Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday, April 04, 2016

Aso's traditional grassland management — a linchpin of biodiversity and region-wide sustainable agriculture


The Aso valley. From the Aso GIAHS website's photo gallery.

My previous post highlighted the integrated cultivation of tea and feed grass in a traditional way that not only benefits both species but is also more sustainable than when the two are cultivated separately.

In this post I present another Japanese farming technique designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations: the traditional management of grasslands by the people of Aso, which is home to one of Mellow Monk's tea artisans, Koji Nagata.

The farming equivalent of the U.N.'s World Heritage Site system, the GIAHS program recognizes truly unique, traditional agricultural approaches that not only represent a means of sustainability worthy of preservation in their own environment but also a potential path to sustainability for others around the world.


Noyaki is a traditional technique of controlled burning that keeps grasslands from being overgrown with thicket species. From the blog "Tomo no Hitorigoto".



In the case of Aso grassland, the FAO recognizes that over the generations, traditional grassland management has preserved the biodiversity of rural landscapes and served as the cornerstone of region-wide sustainable agriculture for other crops, too. Says the GIAHS report: "The remarkable feature of [the] Aso region lies in this dynamic system of sustainable agriculture through cyclical grassland use and its management system."

This 2013 presentation (PDF) by Kumamoto Prefecture's vice-governor explains the philosophies and interdependencies involved wonderfully.

At the heart of this responsible grassland use is the same traditional philosophy that our tea artisans represent — that one does not own land so much as have temporary stewardship over it; that use of the land should ideally benefit others and preserve the land and its environment for future generations, as well.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, April 03, 2016

Japan's unique style of integrated tea–grass agriculture

This article about Japan's traditional chagusaba technique of growing tea is an example of the quality content sure to come from Tea Journey, a magazine currently in the Kickstarter stage.

"Chagusaba" literally means "tea grass place" and refers to the integration of feed grass among tea groves. Each species gets the benefit of the other and is the better for it.

Japan's chagusaba has also been designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.


Two examples of chagusaba — from the Kakegawa City website and Shizufan, where the image is an animated gif highlighting the crass growing between the tea groves.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

We sponsor the Love Is Bald 4th Annual Chilibowl

Mellow Monk is a proud supporter of the Love Is Bald fundraiser 4th Annual Chilibowl. After all, what could be better than a nice cuppa green tea after a day of tasting chili for such a wonderfully worthy cause?





—Mellow Monk

 

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Green tea can limit the amount of starch that is absorbed by our body, says a study published at Nature.com

The study states that because excess starch is normally converted to fat and stored in the body as increased body fat, green tea could help fight obesity in the face of today's high-starch diets.

The researchers found that study participants showed signs of reduced conversion of carbohydrates by glucose into fat.

Thus green tea could be an important weapon in the fight against obesity, in addition to benefiting the body in other ways, as well.




—Mellow Monk



 

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tea Rex Tee

A nice holiday present.

A monk and a dinosaur — sounds like a good premise for Netflix series.

 



—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

New photos on Flickr and Pinterest

We have uploaded some new photos to Flickr and Pinterest.

The photos are of Kumamoto Prefecture's Tea Research Center (a.k.a. "Chaken"). Chaken is where new cultivars of tea are developed and tested by researchers funded by the prefectural government of Kumamoto — where our grower–artisans ply their trade.

Only teas that pass the rigorous taste-testing shown in the photographs proceed to the next step.

These new cultivars include ones with greater natural resistance to the various natural foes of the tea plant. Or just cultivars with better flavor or aroma.

Well, not "better," because tea is such a matter of individual taste, yes? Because one person's oversteeping is another person's just right.

 


—Mellow Monk


 

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

More Kiva loans to more artisans

Mellow Monk has expanded its Kiva portfolio again with four more loans to four groups of dedicated, hard-working artisans. Learn more about Kiva here.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Aso Zen video is released

Aso City's Zen program, which certifies the city's best natural products, has released this video showcasing the area's beauty and its dedication to tradition. Our grower–artisan Koji Nagata, incidentally, is one of the Zen 100.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kyusu from Sagara in Kyushu


One of our grower–artisans, Mr. Watanabe, in Sagara, Kumamoto, was kind enough to include this lovely maple-themed kyusu in a recent shipment of green tea.

Instead of a tea basket inside, this single-serving kyusu has a built-in mesh screen at the base of the spout. This way, you can hold the kyusu by the handle and really swirl the tea around for thorough steeping.

Sagara, by the way, is right next door to Hitoyoshi, known as Japan's "little Kyoto."


—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mellow Monk sponsors Love Is Bald's Chilibowl fundraiser again

Mellow Monk proudly sponsored the 2nd Annual Chilibowl fundraiser held by the great people at Love Is Bald. Below are the cookoff finalists. (Mellow Monk participated not in person, unfortunately, but by donating a gift certificate to be auctioned off as part of the fundraiser.)




—Mellow Monk

 

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