Sunday, February 28, 2010

Late winter haiku

Buoyed by the wind

Then alighting on my hand

A petal of snow

—Mellow Monk

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A tea ceremony in person, and temple gardens online

If you live in Saginaw, Michigan, you can experience an authentic Japanese tea ceremony right in town — at the Japanese Cultural Center and Tea House.

And now matter where you live, you can virtually visit some amazing Japanese gardens, courtesy of photographer John Lander (

PhotoShelter also has an automated slideshow of its blissful images.

A view at the amazing Shisendo Temple. (Photographer: John Lander

—Mellow Monk

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Nara's Todaiji

If you are ever in Nara, you should definitely pay a visit to the very old, very regal Todai Temple.

The underside of Todaiji's Nandaimon (Great Southern Gate).

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two nice, simple infusers from LifeNow

I have seen this ForLife infuser (which comes with a mug) at my local Pete's Coffee and Teas. It feels very sturdy and well-built, which is important when dislodging sticky wet leaves that have yielded all of their goodness and need replacing.

I also like this infuser: The extended handle means it should fit across all but the largest of mugs, and it comes with a nice little ceramic drip-catching dish.

Which is important when keeping green tea's wholesome goodness off of your desk.

—Mellow Monk

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sushi rolls and zakkokumai onigiri

The Pioneer Woman shows how to make some unique, scrumptious-looking sushi rolls, while La Fuji Mama gives us a recipe for mouth-watering zakkokumai onigiri.

Thank you so much, ladies!

The glorious Donewell Roll.

—Mellow Monk

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Tea catechins' bioavailability demonstrated by new study

A study published in the journal Nutrition shows that "green tea catechins are more bioavailable than previously observed."

"Bioavailable" means how much of an ingested substance survives digestion and whatnot to remain available for the body to absorb and use.

(For instance, that means more green tea antioxidants to fight glaucoma and other eye ailments.)

In the case of green tea, science had long known that catechins such as EGCG have the ability to fight various afflictions. What was unclear, however, was how much of those green tea catechins actually made it into the body to fight those ailments.

Therein lies the significance of this study: Now we have even more proof that compounds like EGCG really do survive the trip into our bodies.

They are, after all, such hearty compounds. (Pun intended.)

Just looking at a scene like this feels good for my eyes. (From a segment of the documentary Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Grows.)

—Mellow Monk

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Kit Kat = certain victory

According to one theory, the popularity of Kit Kat in Japan is due partly to its name, whose Japanese pronunciation bears a phonetic resemblance to the phrase kitto katsu, or "You will surely win."

Available in green tea flavor, of course. In Japan, that is, of course.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Tea Guy's videos

Brendan the Tea Guy hosts informative, nicely made videos about tea, such as an overview of steeping devices and this video on how to brew loose-leaf tea with a French press:

—Mellow Monk

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Japan's smiling dog

At roughly 0:32 in this video, Chiichan's owner asks if he wants to go for a walk, and in response the doggie makes the face that has made him an Internet sensation.

—Mellow Monk

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Kelly reviews our Shaded Leaf

Kelly McGeachie has written a review [Facebook link] of our Shaded Leaf Green Tea.

For those who have trouble accessing her Facebook note, I have pasted the text below, after the photo accompanying her review.

Nice mug, Kelly! (And the tea's not bad, either.)

Mellomonk Green Tea review OCTOBER 2009.

One thing I love and cherish is the opportunity to sit in my armchair in my bedroom with a steaming cup full of tea, a magazine and my teapot sitting right next to me on the table.; ready for a quick top-up.

I've always been an avid black tea drinker, whether it be English Breakfast or some spicy chai; but a couple of years back a friend of mine overseas introduced me to the wonderful world that is 'Green Tea'. I'd tried a couple of brands of tea bags and other loose leafs in the past, as I'd heard so much about the wonderful health benefits of drinking Green Tea. To be honest I really wasn't that fond of it! Can you relate to this yourself?

This friend of mine kept telling me I should try something else when it came to my Green tea. Tea bags are NOT and never are the answer, he told me. He suggested I try this brand called Mellow Monk that he had been buying for a while. 'You gotta get in touch with the monk kel' he'd say to me.

In a surprising bout of generosity my friend sent me some of this Mellow Monk tea to try. When I received it I was instantly drawn to the pretty foil packaging and really couldn't wait to try it. (This stuff is leaf tea by the way). The taste was something out of this world. So much so that since my first packet of Mellow Monk I haven't looked back and I never even touch black tea anymore. Well, unless I'm round a friend’s house and feel the need to be polite in accepting it.

Today, I received a packet of Mellow Monk's latest Green Tea called 'Shaded Leaf’, a Sencha tea which I have yet to try,. As the name connotes the leaves are shaded about 21 days before harvest, blocking out 90% of sunlight, this then stimulates the plant to make more of the super healthy catcheins, that we know are so good for us.

As soon as I open the packet I just know I am in for a treat, instantly you can smell the youthfulness and freshness of the leaves in the packet. Plus, I don't know about you but I'm always drawn to pretty packaging! ;)

To prepare, I grab my teapot and boil some water. I 'walk away' for a while to let the water cool to as close to 75 degrees as possible (The perfect brewing temperature) I then put a level teaspoon of Shaded Leaf into my tea pot and steep it for approximately three minutes.

I strain the leaves and pour the tea into my cup (step by step instructions, very important you see) and voila! The tea is ready!

The strained leaves almost represent a paste after use, they are so moist and fresh I cannot begin to tell you. From a few past brands I had tried from my local health shop the leaves were always so dry. Apparently this is not how your leaves should be.

So for now the taste test:

The Shaded Leaf is soft and sweet, and mild in flavour. In fact if you
let it cool enough you could probably drink it down like water the
taste is so smooth. The taste is so crisp and fresh without a trace of
harshness or bitterness in my mouth. In my opinion if you are a
beginner when it comes to green tea this would be the perfect
elementary tea for you to try! Also, this tea would be suitable for
consumption at any time of the day, particularly a after a meal
(always a nice way to finish off I think)

My rating is honestly 5/5 – This is probably one of my favourite
Mellow Monk teas, probably due to the fact that it has such a smooth
and full-bodied taste.

Another thing I LOVE about this tea (and yet ANOTHER reason why I
choose this brand over anything else) is that it is sourced from
eco-friendly farms, that have minimal environmental impact!

The quality really is fantastic! and did I mention the service yet?
Well If not then rest assured that whenever I have bought my tea from
their online store, the company is very helpful. They usually ship to
me overseas within a week! I thought this would be important to
mention as I know people tend to worry about that when buying offline,
but I can assure you they've always been fast and efficient, and
always answer any questions you may have etc.

If you want to get your hands on some of this then check out the
website at http://www. and see what tickles your fancy! There is much variety to choose from.

—Mellow Monk

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Saturday, February 13, 2010


360cities has literally hundreds of panoramas of sights to see in Japan, but the closest the website gets to our teas' homeland of Kumamoto is Usa Jingu, a sprawling, beautiful shrine located one prefecture over in out-of-the-way Usa.

This is only one small area of the entrancingly large shrine complex. If you are ever in Oita or Beppu, I highly recommended making the drive — or train ride — to Usa.

—Mellow Monk

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The sword, the empty mind, and the teacup

Speaking of Japan's martial arts (see Tuesday's post), I recently came across a scientific study that reminded me about another martial art — the way of the sword.

Researchers in England have found that a person reacting to another's action can actually be faster than the person to whom he or she is reacting.

This reminded me of iaidō, which is known as the art of drawing a sword but more specifically is about drawing a sword in response to an opponent who has drawn first.

Not an appealing situation to be in.

The study also reminded me of a comment in "Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Growers" (a documentary in which a Mellow Monk tea procurer is shown visiting two families of grower-artisans). At a kendo school in Hitoyoshi, a kendo master discusses [video link] the importance of emptying one's mind before a bout — that doing so is necessary to assure quick action.

But the reason for doing so is not merely to react to one's opponent but also to act as quickly and as unconsciously as one who is reacting.

The concept of emptying one's mind also ties in with the philosophy of tea — as a prerequisite for mindfully focusing on the tea at hand and on one's guest.

But then that is a topic for another post.

An intense moment at the kendōjō. (Click the image to see the video clip.)

—Mellow Monk

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Green tea market keeps on chooglin'

According to Global Industry Analysts, the global market for green tea will exceed 1.2 million tons by 2015.

GIA doesn't say how big the market is now — you have to buy the full report to find that out — but any way you slice it (or steam it or roll it), 1.2 million tons is a lot of tea.

I took this photo last summer at the estate of one of our growers in Kumamoto.

—Mellow Monk

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Japanese archery and tea—linked by mindfulness

There is a definite connection between martial arts and tea: As explained in part 3 of "Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Grows," in both cases the practitioner's goal is to empty his mind (kokoro wo mu ni suru), to be so mindful as to completely shut out distracting thoughts.

Demonstrating this philosophy at work in kyūdō is a wonderfully insightful video from the wonderfully named Empty Mind Films, the "leading independent film studio for documentary films on Asia":

—Mellow Monk

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Green tea ice cream—from scratch!

The Hindu gives us a simple recipe for scrumptious green tea ice cream.

The recipe appears in the 2nd half of the article, so if you do not see it above the fold, do not despair — simply scroll down a bit. Trust me — it's worth it!

This recipe calls for matcha, and although our own is currently sold out, the grower has shipped more, so we will be restocked soon.

This home-made ice cream looks blissfully yummy.

—Mellow Monk

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

How to find Tokyo's best noodles

Start by checking out this slideshow and the accompanying article.

I am a huge fan of tonkotsu ramen. How about you?

Absolute heaven for a ramen aficionado: a "deep tonkotsu broth with its hint of bonito flavor . . . slices of pork, their edges caramel-sweet . . . the bite of the noodles [and] the egginess of the soft-cooked egg."

—Mellow Monk

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Countdown to the Victoria Tea Festival

There are only 9 days left until the Victoria Tea Festival, which bills itself as North America's largest public tea exhibition.

A pic from 2009 festival's image gallery.

—Mellow Monk

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Monday, February 01, 2010

A matcha recipe double feature

Marvelous Girl gives us luscious-looking matcha green tea chocolate truffles, while Serious Eats shows us how to make matcha tea leaf shortbreads.

This, unfortunately, comes too late to use our own matcha, which is currently sold out.

More is on the way, however.

"Daddy's little baby loves shortnin' shortnin'. . ."

—Mellow Monk

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