Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tea and Truth: A Place to Go Slowly (and Giveaway!)


Japanese Garden in November
Two cups of Gyokuro Tea

This is my last Tea and TruthTM writing prompt for the month of November. I've been so buoyed by your response, feedback and participation.  Thank you!

The DH and I recently spent a beautiful November afternoon in the Portland Japanese Garden.  I think this time of year may be my favorite (among favorites) there. The garden is full of golden colors, and the crowds are thinned.  We found our own little secluded bench for a cup of gyokuro tea.  Each time I come to this garden, I am reminded - no, compelled -  to go slowly.  What reminds you to go slowly?

Preparing: I invite you to carve out time over the next week to go slowly.  This can be incredibly difficult for me.  I'm the gal who gets frustrated when people walk too slowly in the hallway at work.  Tea is one of the ways I'm reminded that going slowly is as important as going quickly.  As you make some tea, do it slowly.  Don't multitask, enjoy the process of making the tea.  


Sipping: Now sip the tea slowly.  What does it taste like, what does it feel like in your mouth?  When we go slowly, our attention to detail improves.


Writing: Write about going slowly, and take your slow sweet time.  Unlike most writing prompts, in this one I ask you to dawdle and let the pen stop.  Write a few phrases, then reflect.  Doodle.  Digress.  What were you writing?  Oh yes, how to go slowly.

  • What invites you to go slowly?  Is it the making of tea?  A garden walk?  Playing with a child? What else? 
  • What do you find difficult about going slowly?
  • What gifts does going slowly bring to you?
Prizes: I'm excited to announce that La Tea Dah, of Gracious Hospitality, is the winner of last week's giveaway!
 
We've got one more week to write together with these tea-themed prompts.  To be entered for the prize drawing, please leave a comment in this post, telling me something that calls you to go slowly, or provide feedback on this writing prompt.  Good luck!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Meeting Pearl


Steph and Pearl Dexter, Editor and Publisher of TEA A Magazine
Photo by Lauren Hall-Stigerts

I remember my first year of subscribing to TEA A Magazine.  When the current edition would arrive in the mail, I would read just the cover and inside page, then put the magazine away.  I would do the same for each article, reading one at a time and saving the others for later.  In this fashion, I could extend my reading pleasure for as long as possible.  That was over 10 years ago, and I must confess, my practice today is much the same.  I enjoy this magazine and I don't want to be rushed when I read it.

I had the opportunity to meet the editor and publisher, Pearl Dexter, at the NW Tea Festival in October.  What a special thing for me!  Pearl and I had a long conversation about the pros and cons of publishing magazines online. 

I've recently become an online subscriber to TEA A Magazine (and given up several other magazine subscriptions), an effort to align my values of living gently on the earth with my consumption habits.  Please don't misunderstand.  I miss the glossy pages and colorful images.  I miss receiving the magazine in the mail.  Yet the bigger picture swayed me, and I have been quite pleased with the online version.  The images are equally as colorful and I can review the magazine on my laptop even when I'm not connected to the Internet.  My archives become electronic, saving precious shelf space since we've downsized.  It's a winning proposition for me.

As for meeting Pearl, I was impressed at how she took the time to converse with me, at length, about my experiences with the online version and agreed enthusiastically to be in the photo (and on the blog).  I'd also like to give special thanks to Lauren Hall-Stigerts, who happened to wander near and snapped the photo for us.

Do you subscribe to any online magazines?  I'd like to hear about your experiences.  Alternately, if you subscribe to TEA A Magazine, tell us what you love about it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A New Way to Serve Your Thanksgiving Dinner...



video

Happy Thanksgiving!  I thought you might want to consider this way of serving your Thanksgiving meal.  This was taken at a luncheon in Yunnan, China.  The servers are dressed in ethnic Yi clothing.

At this special lunch, we tasted several interesting foods including black-skinned chicken, a delicious pumpkin in sweet sauce, and white walnut juice (milk).  Donkey meat was also featured, as it is a traditional dish of this area, but I passed on that.  A few intrepid souls tried it, finding it gamey.

Here we are so that you can study the clothing in detail.
I'm so grateful I had the chance to take this awesome trip to China, Tibet and India! 

(To read all of my posts on this topic so far, click the "Asia Tea Tour" label on the right.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tea and Truth: A Teacup Overflowing (and Giveaway!)



Like many of you, I'm anticipating a Thanksgiving Day that will provide me a full belly and a full heart. Though far from my family, we are grateful to be sharing this special day with good friends who welcome us into their home as they do their own family.  My teacup overflows with good things, and I am thankful. 

Is your teacup overflowing, and if so, with what?  This writing prompt is an especially meaningful one for me, as I've been working to incorporate a practice of gratitude into my life.

Preparing: I invite you to carve out time over the next week, before or after the busyness of the holiday, to sit, sip and write.  Gather your materials and make a cup or mug of fragrant tea.  If you've got some pu-erh on hand, now is a great time to sip it as pu-erh has long been used as a digestive aid, but please drink whatever you find pleasing.

Sipping: Feel the warmth of the cup in your hand.  Close your eyes and inhale the aroma. 


Writing:  Take a few moments to let images come to you...what in your life is overflowing?
  • Is it joyful? Is it sadness?
  • Is it full of longing or is it full of release?
  • Is it a material thing? Is it a hope or a memory?
  • Don't worry about writing sentences.  Write down the images as they come to you. 
  • Or maybe it's a sound, a fragment of a sentence, an aroma - whatever it is, jot it down.
  • Don't limit yourself to one item. If you're a list maker, this is a great time to use that technique.
  • Let the hand and body be connected, and write what presents itself.
  • Date this and tuck it away.  You may enjoy reviewing this piece throughout the year, or even next Thanksgiving.
All my best wishes to you on this Thanksgiving holiday.  Thank you for participating in this blogging series!  And check back tomorrow - we'll have a light-hearted look at a way to serve your Thanksgiving meal!


Prizes: Leave a comment in this post, telling me something that is overflowing in your life or tell me what you think about this writing prompt.  I'll draw a winner next Wednesday.  On that note, congratulations to Snap who won last week's drawing!  Give me a few days and I'll have your prize in the mail!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wiggler Ranch

Welcome to the Wiggler Ranch!  The DH recently began four vermiculture worm bins in our garage.

We feed the worms about once a week (or less, depending on how active they are).  These are some well-fed worms!  In this meal:  Spanish radish, chard stalks, squash peel and spent tea leaves.  Food artistry by the DH.  ;-)

Plus a healthy dose of radish tops and other greens.

Feeding is simple...open the worm bin and nudge down any worm trying to escape.  Dig a hole, and dump in the food.  Cover with soil.  Done!

There is no negative smell associated with the worm bins, just the nice smell of fresh earth.  The worms aren't quite yet consuming all of our compostables, so the rest go to the garden in a direct-compost method.  The DH digs deep holes into garden pathways, and adds the compost there.  The worms gobble it up quickly.

Do you compost?  If so, tell me your tips!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wuyi Tea Documentary

Stephane at Tea Masters blog has made me aware of an online documentary of the Wuyi Tea Region.  I've watched all episodes and enjoyed them.  The documentary is produced by China's state television, and as such, has a bit of a marketing feel at times.  Still, I find them well worth the viewing.

Find links to the documentary segments here.  Thank you Stephane!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Songluo Mountain Tea Factory

Tea Basket for Songluo Mountain teas, at Ling Di's garden

Some facts about tea from Huang Shan:
  • Vladimir Putin received a gift of Monkey King tea from this region in 2008, during his visit to China.
  • Robert Fortune (the Brit who stole tea from China, on behalf of the British Empire, for propagation in India) came through the Anhui region during his epic tea adventure.  
Our tour group also had an epic adventure, tracing the path of tea from field to factory in Huang Shan.  Ling Di's fields are a lovely drive outside of town.  Back in the community, we visited the tea factory, a shared one to which several area farmers contribute. 

The factory proudly display its award-winning teas.

Tea Rolling Machine; Look closely to see the tea on the bottom metal basin.
Preparing tea to go into an oven.  You can't quite tell, but he shaped it into a beautiful swirl.

We saw many pieces of equipment in operation.  Here, finished tea flows out of a machine into storage bags.
Bags and bags of tea waiting to be packaged.

Some fun names of the various tea warehouses.  :-)
Packaging

Chests of tea waiting to be filled

Inking the chests - this was just way cool to watch!

The finished stamp

And ready to roll!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tea and Truth: Falling in Love with Tea (and Giveaway)


Congratulations to Angela winner of the giveaway from last week's writing prompt!  And thank you to everyone who left comments, I read each and every word.

Writing Theme for Week #3: Falling in Love with Tea

This week, let's reflect upon our relationship with tea.  Did you fall in love over time, slowly with each sip, or was it love at first site? 


Preparing: Gather a pen and paper, or your computer. Put on some music that fits your mood.  Make a cup of your favorite tea...you know, the one that captured your attention or sent you over the moon  (for me, it was Bai Hao Oolong).


Sipping: Slowly sip the tea.  Inhale its aroma.  Let the memories swirl up and into your mind and heart.


Writing: Try out these writing prompts, or go with what moves you...
  • Think about a moment in time in which you had a deep and abiding appreciation of tea.  Describe the setting with details...
    • How old were you?  What was happening in your life at the time?
    • What were you wearing, do you recall?  If not, take a guess and embellish with details.
    • Where were you sipping?  Describe the setting - color of walls (if inside), the chair, the temperature, the quality of light, the sounds.
    • Who was with you?  Were you sipping alone or with company?
    • What tea were you drinking?  Do you recall its flavor or scent?
    • What did the china look like?  A favorite mug, a delicate cup and saucer, a celadon gaiwan?  Describe the pattern, the feel of the vessel.
  • Now let's write about why we fell in love with tea.
    • For many of us, it was the experience of afternoon tea with its beautiful china, delicate foods, delicious tea, and companionship.  Was this "it" for you?  Tell me this story. 
    • Was it tea alone, in a quiet moment of contemplation? 
    • Was it the caffeine combined with the calming?
    • Was it the exploration of tea's diversity, flavor, character, aroma, etc.?
    • Write about WHAT it is with tea that captures your heart. 
  • Note:  For me, this is an evolving story.  I can't pick just one instance, and so I tell the story in different ways each time it's asked.  Pick one story and go long, or write snippets of several - whatever works for you!

Prizes: Leave a comment in this post, telling me what you you think about this writing prompt OR share a snippet of writing. We're all winners by reading your comments. I'll announce the winner, chosen randomly, next week. Happy writing!
*Image in this post is from Microsoft Online Images.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Denver

I just spent a wonderful weekend visiting friends in Denver.  Here are a few of the cool tea spots...

Chaibecca, a new company on the tea scene, gave out samples at the Denver Botanical Garden.



 Urbanistic Tea and Bike Shop. A perfect pairing!  Sip and wrench.



 Nanna's tea,  a wonderful breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch spot, recently opened in its new location on 26th Ave.  We had a very nice golden bud tea and a breakfast of quiche, bran muffin and potatoes.



Wystone's is one of the reasons I believe tea is connecting with the younger generations.  This tea shop, located in the Belmar area, serves nice teas and tasty food.  I had egg salad, tea-roasted potatoes, and a pu-erh.  We both left with a green tea latte, too.




Denver has a lot going on in the world of teas, and I only scratched the surface.  Any other places you would recommend?

Friday, November 11, 2011

On Taking a Leap



I've been on a work trip, and I took a big leap of faith, at least what felt like one.  I trusted that sharing a bit more about myself personally and my passion of tea would be a way for my team to get to know me better and me to know them. 

I scheduled a morning meet-and-greet to share tea with my team and extended colleagues.  I set up my Gong Fu equipment, and waited.  This was a risk for me - What if people thought I was "the crazy tea lady?"  Well, maybe I am, but I'm harmless.  ;-)  I know, of course, that tea is fascinating and tasty and fun, but I didn't know how it would play in the work context.  I work in a high-tech, big company that is very task oriented.  Add that I work mostly with men!  Would anyone show up?

What's amazing is that people came!  And they stayed, and they enjoyed themselves.

So here's to taking a leap and putting ourselves and passions out there to share our authentic selves.

*Microsoft Image

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Tea and Truth: Tea Alone, Tea Together (and Giveaway)



Kudos to all the people who participated in the writing experiment last week.  I've been filled with joy reading your responses.  THANK you!  The winner of last week's prize is Rosemary!  She will be receiving some special tea I brought back from Darjeeling, along with additional writing prompts!

Writing Theme for Week #2:  Tea Alone and Tea Together

This week, I'm inviting you to think about tea on two levels... taking tea alone and with others.  To start our exploration, here are two quotes from Sen Soshitsu - Grand Master XIV, Urasenke School of Tea.

On Drinking Tea Alone...
"In my own hands I hold a bowl of tea; I see all of nature represented in its green color. Closing my eyes I find green mountains and pure water within my own heart. Silently sitting alone and drinking tea, I feel these become part of me."

On Drinking Tea With Friends...
"What is the most wonderful thing for people like myself who follow the Way of Tea? My answer: The oneness of host and guest, created through 'meeting heart to heart', and sharing a bowl of tea."

Now let's write!

Preparing:  Gather a pen and paper, or your computer.  Find yourself a comfortable place to write.  Once your implements are settled, make yourself a cup of good tea.  (Go out and buy some loose tea if you need to.)

Sipping:  Pour yourself a cup, and mull over these two quotes.

Writing:  My idea this week is to adopt the forms form these two quotes, they're so beautifully written.  I enjoy practicing the forms of the best writing I can find.  Try out these forms or venture on your own.  Enjoy!
  • Tea Alone: Start with this phrase and finish the lines, "In my own hands I hold a bowl of tea."
    • I see....
    • Closing my eyes, I find...
    • Silently siting alone and drinking tea, I feel...
    • What other details would you like to add? 
    • What other experiences does this bring to mind?
  • Tea Together: "What is the most wonderful thing for people like myself who follow the Way of Tea?
    • My answer:...
Prizes:  Leave a comment in this post, telling me what you you think about this writing prompt OR share one of your lines.  We're all winners by reading your comments.  I'll announce the winner, chosen randomly, next week.  Happy writing!

*Images in this post are from Microsoft Online Images.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Huang Shan Chrysanthemum Fields


Chrysanthemum Field in Huang Shan China

While driving through the Huang Shan, China area we saw fields of white flowers being harvested.  These are the chrysanthemum fields, the flower picked for an herbal tea.  Chrysanthemum tea is slightly sweet and the pretty blossoms make for a lovely and aromatic cup.  I had chrysanthemum tea today at the Chinese Garden, a fitting place to reflect upon my travels.

Chrysanthemum Tea with Goji Berries

Through the end of the month, the Chinese Garden and Portland Chrysanthemum Society are hosting a display of prize-winning blossoms.  They are lovely, which you can see for yourself below.  I learned that along with the plum, orchid and bamboo, chrysanthemum is one of the "Four Honorable Plants" of China.


Chrysanthemum is also known as "Autumn Flower."


"In most ancient essays and poems, writers use the terms "jade bone, icy body, pearl petal and red heart" to describe the flower. For on cold autumn days, when all other flowers were fading away, only the chrysanthemum was able to flourish in the cold winds. The combination of beauty with strong character made an ideal personality in the eyes of romantic Chinese scholars."  From FML tea trading company


Along Prefect Tao’s fence, As autumn comes, the chrysanthemums colour and bloom. From a forest of a thousand jade-green leaves, With golden scissors, cut a flowering stem. Chasing the buds makes the bee's beard messy; Bravely following, the butterfly's wings are aflutter. Carrying the fragrance, the breeze wafts through the greenness. Tranquil shadows play across the window. Resolutely wavering, the frosty hues, Fresh and graceful, flowers open to the sun. Such scent and beauty were seen at Pengze, What higher praise is there than this?
A song of chrysanthemums by Gong Chengyi of the Tang, written in the style of Mi Fu.


Before the white chrysanthemum
the scissors hesitate
a moment.

Yosa Buson, translated by Robert Hass


Chrysanthemum.

The rose is called the queen of flowers,
          Surrounded by her sisters fair,
          A lovely throng of beauties rare,
She holds her court 'mid summer bowers,
          'Neath smiling skies of sunny blue,
          Gayly they bloom the summer through
Brightening all the golden hours.
          But when the autumn days have come
          Then blooms our sweet Chrysanthemum.
 
As we watch the summer days depart
          And the painted leaves in silence fall,
          And the vines are dead upon the wall;
A dreamy sadness fills each heart,
          Our garden seems a dreary place,
          No brilliant flowers its borders grace,
Save in a sheltered nook apart,
          Where gay beneath the autumn sun
          Blooms our own Chrysanthemum.
 
Ah! she is not a "Summer Friend,"
          She stays when all the rest have flown,
          And left us flowerless and alone;
No singing birds, or blooms to lend
          Their brightness to the autumn haze,
          'Tis she who cheers the dreary days;
'Tis joy to know so sweet a friend;
          No fairer flower blooms 'neath the sun
          Than autumn's queen Chrysanthemum.
__Hattie L. Knapp

Friday, November 04, 2011

Ling Di and Huang Shan Tea


Huang Shan tea field, tea plants in foreground with chestnut and pine trees

I want to spend a few days talking about tea in the Huang Shan region (Anhui province). Of the 10 Great Chinese Teas, 3 of them come from the Anhui . (If you expand that list to the top 20, it's 4 from Anhui.) This is a very important tea region, and I'm grateful to have stepped foot in its soil.  It's a lovely mountainous region, and will always hold a special place in my heart.  It's the fist place I picked tea.

 

Ms. Ling Di

I cannot tell the story of this region without introducing you to Ling Di.  She's a "got-it-together" kind of woman!  Not only does she have about 500 acres of tea, but she also runs a large tea supermarket, smaller specialty retail stores, and is part of Songluo Mountain Tea Factory where her tea is manufactured. She's responsible for tea tourism in the region, and she's a partner in the building of a conference center ( focused on the tea trade and tourism).  I enjoyed meeting her family, as well.  She is knowledgeable, kind and hard-working.  She's an inspiration to me!


Stay tuned - I'll be talking more about the teas produced in this region, Ling Di's enterprises and some amazing tea snacks!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tea and Truth: A Month of Writing Prompts (and Giveaway)


This new blog series is a promise I'm keeping to myself.  A gift from my China trip was the connection of disparate ideas into a unified vision, related to tea and writing.  It was an Ah-ha moment to say the least, a moment of epiphany to be more precise.  I realized that I could shape these two passions into a cohesive package, one of value to myself - and my hope is to others, as well.

And so, with this first step, I begin...

Please join me in Tea and TruthTM. This is your invitation to join me each Wednesday this month, to sip tea and write.  To reflect, review, rewrite, respond, rejoice and renew.  Each Wednesday I will post a new writing prompt.  I welcome your company in these journaling opportunities.  (Plus Giveaways, Giveaways!)  What you write can be for you only, or to share - it's up to you.  (Prizes, prizes!)  It can be a one-time quick writing session never to be returned to, a journal entry, a poem, a memory on paper, a letter, a piece you work on over time, a page or two, a paragraph, a sentence or a word.  Just write, and allow tea to be the nectar of your muse.

And there will be prizes in the form of giveaways!  I hope you play along!

Writing Theme for Week #1:  Tea for Two

I'm inspired this week by Day of the Dead remembrances.  I vividly recall, from my New Mexico days, the gifts and merriment in the graveyards.  Initially, this was a foreign idea to me but as I learned more, I began to see the joy and respect involved. 

Preparing:  Gather a pen and paper, or your computer.  Find yourself a comfortable place to write.  Once your implements are settled, make yourself a cup of good tea.  (Go out and buy some loose tea if you need to.)  Bring out your favorite pair of mugs or two cups and saucers, because you're going to have a guest today as you write.

Sipping:  Pour yourself a cup, and pour one for your guest.  Sip slowly and think about this:  Who has gone before me that I want to invite to tea today?  Hold this person in your mind as you begin to write.

Writing:  Let this be a free-form writing activity.  Don't stop to edit or review.  Just let the pen flow and turn off the critical voice.  This is about truth, and the best way to get there, in my opinion, is to get out of my own way.  The following thought starters may be useful for you to get the pen moving, but go with whatever works!  Stick with today's theme, or go off on your own. What matters is that you keep writing.  Try it for 5 minutes at least, 10 if you can!  Go...
  • Who have I invited to tea today?
  • Why did I choose this person?
  • Now go deeper - why else did I choose this person?
  • Have a conversation over tea...go ahead, respond for him or her.  It's OK, it's YOUR writing!  You are safe and in control.
  • Now the tea is growing cold (and you've finished yours)...how do you end this conversation in a way that leaves you feeling good?
Thank you. 

Prizes, prizes!  Leave a comment in this post, telling me what you like (or don't) about this writing prompt.  I'll pick a winner each week for a to-be-determined fabulous prize involving tea and writing.  If you mention this on Facebook or your blog, tell me about it in the comments, too, and you'll get a second entry.  (If it doesn't auto-link to a blog with contact info, be sure to leave me a way to reach you.)

Notes: 
  • These writing prompts are meant to be starting points for you to explore writing and tea.  They are by no means a method of therapy, tho we all know that good tea and writing can be therapeutic.
  • A shout-out to my writing friends at Women Writing for (a) Change, Bloomington.  I think of you regularly.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Few Happy Things and an Invitation

#1 - These Doc Martens are making me really happy.  I've just ordered them from Endless.com and they'll arrive on Thurs.  Do you know that website? A friend just shared it with me. It's connected to Amazon, and what's cool is that I could use my Amazon gift card.  Free shipping and returns, so if I picked the wrong size, I can try again.  I'll let you know how it goes.  (The boots zip up the side, by the way.)

#2 - I earned $80 for United Way!  My company does a goods and services auction, based on employee donations.  I donated a Gong Fu tea tasting and it sold well.  :-)

#3 - I'm kicking off a new series tomorrow called Tea and TruthTM.  Through the end November, each Wednesday I will post a writing prompt, somehow related to tea.  There will be prizes and fun, reflection and sharing, and an opportunity for me to test out this concept.  Please join me tomorrow for the kick off!