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Discover Tea
Updated: 39 min 32 sec ago

Screw Cancer!

14 hours 56 min ago

Despite over 5,000 international studies expounding the health benefits of tea, there still appear to be some questions…….not sure how that can happen, but our FDA isn’t happy with natural products. No profits to be made there. Give them pharmaceuticals and they’re giddy. Plants, not so much.

A long time tea health enthusiast and recent World Tea Expo award winner of the Best Health Advocate 2017 award, Maria Uspenski has generously made her Tea Wellness Lifestyle Guide available to the masses by subscribing to her newsletter. It’s part of her recent book, Cancer Hates Tea.

Through this informative guide, you can learn the nuts and bolts of keeping your body cancer free and giving it the finger if you’ve already succumbed.

This well written guide is suitable for everyone who wants to include tea into their healthy lifestyle. 4 cups a day and you’re good to go. Maria makes terrific suggestions how to get that amount into your daily routine. I especially like starting my morning with a daily tea ritual and then the afternoon tea break helps with any drop in energy after a busy, harried day. This comprehensive guide should be part of everyones lifestyle management program toward optimal health and wellness.

Well done Maria and thanks for sharing. Maria is also the owner of the Tea Spot which is another terrific tea resource. She’s created lots of innovative ways to making brewing whole leaf tea easy and effortless.

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Heavy metals in tea?

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 12:57

Tea fields in China

We all know the health benefits of tea, and in most cases there are few side effects unless you drink in extreme quantities. Heavy metal exposure, though, can lead to a number of problems, especially with young children. Lead poisoning from paint chips is probably the most well-known, since it is present in older homes.

When it comes to contamination, tea is no different than many other foods. Much of the contamination is from the soil and air. The problem is that China has a known reputation for pollution, as evidenced by the massive smog that envelopes Beijing every year. While they are taking steps to reduce pollution, it is still a massive problem. But let’s be clear, China is not the only country with pollution problems. Some of the Chinese emissions also make their way across the ocean along the west coast of the US, contributing to west coast air quality problems as well as finding its way into oceans and contaminating fish.

GOING ORGANIC 

You might think this can be solved by going organic. In the case of heavy metals, being organic has little to no effect. A few years back, consumer reports revealed high levels of arsenic in USA grown organic brown rice. In this case the rice leached heavy metals from the soil that was from activity decades prior. Heavy metals can find their way into tea in the same way, and pretty much into any other food product regardless of organic status.

A few examples:

” […] researchers conducted an analysis of wheat grown on various farms in Belgium; based on the results, they estimate that consumers of organically grown wheat take in more than twice as much lead, slightly more cadmium, and nearly equivalent levels of mercury as consumers of wheat grown on conventional farms. “

“[…] 14 percent to 28 percent of New Zealand’s cattle (destined to be organic beef) were found to have kidney cadmium levels exceeding limits set by the New Zealand Department of Health because of a diet of plants grown in contaminated soil. Similarly, a 2007 study of Greek produce found that organic agriculture does not necessarily reduce the cadmium and lead levels in crops. As it turned out, “certified” organic cereals, leafy greens, pulses, and alcoholic beverages had slightly less heavy-metal contamination than conventional products, but “uncertified” organic products had “far larger concentrations” than conventional ones.”

TEA AND SOIL CONTAMINATION

Contamination of tea can occur by a variety of industrial activity. A big source is coal fired power plans.

It is interesting to note that India, as of 2013, derives 44% of its power from coal, biomass 23% and the nuclear, hydroelectric and renewables only 4 percent combined. China on the other hand, gets 57% from coal, while hydro, wind, solar and nuclear make up over 35% combined. So while net, China uses more coal, their “clean” energy percentage is much higher than India. Nuclear energy is expected to overtake the U.S. in 10 years, with 21 nuclear plants under construction with more planned – mainly to reduce the emissions from coal.  But, for the time being, coal is king.

RECENT STUDIES WITH TEA

These are two recent studies that talk about tea:

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jt/2013/370460/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4762913/

GEOGRAPHY

“It can be explained by the variations in Lead contamination sources of anthropogenic provenance, i.e., batteries, paints, dyes, and heavy industries. Moreover, Souza (2005) implied that 96 % of lead in the atmosphere is of anthropogenic origin.”

What does the above statement mean? Most of the lead in the atmosphere is caused by human activity. China is a large country, but not all of the country is mired in smog or near coal plants. There are many areas that are not polluted, or have nearby topography that blocks pollution from other areas.

7 of the 10 most polluted urban areas in the United States are in California. This does not mean that all California produce and wine should be ruled out (there are studies about heavy metals in wine).

The one thing that I did find is that you can find a study with negative information about almost everything. It will make you want to pull your hair out! 

One report said China acknowledged that 1/5 of its arable land was contaminated. But it doesn’t really provide much in the way of tea production. I did find a specific study in a region which is a big tea producer:

Heavy Metal Pollution in Zhejiang Provence

Their conclusion

“160 samples were in the safety domain, 12 samples in the precaution domain and only 7 samples were slightly polluted. According to the assessment map of tea soil environmental quality, up to 93% of the study area was belonged to safety domain, 6.5% belonged to the precaution domain, whereas only 0.50% area was slightly polluted domain.”

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The first tea studies I referenced have a few things to point out:

“A limitation of this study is that this is a sample of convenience using samples readily available in supermarkets and health food stores in Canada.”

“They were purchased from various tea shops (tea of certified origin) and markets (marketed tea)”.

The first study uses samples found in supermarkets and health food stores. These are not reliable sources of tea. Why? Because big mega brands don’t always source a particular tea from the same plantation. For example, a big mega brand uses a blend of different teas from massive pallets to make their signature tea. Their blender uses his taste buds and a computer to fine tune the formula. Because their blends are measured in tons, it’s pretty hard to determine where exactly the tea comes from.

The second study is a little more reliable in that it uses tea shops as part of its source. Many smaller tea shops don’t purchase from mega distributors and often they will get tea from single source origins. But some mega brands are also on the list, so we don’t know how specific their sourcing methods are.

Here is the main thing when it comes to tea – the higher the elevation, the further away from pollutants and contaminants. Most high end loose tea is grown at higher elevation. Many teas, even non-organic, don’t require pesticides. Cheaper tea, especially in China, is more likely to be grown at lower elevations or nearer to industrial areas. 

OBSERVABLE EFFECTS

We can talk about contamination all we want, but is there any study that actually links tea consumption, or food consumption for that matter, to toxic side effects? We have situations like the minmato incident in Japan where a factory polluted the waters which resulted in people eating highly contaminated seafood many thousands of times beyond what is considered safe. This didn’t mean all Japanese seafood was off limits, just that particular area.

But as for casual exposure, that is very hard to track. Autism, for example, might have roots in heavy metal exposure. But there is no way to know exactly. You might avoid a product from one area, only to get something from another product you thought was safe. Or it could be your zip code. 

But as my research indicates, there is no uniform method for really finding out how much heavy metal exposure you are getting from food. There are a lot of causal relationships, but it’s hard to find any sort of evidence that eating certain foods resulted in specific symptoms.  Saying ‘all tea from China should be avoided’ just doesn’t have enough evidence to support. 

Discover magazine made a good point:

” Unfortunately, eliminating the source isn’t possible for most other pollutants that we breathe, eat, drink, and absorb through our skin whether we want to or not, including man-made chemicals such as phthalates and perfluorooctanoic acids, which are found in Teflon and other widespread products. The basic chemistry of these and thousands of other manufactured compounds incorporated in everyday products do not appear in nature; they have entered our environment so recently that our genes, cells, brains, and bodies have not yet evolved mechanisms for coping with them.”

RELIABLE SOURCES

People are getting more educated and have access to more information than ever before. Not all of it is actionable. I had a piece of tuna recently that had a stamp on it with a number where you could track its origin. I plugged it in and it actually showed where the fish was caught and a picture of the fishermen. Pretty cool. But apart from making me feel good, it didn’t say how many parts per million of mercury it contained.

Think of investing – you can find all sorts of good news/bad news on Yahoo finance. The authors are paid to make up some sort of story that fits what’s going on with the markets. You’d go broke if you bought and sold stock based on reading these articles. The same goes with health articles. The amount of “avoid this, eat that” is overwhelming. In reality, common sense and moderation are probably your best bet. 

WHAT TO DO WITH TEA?

Going through a purveyor that knows what they are doing is a must. Most of the network of importers that supply the smaller tea businesses are responsible and reputable. They provide lots of information about tea sourcing and most of them test the tea farms they do business with on a regular basis. Any good tea farm will also be registered for the FDA and other 3rd party western organizations that do independent verification. It’s in their best interest – customers demand better tea, and better tea will have superior taste (somehow I doubt a polluted tea will taste as good) and command higher prices. 

The larger the company, and especially if you are dealing with national grocery chains, tea becomes more obscure. Tea can be mixed with other tea, bundled in huge pallets and otherwise not traceable to a particular source. 

If you drink tea a lot, avoid grocery stores and buy from non-mass market tea companies. Good companies will have details and will be able to provide credentials if asked. Ask questions if you get hooked on a specific tea.

DIVERSIFY

Never put all your eggs in one basket. It’s probably prudent to mix your teas up – and not just drink one type, even if it’s “safe” in heavy quantities. Rotate your selections and sources and drink in moderation. It is my opinion that the health benefits of drinking quality tea far outweigh contamination risks.

IN CONCLUSION

Being selective with tea from China (and in general) will help mitigate the risks of contamination. Currently, there is not enough evidence to suggest avoiding all Chinese tea. Based on the studies, be selective and opt for the higher grown varieties of tea.

What are your thoughts? Have you changed tea drinking habits based on bad publicity? Do you scrutinize other food? 

Other references:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/green_room/2008/09/rusted_roots.html

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/lead-contamination-of-tea/

 

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Refreshing Hibiscus Tea

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 12:42

The flowers and leaves of the hibiscus plant are widely known to have an abundance of benefits for the skin and hair. In fact, at home in India, we often make a concoction of coconut oil simmered with hibiscus flowers and curry leaves to apply on the hair.

Having been in the UAE for more than a decade now, I have always seen dried hibiscus flower petals in the supermarkets and the spice markets which have bags full of dried fruits, flowers and spices on sale. The shop sellers informed me that the hibiscus flowers help lower blood pressure. A little research on the internet revealed I had stumbled upon hibiscus tea and it seems to be a popular drink in several parts of the world, hot or cold. Especially in the scorching heat these days I enjoy sweet hibiscus tea as a refreshing drink served over plenty of ice. The color of the drink is particularly inviting and it has a deliciously crisp, tangy, and tart taste.

Hibiscus tea may be prepared by adding dried or fresh hibiscus flowers to boiling water until they release their colorful and flavorful essence. I like to add a small cinnamon stick while brewing the tea and sometimes a dash of lime before serving. The rosy red colour of hibiscus is in itself stunning. The tea could be made more inviting by using dried rose petals for decoration. One may garnish with any other ingredient such as mint.

It is known to have an abundance of health benefits including the management of cholesterol levels and is also rich in several vitamins and minerals.

Now, sipping on a glass of chilled hibiscus tea and settling down with a nice book is one of my favorite things to do during the long summer days.

image, image

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Lapsang Souchong Star – Black Tea

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:41
Bare your blissful darkness,  a dance, wisps of smoke reveal, satisfaction weaves taste buds of time,  craving moments alone – a smokey kiss,  embers sparkle in the night.  Lapsang Souchong from the Wuyi mountains of Fujian province, China, is a twisted-leaf black tea and is made from the lower leaves away from the tea bud. The lower leaves are dried by a smokey fire and this is traditionally done over pine wood fusing this tea with the aromatic smoke. While enjoying this tea, it reminds me of Laphroaig Four Oak single malt scotch whiskey, aromas of pine, fir willow and oak embers. Smokey sophistication fits this black tea.

Savour the smoke flavor as you pour a red amber brown hued liquor into your cup. This aggressively aromatic black tea brings warm memories of campfires in summer and laughter with friends.  Lapsang Souchong Star is organic and available at DavidsTea.

 Infusing Instructions: 

Warm your tea pot, drain, add 1 to 2 teaspoons to 475 ml (16oz) near boiling water. Infuse the leaves for 4-7 minutes.

I discovered you can steep Lapsang Souchong up to 3 times. That said, the intensity diminishes with additional infusions.

Interested in individually designed tea reviews? Weaving compelling visual stories for social media is a passion of mine. I love creating immersive illustrated reviews that awaken people to tea and culture. If you desire an illustrated review to engage your followers, please contact me.

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Blast from the past: We all love tea, we may just see it differently

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:43

This article was originally published to T Ching in June of 2015.

If we’re here as contributors, readers or both, it’s most likely because we are fans of tea.   Chef Wemischner loves to be creative with tea in recipes. Ifang Hsieh enjoys traveling and finding new tea experiences.  Michelle Rabin appreciates the health and relaxation benefits of tea.  Rajiv Lochan loves to promote great tea from India and to support small family estates and tea workers.  And so on and so on.  But we all are passionate about tea in one way or another.

Tea is the neutral in all of this.  It allows each of us to build on it whatever we choose to build.  We can steep it, brew it in a machine, infuse it into candy or cookies, and nowadays into cocktails or beer, blend it, grind it to a fine powder, oxidize it (or not), put it in soap to bathe with, lotions to soothe our skin, extracts, vitamins, and so much, much more.  Tea is a leaf and will never be more or less.  It’s what we choose to do with the leaf that has brought about such a huge, multi-faceted group of businesses and people for whom it is the focus.

Tea is white, or green, or yellow, or oolong or black . . . or pu-erh.  Or matcha.  It is delicious to some, a turn-off to others.  It makes some extremely happy, others it just leaves cold.  It has become equal to coffee in foodservice sales, mainly iced and black.  It is an ancient plant with a current surge of trendiness.  As Mintel Global Market Research says:  Tea is hot.

Our grandmothers made us drink it when we were sick, usually with honey.  Now many drink it to stay well and feel good, with great enjoyment.  It has lived in bags for too many years when it would rather be swimming free.  It has been studied by great scientists who have proven what those grandmothers already knew.  Tea is not only good — it’s good for you.

What do you love about tea?  There’s no right or only answer.  A relationship with tea is what you make it.

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Icy tea and creamy ice cream

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 14:31

As summer approaches with a vengeance is most parts of the country, my hot tea drinking habit is being supplanted by cold brewed tea served in glasses filled with ice cubes made from tea. And instead of seasonal stone fruit pies served warm, hours out of the oven, I opt for icy cold desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth. Not veering too far from my allegiance to tea, either in beverage form or as an ingredient in a dessert, I have been making all kinds of tea ice, granitas if you will, as a topping for a condensed milk-based ice cream. The hardest thing about this is deciding which tea to feature. Here’s my advice. Pick any tea you like to imbibe with dairy. For me, the teas from Assam, malty or otherwise, fit the bill but feel free to venture beyond the conventional.  

You will discover how pleasurable the dessert is when experiencing how the icy granita contrasts with the seriously creamy ice cream. As a professional pastry chef and instructor, I contend that two textures are better than one when it comes to desserts.  And if you have a buttery shortbread or crispy vanilla wafer on hand, crush it into irregular shards to add yet another layer of texture to the dessert.  Here’s how to achieve that icy/creamy contentment:

The dessert will serve 4 to 6 generously.

Tea Granita

Use 16 ounces of brewed tea, slightly sweetened and see the instructions below.

Brew any tea you like, slightly stronger than you would if you were drinking it hot, and then immediately add just enough sugar or other sweetener to barely sweeten it. Cool it and then pour it out into a shallow freezer-safe vessel. Freeze until it starts to crust over. Stir vigorously with a fork to break down the ice crystals and return the dish to the freezer. Freeze again for about one more hour (this could take longer, depending on your freezer—check it every 10 or 15 minutes to monitor its progress). Remove from the freezer and stir again. Now you should be able to dig down to the bottom of the dish and scrape all of the mixture thoroughly until you achieve a pleasantly granular texture.  Freeze again, covered, and make the ice cream.

For the Condensed Milk Ice Cream:

The main ingredient comprises both dairy and sweetener so there is no need for added sugar.

8 ounces heavy cream

1   14 ounce can of condensed milk

8 ounces of whole fat milk

Heat cream and then add the condensed milk. Stir to dissolve completely. Cool for about 15 minutes and then add the milk, stirring to combine all ingredients. Freeze in an ice cream machine (either one that requires the canister to be frozen overnight before using it), or one that has a built-in coolant surrounding the bowl into which you place the ice cream mixture. If you have to wait a day to process the mixture into ice cream, make the mixture anyway, chill it covered in the refrigerator (it will “ripen,” or gain flavor complexity, to use ice cream parlance) and then freeze the mixture on the next day. Once the ice cream mixture has been frozen, scrape it into an airtight container and place in the freezer. Depending on how cold your freezer is, it may be necessary to remove the ice cream from the freezer and place in the refrigerator to soften it slightly before serving.

To serve, scoop the ice cream into chilled bowls. Top with Tea Granita (if necessary, break it up again with a fork to create a granular texture) and a cookie, crumbled, if you’d like. Take your bows quickly before everything melts. Enjoy!

image

 

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A Perfect Pairing: Tea and Chocolate

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 12:00

You’re probably already an expert when it comes to pairing up different types of wine with food. White or red, fish or steak, it’s something you always consider before throwing a dinner party. It’s practically an art.

However, did you know that serving up tea with the right flavor of chocolate can be equally challenging? Not only does it bring out the best of both worlds, it also makes setting out to discover the perfect pairing on your own much more fun. That being said, it’s not an easy task at all, so we’ll point out a few things that might help you on your journey.

 The combination

First of all, you should take into consideration the strength, depth, and subtle notes of the flavors you want to combine. For example, strong black teas go better with an equally strong taste of a darker chocolate, while lighter teas compliment milk or white chocolate better. As explained by chocolatier Patricia Christopher – “You need flavors that will stand up to each other. If you take a bite of chocolate, and then you have a sip of tea, and you still taste the flavor of the chocolate, then you know it’s a good pairing.”

Secondly, quality is very important, so make sure you choose a good quality chocolate which has a high percentage of cocoa butter and preferably no hydrogenated oils. The same goes for tea, however judging its quality depends on many different factors such as the raw condition of the leaf, country of origin, climate, etc. So, the best way to judge tea quality is to taste it yourself.

 How to pair it up

White chocolate

White chocolate is made with cocoa butter, sugar and milk, and the strong sweet taste is its main characteristic. So, when pairing it up, look for similar sweet tastes. However, you could also try something a bit different and mix it up with notes that are more on the bitter side. Types of tastes usually found in white chocolate are macadamia nuts, berries, coconut or lemon. Having these flavors in mind, try matching them with complementary tea styles found in Master Wei’s Dragonwell Green tea, lemongrass based Tisanes, Jasmine scented green tea or even Matcha. Known as one of the most ‘bitter’ tasting green teas, Matcha’s strong flavor goes very well with the sweetness of the white chocolate.

Milk chocolate

Milk chocolate contains 10-40% of cacao, milk fat, milk solids and sweeteners, which makes its taste mild, sweet and creamy. So, it’s probably the most suitable type of chocolate for combining with all sort of different tea types. It works well with spicier tea blends as well as the smokey black ones. So generally, pair it up with any black tea, preferably without milk, since it will spoil the taste. Then go for Houjicha whose roasty and toasty notes go well with sweet foods. Genmaicha is essentially a mix of green tea and roasted rice which give it a nutty flavor, perfect for combining with the creaminess of milk chocolate.

No wonder this type of chocolate has become one of the most popular flavors in the world, regularly present in all sorts of celebrations and events. No holiday season would be complete without a nice box of chocolates. Just imagine eating a delicious bar of Christmas chocolate and drinking a warm cup of tea. All those wonderful seasonal flavors of chocolate such as gingerbread, hazelnut or cinnamon go perfectly well with salted caramel tea or Ceylon black tea with a hint of pungent cloves and orange peels.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate has a higher content of cocoa butter, less milk and is relatively low in sugar which gives it a robust flavor often combined with both sweet and spicy notes. That’s why it tolerates really bold, tannic-heavy types of tea. Some of the best combinations include types of rich Chinese black tea like an aged pu’er, a bud such as Yunnan Golden Buds and oolong with its rich cinnamon notes, or honey flavored Tie Guan Yin.

Choose wisely

If you decide on a remarkable chocolate or an extraordinary tea, pair them only with something similar in quality. It won’t do either any good if you choose something less.

Flavored teas, artificial in taste shouldn’t be combined with fine chocolate. The key is to focus on texture and layers of each flavor individually. Only then will you be able to make them work together.

 

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Newbie Tips for Japanese Tea

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:52

Everyone loves an acronym, so at Chiki Tea, we decided to get in on the game too: WATT.

It’s a helpful way for beginners to remember the vital points of making potentially fussy Japanese green tea.

WATT stands for:

Water Amounts Temperature Time Water

We often take for granted the foundation ingredient in a cup of tea. Water!

For your usual cup of Lipton’s or PG tips, this isn’t a very big issue. But when it comes to very delicate, highly sensitive sencha, kabusecha and matcha, the type and quality of water you use becomes imperative.

At the very least, ensure your water is filtered or bottled. Filtering can be done through a Brita or similar water filtration system, but avoid using an RO (that’s reverse osmosis!) system. For tea, an RO removes the many minerals along with the gunk making your tea taste flat. We are advocates of adding binchotan (Japanese white charcoal) to both filter and add minerals to the water.

Bottled water should be high quality and not the cheapo gallons you buy at Walmart… where you can actually smell the plastic before you take the first sip! Evian on the other hand has too many minerals in it, so avoid that too. Distilled is also a tea-taste killer.

If you’re lucky and live near a natural spring, draw fresh living water straight from the source. You wont’ believe how amazing your tea will taste! We have natural springs and mountain water all around us in Kyushu, including a natural spring 80 meters below our building which comes straight out of the tap! It’s worth a trip to Japan just to taste this water!

Amounts

For the best cup of tea, the amount of water and the amount of leaves is vital. It’s all about the ratio. And over time, you will find the ratio of tea-to-water that your tastebuds prefer.

It sounds obvious, but if you use too few leaves, the tea will taste too weak! But often times people think they can get around this by steeping it longer. This might work with Chinese or Indian black and oolongs but not for fresh Japanese teas.  See below for ‘Time’. Likewise, adding too many leaves and the tea can quickly taste overbearing, bitter, even fishy.

I suggest the following ratios for most Japanese green teas:

  • Single serving: 8g tea / 200ml water
  • Double serving: 16g tea / 400ml

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes a few more leaves for a slightly stronger profile is recommended, but these ratios are a good starting point to find your perfect taste.

Temperature

Tea connoisseurs might roll their eyes at this point, but the truth is, outside of our tight-knit circle, few people know about this rule: when it comes to Japanese green tea, avoid using boiling water.

If the water is too hot, it will force the extraction too quickly, in effect scalding the leaves, and result in a very bitter flavour brought on by the caffeine. The balance is completely thrown off kilter.

Aim for water between 70ºC and 80ºC  (158ºF – 176ºF) for pure greens and 90°C (194°F) for houjicha and some genmaicha teas.

Hon Gyokuro and regular Gyokuro require very cool water – around 55°C (131°F) for the first steep, slightly hotter for the second and slightly hotter yet for the third steep. The waiting time is roughly 2 minutes,  90 seconds and 30 seconds respectively, depending on your leaves.

Time

One minute is the universal guide. Once you become proficient at steeping Japanese tea, you will instinctively learn how to read the leaves and know when the time is up. If you go into any tea shop in Japan and watch the owner making a pot of tea, she will never use a timer, or a thermometer for that matter. Soon you will be able to do this!

As a general rule, hotter water requires less steeping time; therefore, a 90°C pot of houjicha is generally steeped for 30-45 seconds max for the ultimate flavor, without that burned taste if you go too long.

All four of the WATT aspects of tea-making are inextricably linked. It’s what makes steeping Japanese green tea both an art and a science!

WATT FUN (water amounts temperature time for ultimate newbies)! We hope this little acronym is useful – it makes our cute Japanese customers giggle as they practice their English.

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JusTea: A Passion for Purple & A Passion for People

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 12:52

Wouldn’t we all like to know that the tea we’ve purchased benefited the lives of others?  At JusTea that is just what happens–however it’s not just tea, it’s JUST tea; justly made in Kenya, justly farmed by Kenyans, justly sourced by Canadians, and justly delicious!

I met Grayson Bain, the founding “father” of JusTea.com at the World Tea Expo a few years back and this post is long overdue. This giant of a man indeed has a giant heart and is doing something in Kenya for which all of us in the tea industry can take pride. You simply must explore the JusTea website; trust me, your heart will be delighted.

The Bain family, from Vancouver, B.C., (fellow Canadians) has undertaken a mission with the small farmers from Kenya that helps entire families of the farmers. What they are doing for women-owned businesses too is something grand as well.

The Bain family-owned and operated business believes in trade, not aid.

“Charity has no end – but business creates jobs. When people earn a steady wage, there is no longer a need for charitable donations. Money circulates in the village, and boosts the local economy. More than $1 trillion has been given as aid money to African nations over the last 50 years, but many countries are poorer and more in debt than ever before. Business creates opportunity for the development of resources, infrastructure, and wealth. JusTea is dedicated to putting people to work, while still making profits in Kenya and North America.”

I recently received some tea samples from their new Purple Tea line, and they are certainly worth sharing. Here is a short video featuring their Purple Tea:

“Purple Tea is low in caffeine and organically grown. This vibrant tea is the only tea to contain anthocyanins, the same super-antioxidants that are found in other purple plants, like blueberries and pomegranates. Anthocyanins have been found to lower cholesterol, improve immune health, and help as a natural anti-inflammatory. Similar to a green tea, our farmers craft Purple Tea as an unoxidized leaf to retain the most health benefits.”

I have to admit that their Purple Rain blend is marvelous, and is also helping the women that grow the herbs that have been added to their Purple Tea.

I will long cherish the hand-carved wooden spoon I received along with the tea samples. “Steep the perfect cup of tea with this one-of-a-kind, hand-carved Kenyan teaspoon. We employ 20 different woodworking families through the sales of these beautiful olive wood spoons. The spoon project is lead by husband and wife, Paul and Penina, with members of the carving community of Makweni (just east of Mt. Kenya). Each spoon purchase creates employment for artisans of the Makweni community.”

The spoons sell for $3.00 each! If several of you simply purchased six of those spoons, and gave them to cherished tea friends, you’d make quite an impact in the lives of Kenyan families. You must try their teas, too!

I have great admiration for the Bain family and their work with small-scale tea farmers which provides them with new opportunities for sustainable growth, as well as employment for the farmer’s families. Their focus on ethical, natural, and quality tea deserves to be recognized. It is my honor to share my tea experience, but moreso the heart-warming journey of new families from two separate countries all becoming one.

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Reminder: Not all studies are created equal

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 12:00

We’ve heard it all before:

“Green tea has been shown to cure X!”

“This study shows the catechins in tea have been proven to Y!”

“This one study proves tea cures cancer!”

We’ve heard these statements so often we take them for granted. We’ve heard these claims so much we don’t even bother to check the sources anymore. They’re basically fact. But there is one thing we should always remind ourselves:

Not all studies are equal.

The problem is that the media loves to latch onto the latest in studies that could be spun however they like. Have you ever noticed that certain foods (most commonly coffee and wine) seem to go in and out of vogue from year to year? Sometimes coffee has been proven to increase your likelihood of getting sick, and other times it’s a preventative measure for high blood pressure or some such? Sometimes carbs are the enemy. Sometimes it’s fat.

Have you ever noticed that debaters always have data that backs their argument, whether they are on one side or an issue or the other? Why is it that global warming deniers have as much research on their side as global warming promoters?

Individual studies by themselves often contradict others trying to prove/disprove the same things. And a lot of times, when we look at studies, we find that they may not have been as reputable as we thought.

Two of the biggest things to look for (and to be clear, these are not the only warning signs) when checking out a study are sample size and who is sponsoring the study.

Who is financing a particular study?

Often times we forget that almost all things–whether documentaries or newspapers or scientific studies–have a bias. All things have a bias, even from sources that claim not to have any.

A  cola brand (hint: it’s the brand with the red cans) got in trouble with the media a couple years ago for funding a number of allegedly bogus studies that attempted to convince people that cutting sugar out of a diet isn’t nearly as effective as exercising, and so you really shouldn’t cut out all the pop from your diet (something I can tell you is a load of horse hockey). Does this sound fishy? It should.

Studies need to be funded somehow and getting money from a party who has much to gain from positive results is a great way to get your research done. But these need to be taken with a shaker full of salt. The results can be completely accurate, but sometimes the data gets skewed. And we need to be on constant watch for it.

How big is the study?

It’s pretty intuitive: the more data collected, the better, right? Right. The larger the sample size, the more accurate the results can be. It’s much easier to see a trend from a sample of 1000 people than it is from 50. So when we see a study claiming it has found a link between the consumption of, say, green tea, and a decrease in some disease, a small sample size doesn’t really prove anything except that a larger test needs to be called for.

These kinds of studies are great for news sites and blogs because you can pretty much prove whatever you want with a small enough sample size. The smaller a sample size the closer it approaches anecdotal evidence, which is a far cry from a proven fact.

This isn’t to say that all studies with small sample sizes are bad, but when your only evidence of a thing is with one or two very small studies that merely suggest that thing, you have to wonder how accurate these studies are.

On top of all of this, there is such a thing as just plain bad science. Studies that look at the wrong variables. Studies that look at correlation and say it’s causation. Just plain bad science. And these are the studies that are picked up by the media, get a lot of attention, and stick with us long after these studies are disproven or the “scientists” even come out and admit their information was faulty. The damage has been done, and millions still think vaccines give you autism (they don’t), and that sex burns enough calories we don’t need to exercise (wishful thinking, but no). Data can be manipulated to say whatever we want.

And, just as a reminder: a study that says “X suggests Y” or “A has been shown to B” is not the same thing as saying that “X always means Y” and “A proves B”. A study saying that green tea has been shown to prevent or delay the onset of cancer does not mean that green tea is a cure for cancer.

And we are part of the problem, too! We are all too happy to find the first link on Google that “proves” our point and find the first study that claims what we’re trying to prove, even if the study is by no institution we’ve ever heard of and is more than a little bit questionable. We share these things like they’re viruses, and we’ve unintentionally hurt people with faulty information. I’m not trying to call anyone out–I’m calling everyone out. We need to be more vigilant in finding real research.

The sooner we can commit to finding real information, the better off we are. And if the current American political climate is any indication, we are in desperate need of some real information and honesty.

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