Thursday, December 31, 2009

Green tea, hangover cure

Regarding hangover cures, Keith Strickland of the B-52s says, "Green Tea is about the best one I have used."


I thought I would share this with you now, instead of tomorrow, when it might be too late.


Happy New Year's, everyone.



A nice, warm cup of hangover cure, waiting for you.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Aso's natural spring water drinking fountains

The people of Aso are proud of and particular about their tea and their abundant natural spring water. So much so that the area around Aso shrine has a dozen or so public drinking fountains that serve up naturally flowing natural spring water.


The video below showcases these beautifully designed fountains, including one I blogged about recently.





—Mellow Monk


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Monday, December 28, 2009

Sake basics

With New Year's just around the corner, now is a good time to learn the basics of sake.

As the video below shows, quality sake begins with the planting of quality rice.




—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Undokai time lapse

From Rocking in Hakata comes a two-minute time-lapse video of an undokai (sports festival) in Japan.


Note also the movement of the ocean in the background.





—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alma, an excellent "Twilight Zone"-ish short

This has nothing even remotely to do with Japan or green tea, but I just had to share this amazing animated short with you all.

I may actually pay attention to the "Best Animated Short" category in the Academy Awards this time.





—Mellow Monk


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The Sorapot, an outside-the-box brewing concept

Here's an interesting approach to brewing loose-leaf tea: Joey Roth's Sorapot, available at Amazon (when it's not sold out).




—Mellow Monk


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Monday, December 21, 2009

The $2,500 bottle of green tea

That is a lot to pay for a bottle of green tea.


Not only are quality greens available for much less [hint, hint], but green tea's free-radical-fighting catechins begin breaking down soon after brewing, which is why freshly brewed tea is so much healthier for you.


(Bottled teas that tout their high EGCG content, for instance, have boosted the catechin artificially.)



Billed as "the green tea you enjoy in a wine glass."


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mellow Monk's Tea-Buying Trip to Japan: all six parts

Here are all six parts of the tea documentary "Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Grows" (with English subtitles).




















—Mellow Monk

 

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Handcrafted wooden bathtubs from Japan

Bartok Design custom-crafts top-quality traditional wooden Japanese bathtubs made from hinoki.


And remember: These tubs are for soaking, not washing. But what a soothing, stress-relieving, whole-body-rejuvenating soak it is.



A wood tub like this would be such a luxury. I promise to be an environmentally good boy all year if I can have one for Christmas.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, December 18, 2009

Japan tea trip videos in high resolution and subtitled

I never tire of revisiting the spectacular scenery and the warm, wonderful people I encountered during the filming of "Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Grows."


So posting the re-subtitled first and second segments to Vimeo was a more than adequate excuse to watch them again.


So let us brew up a hot, soothing cup of green tea, sit back, and enjoy the people and places together.








—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Green tea made with spring water

The residents of Aso (whence Mellow Monk tea hails) are so proud of their deliciously health natural spring water that the city installed public drinking fountains dispensing this natural spring water, free for locals and visitors alike.


In the picture below, we made some cold-brewed matcha using this water, an empty soda bottle, and some of our powdered green tea.


It was, needless to say, delectable . . . and so easy to make: Just add matcha powder and water, then put on the cap, shake vigorously and—voilà—a bottle of delicious, healthy, thirst-quenchingly cool matcha.



This fountain is named "Katarai no Shizuku," which can mean "murmuring drops" (a reference to the water's sound) but can also mean "water for talking" (referring to how a drinking fountain brings people together) or even "lover's vow water" (which would play well with honeymooners visiting the town).


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Destress with green tea, suggests college columnist

Over at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls, columnist Laura Krawczyk suggests that her fellow students studying for finals add green tea to their stress-busting arsenal.


Speaking of green tea and stress, here's a video from the last Calm-a-Sutra contest:




—Mellow Monk


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Monday, December 14, 2009

Tea cookbook wins world award

"Cook and entertain with exotic teas from around the world," entices Tea with a Twist, winner of the tea category in the World Cookbook Awards.



The book's back cover. Note the exquisite-sounding recipe on the top: "Scones with Crystalized Ginger and Green Tea."


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mellow Monk's tea-buying trip to Japan: grand finale

Here it is, the final segment of "Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Grows," a European documentary in which a Mellow Monk tea procurer is prominently featured. (When watching the video, there will be no doubt as to which one is him.)


We have more videos at YouTube, too. You can also watch this video at Vimeo.





—Mellow Monk


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Friday, December 11, 2009

Xitang, land of mellow

Xitang seems like such a peaceful place.



One of the canals for which Xitang is famous ... and mellow.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Green tea biscotti

The recipe for green tea shortbread that I posted recently proved popular among us foodies, so here's another yummy-sounding one—for green tea biscotti.



Perfect for dipping in a cup of hot green tea.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Monk is listed ... again

Once again, Mellow Monk is listed in Green America's directory of green businesses, the Green Pages.



Click to join Green America and get your copy of the Green Pages. You can get one with a donation of only $20, and that gets you other membership benefits, too.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, December 07, 2009

Happy 1,300th, Nara

Japan is preparing to celebrate the 1,300th anniversary of the country's ancient capital in Nara City.


For 1,300 the old gal looks pretty good.



The deer of Nara Park, with the Kofukuji Temple pagoda in the background.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Teaching the yout' the calming art of tea

A nice story about a tea ceremony teacher and her pupil—who said she used to be stressed out "like a spinning top"—demonstrating sado to a group of 8th graders in Pittsburgh.



Learning a skill—mellowness—that will come in handy later in life.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Delectable natural natto

I was recently fortunate enough to try Megumi Natto, a brand of naturally made natto crafted in California by Japan Traditional Foods. I was completely knocked out by the fresh, fragrant flavor. Good natto truly is a culinary delight, and Megumi Natto is truly the real deal.


This natto is also such a wonderful change of pace from the made-in-Japan natto I usually have, which, by the time it reaches my shores, just isn't the same after weeks of cold storage aboard container ships.


And that mass-market natto also contains MSG, whereas Megumi Natto doesn't.


The Megumi website is chock full of scrumptious recipes, including natto soba salad, shown below in all its mouthwatering glory.





—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Uniquely Japanese Christmas cakes

In Japan, Christmas is a relatively recent import, but like any country does when importing a new custom, Japan has made its own tweaks to the holiday.


For instance: small, elegant, and for the most part absolutely scrumptious Christmas cakes.



From Mitsukoshi in Nihonbashi. Price: ¥3,150 (about US$36). Did I mention that these super-elegant cakes can also be super-expensive? Cakes from less swanky shops are much more affordable but still very tasty—and they all go great with green tea, naturally.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Green tea shortbread recipes

This article in Canada's National Postgives us three tea recipes, including one for yummy-sounding green tea shortbread made with matcha:

GREEN TEA SHORTBREAD

Green tea turns these cookies an elegant shade of green and the sparkling sugar makes them glitter. For more green tea flavour, use up to 2 tbsp (30 mL) powdered green tea.

- 1 cup (250 mL) butter

- ½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar

- 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour

- 1 tbsp (15 mL) powdered green tea (matcha)

- ½ tsp (2 mL) salt

- ¼ cup (50 mL) coarse sparkling sugar (optional)

1. Cream butter with granulated sugar until light.

2. Combine flour, green tea powder and salt in a bowl and add to butter mixture. Mix only until combined. Divide into two parts, flatten slightly, wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

3. Roll out each piece of dough on a floured surface, ¼-inch (5 mm) thick. Cut out with your fave cookie cutter. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar and press in slightly. Bake 12 to 15 minutes in a preheated 325°F (160°C) oven. Do not let cookies brown. Cool on racks. Makes 36 to 40 cookies

As always, the Monk is willing to sample the results of your culinary experimentations—especially sweet ones.



Click the pic to see another scrumptious green tea shortbread recipe.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, November 30, 2009

NHK matcha documentary

Thanks to YouTube user Imarvanriet for tipping me off about a well-done NHK documentary on matcha. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is part 1:





—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Homemade tea: pick, steep, and drink

A writer for the San Francisco Chronicle brews homemade tea with dried herbs from a rooftop garden and a fill-it-yourself teabag that irons shut.


I wish I new where the attractive glass mug shown in the photo comes from. Anyone know?





—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grizzly Bear claymation

One word best describes this claymation video for Grizzly Bear's "Ready, Able"—trippy.


And excellent viewing for a green tea break, too.





Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Japan photo book

Artist and designer Annie Riker has put together a photo book documenting her "recent trip to the visually rich country of Japan," which you can preview at Blurb.com.



One of my favorite spreads from Annie's book.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Photos from a mysterious flower show

If you are reading this you are a witness to Mellow Monk history: This is the first time I have ever posted something I received by accident.


A mistyping of my address fated the photos below to arrive recently in my inbox. I didn't recognize the sender's name nor that of any of his other recipients, but I do like the photographs, although all I know is that they were taken at a flower show in Japan; I don't know where or when they were taken, or by whom.


If you have a clue that would help solve this mystery, please let us know.


Then again, the mystery somehow enhances the beauty of the flowers.











—Mellow Monk


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Friday, November 20, 2009

A Japan twofer: names and neolithic idols

The writers at the Japan Times enlighten us on Japanese names and neolithic Japanese idols known as dogu.



A dogu nicknamed the Tanabatake Venus.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Interviewing the monk

Here's a photo of the monk featured in Part 2 of our green tea documentary being interviewed by the film crew.


Helping the crew is our tea buyer (lower left), who served as interpreter, guide, travel agent, driver, and interviewer.



caption


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mellow Monk's Tea-Buying Trip to Japan, Part 5

Following up on yesterday's post, here is Episode 5 of "Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Grows," which features one of our tea buyers making his rounds in Kyushu.


You can also watch the Vimeo version and other videos of ours.




—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mellow Monk's Tea-Buying Trip to Japan, Part 4

Here it is: Part 4 of "Kyushu, Where Japan's Tea is Grown," a documentary filmed for European TV. The film crew followed one of our tea buyers on his rounds through the tea-growing regions of Aso and other Kyushu locales.


You can also watch a slightly higher-resolution version of this episode on Vimeo.


For more videos, please check out our video page.





—Mellow Monk


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Friday, November 13, 2009

Little storm mountain

In Aso, not too far from where one of our grower's grows his tea, is Shoranzan ("Little Storm Mountain"), so called from its resemblance to a piece of scenery at Kyoto's Arashiyama (Storm Mountain).



Aso's smaller-scale version of Storm Mountain.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mikan marmalade and soba noodles

The always excellent Kyoto Foodie shows how to make aomikan marmalade, and the equally excellent FX Cuisine has a compelling photo essay of a class on making soba noodles in Tokyo.





—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Harvard Women's Health Watch on the benefits of green tea

Harvard Medical School summarizes a recent article in Women's Health Watch that "recognizes the healthy power of tea while helping readers get the most out of their cups."



From a large gallery of beautiful photos of serene Kiyomizu Temple.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, November 09, 2009

Awa dance festival photos

Jeff Henig has taken some excellent photographs of the Awa-odori festival in Tokyo.



For the full festival effect, you need to hear the music, too.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Aladdin's magic infuser mug

What I really like about the Aladdin Tea Infuser Mug is that it's equipped with a means of removing your tea leaves from the water (to stop infusion and prevent oversteeping): You simply turn the lever near the lid (see the picture below) to lift the built-in tea infuser up and out of the brewed tea inside.


When you finish your first batch of brewed tea, you add more hot water, turn the lever back to the "Brew" position and pretty soon you've got another mug of tasty tea.


Easy, convenient, and neat—now that's mellow.





—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, November 01, 2009

It's official: green tea drinkers are mellower

Once again, science proves something we already knew—that green tea drinkers are mellower.


To be more specific, a study showed that people who drink at least five cups of green tea per day are less likely to suffer from psychological distress.


This finding, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is just one of the many results gleaned from the "Ohsaki cohort," a group of over 40 thousand people in Japan whose health was monitored over many years.



A nice mellow grove of bamboo. Photo taken in Aso.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tea with a Japanese ghost

Deborah Amar has written an excellent ghost story set in Japan ... and with a surprising twist ending.


Speaking of ghosts, here is a previous post on a haunted fishing spot.



A ghost appears in Edo-era Tokyo.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Monk makes the local news in Aso. (Well, his grower does, anyway.)

One of Mellow Monk's growers was featured in Kōhō Aso, the city of Aso's official monthly newsletter.


As you can see from the accompanying photo below, the story describes a visit by a French TV crew to film some footage for a documentary on Japanese green tea.


The director first learned about this grower from a previous European documentary about Japanese green tea, which also featured one of our tea buyers on a trip to the area.



Cover caption: "Tea fields in Sakanashi [a district of Aso City]."



The story (in the middle of the page) reads: "Filming for a documentary, to be shown across Europe and in parts of America, on Japan's green tea was carried out in the tea fields and at the tea mill of Koji Nagata, who runs a tea enterprise in [the] Miyaji [district of Aso City]. The program, which is being produced by France's national TV network, aims to show that the tea that is widely consumed in Japan is not the matcha of tea ceremonies but [ordinary] Japanese green tea."


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hitchhiking in Japan: almost too easy

Trevor Mott observes that you almost never see hitchhikers in Japan. After an eventful journey starting in Oita, he offers an explanation for this phenomenon.



Lake Kinrin (Kinrinko) in Yufuin, Oita.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A study to determine the HPV-fighting abilities of green tea

Researchers at the University of Arizona Medical Center are launching a study to see if green tea polyphenols can help fight the human papillomavirus (HPV).



Researchers Sherry Chow and Wade Chew prepare vials for the green tea study.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, October 26, 2009

Sado island

Japan's Sado Island boasts beautiful scenery and a rich cultural heritage.


You can also visit the now-closed gold mines that financed the shogunate for hundreds of years. (Here is a page of panoramic photos of the island's sights.)


And if diving is your shtick, you can also frolic with the fishes.



Barrel boat rides are a popular attraction on the island.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Green tea reduces pneumonia risk

Folks, it's getting to the point where even I'm having trouble keeping up with all the research results coming out about the health benefits of green tea.


Here's another one:

Drinking as little as one cup or less of green tea per day was associated with 41 percent less risk of dying from pneumonia among Japanese women, the investigators found.

The findings, they say, "support the possibility" that green tea contains compounds capable of destroying or inhibiting the growth of viruses and microorganisms.






—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Green tea halves leukemia risk: study

Yet more recent research points to green tea's cancer-fighting properties.


Results published in the American Journal of Epidemiology show that drinking 5 cups or more per day reduced the risk of leukemia and other blood cancers by one half compared to participants in the over 40,000-person-strong cohort who drank one cup or less per day.


For more information about green tea and leukemia, you can read previous postings in this blog.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Green tea, acne, and the Kuma River

A blogger called Dr. Zit writes about how simply drinking green tea — not using creams containing green tea, or taking a green tea extract pill — has dramatically improved his skin.



Taken from the shore of a small island in the Kuma River. This is the same spot where we took a recently posted video.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicago Potter reviews our Top Leaf green tea

Chris Chaney, a.k.a. the Chicago Potter, writes the kind of thorough review of one of our teas that only a true tea lover could.


Thanks, Chris.



Our pride and joy. One of them, that is.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, October 17, 2009

On the banks of the Kuma River

Here's a video we took recently in Hitoyoshi City, on the tranquil banks of the sometimes rapid Kuma River.





—Mellow Monk


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Friday, October 16, 2009

The perfect steeper—really and truly

When I first heard about an on-the-go infuser mug called the Perfect Steeper, I thought, Well their marketing department isn't shy. But upon examining how this steeper works, I realize the name may be far more objective than I had suspected.


Here's how it works: After filling the mug—see the photo below—with hot water, you place your loose-leaf tea into the tea receptacle, which contains a permanent filter and sits atop and screws into the mug. You then screw on the receptacle's top and turn the whole thing upside-down, allowing the hot water to flow from the mug down into the tea receptacle. The leaves swirl around in the hot water, yielding their wonderful essence. A brew is born.


This video shows the Perfect Steeper in action:





As you can see, when steeping is done you simply turn the steeper back over. The brewed tea flows out of the tea receptacle, stopping the infusion process. The tea leaves are now high and dry, ready for another steeping later on.


This is an oh-so-elegant solution to an ancient issue in the world of tea-brewing contraptions—how to remove the leaves from the hot water/tea to prevent oversteeping. (This teapot also uses gravity to do the trick.)


Another feature I like is that to drink your freshly brewed tea, you remove the permanent filter and set it down upside down—no dripping, and no need for a separate drip-catcher. Another big plus: the mug consists of a glass liner—because who wants to drink out of plastic?—with a polycarbonate shell to protect against dropping and other unforeseen incidents.


It really does sound like the perfect steeper. I can't wait to give one a test drive.



This really could be the perfect steeper.


—Mellow Monk


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