Sunday, May 31, 2009

Special offer for blog readers

If you read our blog regularly but haven't tried our tea yet, you are missing out on the full Mellow Monk experience.


So, as an enticement we are making this special offer for blog readers only: free shipping on all orders. When checking out, just enter this code:

freeship_blog

After entering the code, be sure to click the "RECALCULATE" button ... and watch your shipping charges magically disappear.


(Please note that this offer expires in one week. And sorry--this offer is for U.S. orders only.


We look forward to welcoming you to the Mellow Monk community. You'll find we're a very mellow bunch.


—Mellow Monk


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The King sings "I'll remember you"

One of the songs Elvis Presley sang at his 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert was "I'll Remember You," which was written by Hawaiian singer/songwriter Kui Lee.


Another nice, mellow Kui Lee song is "The Days of My Youth" [MP3 preview from Mele.com].





—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Green tea could be a new weapon against ALS

A Canadian high school student recently won big at a national science fair by showing that green tea may slow the progression of the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).


Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant found only in green tea,

increased the growth of special motor neuron cells in mice by 16 to 30 per cent, according to some of the teenager’s test results.

That means there is a possibility the antioxidant might slow down the wasting effects of the disease, which would be good news for ALS sufferers.

The Monk has a great uncle who died of ALS, so this issue hits close to home. Then again, that makes these research findings even more comforting.



ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the Yankee slugger who delivered his famous "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech when the disease forced him into retirement.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, May 29, 2009

Scrumptious Japanese food photos!

Japanese cuisine as a reputation among some as being exotic—if not downright strange at times—but everyday food in the land of the rising sun is actually quite approachable:



Yummy—grilled salmon with kabosu; simmered deep-fried tofu and mizuna; avocado and tomato salad; rice; and potato miso soup.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Origami paper airplane sets new world record

The chairman of Japan's Origami Airplane Association has set a new world record for longest flight by a paper airplane:





—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In Japan, stressed-out city folk head to the hills for "farm therapy"

Stress-out city dwellers are discovering the rejuvenating properties of a day of farming in the country:






Pounding mochi: The farmer gets a helping hand, and the lass gets some much-needed sunshine, exercise, and stress relief.


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Musical slideshow of tea-buying trip pics: The high-resolution version

Here is a higher-resolution version of the slideshow I posted recently of pictures from my tea-buying trip to Kyushu that was documented for European TV.


You can watch the slideshow in dazzling full-screen mode by clicking the icon next the "Vimeo" name in the lower right corner of the movie player.





—Mellow Monk


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Monday, May 25, 2009

Green tea ingredient blocks HIV infection

Recently published research explains how, at a molecular level, EGCG—a tea catechin found only in green tea—can block infection by the virus that causes AIDS.



Ilona Haube (center), University of Hamburg researcher and lead author of the groundbreaking study.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Galactic time lapse

Here's a time-lapse video of the galactic center of the Milky Way rising over this year's Texas Star Party.





—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, May 23, 2009

The lessons of Japan's rural woodland villages

Satyoyama isn't a specific place; it's a generic term for Japan's rural woodland farming villages.


Anne McDonald has been studying these villages for decades and has been working to promote to the rest of the world the ecological lessons we can learn from them.





—Mellow Monk


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Friday, May 22, 2009

Three cups of tea

The book Three Cups of Tea isn’t about tea, but it does relate to the philosophy of tea.


First a little back story.


After an unsuccessful attempt to climb K2—the world’s second highest mountain—Greg Mortenson became lost and eventually staggered, exhausted, into a remote village in northern Pakistan. The village’s children had no school or teacher. In exchange for nursing him back to health, Greg promised the village elder that he would return and build a school there.


Which he did—and then some: He and the organization that he helped found has built a total of 55 schools in the region.


The book’s title comes from a Balti proverb:

The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family. . .

In other words, tea is not just a means of achieving inner tranquility but also a way to bond with others.


In Japan, a cup of green tea offered to a guest is the foundation of hospitality. Perhaps it's the symbolism of sharing one's bounty with another.


But I also suspect that mellowness induced by green tea is infectious. Just as it helps us find harmony within, green tea, I believe, also creates harmony with others.


Greg Mortenson bonded over tea with people in a culture he previously new little about. Perhaps green tea can open a similar door for you.





—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Japan's Miss Universe contest gets an extreme makeover

Japan has revamped its Miss Universe competition—and why do I have a feeling this is coming soon to the rest of the world?—to include elements like martial arts contests.



The swimsuit competition will be followed by the Enter the Dragon-style martial arts death match portion of our program.


—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Heart-shaped melons

An entrepreneurial farmer in Kumamoto (where Mellow Monk tea is grown) has figured out how to coax melons to grow in a heart shape:


(The audio is in Japanese but can be summarized thus: "The farmer spent 4 years figuring out how to do this and has finally gotten to the point where the heart-shaped melons are just as sweet and tasty as regular melons, so you may see these melons on your grocer's shelves soon.")





—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A river of natural moss running through your house

What you see in the photo below is real, live moss matched to an eco-friendly spun-fabric base, allowing it to be used as an organic carpet.



It's like having a park running through your living room.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, May 18, 2009

Mellow Monk's Tea-Buying Trip to Japan, Part 2

This is the latest in a series of photo, text, and video posts about my most recent tea-buying trip to Japan, which was documented by a film crew from Europe's Arte Network for its "360° Geo" TV series.





—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, May 17, 2009

A trio of chocolate pots de creme with matcha

The L.A. Times has been running a lot of stories about green tea of late. Here is one about pots de creme (a.k.a. custard) made with matcha.


Of course, you already knew that green tea and chocolate are an exquisite match, yes?



Matcha custard with (clockwise from top) white vanilla, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Make your own green tea ice cream

It's not as hard as you would think—you can actually make your own green tea ice cream.



"Custardy yet light green tea ice cream is made with cream, milk, eggs and green tea powder."


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, May 15, 2009

Is tea the key to peace in Sri Lanka?

A reporter traveling to a town in war-torn Sri Lanka found that folks there only wanted to talk about one subject: tea.


With the regional economy dominated by tea estates, locals wanted to know about global trends in tea consumption and whether demand would be picking up soon.


Wouldn't it be wonderful if both sides in the conflict there were able to rally around tea as their common cause?



These leaves bring mellow to individuals—can they mellow out an entire society?


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, May 14, 2009

World Tea Expo stirs in offbeat offerings

Morning lychee green tea, green tea liqueur, Sergeant Pepper's orange LHCB rooibos, and Romeo and Juliet's green tea hearts (pictured below)—just a few of the wares on display at the World Tea Expo.





—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stringing Tea: The Monk Who Said No

[This is part of a series of postings about my recent tea-buying expedition in Japan. Click here to see the other installments.]


What I most admired about the artistic approach taken by the film crew—and the producers back in Germany—was their desire to explore green tea not merely as a beverage but as a key element of Japanese culture.

In fact, the documentary's theme was that through green tea, you could understand every aspect of Japanese culture.

The director, Ilka—here is a clip of the English version of one of her documentaries—was herself keenly interested in the role of green tea in Japanese Buddhism. She had done plenty of research before coming to Japan and had learned that the Buddhism–green tea link began over a thousand years ago in China, after monks discovered that drinking green tea kept them alert and focused during marathon meditation sessions.

I myself knew a bit about monks and green tea. After all, our company's namesake is a Japanese monk who was one of the first to bring green tea to Japan from China. But I hadn't heard of tea's use in meditation.

So when our van finally finished snaking up the long and winding mountain road to Shogoji Temple (聖護寺), that was the second question we asked the gracious monks who greeted us. (The first being Where's the bathroom?)

   


Unfortunately for our intrepid director, none of the monks we interviewed would definitively state that the tradition was being strictly continued today. Some monks did drink green tea while meditating, but others drank black tea. Some drank coffee. Some even drank—gentle reader, are you sitting down?—instant coffee. It was, you know, a personal choice.

(I have more bad news for the traditionalists: The monks all had cellphones, too—although there was no reception on the mountaintop.)

In fact, our smooth-headed friends would not even state on camera that the monks of yore actually did drink green tea for its stimulative properties. The closest we got to this confession—after much prodding—was getting one monk to confirm that yes, he had heard the theory—the theory, mind you—that Chinese monks had begun imbibing green tea to keep them focused during long hours of meditation.

"But does he personally—and his fellow monks—still drink green tea for that very same reason? Ask him," implored Ilka.

All the other monks whom we had previously asked this question—and we had asked them all—were too polite to come right out with a negative answer. So instead we received replies like Well, I wouldn't really say that or Not me personally, but others do, I'm sure.

But this monk was different: Tall, solidly built, and with a steely-eyed, quietly tough attitude to match, he clearly would not be one to mince words. When I finished translating the director's question, he paused briefly, with furrowed brow, then boomed out his reply: a deep, resounding "NEVER!"

The crew and I almost fell over laughing. Ilka naturally did not share our laughter but instead turned away, one hand pensively stroking her chin, with a look that resembled resignation and . . . something else.

That "something else" could have been the seeds of an idea—perhaps common in the filmmaking world—that would let her get the last laugh.

Months after I had returned home, a small, stiff envelope arrived in the mail: my DVD copy of the show. While viewing the program that night—cup of celebratory tea in hand—I noticed a highly amusing and creative edit: Our nay-saying monk's words had been deftly edited so that he seemed to be saying simply that "monks drink green tea to stay alert and focused during meditation."

Sneaky? Yes. But hey, that’s show business.




But I, too, have a confession to make: After our temple visit, I also engaged in some creative editing.

First a little backstory.

Whenever we interviewed someone for the documentary, we had to ask that person to sign a standard release form that Arte Network was required to have on file in order to broadcast the footage of that person.

(Because of the TV show's international scope, the law did allow the form to be filled out and signed in the interviewee's native language, as long as someone then wrote a few summarizing notes in German or English across the top of the page. This comes into play later in our story.)

Consequently, if the film crew forgot to get a signed release from an interviewee, or if the signed form was lost after filming, Arte would be legally unable to broadcast footage of that person.



But that’s exactly what I did after we filmed at the Shogoji Temple—I lost the bloody permission forms for the two monks we interviewed (including Dr. No).

More specifically, my brother-in-law—at whose place I was staying when in Aso—burned them along with the rest of the trash after dumping the forms into the dust bin along with the rest of the clutter on the kitchen table. After he told me, over the phone, about his trash collection and burning procedure, and that he had just implemented it the previous day, I knew that’s what had happened.

A chill ran down my spine when I got off the phone. The temple was at least 2 hours away, 4 hours round trip—4 hours I knew I could never squeeze out of our already air-tight schedule.

Panic began to set in.

Hold on a second, I told myself. Think, man. Think!

Then it occurred to me: The monks had signed the forms; it's just that those forms were no more. As far as the monks were concerned, their permission was still in effect. That wouldn’t change even if I, say, gave the director a “substitute” form written by someone else—and in a language unintelligible to the director.

So, I had my brother-in-law fill out two new forms, using whatever details I could remember and making up the rest.

("Place of birth? How about those islands Japan and Korea are always fighting over? Yes!" This was done over sake, you understand.)

The upshot: Ilka got her signed forms, and the monk interviews stayed in the film, with no one the wiser.

Sneaky? Yes. But hey, that’s show business.



—Mellow Monk


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Jumping dolphins and dancing whales

This pic shows dolphins swimming along with a ship, while this article features pictures of killer whales jumping synchronically out of the water.


Very mellowing.



It's not an Olympic sport ... yet.


—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Award-winning green tea cocktails

Green tea cocktails figure prominently among the winners of the Top Tea competition at the World Tea Expo. For instance:

Sencha Kamikaze
Submitted by: TeaZen
Tea Used: Sencha Lemon
The green tea adds a soft light green color and lemon flavor making the drink tasty and refreshing. Tea gently smooths alcohol taste making the cocktail simple delish.

Recipe:
2 oz Dry Gin (Bombay Recommended)
2 oz Triple Sec
2 oz Sencha lemon tea instead of lime juice

Shake the ingridients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist.


Rare Tea has a simple recipe for a green tea mojito that sounds absolutely fabulous.


—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Chino the adult and Chino the child—in the same photograph

Here is an interesting concept—photoshopping your adult self into old photos of you as a child.


Ah, the lessons and warnings I could give my young self . . .



Chino the adult in Paris with Chino the child.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, May 08, 2009

New pics from my tea-buying trip filmed for European TV

I just uploaded some new photos from my tea-buying trip to Aso and other parts of Kyushu.


I was accompanied by a film crew who documented my trip for an episode of Arte.tv's documentary series "360° Geo."


(In fact, the photos I just uploaded were taken by Chris, the cameraman. You can really see his cameraman's sense of composition in these photographs.)



Manuel, the sound engineer, uses a phrase book to communicate with a local gentleman during a lull in the filming at Aso Shrine.


I wrote about my adventures as a tea-buyer/film crew member in a series of posts titled "Stringing Tea."


"Stringing," by the way, is a reference to what my job was as part of the film crew—a stringer, who is a driver, interpreter, interviewer, travel agent, luggage carrier, and all-around gofer all rolled into one.


It was a tough gig, but as someone said, it's a long way to the top if you want to rock 'n' roll.



A Shinto priest at Aso Shrine blesses a young family's new car.


—Mellow Monk


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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Stringing Tea: The Animoto Version

I used Animoto to make an animated slideshow—complete with musical soundtrack—out of the photographs I took during last year's tea-buying trip.


Animoto, by the way, is very cool.





—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The most beautiful place in Korea

Check it out:

Boseong is known in Korea, and internationally, for its tea. But it is also a place of wonderful natural beauty, as photogenic as the most beautiful mountain peak in Korea.

More pictures of Boseong are here.



Tea makes for such beautiful landscapes, doesn't it?


—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Green tea lime pie

From an article at the Detroit News on the benefits of green tea comes this recipe for green tea lime pie.


(The recipe is taken from the book Tea For You, by the beautiful Tracy Stern.)

Key Lime Pie

If you can't find Key limes, don't worry. This recipe is all about the flavors of green tea and tart lime.

2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest

5 large egg yolks

1 1/4 cups sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup brewed green tea

1/2 cup strained fresh lime juice

11 full graham crackers, processed to fine crumbs (1 1/4 cups)

3 tablespoons sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup heavy cream

Whisk the zest and yolks in a medium bowl until the yolks are tinted light green, about 2 minutes. Beat in the condensed milk, green tea, and then the lime juice. Set the mixture aside at room temperature to let it thicken.

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Mix the crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the butter and stir with a fork until well blended. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch pie pan and press the crumbs over the bottom and up the sides of the pan to form an even crust. Bake until lightly browned and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Pour the lime filling into the crust and bake until the center is set, yet wiggly when jiggled, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack and then refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours.

Up to 2 hours before serving, whip the cream until medium peaks form. Spread the whipped cream evenly over the pie with a rubber spatula. Return to the refrigerator.

To serve, slice the pie and transfer to serving plates. Makes 1 9-inch pie; serves 8.


Tea expert Sally Mimura Sarin pours a cuppa.


—Mellow Monk


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Monday, May 04, 2009

Tokyo time lapse

Submitted for your approval—a time-lapse video Tokyo set to suitably atmospheric music:





—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Green tea latte candy

Well Fed Network's review of Bali's Best Green Tea Latte Candy sure makes them sound scrumptious:

These lil’ discs of goodness may just be my new favorite hard candy.

And the reviewer at Candy Addict likes them, too.


Anyone who sends me some will instantly receive good karma for life. </hint>

Ah, little discs of goodness.


—Mellow Monk


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Friday, May 01, 2009

Hanami at Kiyomizu Kannon Shrine, by Kunisada Utagawa

The spectacular painting below, by Kunisada Utagawa, depicts flower-viewing (hanami) at Kiyomizu Kannon Shrine—which you can still visit today.


More Utagawa images here.



This is only part of the amazing painting. Click the see the whole thing.


—Mellow Monk


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