Friday, January 29, 2010

Mellow out to some eye candy

Bestiario's Eye Candy isn't just "weird" or "trippy"; it is downright enthralling and even strangely relaxing. I feel as if I could actually meditate to it.

Use caution, however, if you are prone to visually induced epilepsy.

This screen capture does not do Eye Candy justice. You have to see the moving, changing images to appreciate it fully.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Green tea and exercise stave off depression in breast cancer patients, study finds

Dr. Xiao Ou Shu, a researcher at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, has found that "[b]reast cancer patients who exercise and drink tea on a regular basis may be less likely to suffer from depression than other patients."

Dr. Shu's study examined 1,399 Chinese women living in Shanghai, and "the type of tea [they] most commonly consumed was green tea."

The importance of avoiding depression is that "[d]epression may reduce a patient’s quality of life, increase the length of hospital stays and affect compliance with cancer therapy."

Vanderbilt's Dr. Shu.

—Mellow Monk

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mellow Monk ranks high on Martha Stewart radio tea judging

Mellow Monk came in 2nd place out of six teas judged in a live, on-air tea judging on Whole Living, a show on Martha Stewart Living Radio.

The tea tested was our Top Leaf, whose quality truly reflects the dedication and passion of the tea artisans who make it.

Top Leaf, far right, holds his own against the competition and does the Monk proud.

—Mellow Monk

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Green tea creme brulee

Submitted for your approval — a scrumptious-looking recipe for green tea creme brulee.

I think I have one of these propane torches in my shed. Will that do?

—Mellow Monk

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

A crime writer's surprisingly uplifting philosophy

Maura McMillan offers an enlightened summary of the Zen-like philosophy of crime writer Charles Willeford:

[W]hile the world is filled with beautiful possibilities, all human endeavor is ultimately futile. His reaction, rather than suicide, was to consciously make himself into a person who despaired less; who forgave human stupidity and cruelty when he could, and examined it in his writing when he could not.

Some may consider this thinking pessimistic, but I find it inspiring and life-affirming that a person whose life experiences included riding the rails during the Great Depression and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge would reach such a conclusion.

—Mellow Monk

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Sayonara, Master's Roast

Many customers have asked why Master's Roast, our roasted green tea, or hojicha, has disappeared from our lineup. Is this change permanent? you have asked.

The unfortunate answer is yes, and the reason, in a word, is consistency.

The grower who had been supplying Master's Roast roasted the tea manually, and he had warned us before that it wouldn't come out exactly the same every time. But after a while, this grower, who is a real stickler, decided that the variation in roast between batches just too great — even if each batch, on its own, was a wonderful brew.

It probably would have been easier to achieve greater consistency if he had roasted the tea heavily, as most tea estates do, but he thought that took away too much flavor and had been striving for a lighter roast, which I and a lot of customers did indeed like, but being the craftsman he is, he said he couldn't in good conscience sell that tea to his customers anymore.

I am sad to see Master's Roast go, but at the same time proud that we can offer teas from such dedicated tea artisans.

And after all, everything in this world is transient — even teas.

Our late, great Master's Roast.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

On location in Kumamoto and Kagoshima

Here are a couple of photos of the director and cameraman filming the green tea documentary — "Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Grows" — that I helped out with and which featured a couple of our tea artisans.

To the see the beautiful scenery and lovely people filmed in this most mellow part of Japan, you can watch the finished documentary online.

In the Kuma district of Kumamoto.

In Chiran, in southern Kagoshima.

—Mellow Monk

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mellowing at Toji Temple

This photo of Kyoto's Toji Temple — part of an excellent collection — makes me feel as if I am there.

I imagine myself there, sitting on a nice cold rock at the pond's edge, sipping a cup of hot tea, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of this magnificent place.

—Mellow Monk

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Green tea health benefits wrap-up

News about the health benefits of green tea just keeps coming, and the flurry has been especially heavy of late.

For instance, recently announced findings show that green tea reduces the risk of getting kidney stones, brain disorders, endometrial cancer (the most common gynecologic cancer), and type 2 diabetes, and is also heart healthy to boot.

Little green tea leaf, you are an amazing and hard-working plant.

—Mellow Monk

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Walking on a bridge

Two of Velvet Escape's ten incredible bridge walks are on bridges in Japan — the Yokohama Bay Bridge and the wooden Kintai Bridge in the town of Iwakuni.

And of course what better song to listen to while walking one of these bridges than Keiko Matsui's "Walking On The Bridge."

The Kintai Bridge looking marvelous at cherry blossom time.

—Mellow Monk

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Get close to geisha for five dollars (instead of five hundred)

In a move to promote tourism, the city of Kyoto has started offering visitors the chance to attend a tea ceremony with real-live maiko and geisha for only 500 yen (US$5).

Just take care, readers, that they don't try to upsell you to the five hundred dollar package.

Pretty classy for a tourist trap.

—Mellow Monk

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Family farms, a simple solution to complex environmental issues

SolveClimate's Max Ajl quotes, and then expands on, an assertion in the Food First! [PDF] report that family farms are good for the environment:

Sustainable, smallholder agriculture represents the best option for resolving the fourfold food, finance, fuel and climate crises.

Max's logic is straightforward and compelling. "Could resolving such huge, inter-laced problems be really so easy, so straightforward? ... It could," he concludes. We at Mellow Monk couldn't agree more.

Two of our tea grower-artisans. (Yes, they are sisters.)

—Mellow Monk

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Tokyo, off the beaten path user John Hyperion has posted photos taken on a recent trip to Japan, including some places off the beaten path.

I am not sure where this is. If anyone does, please share your knowledge with us.

—Mellow Monk

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Two on the koto

Here are two lovely pieces played on the koto, starting with composer Michio Miyagi's "Tegoto" as performed by Kaori Kimoto.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

The green, mellow island

Located at the southern end of the Izu archipelago, Aogashima ("Green Island") is one of Japan's most remote inhabited islands. The fewer than 150 residents are watched over by a lone policeman, whose duties include welcoming—with a salute—the daily helicopter that begins its trip from the island chain's northern end.

The island administratively belongs to Tokyo, but life there is about as far removed from Tokyo as can be—and the islanders wouldn't have it any other way. Many of them have cellphones, but one mother is proud that her young children don't have one. "It's safe here, so they don't need one," she explains.

In addition to cellphones, the locals also have Internet access, allowing them to sell their wares directly to consumers. The most famous of them is potato shochu.

What keeps these people from leaving their island? A big reason is a sense of obligation to their ancestors. In 1785, a volcanic eruption forced the islanders to evacuate to Hachijo Island. Thirty-nine years later, a noble named Jiro Sasaki rallied his fellow Aogashima islanders and organized a move back to their beloved island. Even today, Sasaki is revered as the "Moses of Aogashima," and residents consider themselves his descendants and stewards of his legacy.

The volcano today.

"We wouldn't be here if it weren't for our ancestors," said two teenaged brothers. "They worked hard to protect this island, and that's why we have to, as well."

When asked why she stayed, the 86-year-old mother of a shochu distiller answered: "In the old days, life here was so difficult, and my parents went through a lot of hardship. That's why I have to continue [this way of life]."

[Source: Sankei]

Such words embody a spirit that is widespread in Japan—a sense of obligation to their land. This feeling of responsibility is strong among the country's farmers, too.

If you have a Google account, you can check out these pictures of a traveler who was stranded on Aogashima when rough seas stopped the ferry traffic for consecutive days.

I only half-seriously put this in the "sights to see in Japan" category, but if anyone ever does get to Aogashima, or has been there, I would love to hear about it.

—Mellow Monk

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Two Tokyo time traps

Jeff Henig has taken some beautiful photos of Tokyo's historic Yanesen district, while HubPages user Japanlover has written a fascinating account of two station towns along the old Nakasendo roadway where time stands wonderfully still.

—Mellow Monk

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Get "spirited away" to an otherworldly hot spring inn

If you think the Kanaguya hot spring ryokan has an otherworldly look and feel to it, then you are not alone: Hayao Miyazaki used it as his inspiration for the otherworldly animated inn in Spirited Away.

The inn's four-story wood-frame Saigetsu Tower is designated as Japanese tangible cultural asset No. 20-136.

—Mellow Monk

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