Tea purgatory

Quite a few of you have the same problem – how to deal with teas that are really inferior, so that you don’t want to drink them every day.  However, you have too much of it, so you have to get rid of it, somehow, especially if you paid for the privilege.

These teas are often acquired with the best of intentions – you bought it thinking it might be good, and end up being a disappointment.  You bought it as an impulse (say, while you were traveling) and when you got home, it is no longer so good. Sometimes you got the tea because you used to like it, but your tastes changed. Or, you got it from some other means – a gift, an accidental find, etc. Either way, now you’re stuck with this tea that isn’t really quite that good.

I have a lot of these teas, as I’m sure a lot of you do too.  Giving them away, or selling them, seems wrong, because they’re not particularly attractive.  After all, you don’t really want to give bad tea to people, especially if they’re newcomers.  The only tea I happily give away is cooked puerh, since I almost never drink teas of that genre, and I know there are others out there who will appreciate it way more than I do.  The rest of the time, however, whether it is bad black tea, bad young puerh, or bad oolong, I’m stuck with it.

One way for me to get rid of such teas these days is to drink it at work, where I’m condemned to drink such things grandpa style, for lack of proper implements (or time) to do it right. I could probably bring a tea set to work, but since I just started less than a month ago, bringing such things, even in Asia, might be a little off.  So these days, I’m drinking some terrible, terrible work tea – a box of very run of the mill Assam, an old can of cooked puerh from Mengku that I had stashed away for no reason, and some 4 years old baozhong that I’ve been aging myself.  The baozhong is probably the most interesting of these teas, seeing as it was purchased fresh in 2007 and now approaching five years old in the same bag.  When I opened it it smelled distinctly like a slightly aged oolong – a little of that slightly plummy, sour fragrance, but when I brewed it, grandpa style anyway, it was still mostly like a duller green baozhong.  It clearly needs some more time.

I suppose this is a good thing, in the sense that I’m drinking some of these leftover teas that I’ll never otherwise touch and which will forever linger in tea purgatory until I fish them out for some reason. Now, they’re being consumed in a willy-nilly manner at work, purely for the caffeine effect and not much else.  I do need to find a more permanent solution to the work-tea problem though, because otherwise I’m going to be stuck with bad tea for a long time, and then my good teas will be in tea purgatory.


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CoachArt—the art of improving lives
We recently had the opportunity to meet with some of the great people at CoachArt and hear about their wonderful work.

CoachArt is a nonprofit that provides free lessons in arts and athletics to children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses. These creative and physical outlets provide a much-needed distraction from their condition and gives the children a sense of normalcy. Siblings are also encouraged to take part in the lessons.

If this sounds like something you'd like to support, please read more at CoachArt's website.

A scene at CoachArt's "Saddle Up" horse riding clinic.

—Mellow Monk

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Superfoods are already on your list – Irish Independent

Superfoods are already on your list
Irish Independent
For those who swear by expensive green tea, it remains on the fence, saying that it is merely "safe". The basic healthy eating message -- more fruit, veg and fibre, less saturated fat, sugar and salt, plus iron-rich foods for women before the menopause ...

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Beans, pumpkin seeds for glowing skin – Times of India

Beans, pumpkin seeds for glowing skin
Times of India
Green tea : For nothing, the Chinese people boast of lovely skin. Green tea hydrates you. It is loaded with antioxidants that have been shown to protect skin from sun damage; and it has an active ingredient that promotes a healthy metabolism. ...

and more »
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60 percent of apple juice concentrate in other beverages is said to be … – allvoices

60 percent of apple juice concentrate in other beverages is said to be ...
Earlier studies have shown that flavonoids--which are found in chocolate and green tea, as well as other fruits and vegetables--behave as anti-oxidants, taking up free oxygen radicals that can damage precious DNA. According to a new study at another ...

and more »
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Herbal Infusions and Cooked Vegetable Broth
Pictured below is an herbal infusion: for once, I actually am not using the term herbal tea because there is nothing remotely tea-like about the process I used to create this liquid:

What is it? It looks a little bit like hibiscus tea, but it's not...a little too light perhaps? It does not taste remotely like hibiscus. This is nothing you'd ever buy at a tea or herb shop, it's the broth left over after cooking vegetables, a specific type of cooked green. Red-veined amaranth leaves, to be specific, called xian cai(??/??) in Chinese. Here are the greens themselves, after cooking:

I found the leaves to have a flavor most closely resembling green beans, but with suggestions of beets and asparagus. They tasted very familiar, even though I have never consciously eaten them before. If you click on the photo of the cooked greens, you can read more about my experience cooking and eating them. In contrast to some new vegetables, which often become more of an acquired taste, I think this vegetable would be pretty accessible to someone who likes the more familiar Western cooked greens and other vegetables.

What is amaranth?

In the U.S., amaranth is most known for its use as an alternative grain; it is generally available in health food stores, and is also gluten-free. It is also a relative of quinoa. In China and India, especially in warmer regions, however, amaranth is widely used as a cooked vegetable. Amaranth thrives in hot climates with poor soil, where the heat and soil are poor for growing greens like spinach that are popular in northern climates. I first learned of amaranth's use as a cooked green from an Indian gardener in Cleveland.

Vegetable Broth vs. Herbal Tea:

In our modern society, when we cook vegetables, we often discard the broth, viewing it as waste. Yet we then go out and buy herbal teas, carefully steep them, and drink them. At times, we even drink foul-tasting concoctions in search of their supposed "health benefits". In this post I want to highlight something so simple it's almost mindless. When you cook vegetables, the resulting leftover water is an herbal infusion; it's packed with vitamins, minerals, and beneficial phytochemicals--anything water-soluble goes out in the broth. And it's fresher and more nutritious than any infusion that you could make from dried herbs, as the drying process results in considerable loss and degradation of vitamins and flavor.

There are a few cases where it is not good to drink vegetable broth; some plants used as vegetables, such as pokeweed, have water-soluble toxins and which are only edible after repeated boiling and draining, but these plants are generally not widely available at stores or markets in the U.S.

What did this amaranth broth taste like?

If you're not used to drinking the leftover broth after cooking vegetables, it may taste a bit strange to you. The flavor is the very essence of vegetal...after all, the word "vegetal" is just an attempt to describe the aromas and flavors of vegetables when they occur in tea or other food or drink where we may not expect them.

It was definitely not the sort of thing that I would seek out to drink as a beverage, on its own, but it was also not at all unpleasant. Perhaps I would acquire a taste for it if I drank this sort of thing more. But the experience was interesting to me, and I think will inform my palate when tasting teas and herbal teas that have vegetal qualities.

What do you think?

Some questions come to my mind. Do you ever drink the leftover broth after cooking vegetables? What is the cutoff between vegetable broth, and herbal tea brewed from fresh herbs? Does this distinction only lie in intentions? What do you think of the vegetal qualities in tea? And have you ever tried amaranth greens?
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Raku ware museum

The ancient tea master, Rikyu, designedutensils to achieve his ideal tea.  Anexample of this is the Ruku tea bowl. Rikyu asked a craftsman, Chojiro to make his original bowl.  It is hand molded instead of using the turningwheel.   It is thick but feels lighterthan it looks.  It is very earthy and Iassume it goes really well with Rikyu-designed tea room that is simple andrustic.  Please imagine that you are in adark tiny tatami room with clay walls. The earthy bowl will be perfect in there.  A sophisticated white shiny porcelain bowl wouldlook out of place.   When you hold theRuku tea bowl, it fits in your hands naturally and you can comfortably feel thewarmth of the tea through the thick soft clay. Some people describe it as you almost feel like drinking tea from yourown bare hands.

Konnichiwa, it’s Kohei ?(^?^)???I also visited the Raku ware museum on theKyoto trip.  After Chojiro, The Rakufamily continued making Raku bowls.   Now15th generation of Rakus is making them. At the museum, I saw the successive potter’s pieces.  What I was most fascinated with was that Ihad an opportunity to hold the bowls.  Iheld them for viewing and not to drink tea from them.  We were lead to a tatami room.  As we view a tea bowl in a tea ceremony, wewere able to appreciate three Ruku bowls.  Each piece is individually unique. One has a rough and rustic texture. Another one is glazed and smooth. As I held the bowls, I tried to imagine how it’s like drinking tea outof them.  It was totally a different experiencefrom just looking at the pieces in a case.  Jah!

Google image search result for Raku teabowl (???) >>>

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New lower rates for international shipping
In addition to recently offering a "super saver" 1st Class shipping option for our Canadian customers, we now have a much less expensive international shipping option for all other countries outside the U.S., too.

We heard you voices, and we have responded.

To thank you for your patience, here is a photo of an intriguing path beyond a shrine torii in Aso, Japan:

—Mellow Monk


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Healthy eating: Unravelling the disease/diet relationship – The Virtual Medical Centre

The Virtual Medical Centre

Healthy eating: Unravelling the disease/diet relationship
The Virtual Medical Centre
A reduced risk of some gastrointestinal, reproductive, prostate and skin cancers has been associated with green tea intake, and it has been proposed that genistein (the polyphenol in green tea) has a protective effect in relation to some cancers. ...

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Ginger in Tea and Herbal Teas
I love ginger; it is one of my favorite spices and I use it heavily in cooking. I have even grown ginger...it is relatively easy to grow indoors. In the spirit of raising awareness between the food, tea, and herbs we eat, and the plants they come from, here is a picture of a ginger rhizome, sprouting:

Ginger is the rhizome of a grassy plant, Zingiber officinale; the rhizome is storage area below the ground, looking like a root but technically part of the plant's stem; the rhizome stores energy, nutrients, and water so that if the above-ground part of the plant is threatened or dies, the plant can regrow when conditions are right. This adaptation allows ginger to survive drought, as well as having its leaves and stems eaten. The strong-tasting chemicals which give ginger its flavor are concentrated in the rhizome, to protect this most important part of the plant. I wish I had a picture of the ginger plant that I grew for two years, but I cannot find one. The ginger plant looks like a grass, here's a photo of ginger growing that I found.

This next photo shows fresh ginger root which I have sliced in order to brew up a batch of iced tea:

Dried Ginger vs. Fresh Ginger:

One reason I feel particularly compelled to share these pictures and this post is that, over the years, I've tried a number of blends containing dried ginger, and they just don't do it for me. I think that ginger is one of those spices that is best fresh, and that loses most of its character when dried.

Still, I do sometimes enjoy teas and herbs which have been blended with dried ginger. I will say, I do not have any dried ginger in my cabinet, and I have never bought it; fresh ginger root is a staple in my household.

Medicinal Properties of Ginger:

Ginger is a fairly common ingredient in herbal blends. It has potent medicinal properties, or supposed "health benefits", to use a buzzword I have become slightly annoyed with lately. Ginger is used traditionally to settle the stomach and provide relief from nausea. I personally find it to be very effective for this purpose. Wikipedia's article on ginger is fairly well-referenced and explains these medicinal uses, and what is known of the chemistry of ginger, in more depth.

Ginger as a Flavoring for Tea:

Ginger is also used as a flavoring in black tea, sometimes on its own, but often when paired with peach. Adagio Teas sells a black tea flavored with ginger, and a number of brands, including Adagio, Republic of Tea, Revolution, Stash, Bentley's, and many others, sell ginger peach tea. These ginger-peach flavored teas, usually but not always black teas, are very popular. I used to regularly visit a coffee shop in University Heights, OH, which sold a ginger peach tea, and it seemed that more customers ordered this tea than all the others combined. I will say, even though I'm not a huge fan of flavored teas, I do like this combination.

Ginger is also a common, but not necessarily defining ingredient in masala chai or spiced tea. I like including some ginger in chai, but I generally do not miss it when it is absent (unlike cardamom).

Ginger in Herbal Blends:

Ginger is widely used in herbal blends. One of the most common combinations is lemon ginger. While I find that lemon and ginger go very well together (one of my favorite combinations for an iced herbal drink is boiling fresh lemongrass and fresh ginger root, then chilling it), I find that most herbal blends focusing on ginger, and relying on dried ginger, just don't do it for me. Teatulia has an odd ginger herbal infusion that also includes the herb Vasaka (Justicia adhatoda). I wasn't really a fan of this either...the Vasaka is extremely bitter; while I normally like bitter flavors, it was too bitter for me, so I suspect it is probably too bitter for a majority of others as well.

How about you?

Do you ever use fresh ginger as a flavoring for tea, or for making herbal infusions? Do you like the presence of ginger in masala chai, or other blends? Do you notice much of a difference between fresh and dried ginger? Have you ever tried growing ginger?
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