With every sip of tea I drink, my heart goes out to Japan… March 11,2011 Tsunami

Dear Tea Lovers, Dear Blog Readers…

This tiny corner of internet universe, as you know, is dedicated to TEA – my favourite drink for whom I have only a seemingly inexplicable passion and love. I love travel writing, well actually, I like writing in general,  writing as such 🙂 – describing my tiny fragments of life to others  🙂 , another (apart from singing)  form of that most heartwarming life miracle called SHARING. However this particular little project of mine is purely dedicated to that marvelous infusion drank reportedly for over 4000 years thanks to most incredible properties of a humble subspecies of camellia plant, and the genius of people who discovered that by drying and rolling its leaves in various different ways one can achieve thousands of flavours and whole worlds of drinking experiences…

But how can I write about my joys of tasting an excellent cup of hand-rolled oolong when hundreds of thousands of people in Japan – a “second” after China, historically speaking, home to tea, Japan who built its own tea history and contributed so heavily to tea culture – have been misplaced, have lost their everything, have perished in the waves and are still missing and feared dead?

Not that the disaster in Haiti or Christchurch were less terrible and heartbreaking (the blog was set up after Haiti earthquake) but in general the question of “how to write about small-er matters faced with such a tragedy”   (or any other everyday  smaller or bigger tragedies?) keeps popping in my head  together with guilt and sadness…

One friend suggested: Maja, write about JAPANESE teas… to celebrate what Japan has given to us.

Indeed I was going to share here the joy of receiving a package of top quality sencha that a Japanese friend promised to bring for me from his trip back home. He landed on the day of the earthquake,  and it feels awfully wrong to ask about it now, when i look at the BBC news website publishing today the pictures of villages on the North East coast  that were literally entirely swept away, by cruel devastating and unstoppable waves leaving emptiness behind…

Together with the news of the tsunami last Friday I got an email from a family member sharing some sad personal news… A small tragedy too. Far smaller, for sure, embarrassingly smaller, yet saddening too.. I read the email, accepted what I was told, then, without even thinking of it, I made myself a cup of tea to quietly cheer myself up.  Japanese people I met always amazed me with their peaceful approach to life, smile  and kindness offered to everyone, & quiet presence, so much in contrast with the crazy passionate, noisy perhaps and definitely rebel nature I have… I know – that may sound stereotypical (i m sure there are red  & hot blooded Japanese too 🙂 but aren’t we all full of admiration for the country facing “worst crisis since WWII”  and its citizens’ stoicism in coping with something we still find hard to register? And that stoicism, stopping for a while, appreciation and peaceful acceptance, even when dealing with most tragic circumstances, is intricately linked to TEA – after all, the masters of tea who spread the word about its meditation helping qualities were buddhist monks such as Lu Yu  – the ‘Tea Saint’ & probably the most famous Tea writer ever heard of.

It feels so wrongly lighthearted to write about tea in time when so many of my Japanese friends suffer from this terrible tragedy… but even though I may write about such unimportant futile fragile things as tea leaves,  with every sip I drink, my heart goes out to Japan & every sip reminds me about the hope and prayers I keep on in my heart for all those affected by the earthquake.

Petal

PS. The least we can do for our Friends in Japan is donate:

This a link to Red Cross Appeal:

http://www.redcross.org.uk/Donate-Now/Make-a-single-donation/Japan-Tsunami-Appeal

and below links to two interesting articles on the disaster I found online:

http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/11/sympathy-for-japan-and-admiration/

http://www.penmachine.com/2011/03/modern-japan-saved-lives

Published in: on March 14, 2011 at 2:00 AM  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,

Let’s strengthen our winter-hurt bodies by the power of Green Tea – Japanese Bancha by Tea Palace – Tea of the month – January 2011

January 14th 2011

Dear Tea Aficionados  🙂

Please accept my belated wishes for a blessed & joyful Happy New Year! 🙂 🙂 🙂

May it bring the fulfillment of your most secret dreams ! & a lot of smiles on your faces :)!

I beg you to accept my apologies for such a break  😦  in posting! which was caused by an extremely busy end of the year & a serious back injury (a very naughty disc which every now and then makes it nearly impossible to sit & type 😦 ). To prevent such delays in future, I have now left my job & become a FREE-lancer, and I solemnly promise you never ever fail your dearest blog-readership needs! 🙂

I’ve decided  I will now chose a special Tea every month, (not every week) & write about it in a bit more depth, yet add some extra tips, ideas, recipes etc every week or even every day  🙂 whenever possible 🙂 to give you some tea inspiration as often as possible!

We start a year with a tea that will help your weakened bodies, after months of cold & wind of winter, get back their ‘mojo’ s 🙂  & kick off the new year with new strength & energy! Remember Benjamin Franklin who told us to eat many many  apples because “ an apple a day (supposedly :)) keeps the doctor away” ? (Benjamin , but what if  I actually fancy doctors, like dr Mc Dreamy for example 🙂  and do not want them to be away at all? Ha? 🙂 )

Well, what if I told you that One, yes just one! O – N- E single cup of green tea contains 200 milligrams of catechins (a form of antioxidants), which equals to….. 8 apples!!!  ( Not bad, Benjamin, you have to admit:) ) & has greater antioxidant effect than.. serving a broccoli! (as tasty as it is :)).

But, why Maja – you’d ask – why  we need antioxidants at all?  A simple answer:  to fight the bad guys i.e. free radicals present nearly everywhere  & causing damage to cells and DNA and therefore believed to be responsible for cancers and other health problems, including aging. Antioxidants help us by neutralizing the free radicals. This is obviously a very simplified explanation :). If you want to understand it better in all the scientific details, I recommend clicking on http://www.healthchecksystems.com/antioxid.htm. If you, however want only grasp the bigger picture, well I have a bigger picture for you:

So now, knowing that you need antioxidants to battle the nasty and evil free radicals, what would you say for a cup of green tea if you knew that just 1 gram!! of it contains as much as 127 milligrams of catechins, while 100 grams of dark chocolate has only 54 milligrams of them?  (sorry chocolate, i like you too but…. 🙂 ) .  Thanks to  green tea’s high content of antioxidants, “it  reduces fat absorption, eliminates toxins from the liver, increases your metabolism and improves the appearance of your skin”. (emeyu.com). That is why, my tea darlings :), I would like to recommend to you, in these cruel cold windy months, a cup of JAPANESE BANCHA from Tea Palace.

Japanese Bancha is harvested from the ‘second flush’ which means picked at the end of the season  in late summer.  Bancha’s leaves are older and therefore coarse & much larger than leaves of other green teas (It is even sometimes called a ‘three year old tea” as leaves used for its production can be that old). Because of its age, Bancha is considered one of the lowest cheapest grades of tea (making it an everyday drink in the country of Cherry Blossoms :)), but that does not mean low quality, oh no! Bancha has a very unique flavour, a delicate grassy smooth taste, and is still rich with helpful antioxidants; and because leaves are older &  Bancha can also contain some stalks or stems, it has less caffeine then the finer grades of tea, and tastes milder – so mild that Japanese parents reportedly serve it to their children (any Japanese readers out there? Please confirm if that is true indeed 🙂 while I shall ask my Japanese friends about that & report my findings to you very soon :)). Japanese green teas look and taste different as, in contract to teas in China, they are not  pan-fired but steamed.

You can clearly notice the difference in shape and colour comparing Bancha leaves to e.g. gunpowder – Japanese green teas look more like grass, and indeed have a very pleasant delicate grassy taste. There is  no shade of bitterness ( I am saddened  every time I hear someone “does not like green tea because it s bitter” 😦 –  it should never ever be deeply bitter, unless it is brewed too long.. 😦 )  – Bancha is a great afternoon drink with a fine, light and clean flavour. Experts recommend brewing it in water not hotter than 80 degrees Celsius, and advise to add it to your menu if you are on a microbiotic diet.

I read somewhere that “A 2006 study showed that elderly Japanese people who drank more than 2 cups of green tea a day had a 50% lower chance of cognitive impairment than those who drank less green tea, or who consumed other tested beverages”. Sounds very over-educated, I know :). Well, for me it ‘s enough to know that it is super tasty  :)!

Enjoy 🙂

P.S and if you want to find some high street form of the super-good antioxidants, try QI organic fair trade (Chinese) green tea with Ginkgo Biloba famous for boosting our brain’s performance :). 

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 1:54 AM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,