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Blast From the Past: Theoretical Tea

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 13:00

There’s a theory in theoretical physics that explains and links all known phenomena.  It is rather aptly called “the theory of everything,” and is sometimes also known as the final theory.  In fact, it is sort of along the lines of the whole “a butterfly flapping a wing in China can cause a hurricane” thing.  While physicists frantically try to prove this – it’s not all that easy to unify general relativity and quantum mechanics – it’s possible for us to derive our own theories based on that sort of concept.  For example, I’d like to introduce the “tea string theory.”  Disregarding for a moment that the name is a direct ripoff of string theory and doesn’t exactly have to do with anything, my theory states that tea can be linked to everything within our lives.  In an attempt to prove this theory, I’ll examine my own daily activities and point out the overlaps.

My first class is biology.  Pertaining to the current unit, which is genetics, let’s see what happens when we cross certain kinds of tea.  Let’s go with … pomegranate green tea and mint black tea.  Assuming that all genes assort independently, and that the green tea has two dominant pomegranate alleles, and that the black tea has two dominant mint alleles, that would give us either co-dominance or incomplete dominance.  For the sake of trying to figure out what sort of weird plant is produced when combining those two things, we’ll go with co-dominance and say the product is a heterozygous mint-pomegranate tea, which is a little farfetched.

English class can’t be too difficult; after all, it’s already been established that tea appears in literature.  However, we’re reading a very select set of books this year.  For example, I’m sure they had tea back in Romeo and Juliet’s time.  And we read the Cask of Amontillado, by Poe.  Wine isn’t that different from tea, right?  My sustained silent reading book, Wicked, had some of the characters drinking tea.  Fair enough, we’ll go with that.

Third period is speech and debate.  It’s not much of a struggle to come up with how tea relates to that.  I’m sure someone did an expository speech on tea.  Or debated the merits and disadvantages of tea.  Tea versus coffee?  Of course.  All sorts of links in this class.

Moving on to geometry.  I suppose we can calculate the volume and surface area of a mug.  Or the volume of the tea.  The ratio of tea consumed per person would also work, such as 1:1, one cup of tea for every one person.  Or 1:10, depending on how tea enthused (or unenthused) the class is.  What about the viscosity of tea?  Granted, it’s probably the same as water, and that might have a little bit more to do with chemistry than math, but close enough.  Science is a loosely defined subject, after all.

Spanish.  In that language, tea is té.  Go figure.  Now, we could probably go through the rest of the subjects that exist, but I believe the theory holds true.  Tea can be linked to everything within our lives.

MAIN | IMAGE 1

Originally posted on November 2011.

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Travel and Tea

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 13:00

Guest post by: Rebecca Brown

There is something deeply human about brewing and drinking tea. Maybe that’s why tea and travel — another deeply-rooted ancient human pursuit — go so well together.

My lifelong fascination with tea knows no borders. Literally. Whenever I would travel, I would use every stop at a cafe or a restaurant to ask about local tea blends. Different teas are like landmarks on my personal travel map, and my taste buds are always up for a new warm, exotic herbal challenge.

Much like with wine and coffee tasting, a whole new branch of tourism is developing based on tea tasting. While I find this very exciting, I’ve been doing this for too many years to abandon my own, custom tea travel experiences. What I love the most is choosing a long hiking route independent of the tea choice it might offer, and then discovering authentic teas on the way as surprises.

While this is certainly a more exciting approach, it is very uncertain, which is tricky if you rely on tea — or any other commodity — for your mental and spiritual well-being. There were cases where a cafe or a tavern wouldn’t serve teas in the summer. There were also times when only the plainest tea-bag varieties were offered. That’s why I quickly learned to carry some of my favorite “staples” with me. It would be very easy to just ask for a cup of warm water and then infuse my own tea (of course, I would order a dish or a drink to go along!). My cute duck-shaped tea infuser would always bring out smiles of wonder and joy out of the waiters and hosts.

My Latin Tea Adventure

When I decided to finally tackle the Camino de Santiago, I was already preparing myself for the fact that, unlike so many places in Asia, this wouldn’t be an overly tea-exciting trip. I just couldn’t find any detailed info on it, and I supposed that European tea flora has nothing new to offer. Still, I wanted to do the Camino de Santiago for a long time. I convinced myself that it shouldn’t be all about tea after all. I packed my favorite green and black tea blends and went to pursue the Camino Portuguese.

What I completely forgot was that it was the Spanish and Portuguese who colonized one of the tea-richest regions in the world: Latin America. Many centuries ago, they brought the tea traditions of the indigenous people back to Spain and Portugal. And that’s why as soon as I arrived in Portugal, I had the opportunity to try an authentic yerba mate. Mate is an ancient South American strong tea made from dried and ground leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant. It is fairly bitter and very caffeine-rich, which was very convenient considering the energy levels I needed for the pilgrimage.

This tea is also consumed in a particular way – not sipped from the cup, but through a handy tool called the “Bomba” in Portuguese (and “bombilla” in Spanish), which looks like a medieval infuser, but actually functions both as a straw and a sieve, successfully keeping the leaf particles out of your mouth. Drinking real mate is a very energizing, refreshing and somehow uplifting experience. I was able to buy the “bomba” and some mate at an awesome souvenir show any tea admirer would love.

My Portuguese Tea Adventure – to be continued

In Portugal, I also had the opportunity to taste traditional Moroccan tea, and also a big surprise – authentic Portuguese green tea, grown on the Atlantic island of São Miguel! Since green tea is my biggest love, I took some home with me.

And I instantly decided where my next trip will take me!

Image credit

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The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 13:00

The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena, California, was created by landscape designer Kinzuchi Fujii (1875-1957), who commenced the project in 1935 and was forced to abandon the endeavor in 1942 due to World War II internment.

The garden was named after its first patrons, Charles and Ellamae Storrier Stearns, who relocated to Pasadena in 1931 after their marriage the same year. In 1950 gallery owner Gamelia Haddad Poulsen acquired the estate consisting of over seven city lots!

During my recent visit, I examined the garden’s low-crawling plants and was pleasantly surprised to find a few pine trees creeping near the pond and trails. Prominently featured in art and literature, pine — along with bamboo and plum — are known as Winter’s Three Friends in East Asia. Most landscapers install and nurture majestic pines in upright position. The pine trees at the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden were sculpted, possibly by bonsai artists, to showcase the pines’ versatile visage.

Today the park, a neighborhood gem, is smaller and less grandiose than its yesteryear’s existence, yet it possesses all the essential elements of a notable garden: A pond with koi, a tea house where tea ceremony is regularly held, and aura of equanimity. In 2005, the Garden became a California Historical Landmark and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Images provided by author.

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The Perfect Treats to Pair with Afternoon Tea

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 13:00

Guest article by: Lucy Wyndham.

There is nothing quite like finding the perfect treat to go along with your tea. While the tradition of afternoon tea is usually associated with the British, it is now a delight that is enjoyed around the world—there’s even a growing trend in afternoon tea in the U.S. And it makes sense that this tradition is transcending cultural barriers, as many Americans looking for nutritional choices realize that there are many health benefits to drinking tea, like the influx of antioxidants and boost to the immune system.

But no matter where or how you enjoy your afternoon tea, it can be an even more pleasing routine if you find a sweet treat to pair with your warm, aromatic drink. Though it may not always be the healthiest choice to indulge in a pastry or baked good with your tea, it is fine every once in a while to satisfy your sweet craving. Here is a guide to a few afternoon tea treats inspired by the British:

Buttermilk Scones and Jam

Scones are a staple of afternoon tea and of British pastries, and this comes as no surprise. Sinking your teeth into a delicious, warm buttermilk scone that crumbles in your mouth will be a real treat for your taste buds. Paired with the right tea, like a steeped, rich black tea or a cream tea, will be a true delight. Add some fresh raspberry jam to your scone, and dip some of it right into your tea! The combination of tastes will be like a symphony in your mouth.

Hot Cross Buns

Another signature British treat that is a perfect addition to your afternoon tea is a hot cross bun. A popular Easter tradition in the UK, these buns are made from rich, yeast dough consisting of flour, milk, butter, eggs, currant, sugar, and spices. Depending on the recipe you use or decide to try, these buns can be filled with other goodies, like yellow candied peels or mixed dried fruit. Their naturally sugary taste and salty seasonings will always go nicely with a warm cup of tea.

Healthy Tea Sandwiches

A third idea for an afternoon tea treat is to select some delightful finger sandwiches to eat. Choosing a finger sandwich over a pastry is a good way to make a healthier choice while still getting the British effect of the afternoon tea tradition. Selecting a sandwich that includes vegetables — like a cucumber-butter or olive-focaccia combo — is a good way to be more healthy at tea-time and is likely to pair well with whichever flavor tea you are drinking.

Thanks to the British, there are plenty of scrumptious snacks to eat alongside your afternoon tea—so why not try them all?

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BioHacking

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 13:00

What the heck is Biohacking?

Amid all the talk about anonymous (or not so anonymous) hackers stealing valuable personal information and closely guarded state secrets from “secure” databases all over the globe, the word ‘hacking’ has taken on both a complicated and seemingly trepidatious connotation. Couple this with “Bio”, and we suddenly enter the realm of mad scientists attempting to hijack your brain to their own nefarious ends. Thankfully for all of us, this is not what Biohacking is, nor are the intentions of the Biohacking community that is participating in this growing movement to somehow break your biological code in the interests of some underground science experiment. The emphasis of what Biohacking is all about is to view your own biological functions as a system. More specifically, as a system that is very much dependent on what variables are presented to it.

A simple way to think about this is with tea. You wake up in the morning and are still shaking off the pixie dust that put you in bed the night before, and you are (unless you’re a possibly mythical “morning person”) probably groggy and running at around 80%. Then you boil some water, steep your favorite tea (loose leaf of course), and your pre-tea groggy brain goes from being ready to hop back into bed to a post-tea wide awake brain that is ready to conquer the day, running at nearly 100%. What is the difference?

The Tea of course!

Another way to think about this is to imagine that you were about to run a 5k at 12pm tomorrow afternoon. You wake up in the morning around 8am and one version of yourself has a juiced kale smoothie with some steel cut oats and a little fruit for breakfast, and the other version of yourself grabs some takeout with a deliciously sugary coffee, a piping hot bacon croissant sandwich, and of course a glazed doughnut (or 4) on the side. Which version of you finishes first? If the answer is obvious, then you can now put a label on what was probably common sense all along.

You get out what you put in!

The fact is, drinking tea didn’t change you into a morning person (as much as we wish it would), and having a healthy breakfast didn’t turn you into an Olympic distance runner, but what these things did do was provide your body with the precise stimuli it needed for you to express the best version of yourself in these situations. This is what Biohacking is all about. Anything that you can put in, on, or around your unique (and not so unique) human system to enhance its (i.e. your own) performance and well-being falls into the realm of Biohacking. Scientists and people from all walks of life are using everything from noise-cancelling headphones to nootropic (brain boosting) supplements to try to be the best versions of themselves, and are making groundbreaking developments in enhancing areas of our lives as far-flung as energy and memory, sleep and happiness, to just about every other conceivable realm of human existence. These are truly exciting times! We are always focusing on ways that tea can enhance a person’s life, and once we discovered that Biohacking is all about personal enhancement, we knew that we could use the concept to do some Biohacking of our own. The best place to start? A powerful amino acid called L-Theanine.

Tea (camellia sinensis) is high in the non-essential amino acid L-Theanine. In fact, Camilla Sinensis (the tea bush) is almost the exclusive natural source of this compound, with the only other sources being found in a few flowering bushes (C. japonica and C. sasanqua) and a Northern European mushroom (Xerocomus badius). L-Theanine is very structurally similar to glutamine (its chemical name is 5-N-Ethyl-Glutamine), which is responsible for the production of GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid) and Glutamate. These neurotransmitters act to regulate the brain’s levels of focus and attention, the formation of new memories, as well as mood regulation and calmness, and a litany of other interneuronal functions. Due to its structural similarities, when L-Theanine is consumed, there are numerous studies that corroboratively report that L-Theanine increases levels of focus and attention, while simultaneously stimulating a non-sedative calmness that is coupled with reductions in self-reported levels of anxiety. This was particularly true when supplemented with caffeine (50mgs of Caffeine to 100mgs of L-theanine), which by itself is well known for its stimulating properties, and in clinical trials the combination is shown to increase focus and reaction time over baseline in basic auditory and visual tasks, importantly more so than when they were taken separately. So, what does all of this mean? The basic mechanism behind this stacking effect is that caffeine excites and produces a sort of energetic buzz, while L-Theanine calms and regulates mood and attentiveness. In combination, L-Theanine and Caffeine are shown to produce a calm, focused, stimulatory effect that is not privy to the jittery sway that high doses (or even low doses) of caffeine can cause. This effect is thus very effective for everything from learning to overall well-being.

So how much L-Theanine do you need? With the end goal of a calm, focused and attentive mindset being our target, it is important to note that this state of mind is largely collaborative with your overall brain function. Thinking systematically, there are a variety of other factors that also play into focus and attention, like your levels of important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, your dietary health, sleep pattern, and exercise levels just as a few examples. With all of this being said, the Biohacking community seems to have landed on a 1:2 Caffeine to L-Theanine ratio for optimal performance, with a 50mg:100mg dosage being used as a mild pick me up, and a 200mg:400mg dose being effective for an intentional boost in calm attentiveness. As with anything, keep your own subjective experience in mind, because what works for others may not be the ideal ratio for you.

By this point you may be asking: how much L-theanine is in tea? A typical 200ml cup of black tea contains roughly 18mg – 30mg of L-Theanine and about 40mg of Caffeine, while green tea typically produces 6mg – 12mg of L-Theanine and roughly 26mg of Caffeine, with the difference being accounted for due to the oxidative process used to create black tea making the leaf more permeable, and thus easier for these active compounds to be steeped into the water. This ratio is problematic for our purposes, because as you can see the ratio between L-Theanine and Caffeine is roughly reversed. This is not to say that drinking tea normally doesn’t produce the synergistic effect that we’re striving for in fact, this is exactly what tea has been reported to be doing for centuries! But, we’re trying to bring this to the next level by reaching the ideal concentration of both of these molecules for maximum focus. The Solution?

Matcha!

Matcha is a wonderful powdered form of green tea that is produced from the same highly sought after shaded tea bushes that are used to create Gyokuro, and due to the shading process used to grow Japan’s finest quality green tea, these leaves are much higher in L-theanine content than their unshaded green tea cousins. How much more? As much as 4x the L-theanine content, or as high as 46mg per serving. Due to the fact that when you drink Matcha you are consuming the whole leaf rather than steeping it, it has a higher caffeine content per 1tsp serving, roughly 38-54mg. This is fantastic for our purposes because it is at a roughly 1:1 Ratio, which by itself is great for a calming focused effect, but from a purely consumption standpoint, this is only one serving. Meaning that you don’t need to drink 10+ cups of tea in a day (which is a lot of liquid) to hit the ideal dose, and because you could theoretically consume more than one serving in a short amount of time, you can use this Matcha based Biohack to get yourself into “the zone” relatively quickly and effectively.

Unfortunately, as nearly magical as the Camilla Sinensis plant is, nature has not provided us with all of what we need to hit the golden 2:1 L-Theanine to Caffeine ratio. In order to correct this, we turn to L-Theanine supplementation. You can find L-Theanine in nearly any grocery store or pharmacy, at a relatively inexpensive cost. The typical dosing per capsule is 100mg, which is exactly what we need to take our natural 1:1 ratio, and transform it to the ideal 2:1 ratio. A simple formula for this, would be for every two servings of Matcha you consume, take one 100mg L-Theanine capsule, and you are now in the position to take full effect of the synergistic reaction between these two compounds! For ease of use, the following chart will display how much you should consume to reach certain milestones.

Mild Pick-Me-Up

1tsp Matcha, ½ 100mg L-Theanine Capsules – ~50mg Caffeine, ~100mg L-Theanine

Functional Dose

2tsp Matcha, 1 100mg L-Theanine Capsules – ~100mg Caffeine, ~200mg L-Theanine

Effective Dose

4tsp Matcha, 2 100mg L-Theanine Capsules – ~200mg Caffeine, ~400mg L-Theanine

Maximum Daily Dose

8tsp Matcha, 4 100mg L-Theanine Capsules – ~400mg Caffeine, ~800mg L-Theanine

There is a maximum dose? Is this safe?

L-Theanine has been found in repeated studies to be totally safe for consumption, even in large doses, including studies that tested the effects of 4000mg/kg bodyweight in rats over a 13-week toxicity screening that showed no adverse effects to the rats tested. Couple this with the fact that in an Ames test for carcinogenicity, L-Theanine failed to produce a response and L-Theanine quickly separates itself from the need for a maximum daily recommended dose. The issue is caffeine, which experts agree has a maximum daily dose of around 400mg for adults. That number is significantly reduced for anyone with cardiovascular issues or stimulant sensitivities, with anything more than this leading to dependence that can cause a litany of health issues including gastrointestinal issues, as well as headaches and cardiovascular concerns.

But why not just supplement Caffeine?

In all honesty, you could. Especially if you sourced your supplements from reputable supplement manufacturers. Then why choose to do it with Matcha? The short answer, your unique and not so unique human system. Aside from having L-Theanine and Caffeine, Matcha (and tea in general) is loaded with powerful antioxidants that aside from being good for overall health, have been proven to be anticarcinogenic. Couple this with the fact that thousands of studies have linked regular tea consumption to everything from decreasing the likelihood of developing liver disease, cardiovascular disease, strokes and possibly even type 2 diabetes to reduction of depression and increased overall longevity and lifelong happiness, then it becomes pretty clear that you shouldn’t just drink tea for focus. You should drink to your health!

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Blast From the Past: Tea Dyeing & Staining

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:00

The mystery novel The English Breakfast Murder contains a one-page instruction on tea dyeing.  To achieve the color of pale yellow, it suggests the use of peppermint tea.  Orange spice tea yields beige-tan, not orange.  So what tea yields orange?   The book says use orange pekoe black tea.

One would think that tea dyeing and staining would be a popular DIY (Do It Yourself) activity, because tea is safe and clean.  I do not recall seeing any demonstration, or tea-dyed products at tea-related establishments, even during my extended stay in Asia.  Finding the Huntington’s Experiments in Tea Dyeing, part of its Botanical Garden: Discovering Plants program, took a few minutes.  Unearthing another institution-curated tutorial on the vast Internet calls for a mini challenge.

Green has always been my second favorite color.  I refused to believe that shades and hues of green could not be induced, extracted from verdant tea leaves.  The Japanese textile and clothing company Koboriwasou, located in Kyoto, proves me right.  To achieve the indelible green, the fabric is dyed multiple times using premium green tea produced in Ujitawara-chou .

Anyone who has ever searched anything tangible via any Japanese sites, even without any intention for trade, must have been bombarded by links to Rakuten Ichiba (楽天市場) – Japan’s largest e-commerce marketplace.  Doesn’t this Kyoto Travel Story collection of tea-dyed canvas bags remind you of certain brand name goods?

Familiar brands offer products that are both elegant designed and practical.  Ito En’s T Life – Textile with Tea, Tender & Tranquility line highlights catechin’s ability to combat odor and germs.  Erubu carries tea dyed socks in five different colors!  These gifts do not seem to be available in the States though.

As this holiday season commences, I am more in the mood of examining products than history.  I would like to think that once upon a time, someone accidentally spilled tea on his or her plain tenugui (手拭) and came up with the idea of tea dyeing and staining.  Serendipity at its finest!

Image courtesy of the contributor.

This article was originally posted to T Ching in November of 2013.

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What is Milk Tea?

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:00

 

If you have never tried milk tea, you really need to rethink what you order when you go to a café. As amazing as coffee is, sometimes the same order with cream and a dash of sugar gets redundant. Milk tea often replaces coffee in many countries considering it still has just about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee depending on what you get, and you can dress it up to be something extravagant like a chai milk tea (it tastes like Christmas), bubble tea, or just simple breakfast tea with a splash of milk and honey.

Options are endless. Vending machines are VERY important all over Asia, especially in Japan. You can literally get anything in these vending machines, and of course you have the option to select hundreds of different types of canned milk tea. It’s good both hot and cold.

What exactly is milk tea?

Milk tea has been a common staple in many countries, and if you ask for ‘tea’ pretty much anywhere in Asia and many other countries it’ll come served with milk. Milk tea is simply what it sounds like- tea with milk added. This combination creates a smoothness and slight sweetness to normal bitter teas such as black tea. Milk tea can be made into anything, such as bubble tea or masala chai tea.

Where did it come from?

Milk tea dates back centuries, being a popular choice in places such as Hong Kong back when the British still had colonial rule. It became a normal all-day drink all over Asia and the United Kingdom.  Bubble tea (a type of milk tea) comes from Taiwan, and is said to be as normal there as coffee is to Americans. This hype is now hitting cities all over the U.S. and has become very popular.  Bubble tea was invented in the 1980’s and is traditionally served chilled and uses a shaker machine to create bubbles on the top of it.  

Not JUST delicious-

We can all agree that milk tea is amazing. Some people don’t like it at first, but then grow a taste for it after trying it in different recipes. Some of these recipes include:

  • Boba or ‘bubble’ tea originates from Taiwan and is popular all over the world.
  • Masala chai is an Indian spiced milk tea that can now be found in many areas.
  • English Breakfast tea is a classic black tea served with or without milk.
  • Yuan yang is different from the others as it is coffee mixed with milk and topped with foam, popularized in Hong Kong.

So, as you can see, milk tea comes in many different delicious forms but there are also positive health benefits to drinking it regularly. Milk tea is packed with powerful vitamins and antioxidants, and studies have found that it helps control blood sugar levels, improve the immune system, and even prevent heart disease.

Milk tea can even be made into extravagant dessert-style drinks, and even these higher calorie milk tea options still contain nutrient-rich and healthy tea.

Enjoy milk tea on your own terms- there are so many different variables and styles to savor it in.

Author Bio:

Mike is an avid tea connoisseur and the founder of BubbleTeaology which supplies Bubble Tea Machines and Supplies to drink shops around the world.

Images provided by contributor.

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What Number Is Your Tea?

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 13:00

As the season changes here in Japan, you never quite know whether to bring an umbrella or pull out the sunscreen. But one thing is for sure…it’s time to prepare the tea plants for the winter. That means giving them the last cut of the season, trimming them back so the new leaves in spring will yield nicely.

Up and down the countryside where the terrain is flat, small tea fields are dotted with farmers riding giant machines up one row and down the next. The machine spans the bushes, trimming the sides and top with a blade that adjusts to how much needs to be trimmed. Fields that are sloped require a much more tedious approach using clippers that two people hold, one on each side of the bush.

What is being clipped off now isn’t used for tea although I have known some local farmers whose wives scoop it up and make kancha, an unrefined tea that they’d never serve except at the family dining table. It’s often served over a bowl of rice for a quick and dirty snack. This is known as Ochazuke (rice with broth or tea poured over it) and usually is served with better quality tea, not the trimmings, such as bancha, genmaicha, sencha or houjicha.

This brings me to my main point: just how many harvests are there in Japanese tea? The word to describe a harvest is not “flush” like in other areas, but is a Japanese number plus the word “bancha”. This literally translates to “number tea” so the first harvest is “ichi” for one and “bancha”, or number one tea, ichi-bancha. Ichibancha is revered and some farmers only do the first harvest. This always takes place in the spring and one never knows exactly when it will be because the leaf growth is what tells the farmer when to pluck.

The second harvest usually takes place in June and is referred to as ni-bancha. Third harvests or “san-bancha” take place in either July or August. While there is a fourth harvest in September or October, known as yon-bancha, it is extremely rare. These leaves would be made into houjicha (roasted tea) or kyobancha (smoked tea) or kancha.

The tea plants need a chance to recover so the thinking is that doing the minimum harvests will help the plants recover and live longer. That is why most Kyushu farmers will stick to no more than two harvests as a general rule, or just one. Larger companies want volume for the bottled tea market where using older leaves help make up these volumes. Ichi-bancha is normally used for the better teas and certainly the artisan high-grade ones.

So when you hear that a tea being served to you is “bancha” it usually means that the tea is from a later harvest. The leaves are slightly tougher and require hotter water. The leaves also look flatter and don’t have as dark a hue as the pinnacle leaves of ichi-bancha. If this is starting to sound confusing, don’t worry because even the Japanese get it mixed up! There are over 20 grades to choose from and your average Joe usually can’t tell the difference.

A lot of the confusion about bancha comes from folks in the west believing that all bancha is roasted. Houjicha and bancha often get mislabeled and hence the confusion. Second harvest onwards are great to roast because the leaves are mature and have slightly less caffeine. Think of bancha as a lower-grade sencha.

Images provided by contributor.

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Herbs Are Your Beauty Allies

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 13:00

 

We use various herbs on a daily basis, either as ingredients in the kitchen, medicines or to make potpourri. However, did you know that herbs are an excellent supplement to your beauty routine as well? If you haven’t incorporated them into your routine yet, now is the perfect time to do so. Here is a list of some amazing herbs which will help you glow again.

Burdock will fight your acne

One of the most stubborn skin conditions is certainly acne. Can you even remember how many products you have tried so far but you still haven’t gotten any satisfying results? Probably dozens. However, there is no need to be worried since we have found a simple solution to your problem – burdock. It is a true fighter against bacteria and an irreplaceable ingredient of DIY facial masks. You should boil it in water, then take the boiled water and mix it with powdered oatmeal. When the mixture cools, you can apply it to your face. Finally, it has been shown that burdock can help you treat eczema and psoriasis as well.

Calendula – for lighter hair and prettier skin

Another amazing herb is calendula. It can help you lighten your hair without using any heavy chemicals and thus risking damaging it. Furthermore, calendula is an important ingredient of different creams since it has been proven that this herb can significantly reduce inflammations and rashes. On top of that, it is incorporated into various natural products, such as supplements made by the amazing Herbs of Gold, which can efficiently eliminate various skin problems as well.

Chamomile – another powerful ally

Another herb which is extremely useful in the fight against rashes and skin redness is chamomile. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is used in the treatment of all skin types. It has been proven that ointments containing chamomile can reduce dermatitis after using it once only. In addition to that, chamomile is a valuable ingredient of conditioners which are aimed at brightening and illuminating your hair.

Neem – your hair’s best friend

Another herb which can do wonders for your hair is neem. Its oil is widely used in combination with coconut oil and applied to the scalp before it’s washed. You just need to apply a few drops directly onto your hair and massage your scalp while doing so. The best time to do this is the evening since you can let it sit for the whole night, and then wash it off in the morning. This routine will help your hair grow faster, but also get rid of dandruff and other possible skin inflammations. It’s no wonder that neem is such a popular ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos. So next time when you go shopping, take a look at the labels to make sure you’re making a good investment.

Turmeric – a natural antioxidant

 

Turmeric is an herb that contains a high level of curcumin, a natural antiseptic, due to which it is widely used in the field of cosmetics. Not only is it helpful in dealing with skin problems, such as eczema and acne, but it has been shown that it can slow down the aging process and the formation of stubborn wrinkles as well. Furthermore, turmeric can be used as a natural cleanser. You should mix its powder with milk, and then apply the mixture to your skin. Finally, rinse it off with gentle movements. We guarantee your skin will be smooth and soft like never before.

As you can see, herbs are important ingredients of various products in today’s cosmetic industry. With them as a part of your beauty routine, not only will you get prompt results, but you’ll also preserve the nature.

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The Health Benefits of Caffeine

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 13:00

Guest article by: Lucy Wyndham.

A relaxing cup of tea, a morning cup of coffee, enjoying a refreshing cold soft drink or treating yourself to a chocolate – all these daily pleasures have a common ingredient known as caffeine.  Originally called “theine”, caffeine was first discovered in tea in 1827. When it was later discovered in coffee, the term “theine” was dropped.

Caffeine is one of the most commonly used psychoactive drugs in the world. According to an article in Medical Daily, it is estimated that approximately 90 percent of the world’s population uses caffeine in one form or another, and 80 percent of U.S. adults consume caffeine every single day to increase wakefulness, alleviate fatigue and improve concentration and focus.

Coffee vs Tea 

The biggest myth about the caffeine content between coffee and tea is that one contains more caffeine than the other.  While this is true when measuring coffee and tea in their dry forms, this is false when comparing brewed coffee and tea. One normally uses 2 grams of tea per 8 ounce cup and 10 grams of coffee for the same quantity of water. It also depends on the method and length of brewing or steeping. Basically, this means that coffee has a higher concentration of caffeine per serving than tea.

Contradictory to common belief, there are many possible health benefits of caffeine.

Burns fat and increases metabolism

Caffeine is one of the few natural substances that have proven to aid fat burning. Studies show that caffeine can boost the metabolic rate by 3 to 11 percent and can increase fat burning by as much as 10 percent in obese individuals and 29 percent in lean people.

Aids weight loss

Research out of Germany showed that weight loss participants who drank 2 to 4 cups of caffeinated beverages in a day were more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off than those that did not.

Protects from Alzheimer’s and dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of dementia worldwide.  According to Alzheimer’s.net, studies show that caffeine can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, even in seniors who already have some form of mild dementia.

Lowers the risk of Parkinson’s

In an article by Medical News Today,  a number of studies have suggested caffeine has the potential to slow Parkinson’s disease which is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, caused by the death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain.

Lowers the risk of some types of cancer

A new study out of Burgers University found that caffeine prevented skin cancer in hairless mice.  Recent studies have also shown that caffeine reduces the risk of other cancers.

Protects the liver

According to an article in Cleanse.net, caffeine detoxes the liver and cleanses the colon when taken as an enema. A caffeine enema, when done properly, causes the liver to produce more bile, opens the bile ducts, and causes the bile to flow excreting toxins more quickly from the body.

Reduces kidney stone risk

In a large 217,883 person study, those that consumed caffeine had less kidney stone formation that those that did not consume caffeine. The researchers believe that this is because caffeine makes urine more dilute.

Reduces chronic inflammation

Researchers from Stanford University found that caffeine blocks the expression of a gene responsible for low-grade chronic inflammation as we age.  This inflammation eventually leads to high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, and heart disease.

To eliminate caffeine intake completely, one must switch to herbal tea.  Herbal infusions such as Chamomile, Rooibos and Peppermint are made from botanicals. All real tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis which contains caffeine.  Decaffeinated tea still contains about 5 to 10 mg of caffeine per cup. The amount of caffeine in tea depends on the varieties used, the growing methods and the leaves selected. Whether enjoying a cup of strong black tea, detoxing green tea or healthy herbal tea – savour the moment but remember: everything in moderation.

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