4 Ways Tea and Other Aphrodisiacs Spice Up Your Relationship – Part 1

A relationship is like a garden. In the beginning, you plant a few seeds and watch them blossom. As time goes on, though, you need to nurture the garden for it to stay as beautiful as it was in the beginning. Sprinkle a little thoughtfulness and attention, and you’re halfway there. So as to keep things fresh, you can always turn to aphrodisiacs. One of the most effective ones is tea. The consumption of tea dates back to as early as the third century AD. The east was first to reap its benefits, but the rest of the world soon caught on and tea was recognized as the universal problem solver.

Tea has a lot of health benefits for your physical and mental health. Therefore, you should be drinking it on regular basis regardless of how things are in the bedroom currently. These benefits will surely contribute to spicing things up, though. A healthy mind and body are conditions that need to be met if you want your relationship to be more passionate. Simply put, when you’re healthy and content with yourself, you’ll be more open to exploring the bedroom with your partner.

What’s more, some teas can even help with certain issues related to the bedroom. Ginseng tea, for example, contains compounds referred to as ginsenosides. They might not sound like anything special, but they affect gonadal tissue and battle erectile dysfunction.  Even though men might benefit from it more, it still increases the wants and needs of both partners that only they can satisfy together.

Spending years together can cause you either to drift apart or merge into the same person. More often than not, the former happens. In these cases, the question is finding an activity you can do together. You can try the classics like going to cooking or dancing lessons, but those activities can end up being stressful and hard to manage time-wise.

Growing closer should happen on the emotional and physical levels equally. That’s why the perfect activity might be reading and drinking tea together. This will stimulate your brains and your bodies alike. Catuaba bark tea should solve the physical distance, and choosing books for each other can reconnect you emotionally. Throw in a little dark chocolate as a snack and you’ve got a recipe for success. After all, dark chocolate is rich in tryptophan and phenylethylamine, both of which are associated with falling in love and generating more serotonin.

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To be concluded Monday

Crafted Holiday Tea Gifts – Part 2

Continued from yesterday’s post

A few weeks ago I was talking with my mother-in-law about yarn arts. As the weather cools there’s less to do outside (and less motivation to be out in the cold and wet weather!) so it’s the customary time of the year for at-home craft projects. My mom-in-law is a master crocheter and I am a novice knitter, so we’ve both spent many an evening with some yarn and a hook or pair of needles clicking away. She was listing some possible projects that people had asked of her, and I chimed in that I could use a tea cozy to keep the tea in my teapot warm for longer. At the time I considered it a reasonable thing to mention, thinking that it would be an easy Christmas present for her to give me.

Imagine my surprise last week when I got home after work and my mom-in-law was there, gesturing me into the kitchen. I found my teapot on the counter, covered in the most beautiful cozy I’ve ever seen! She’d picked out a yarn that matched the teapot, and found a pattern that was just stunning. I told her, awestruck, that it reminded me of a chrysanthemum with all its layered petals. She laughed a little and confessed that it had actually been an extremely quick and simple project for her, and had been the perfect warm-up for the crocheting season. (And by the way, it works GREAT at keeping my tea hot!)

Here are the final gift ideas that I came up with:

Tea Cozy
There are many ways to make a tea cozy, including crocheting, knitting, and sewing. My mom-in-law used this pattern, but a simple google search for “free tea cozy pattern” and whatever your medium of choice (“crochet” “knit” “sew”) should yield many delightful results.

Tea Light Cup Warmer
For those who are more comfortable in the shop using a drill than by the fire with a hook or needles, this tea light cup warmer is a great option! Made from a wooden board, aluminum rod, and a sheet of aluminum the author of this DIY lists the total cost of components at less than $10 (assuming, of course, that you already own a drill!).

Tea Gift Basket
When all else fails, it takes very little creative energy to put a couple mugs and a few small samples of your favorite teas in a pretty basket (bonus points if the mugs and basket are from a thrift store!), wrap it in cellophane, and add a bow. Or, to stick with our up-cycling and eco-friendly theme, try buying discounted semi-sheer fabric at a craft store and use that instead of cellophane. It instantly adds a touch of class and can be re-used for years.

These are just a few ideas that I have either given, received, or seen. Have you ever given or received any interesting tea-related gifts? I would love to hear more ideas!

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Crafted Holiday Tea Gifts – Part 1

Earlier this year I gave my younger brother a tea-related gift, inspired by his asking me about loose-leaf tea over bagged: A teapot that came with a strainer for loose tea. It was no plain, simple teapot, however, as I spent fourteen hours carefully painting seven delicate and colorful koi on the surface of the teapot.

With the previous in mind and knowing we’re going into the holiday season, I thought I would list a few holiday tea gifts that can be crafted or assembled yourself for that special, personal touch.

Painted Teapot, Tea Set, or Mug
There are always numerous teapots, teacups, saucers, creamers, sugar dishes, and mugs to be found at thrift stores. Plain or fancy, you can add whatever embellishment you like or think the recipient would enjoy. This isn’t limited to drawing, either: Words or phrases such as “Joe’s Tea” “Special Blend” “Morning Survival” or “Sophisticated Addiction” are easy to do as well. I personally used these paint pens (though there were only eight colors when I bought them, leaving me a bit more limited) for easier and cleaner application. And remember that stencils work great if you don’t want to draw or write it yourself! Be sure to use a paint or pens that are food-safe, and follow the instructions for how to best ensure the paints are permanently dry before gifting. For the ones I used, it needed to air-dry for one day and then I baked it in the oven to set.

Custom Tea Blend
For those of us who enjoy blending their own tea or tisanes, it’s always an option to give a custom blend as a gift! Most loose herbs are very cheap and not too difficult to acquire. Small holiday tins or jars can be found at many stores–including thrift stores!–and can easily be labeled and decorated with a ribbon. I’ve made tea blends as gifts (sometimes even by request), and my biggest advice would be: Make sure to write down the recipe you end up using! I still wish I could remember everything I put in the chocolate and licorice black tea I made for a girlfriend to give her father years ago.

Doilies or Table Covers
If you have the amazing ability to make lace by hand (or are game to teach yourself the art using YouTube videos or whatever resources you have available) you can always make delicate lace doilies or table covers. Another option is to crochet them with a fine thread or yarn. A fun alternative would be to sew them out of many pieces of cut fabric like one would a quilt! Doilies and table covers add a touch of class and pomp to tea’s presentation and can make the everyday that little bit more special.

Personalized Tea Ball
While I generally consider tea balls to be too much effort, they can make a simple but practical gift for many people. All you need to do is find a cheap basic tea ball and remove the weight from the end of the chain by snipping the ring holding it on with wire cutters. Then affix a charm or charms that the recipient will like. The easiest way to add charms is to use a split ring (think of the kind of ring typically used for keys on a keychain). Carefully separate the ring with a butter knife (or whatever method you use for keys) and slide the charm or charms onto it. Both split rings and charms can be found online or at your local craft store.

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To be concluded tomorrow…

Lettuce Leaf Tea……..? – T Ching

Every once in a while I come across something new, and lettuce leaf tea is a good example. I’ve never heard of it before. I found a few resources that give information about the amazing health benefits of this leaf, and when it’s organic it’s even better. So join me in learning about this interesting tissane.

Lettuce was first grown by the ancient Egyptians, thousands of years ago. It was considered to be “sacred”  due to its perceived healing benefits. Today, we can find lettuce in most every market around the world. Its use as a medicinal tea, however, has not yet become mainstream here in the U.S.

Health Benefits of Lettuce

There appear to be at least eight health qualities of the lettuce leaf that we should familiarize ourselves with.

  1. Neuroprotective features. There is animal based research to suggest that lettuce leaf extract can protect neurons in the brain from dying. It is believed that neuronal death causes memory loss which is the hallmark of a variety of forms of dementia.
  2. Reduces inflammation. Inflammation is the new issue that the alternative community is focusing on. The belief is that inflammation is the root cause of almost ALL diseases, both chronic and acute. In experimental models, lettuce leaf has been shown to impact inflammation.
  3. Aides in sleep. “One of the major traditional uses of lettuce in Unani medicine was as a sleep inducer. Research into the extracts of lettuce resulted in the isolation of a depressant chemical. This chemical, when administered in experimental animals, showed significant sedative effects. A 2013 research report, suggests that the main component(s) responsible for this effect in lettuce is most likely to be the non-polar agent(s),which are found in the n-butanol fraction (NBF)of this plant. [source] Decreased heart rate and ventricular contractions were also observed. This particular chemical acts by blocking the excitatory signal processes of muscular and neural tissues.”
  4. Reduces anxiety. There is some animal research that suggests that lettuce leaf has anxiolytic properties. When we consider how much money is spent annually on anti-anxiety medications, it’s certainly reasonable to consider this natural remedy. Apart from possible allergic reactions, which are possible with any food, there are no apparent side effects.
  5. Cholesterol lowering. Although there is some controversy regarding high levels of LDL cholesterol and its impact on heart health and stroke, there is evidence that lettuce leaf can lower cholesterol.
  6. Reduces the risk of certain cancers.
  7. Rich source of antioxidants. “Studies have shown that lettuce possesses antioxidants with significant free radical-scavenging capabilities. [source] Antioxidants are a wide range of biochemicals mostly found in our diet; they are also very necessary for human health. Antioxidants act as barriers to free radicals, which are produced during cellular metabolism. These free radicals attack healthy tissues, cells, and the DNA inside them. They can often cause healthy cells to mutate into cancer cells. The result is the development of various diseases. Antioxidants, on the other hand, counteract these free radicals and neutralize them before the free radical attacks take place.”
  8. Antimicrobial properties. I know that white tea has been shown to have an abundance of antimicrobial properties. It appears that lettuce leaf does as well.

Given all the evidence of potential health benefits, I think it’s reasonable to add this healthy plant into our wellness routine. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen lettuce leaf tea for sale, but fortunately, we have google to lead the way. Remember that with all plants and food products, organic is always best.

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Blast From the Past: Tea and its unique synergism of caffeine and L-theanine

Over the years, there have been many studies looking at the effects of caffeine and – more recently – L-theanine on human performance and mood.  However, I have noticed a growing body of research looking at the synergistic effect of both as found in tea.  Most recently, I read a study, sponsored by The Journal of Nutrition which looked at the effects of caffeine and L-theanine on cognitive performance.

I’m sure all readers are familiar with caffeine, either from personal experience or reading.  For those of you, however, who are not familiar with L-theanine, just a few bits of information.  L-theanine is found only in tea in any significant amount.  It is an amino acid that has a relaxing effect physiologically and subjectively.  This is further supported by research that shows distinct increases in the alpha brain-wave frequency.  Alpha, as many of you may know (especially if you were of college age in the 1960s), has been long associated with a relaxed, but alert state, of consciousness.

Without going into too much detail about how the study was set up, they looked at 44 young adults who consumed a RTD tea beverage, concocted for this study, that contained 40 mg of caffeine and 97 mg of L-theanine, along with sweeteners and lemon flavor, in a powder form combined with water.  The beverage used for the placebo group contained the same ingredients, except the caffeine and L-theanine.  The normal ratio of caffeine to L-theanine found in tea (35–61 mg of caffeine and 4.5–22.5 mg) was jacked up on the L-theanine side for this study because they were more interested in looking at what L-theanine adds to caffeine.  The subjects were given a variety of performance tasks related to attention and speed of processing and had their blood pressure and alertness/tiredness periodically monitored.

The results showed that the synergistic effect of caffeine and L-theanine specifically improved attentional functioning on challenging, complex tasks vs. previous findings on caffeine showing attentional improvement on more simple tasks.  In addition, as you might imagine, the combination also showed an increase in perceived alertness and reduction in fatigue as reported by a subjective measure completed by participants.  The final results also showed that, although there was a slight increase in systolic blood pressure, it was smaller than what is typically found in studies looking at the effects of caffeine alone on blood pressure.  The authors further pointed out that previous meta-analyses of the effects of tea on blood pressure suggest that long-term consumption appears not to increase blood pressure and, in fact, has shown to be protective of stroke incidents.

It is for the above reasons that tea has had such a propitious history in helping people improve performance (and health), whether for meditation or figuring out complex mathematical equations.  Drink your tea and live life to its fullest.

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This post first published November 2010 by Sandy Bushberg.

Persimmons, Tea and Beyond

When late fall arrives and the farmers markets are flooded with fresh persimmons in two major varieties: Fuyu (the flat oblong ones that may be enjoyed hard like an apple or softer if you are patient) and Hachiyas, (the heart-shaped ones that must be fully ripened and therefore meltingly soft and pudding-like to enjoy). I am primed for that most special of special seasonal treats: the hoshigaki. The dried, jammy, soft, leathery and altogether rare treat found in Japanese and other pan-Asian markets around my city. Here is a fruit that has been processed as a kind of labor of love, over a period of weeks. Each peeled fruit, hung on a string in an airy warm place, regularly massaged by hand to ensure that the inner pulp of the fruit broken up and retaining their teardrop shape all during the process. I like to think of the similarities between the care and artisanship involved in producing these fruits and what goes into producing the finest teas.  At this time of year, I await the pleasure of exploring the relationships between the two by tasting my tea of choice alone, the fruit alone, and then the two together in one mouth-filling experience.

Although the tradition of drying persimmons most likely originated in Japan in the 8th to 12th centuries, with examples of them in Korea and in China (whose versions, respectively, gotgam and shibing, are a fraction of the price since they are not hand massaged or suspended on string as are the traditional far more labor-intensive hoshigaki), feel free to enjoy them with teas from China or India. Unsweetened black teas suit my palate, balancing the intense though not cloying sweetness of the fruit which is traditionally made with the otherwise astringent-when-unripe Hachiya variety of persimmon. Since the mouth-puckering tannins in these are water soluble, when the fruit is dried with much of its moisture evaporated the tannins are no longer perceived by the tastebuds.

Adding one more layer of excitement to this late-fall pleasure, bites of a well-aged English or domestic cheddar or other hard cheese work well in a back-and-forth tasting experience with warm or even cooled-down tea as the beverage of choice here. Sneak in bites of the sweet hoshigaki which play well against the salty presence of the cheese. Tea here is not only the social lubricant for a great get-together but also unites the fruit and cheese as you nibble on a bit of one and then on the other. A croute of pita or other flatbread–toasted but first lightly brushed with fruity olive oil–makes the tasting an event, adding crunchy texture and heft. How’s this for an intro to Thanksgiving dinner? And you can continue serving tea throughout the dinner. Who says that the beverage with dinner has to be a fruity red wine, champagne, or beer? (Although all are good choices in my book.)  What about the teetotalers (those devoted totally to tea?) among us?

5 Ways to Enjoy Japanese Green Tea – Part 2

Continued from yesterday’s post

3. Tulsi with Hot Milk and Matcha

Is it a cold day and you want something warm to warm you up and soothe your mood? Well we know the perfect fix to keep you cozy inside! Prepare some hot milk with matcha and add a touch of tulsi and you’ll have yourself the perfect concoction to brighten any gloomy day. Because tulsi is actually good for your health (much like green tea), milk with matcha and tulsi is not only a great way to get nutrients, it’s an easy and yummy way to do so. From helping to relieve stress to providing your body with necessary antioxidants, there are several reasons that you should consume this delectable drink as often as you can.

How to: Make sure to grind the matcha and tulsi before putting your milk on to boil. As the milk starts to boil, mix in the blend of matcha and tulsi. Take tastes as you mix it in completely to make sure that you get the perfect blend.

4. Tulsi Green Tea Cocktail

Are you having friends over for a special event and looking to try new things to amaze them? Well, a great way to freshen things up is to add tulsi and green tea to your choice of liquor (though we would have to say that we like the taste of green tea with vodka or gin). The rich mint flavor of the tulsi brings a green tea cocktail to a whole other level of exotic making it an idyllic option for when you want to surprise your guests with something that they’ll question at first but end up loving. We always love this type of daring cocktail with a touch of lemon for a winning drink that will make your guests ask for more. While liquors like rum or whiskey may not blend well with the rich flavors of green tea and tulsi, you can try your favorite liquors until you find the one that works best for your palate and tastes great in cocktails.

How to: There are different ways to make this type of cocktail but the easiest way to do so is to make a tea with your green tea and tulsi. Make sure that you let it sit long enough for the water to really get the flavors. Once the tea is cool and you can taste the tulsi and green tea, shake with ice and your favorite type of liquor and additional ingredients for an incredible tasting cocktail.

5. Tulsi Matcha and Ice Cream

Who says that dessert can’t contain some of your favorite Indian spice? We think that tulsi can be amazing, and that’s why we think one of its best uses is with matcha ice cream. It’s the perfect blend of minty and sweet that makes for a marriage that is so perfect you’ll wonder why this isn’t a world-famous ice cream flavor. What’s even better is that you can now wow your family or guests with an ice cream pairing that is to die for. Pair this ice cream with anything from a cobbler, to pie, to brownies and you’ll be amazed at just how incredible the flavor really is.

How to: Make sure to get your favorite type of ice cream for this recipe (although it pairs best with vanilla). Boil water and add matcha, making sure to blend it in well. Grind tulsi and then add it as well. Whisk the blend for a few minutes and when you’re confident the flavors are blended together perfectly, pour it over your ice cream and voila! You’ll have a uniquely delectable dessert that won’t disappoint.

In Conclusion

While you don’t want to add tulsi to just anything, it can be amazing when paired wisely. Do some research and try various combinations with tulsi and matcha and you’ll be able to use your favorite ingredients in new ways that will make you wonder why you never tried them before.

Whether you’re looking for a new type of tea to drink or are simply looking for new ways to make dessert, these ideas will get you started using tulsi and matcha in the best way possible. If you can’t get enough of your green tea and tulsi, you don’t have to stop enjoying them. As you can see from the information above, there are still so many ways to enjoy these ingredients that you know and love.


5 Ways to Enjoy Japanese Green Tea – Part 1

If you’ve never had tulsi before, it’s about time that you tried this amazing spice. If you have had it before or use it regularly, then you know just how delicious it can be in almost anything. Tulsi smells much like clove and has a strong, mint-like flavor that can be delightful when combined with the right type of food and drink.

Tulsi is considered to be a holy plant in India. Because of this, it can be found growing in almost every household in the country. This is one reason why you can find Tulsi in many Indian dishes. Tulsi is believed to be the incarnation of a royal princess who was in love with Krishna.

A surprising way to use tulsi is with green tea and matcha. If you’re looking for new recipes for drinks and meals, the following 5 ways to use tulsi with green tea will provide you with ideas that you may have never thought of trying before:

1.Tulsi with Matcha

If you’re looking for a new way to wake up in the morning or get a bit of a kick when you’re facing a lull in the middle of the day, a tulsi with matcha tea blend can make a world of difference. Because it is an energy-inducing spice, it’s a great addition to any type of tea, especially with your favorite matcha tea. Both ingredients are known to be good for our health, so just imagine how amazing this blend can be for you.

You can drink these two ingredients together as a hot tea, add light milk foam to your tea to make a latte, or even make a smoothie out of them! However, if you feel like drinking some of nature’s best ingredients will be the best way for you to enjoy this pairing and surprisingly, it can be used in many more ways than what we’ve mentioned above.

How to: Grind the tulsi and matcha separately before preparing your food or drink, then mix them together to blend the flavors together.

2. Tulsi with Sencha

For those who prefer sencha over matcha, there is something to be said about the flavor of tulsi with Sencha. If you like the way that sencha can help to provide you with a clear, energetic mind while also calming your nerves, just imagine drinking a glass of Sencha tea or a Sencha smoothie with it. It’s the perfect option for those days when you have to keep on working but find yourself stressed and with your nerves all over the place.

A warm cup of tulsi/sencha tea can help you to relax yet carry on with your project and get it done. We love this blend as sencha has a vegetal flavor that is rich and refreshing. Sometimes, however, it may be too “spinach-like” for some people, so the addition of the minty tulsi gives it a more pleasant tea-like flavor.

How to: Before you prepare anything with sencha and tulsi, you’ll want to make sure to boil the sencha and tulsi together to get the most you can from the flavors.

To be concluded tomorrow


Harding Intsik in Manila – T Ching

Harding Intsik, an obscure attraction inside Manila’s vast Rizal Park, is a Chinese garden designed and gifted decades ago by the Taiwanese government.  A set of postage stamps featuring two of the most notorious dictators in Asia–namely Philippines’s Ferdinand Marcos and Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek–commemorates the garden’s completion in 1967.

Though not as splendid as Chinese gardens elsewhere, Harding Intsik incorporates the essential elements – zigzag bridge over pond, pavilions and corridors, statues of literati, lush vegetation, etc.  It could be the only oriental garden, on Planet Earth, adorned with giant palm trees!  No tea house or tea service onsite though.

 Before arriving in Manila during an eight-hour layover, I was warned numerous times about the city’s traffic congestion, which restricted my adventure to only the must-visit Intramuros – Spanish Colonial Period’s Walled City.  Manila is endowed with a sizable Chinatown and the peculiar Chinese Cemetery, neither of which piqued my interest.  It was during the drive to Intramuros that I stumbled upon Harding Intsik.

Those who were at the garden that rainy afternoon appeared to be university students.  They found shelter to escape the unpleasant mishmash of rain and heat; I could picture them sitting at the same spot, reading the same book in any sunny day though. Whatever they were drinking to quench thirst and combat humidity was either coffee or water, not tea.  Most tourists graded the garden lackluster, even a waste of time.  Certainly it was not built for tourists.  Its construction aimed to attain political goals, which fortunately entertain residents of a cacophonous, over-populated metropolis.

This is my tenth year contributing to T Ching.  I decided to write about Harding Intsik while reading in one review, after my trip, that although the Taiwanese government, more specifically, the Nationalist Party’s exploitation of taxpayer money, funded the entire project, all “evidence” such as commemorative plaques had been removed or replaced since the so-called “Rise of China.”  My tour guide photographed me holding an umbrella in front of the winding corridor.  How I wish I had turned around to inspect one plaque pinned to the corridor pillar, as shown in the photo, but there is really not a need.  Due to pressure from China, Taiwan is not admitted to not only the United Nations but also organizations such as the United Nations’ information-distributing, humanitarian agency WHO (World Health Organization).  At China’s request earlier this year, major airlines deleted references to Taiwan in their flight schedules.  The East Asian Olympic Committee barred TaiChung, Taiwan’s second largest city, from hosting the East Asian Youth Games.  All had been a struggle for the oppressed during the past ten years, and the struggle persists in the coming ten years when the oppressor wields power regardless of the sophomoric, trite propaganda and implementation.

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Blast From the Past: Time for moving on

Coffee and I had an ugly divorce.
“Bad for you,” the doctor said,
“Too much caffeine for your heart. Try green tea.”

Rather than marvel that a trained Medicine Man was endorsing
tea, I grieved. Suffered.
Woes of unrequited love. Anger. Denial. Deal-making.

The trappings of my failed marriage were lined up on the counter:
grinder; espresso maker; the finest muslin filters. A dozen message mugs.
Half-empty bags of beans.
All victims of a relationship turned sour.

My first dates with tea were blind. Bags.
I almost had one of those internet flings after
flirting with the likes of Twinings and Harney & Sons.

Rescued from the brink by T Ching, I am in love again.

No regrets.

Originally posted in November 2008 by uncredited

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