Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mellow Monk supports another Kiva microloan

With your help, Mellow Monk continues to support Kiva's microfinance program for independent, smallholder farms.


Our latest loan is to Abdugafar Ibragimov, who farms wheat, onions, and melons in Tajikistan. He plans to use the loan to buy fertilizer for his crops.



His Kiva load was release on September 17. Good luck, Abdugafar!


—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Flavors of West Japan — part 1

We all remember "Kyushu, Where Japan's Green Tea Grows," right? Well, one of the Mellow Monk tea artisans who was featured in that documentary has been featured in another chronicle about Japan.


From its title, "Flavors of West Japan" may sound like a food-centric production, but this documentary, shown on Europe's Channel 4, deals broadly with the natural and cultural treasures of west Japan — the region comprising west Honshu and the island of Kyushu.


Part 1 opens with the Kii Peninsula, located at the region's eastern edge.


The first sight we see in the Kii mountains is the Seiganto-ji Temple, located next to the Nachi waterfall. Then, after seeing a tea farm in the hills of Kumano, we move on to the ancient magnificence and subtle splendor of the Mt. Koya temple complex.





You can also watch this clip at YouTube.


The Mellow Monk growers are featured in a later segment. Stay tuned.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Moss on a stone lantern

While on a tea-tasting trip in Kumamoto, I took this photo of a moss-covered stone lantern in front of Aso shrine, located in the geographical and spiritual heart of Aso City.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Take self-guided tours of Japan

You can visit the castles of Japan.

Or if you want to focus on a specific area, you can spend a whirlwind 36 hours in Kyoto, find serenity on the San'in coast, or take audio-guided tours of Tokyo.

The choice is up to you.



The Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, located outside the city of Matsue, on the serene San'in coast.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

A mellow animated journey into a Mandelbox

The description says this video is a "key-frame animation test in Mandelbulber," but it is perfectly enjoyable as a meditatively relaxing journey into a richly detailed virtual world, scored to soothing music by the Ray Kelley Band.


So brew up a nice cup of green tea, sit back, and enjoy the show!





—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Home-brewed is healthiest

The long list of green tea's health benefits just got longer: A recent study shows that the natural brew may protect your DNA from damage.

But if you want green tea that is chock full of EGCG and the other polyphenols that confer these benefits — and who doesn't? — then the answer is now clear: You simply have to brew the tea yourself:

Henning says that polyphenols in tea start breaking down after the tea is brewed. So if a bottle has been sitting on the shelf for a while, there may be only a little — if any — antioxidants in the tea.

If you have been drinking bottled tea, the good news is that brewing loose-leaf tea has never been easier, as you can see from the many handy accoutrements to the right of this post.

And of course there is also some truly exceptional green tea out there, too.



Polyphenol-rich tea, ready to be harvested and sent straight to your teapot, bypassing the bottle. (On a tea artisan's estate in Kumamoto.)


—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Art — paper and edible

Confectioner Toraya discusses the five aspects of wagashi — which was made to complement green tea — as art.


Russian artist Gadelshin Timur Azatovich has created a form of paper art dubbed aogami. (More photos of his amazing work here.)


And below are examples of the traditional Japanese paper-marbling technique of suminagashi.




—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Spring water chills fresh tomatoes

Below is a closeup I took of a spring-water fountain and a barrel of tomatoes next to my favorite coffee shop in Aso, a town that is a source of our green tea.


The water in which the tomatoes are cooling is direct-from-the-source spring water from one of the town's public fountains.


So as you can see, the wonderful spring water of Aso not only makes wonderful tea but also deliciously chilled tomatoes, too.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Castle Moonstone

Roughly halfway between Kumamoto and Kagoshima is the city of Hitoyoshi. Known as Kyushu's "little Kyoto" — and a source of some of our green tea — Hitoyoshi contains the remains of a once-mighty castle, Hitoyoshi-jō.


The castle is also known as Sengetsu-jō, which means "Crescent Moon Castle," after a rock that was unearthed during the castle's construction in Japan's Middle Ages. The town that developed under the castle's watchful eye eventually took on its nickname, too.


(Fans of Japanese shōchū may recognize "Sengetsu" as a brand of the brew. The distillery was in fact founded and is still headquartered in Hitoyoshi, and its combination distillery–shōchū museum–tasting room there should be considered a mandatory stop on any tour of Hitoyoshi.)


(Fans of the Monk's videos may remember Hitoyoshi as the site of an old-school dojo where the breathtaking kendo scenes were filmed.)


The perfectly formed crescent-moon shape on the rock was interpreted as an auspicious omen and was carefully preserved over the centuries. Today its home is the meticulously maintained Hitoyoshi Castle Historical Museum (Japanese page here).


Here are two photos I took at the museum: the famous Sengetsu Stone itself and a model of what the castle looked like in its feudal heyday.


The former photo in particular is a near-scoop for the Monk, as there are nearly no other photos of the famous rock online. This may have something to do with the no photographs signs posted throughout the museum . . .


This is just a model, but the remains of the real Hitoyoshi Castle are still preserved today for visitors to explore.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Country coffee shop

Here is a photo of one of my favorite coffee shops in Aso. (Well, I can't drink tea all the time, can I?)


The name is "Ogata," after an inn that once stood on the same spot. The coffee shop's proprietor wanted to honor the old inn and its much-loved owner.



Note the tomatoes cooling in the barrel of natural spring water.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Sooth your body and mind — naturally

A recent study on the mental health benefit of getting outside shows that even just 5 minutes of walking or other activity in a "green space" boosts self-esteem and improves mood.


Going to green places is also good for us physically. For instance, research on forest therapy in Japan shows that simply taking a walk in the woods reduces cortisol levels and boosts the immune system.


Wow. Just reading that already makes me feel better.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Enter your tea recipes in About.com's contest

Every month, About.com's coffee and tea guide holds a tea recipe contest.


The winner of the July contest was the Fruity Green Tea Smoothie. (And as you know, the Monk loves smoothies — especially fruity ones. (Which I would have entered had I known about the contest then.)


While waiting for August's winner to be announced, you can enter the September contest, which is for tea concoctions containing apples.


If you enter, be sure to tell them Mellow Monk sent you — and good luck!




There could be apple in there somewhere. I'll just have to eat it all and find out.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Tea on the go with Tovolo

Design house Tovolo is known for creating a wide range of sharp-looking household goods, including some nifty tea service tools.


And like all good tea accoutrements, Tovolo's do not merely look good — they function well, too.


One such handy, attractive brewing tool is the Teago Mobile Tea Infuser, seen at left and below.


The top portion is the tea storage compartment, which holds enough tea to brew quite a few cups. The bottom part is the filtration device. You pour some of the dry tea leaves from the storage compartment into the filter, then submerge the filter into a waiting cup of hot water.





When brewing is done, you remove the filter and set it aside for repeat steepings. Once the leaves in the filter have yielded all their tasty goodness, you empty the filter and pour in more dry leaves from the compartment.


When it is time to move to a new location, you place the cap over the filter, for no-drip transport. The clip that secures the pen-shaped Teago in your cup can also secure it in a shirt pocket or backpack pouch.


A Teago and some Mellow Monk tea would make a great holiday gift, no?


—Mellow Monk

 

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