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Mixing and matching is in this season. Just take a look at your recent wardrobe changes, did you suddenly start juxtaposing different textures and shapes? If you answered yes, I think you are ready for the ultimate holiday switch-a-roo!

Our wardrobe is one thing, but I bet you never thought that during the Holidays, some unexpected mixing and matching can be just as exciting as the traditional approach to festivities. Don’t get me wrong, I think one of the main principles of the Holiday season is tradition, but traditions don’t have to change. The only thing that does is the perspective. Any Holiday festivities can come with a bit of a twist. For example, a combination of two traditional events, yet not regarded as a likely pair – the Holiday spirit and a Tea Party!

Yes of course, naturally you’re thinking it has been done or how is that breaking any tradition at all when most households drink tea during this season anyway? Quite simple – the rules of the tea party have to be altered. Invite your loved ones for an evening of fun, tea and Holiday related tasks. Such as decorating the Christmas tree with…you got it – tea cups! I would suggest sending out an invite requesting everyone to bring in a colorful, light or small in size tea cup in advance to avoid any breakage. Once your guests arrive, clueless as to why they need a cup, you can announce your genius idea – decorating the tree with tea cups. While your guests are decorating the tree, include some interactive games along the way – make everyone write down an embarrassing Holiday story on a piece of paper, anonymously, each small paper piece will have to be put into a hat and upon being drawn everyone will have to guess who’s card it is, let the hilarity ensue!

And obviously no Holiday event is complete without treats. Check out our journal entry on baking with matcha for some healthy inspiration, and choose from our extensive lineup of spices and sweeteners for that extra little bit of something in your treats. Stay tuned for more Holiday ideas from your favorite tea meister!

Some of you may already know that I am currently in the midst of finishing my book, so here is a sneak preview into what you can expect.

I took an adventurous approach to writing this book by incorporating a lot of my personal views and experiences, rather than writing solely about tea and tea facts. My intention is to create a bond between me as an author and the message of the story, and by doing so, to allow the reader to draw personal connections to the story while getting to know me personally. My book will be filled with inspirational experiences and how I am growing as an individual who is driven by the passion of tea. I also can say that the book has a romantic feel to it, you will find that hidden among various recipes and party ideas will be moments of sharing, confession and vulnerability.

It is important to me that the reader connects with the book and its message because the book itself carries a lot of what I stand for and believe in. I would want the reader to get to know me and in doing so, cultivate an understanding of what tea is all about in relation to our life experiences and personal growth. I also want to share innovative and creative ideas, experiences and thoughts, not just about tea but also about what it means to truly get to know who you are as an individual. I want the readers to discover these new facts and ideas because ultimately it will enlighten their senses and hopefully persuade them to pursue long life dreams, aspirations and goals.

This book is a journey, and I want all the readers to embark on this wonderful opportunity to discovering something new, perhaps rediscovering something forgotten. I want this book to introduce the readers to a world of possibilities, not just when it comes to tea, but also when it comes to self discovery. This book is about growth, passion and determination, and above all – peace of mind.

We all know that what you make your tea in, is just as important as what you put in it. Since teapots are vital to the exquisite process of tea making, I decided to mention my top picks when it comes to making a perfect infusion.

The first use of a teapot originated during the Yuan Dynasty, in China. By the Ming Dynasty, a teapot was a common tea vessel mostly made out of ‘zisha’ – purple clay (later popularized under the name ‘yixing teapot’). These clay pots are hand-made, designed to absorb the flavour of the tea over time, making each cup lustrous in color and taste.  A yixing pot is one of my favourites because it has a very unique, smooth and light nature – perfect for greens and oolongs.

Interesting fact: tea exported from China in the 17th century was often shipped with porcelain teapots in the traditional colors of blue and white. The first porcelain teapot in Europe was produced in the early 18th century in Germany, mimicking Chinese pottery design. Porcelain teapots are elegant and festive, used mostly on special occasions. The delicacy of these pots is what makes them so appealing. I am a sucker for an occasional chance to drink out of a porcelain cup or make tea in a porcelain teapot, mostly attributed to infusing black tea. Now who doesn’t love a rich, full bodied infusion topped off with milk? It’s absolutely irresistible.

Teapots in Japanese culture on the other hand, are much more robust. Tea vessels in Japan became the centers of various ceremonies, most popular being ‘Sadō’ – a traditional Japanese tea Ceremony, which uses ‘chagama’ iron pot. Since such ceremonies are viewed as art, so are the objects used during each ceremony, often detailed with themes of nature. A pot that is used in everyday life however is called ‘kyusu’, has one handle and is small in size. I prefer to use a kyusu teapot because it is compact and does not require complex care. It is great for infusing green, oolong and white tea.

Some others that I think are worth mentioning are glass teapots and those made of stainless steel. If you are a fan of flowering teas, you will most likely opt for a glass teapot with a large infuser. If however you prefer a modern, slick look of kitchen ware, you would find stainless steel to do the job while remaining stylish.

Although collecting teapots may be a very enjoyable process, keep in mind that some decorative pots will not provide you with an authentic experience you’re looking for. I suggest getting to know your tea preferences and match them with a right fit of teapot for a best desired outcome. With that said, I wish you all happy teapot hunting!

Figure 3

 

In honor of the spring season, I wanted to share my excitement about the new spring harvest teas! It is such a wonderful time of the year because the early spring picked teas are exceptional, light in liquor with delicate flavors and aromas, making them quite a unique bunch. Although the first flush teas are scarce, they are an absolute delight.

I strongly believe that just like a tea plant gets reborn every spring, so do we as individuals. Spring is the time for new beginnings. Just as the new buds of a tea plant are gently picked, we shed away our old habits and discover new, exciting, pure joys of life. Spring signifies rebirth. To each of us, rebirth is a unique experience, an intimate affair between our soul and mind. The picking of the newly born buds is an affair between the picker and the plant…each transaction is full of care, devotion and patience.

Now is the perfect time to think about your bodies, your minds, your souls. Now is the time to take care – renovate, strengthen, rejuvenate, revive these vital parts that make you who you are. And if you wish to choose a companion, there are plenty to help you on your journey, try any of the First Flush Darjeelings (e.g. Dooteriah, Makaibari), they are bound to awaken your senses!

 

Some of you may be familiar with my tea crush…with James Norwood Pratt.  I had the immense honour of meeting my tea sage at the World Tea Expo last year and I have a confession to make…I read his words sometimes just to be inspired.  He uses words like an artist uses a paintbrush.  Each stroke evoking the perfect image and feeling.

Here’s what I just read:

Tea is …a sort of spiritual refreshment, an elixir of clarity and wakeful tranquility.  Respectfully preparing tea and partaking of it mindfully creates heart to heart conviviality, a way to go beyond this world and enter a realm apart.  No pleasure is simpler, no luxury cheaper, no consciousness-altering agents more benign.  In every culture, taking tea somehow evolves into a ritual re-enactment of communion, a spiritual practice in other words, and by gradual degrees this become a Way – a Mirror of Soul – in its own right

I stumbled on this amazing board on pinterest and decided I had to share it with you all.  Jennifer R. is a Strategic Visual Communication designer and has created a series of ‘what my ___ says to me’.  Of course I got caught by “What my tea says to me”.  Her goal is to have 365 of these up by the end of 2013.  I just have to share them – because tea evokes such emotion and such beauty and I do my best to remember that, even though the reality of my daily ‘business’ life with tea doesn’t always evoke that!

January 16th

I’m feeling great!  And the best part is that I’m getting through my day with more energy.  I have added two shakes to my daily routine.  I’ll give you the recipe below.  They keep me full and going all day long.

INSPIRATION:

Start your day with five minutes of quiet – your time – breathe – stretch and start your day. 

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” ~Max Ehrmann

Take care of yourself, your body, your heart and your soul.  It won’t be treated by others any better than you treat it.

OUTSIDE THE BOX:

Go home and watch a comedy.  A silly, mindless ridiculous comedy.  Laugh.  Laugh.  Laugh.  And then laugh some more.

MENU:

Yes, the broken record continues…drink lots of liquids.  Lots and lots and lots.

I make these two shakes every morning – 2 litres each – and bring them to work with me – I drink one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Green Drink:
1 cup kale + half an apple + 1/2 cup grapes + 2tsp Agave.  Place in blender, fill half with water and blend well.

Fruit Drink:
1 cup frozen berries + half an apple + 1/2 cup grapes + 1 banana + 1tsp Matcha.  Place in blender, fill half with real orange juice and blend well.
I prefer the Fruit drink in the afternoon because it satisfies my blood sugar low in the afternoon.

BREAKFAST:
Hot water with lemon
1 cup low fat yogurt with muesli and berries

Yunnan Imperial 

LUNCH:
1 avocado mashed, squeeze of lemon, chilli powder.  Spread onto a whole wheat tortilla.  Makes two tortillas.

Rooibos Prickly Pear 

DINNER:
Chicken Breast with Shaved Brussel Sprouts – click for recipe.  Don’t turn up your nose!  I love brussel sprouts.  Yes, I always have.  But these brussel sprouts are treated like slaw – try it!

Hibiscus Herbal iced.

January 15

Okay – so I gave you a break this weekend – I won’t be doing that again 🙂  I admit to having been guilty of a glass of wine and my ‘out of the box’ was going to a Sake store on Saturday and having a ‘flight’ of Sake.  It was such a great experience!  Never done a Sake tasting before.

INSPIRATION:

Ahh…my favourite quotes…Seussisms:

“Today you are YOU, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive, that is YOUER than YOU” – Dr Seuss

OUT OF THE BOX:

 Read a newspaper today – but not your regular news.  If you lean left…read news that leans right.  If you lean right…read news that leans left.  Open yourself to a different side of the argument.  You may still disagree with it, but true discourse comes from hearing all sides of the debate.

MENU:

You still drinking?  I sure hope you are.  Dehydration can lead to lethargy, poor skin, low blood pressure.  Just drink!  I’ve said it before, I’ll keep saying it – water isn’t the only source of hydration…tea is as well.

BREAKFAST:
Hot water with lemon
Oatmeal made with water or skim milk – a squeeze of Agave and a sliced banana

Cream of Avalon 

LUNCH:
 Chili Spiced Salmon Salad – click for recipe.  I love these kinds of recipes because spice is my answer to removing fat from my diet.  Fat is flavour unfortunately, but so is spice…without the…well…fat!

Imperial Jasmine 

DINNER
Moroccan Turkey Skillet – click for recipe.  Yup…spice!

Moroccan Mint iced, sweetened with agave – add a splash of club soda

Snacks:
Low fat yogurt with cinnamon – slice an apple to dip into the yogurt
Sliced vegetables – carrots, celery, etc with a fat free Greek yogurt and horseradish dip.  This is one of my favourite dips! The greek yogurt is thick enough that it doesn’t make you miss any of the fatty thick dips and horseradish has ZERO calories!