Sunday, February 27, 2005

Tea-brewing 101

We received a call from a customer who had never brewed loose-leaf tea before and wasn't sure how to go about it. So we told her one of the simplest ways to start:


Take a heaping tablespoon of Mellow Monk tea and put it in a teapot. (It helps if the teapot has some sort of filter inside to hold the leaves inside the pot when you pour.) Then fill the pot with water that's slightly cooler than boiling, wait 5 minutes, and pour. If the tea is too strong or two weak, adjust the amount of tea leaves accordingly.


We have more brewing instructions on our website. If you have any questions about brewing Mellow Monk tea, please drop us a line and we'll post your query and our answer. Or, if you have any advice you'd like to share, we'll post that, too.


Happy brewing!


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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bloomwatch 2005

Many parks and other public areas in Japan are famous for their stands of flowering trees. When the trees are in bloom, they attract locals and even tourists from far away, who enjoy relaxing, ambling walks and picnics among the trees. Sounds very stress-relieving, doesn't it?


One such park is Makuyama Park, located in the town of Yugawara, in Naragawa Prefecture. The park's four thousand plum trees attract people who come to enjoy the red and white blossoms around this time of year. As of today, reports one national newspaper in Japan, roughly 70 percent of the trees have blossomed. The very fact that this sort of story would make the front page of a national newspaper is heartening. Sometimes, just reading about this sort of story allows one to take a break from it all. You can just imagine how refreshing it would be to walk among the bright pink and white blossoms.


Of course, cherry blossoms are traditionally considered the most appealing in Japan, but they won't be in bloom for a few more weeks. In fact, in the beginning of springtime, the blooming of cherry trees across the country is reported nightly on the news, like the weather or a sporting event. Newscasters talk about the "cherry blossom front" (sakura zensen), the wave of opening cherry blossoms that starts at the warmer southern end of the country and moves slowly northward with the spring weather.


But cherry trees, plum trees, and other blossoming plant life are only in bloom for a short time. Once the trees bloom, you have only a week or so to get out and enjoy them. There's a lesson there: the best things to enjoy are usually only available for a limited time. We have to make an effort to get out and enjoy them, instead of putting it off until it's too late.


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DOUBLE your green tea's health benefits!

I know this sounds like one of those too-good-to-be-true statements that precedes an ad from a less-than-reputable company, but it's not -- it's true! You can easily DOUBLE the health benefit of your green tea. What's more, it's easy and free, and we won't charge you anything for the information. Here goes.


When you drink your green tea (preferable Mellow Monk green tea), stop and take a break. Take a break while you're preparing the tea, and when you're drinking it. Close your eyes and daydream or reflect on something pleasant. Take a free vacation somewhere. Or stare out the window, preferably at something distant. As you do this, breathe deeply. In deeply, out deeply. That's it: that's the secret. You've just roughly doubled the health benefit of your green tea by taking a break. By stepping back from the world. By stepping out of the back door for a moment. By doing this, you've helped reduce your stress, which is just as bad for you as the Bad Stuff your green tea is dealing with chemically. You've got to drink the green tea as part of an experience that also includes spiritual re-energizing as its goal. All you need to do is take a break. Don't make the tea hurriedly, then gulp it down as you start staring into the computer screen again. Take a break and focus, concentrate, on the tea's flavor and aroma. On the warmth of the teacup.


That, in a nutshell, is the Mellow Monk philosophy of green tea.


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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Archiving problem fixed!

As a kind reader recently pointed out, the archive feature of our blog was not working -- readers could not access older postings not on the main blog page. It turned out that we at Mellow Monk had not activated the archiving feature properly.


However, the problem is now fixed, and you should all be able to access archived postings now.


If you had tried to access the archives previously but were unable to do so, we apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks for your patience. Our only excuse is that we're new at this!


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Sunday, February 20, 2005

We're Number One!

. . . the Number One green-tea blog, that is. The Mellow Monk Green Tea Blog appears at the very top of the results returned by a search on Google using the term "green tea blog". Since Google ranks its search results in order of popularity, that means the Mellow Monk blog is cyberspace's most popular blog on green tea.


So, if you've been reading this blog for a while, we thank you for helping to make us Number One. This blog is an important forum for getting out the Mellow Monk message, and we appreciate your support. If you're new to our blog, then welcome aboard!


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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Excellent article on green tea

We've found an excellent article about green tea online. This article is a nice, concise overview of all the aspects of green tea: how it differs from other teas, what its specific health benefits are, and what ingredients of tea are responsible for those benefits.


If you've been looking for a quick "tutorial" about green tea, this is it!


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Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day, Japanese style

The Japanese celebrate Valentine's Day, but they have their own unique twist on this holiday: Women are expected to give chocolate to the men, not the other way around. These social expectations extend even to the workplace, where women feel obligated to give chocolate treats to their male bosses (but usually not coworkers). Of course, many women are, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about this. In fact, this resentment has spawned the term "giri choco," meaning "mandatory chocolate" ("choco" is a Japanese abbreviation of the English word "chocolate").


But the men aren't off the hook completely: They get to reciprocate one month later, on "White Day," a holiday invented by the Japanese confectionary industry as a day for men to give chocolate treats to the women who gave them something on Valentine's Day.


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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Sweetening green tea & putting green tea in a thermos

A customer recently emailed us to ask about sweetening green tea and putting brewed green tea in a thermos. We thought the answers could benefit others, so we're posting the exchange here on our blog.
***************

>Dear Mellow Monk,
>I am new to the green tea experience, but I must say I am intrigued

>and want the health benefits. Can you please tell me if it is OK

>to sweeten your green tea?

>Also, can I brew green tea and put it in a thermos to drink from

>throughout the day?

>Thank you for your time,

>Cindy

Dear Cindy,


Sweetening your green tea will not alter its health-promoting properties. In fact, if you're new to green tea, then a sweetener like honey or sugar (personally, we think honey goes better with green tea) may be a good way to ease the transition to drinking green tea. Of course, cup after cup of highly sweetened tea wouldn't be healthy, especially if you're already eating a lot of sweets, but if you're not, there's nothing wrong with a little honey.


Preparing a thermos of green tea to drink from during the day also sounds like a good idea. Green tea that's been sitting in a thermos for hours may lose some of its flavor and a tiny bit of its antioxidants, but (1) it will still taste better than a lot of green teas out there, and (2) if the convenience of a thermos means you end up drinking more tea, then you still come out ahead!


Sincerely,


Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

February 8th is "Festival of Broken Needles" in Japan

In Japan, February 8th of each year marks a traditional holiday named Harikuyou, literally "needle worship" but often translated as the "Festival of Broken Needles." This intriguingly named holiday dates back to the days when seamstresses and others in the sewing trade treated each and every needle they owned with great respect. If a needle broke or wore out, the seamstress or tailor wouldn't just toss it in the trash. Instead, they would set them aside until February 8th, when they would take these old needles to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. There, they would make offerings to express thanks for all the work they were able to do with the needles--in short, it was like a retirement party for old needles. Harikuyou was also a time to pray for improved sewing skills and fewer broken needles in the coming year.


Such a festival may seem quaint today, but it is a product of a time before modern material comfort, when even individual sewing needles were relatively expensive and so were treated with care and respect.


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Using old tea leaves to sweep up

In the countryside in Japan, some old-timers still use old tea leaves for cleaning up: They sprinkle the still-damp leaves on the floor and push them around with a broom. Dust and other dirt cling to the leaves, which can then be pushed into a pile and then into a dust pan. At this point, most folks will then throw the tea leaves into the family garden as an organic fertilizer. Nothing goes to waste!


(Just remember, however, that tea can stain carpets and unfinished wood.)


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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What to do with old green tea

We've heard that some people water their plants with old green tea that's been sitting around too long. We're not sure exactly how (in scientific terms) green tea is good for houseplants, but a lot of people swear by it. Why not give it a try?


And if anyone reading this has tried it, please drop us a line and share your experience.


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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

More "Top Leaf" tea is on the way!

Due to the popularity of "Top Leaf" tea (Mellow Monk's new premium green tea), our inventory started running low a lot more quickly than we had anticipated, but a new shipment is on the way from the Nagata's family-run tea orchard in Aso, Japan. Mr. Nagata and the rest of his family still say how blown away they are that their tea is being sold in the United States--and over the Internet, yet!


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