Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Monk brews a brick

I picked up some brick tea at Imperial Tea Court's San Francisco Ferry Building Teahouse.

This particular brick tea was made of compressed, unground leaves, whereas some types of tea bricks are made of leaves ground into a fine powder and then tightly compressed into a dense block.

The tea was quite a different experience than green tea — after all, brick tea and green tea are at opposite ends of the fermentation spectrum — but still immensely tasty and enjoyable in its own way, woodsy and with overtones of prunes. (Yes, prunes — but without the sweetness). The flavor really transported me to a mountainous, pine-forested world.

Check out the photos below to see the brick tea in its various stages of brewing, along with the tasty finished product.

The package. The brick is surprisingly heavy, as the tea is compressed tightly to save space (for easier transport by pack horse) and for longer shelf life.

I had to used an ice pick to break off this piece of tea. Being fairly ignorant about brick tea, I used way too much dry leaf even for my largish teapot, so you can see that a single brick could brew literally gallons and gallons of tea.

After the pouring. The leaves in the brick were actually a mix of different types, some obviously less fermented than the others. This explains the layered complexity of the flavor characteristics.

Even brewed this strong, the tea was still not harsh but instead richly flavorful.

—Mellow Monk


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Friday, August 27, 2010

Cool, natural spring water in Aso

I have blogged previously about the wonderful spring-water drinking fountains in the city of Aso, and below is another photo I took of one of them.

I always look forward to Aso's delicious spring water when visiting tea growers there. They were even kind enough to show me the "secret" spots where anyone can collect water directly from a fissure in the mountainside.

Notice the small shrine shown in the last linked-to photo. I interpret this as symbolizing the people's gratitude for the mountain's watery bounty. And the drinking fountains in town are like a liquid link to the life-giving mountain.

—Mellow Monk


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mucho matcha desserts!

Matcha isn't just for drinking. It is also a very versatile ingredient for cooking and baking.

For instance, Blowfish Sushi to Die For (yes, that's the restaurant's name) serves the masterpiece "Zen Garden," at left. This is one of the more unusual matcha deserts out there.

A more down-to-earth confection — and one you can easily make yourself — is Kelly Keough's gluten-free Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes [scroll down the page a bit], shown on the right.

Finally, The Stir's Kim Conte makes us drool — well, I did anyway — with no less than five matcha desserts.

So the question isn't How can you use matcha in baking? but rather How can't you use matcha in baking?.

If I find out the answer to that, I will let you know. In the meantime, I have a lot of yummy treats to test.

Remember these?

—Mellow Monk


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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Magically mellow Norwegian scenery

First, spend a few mellow moments gazing upon these two beautiful photos — of a river valley in Aurland and the city of Ålesund.

Then, as you sip your green tea, close your eyes and imagine you are soaring down the cool river, then strolling through the breezy town.

Aren't they wonderful places to visit — even virtually?

—Mellow Monk


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Friday, August 20, 2010

Our tea wins at the North American Tea Championship!

I have fantastic news, everyone — Mellow Monk's Top Leaf green tea won 3rd place in the steamed green tea division in the North American Tea Championship.

We are so honored to be recognized by the very discriminating judges in this very competitive tea contest.

And we are even happier to be able to bring the world outside of Kyushu this exquisite, sustainably grown, traditionally crafted exclusive green tea.

—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summertime, and the cold-brewing is easy

Virginia "Cinnabar" Wright, who is's Seattle Tea Examiner and who also blogs as Gongfu Girl, reminds us that cold-brewing your green tea is not only "staggeringly simple" but also brings out different characteristics in your tea than when brewed hot.

This is so true. Even a tea that you thought you knew intimately can taste like a completely different tea when brewed cold. In fact, such complexity is the sign of a high-quality tea. (Hint, hint.)

Read Gongfu Girl's review of our Top Leaf Green Tea.

Read our previous posts on iced green tea here.

Iced green tea we made in Aso.

Yummy! An iced green tea party sounds like an excellent idea right now — or any time, for that matter.

—Mellow Monk


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Monday, August 16, 2010

Jasmine green tea with great dim sum

This is the jasmine green tea that the friendly, efficient people at San Francisco's Yank Sing served with the delicious dim sum we devoured — I mean, uh, enjoyed — there.

[More after the pic ↓]

The beautiful teapot's internal glass filter was even removable, so that we could remove the wet tea leaves from the infusion and prevent oversteeping between pots of tea.

I am usually not partial to jasmine green tea, but between the lovely presentation and the absolutely delectable dim sum, I had no complaints at all.

. . . even though I was too busy devou— eating dim sum to complain anyway.

—Mellow Monk


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Friday, August 13, 2010

Green tea health benefits — research galore!

Science is discovering more and more about the health benefits of green tea — proving traditional claims, discovering new ones, and figuring out how green tea fights disease at a molecular level. Here is just a small sampling of some recent studies.

The journal Food Chemistry recently published "the first report showing that green tea is likely to be an effective anticancer agent for renal cell carcinoma" (a form of kidney cancer).

Other research suggests that the natural compounds in green tea reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, can stop the growth of prostate cancer, and help prevent skin cancer by repairing DNA damage caused by the sun's ultraviolet rays.

[more after the pic ↓]

Ordinary looking but filled with naturally healthful, disease-fighting compounds.

The good news for diabetics is that matcha was found to protect against kidney damage in type 2 diabetics and that the green tea catechin EGCG inhibits the oxidation and glycation of low-density lipoproteins, which can lead to plaque formation in the arteries (arteriosclerosis).

Green tea also strengthens your teeth, hydrates your body at least as well as water, and can be used as a natural skin toner.

It would surely be impossible to design a single product that could do all of the things that green tea does — and taste so wonderful. Fortunately, all we have to do to get these benefits — and flavor and aroma and the mellowness — is get some green tea from a grower who knows his stuff.

Like these folks, for instance.

—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Help spread the word

Carol from Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, kindly got in touch to say she voted for Mellow Monk as her favorite tea in the 2010 Veggie Awards.

You can also show your support for Mellow Monk by voting in Green America's People's Choice Awards. (Mellow Monk is a proud member and supporter of Green America.)

Finally — this is the last entreaty for today, I promise — we would love it if you could post your thoughts about our tea on Steepster, the "connected online tea journal." Steepster is a very cool site for discovering new teas.

One of our grower–artisans harvesting tea by hand, with a helping hand from friends and family.

—Mellow Monk


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Monday, August 09, 2010

Mystery bug

Is there an entomologist in the house?

I snapped this photo of a mystery bug near the top of Mt. Aso. If you have an idea of what it is, please let the rest us know. We'd like to know more about this fascinating little fellow.

"A mystery to you I am, but to me I am not."

—Mellow Monk


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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Top Leaf scores 10 out of 10 from Teaviews!

Our Top Leaf green tea just received a 10-out-of-10-points review from Geoff at Teaviews.

Thank you, Geoff, for taking the time to review our tea. And thank you, tea artisans, for sharing your wonderful tea with us.

Top Leaf tea leaves, ready to yield their exquisite brew.

—Mellow Monk


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Friday, August 06, 2010

Two kimonos — one flowery, one made from green tea

Photographer Abdul Hameed gives us a lovely photo [shown below] of a young lass in a flowery kimono.

And speaking of kimono, did you know that clothes can be made from green tea? The "eco-kimono" shown at left is just one example of what one exhibit is calling biocouture.

—Mellow Monk


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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Green tea candy from a great grower

One of our wonderful growers in Kumamoto included these green tea sweets with his latest shipment of green tea.

I am saddened to report, however, that by the time I posted this blog, these ame [in Japanese] were already gone.

Perhaps next time I will give them away through some sort of contest. Although that will take a lot of willpower, you understand.

With green tea being so popular these days, a trip to your nearest Asian market should reveal something like this, if not the exact same brand. There are plenty of delicious sweets out there — far too many, if you know what I mean.

—Mellow Monk


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Monday, August 02, 2010

Karakuri—amazing mechanized dolls

Karakuri ningyō are mechanical dolls that date back to Japan's Edo Period, when Japanese craftsmen, inspired by Western clocks, develop uniquely Japanese clocks, whose mechanisms were further adopted to power puppets like the ones shown below.

The first video shows a tea-carrying doll that stops when the guest lifts the teacup off of the tray. The second video is of an arrow-shooting archer and includes close-ups of the amazingly intricate workmanship.

—Mellow Monk


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