Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

May you spend a moment in reflection of all that 2013 has brought you.
May you sweep clean your world for the start of a new year.
May 2014 bring you peace and joy.

Photo taken in Miaoli, Taiwan in May, 2013
Info on poet Matsuo Basho

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sharing Matcha over the Holidays

I had the wonderful opportunity to make matcha for a good friend and my niece while visiting my family over the Christmas holiday. It's always a gift to me to serve tea to those I love. 

My Japanese tea teacher shared with me some white bean paste (Lima beans cooked down, with sugar and a bit of rice flour - it's an all day process), and I had some red bean paste frozen. These made it through airport security "). I made traditional Japanese tea sweets for my guests. The grown up guest liked it and my niece thought it was OK. I was impressed she even tried it!

In fact, she was eager to be my helper and try everything. The horses came along too. 

I made the matcha very very light for her, and with plenty of froth. She liked it!  That's my girl!

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Twinkle, twinkle oh bright star

Happy solstice!  I'm observing this longest night with a fire, herbal tea, Portland Cello Project music, cinnamon incense and a Japanese sweet I've also named Solstice.

Cinnamon incense


Japanese sweet made from red bean paste, lima bean paste, rice flour and sugar. I hope you have the opportunity to try something like this one day. They're delicious. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Have Yourself a Cozy Little Christmas

Different people need different things at the holidays.  Some people love big, loud family gatherings. Others prefer quiet moments of reflections alone or with a loved one.  I enjoy both!  As I mature, I find that those quiet times are even more necessary to my well being.

The DH and I recently snuggled into our window seat and shared tea and snacks.  It was a wonderful way to spend time together before the holiday travel and rush. 

I'm hoping you find beautiful moments to savor over the next two weeks.  Happy Holidays of Light!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Tea Filters

This bright green little apple floats and bobs in my teacup.  Hidden beneath is a stainless steel mesh tea strainer.  A gift from a friend.  It makes me smile!

This gorgeous wood strainer rests on top of my teacup, with plenty of space for the loose tea leaves to expand and open.  The product is from Tea Nest and I found it locally at The Jasmine Pearl.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What is Dim Sum?

Do you enjoy an occasional lunch of Chinese dim sum?  It's a tasty and fun experience, with its historical roots and modern day practice involving tea.  Tea is always offered, in addition to a wide range of small plates.  Typical foods include dumplings, steamed buns, turnip cakes and egg tarts. 

From wikipedia:
"Eating dim sum at a restaurant is usually known in Cantonese as going to "drink tea" (yum cha, 飲茶), as tea is typically served with dim sum...  Dim sum is usually linked with the older tradition from yum cha (tea tasting), which has its roots in travelers on the ancient Silk Road needing a place to rest. Thus teahouses were established along the roadside. Rural farmers, exhausted after working hard in the fields, would go to teahouses for a relaxing afternoon of tea. At first, it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food, because people believed it would lead to excessive weight gain. People later discovered that tea can aid in digestion, so teahouse owners began adding various snacks."

The fun part, aside from the food, is the action.  Often, the food is brought around on carts and you get to pick what you want.  (Sometimes you can order from a checklist.)  It's ideal to share the food among the group, and the giant lazy susan shown above is both practical and entertaining.

I recently had dim sum with my tea friends and we had three pots of tea going.  The quality of tea in dim sum restaurants varies greatly, but we're pretty picky. (No luke-warm jasmine tea bags for us.)  We brought three varieties of tea to enjoy with the meal.  A nicely done jasmine, a bai hao (oriental beauty) oolong and a shou pu-erh.

My favorite way to end the meal is with an egg tart.  It's like a miniature custard pie.

Thanks to a friend's google search, I learned that dim sum literally means "touch the heart". The idea traditionally is that dim sum was a snack.  You would eat just enough to quiet the hunger, but not to stuff yourself.  Today, however, it's turned into a meal.  (Reminds me of the afternoon tea evolution, as well.)

Eating vegetarian at a dim sum restaurant is challenging, but not impossible.  Tip:  Watch for the bok choy or Chinese broccoli and ask for green beans with black bean sauce (request no fish sauce).

If you're interested in Dim Sum at home, check out this great book, Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch, by Ellen Leong Blonder.   

So tell me - Is dim sum  new to you?  What intrigues you?  Or - where is your favorite dim sum place; what's your favorite treat?

Friday, December 06, 2013

Sencha Natural Mints and New Products

Many of you have probably tired these green tea mints from the Sencha Naturals company.  What do you think of them?  I enjoy them.  The company recently sent me a sampling to review.  My favorite flavor is the yuzu ginger.  I had never before noticed that the mints use Stevia leaf as one of the sweeteners.  I would encourage the company to continue working its formulation in this direction.  Love this company's packaging and visual look.  The cardboard tube was hard to work until the DH figured out that the bottom pushes up and then it turns much better (note to company - you may want to make this note on the product).

A newly released product is this Green Tea + C immune support powder.  The ingredients include matcha, vitamin C derived from acerola cherries, coconut water powder, ginger, tumeric and orange peel, sodium bicarbonate (for fizziness) and Stevia.  I can't make claims about the efficacy of this as a health tool, but I can tell you that I'll be trying it out as I fly around this December.  The flavor is pleasantly sweet with a mild matcha note and that back-of-throat bite from the baking soda.  I like matcha, so this works for me but I can imagine it might not work for those who don't care for the spinach-like notes.  Have you seen or tried this?  What's your opinion? 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Tea Alone

"When we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death - ourselves."  ~Eda LeShan (1922-2002)

Sharing tea with others is a primary source of happiness in my life.  I love it!  Equally important, I am learning that I need quiet time to myself to truly thrive (and this is coming from an extrovert!)  I've written before on this topic here and here, and yet it continues to come up as a subject for me to discuss in this blog.  It must be an important message to myself.

Do you make space in your life for alone time?  Does tea play a role?  Do you sometimes meditate or read an inspiring book?  Do you sit quietly?  Do you daydream or doodle?  Do you listen to music or the sounds of nature? 

I crave/need a resting place for my brain, a time to allow it to settle and relax and not be so busy, busy.  I'm learning how meditation works for me, and like any new skill it takes patience and practice.  A sip of tea can be my encourager and my place of rest.