to men, but we wanted to see how men and women reacted to reduced physical activity and increased sugar in their diet over a short period of time,” said Camila Manrique-Acevedo, MD, associate professor of medicine.

The results showed that only in men did the sedentary lifestyle and high sugar intake cause decreased insulin-stimulated leg blood flow and a drop in a protein called adropin, which regulates insulin sensitivity and is an important biomarker for cardiovascular disease.

“These findings underscore a sex-related difference in the development of vascular insulin resistance induced by adopting a lifestyle high in sugar and low on exercise,” said Manrique-Acevedo. “To our knowledge, this is the first evidence in humans that vascular insulin resistance can be provoked by short-term adverse lifestyle changes, and it’s the first documentation of sex-related differences in the development of vascular insulin resistance in association with changes in adropin levels.”

Manrique-Acevedo said she would next like to examine how long it takes to reverse these vascular and metabolic changes and more fully assess the impact of the role of sex in the development of vascular insulin resistance.

Their study was recently published in the journal Endocrinology.

Source: University of Missouri

 

 

 

 

How You Feel About Aging Could Affect Health. Here’s How to Keep the Right Attitude

Laura Williamson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Perhaps not the number, but how we age might be. A growing body of research suggests a person’s mindset – how they feel about growing old – may predict how much longer and how well they live as the years go by.

Several studies over the past 20 years suggest people with more positive attitudes about aging live longer, healthier lives than those with negative perceptions of the aging process. Recently, a large nationwide study of nearly 14,000 adults over age 50 took an even deeper look into the ways in which positive thinking about aging could impact a person’s physical health, health behaviors and psychological well-being.

Published in JAMA Network Open, the study found those with the highest satisfaction with aging had a 43% lower risk of dying from any cause during four years of follow-up compared to those with the lowest satisfaction. People with higher satisfaction also had a reduced risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease, as well as better cognitive functioning. People with a more positive attitude about growing old also were more likely to engage in frequent physical activity and less likely to have trouble sleeping than their less-satisfied peers. They also were less lonely, less likely to be depressed, more optimistic and had a stronger sense of purpose.

“There’s a connection between mindsets and health behaviors,” said Eric Kim, the study’s senior investigator and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. “One leads to the other.”

For example, while older adults tend to use preventive health services less frequently than younger or middle-aged adults, a study Kim co-wrote in the journal Preventive Medicine shows that the more satisfied people over 50 are with how they’re aging, the more likely they’ll have their cholesterol tested or be screened for breast, cervical or prostate cancer.

But it cuts both ways. While having a positive attitude can lead to behaviors that promote good health, “if people believe poor health is inevitable with age, this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps them from behaviors that will help with aging,” said Kim, who also is an affiliate researcher at the Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“The good news is, these views we hold about aging are changeable. We can shift our mindset,” said Hannah Giasson, who co-wrote the Preventive Medicine study with Kim and others. She is an assistant professor at the Arizona State University Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation in Phoenix and specializes in the relationship between people’s views on aging and their health and well-being.

Here are things Kim and Giasson said can help people develop a more positive approach to aging.

Maintain a sense of purpose

Some people aren’t sure what to do with themselves after they retire, said Kim. He suggests finding projects that align with a person’s values.

“People’s purposes can be quite different,” he said. If family is a high priority, find things to do that contribute to the family, such as helping to care for grandchildren. If conservation is a strong value, find projects that contribute to the health of the environment.

“Volunteer work is a great way to do this,” he said.

Recognize negative messages about aging – and reject them

Research shows negative stereotypes about aging are internalized over a person’s life span and can harm physical and cognitive health as a person grows older.

“Develop an awareness of these messages,” suggests Giasson. “Understand how they influence us.”

For example, a person may believe poor physical health is inevitable for older adults so there’s no use in trying to stay active. But according to the National Institute on Aging, exercise can lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, and can improve sleep and reduce the risk of falls.

“Recognize that practicing healthy behaviors can support health at any age,” Giasson said.

Stay socially active

As people age, they may lose loved ones such as spouses, family members or friends. If a spouse was responsible for maintaining social networks and that person dies, the remaining spouse may grow lonely and more socially isolated.

Social isolation and loneliness are risk factors for poor physical and mental health, increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes and contributing to poor life satisfaction, depression, low self-esteem and difficulty with daily life activities. But research shows maintaining social connections can have a positive effect on health.

Kim said it’s important to make new connections to replace those you’ve lost.

“What typically happens is people stop making new friends. Re-engage mechanisms for meeting people that were there earlier in life,” he said, such as joining a club or taking part in community organizations. “Reach out to people more, instead of being on autopilot.”

Try something new

Sometimes people lose mobility as they age and may not be able to engage in the activities that brought them joy when they were younger. Kim suggests trying to “redeploy that energy in a new way,” such as teaching a skill or craft instead of practicing it.

Or learn something new that is less physically demanding, Giasson said. Research suggests that older adults who learn new skills can improve memory, self-esteem and overall quality of life.

“Don’t fall into the mindset that it’s too late to try something new,” she said. “It’s never too late, and you’re never too old to explore new interests.”

Source: American Heart Association

 

 

 

 

Lifestyle May Be Key to Helping You Avoid Dementia

Denise Mann wrote . . . . . . . . .

Socializing, taking classes and exercising may boost your brain’s cognitive reserve and stave off memory and thinking problems down the road, a new study suggests.

Cognitive reserve refers to the brain’s ability to withstand the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s and not show signs of decline.

The best way to boost your cognitive reserve?

“Never stop being curious, and learn something new or pick up a new hobby,” said study author Pamela Almeida-Meza, a doctoral student at University College London. “Stay active and connected, exercise, go on daily walks, keep in touch with your family and prioritize visiting your friends.”

For the study, researchers looked at genes and lifestyle factors among 1,184 people born in 1946 in the United Kingdom. Folks took cognitive tests when they were 8 and again at 69.

Everyone in the study received a cognitive reserve score that combined their education level at 26, participation in enriching leisure activities at 43, and job up to age 53. Reading ability at age 53 was tested as an additional measure of overall lifelong learning.

The cognitive test that folks took at age 69 had a maximum total score of 100, and the average score for this group was 92.

Folks with higher childhood cognitive abilities, a higher cognitive reserve score and advanced reading ability performed better on the cognitive test at age 69, the study showed.

People with higher education levels also fared better than their counterparts who did not have a formal education.

Folks who engaged in six or more leisure activities, such as adult education classes, clubs, volunteer work, social activities and gardening, scored higher than people who engaged in four or fewer leisure activities.

What’s more, those participants who had a professional or intermediate level job scored higher on the cognitive test at age 69 than those in lesser-skilled positions.

Previous studies have shown that people with low scores on cognitive tests as kids are more likely to have a steeper cognitive decline with advancing age, but this may not be the case after all.

“The finding suggests that a mentally, socially and physically active lifestyle at midlife can offset the negative contribution of low childhood cognition to older age cognitive state,” Almeida-Meza said.

The APOE4 gene, which increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, was linked with lower scores on the cognitive test at age 69, but participants with high or low childhood cognition scores showed similar rates of mental decline with age, regardless of their APOE4 status.

The study appears in the Neurology.

The findings show that genes aren’t destiny when it comes to risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, said Lei Yu, an associate professor at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago.

“Cognitive performance in old age is not fully determined by what was inherited from our parents,” said Yu, who reviewed the new study.

“Older adults who are actively engaged in cognitive [e.g., reading, or playing checkers, cards, puzzles or board games], social [e.g., spending time with family members or friends, going to church, volunteering or participating in group activities] and physical activities [e.g., regular exercise] are more likely to maintain late-life cognition, even in the presence of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” he said.

Michal Schnaider Beeri is a professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. She co-authored an editorial accompanying the study.

“The study findings support the relevance of a lifelong investment in the accumulation of cognitive reserve for the maintenance of healthy cognition later in life,” she said.

“From a public health and societal perspective, there may be broad long-term benefits in investing in high education, widening opportunities for leisure activities, and proactively providing cognitively challenging activities for individuals at less skilled occupations,” Schnaider Beeri said.

And, she said, it’s never too late to start boosting your cognitive reserve.

“Although younger brains learn faster and more effectively, older and even [much] older brains have plasticity and the capacity to learn,” Schnaider Beeri noted.

She recommended getting out of your comfort zone and learning a new language or skill, or a new musical instrument.

“Feeding our brains with intellectual engagement and effort should be seen as a lifelong process to maintain healthy brain aging,” Schnaider Beeri said.

Source: HealthDay