Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pine tree, 600 years old, trained to grow horizontally at Kyoto temple

From Deep Kyoto, this wonderful photo of an amazing tree that has been growing for 600 years at Kyoto's Yoshimine Temple.

The tree is named "Yūryu no Matsu" (遊龍の松) or “Playful Dragon Pine."

Yoshimine Temple, incidentally, is part of the 33-temple Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Four new Kiva loans

We just added four new loans to our Kiva portfolio: for Dismus, Erick, Hon's Group, and Resineros De San José De Cañas Group.

Kiva is a wonderful way to support independent go-getters in agriculture, small business, and other fields all over the world. Join the party!



—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Tea basket and an oversized mug: perfect fit

Occasionally I like to brew a lot of tea at once and enjoy it over a large temperature range as it cools. This oversized mug holds a bit over 500 mL (almost 17 ounces), so it holds more than some small teapots. I bought it at a festival bazaar in Aso City. On a different trip I got this stainless-steel tea basket (93 mm in diameter, 3.6 inches), which is of the kind for putting inside teapots — and at 93 mm in diameter, this size is definitely for large teapots. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to find out that the basket fits Goldilocks perfectly into the mug. A perfect match, brought together by tea.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, September 29, 2014

500-year-old mindfulness

Long considered one of the three most beautiful scenic views in Japan, Amanohashidate is a large, tree-covered sandbar in Miyazu. The image below is a slice of a 1.78-meter-wide calligraphic painting of the scene drawn by Sesshū Tōyō (1420–1506) near the end of his life, at age 82.

(Flickr user RasMarley offers an excellent analysis of the painting. To read it, scroll down a bit after opening the page.)

Note the amazing sense of perspective he creates with his mastery of light and shade (notan). He captures the feeling of calm that often overcomes one once the initial thrill of the sheer splendor wears off. This is an excellent example of how art can filter out the other emotions of an experience and make us mindful of the peacefulness it can induce.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tea artisan helps "brand" Aso

Tea artisan Koji Nagata, who crafts our Top Leaf and other teas, was recently featured in an episode of the Japanese TV show Dawn of Gaia. The episode of the business show presents examples of the "branding" — in the marketing sense — of small regions that are relatively unknown in Japan but which have amazing products to offer consumers beyond their traditional reach.

Koji appears in the show's look at ongoing efforts by the city of Aso to transform what has traditionally been a scattered collection of independent farmers and other producers under a single recognizable brand — "Zen." ("Zen" is from the second half of the word shizen, which means "nature" or "natural.")

The "Zen" strategy is essentially a best-of-the-best approach that includes actively certifying its member producers as well as induction into an elite showcase titled "The Zen 100," of which Koji and his tea are inductees.


Koji is shown hard at work in his office in an episode of the Japanese business show Dawn of Gaia.

—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Bottled zen


Tea artisan extraordinaire Koji Nagata, who crafts our Top Leaf and other teas, was recently chosen to supply his artisanal tea for bottling under Aso City's "Zen" brand — actually a showcase for the area's most delectable agricultural products. Koji had previously been featured — and certified — by the Zen program.


Congratulations, Koji. One taste of your tea shows that the folks at Zen — and the judges at the North American Tea Championship and, of course, Mellow Monk's customers — know a good cuppa when they taste it.

—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Just-Right Roast takes 1st place yet again in the NATC

Our Just-Right Roast has won first place in its class in the 2014 North American Tea Championship. This makes it three years in a row for this amazing lightly roasted iced green tea, made by the amazing grower-artisans Kazuo and Mariko Watanabe.

You can see the Watanabe-sans in action in clips of Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Grows.




—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mellow Monk, proud sponsors of UC Irvine's Women's Volleyball

Mellow Monk recently became a sponsor of UC Irvine's Women's Volleyball. The gals tweeted this photo of them enjoying a nice cuppa of our tea. Perfect for pre-training warmup or post-training refreshment.

Go Anteaters!




—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Tea integrated in experimental music recital

Mellow Monk customer Tristan served our tea at his undergraduate degree recital of experimental music at Oberlin Conservatory. His work, towards a degree in TIMARA (technology in music and related arts), was titled Accumulation 02.

Tristan writes:

Your tea was an excellent thing for the audience to gather around before sitting down to listen to a minimal and meditative performance. It was also relevant for me to share along with my music because I definitely consumed a lot of Mellow Monk over the course of the composition process.

The ceramic mugs in which the tea was served were handmade by a close friend. The photo collage below conveys some of the wonderfully mellow atmosphere there.


Congratulations on your recital, Tristan. Everyone at Mellow Monk is proud to have played our own small part in your work.


Here is his Soundcloud page — a perfect soundtrack for relaxing with green tea.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, March 17, 2014

We made four more Kiva loans

We just added four new microloans to our Kiva portfolio. Funds for our Kiva loans come from our tea sales, so if you are a Mellow Monk customer, you are helping, too. Thank you, everyone.




These hard-working independent farmers are Armand, in Albania (top); Francis's Group, in Kenya (middle); Paul, in Kenya (bottom left); and Marina, in Honduras (bottom right).


—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Fairphone puts fairness first — without breaking the bank

Fairphone makes a "seriously cool" smartphone that is free of conflict minerals — metals like tungsten bought from, say, mining operations controlled by warlords in a conflict-torn nation. Cutting out such unethical sources from the supply chain is intended to change the entire system of making such devices.


Smartphone CEO Bas van Abel explains his initiative in a BBC radio interview and in this video.


Amazingly, the Fairphone isn't as expensive as many would think — only 325 euros (about $450).


In another interview, van Abel said Fairphone has been so positively received that the company snagged preorders for 25 thousand units before manufacturing even started. Not only will Fairphone sell more of its own phones as it catches on, but bigger manufacturers may decide to get in on the action — which is also what Fairphone aims for with this "fair" initiative.


Fairphone is just one example of what is possible when we consumers put our money where are values are.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow on the tea leaves

Koji Nagata, our grower–artisan in Aso, just sent us this photo of some of his tea plants covered in the heavy snow that just fell there. Tea plants need a cold winter in order to hibernate thoroughly, saving up their delicious energy for vibrant growth in the spring.



A deep winter's rest
A cold wind blows around me
Snow on the tea leaves



—Mellow Monk

 

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Welcome, Maldives

We recently received our first-ever order from the Republic of the Maldives, a very mellow-looking place. Check out the capital, Malé. I am sure you all join me in saying, Welcome to the Mellow Monk family, Republic of the Maldives!




—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Three new reviews of Kuma Green 1228

Three thorough and thoughtful tea lovers were kind enough to review our Kuma Green 1228 tea: Dani Pigeon at Sage & Spice (who wrote, "It makes me think of a springtime afternoon just as winter lets go ...timid greens and flowers springing up once the snow melts"), Nicole Martin at Tea for Me Please ("If you could bottle the smell of spring this tea is what it would smell like"), and Kate at Sagaci-tea ("Complex and refreshing").



Kuma Green 1228 brewed by Dani in a lovely frosted-glass cup.



A potful of Kuma Green 1228 brewed by Nicole.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, December 06, 2013

Mellow Monk tea artisan featured on Aso City website

Koji Nagata, the grower-artisan behind the award-winning Top Leaf, Yuzu Dream, and other teas of ours, is one of the local artisans featured [PDF] at Aso Zen, where Aso City showcases the dedicated, hardworking people behind the many agricultural products for which the area is famous.


The text in the photo says, "Crafting a flavor that is consistent year after year — that is what I devote myself to."


You don't have to see Koji and his family hard at work in the fields or their tea workshop to see this devotion; you can taste it in every sip of their tea.





—Mellow Monk

 

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