Blast From the Past: The simple joys of a glass of green tea


Tea can be as complicated as you want it to be – what with its rituals and myriad details to handle. At the same time, it can be a simple delight. Being of Chaozhou (home of gongfu tea) descent, I fuss over the little details and continually experiment with getting the most out of each pot. At other times, though, I yearn for simplicity, but not in the form of a tea bag or the monstrosity known as the tea ball. Rather I am referring to glass-brewing loose-leaf tea, specifically green tea.

This is not to say this works exclusively for green tea; but for oolong tea, the full spectrum can only be unleashed by gongfu brewing. In contrast, green tea is favored for its brisk, refreshing quality, something that is, in fact, better served with a “lighter taste.” This works quite well for yellow and, to a lesser extent, for white tea as well, but my consumption of those two is less than that of green tea.

The How of It

It is really simple.

Step 1: Add tea leaves
Step 2: Add water
Step 3: Drink to about 1/3 and refill
Step 4: Repeat Step 3 until there is no more taste

It may be simplistic, but the results are pretty good. In fact, it tastes better than brewing out of a big pot because the heat may over-steep the tea leaves, leaving a lifeless and insipid liquid. It may not yield as flavorful a brew as using a gaiwan, but that’s the trade-off for the convenience factor.

The Why of It

To me, there is a simplistic charm about it. While the ceremonial ritual of gongfu brewing provides us a respite from the microwave culture we live in, it’s not practical to do all the time.

In the workplace, we can always provide ourselves with a timeout. Sip on a glass of Huangshan Maofeng and imagine breathing in the rejuvenating cool air of that gorgeous UNESCO heritage site. Savor the fruity nuances of Dongting Biluochun and fantasize about relaxing on the shores of Lake Tai.

Joy doesn’t always need to be complicated. It can be come in a simple, unassuming glass of tea.

Image Source

This article by Derek Chew was originally posted in May 2013.



Blast From the Past: The simple joys of a glass of green tea


Tea can be as complicated as you want it to be – what with its rituals and myriad details to handle. At the same time, it can be a simple delight. Being of Chaozhou (home of gongfu tea) descent, I fuss over the little details and continually experiment with getting the most out of each pot. At other times, though, I yearn for simplicity, but not in the form of a tea bag or the monstrosity known as the tea ball. Rather I am referring to glass-brewing loose-leaf tea, specifically green tea.

This is not to say this works exclusively for green tea; but for oolong tea, the full spectrum can only be unleashed by gongfu brewing. In contrast, green tea is favored for its brisk, refreshing quality, something that is, in fact, better served with a “lighter taste.” This works quite well for yellow and, to a lesser extent, for white tea as well, but my consumption of those two is less than that of green tea.

The How of It

It is really simple.

Step 1: Add tea leaves
Step 2: Add water
Step 3: Drink to about 1/3 and refill
Step 4: Repeat Step 3 until there is no more taste

It may be simplistic, but the results are pretty good. In fact, it tastes better than brewing out of a big pot because the heat may over-steep the tea leaves, leaving a lifeless and insipid liquid. It may not yield as flavorful a brew as using a gaiwan, but that’s the trade-off for the convenience factor.

The Why of It

To me, there is a simplistic charm about it. While the ceremonial ritual of gongfu brewing provides us a respite from the microwave culture we live in, it’s not practical to do all the time.

In the workplace, we can always provide ourselves with a timeout. Sip on a glass of Huangshan Maofeng and imagine breathing in the rejuvenating cool air of that gorgeous UNESCO heritage site. Savor the fruity nuances of Dongting Biluochun and fantasize about relaxing on the shores of Lake Tai.

Joy doesn’t always need to be complicated. It can be come in a simple, unassuming glass of tea.

Image Source

This article by Derek Chew was originally posted in May 2013.



Tea and the Concept of Experience Economy


I recently attended an Adobe software conference tied to the theme of experience business or experience economy.  The general idea behind that concept is this:  As economies evolve people go from demanding basic goods (agrarian- and then industrial-based economies) to demanding services and specific forms of experiences (service- and then experience-based economies).  The higher the level of value the more that can be charged; “experiences” can command higher pricing than typical services.

It’s not necessarily simple to tie this back to tea.  A bestseller “The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary” outlines how that company built an empire by shifting themes and adding more value.  

Of course we’ve now seen that approach not work related to being duplicated for tea sales.  This World Tea News article from January 2016 explained how all the Teavana cafes were closing, but the retail stores were doing fine, and then in July of 2017 Starbucks announced they were closing all those shops.  I won’t try to interpret that, since related factors were surely complicated, but it probably works to say that sorting out the best approach to selling tea isn’t simple.

Former NYC Teavana café

I’m noticing a divide in experiences related to this theme and tea.  By far the most popular teas sold in Bangkok are bubble tea or other flavored, sweetened, milk-based take-away versions that might as well have tapioca pearls at the bottom, even when they don’t.  It’s a beverage item and that’s it. Tea enthusiasts are at the other end of the spectrum. There can be secondary emphasis on ceremony or collecting gear but it’s mostly about the overall experience.

Of course it’s still about the tea, right?  Discussion arises about teaware, preparation methodology, and even subjects like health concerns; in places like online groups or at events, but in the end it comes back to liking aspects of the brewed teas.  That’s where the experience is, there is just plenty of room left for framing that.

Related to this split there might be a normal experience or preference curve of sorts, as people shift from floral blends, Tazo tea bags, and matcha lattes onto Gongfu-style brewing something like Dan Cong oolong or aged sheng pu’er.  True to the theory, as the demand transitions to a different focus it’s much less about price.

Focus on minimizing level of cost can even invert.  Someone recently claimed in an online comment to have only spent under $200 on a sheng pu’er cake once this year, quickly qualified as a smaller 200 gram cake.  Bulk order photos are a different form of demonstrating status in consumption level. $200 orders can look impressive, but then a single cake can cost more, and name-dropping decades old version references trumps any quantity.  A foreign tea enthusiast recently upped even that ante, describing commitment level as best expressed by a percentage of overall income spent on tea.

Wuyi Origin Mi Lan Xiang Dan Cong; better teas don’t need to cost a significant percentage of your income

It seems all this really isn’t describing a general trend into expanding tea as a service-based experience versus a commodity.  The priciest local café here in Bangkok charges over $20 for a pot of tea, for a scant few grams; that’s at least back to purchasing an on-site experience.  

How to build that into the next version of a Starbucks, or did that prove to be a flawed goal?  Are these people focused as much on experience or on displaying status instead, or can the two really not be split?  It’s a bit of a tangent, but I’m reminded of a far more absurd topic coming up in an article about a golden taco:

The world’s most expensive taco is specially prepared at Grand Velas Los Cabos resort…  Ordering it will set you back $25,000 — almost the price of a new car.

The taco’s foundation is a gold-infused corn tortilla, which is then layered with Kobe beef and lobster. Toppings include black truffle Brie ($100 per ounce) and a dollop of Beluga caviar ($700 an ounce). Then, more layers of gold are added on top to finish…

Complaining about a $30 pot of tea and people spending enough to buy a car for a taco seem worlds apart.

These diverse threads make it hard to stick to the train of thought of what experiences people might want next related to tea, or what will become popular, and how expenses would factor in.  Seeking out traditional, quiet, feng shui designed cafes doesn’t seem likely to catch on. Even the committed tea bloggers I read sometimes speak of setting aside the better teaware and complex brewing processes due to just getting busy, maybe taking up a grandpa-style approach instead.

I drank Tazo ages ago; I have no hate for tea-bag based blends, I just don’t drink that

All the while in beginner-oriented tea groups I keep finding myself arguing the merits of basic, plain, inexpensive loose teas.  In one recent discussion, someone asked if mixing peanut butter powder into tea might work (and it might, I guess), and I wondered if that person ever tried a Tie Kuan Yin of any quality level before, or a single example of Chinese black tea.  It turned out they were really looking for Thai iced tea (which can be nice).

Plain, simple teas can be amazing experiences, but it’s only easy to package and sell the leaf.  It’s not as simple to bring the rest of the experience to everyone.

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Image Two Source
Image Three Provided by Author



Tea in Spain – T Ching


For the last 4 winters, I’ve been going to Spain to avoid the harsh temperatures in Oregon.  We head to the southernmost coast in Andalucia and enjoy springtime temperatures along the Mediterranean.  Perhaps the only downside of this experience is the lack of tea shops and good quality tea in the area.

We found a second home in the small village of La Herradura. It is our routine to walk down to the beach and have some tea/coffee in the morning at a cafe on the beach. I’ve learned to bring my own tea in past years as the quality of local cafe tea had been quite dreadful. This year I was surprised to see that many cafes along the beach had upgraded their selection of Te Verde – green tea. Still not up to standards from Portland, Oregon, it was sufficient for me to enjoy while watching the waves and spotting dolphins and gulls. Still no tea shops but I’m not going to complain.

We had a date to meet some Spanish friends in the Granada area – about 50 minutes north of La Herradura. The plan was to hike in the Alpujarras Mountains and then have a late lunch in one of the small mountain villages in a cave restaurant. Later in the afternoon, our friends took us to a cafe for dessert in the village of La Tubia.  The cafe was wonderful. It was housed in an ancient building across the street from a 15th Century church. We were surrounded by books and interesting artifacts.

Once I saw the menu, I was absolutely shocked. The tea selection was quite substantial.  I think it was the most comprehensive tea offerings I’d ever seen in Spain.

When my tea arrived in its organic paper sachet, I was in heaven. What could be better after a lovely morning spent hiking with friends in a mountain village in Andalucia?

Images provided by author.



How To Compile The Perfect Gift Set For A Tea Lover


Freelance Contribution by Lucy Wyndham

American tea culture is booming with the fashionable beverage becoming a familiar sight in offices, homes, and cafes all across the country. Tea and tea-related sundries have also become trendy gift choices and are increasing in popularity in terms of gift box subscriptions, an industry which has enjoyed a 3000% growth between 2013 and 2016. A personalized gift box filled with handpicked tea-treasures is the perfect gift for an ardent tea lover and one that can be as unique and special as the person who receives it.

Homemade vs Ready-Made

You basically have two options when it comes to sending a special friend or family member a gift package. You can compile the box yourself or purchase a ready-made gift-set filled with carefully-chosen goodies of all kinds.  There is always something very intimate about crafting the box yourself, however. Chances are you know a lot about the person you are gifting, from their favorite color to taste preferences in terms of tea, allowing you to present them with a present tailor-made just for them.

What To Include In the Gift Set (And What To Avoid)

What you choose to include in a gift set is entirely up to you with the contents only truly being limited by your level of creativity and your budget.  There are countless options available when it comes to how you present your gift. You can make use of a pretty wicker basket, a vintage tea tin or box, or even a tea tray to arrange your treats in. The star of your gift set will undoubtedly be tea, regardless of whether you opt for bags or leaves. A variety of leaves in beautiful bags, bottles or tins can be exquisitely packaged together with a scoop, sifter, elegant or novelty diffuser, embroidered or hand-painted tea towel and a charming porcelain teacup. You can even go as far as to pick a theme such as English Tea Garden, vintage, modern, organic, or Chinese for your gift.

If you want to include breakables such as teapots and cups in your gift set, it is important to make sure that it is packaged securely, especially if you are making use of the postal service or a courier company. Items to definitely avoid are perishables of any kind including dairy products and fresh fruit as they could possibly spoil while in transit. Rather include a gift certificate to a local greengrocer if you would like to include fruit in your gift.

When it comes to putting together a tea-based gift there are no unyielding guidelines to observe. Play around with different themes and materials until you are indubitably happy with the final product. Your time, effort and thoughtfulness will shine through in your handiwork and will be as highly appreciated as the beautiful bequests themselves. Many a friendship has started over a cup of tea, and many more will grow from strength to strength all thanks to a most treasured gift.

Image Source



How To Compile The Perfect Gift Set For A Tea Lover


Freelance Contribution by Lucy Wyndham

American tea culture is booming with the fashionable beverage becoming a familiar sight in offices, homes, and cafes all across the country. Tea and tea-related sundries have also become trendy gift choices and are increasing in popularity in terms of gift box subscriptions, an industry which has enjoyed a 3000% growth between 2013 and 2016. A personalized gift box filled with handpicked tea-treasures is the perfect gift for an ardent tea lover and one that can be as unique and special as the person who receives it.

Homemade vs Ready-Made

You basically have two options when it comes to sending a special friend or family member a gift package. You can compile the box yourself or purchase a ready-made gift-set filled with carefully-chosen goodies of all kinds.  There is always something very intimate about crafting the box yourself, however. Chances are you know a lot about the person you are gifting, from their favorite color to taste preferences in terms of tea, allowing you to present them with a present tailor-made just for them.

What To Include In the Gift Set (And What To Avoid)

What you choose to include in a gift set is entirely up to you with the contents only truly being limited by your level of creativity and your budget.  There are countless options available when it comes to how you present your gift. You can make use of a pretty wicker basket, a vintage tea tin or box, or even a tea tray to arrange your treats in. The star of your gift set will undoubtedly be tea, regardless of whether you opt for bags or leaves. A variety of leaves in beautiful bags, bottles or tins can be exquisitely packaged together with a scoop, sifter, elegant or novelty diffuser, embroidered or hand-painted tea towel and a charming porcelain teacup. You can even go as far as to pick a theme such as English Tea Garden, vintage, modern, organic, or Chinese for your gift.

If you want to include breakables such as teapots and cups in your gift set, it is important to make sure that it is packaged securely, especially if you are making use of the postal service or a courier company. Items to definitely avoid are perishables of any kind including dairy products and fresh fruit as they could possibly spoil while in transit. Rather include a gift certificate to a local greengrocer if you would like to include fruit in your gift.

When it comes to putting together a tea-based gift there are no unyielding guidelines to observe. Play around with different themes and materials until you are indubitably happy with the final product. Your time, effort and thoughtfulness will shine through in your handiwork and will be as highly appreciated as the beautiful bequests themselves. Many a friendship has started over a cup of tea, and many more will grow from strength to strength all thanks to a most treasured gift.

Image Source



Blast From the Past: a unique mother’s day gift


I would like to suggest something truly unique as a gift for all your mothers this Mother’s Day. For those of you who have read my post Why America Needs a Tea Renaissance, you know that I believe that our lives are too overloaded; we live our lives in overdrive and on cruise control. We rush around most of the time on automatic just trying to get done what we have to; rarely stopping to take notice of how we are doing it.

Buying gifts for loved ones is no different. We often feel a sense of obligation to get something. We run around, in the little time we have free, to find something that we hope the person will like, but find ourselves content with anything that says that at least I took the time out from my busy schedule to get this card or gift for you. It’s often just an appeasement, a way to non-verbally communicate the message that at least you remembered, so now Mom can’t say you didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I know you love your mothers. It doesn’t matter. We get so preoccupied with our lives that even taking time out to do something for a loved one can feel like an imposition. It’s sad, but this is what it has come to for many of us.

For all tea lovers, it would be easy to buy our mothers a gift of a lovely tea pot and/or wonderful tea. I’m sure she would enjoy it. In fact, I could even provide you with a very convenient link to the tchingstore.com store site right here in this article so you wouldn’t even have to leave your house or office to purchase the gift. Before you do that, however, think about what is most important and most appreciated by our mothers when it comes to us – their children: TIME. Our time. It is the most valuable commodity we have to offer. Instead of simply moving your mouse and clicking on a gift, or running out frantically during your lunch hour to pick something up, give her your time. It would be a much appreciated gift and one that would benefit the giver as well as the recipient. For this Mother’s Day, I think it would be wonderful if we all took the time to do some form of tea practice for our moms. It doesn’t have to be formal or elaborate. Give some thought to creating a relaxing, peaceful, and beautiful environment. Be thoughtful about picking some favorite pots from your collection that are simple and elegant to use. A zisha pot with soft, simple lines would be nice. A glass pot where she can see the agony of the leaves as they unfurl in the pot would add an extra visual element. Pick a few teas that would give a good introduction to the range of flavors and aromas. If you have a nice tea tray, you could use that to prepare the tea for her and maybe add a small and simple flower arrangement in the middle of the tray ala Ikebana.

Now comes the most important part of this gift. You have created a wonderful atmosphere with which to do your tea practice and now you want to be fully in the present with her as you engage her with this practice. Do it as a meditation on mom. Engross yourself in the moment and be wholly aware of yourself, your mother and your surroundings. You don’t even have to talk if you don’t want to, but certainly feel free to. Make each movement and each look mean something. This is the woman who endured the pain of bringing you into this wonderful life and who helped shape who you are as a person. Take yourtime in showing her your pots and even sharing why you chose each one; what is special about it for you. Share with her your knowledge and feelings about each tea you chose; where it comes from, how it is produced etc. Be careful not to get lost in your own stories, though. This is about her, not about you. Engage her by having her look at the dry and wet leaves, smell the aroma of the steeped tea and enjoy the color of the liquor. Help her to take the time to savor the flavors of the tea and how to fully engage her tongue with them. Don’t be too rigid about all of this. If you see that she wants to talk and engage you in conversations other than tea, go with it. Be in the moment and be with your mother in a way that lets her know that she is the most important person in this moment. Don’t let yourself be distracted. Remember, this is a meditation on mom. Be fully present for her to help reconnect the two of you – or more if there are other family members – in a way that goes beyond your normal interactions. I guarantee that if you take the time to do this for your mother, it will be the most appreciated Mother’s Day both of you have ever had. Happy Mother’s Day!

Originally posted in May 2008, written by Sandy Bushberg.



Review: Kusmi Tea – T Ching


Despite being given the option of picking out some specific teas to try, I happen to love surprises so I let Kusmi Teas pick out which ones they sent me. Thus, I received their BB Detox loose tea, White Anastasia loose tea, and Jasmine Green tea bags.

If interested, check out Kusmi Tea online for more information or to order.

Images provided by author.



Tea for Generations


Is there anything new in the world of tea? Thank you for asking, of course, there is! What is old is what is new that’s always for certain but for the new, modern tea drinker, adaptations must be the rule.

Put young Japanese tea drinkers together with a Japanese tea master, and you’ll not only see what transpires you’ll be able to taste it, too.

It was my own personal observation in 2011, in a life-changing trip to the magnificent tea-growing area of Japan known as the Shizuoka Prefecture, that well-established tea fields had been abandoned and left to grow wild.

For the tea fields that were actually being cultivated, it was often elderly couples, husbands, and wives, well into the seventies doing the physical work. The couples used a hand-held tealeaf cutter, walked up and down the bumpy rows of tea bushes, one on either side of the bush, and cut the tender tea leaves and simply allowed them to fall on the ground for compost.  

If you will recall, 2011 was a tumultuous year for Japan. That was the year of the tsunami, the nuclear reactor incident, and the loss of 20,000 lives. Radioactive cesium was detected in tea leaves, so the fresh, young leaves were not used to make tea at many of the tea farms. Although Shizuoka is approximately 225 miles from Fukushima, the radiation traveled far and wide.

Not all the tea farms I saw were doing this, but the memory of seeing the elders working so hard because the younger people had little desire to be out in the tea fields harvesting something they considered old-fashioned and no longer relevant, tea. This was the reason many tea farms had been left unattended before the tsunami and not because of the radiation.

Seven years later, we move on to happier stories in Shizuoka to high school students working with a tea master to create a tea the younger generation would like and they did it in a year!

It’s 100% natural, vegan, GMO-free and gluten-free are you curious?

Premium Powdered Green Tea with Mikan

In case you miss a vital part of the Japanese Green Tea, I’m going to bring your attention to the style of farming from which the Premium Powdered Green Tea is made. I think you’ll be quite impressed.

To learn about the ancient CHAGUSABA method of sustainable farming, see here: How farmers use the Chagusaba method

When you get to this blog, there may be someone there you recognize.

Kei Nishida reached out to me a while ago and asked if he could send me some of this youth-inspired tea. Don’t you love getting those requests!

Have a look at the Premium Powdered Green Tea with Lemon

How does it taste? Oh, glad you asked that, too! I made the Mikan in hot water and the Lemon in cold water in less than a cup of water each. I know the younger people will like this matcha-tasting-matcha-looking version better than plain Matcha or plain Powdered Green Tea.

The Lemon version has a good hit of lemon, very lightly sweetened, and an enjoyable flavor. The hot water version of the Mikan, which is from the orange family of citrus, was much lighter; just enough to add a hint of flavor, make it a bit more exciting than plain Powdered Green Tea, and both would do well poured over ice here in North America.

I stirred both with a spoon and found the emulsion thorough, not something you could do with Matcha. I just happened to have a bamboo whisk handy and I did whisk it to make sure I was getting all the tea before sipping it.

In another tasting, I used one tablespoon of the Lemon Powdered Green Tea in a 16 oz. tea mug of cold water and found enough flavor to be satisfying indeed.

I got called away from my tea for a while and came back to finish it, cold, to discover it had changed color. Definitely oxidizing and getting darker, but tasted the same, still enjoyable. Therefore, making a pitcher of it ahead of time might not be a good ideafresh is always best anyway.

What I find the most intriguing about this product is the intergenerational aspect. I love the younger generation using their brains, their creativity, and enthusiasm to work with their elders to create a tea product other young people will enjoy, thus ensuring the continued consumption of tea in their country. It won’t be in the tradition of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, but perhaps it’s the beginning of a new tradition that sparks the interest of the young and inspires the preservation of the old.

The post Tea for Generations appeared first on T Ching.

Summer Tisanes To Cool The Body


I’m always looking for healthy drinks when the weather begins to heat up. Despite our intuitive sense of hot tea being a good option when we’re overheated, it does actually help to cool down the body. This is true of green tea as opposed to coffee. The amount of caffeine in coffee, however, causes it to be dehydrating while green tea is considered hydrating, due to its lower caffeine level, so it’s as beneficial for hydration as water (assuming you’re drinking it straight up without sugar or milk).

There are a number of tisanes that aren’t as common as others such as peppermint, ginger, and chamomile. New ones that I’ve discovered are barley tea, fennel tea, and coriander tea. All of these are hydrating and perfect for summertime cooling when the body will benefit from a hydrating, cooling brew.

Barley tea – You can make this brew by adding a handful of barley grains to a few cups of boiling water. Strain out the barley after 5-10 minutes. Feel free to add lemon or honey if that would appeal to you.

Fennel tea – These seeds are typically available after a hot meal at an Indian restaurant. They make a delicious tea as well. Legend has it that they help to calm one’s nerves and instill a sense of well being.

Coriander tea has been used in traditional folk remedies for centuries and is a typical spice in Ayurvedic cooking preparations. It’s hard to find an Indian recipe that doesn’t use Coriander. The seeds are available at most health food stores. Simmer in boiling water as you would any tisane for 5-10 minutes. Adding lemon and/or honey is always an option if the flavor isn’t sufficient for your enjoyment.