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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Friday, November 29, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Water, temperature, and the personal journey

Tea is personal — there is no objectively correct way to prepare it. Rather, the goal is to find the magic combination of water temperature, steeping time, and leaf-to-water ratio that produces the infusion that tastes best to you.

When we give a recommended water temperature, that is what the grower-artisan believes will bring out the flavor, aroma, and color that he or she has striven for.

In other words, over the years, when a grower fine-tunes the many variables of tea crafting — harvest time, steaming time, and the intricacies of shaping and drying, for instance — he has done so according to how the tea tastes when brewed with water at that temperature.

But most growers also understand that tea is a personal journey. No two artisans will brew the same tea in exactly the same way, and tea aficionados endlessly debate such matters, too. But can anyone tell you that you are brewing a tea incorrectly, if you like it better that way than when brewed according to that person's rules? Feel free to experiment!

However, to have a baseline for that experimentation, I recommend first trying the tea as brewed according to the artisan's guidelines.

Then, let the journey begin. The treasure at the end will be worth it.


A natural spring in Aso, Japan.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

JusTea's top-notch tea—and noble mission

I ordered some Kenyan farmer-direct black tea from JusTea Indiegogo campaign, and it is absolutely delicious: a spicy, smoky aroma; rich red color; and full-spectrum, pleasantly tangy flavor, without being bitter. It is the best black tea I've had in a long time.

This wonderful tea is the result of JusTea's dedicated efforts to put more profit in the farmer's pockets. They work directly with the growers, for instance setting up "cooperative kitchens" where they can craft their leaves into tea themselves, instead of simply selling the leaf to tea giants at low prices. Tea blogger Nicole Martin interviewed JusTea's Grayson and Paul Bane about this mission.

Their delicious tea is undeniable proof that when dedicated growers connect directly with dedicated tea drinkers, magical things can happen.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, September 14, 2013