Blast From the Past: Legends on the Origins of Tea From China, Japan, and Korea


China, Japan, and Korea are all three big tea-consuming countries and, as such, each has its own legends concerning how tea originated.  Take a look.

China’s Legend

It is said in China that the first person to discover tea was Shen Nong (2700 BC), the father of agriculture and herbal medicine.  In an ancient Chinese medical book, called The Divine Farmer’s Herb-Root Classic, written during the Han Dynasty, it is said that Shen Nong tasted 100 plants in one day, consuming 72 different types of poison in the process; tea leaves were used to remove the toxins from his body.  Two other interesting versions of this story have also been documented.

In ancient times, people knew little about plants.  To determine which plants were edible, poisonous, or medicinal, Shen Nong tasted various kinds of plants every day.  Fortunately, Shen Nong had a transparent belly, making it possible for him to observe the reactions in his stomach caused by the plants he had eaten.  When he tasted tea leaves, he found that the tea leaves passed through his stomach and intestines, checking for poisons in the stomach and cleaning the intestines.  Shen Nong referred to these leaves as Cha, which has the same pronunciation as “checking the poisons” and became the plant’s current name (tea).

Another story, slightly different from the transparent belly story, is more reasonable.  It is said that Shen Nong took a rest under a tree after a long walk and lit a fire to boil water.  Some tree leaves fell into the boiling water.  Shen Nong drank the water and became energetic and refreshed.  After tasting 100 plants the previous day, Shen Nong believed that he had found a medicine that “tastes bitter.  Drinking it, one can think quicker, sleep less, move lighter, and see clearer.”

The tales about Shen Nong discovering tea usually mention the medical functions of the plant.  To understand these legends, in my opinion, Shen Nong should not be regarded as one person.  Rather, Shen Nong should represent all people from time immemorial whose knowledge of nature was limited and who fought with nature for their survival.  For this post, I did some studies and found that my opinion was supported by recent research, proving that Shen Nong was not one person, but a tribe leader position.  However, I also think that the character of Shen Nong was not only a group of leaders but all tribespeople.

Japan’s Legend

Japanese academics have admitted that Japanese tea came from China, but in Japan, the popular tale claims that the Bodhidharma discovered tea.  It is said that the Bodhidharma was sitting in meditation for seven years before he became too tired to stay awake.  He then sliced off his eyelids to prevent sleep and threw them on the ground, where they became tea trees.  After picking some of the tea leaves and chewing them, he felt energetic, and he concluded that the tea helped him to stay awake.  This is the Japanese story of the origin of tea.

The Chinese love it because the story is interesting, and it seems to take place in the Shaolin temple, the place where the Bodhidharma practiced sitting in meditation for seven years.  The Japanese love it too, and say the Bodhidharma died in Japan.  Indians love it because the origin of tea seems to be related to India.  Everybody loves this tale because it is fantastic and makes the connection between tea and meditation.

Korea’s Legend

Korea has also admitted that tea originated in China.  In the Korean tea ceremony, the five elements signify a sacrificial rite in the memory of the saint of tea, Yandi Shen Nong.  This is different from China, where the saint of tea is Luyu from the Tang Dynasty.  From this sacrificial rite, we can see that Koreans also view Shen Nong as the discoverer of tea.

Typically, the origin of tea in Korea is attributed to monks who studied in China or came from China.  However, a certain legend is popular in Korea.  It is said that King Suro was one of six princes born from eggs that descended from the sky.  King Suro married Heo Hwang-ok, a princess from the Indian country of Ayuta.  When they married, she brought a boat full of her dowry, which included tea seeds.

From my perspective, this legend can be seen as an indication that early Koreans considered kings to be descended from heaven, and all of their virtues attributed to the king or the royalty.  This is a characteristic of Confucianism – to be loyal to royalty.

What Can We Learn From These Tea Legends?

China’s legend about Shen Nong discovering tea is based on practical thought.  Actually, it makes sense from a scientific point of view.  People living in ancient times searched for food to survive and for medicine when they were sick; thus, it makes sense for people to invoke tea’s detoxifying and healthful functions.  In fact, tea was first used as an herbal medicine and then as a worship sacrifice.  It was later eaten like a soup and finally became a complete drink during the Wei Dynasty (220-264), according to records.  However, this legend lacks imagination compared to that of the Japanese legend.

Japan’s legend about the Bodhidharma slicing off his eyelids, which then grow into tea trees, is fantastic and thought-provoking.  I believe that the intensity of the Bodhidharma’s search for the truth, exemplified by his willingness to slice off his own eyelids, would impress anyone.  This legend is indicative of Japanese determination and ambition in searching for the truth.

Although Korea’s legend of Princess Ho Hwang-ok bringing tea to Korea from India also lacks imagination, it demonstrates a loyalty for royalty beyond that for common folk.

These three tea legends represent three national characteristics.  The Chinese tend to be pragmatic and practical.  The Japanese admire spirit and resolution.  The Koreans seem to be impacted by the ethics of a type of Confucianism different from the pure Confucianism from Kongzi, but the Song and Ming Dynasty’s Confucian idealist philosophy combined with its own culture.

While tea legends provide a way to trace different national characteristics, these characteristics have played important roles in the development of tea and determine its current status.

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This article was originally published in March 2012.



Three Alternatives to Regular Black Tea: Green Tea, White Tea, Red Tea


Guest post by Dakota Murphey

Did you know that, after water, tea is the most popular drink in the world? Not so surprising when you consider that 165 million cups of tea are drunk every day in the UK alone. After Turkey and Ireland, the UK is the third biggest tea drinking nation per capita.

The majority of the cuppas enjoyed by us are black tea – mostly regular builders’ tea – and the national preference is to add milk, with sugar according to personal preference. As drinks go, it’s not an unhealthy one. The health benefits of black tea include positive effects on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, digestive problems and much more.

But what do you do if you don’t like the taste of regular tea? Or you’re trying to avoid caffeine? Or you’re trying to cut out milk and can’t stomach the thought of drinking your black tea, well, black? Luckily, you don’t have to look far to find many suitable and delicious alternatives.

Whether conveniently sold as tea bags or packaged as loose leaf tea in quantities of 50g or 100g pouches, there’s such a vast variety of teas available all over the world that, with a little bit of curiosity and adventurousness on your part, an exciting journey for your taste buds awaits. Here are 3 teas you should definitely try.

1. Green Tea

 

Like its black cousin, green tea also comes from the Camellia sinensis shrub but its leaves are dried and heat treated as soon as they’ve been harvested, so there’s less fermentation. Its colour, aroma, and taste will vary depending on the species of Camellia, and how and where it was grown, picked, and processed. Compared to black tea, green tea is minimally processed which gives it a fresher and brighter flavour and colour.

There are literally hundreds of varieties of green tea including the popular Sencha and Matcha from Japan and Gunpowder from China. Here’s a useful guide on the different ways to make green tea.

Green tea does contain caffeine but the amount varies depending on the exact variety and how it’s been processed. As a rule of thumb, teas made from leaves, twigs, and stems tend to be lower in caffeine, while those grown in the shade or made from the tips and buds of the tea plant are typically higher in caffeine.

Green tea is high in antioxidants and has long been hailed as a healing and energising drink. Regular consumption is meant to protect against cardiovascular disease and dementia, and even some forms of cancer.

2. White Tea

 

White tea comes from the fine, silvery hairs of the unopened buds of Camellia sinensis, i.e. the very youngest of tea leaves. With only minimal processing, the immature leaves are picked and dried – and voilà. Very pale yellow in colour, white tea has a distinctive, mild, and fruity taste that’s much more readily palatable than some other teas. It also contains much less caffeine – only around 15 mg per cup.

White tea is another super healthy drink, credited with many benefits for the regular tea drinker including anti-aging properties and healthy, smooth skin. It contains the same type of antioxidants as green tea and is said to offer the same cardiovascular and cancer-fighting benefits. Some studies have suggested that white tea may have a positive effect on diabetes, while it’s also helpful for reducing the risk of dental decay.

3. Red Tea

 

What is red tea? We tend to think of the South African Redbush or Rooibos Tea – although this isn’t technically a tea at all since it comes from the leaves of the rooibos plant, not Camellia sinensis. Rooibos is a herbal tea with a naturally sweet and woody flavour, and it’s entirely caffeine-free. As an alternative to tea and coffee, its popularity has steadily risen.

In South Africa, Rooibos tea has been historically used for medicinal purposes, though not much scientific research has been carried out into its health benefits. One study found that the tea may benefit bone health, while there is some evidence to suggest that Rooibos tea may help prevent heart disease, boost the immune system, and relieve stomach cramps.

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Need To Lose Weight? Try Drinking More Tea


Guest post by Lucy Wyndham

If you want to boost your metabolism, watch your weight drop away, and improve your health & wellbeing – the answer might be easier than you think. One simple, painless, and inexpensive change to your lifestyle could be transformative: Just try replacing your sugary soft drink habit with tea and see what happens.

In the East they have been drinking varieties of tea for thousands of years; we are late to the party and are only now waking up to its many benefits. Tea drinking has been associated with lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes thanks to the antioxidants known as flavonoids that it contains.  Tea also helps with weight loss, improved cholesterol levels, and mental agility. What’s not to like?

Given the backdrop of deteriorating health in the US and many Western countries, we would do well to look East for some wisdom. We are getting plenty of things wrong in terms of lifestyle choices – primarily a poor diet and lack of exercise. This is contributing to the obesity epidemic and countless other health problems.

Your beverage can be causing weight gain

Consumption of sugary sodas and fruit juices is a particular issue with many Americans apparently addicted to soda.  A staggering 56% of young adults in the US admit to drinking soda daily and these drinks are the largest source of sugar consumption among children and adolescents. Two in three adults and one in three children in America are now classified as overweight or obese with sodas contributing in a major way to this weight epidemic.

How to be effortlessly slim

What we need to do is exercise more, eat better and consider taking supplements to ensure optimum nutrition. Drinking tea is an extremely easy way to make a positive change and take a step towards a slimmer, healthier you. Whether you choose to drink black, green, or white tea; you’ll be benefiting from the antioxidant properties of the flavonoids found in tea. These antioxidants can cause temporary thermogenesis: A metabolic process that speeds up the metabolism and increases fat burning. (Supplements that accelerate this process are available.)

Purists may choose to research the culture and history of Japanese and Chinese tea ceremonies and – for the full zen experience – even indulge in some elegant teaware. But even those who keep things simple and brew up in a standard mug will reap the benefits. It’s as easy as one, two, TEA.

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The Olive Tea – T Ching


Move over, Matcha! There’s another tea coming to town.

The Olive Tree has a rich history, not just as far back as the Bible, but even much further. Once known as the “king of trees” and also said to be the “tree of life” in the Garden of Eden; in North America, we know it more for its branches as a symbol of peace and friendship.

Examine closely the Great Seal of the United States of America; the eagle holds the olive branch clutched in its claw. Count the leaves and count the olives on the branch. I know you’ll find it quite interesting.

All the “anointing with oil” in most religious ceremonies, dressing wounds with oil, using oil for beauty; that was all done with olive oil.  

From the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans the olive tree has been sacred for millennia. Oh yes, here in North America we’ve been told for the last couple of decades to use olive oil, and we’re slowly catching on.

In Southern California, we grow many olive trees. It is an evergreen and withstands the dry heat, but is predominantly used just for landscaping purposes. It is quite common to see the ground around our olive trees covered with black olives. If you step on them or drive over them, they do indeed leave a residue of oil for several months.

We trim and manicure our olive trees to be quite lovely but we are definitely not utilizing the tree to reap any of its benefits.

Besides the olives and its leaves that remain green all year long, there is magic in the leaves when carefully and skillfully processed.

In Rajasthan, India, on 5,000 acres of land, 10,000 farmers take tender care of 1.7 million olive trees. At THE OLITIA COMPANY every step of their process, from sowing to packaging, they have chosen the best techniques to ensure only the freshest leaves reach you. Before transferring to the field, the olive saplings are first grown in cocopeat to protect them from bacterial growth. The cutting and slow drying retain the essence and liquor of the olive leaves. Their three-layered packaging ensures garden freshness of leaves.

Have a look at it.

The following are the benefits of Olive Tea, most of which tea folks will recognize. From the Olitia website: It is antioxidant rich: cleanses your skin with its detoxifying effects. Has anti-aging properties: makes wrinkles fade away giving skin a youthful glow. Zero caffeine: energizes you without caffeine. Fights fungi and bacteria: kills pathogens to prevent herpes and other infections. Reduces cholesterol: depletes bad cholesterol (LDL) for improved blood flow. Healthy heart: reverses cardiovascular stress for a healthy heart. Anti-inflammatory: reduces ache and stiffness of joints. Boosts immunity: strengthens your defense against cold and flu. Reduce risk of cancers: prevents growth of cancerous cells.

Yes, it’s called Olive “TEA” — but does not contain any of the Camellia sinensus.

But what does it taste like? Glad you asked.

It is mellow, pleasant, herbal, well-rounded in the mouth, and enjoyable. If you’ve ever taken a teaspoon of olive oil straight, it tends to have a bitter aftertaste felt in the throat. In over-steeping the Olive Tea, you will be reminded of that tasting experience. You will see a slight residue on the top of your infusion: It is not oily looking or feeling, but you will be getting some olive oil in your cup from the leaves. Every dieter knows you still need good oil for the body when restricting your intake.

Olitia makes four varieties; the Mint has a tendency to overtake the olive leaf, but mint lovers will be extremely happy with it. The Holy Basil mix and the Classic, which is just the olives leaves, are my favorites. I enjoyed the Lemongrass but steeped it a bit too much in an attempt to get everything from the Lemongrass, and that is when I felt that familiar bitterness at the back of my throat. A lighter steeping was much more pleasing. 

Olive Tea has definitely arrived in North America.  OLITIA VIDEO

Images provided by author.



And So To Bed Tea


I remember with fondness my visits to southern India when I stayed on tea estates and received incomparable hospitality at the hands of the tea estate managers and their families and those in their employ. But, in particular, I cannot forget the civilized tradition of “bed tea” when pots of estate grown tea brewed to perfection (and rounded by milk, sugar and some spices) took the chill off of brisk mornings. Upon arising early (I had full days of visiting the tea estates and other local sightseeing ahead of me), there was a tray awaiting outside the door with a pot of tea and two china cups before the thought of breakfast entered my mind.  The memory of that luxury has stuck with me though I have transformed the practice to suit my somewhat different regular routine. I make a pot or at least a cup of tea and enjoy it just before retiring for the night. (Caffeine ingestion before bed seems not to disturb me; perhaps I’m in the minority on that one). There is a comforting warmth, particularly on the now finally chillier nights in southern California. But sweets-lover (and -maker) that I am, there is usually something to enjoy with the tea, adding to the post-prandial feeling of contentment. Here’s an oft-prepared bit of sweetness that I like to have on hand, delicious with any tea you’d like, with or without dairy and spice as in the Indian tradition.

Tea Drenched Buttery Cake

Note: Take the butter out of the refrigerator a couple of hours before mixing the cake. Separate the eggs while cold and then keep whites and yolks in two separate bowls at room temperature for 30 minutes Then make Tea Drenching Syrup and set aside.

Makes 1 nine-inch round cake

Make Tea Drenching Syrup

  • 2 c. brewed tea of your choice (I like a mix of Darjeeling and Assam here for a complexly flavored syrup)
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 large lemon, sieved (approximately 1/3 c.)

In a small sauce pan, combine the brewed tea with sugar and cook until tea is fully dissolved. When ready to use, reheat until hot.

Prepare a cake pan by buttering bottom and sides. Then place a circle of baking parchment cut to fit into the bottom of the pan and then lightly butter the paper. Set aside.

  • 8 oz. (2 c.) cake flour
  • 1 t. (.14 oz) baking powder
  • ½ t. (.10 oz or 2.83 grams) granulated salt
  • 8 oz. butter, completely soft but not liquid
  • 8 oz. (one cup plus two generous tablespoons) granulated sugar (fine granulated, sometimes called “baker’s sugar” works particularly well here)
  • 5 large eggs, separated while cold and then placed at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
  • 1 T. (.5 oz) good quality vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 °F.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.

Using an electric mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and whitened. Mix further to blend in half of the sugar. Add egg yolks gradually, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl frequently during the mixing process. Add vanilla and blend in. With a clean bowl and whisk, beat the egg whites with the remaining half of the sugar until shiny, creamy peaks form (don’t overbeat or the whites will be dry and difficult to incorporate into the cake base).  Gently but thoroughly fold the dry ingredients into the mixture by hand, alternating with the beaten egg whites, again scraping the bowl frequently. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it over to even it out, and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the cake tests done when pierced with a toothpick, cake tester or point of a small knife. Upon removing the cake from the oven, immediately pour half of the Tea Drenching Syrup over the cake. Reserve the remaining syrup to pour over the cake when serving. When the cake has cooled, invert it onto a cake plate and peel off the parchment paper. Serve with the remaining syrup, reheated, as desired, and a hot cup of “bed tea.”

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The post And So To Bed Tea appeared first on T Ching.

Growing and Processing Tea Plants at Home


I just posted about the growing part in my own blog, and that content linked with how to make decent tea out of those leaves once you grow them.  Here I’ll touch on both.  

David Parks, co-owner of the Camellia Forest Nursery (with more posted about growing tea here) had passed on the input about growing tea plants.

I was just talking about the processing issue with a US tea farmer who would be familiar to many, Jason McDonald.  If the subject of US grown tea is of interest you really do need to look into that; he is one founder of an initiative to grow tea in Mississippi, and has since branched out to producing it in Hawaii.

Tea plants in a home garden in Mexico

One main point is that you need to match plants selected with local climate (which might not work in the far North of the US), and even after addressing climate issues and the rest–watering, nutrition, related to pests, harvesting–the leaves still need to be processed into a form that can be infused.  

First things first; David passed on some input about how that first part tends to go, based on his customers’ experiences. 

In general, people do enjoy the tea made from their own plants. They find it is very different from typical bagged tea but are pleasantly surprised. There are cases of people using mature leaves or even the dead leaves with rather poor success.

Since we are a mail order nursery we get requests from all over the country even locations that are too cold for growing tea. So many people try growing it indoors. The success varies but it can be done. Although actual production will probably be limited unless one is experienced growing plants to get good growth without getting too big a plant for a pot. Moving the plant outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter is probably the best option. People also have success in small or large greenhouses. One customer grows tea in a polyhouse in Michigan.

USDA plant hardiness zone map

This year was a cold hardiness test for tea in North Carolina. We had one night when the temperature dropped to 3 F and almost 2 weeks of temperatures below freezing. So far most looks OK and even tender varieties are expected to regrow from the roots. One issue we see is that harvested tea will keep growing into the fall and not harden off so the top leaves of many bushes are completely brown but lower leaves look green. Although not attractive I believe this does not hurt the plants and we will prune off these leaves very soon in preparation for the new flush in spring…

It is the low temperatures that seem to damage tea the most. From reports I have gotten from customers Sochi tea does appear to be one of the hardiest. It comes from tea plantations around the black sea in Russia. My Korean strain and small leaf tea have also been hardy strains and the best variety has not been clear.

Plants covered in ice at the Camellia Forest Nursery

That skipped more about discussing growing tea in Bangkok with him earlier (where I live).  It turns out it can be too hot for tea plants too, but that would vary by plant type, as cold tolerance would.  He also mentioned that low indoor humidity might not work well, with more on such issues in that linked online content.

This really won’t get far but the two themes are tightly linked, and it is great input.

Tea plants are not hard to grow if you find the right ones for your conditions [that earlier issue].

People are always doing this backward. They will find a tea they love, then find the cultivar that it is made from and attempt to grow it. The experiment fails and they get discouraged.

…The processing makes all the difference.  Some backyard growers get discouraged because they don’t have a lot of leaf to work with to hone their skills. They also do not have some of the basic equipment to make a good tea. They make great tea then burn it in the oven because the temperature won’t go low enough, or they stew it trying to sun dry because it doesn’t dry quickly enough.

If you have access to healthy leaf you can figure out a process to make good tea. People fail when they want to control the leaf in a manner for a desired result that is physically impossible. Case in point, I have an oolong plant. I cannot make a black tea out of it. It does not have enough polyphenol oxidase to oxidize properly.

Good teas can be made from a home garden but one must have experience making tea on a larger scale to have enough leaf to make mistakes on or to adjust parameters of a batch to find what works and what doesn’t. You usually do not have that with a small planting.

…There are some basic things one needs and they are not expensive, but you need them to make tea with. Even as simple as a good rolling board or kullah basket from Sri Lanka. You need a dryer even if it is a simple bamboo tea roaster with a heating element on the bottom with a low range thermostat, a rack in the middle and a bamboo top.

Ok, so it’s all not so simple.  But after that input from both, I’d really love to try it myself.

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Darjeeling – Land of the Thunderbolt: Arrival of Spring Teas!


This centre of Heaven

This core of the Earth

This Heart of the World

Fenced Round with snow!!

Arrivals of the first flush in Darjeeling floods the heart and mind with lucid, impressionistic visions. It is bliss perceived through a swirling haze, shades of dramatically deep reds, pinks and purples at dawn and fluctuating reflections of an assertive Himalayan aloofness. But more than anything else, it is a reminder that the life of the spirit flowers most variously in the rare mountain air where the notion of swift-paced time is quietly overthrown amongst the muscatel tea bushes.

Tea, more than Everest or Kanchenjunga, has given Darjeeling a distinctive renown. This is quite in the order of things. While the Himalayas are certainly not the exclusive preserve of this most celebrated of Indian hill stations, its delicately-flavored, fresh young tea cannot be grown anywhere else. Darjeeling tea has won and kept a great paramount reputation as nutty and Muscat-like and among the black teas it is acknowledged as the golden mean against which all lesser brews are graded.

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Darjeeling – Land of the Thunderbolt: Arrival of Spring Teas!


This centre of Heaven

This core of the Earth

This Heart of the World

Fenced Round with snow!!

Arrivals of the first flush in Darjeeling floods the heart and mind with lucid, impressionistic visions. It is bliss perceived through a swirling haze, shades of dramatically deep reds, pinks and purples at dawn and fluctuating reflections of an assertive Himalayan aloofness. But more than anything else, it is a reminder that the life of the spirit flowers most variously in the rare mountain air where the notion of swift-paced time is quietly overthrown amongst the muscatel tea bushes.

Tea, more than Everest or Kanchenjunga, has given Darjeeling a distinctive renown. This is quite in the order of things. While the Himalayas are certainly not the exclusive preserve of this most celebrated of Indian hill stations, its delicately-flavored, fresh young tea cannot be grown anywhere else. Darjeeling tea has won and kept a great paramount reputation as nutty and Muscat-like and among the black teas it is acknowledged as the golden mean against which all lesser brews are graded.

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Disarm Them With Tea – T Ching


Another inconceivable nightmare: Former student opens fire at a public school, killing 17, or 26, or 11, or?  Immediately, there is hue and cry to regulate firearms and/or the mentally ill.  The opposing camps lob circular arguments at each other.  On one side are the powerful gun lobby and the gun hobbyists who alternately argue that MORE guns would solve the problem – not fewer and that it is really a mental health issue.   On the other side are the millions of us who posit the notion that if weapons were less available, fewer of them would be used to harm self and others.

What is different about the Valentine’s Day massacre of 2018 is an army of grieving children who are leading the charge to DO SOMETHING about the availability of weapons.  If your child hits someone with a stick, you do not blame the stick – but you do take it away so it won’t be used again.  Unlike most politicians in DC, no one owns the kids and they are intelligent, articulate, impassioned, and goal-oriented.  Although Parkland’s slogan is “Never Again,” and they have inspired hundreds of thousands of young people to join them in marches, walkouts, lay-ins, and social media organizing, all the evidence points to another tragedy taking place within a week or two, eclipsing their efforts.  After all, there have been several school shootings in 2018 so far and the year is just seven weeks along.

In the middle is a tiny voice asking, “What do we do about the Lost Boys?  These left out, isolated, fatherless, and bullied boys are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of these tragedies and they return to the places of their torment to exact a bloody revenge.  How do we intervene before these young males too easily access a weapon of mass destruction?”

Let the large and vibrant tea community get involved!  I propose tea partnerships, starting in elementary school.  By identifying those at risk and pairing them with peers who are social leaders in each cohort, we tea geeks can assist school personnel by sponsoring small tea parties where the children learn about tea and each other.  Cooperative games, group responsibility, a buddy system and regular check-ins would create a community of youngsters crazy about tea and part of something bigger.  

Don’t arm teachers with Glocks – arm them with teapots!

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Wild Organic Yuzu-cha – T Ching


When you scan the grocery tea isles in the West, one thing that stands out is the growing trend in flavored green teas. There’s mint, pomegranate, peachy ginseng, lush lemon and the lot! It’s no wonder that westerners assume yuzu-cha (yuzu tea) is green tea flavored with yuzu, a citrus fruit indigenous to Japan. But nothing could be further from the truth!

Yuzu-cha does not contain one single tea leaf! It usually comes in a jar and looks suspiciously like soupy marmalade with strips of peel suspended in a syrup-like juice. To make “tea” simply add a tablespoon of it to a mug and add hot water! Then sit back and start sipping while the huge dose of vitamin C does its thing!

Yuzu can only be described as a Japanese citron. The flavor is unique and not very similar to any citrus fruit in the west. It’s not a lemon, it’s not a lime, it’s not a Saville orange or even a Mayer lemon. If you have dined in a Japanese restaurant, you may have tasted it in ponzu sauce, soy sauce containing yuzu juice. Known for containing incredibly high vitamin C, it’s a flavor that Japanese people simply adore and that makes an appearance in culinary creations up and down the country.

Among all the yuzu found in Japan, one tiny pocket in Yamaguchi Prefecture is quietly stunning local communities with their wild organic yuzu products, and their most famous is yuzu-cha. The small town of Tawarayama is home to over 1300 wild yuzu trees, some that are between 100 to 200 years old, and not one of them purposefully planted.

The ancestors living in Tawarayama would eat the fruit and spit the seeds on the ground. One yuzu fruit contains between 28 to 30 seeds! Because the ground is so fertile, trees began to spring up out of the ground. As they kept eating the fruit and spitting the seeds, not thinking about what they were creating, pretty soon the town was overwhelmed with yuzu fruit. Folks simply didn’t know what to do with all of the fruit littering the ground and not enough was being eaten by wildlife.

To solve the problem of the yuzu fruit invasion, Mr. Kanagawa and his wife started gathering the wild fruit to make yuzu-cha for their family. Volunteers in the community started helping them and soon they began selling it to the local community. I was invited to visit on the day they were making it and what a long and laborious process it is!

After harvesting the wild, organic fruit from trees all over town, the yuzu is brought to the local school kitchen and sprayed with water to get a clear look at the skin. Brown spotted fruit (lower quality) is put in one bucket and perfect fruit, bright and yellow, in another bucket. The fruit is then washed with spring water two times to clean it and then they wait for the fruit to air dry before cutting it.

The fruit is cut in half on the “equator” so you have a northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere, with the stem being in the north! I was thinking to myself “aw, how cute” but there is a reason to this hemisphere language! The fruit must be squeezed “southern hemisphere” style with the inside of the fruit facing the ceiling. This allows the oil from the skin to be collected into the juice, adding significantly to the flavor. About 120 yuzu fruits, or 20 kilos, will produce 2 liters of juice.

The next step is scooping out the remaining pulp and seeds, so the valuable peel can be cut into strips. This is the shining star of yuzu-cha! Going back to the first step of sorting brown spotted fruit from the bright yellow…here is where two different quality grades are produced. The best peel is reserved for their premium yuzu-cha and the brown-spotted is now sold to the locals. They want the very best to leave Tawarayama and charm drinkers up and down the country!

The final step is making the tea and bottling it. A very special beet sugar is used in Kanagawa’s recipe because it is a healthy, natural sugar that isn’t very processed very much.

Yuzu-cha is quite addictive and the giggling ladies admitted to eating it out of the jar, spooning it into yogurt, over ice cream and as a jam but they all drink it as tea every day. No wonder their skin is silky smooth…and you would never guess that the oldest volunteer, and the ringleader, is 90 years old!

Images provided by author.