One more…this one I believe is still being edited – so we’ll re-post when we see the final version – but this version is already brilliant!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y99_8XjHuXU]

The Tea Association of the US runs a fantastic competition every year called the Calm-a-Sutra of Tea.  It’s a creativiy contest challenging College kids to put together an original video highlighting the health benefits of tea.  The results are fantastic – and we’ve posted some clips in the past.  The competition for 2009 is fully under way and the clips are rolling in – so we thought we would share one we thought was fun.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7dx7RWyS14]

We live in a world where new is good – perfection is strived for – and young is beauty.  We thought however that we would share with you today a beautiful aesthetic that the Japanese believe in – it is the principal of Wabi-Sabi.  In a nutshell, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and accepting the natural cycle of growth.  It is simple, uncluttered and it values authenticity above all else.  Wabi-Sabi is about flea markets instead of big box stores and malls; it’s about aging wood not laminate.  The principals of wabi-sabi celebrate crack and crevices and believe that it is a sign that loving has left behind.

It is so easy to disgard what isn’t new and forget what has aged – but stop and look closely next time at a pot that isn’t perfect – a flower that isn’t fully standing tall – or the aged face of the people around you – they all have a story to tell.

old-man oldwoman

Yes – we made a brief blog entry about Milk Oolong when we first introduced it to our tea collection – but I’ve decided to go back and tell you the story behind Milk Oolong. For those of you that haven’t tried it – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???? For those of you that have…well you understand what I speak of when I describe a smooth creamy aroma reminiscent of sweet milk – and a fresh light liquor that is clean on the palate.

The tea world is a romantic world – it still lives very much in the world of legends and folklore – and the story behind this amazing tea is no different. Legend has it that one evening, the moon fell in love with a comet as it passed it through the dark night sky. As comets do, it burned out and vanished. The moon was distraught and devastated that its love was gone and in her sorry, she caused a great wind to blow through the hills and valleys where the tea bushes were flourishing, causing a great drop in the temperature. The next morning, the tea farmers went to pluck their tea leaves and discovered when it was processed that the tea had a milky characterisitc.

To answer the question that many people pose when they first encounter this tea – is it flavoured – no, real Milk Oolong is not flavoured – there are cheaper versions that are – but true Milk Oolong gets its milky/sweet flavour from a severe temperature shift that happens just before the leaves are picked. It is an Oolong – which means that it is partially oxidized – this particular Oolong being very lightly oxidized. Make a cup and tell us what you think – it’s flavours are unlike anything you’ve had.

teapotwithcups

This is a commercial shot at Liverpool station for T-Mobile – but we were struck by and reminded of the power of people and what happens when they work together – powerful…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ3d3KigPQM]

By now you’ve surely heard about that fabulously good for you tea called Matcha.   But what is it – where does it come from – and why should you care.  Matcha today is uniquely Japanese – but this wasn’t always the case.  This loaded with goodness ground tea was first made in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and continued in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).  Initially, the steamed tea leaves were formed in bricks to help with storage and trade – these bricks were then pulverized and dissolved in hot water with salt.  In the Song Dynasty that followed, whipping the steamed powdered tea leaves in a bowl with hot water became popular – this preparation was then made into a ritual by Zen Buddhist monks.  It was in 1191 that Zen Buddhism along with the green tea powder ritual was brought to Japan by the monk Eisai.  The powdered tea ritual was eventually forgotten in China – but the Japanese not only adopted it, they perfected it and then turned it into the Japanese Tea Ceremony (a subject that deserves its very own post).

MatchaMatcha is a stone ground tea – but its preparation is arduous and requires much care and attention.  It begins several weeks before the tea leaves are picked.  The entire crop is covered with bamboo curtains in order to increase the cholorophyll content within the leaves – making them greener and slightly sweeter.  At this point, the leaves can become the prized Gyokoru, if they are rolled out before drying – or they can be laid out flat to dry and slightly crumble – known as Tencha.  The Tencha is then destemmed and painstakingly deveined before it is ready for its final step – grinding.  Tencha is placed between two large stones that will grind clockwise and counterclockwise against eachother to break the leaves down into the fine powder.  It will take approximately one full hour for a stone mill to grind 40gr of Matcha.

So why would Popeye care?  Well, because you’re ingesting the entire leaf when drinking Matcha – your body is reaping ALL of the benefits present in the tea leaf.  Studies have shown that Matcha contains:

*  Vitamins A, B6, B-Complex, C, E, K, Nicacin, Folate, Riboflavin, Thiamin
*  Calcium, Magnesiu, Iron, Zinc, Potassium, Phosphorus, Sodium
*  L-Theanine and Amino Acids which improves alertness
*  High chlorophyll content – is a blood detoxifier
*  70 x antioxidants of orange juice
*  9 x beta carotene of spinach
*  boosts metabolic rate by 35-40% matchasticks

To add this amazing tea to your daily routine in a very simple way – we’ve introduced…Matcha Sticks.  Each stick is perfectly portioned for one bottle of water – simply add Matcha, shake well and enjoy – no sugar – no additives – just the real thing.

Another piece by the New York Times – an older one – but it makes us want to pack our bags and hop on a plane to the beautiful land of tea.  Click on the picture below for the full slideshow.

14tea_01

Here is the second part of that tea/caterpillar commercial – unfortunatley it’s not subtitled – but the affect is not lost: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZfaE71_3-U]

We recommend reading Part 1 of this piece before Part 2 to fully appreciate our meaning.  As in the first part of this post – you can click on the link on the right hand side under Liquid Visions and hear Perlman playing Bach for the full experience.

Perhpas you’re scratching your head and wondering what the relation is between Itzhak Perlman and Dung Ti Oolong – or any tea for that matter.  The relation is quite simple – it’s Greatness.  For a tea lover, answering the question – which tea is your favourite – is incredibly difficult.  For all the reasons that I love tea, I am hard pressed to narrow down my answer to one.  The types, styles and flavours of tea vary so greatly that a different one can be chosen to fit a time of day, the temperature in the air or the mood in your heart.  If however I must choose – then I choose a category – and that is Oolong. 

dung tiMany people will argue that Oolongs are the most complex teas to produce.  So much of the end resulting flavours will depend entirely on the skills of the tea master who has produced your tea.  Oolongs are partially oxidized teas.  They are picked and wilted in the sun for a short period of time.  They are then placed in baskets and shaken in order to bruise the leaves.  This bruising process allows the juices/enzymes within the leaves to be exposed to air allowing the oxidation process to begin.  The leaves are then spread out to dry and finally fired in order to stop the oxidation process.  Oolongs are allowed to oxidize between 5-80% – hence the vastly differing flavours in your cup.

So now that we have all the technical data behind us – where does the Greatness and the Dung Ti Oolong come into play?  If you’ve ever had a really great Dung Ti Oolong – you are familiar with the sweet floral notes that linger through your nose and in your mouth.  This particular Oolong is referred to as Jade style – it is very lightly oxidized – about 5-10%.  Dung Ti or Tung Ting Oolong grows in the Nantou County of Taiwan.  The story goes that in 1855, a villager named Ling Fung Tse went to the WuYi Mountains in the Fujian Province of China.  He brought back 36 tea trees from his journey and being grateful to his friend Ling San Yen for financing his trip, he gave him 12 of the tea trees.  These trees were planted along the mountain roads that surround Chi-Ling Lake which is where this unforgettable tea is still picked from.

The first time I brewed a cup of Dung Ti, it brought a smile to my face – the light liquor and the sweet aroma is breathtaking – not only in aroma but in flavour as well.  I drank it slowly enjoying every drop and I gave thanks to the tea master who had had the skill, the wisdom and the talent in knowing at exactly what moment to stop the oxidation of this tea in order to produce the heavenly flavours that I was now enjoying thousands of miles away on the other side of the world. 

We are surrounded by Greatness – but stop and recognize it sometimes and it will humble you when you become aware, conscious and acknowledge the Greatness that may be before your very eyes.  Sometimes it’s as obvious as listening to the giant Itzhak Perlman – sometimes it’s in a cup of tea – sometimes it’s in the person next to you.