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.

Image 1 Source
Image 2 Source
Image 3 Source



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.

Image Source



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.

Image Source



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!

Image Source



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.



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.

Image 1 Source
Image 2 Source
Image 3 Source



Blast From the Past: Pairing Tea With Cheese


One might well imagine wine being the perfect pairing with cheese.  However, while at a cheese-and-wine tasting recently, I had a cheese expert tell me that cheese is much better paired with tea than wine.  So, I decided to host a cheese-and-tea tasting.  I purchased six cheeses and six teas, each with different flavor profiles and textures, and then proceeded to pair each cheese with each of the teas.

Cheeses

Chevre
Marieke Gouda
Hooks 3-Year Cheddar
Sarvecchio
Carr Valley Mobay
Hooks Blue Cheese

Teas

White Peony
Jasmine Green
Houjicha
Feng Huang Dancong “Ba Xian”
Golden Yunnan
Cinnamon Plum

Tasting Highlights

  1. It is best to taste the tea when it has cooled.  When tasting tea and cheese, put the cheese in your mouth and spread it all the way down your tongue and then take a sip of tea.  The tea coats your mouth and the cheese.  Next, breathe and inhale the aroma lingering in your mouth.  A nice tip that helps bridge the flavors in the cheese and tea is to crack fresh pepper onto the cheese, mix with honey, or add cocoa nibs.
  2. The Jasmine Green and White Peony went with just about every cheese.  They both complemented the very distinct flavors of the cheeses.
  3. We added cocoa nibs and honey to the fresh goat cheese (Chevre).  It was amazing!  That paired really well with Golden Yunnan, bringing out the sweet caramel notes of the rich black tea.
  4. White Peony went really well with goat cheese blended with honey.  The honey in the goat cheese brought out some really nice honeysuckle nectar-like notes in the White Peony.
  5. We cracked fresh pepper onto the Marieke gouda and paired it with Golden Yunnan.  The pepper brought out really nice spicy and malty notes in the Golden Yunnan.
  6. We tasted the Hooks Blue cheese at the end of our series.  We knew the flavor would overwhelm any other cheese tasted after it.  Blue cheese is often paired with port or a very thick, juicy, and sweet wine, so it made perfect sense to choose Cinnamon Plum for this pairing.  It was amazing.  We scooped up blue cheese into porcelain tasting spoons and drank the sweet notes of Cinnamon Plum that coated our throats with deliciously rich fruit.

Image provided by author.

This article was originally posted in February 2011.



Tea Towel & A Yayoi Kusama Exhibit


The Broad’s special exhibit Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors closed a few weeks ago. Angelinos who missed the show could catch it at the remaining stops, Toronto, Cleveland, or Atlanta, before the collection of six mirror-lined rooms leaves North America.

Yayoi Kusama was born in 1929, in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture. She attained international recognition in 1957 via a solo exhibit, just a few weeks after her arrival in Seattle. Since 1977 she has resided, voluntarily, at a mental hospital in Japan and commuted to her studio daily.

For over an hour I waited in line to purchase the same-day admission ticket. The strategically positioned mirrors, the scintillating LED lights, and awkward reflections of oneself invoked giggle and laughter; I was not awed though. Art mavens dissected and embraced Kusama’s art, labeling it iconoclastic, recalcitrant yet profound. In my eyes, her work enriches the so-called cuteness culture, or simply cute culture, so cute that I wish to own a piece, especially the signature polka dot-clad Kusama Pumpkin, many of which were displayed inside a space entitled “Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins” – the only room where photos were not allowed.

While searching for that perfect miniature Kusama Pumpkin replica, I came across her Love Forever Tea Towel. Do you own a tea towel? Of course you do. No one would cry foul if you call your dish cloth a tea towel. Vincent van Gogh painted on tea towels when he ran out of canvas. Such an ordinary object with many recorded anecdotes!