April 28, 2008

Spring Flower Show in My Backyard

Last week was the most spectacular week for Maryland gardeners. I say it with confidence because I experienced it (with some of my lucky friends) from my own backyard's flower show. The abundant camellia blossoms on the tall bush next to its protective myrtle tree, the happy tulips lining along the pathway, the petite pale pink plum flowers dotted amidst the budding leaves by the gazebo, the light blue ground covering violets........ Well, the show has to end somehow and the spring rain today brought down Kwansan cherry's petals like a fluffy snow shower--another type of beauty in my eyes.
Spring shower brings May flowers. I shall reveal another flower show next month.

March 23, 2008

Tea Good for the King (and Queen)

Last year I attended a tea talk by Mr. Liu, TenRen Tea's store owner at Rockville of MD . He said that "King's Tea" is a blend of oolong with a touch of ginseng to produce pleasant sweet aftertaste. No wonder I like it so much! He also said that once you recognize the particular sweet aftertaste while partaking a new tea, you can well assume that it contains some ginseng during its processing. I think King's tea's natural sweetness will be helpful for tea drinkers to wean away from the sugar bowl at tea table.

Since the blends become quite popular, there are arrays of King's tea products from TenRen Tea Company. The product number ending in "9" are the blends of dark oolong (longer roasting time, golden color tea brew), and the number ending in "3" are the blends of green oolong (shorter roasting time, greenish yellow tea brew). The price of King's tea varies with the grade of tea used in the blend. If you like fragrant oolong, King's # 403 or #313 would be a nice treat for your tea enjoyment.

February 24, 2008

First bitter, then sweet

(Note: This blog entry is composed specially for the TJ middle school cultural class on Friday.)

For young people who has not been exposed to Chinese tea (no sugar and milk added to the tea), it will be interesting to note your taste buds' reception to the very first sip of green tea. The tea leaves in the photo above right were freshly picked from tea shrubs. Commercial "green teas" are its products shortly after drying and toasting. Therefore green tea still retains certain natural leafy taste. Depending upon individual taste threshold, one may taste a slight bitterness upon sipping. However, subtle sweet taste of green tea will certainly emerge and linger long afterwards.

If you have dined in Chinese restaurant, "Oolong tea" is most likely the tea served with your meal. Oolong (means "black dragon" in Chinese) tea undergoes further processing (biochemical oxidization under controlled atmosphere) than green tea. The artisan process transforms most bitter leaf elements into mellow and complex-flavored ones; therefore the various pleasing characteristics of most Oolong teas (photo shown above left).

Besides technological advances of tea making, tea drinking has played an integral part of Chinese culture along with calligraphy, music and literature activities. Interested readers may check into my web site's reference sections to expand your tea knowledge. :))

February 14, 2008

Beautiful Camellia Flowers

(photo credits to my music & art club friend Isabel)

For Valentine's Day, roses are the most popular flowers to send or receive. To add interests for the day, here are some prized camellia flowers (from a variety of tea shrubs) for my readers. The photo with prolific blooms is the 2008 first prize winner camellia "Elena Nobile". The others are just as beautiful in their own ways. Enjoy the mini-flower show and happy Valentine!

February 7, 2008

Tea and Chinese New Year

Even though the atmosphere of Chinese New Year celebration (this is the year of cute rat) here in America is promoted by few timely festivities, it still helps to evoke my memories about the joyous street fun and family warmth when I grew up...... After the new year eve's big meal, hot Lun-gen (i.e. dragon well) tea was a must to temper the sumptuous food. Then on new year morning, after dressing up in new red outfits, my sisters and I would line up in front of my parents for red envelops. There was always a glass of hot tea with gentle steam raising by my father's side. After the breakfast, we would accompany my father to a round of visits to friends and relatives for new year's greetings. The first thing the host would do upon our entering the house was preparing the best tea for my father. Then the conversations full of new year's plesantry followed...

"Social Intelligence" by Daniel Coleman brings out an interesting concept about positive social interactions as "vitamins for well-being". The author refers to quite a few pinoneering researches on the immune system's reactions to either positive or negative relations. In light of abundant reports about tea's benefits to health, what a nice idea to promote the social benefit of "tea drinking " as a "well-being vitamin "!

February 4, 2008

Tea for Warm Memories

(photo courtesy of Carol Gillott )

For most people, the word "tea" conjurs up the image of peaceful setting, one alone or with friends in a warm and cozy place. Likewise, "coffee" calls up the image of livlier, albeit sensory-filled atmosphere. The recent article in NYTimes by Judith Warner about the life's memorable moments (coffee for her) draws overwhelming responses by the readers. Comments after comments relate to warm sentiments of coffee or tea moments in their life. One can sense how dearly the role coffee or tea has imparted in the essense of humanity. The drinks are God's bountiful gifts--for us to share and savor those tender memories again and again.

January 25, 2008

Playing the Role as Community "Chinese Tea Ambassador"

Photo: The launching event of my "Chinese Tea Ambassador" role for the Frederick community.

Besides my father, the most influential person who plays a part in turning me into a tea enthusiast is my friend Liz. As a Chinese saying goes, she is the "honorable person" bestowed in my life through God's grace. In the past three years, she has been the advocate for my tea knowledge and encouraged me to share this traditional Chinese culture with the local community. My participations would then bring forth new acquaintances and invitations. Since most events are requests for my tea talks or demos, the invitations make me feel like a voluntary Chinese tea ambassador!

Besides her boundless energy and kind heart, she has the wisdom and tenacity to draw out people's talents for common good. Through her hard work in establishing the Life and Discovery Institute, she is truly a practicing Christian who has blessed many people's life--mine included.

During tea talks and demo, I also share the Chinese cultures and customs with the community. So far, I have been invited to church's mother/daughter and Christmas tea events; middle and high school Chinese language classes; book study clubs and women's social clubs. Perhaps my role playing as "Chinese Tea Ambassador" may turn into "Chinese Culture Ambassador" someday? :))

January 23, 2008

Making Friends through Tea Chats

Knowing Donna and becoming her friend was quite a "surendipity" occurrence. (I finally get to use this big word after learning how to pronounce it!). It happened four years ago in a downtown Frederick store where I usually visit after my library book return. A jolly voice was asking the clerk how to get to a tea shop nearby. Since I did know the way, I chipped in to help. Then her bubbly personality leaded to an invitation for me to attend her upcoming tea party! It was such a fun experience to meet her artistic tea-loving friends in her well decorated Victorian home.

Our friendship started with tea chats and gradually builds upon common interests in mostly tea-related activities, such as gardening, dining and travels. The get-togethers has not been as often recently as before due to the busy lives we have, but I am sure that we can smoothly pick up our friendship -- just like warming up to a nice cup of fragrant tea -- anytime!

(The picture above showcases Donna's backyard gazebo in the spring.)

January 17, 2008

Tea, Blog, and Me

After I humbly showed off my tea blog to friends, some were curious of my motive. Well, the answer is because I had fun reading other's blogs, and was inspired to share my fun in life too. The unexpected benefit (or, added burden?) is that blogging helps me to focus my thoughts and refine my writing. For example, I try to recall "Since when did I start to drink tea as my daily beverage habit?". If not for this blog, I would not put myself through this mental exercise!

Thinking back, I have been drinking tea as long as I can remember due to the family upbringing. Tea was replaced by diet coke for quite a long years when kids were growing up. Then a report about the acidity of coke brought the scare and I diverted back to tea. However, I didn't pay a lot of attention to the variety or flavor I drank until my visit to Shanghai in 2004. At West Lake tea district, I was fascinated by the tea fields and the toasting process of the Lungjing tea. Then my nephew sent me excellent Anshi Oolong tea with elegant fragrance and nutty flavor. I enjoyed it so much and shared it with my friends at gatherings that I had to ask my nephew for more. Not too long afterwards in 2005, my good friend Liz who was among the lucky tea tasters enlisted me to give a tea talk and demo for her house party and her church's annual Women's Christmas Tea. The preparation of the impending "show-off"s forced me to study, practice, and the rest is history....

In the next few columns, I will write about some consequential happenings after my life with tea. Stay tuned.

January 15, 2008

January is Hot Tea Month

Here is an easy way to carry out your New Year resolution for 2008: Drink more tea and be healthy. The January issue of  World Tea News has an article on good tea habit to improve your health. Here are my tips to ensure your resolution success.

First, you need to set aside a tea corner in a convenient and comfortable area of your home. It should be near the water supply, and large enough to place a water boiling utensil (preferably automatic temperature controlled one), a nice tray for your favorite teapot with a decanter, and tins of good loose teas. You can then start tea brewing, decanting and drinking tea through the day with ease. After a while, you might find that water is quite bland in comparison!

January 12, 2008

My father, My Tea

Whenever I think about my beloved father, I always picture him with a glass of Lungjing (pronunciation in Chinese of "Dragon Well", a well-known green tea from West Lake near Shanghai) by his side. In my momory, hot tea was always presented to him upon his arrival, be it at home, office or friend's house. I would then entertain myself by watching the floating tea leaves dancing in the glass. Soaking up the steaming hot water, the leaves start to uncurl and swell, picking up weight and sinking to the bottom of the glass one by one. It was fascinating to watch the tea turning slowly into the color of amber. My father would then take a long look of the tea broth, blow gently on the surface of the tea to lower its temperature, then took a slow sip. Next I would notice his joyful and satisfied look after the sip.

During my younger years, I thought that Lungjing was the tea per se. After I discovered the mellow Oolong teas on my own, my interest for teas took off ever since. Looking back, my father's immense influence on me about the life's "little delights" started with his love of tea.

January 9, 2008

My Favorite Web Site

The website I frequent the most and educates me daily is Answers.com . Let me count the "why"s:

--When I encounter a puzzled word during my online reading, it gives me the correct pronunciation right away plus translations in various languages.

--The translation into Chinese is especially useful. I can cross-reference the meaning since I relate to my native language better.

--The site gathers different editions of encyclopedia for the searched word in one place.

Now, prepare a pot of tea and see it for youself. Search the word "tea" at the site. When you are at the tea (tree) page, first take a quick glance of the page from top to the bottom before reading any part of it. See how much knowledge it contains? Enjoy and explore. :))

January 7, 2008

Paris Breakfast with Tea Touch

(above watercolor painting by Carol Gillott)

One of my favorite blog posting is http://www.parisbreakfasts.blogspot.com/ by Carol Gillott, an artist who writes about Paris/NY and all things that make the cities magical . Her short whimsical writings intermingled with adorable drawings are so fun to read and it always starts my day with smiles.

Without much effort, I have already mentioned five of my six favorite websites so far this new year. The one other site which I promise to benefit all will be coming up next...:))

January 5, 2008

Tea links

For smart readers of my blog, you probably have concluded by now that I do a lot of reading on line. Most of my time flies away with the endless chain links from articles in NYTimes, tea news subscriptions, and my writer daughter Christine's blogs.

I am so glad that she mentions in her blog the IngenuiTEA teapot I gave her for her graduation/apartment-warming gift. Initially I considered a traditional tea set like the picture shown. However, as a veteran mother, I was pretty sure that the modern tea utensil would be more appreciated. Well, I am right! If you are curious about her writing, here is the link to whirl away more of your tea time!

January 3, 2008

Antioxidants in teas

I subscribe to Daily Candy to keep me fresh beyond my daily tea musings. Today's issue has a product description link to a health promotion company FRS. One of the company's linked article mentions "Catechins" (specific compounds found in teas with strong antioxidant properties) that "researchers have found EGCG — the primary catechin in *green tea — is 100 times more potent than vitamin C against free radical damage."

*my comment: Catechins are also present in oolong teas (my favorite) which are green teas oxidized in various degrees during tea production.

I happen to have few resarch articles relating to Catechins in tea. For the past two hours I detoured myself from reading daily news to updating my http://www.joysoftea.com/ website's reference section.

Now it's your turn to detour.:)) Prepare yourself with a pot of good tea, and start to peruse those articles at your own leisure--all for better physical and mental health!

January 2, 2008

Another new year, more fresh cups of teas!

Today's NYTimes has a great article in Food section by Harold McGee about the relationship of heat and food. He touches upon the bitterness of tea or coffee as a result of using higher than desired water temperature. How true!

For my favorite Oolong tea from Taiwan, my daily experience concludes that using water at temperature about 200 degree F (when water starts to boil gently) and steeping tea for 2 minutes produce refreshing cup of tea without bitterness. (Boiling water or long steeping tends to draw out bitter components from tea leaves.)