Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Demon drummers and mellow meditation

When you need a helping hand to mellow out, guided-meditation recordings are wonderful.


And Taoist Guided Meditation by Verena Johanna Smith is truly one of the best. Her super-soothing voice, gentle words, and polished technique are a steady hand to guide you to deep relaxation.


Swiveling 180 degrees from mellow to sheer intensity, I present you with the always excellent Journeyman Pictures' Demon Drummers, about a ferocious training camp where apprentice drummers are hammered into professional Kodo drummers.








—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Peony tea

Here's a photo of some peony tea that I tried recently.


Despite the name, peony tea is not a flower tea but instead a display tea made of green tea leaves tied together to look like a peony flower. The flower "blooms" in hot water.



Such a pretty &mdash and tasty — flower.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Green tea and the French connection

François-Xavier Delmas, whom I met through the filmmaker who made The Flavors of West Japan, has the most envious job in the world — touring the world's tea plantations.


He is also a founder of French tea purveyor Le Palais des Thés.


François-Xavier, I look forward to enjoying a nice cup of tea with you on a tea plantation somewhere, someday.


Another Frenchman who has made a name for himself in the world of tea is Weugue Florent, the first citizen of France certified as a Japanese tea instructor by the Nihoncha Instructor Association.



A great shot François-Xavier took of a wonderful tea house in Kunming, China.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Almost-last-minute teaware gift ideas

Those of us who have not the time to serve a long apprenticeship to become a tea master capable of, among other things, intuitively heating water to the perfect temperature for green tea (about 75°C, or 167°F) can avail ourselves of the many wonderful items out there, such as these two masterpieces:

Either one of these items can make it much easier and mellower to achieve the right water temperature, which is so important to green tea.


By the way, here is a funny story about water temperature.



For the tea lover on your list ... or for yourself.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Matcha cupcake haiku contest: we have a WINNER

The winner of our previously announced haiku contest is Amber.


Here is her winning haiku:

Cherish family time
Eschew presents for stories
While eating cupcakes

Amber will get a dozen of Foiled Cupcakes' exquisite matcha cupcakes — made with Mellow Monk's own matcha.


Mellow Monk and Foiled Cupcakes would like to thank everyone who entered the contest. We truly enjoyed all of your haiku, and the choice was a difficult one indeed.


Congratulations, Amber.


And Happy Holidays, everyone!


—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Win FREE gourmet matcha cupcakes! (Chicago area only)

Chi-Town’s own Foiled Cupcakes and Mellow Monk have teamed up to offer up what will surely be known as the nation’s yummiest matcha cupcakes.

These delectable delights are made by the profession pastry chefs at Foiled Cupcakes using an original recipe they devised with Mellow Monk’s matcha.

To celebrate, we are offering a free order of ONE DOZEN matcha cupcakes to whoever emails us the most inspiring haiku.

(One condition: You have to live within Foiled Cupcake’s expansive delivery area . . . or have the cupcakes sent to some lucky person there.)

The haiku can be about anything — cupcakes, any other food, green tea, something seasonal, something funny or serious. Any feeling or moment you wish to capture poetically.

So don your haiku hat and send your inspiring entries to:
cupcakes at mellowmonk dot com

The deadline for entries is 12:00 noon on Wednesday, December 15, Pacific Time. We will announce the winner the next day, Thursday, December 16.

Time is short, but then, so are haiku.

Yet the memories of these scrumptious gourmet matcha cupcakes are sure to last a lifetime.

Oh, and Foiled Cupcakes will deliver the cupcakes to the winning haiku writer free of charge.




Just one example of Foiled Cupcakes' foiled goodness.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Chengdu teahouses

Chengdu, China, is famous for its teahouses, among other treasures, so here for your enjoyment and your mellow, I present a few photos of beautiful Chengdu teahouses;






































—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Green tea protects the heart, the liver, and our DNA

A paper published in the journal Molecular Aspects of Medicine reports that "regular consumption of any type of tea is likely to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, probably due to levels of substances called flavonoids that are found in tea."


And green tea research marches on: Additional studies indicate that the green brew we love so much has a protective effect on liver function in the face of lead and may help keep our cells young by protecting them from DNA damage.


And these findings are only the tip of the teapot when it comes to the health benefits of green tea.



Luscious leaves ready to yield a healthy brew.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Québec teaware and a teapot-shaped Chinese tea museum

The county of Meitan, in China's Guizhou Province, wasn't known for much but is now known as home of a giant teapot-shaped museum of tea.


And on a smaller scale, Québec's Camellia Sinensis teashop announces the winners of this year's Terre & Thé, a.k.a. Québec Teaware Competition.



Deservedly award-winning teaware.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mellow Monk on Now Serving Tea

Mellow Monk is the featured entry today on the wonderful website Now Serving Tea.


The Monk's site and Now Serving Tea are both dedicated to maximizing tea happiness.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Monk presents a new tea — Crimson Grove, black tea made from green tea varietals

As previously sneak-previewed, Mellow Monk has added a new tea to our lineup — Crimson Grove, a black tea (kocha, or "crimson tea").


What makes Crimson Grove special, however, is that it's made from leaves from green tea varietals — and that the leaves are only lightly fermented after harvest.


Crimson Grove's deeply dark leaves yield a caramel-brown brew with a light sweetness combined with a smoky lusciousness, with overtones of nutmeg. This unexpectedly delicious combination must be tasted to be believed.


And once you taste it, we are sure you will want to keep tasting it over and over again.



What was known in Asia as "crimson tea" — from the color of the brew — was dubbed "black tea" by the British from the color of the leaves.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Green tea wedding

A chakonshiki is a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony that incorporates elements of the tea ceremony.


If the happy couple is not already familiar with the tea ceremony, they must practice with a tea master for months ahead of the event.


Deciding on a chakonshiki is thus a serious commitment (as is marriage itself), but surely the results are worth it.



The four elements required for the tea ceremony — wakei seijaku [和敬清寂] (harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility) — are all in place.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Green tea soup and matcha crispy rice treats

Green tea is a truly versatile ingredient in the kitchen.


For instance, for dinner you could have a lovely green tea soup, followed by matcha brown butter crispy rice treats for dessert.


The soup recipe calls for 8 tea bags of genmaicha, but instead you can simply brew a largish-sized pot of loose-leaf genmaicha.


And instead of black cod, you could substitute any white fish — or even chicken for that matter. Experimenting is an important part of cooking, and we would love to hear about any variations you come up with.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Aso Shrine in autumn

An acquaintance in Aso sent us this recent photo of ancient Aso Jinja, which is less than a mile from one of our main grower–artisan's tea fields, in the shadow of the majestic volcano that gives the region its name.



No mere historical relic, the shrine is a vibrant part of the local community.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, November 15, 2010

A customer's amazing tea ware collection

Mellow Monk customer Jean-Frédéric of France sent us this photo of his wonderful collection of chadougu.


Jean-Frédéric says the tea ware was made by Yamada So [second from the top], grandson of the late Yamada Jozan III, a Tokoname-yaki potter and a former Living National Treasure.

All these items are made by yakishime, wood-fired in an anagama kiln.



A truly lovely, mellow space for enjoying tea — and your tea time — to its fullest. But let us remember that the key to a fulfilling, invigorating green tea break is your attitude going in, not your equipment.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Aso sunflower

A relation sent in this just-taken photograph of a sunflower against a blue sky in Aso.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Our garden's harvest

I am posting this a little late, but here is a shot of an August harvest from our humble little garden.



Tomatoes, apples, and pears — oh my! (And bell peppers, too.)


—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

World's most incredible tea pourer

If you aspire to be the world's best pourer of tea, you first have to best this young man.


And as they say, do not try this at home:





—Mellow Monk

 

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Flavors of West Japan: part 6 (last): Mellow Monk tea growers in action

We finally arrive at the last segment of the Channel 4 documentary "Flavors of West Japan." This is the segment that features Mellow Monk tea growers, the Nagatas, who were chosen to represent all of Kyushu.


While husband Koji tends the tea fields, his lovely wife Miho shows us how to brew green tea properly.


We are also treated to sights of Mt. Aso and the surrounding hillside, which the narrator describes as resembling the European Alps. See for yourself:





This video is also available YouTube. You can also check out previous segments of the documentary.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, October 29, 2010

The dreamy footbridge

In the town of Kokonoe, in the shadow of Oita Prefecture's magnificent Mt. Kuju, is the world's largest pedestrian suspension bridge — the Dream Suspension Bridge:


















—Mellow Monk

 

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Utaseyu — soothing, surging streams of hot spring water

One of the most invigorating ways to enjoy Japan's onsen is utaseyu — high streams of pelting water under which the bather sits for a heavenly, stress-relieving water massage.


Brian MacDuckston has these beautiful pics of Sujiyu, a small, traditional utaseyu in Kokonoe, not too far from Aso.


Historical records indicate that the site was first developed as a hot spring destination in the year 958 (in Japanese).


Brian also published these photos on his Japan Bash site.








—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Flavors of West Japan 5 : singing sand, floating temple

Foodies will enjoy scenes of making an honest-to-goodness onsen tamago (eggs soft-boiled in hot spring water) and okonomiyaki.


This penultimate segment opens with a Shinto procession through Miyazu, followed by views of Amanohashidate, the "singing" sand of Kotobikihama, and the hot spring resort town of Kinosaki. And on Miyajima, we see the world-famous Itsukushima (above), which sits on stilts to avoid touching the surface of the holy island.





You can also watch this video on YouTube.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sneak preview of a new tea!

Everyone at Mellow Monk is super-excited about a new tea that is on its way — Crimson Grove, black tea made from green tea varietals.


"Crimson" comes from the Japanese name for black tea: koucha, which literally means crimson tea, from the brew's color.


To make the tea, the growers harvest leaves from the same varietal of tea plant used to make their delicious, exclusive green tea, then let the leaves oxidize just slightly before continuing with the teacrafting process.


The result is unlike anything you've ever tasted — a smokey aroma and a surprisingly sweet taste, with lightly nutty overtones.


This tea must truly be tasted to be believed. And you will all have your chance soon. Stay tuned!


Note the Eco Farmer certification sticker in the upper right.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Flavors of West Japan 4 : Kyoto : geisha, green tea & more

The 4th segment of the European documentary "Flavors of West Japan" — which features a Mellow Monk green tea grower–artisan in the segment on Kyushu — takes us to Kyoto.


There, we see such cultural highlights as Nijo Castle, Kiyomizu Temple, and the Gion district.


Also presented is the green tea of Kyoto, which, unlike our Kyushu-style green tea, is usually slightly roasted instead of steamed.


One of this segment's highlights is an interview with a demure maiko named Fumisono (above), who talks about her profession and its rigorous training.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

The World in Your Teacup

Just as its title promises, The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far is a colorful, inspiring tour of tea around the world.


The author, Lisa Boalt Richardson, has a website with recipes and other tea information.


In addition to the reviews at Amazon, you can also read a detailed review at Blogcritics.



A sample page showing World in a Teacup's rich attention to detail.


—Mellow Monk

 

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