Friday, September 28, 2012

Beach Tea

Near Lincoln City, OR. We've been blessed with a week of sunshine at the coast! Yesterday I sat and made tea, watched the waves. I was drinking one of my all-time faves, Bai Hai oolong (Oriental Beauty). What a perfect moment.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oregon Garden Tea Plant

Strolling through the Oregon Garden grounds, the DH and I spied several tea plants!

More and more, tea is being grown in this part of the world. I recently read about a small scale tea farm nearby. That is definitely on the to-see list!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pacific Nowrthwest is a Happening Place for Tea this Fall!

So many exciting events coming up!

Moon Viewing at the Portland Japanese Garden:  Friday - Sunday, September 28 - 30th, 6 - 8:30 pm.  I will be there, assisting in the tea house.  Please come by and observe a Japanese Tea Ceremony as you stroll the grounds under the glow of the full moon.

Northwest Tea FestivalOctober 6 - 7th, Seattle.  This will be my third year to attend, and I love this event!  Some of the brightest tea leaders in the country share their knowledge.  The price is scandalously low, and the tea tastings are full of interesting (and tasty!) options.  I look forward to this event all year.

Wu-Wo Class at the Northwest Tea Festival:  October 6th, 1:30 - 2:30 pm.  Our Northwest Wu-Wo Tea Association will be hosting a class this year at the festival. Join us!  (And here's a link to our group's brand new website.)

Check out the Portland Tea Events website for a list of many more interesting tea opportunities. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Temple of Heaven Park

Tai Chi in Temple of Heaven Park

One splendid day last September, I visited Temple of Heaven park in Beijing.  I was deeply moved by how people came together to "play Tai Chi", practice ballroom dancing, and to write beautiful Chinese calligraphy and poetry.  To move their bodies and experience nature in community.   

The man in the center above is a friend and former Tai Chi instructor of Dan, our tour organizer (black t-shirt, below).  Our group was encouraged to try Tai Chi, and the combination of cool breeze, warm sun, gently flowing body and energy, kind encouragement from new friends...well, truly it was like being in the temple of heaven!   
Practicing push hands, a technique that encourages attention, awareness and coordination

I met the DH (dear hubby) in a ballroom dance class 17 years ago.  Dancing holds a special place in my life, and I'm always interested in observing other dancers.  Much to my delight, people in China practice dancing in the parks!  I've thought many times in the past year about trying to get something like this going where I live.  My educator side also noticed how the instruction was being done.  Dance was being taught like a martial art - make the form, hold it, repeat, repeat, repeat.  It wasn't about constant movement but about body learning of the correct forms.   
Dancing in the Temple of Heaven Park

Below, a gentleman writes in  beautiful Chinese calligraphy.  Notice the large brush.  He is writing with water; this work of art is fleeting.  Joy in the doing.
Ephemeral art

My experience in Temple of Heaven park has returned to me often.  There are things to be learned here, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Legend of Silk (and Tea), and Beijing Silk Factory

Did you know that the legend of silk's discovery is related to tea?

The story goes that Chinese empress Lei-tzu (wife of the Yellow Emperor Huang Di, approx 2697–2597 BC) was enjoying tea in her garden when a silkworm cocoon drifted into her cup.  The hot tea loosened the filament and as she removed it, she realized it was one long strand.  From there, an industry began...

When I toured China last fall, we visited a silk factory in Beijing.
Removing the larvae from the cocoon

Since I enjoy textiles, I found this to be very interesting.  We saw the production process from silkworm cocoon into fabric.  The machine above removes the larvae from the cocoon.  (Wasting nothing, the silkworm larvae become a beer snack, and I brought some home for the DH.)

The cocoons are boiled, allowing the filament to loosen into a strand.  These strands are then woven into fabric (or other methods employed).  Below, we saw how a small piece of what seemed like felted silk was stretched into the size necessary for a comforter.

Stretching the silk into paper-thin layers

Of course, the tour finished at the silk store where comforters, scarves and clothing were artfully displayed.  I found pretty travel jewelry rolls for my mom and sister.  For my niece, I purchased what I thought was a doll dress (but turned out to be a wine bottle topper - oops!  ;-)  I should have come home with the bright scarf, below.  I was really drawn to the bold colors and modern graphic style.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Desserts in China

Mystery dessert

Just what is that a picture of?  Well, I tasted it and I'm still not sure!  The best our group could surmise, it's a deep purple, lightly-sweet bean paste on a bed of cucumbers, topped festively with sprinkles.  This was one of the more remarkable desserts in China. Actually, we didn't really have dessert in China.  Melons would accompany the meal, and that was the extent of the sweets.  Not a bad plan, really.  China has far less dependence on sugar, and significantly fewer overindulgence-based health issues.

I can do without dessert, but I often need want "just a little something" after dinner, which turns into a square of dark chocolate.  By the time we got through China, this girl was hurting for chocolate in a big way.  I never found it in China proper!  Interestingly, in Tibet, there was a corner market near our hotel that sold Dairy Milk and Toblerone products.  Our tour group was happy!

After dinner on another fine Chinese fall evening, we headed to a tea house.  The young woman below explained the teas and brewed them for us.  We were served a trio of dried fruits (bottom picture) and that was actually my favorite dessert in all of China. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2013 Tea Calendar from an Adventuring Woman

I'm so proud of my friend Lindsey!  She's spent the last year traveling around Asia to study at tea farms.  She's an intrepid soul, and a creative and generous one too.  I miss her, but I'm thrilled to read of her adventures.  She has just released her 2013 tea calendarI've already purchased a copy!  You can find it at the online store here.


Sunday, September 09, 2012

Xi'an, China

Me, having fun in Xi'an, China

I'm revisiting my journals from last fall's trip to China, Tibet and India and I hope you'll walk with me as I pull out the details to keep this experience live. A year ago today, I was in Xi'an, China. Xi'an is well-known in modern times for being home to the Terracotta WarriorsXi'an has many other treasures to offer!  It is home to many universities and tech/science centers, plus the Ancient History Museum

Great detail of a terracotta warrior (not sure if it's original or a repro),
in the Ancient History Museum

Chinese history is so, well lengthy, that it reminds me to be humble about our relatively-new American history.  This ancient, walled city was once the capital of China and was the model when Japan built Kyoto.  The museum had more history and artifacts than I could take in! 

Many things tempted me at the museum store, including this jade bracelet.  The charm is a lion, representing the first (and only) ruling woman Empress of China.  (This stone lion below actually guarded the tomb of the Empress' mother.)  Clearly, being the female Empress took courage and as we know from the Wizard of Oz, the lion represents courage.  I take courage each time I wear this bracelet.  :-)  
Look closely at the charm.  See the resemblance to the figure below?

This trip was all about tea and I was on the lookout for special tea treasures.  Many of the places we visited were remote, and so we shopped when we had the chance (larger cities).  I found these amazing tea cups at the tea house on the premises of the Terracotta Warriors site. 

More of China to come!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Reader Tea Reviews: Paisley Teas

A very special thank you to my blog readers who joined me in a review of new Paisley Tea Company products!  Fanfare and gratefulness for Esmerelda (and friends), Ginger, Judy, Linda, Marmalady and Snap!

English Breakfast photo courtesy of Snap

We approached the reviews in unique and diverse ways, and this is what I enjoyed most.  I loved learning about the way each woman approached her review.  Some did so systematically, observing water temperature and time.  Another shared the tasting with her husband.  One woman gathered a group of friends and hosted a tea party.  We have a review from a pre-schooler, too.  All reviewers did an excellent job! 

The teas we reviewed were in bags, organic and Fair Trade.  Paisley Tea Company's parent company is Two Leaves and a Bud. Thank you to Paisley Tea Company for providing the samples for this taste test.

You'll notice differing opinions among the reviewers.  Isn't it cool how we can disagree and still appreciate each other's perspectives?  (A fact not to be lost in this election time!)  Here's what we thought...

English Breakfast
"It is a lovely dark golden brown in color [3 min brew]. I found the flavor to be strong with just a little tang. Remember, I'm a green tea fan so this just may be my taste buds waking up! I then added a little lemon (my usual) and found the tea very nice. A good wake up call for breakfast....  I tried another cup later in the morning. Preparing the water in the same way, this time I let the tea steep for 5 minutes. I didn't find much difference in steeping 2 minutes longer. Perhaps a small bitter after taste. It is hot here and I thought "let's try it iced"! It was okay. I added a little *fake* sugar and my usual lemon. I have to admit I enjoyed hot English Breakfast Tea more than the cold."

"Smell of the bag was virtually nonexistent. The tea brewed to a lovely dark brown with a very mild and light taste and smell. This would be a good tea for people that don't like strong tea. This was not what I've experienced with other brands of English Breakfast teas."

At a tea party..."We found it smooth and not as astringent as most English Breakfast Teas.  K thought it a bit bitter (I only steeped it for about two minutes...  I used 4 [teabags in the pot] so two minutes seemed plenty)."

"My husband and I did our tea tasting and review.  Now this was done with a man; therfore, it was bare bones and quite serious.  He did as a parofessional tea taster would do.  It was fun...  All the teas were brewed with boiling water at 5 minutes.  Each tea was served in its own different cup.  I used a tea cup and my husband used his mug.  They were white inside so we could see the color of the tea...  English Breakfast:  Dark amber color.  Very, very faint tea aroma, more body in this one, made my mouth pucker - stronger briskness.  B detected a slight lemony taste, more brisk aftertaste.  After addition of clover honey, it cut through the brisk taste."

Decaf English Breakfast

"We had T (pre-schooler) taste the decaf.  She loaded it up with honey and milk and proclaimed it delicious." 

"This tasted very similar to the regular English Breakfast tea. This would be a good choice for people who want Decaf but want the flavor of regular."

"Decaf English Breakfast and English Breakfast:  I tried one cup of each of these teas side by side to compare.  They were brewed in boiling hot water for about 1 minute.  I found the regular English Breakfast to have slightly more fragrance, but flavor was very close to the same.  I found them both rather nondescript and weak.  ...Second try:  Brewed for 4 minutes each with about half the amount of boiling water.  The regular English Breakfast became a bit too tannic for my taste, but the Decaf actually was a bit better.  Not a tea I would buy as the flavor just wasn't clean enough."

"Rich amber color, faint aroma/weak in tea fragrance.  Not a full-body tea, pleasant aftertast, slightly brisk.  B uses honey in his tea usually so after the fist sips he put honey and found he tasted a more brisk impact than before.  Not a very clear tea for some reason."

"...big thumbs up on the English Breakfast and Decaf English Breakfast..."

Green Ginger
You can also read Snaps review of the Ginger Green tea here.

"Pretty yellow color; ginger frangrance but now overpowering.  Somewhat flat in flavor, no briskness, medium body.  Addition of clover honey masked the ginger flavor.  We don't normally drink Green teas.  We like the fullness of black teas, so this was really new to B!"

"I let the water cool a bit (tried to do the 160 thing) and put three tea bags in the pot. I let it steep for about three minutes until it was a thick amber color.  None of the three of us could taste  the ginger. It was more like a green tea. It had a vegetable kind of taste and aroma.  A thought it smelled and tasted somewhat like Green beans."

"...Second two teabags I made with boiling hot water and a little less water. I did find more interest in it made with the higher temp, but still didn't taste much ginger.  On both of the tests I did find that the green tea wasn't too grassy, which is something I don't like in a green and for that it made it easier to drink. Didn't notice an after taste. Both tests were steeped at 4 minutes."

"The tea was a pleasant light amber in color and had a slight grassy/ginger aroma. I let the tea steep for 3 minutes.  ...Unfortunately, I compared it to a matcha with ginger I had recently and [this tea] couldn't hold a candle to the matcha."

"...smell of bag and brew was of ginger. The tea brewed a lovely yellow green color and the taste was light but of ginger. When I was pregnant I would have enjoyed this tea because of the properties of the ginger and the fact that it was green. I normally drink green tea everyday, usually sencha. This was my favorite of the 3 teas."

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Blue Moon Viewing

Blue Moon Viewing

Me, bundled up
You, in shorts and sandals
We walk to the hexagon to watch the moon rise

Me, practicing
You, humming that ballad
We snap photos, drink tea and amuse ourselves

Me, reading poems
You, sharing Thich Nhat Hanh
We welcome quiet and watch life move quickly slowly