Downtime, Tea, Birding, and Warblers
The term downtime or down time has two uses. In computing and information technology, or when referring to any sort of technology or machines, downtime refers to the time on which a system or machine is down or out of operation. In human terms, however, downtime can refer to a period of rest or relaxation. I hesitate to use the term "non-productive" because I find rest to be of paramount importance in productivity. In fact, one of the things I most like about drinking tea is that the time to make and then drink tea provides a break. Even if you drink tea at a desk, while working on other things, the act of pausing to take a sip provides a microbreak; these tiny breaks can reduce the risk of work-related injury, as well as enhancing your concentration and focus.

Today, however, I took more than a microbreak. After starting work fairly early, the servers that and a number of other websites that I run are hosted on experienced some downtime. While this was slightly annoying, the problem was fixed relatively quickly. During this time, however, I was unable to do the work I wanted to do. Given that it is still during the peak warbler migration season, I headed outside to Woodlands Cemetery to do some birdwatching.

Unfortunately, I did not have my camera on me; the above pictures are all pictures I have taken, of warblers, at various times. Today I saw a black-throated blue warbler, pictured upper-right, and a northern parula, pictured lower-left, and a black-and-white warbler, pictured top left. The other bird pictured here, yellow-rumped warbler, I did not see today (they tend to arrive in large numbers in a few weeks), but I also saw a chestnut-sided warbler, pine warbler, bay-breasted warbler, magnolia warbler, and American redstart. All in all, I saw 8 species of warbler and 23 total species of birds. Given that this was just a casual walk around an urban cemetery, and not a planned trip where I tried to see as many birds as possible, I find this amount of biodiversity staggering.

When I returned, the servers were back up. This was down time for me, but I was still working in a sense. I systematically gathered data on what birds I saw, and entered the data into eBird, which is a joint effort of the Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. eBird solicits data from casual volunteers as well as scientists and people conducting systematic bird surveys, and collects it into one master database, a lot like I collect data on tea into the master database at If you birdwatch, eBird is an invaluable resource, but even if you just find wild birds interesting and want to learn more about them, I would also recommend checking out this site.

Warblers, Other Birds and Tea?

What do warblers, or birds in general, have to do with tea? I've noticed that a number of tea bloggers write about birds from time to time, and I've noticed that people who are interested in wild birds tend to be more likely to be interested in tea, and vice versa. Why? Often, I find tea bloggers mention birds when they mention changes in seasons, as the changes in which birds are present and in the birds' songs and behavior marks the changing of seasons.

But I also find that birds and tea actually have some more things in common, possibly because they are both organic or natural, dealing with living organisms: they both have a similar type of diversity. And both birding and tea appreciation involve honing one's perception. With tea, it's mainly smell and taste, and with birds, it's sight and hearing, that one develops. When one starts drinking tea, it's pretty easy to see and taste the difference between black tea and green tea. When starting to watch birds, it is also pretty easy to tell a crow from a sparrow.

The warblers, on the other hand, are often among the most challenging birds to identify. Many of them only arrive during a brief 3-week window of migration, once in the spring, and again in the fall. A large number of warblers have different plumage in different seasons, and have different male and female plumage. Furthermore, they're tiny, and most of them move very quickly; many of them tend to spend most of their time high in trees, where they are often backlit or hidden by branches or foliage. Learning to identify these birds is a lot like learning the differences between one tea garden and another, or being able to just look at a steeped oolong leaf and know what cultivar it came from. Birding and tea are both areas where one can continually learn more, developing greater skill and greater nuance in perception.

How about you?

Do you value down time? Have you ever experienced server downtime? Do you think one of the most valuable aspects of tea is way it provides a restful break? Do you pay attention at all to wild birds? Have you ever been birdwatching, had a bird feeder, and you ever heard of eBird?

Let me know!
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Temples in Uji, Kyoto

On the third day in Kyoto, we visitedUji.  Mampukuji was the first stopthere. 

We were welcomed by an angry guy,

Calm guys,

Smart men,

And Smiley guy

This Zen temple is established by Ingen, amonk from China.  It is said that heintroduced Chinese kung-fu style tea.

Mampukuji (Japanese) >>>

Another temple we visited was Byodoin.  It was built about a thousand years ago.  It is considered as a world Heritage.

I believe that most of people who havevisited Japan have seen the temple even if they haven’t visited Kyoto.   Can you think of where people can see thetemple? 

On the back of 10yencoin.  Jah!

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Stay Stacked: The Wrong Grind for Your Grind? –

Stay Stacked: The Wrong Grind for Your Grind?
According to Lifehack, "drinking non-caffeinated tea, like green tea, relaxes the brain and induces mental alertness." It's hard to find a substance that has more benefits than what green tea offers the human body. The powerful antioxidant called ...

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Bringing the good tea news to city hall
Our tea buyer, while in Aso, visited city hall to give them a good story for their newsletter — about a local tea artisan's tea winning first place in its division in the North American Tea Championship.

A lot of the folks there were surprised to say the least — to think that tea from their li'l ol' town could hold its own (and then some) against the big boys!

It just goes to show that the size of a town has nothing to do with the quality of its tea. Or maybe it's even inversely correlated.

The "local boy makes good" story appears [PDF] in the September issue of official city newsletter, Koho Aso.

At Aso City Hall to tell their PR people (person) about Mellow Monk's latest recognition.

Exterior of Aso City Hall

—Mellow Monk


blog feed, facebook, reviews, steepster, teas, tweets, videos
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Milestones: Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday to

This past monday, the 19th, marks the 2-year anniversary of This is a rather exciting milestone for me, and I feel rather silly having missed it.

Some of the biggest accomplishments related to lately involve a series of subtle and a few not-so-subtle changes to the visual design of the site, which I am hoping to continue, with the help of Sylvia, who is now working with on both the look and feel of the site, and as an editor. These changes include making a professional logo so that the site can have a consistent presence across the web, and printing business cards with the logo. And of course, attending World Tea East was also an important milestone.

My 500th Review:

Yesterday marked my 500th review on the site, which was a review of Maya Tea's Tulsi or Holy Basil. I've become quite a fan of this herb, having sampled 5 commercial blends of it. It is relatively tough to find 5 different commercially-available sources of Tulsi, although I currently have only 6 different sources listed on's page on Tulsi. I also have had tulsi grown myself...both fresh and add 2 more to that mix.

I find it interesting that my 500th review wasn't actually tea. Of those reviews, 92 of them are of herbal teas. I certainly am very interested in herbal teas and one of the things that I want to do is to convince people that just about any plant can be as interesting as tea, if you put as much effort into carefully cultivating it, and then appreciating it. But of course, most of my reviews are about tea--and pure teas, not flavored ones (276) so this is still where my focus is.

Happy first day of fall!

Another interesting milestone is the changing of the seasons; today is officially the first day of fall. I began the day today with a cup of Caykur's Earl Grey...this is a tea produced in Turkey, and the brand, Çaykur, is fully-owned by the Turkish government. This particular tea, although broken-leaf, was quite good, especially for its very low price. I hope to write more about Turkish tea, as the tea itself, and the economics of it, are both rather interesting topics.

But, for now, I must conclude this post...I have a busy day ahead of me, and it is raining. (I love rain.)

Food for thought:

What are some of your recent milestones in tea?
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Facebook Pages of Tea Bloggers & Tea Companies
Many of us are members of Facebook, and we regularly see facebook pages that we can "like". It has come to my attention though that, outside of people who actually run pages, a lot of people do not know or reflect much on the purpose or uses of these pages, and the effects or results that "liking" a page has.

This post is about how I think about these pages, and it also highlights some relevant tea-related pages. If you use facebook at all, you may find this post illuminating. And, if you are one of the readers of this blog who own or runs a small business, website, or even a blog, you will hopefully find a little useful business advice hidden in here as well.

Image courtesy of Fasticon.

What is the point of a page?

Businesses use pages for promotional purposes, and for managing their online presence. A page provides a "public face" for the business. Businesses that think of facebook pages strictly as a marketing vehicle are missing one of the primary benefits of having such a page: the page allows a business to receive feedback from customers and the general public, and interact with these people in a casual manner. Which leads into the next point:

For individuals running websites, pages can separate work relationships from personal ones:

I sometimes worry that I offend some people because I do not always add people back on facebook, when I receive friend requests from people I have business relationships with. Although I have added a number of tea people to my facebook, I do not always do so as a general rule. This is nothing personal, I just don't want to end up with more than the obscene number of people on my friends list, and I also want to keep some degree of separation between the friends I know face-to-face, who know much about my personal life, and the people I just know in the context of business, work, or blogging about tea, who do not and may not want to know these things.

Having a page for your blog or business, even if you are just one person, can help to maintain this separation. And then, you are still free (as I often do) to add individual people on facebook if you want to do so.

What you "like" influences the world:

Although it seems like such a casual think, "liking" a page influences the word in a small way. For one, it subscribes you to that page's posts, which will place them in your feed. But also, you are now counted in the supporters of that page, which will be displayed both on your profile and on the page itself.

When a page has more supporters, it becomes more influential, both because it has a greater ability to distribute information, and because with additional fans comes brand recognition and legitimacy. For a business, likes or fans have a tangible cash value, and Facebook capitalizes on this fact by making money from organizations advertising to receive more fans.

Casually or carelessly liking pages enables you to be counted in the support of a business or organization. Think carefully before liking a page: do you want to support this business, website, blog, or organization?

I recommend being careful about liking, but also being generous with it. I like lots of pages...I want to support my friends, and any business that I come into contact with that I think is a good, honest business with a mission I support, and organizations working for causes I support.

Some Tea Pages:

In case you want some tea pages to like, I have a few recommendations. This is by no means a comprehensive listing:

  •'s Facebook Page - I run this page; it mostly posts updates and highlights random pages from the site; the material here is generally NOT the same as the twitter account, and I tend to post less often.

  • Life in Teacup, the page for the blog and tea company run by Gingko Seto, focusing on Chinese teas. This is a fantastic blog, and a fantastic company, if you are not currently aware of it.

  • World of Tea, a blog run by Tony Gebely; note, there is a separate page for Chicago Tea Garden.

  • Tea For Me Please - The page for the Nicole's blog Tea For Me Please.

  • Upton Tea Imports' Page - I could not possibly list all tea company pages, but I do want to list my favorite one. I particularly like how Upton uses facebook, highlighting new teas and interacting with fans/customers as well.

  • Adagio Teas' page - this page is a little more fun and off-the-wall than the average facebook page, and is also worth checking out.

Apologies for the pages I inevitably missed...if you are listed in my blog's sidebar, or regularly read this blog, have an active facebook page, and want to be listed, please comment or tweet at me, and I will be glad to get your page listed as well!
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Malebranche , a café in Kyoto station

There is a café in Kyoto station that I’malways interested in.  It is a casuallooking café but I could tell they serve Japanese tea by the colorful tetsubinteapots displayed by the window.  I finallyhad a chance to drop by with my wife.  Itwas the second night of our trip in Kyoto.  We were tired but wanted to have a breakbefore going back to the hotel. 

Konnichiwa, it's Kohei?(^?^)?  It was a cozy place.  People from different walks of life werespending their time; a female office worker on the way home, a tourist couple,a group of female students and business people. Some of them seemed having a tea set that comes with the tetsubin teapot. I wanted to have something sweet so Ididn’t try a tea set here.  I had matchaice cream and my wife, Hiro had iced latte. I made an excellent choice.

I have checked about this café, Malebrancheon the internet.  (Webpage -Japanese->>>  They are originally a confectionary shop andthey have a popular green tea cookie.   WhatI was surprised about was that they don’t seem to serve green teas.  So what about the teapots I saw?  I could not find their official menu so Icannot say for sure, but they serve black tea with them.  Some people say they had hojicha, but I’venever found that someone had green tea.  Disappointing…

Anyway, they are at a located very convenientplace.  The ice cream I had was great andtheir green tea cookie sound very good. I think it is a nice place to spend your spare time at the end of yoursightseeing in Kyoto.  Jah!

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Do you know any eco-friendly ways to get rid of acne? – NOW Toronto

Do you know any eco-friendly ways to get rid of acne?
NOW Toronto
Lotions with 2 per cent or more antibacterial green tea extracts have been found to be effective on mild to moderate acne. Looking for a cheap 'n' easy DIY solution? Try rubbing a little crushed garlic on your pimples at night, and let it sit for five ...

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Supermarket staples the real superfoods – Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald

Supermarket staples the real superfoods
Sydney Morning Herald
For those who swear by the supposed life-giving properties of expensive green tea, the NHS says that in "moderate amounts" it is merely "safe". If you're looking for an antioxidant boost, it seems you may as well stick to a cup of any mainstream ...

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NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 21 September 2011 – Space Ref (press release)

Space Ref (press release)

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 21 September 2011
Space Ref (press release)
At ~6:00am EDT, Satoshi Furukawa set up the G1 video camera and then recorded the scheduled JAXA Green Tea Ceremony experiment with the PI (Principal Investigator) at SSIPC/Tsukuba. After closeout, the mini-DV tape was downlinked via MPC (Multi ...

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