Our Routines and Our Rituals


Routines give us stability rituals provide us with sanctuary.

We are taught routines at a very young age, and they are believed to be notably beneficial for children because they provide a sense of security and surety. Most of us hold fast to our routines in adulthood, and I’m sure every one of us knows what it is like to have our routines upset; just as many have probably experienced what happens when you disturb the habits of another. It throws people off — and they don’t like that!

For some people, their routines give them a sense of control and for those that only have that going for them in their lives one is advised not to mess with it!

Alarm clocks set to a specific time followed by the exact morning routines are how most people begin their days. Many prepare the night before even right down to what they will wear the next day this is helpful because it cuts down on the decisions one has to make first thing in the morning. Yes, we easily become creatures of habit. Our daily routines: brushing our teeth, showering, dressing, eating, exercising, going to work, cleaning, making meals, etc., often end up being done mindlessly and meaninglessly entirely on autopilot. We end up taking these things for granted things that billions of people on this planet can only dream.

We take our rituals much more seriously or do we?

Rituals are often associated with religious celebrations, cultural and spiritual traditions, to rites of passage from birth, to puberty, to marriage, and to death. Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and such are all rites of passage that we acknowledge but tend to marginalize and gloss over the greater meaning.

Often regimented, rituals do take more thought and effort and therefore have more meaning. This is a deep subject that I wish to touch upon for the sake of tying into our rituals as tea drinkers. Oh yes; for many, tea drinking is a routine as well, and one for which many take pride. Just as routines become mundane, we can turn rituals into mindless events, too.

So, let’s not do that let’s wake up period!

Many “gurus,” spiritual or business, will often tell you that how you start your day sets the tone for the success of your business, and for your life.

To begin the day being mindful of the many blessings we all have is a powerful way to start the day this also takes what is routine, elevate it, and can turn it into a ritual.

As I’ve been saying for almost fifteen years now a simple cup of tea has the power to transform one’s life. Turned into a personal ritual the graceful act of mindfully sipping one’s tea refreshes and resets the mind, the day, the mood, the situation, the problem; and a mind and heart relieved of stress and strife is unstoppable.

The ritual of preparing, serving, and sipping tea becomes sacred, as we’ve witnessed and been taught about in the tea industry.

Water is often involved with sacred rituals as it is in our routines, morning and otherwise. From cooking, cleaning, cleansing and nourishing the body, or boiling it for tea, water is a reminder of the sanctity of life without it, we perish life perishes. Water is purification, it’s baptism, it’s fluidity, it’s renewal, it’s fertility, it’s transformation, and deeply symbolic in every culture, and essential for a perfect cup of tea.

Each ritualistic sip is a blessing it’s an expression of gratitude a reconnection with something that joyfully returns us to our higher selves.

More on the rituals of tea in my next post …

Images are public domain, provided by author



DIY Beauty Products Made With Green Tea


Green tea may be thousands of years old, but it’s the latest superhero skin-care ingredient – and for good reason. Dermatologists such as NYC’s Joshua Zeichner rave about its antioxidant properties, specifically catechin polyphenols, which mop up environmental free-radical damage. Numerous studies have revealed the powerful beauty-enhancing effects of green tea, but it’s not just about brewing up and enjoying a calming cup – it can also be used to great effect in your daily skincare regime. 

Reduces Puffy Eyes and Dark Circles

Don’t throw away your used green tea bags! Cool them in the fridge and then lie down for 15 minutes or so with them on your eyelids. The antioxidants and tannins in the tea will work wonders with dark circles and puffy eyes. They act by shrinking the blood vessels underneath the delicate skin around the eyes, which takes down swelling and puffiness. What’s more, the vitamin K contained in green tea helps lighten any dark circles you might have under your eyes. 

Green Tea Steam Facial

Green tea leaves can make a wonderful steam facial. The green tea-infused steam gives your skin a powerful hit of antioxidants, which go to battle with free radicals. The steam also helps soothe sensitive skin, detoxify your pores and keep your skin hydrated. It smells wonderful too – helping you to relax while you let the steam do its work. 

It’s easy to do. All you need to do is put the kettle on, pour some boiling water into a large bowl with a couple of bags (or some loose) green tea, and cover to allow it to infuse for a little while. Give your face a gentle cleanse and then put a towel over your head to trap the steam in the bowl and stay there for 10 minutes or so. When you’re done, just rinse with cold water. Apparently supermodel Miranda Kerr does this regularly and if it’s good enough for her.

Make a Skin Toner

It’s equally simple to make a green tea toner, which can harness the anti-inflammatory and DNA mending capabilities of its polyphenols. Green tea also helps balance hormonal levels, which is very helpful in the fight against spots (not something that only affects the young). 

To make the most straightforward type, just add a green tea bag – or a couple of tablespoons of loose leaves – to a cup of boiling water and allow it to steep for about 5 minutes. Then remove the bag (or strain the liquid), transfer into an airtight receptacle and keep cool. Then just use it as you would any other toner – morning and evening after cleansing. It will stay fresh for about 4 days in the refrigerator. 

You can jazz the toner up a bit by adding some lemon juice, honey, vitamin E oil, witch hazel, and baking soda. The honey is anti-aging, the lemon juice helps brighten skin tone, the witch hazel aids cleansing, and the vitamin E can heal sun damage. The baking soda not only helps soothe irritated skin but also acts as an exfoliator. Thanks to the baking soda and witch hazel, this toner will also keep for longer – about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Green tea drinkers know that age is just a number. Who doesn’t want to keep skin looking youthful and plump? There are so many ways your skin will benefit from green tea, whether you simply drink it (delicious hot or cold) or knock up your own DIY skin product – certainly an inexpensive way to treat yourself. Put on the kettle, enjoy your brew of choice, and let your skin’s beauty speak for itself.  

Read more about Japanese green tea and skin health

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Magazine Covers – T Ching


The first issue of the weekly magazine The New Yorker was published on February 21, 1925, in New York City of course. The cover features a dandy named Eustace Tilley – an apparent tea enthusiast. Could you imagine Eustace Tilley drinking anything else? Difficult to picture him holding a glass of orange juice, no? Apéritifs may be essential but to quench thirst Eustace Tilley drinks tea!

I started subscribing to The New Yorker in the mid-1990’s, canceled in 2016. Even after a recent attempt at the KonMari Method, I could not bring myself to recycle the countless issues on the bookshelves, inside the closets and boxes. Many writers and artists dream of having their work published in this premier literary magazine, whose cartoon selection process was featured in a 60 Minutes segment. My favorite activity, after receiving each issue, is not examining the cartoons but concocting a title for the magazine cover. Below are two covers in my collection that are somewhat related to tea. How will you entitle them? I should leave the “official” titles in the Comments section below.

Images provided by author



Blast From the Past: Frosty contentment in a glass


At this time of year when rising temperatures relegate hot tea to rock-bottom status on most beverage lists, creating something cold and refreshing inspires me to turn to seasonal fruits as the basis for frosty tea drinks.  Whether you call them frappes or smoothies, they are a low-tech, minimalist path to refreshment, and clearly superior to anything you can get at your local coffee-and-tea emporium.  Although I like to vary the fruits and the teas I use, I always follow two rules:

  1. The fruit must be pristinely fresh, ripe, and hence flavorful (taste before buying).
  2. The tea must be cold brewed for the cleanest flavor – an infusing process that usually takes about 24 hours.  Decant the liquid after 24 hours (treating your garden compost to the spent leaves), but taste the tea before doing so, as some teas require more time to infuse the water to full effect.

Since these drinks derive their creamy texture from using fruit that has been frozen, you will need to allow time – about 4 hours in most freezers – for the fruit to freeze completely.  So plan accordingly.  All summer long, it pays to keep a covered pitcher of good-quality water and a dose of tea leaves in the refrigerator, and a container of the best farmers market fruit – peeled, pitted, and ready to go in a covered container in the freezer.

At the moment, at least in Southern California, when locally grown apriums, pluots, plumcots, and white and yellow peaches of many varieties are appearing on farmers markets’ tables in ever greater profusion and variety, those are the fruits I turn to.  If they are fully ripe, peel them without delay by inserting the point of a paring knife under the skin at the stem end to loosen the skin and then gently, without bruising the fruit, remove the skin in wide swaths.  Once the fruits are peeled, pit them, cube them, and freeze them, if possible, in a single layer in an airtight container.  When ready to whirl the drink in a blender, combine cubes of the frozen fruit with just enough cold-brewed tea to make a slightly thickened beverage (twice the amount of tea as fruit).  Pour into chilled glasses and garnish as you wish with fresh mint leaves, a bit of candied ginger, or a wedge of fresh peeled fruit that complements what you used in the drink.

Some suggested combinations of teas and fruits include:

  • Chinese blacks (such as Keemun and Yunnan) paired with melons, including cantaloupe and French charentais varieties
  • Oolongs paired with cherimoya (custard apple), pineapple, red peaches, or non-fibrous mango, such as Ataulfo, Champagne, Honey, or Manila variety
  • Green teas paired with fresh litchi, honeydew melon, or white low-acid peaches

Here is a recipe for one of my favorite combinations, adapted from my book, Cooking with Tea, co-authored with Diana Rosen.  Please indulge me for the alliteration – I couldn’t resist.  Hopefully, the flavor combination makes up for any cheap linguistic shot – and for the liberties with spelling.

Keemun Kantaloupe Kooler

If you wish to use cold-brewed tea as the basis for this drink, steep the tea leaves in 2 cups of good-quality water overnight in a covered pitcher.  Decant and then proceed.  Note also that if the cantaloupe is truly ripe, it will not be fibrous and the resulting puree should be perfectly smooth.  If the resulting puree is at all fibrous, pass it through a fine sieve before transferring it to the frosted glasses.  For 4 servings.

1 large ripe and fragrant cantaloupe, peeled and seeded, about 2 lbs.
Superfine sugar for coating the rims of the glasses, and to taste in the drink, as needed
A generous 2 T. Keemun tea (Chinese black tea)
1-1/2 quarts of good-quality water
Juice of 2 limes, sieved, about 1 ounce
Suggested garnishes: wedges of cantaloupe, wedges of lime, or sprigs of mint leaves with stems intact

  1. Cut 4 thin wedges of cantaloupe and set aside, refrigerated, as a garnish for the drinks.
  2. Dip 4 tall glasses in water and then dip the rims into the superfine sugar to coat. Freeze glasses.
  3. Cut the remaining melon into one-inch pieces.  Freeze.
  4. Place the tea, frozen melon, and lime juice into a blender jar.  Taste and add sugar, if desired.  Puree again. Pour the Kooler into the frosted glasses, garnish as desired, and serve immediately.

This article was originally posted in June 2010, written by Robert Wemischner

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Tea at Night – T Ching


Inspired by Michelle’s post about tea and health, I thought I would write about the one time I absolutely never drink tea: Late at night. A regular sufferer of insomnia, I have learned through experience that I can’t have caffeine within five hours of bedtime, else I’ll toss and turn for at least a couple hours. There are some decaffeinated camellia teas; I favor black tea with vanilla (my favorite being Harney & Son’s vanilla comoro) with a little heavy cream. Something about the vanilla and cream makes it instantly soothing, in addition to the comfort of a hot drink. But there are drawbacks to decaffeinated tea, especially the extra processing and chemical exposure that it usually involves (more information here).

A reasonable alternative is herbal tisanes. There are lots of options: The list of tisanes to drink for flavor is basically endless. And then there are those that are even known to help with insomnia or trouble sleeping. I’m just going to mention what I think are the big three: chamomile, lavender, and valerian.

Chamomile
German Chamomile is the first herb many people think of when they can’t sleep. It’s a powerhouse for soothing, relaxing, and calming anxiety; with a mellow, lightly floral flavor that mixes with almost any other herb and helps smooth out the flavor. It can also be very beneficial for people who have digestive troubles that lead to sleep difficulties, as it’s also used for soothing a sour stomach. The bright yellow color is not only cheerful, it’s strong enough to use as dye or for naturally bringing out highlights in hair. It’s safe for almost everyone to use, except for those who are allergic to plants in the daisy family. The only problem I have ever had with chamomile is that the little bits tend to get stuck in my mesh tea strainers and are a hassle to get out!
German chamomile can have some contraindications with medications, including those that contain estrogen, those that are changed by the liver, and some sedatives.

Lavender
The scent of lavender is downright heavenly, and there’s nothing like walking through a field full of the clusters of purple-topped stems. When used in a tisane, lavender is well known for its mind-soothing effects; and is commonly used to treat restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, and headaches. The taste is naturally sweet and very floral with a distinctive flavor, but can be a bit strong. Remedies involving lavender go back for centuries, from ancient Rome onward. I remember learning how to make lavender pillows as a child, a practice that started during the Middle Ages. Queen Elisabeth even used it in tea to treat her migraines. (Source)
Chamomile can have contraindications with sedative medications.

Valerian Root
Well known and commonly used as a sleep aid, valerian root is on the stronger side. Similar in effect to taking melatonin, it’s a heavy sedative. Some people need to use it regularly for up to four weeks before they see an effect. There are mixed opinions of whether it causes drowsiness in the morning, so some caution might be advised until you are familiar with the effect that it will have on you. When used in a tisane (usually tiny pieces of root) the flavor is dry and musty, so if flavor is important you might want to mix it with something else. (Source)
Valerian Root can have serious contraindications with sedatives and with alcohol.

As always, be extremely cautious of using herbal supplements without first consulting a medical professional with some knowledge of herbs or willingness to research.

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Americans Choose Tea Over Coffee for the Health Benefits


I was surprised when I heard about a study done by Kelton Global and the Tea Council of the USA in 2015. They concluded that 82% of Americans drank tea for the health benefits as compared with only 71% who choose coffee. We are a country that is slowly and steadily finding alternative ways to improve our health. Our crippled health care system isn’t looking to optimize our health. They’re, for the most part, offering band-aids to alleviate symptoms that plague our increasingly ill population. Western medicine doesn’t deal with chronic illness in an optimal way; they offer expensive medications instead. It is the unfortunate reality that chronic illnesses are overwhelming our health care system. With pharmaceutical giants who have huge lobbying funds at their disposal, they continue to influence the course of health care in this country. I think they’re no better than drug dealers. It’s all about money and repeat business. When it comes to “natural” products that have the potential to improve health, you’re basically on your own: Your insurance won’t cover it. The pharmaceutical companies aren’t interested as there are insufficient profits to be made from plants. If they can synthesize it, then they’re good to go with the newest and greatest new wonder drug that will cost a small fortune. Unfortunately, when they look for the 1 or 2 active ingredients in the compound of the plant, they leave out the hundreds of elements that work synergistically to optimize the medicinal value of the plant and to effectively avoid side effects when ingested together. As we know, ALL pharmaceutical drugs have side effects. Plants do not if taken properly and poisonous plants are avoided along with possible allergens that may affect an individual adversely. A good example of a potential plant allergen is wheat. Most people can tolerate it just fine while others cannot.

Americans are finally coming to realize that we must each take responsibility for our health. Supplements have become mainstream with the industry reaching 37 billion dollars in sales in 2017. I believe that whole leaf tea has a role to play in our health and wellness and apparently, most Americans agree. So drink up and know that you’re taking positive action to improve your health with each and every cup or glass. The more tea you drink, the less high sugar beverages you will consume.  I consider it one of the easiest changes to make when moving toward enhancing your overall well being.



Magazine Covers – T Ching


The first issue of the weekly magazine The New Yorker was published on February 21, 1925, in New York City of course. The cover features a dandy named Eustace Tilley – an apparent tea enthusiast. Could you imagine Eustace Tilley drinking anything else? Difficult to picture him holding a glass of orange juice, no? Apéritifs may be essential but to quench thirst Eustace Tilley drinks tea!

I started subscribing to The New Yorker in the mid-1990’s, canceled in 2016. Even after a recent attempt at the KonMari Method, I could not bring myself to recycle the countless issues on the bookshelves, inside the closets and boxes. Many writers and artists dream of having their work published in this premier literary magazine, whose cartoon selection process was featured in a 60 Minutes segment. My favorite activity, after receiving each issue, is not examining the cartoons but concocting a title for the magazine cover. Below are two covers in my collection that are somewhat related to tea. How will you entitle them? I should leave the “official” titles in the Comments section below.

Images provided by author



DIY Beauty Products Made With Green Tea


Green tea may be thousands of years old, but it’s the latest superhero skin-care ingredient – and for good reason. Dermatologists such as NYC’s Joshua Zeichner rave about its antioxidant properties, specifically catechin polyphenols, which mop up environmental free-radical damage. Numerous studies have revealed the powerful beauty-enhancing effects of green tea, but it’s not just about brewing up and enjoying a calming cup – it can also be used to great effect in your daily skincare regime. 

Reduces Puffy Eyes and Dark Circles

Don’t throw away your used green tea bags! Cool them in the fridge and then lie down for 15 minutes or so with them on your eyelids. The antioxidants and tannins in the tea will work wonders with dark circles and puffy eyes. They act by shrinking the blood vessels underneath the delicate skin around the eyes, which takes down swelling and puffiness. What’s more, the vitamin K contained in green tea helps lighten any dark circles you might have under your eyes. 

Green Tea Steam Facial

Green tea leaves can make a wonderful steam facial. The green tea-infused steam gives your skin a powerful hit of antioxidants, which go to battle with free radicals. The steam also helps soothe sensitive skin, detoxify your pores and keep your skin hydrated. It smells wonderful too – helping you to relax while you let the steam do its work. 

It’s easy to do. All you need to do is put the kettle on, pour some boiling water into a large bowl with a couple of bags (or some loose) green tea, and cover to allow it to infuse for a little while. Give your face a gentle cleanse and then put a towel over your head to trap the steam in the bowl and stay there for 10 minutes or so. When you’re done, just rinse with cold water. Apparently supermodel Miranda Kerr does this regularly and if it’s good enough for her.

Make a Skin Toner

It’s equally simple to make a green tea toner, which can harness the anti-inflammatory and DNA mending capabilities of its polyphenols. Green tea also helps balance hormonal levels, which is very helpful in the fight against spots (not something that only affects the young). 

To make the most straightforward type, just add a green tea bag – or a couple of tablespoons of loose leaves – to a cup of boiling water and allow it to steep for about 5 minutes. Then remove the bag (or strain the liquid), transfer into an airtight receptacle and keep cool. Then just use it as you would any other toner – morning and evening after cleansing. It will stay fresh for about 4 days in the refrigerator. 

You can jazz the toner up a bit by adding some lemon juice, honey, vitamin E oil, witch hazel, and baking soda. The honey is anti-aging, the lemon juice helps brighten skin tone, the witch hazel aids cleansing, and the vitamin E can heal sun damage. The baking soda not only helps soothe irritated skin but also acts as an exfoliator. Thanks to the baking soda and witch hazel, this toner will also keep for longer – about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Green tea drinkers know that age is just a number. Who doesn’t want to keep skin looking youthful and plump? There are so many ways your skin will benefit from green tea, whether you simply drink it (delicious hot or cold) or knock up your own DIY skin product – certainly an inexpensive way to treat yourself. Put on the kettle, enjoy your brew of choice, and let your skin’s beauty speak for itself.  

Read more about Japanese green tea and skin health

Image Source



Blast From the Past: tea as metaphor for life


This poem by Thich Nhat Hanh clearly expresses what I have been trying to touch upon in a couple of my most recent posts. The simple act of making and enjoying a cup of tea can teach us so much about how to best live our lives. So take a moment to read this poem and then begin to live the tea life.

You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.

Only in the awareness of the present,
can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.

Only in the present, can you savor the aroma,
taste the sweetness,
appreciate the delicacy.

If you are ruminating about the past,
or worrying about the future,
you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.

You will look down at the cup,
and the tea will be gone.

Life is like that.

If you are not fully present,
you will look around and it will be gone.

You will have missed the feel,
the aroma,
the delicacy and beauty of life.

It will seem to be speeding past you.

The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go.

The future is not even here yet.
Plan for it,
but do not waste your time worrying about it.

Worrying is worthless.

When you stop ruminating about what has already happened,
when you stop worrying about what might never happen,
then you will be in the present moment.

Then you will begin to experience joy in life.

Original article by Sandy Bushberg, posted June 2007.



Replace Your Cigarette With Tea


The human mind is a powerful tool and can be used for accomplishing great things and even things that seem impossible: Unless of course it is being dominated by an outside force–or in this case chemicals–that inhibit our own willpower from quitting what we don’t want to do in the first place.

Smokers yearly suffer from an overwhelming amount of attempts to quit smoking, yet many never seem to succeed: all in the name of Nicotine. Nicotine is the culprit as two chemicals called dopamine and noradrenaline affect the human brain by changing your mood and concentration levels, thus causing an inevitable addiction. Unfortunately, nicotine does reduce stress and anxiety and for that reason alone is why so many smokers utilize it. Since nicotine is used to relax and “get away”, it’s the reason why users of this drug seem to always want to come back to it no matter how many times they call it quits.

While many smokers have failed to quit by the hundreds of thousands of methods that many claim to say succeed, those who are tea lovers are in for a real treat. It’s known that tea has an overabundant amount of health benefits such as boosting the immune system, fighting cancerous disease radicals and so on, but did you know you can utilize tea as replacement therapy to combat smoking addiction to cigarettes?

When a victim of drug abuse needs to overcome an addiction, one can’t simply just let go of said addiction so easily because the chemical state of the brain is so greatly altered; it’s somewhat nearly impossible to quit without the help of an external remedy. Smokers instead need an aid to help assist in kicking the addiction to the curb; in this case, the wonderful leaves of the camellia sinensis plant or “tea” can do just that. What better replacement strategy other than tea!

You can effectively utilize tea as a replacement aid to remedy and overcome cigarette smoking addiction completely without having to spend a fortune. The antioxidants found in tea not only help you relax and reduce stress mentally and physically, tea can detoxify and remove any toxins that are left in the body such as heavy metals and those pesky cravings for tobacco that smoking originally created. Some ex-cigarette smokers even claim that because of tea’s powerful relaxing sensation on the mind, it’s one of the main reasons why the switch from cigarettes to tea just works; having something natural that lets you unwind beats inhaling toxic synthetic chemicals that although help you unwind, also kill 1,300 people daily.

You don’t need to worry about which specific tea to drink although there are recommended teas that are better suited to stopping smoke addictions such as Mimosa tea, jasmine, chamomile, and green tea. It’s crazy to think that the chemicals found in herbs can be used for medicinal purposes instead of harming our bodies by them. The irony of all of this is that in its pure form, tobacco is derived from a plant and so is tea. Instead of being enslaved by an addiction caused by tobacco, replace a bad habit with a good one. Include a daily routine of consuming tea at your desired pace and flavor that will support a positive and healthy life!

Sources:
https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm
https://www.livestrong.com/article/170101-green-tea-benefits-in-quitting-smoking/
http://quitventures.com/using-herbal-tea-to-quit-smoking-naturally/
http://www.livingherbaltea.com/ways-to-quit-smoking-with-herbal-tea/

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