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You could learn many things about Chinese culture and Chinese philosophy by looking into the Chinese written characters. Tea is a good example. For a few days I have been wondering, what does “tea” in Chinese character (Cha – 茶) means. Does it only mean “tea”, the drink we all love to drink?

The question rose while I was cooking ginger “tea” and writing this post. I noticed that not everything called “tea” in China has tea leaves in it, why ancient Chinese named all those drinks as “tea”?

One of my twitter friends who leads a publishing company in Taiwan suggested:

“maybe tea in ancient China means any drink in which plants are cooked with water”.

What an Interesting guess!

To me this interpretation really makes sense! Many Chinese medicine cook herbs in water, and the legendary creator of Chinese medicine also once “tasted hundreds of plants and herbs” to learn their functions to human body. Obviously, drinking “water cooked with plants” has been a way of living for thousands of years for Chinese, with “tea” be one of them!

Let’s look at “tea” written in Chinese character. It also reveals important cultural information and how Chinese think of tea:

On the top is a common part in Chinese characters which generally means “plants” or “grass”:

On the bottom is a common part in Chinese characters which means “woods” and “trees”:

In the middle is the word which means “human”, “person”:

Combining those parts together, you could see clearly: a person stands right in the middle of trees, woods and plants, and that’s exactly where he should be: to be part of nature. Drinking tea is thus a way of going back to the harmony of nature for Chinese. Having tea leaves or not, tea is never just tea. Tea is a way of living. Tea is Tao.

Related post: Winter tip – Have many cups of ginger tea Winter tip – Red Date & Longan tea

Bilberry belongs to the same berry family as lingon berries, bog bilberries and cranberries. Usually we call it blueberry, and even a toddler knows why. Go and watch how kids swiftly combine clean clothes with blueberry pie. Blueberries can be and are used in many different ways for example in blueberry teas.

WHERE DO BLUEBERRIES GROW? Just like youngsters pranks, bilberry doesnt thrive in excess sunlight. Young and lush forests are best areas to find these fresh and vitamin packed treats. Nutritious bilberry is valued food source for many animals like bears and various birds, which in exchange spread it efficiently.

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN BLUEBERRY FLOWERS? Bilberries flower during late spring or early summer with the help of insects. Nighttime frosts can damage these delicate, red and sometimes white flowers. If this happens, well, it means fewer blueberry pies in the autumn.

WHEN CAN YOU PICK BLUEBERRIES? When it is a good time to go pick bilberries then? Surprisingly early, the first month for bilberries to ripe is July and season lasts until late September.

I like to drink loose teas. Sometimes I use the tea pot we have to filter leaves and make teas, sometimes I use the ball-shaped filter bought from supermarket nearby. I am kind of happy with them, but yet not completely. Somehow they are still a little bit troublesome to clean, especially the ball-shaped filter, which I never managed to clean it to a satisfactory degree easily. Anyway, I guess I am still on the process to search for my ideal loose tea infuser. During my transit in Arlanda Airport, Stockholm a few months ago I spotted the loose tea infuser below and got interested in it immediately. It looks neat, well-designed, and easy to use. Although I didn’t buy it after all (well, I already bought too many things in the tax-free store and felt guilty to spend more), it stayed in my mind. This item is designed by Flz Industrie Design and belongs to its Blomus brand collections which consist many home living design items with simplistic style. It is also among collections of MOMA store, maybe I should put this item into my wish list for next Christmas?

What do you think? Have you used this loose tea stick infuser? How is it? Welcome to share some thoughts!

Blomus loose tea infuser:

I also found a tea filter clip fromthe Blomus collection:

And a tea filter with mug:

Photo source:http://www.blomus.com

It is hard to tell, which is more correct blooming tea or blossoming tea. I will call this tea as blooming tea. Chinese are pretty clever people what comes to marketing. Their long culture is full of fables that are still present in today’s modern world. When you think of it, it is perfectly normal because people have not changed. Anyway, blooming tea borrows from the most natural celebration of life – blooming flowers.

WHAT IS BLOOMING TEA? This tea is hand-tied into the form of a sphere and it really quite looks like a flower bud. On the outer layer it has long tea leaves and inside the sphere hides a real flower. Leaves are tied together from the bottom to form the stem of the bud. When you add water to the vessel that holds a blooming tea bud it will float in the beginning. Soon the water seeps in to the bud and it starts to descend to the bottom. Water opens the bud and the tea blooms magnificently. The process takes less than a minute, but all that time one is mesmerized with the display. This tea is fantastic dessert surprise for formal and informal parties.

THE TASTE OF THE BLOOMING TEA Like it is with every tea and coffee, different brands and varieties do have different tastes. It is the same with blooming tea, but one thing holds true. Blooming tea will remain in your tea cup or tea glass (I strongly recommend a tall glass to get the best out of the experience) until consumed so the tea that is used in binding can’t be too strong, otherwise the taste of the ready blooming tea would be too bitter. Naturally the result is that blooming tea doesn’t handle well with repeated infusions.

Since I found Yogi Tea from a local ecological food store a few months ago, I started to be really interested in this tea brand. Although I have only tried out two blends among their over 60 selections, the experience was already so delightful that I can’t help digging out more information about it.

Brand story

So the story goes back to precisely 50 years ago: in 1969, Yogi Bhajan started to share the holistic way of living and the knowledge of Ayurveda to his students in America while serving a specially spiced tea at the same time. The tea was named “Yogi Tea” by students, who later enthusiastically brew their own “Yogi Tea” and eventually resulted in the establishment of Yogi Tea Company in 1984. The recipe of the original Yogi tea contained five traditional Ayurvedic spices: cardamom seed, cinnamon bark, clove bud, ginger root and black pepper. Today most of the Yogi Tea blends are still created by including these 5 spices at their core.

Ayurveda – holistic healthy living

Yogi Tea blends are created based on the Ayurveda philosophy and practice of life developed from India over 5000 years ago. Ayurveda means “Science of Life”. According toAyurveda, the universe is divided into five elements:1) solid, like the earth we live on, 2) liquids, 3)gases or air, 4)forces that transform these phases from one to another, or fire,5) ether or space. There are three forces (doshas:Kapha, Pitta and Vata) in our body which affect the atoms of our cells and the whole balance of our body and mind. Ayurveda principles guide people to live in a holistic way, achieving balance of life and to be healthy.

Even I am not a Ayurveda practitioner, it is easy for me to accept its principle and ideas. in fact, I found it not so different from Chinese medicine philosophy. Both medicine practice see human body as a holistic system and the health is affected by i.e. our diet, mood, seasons and environmental changes. All the practice aim at achieving a status of balance, and to live a healthy life both in body and in mind. In Chinese healthy system there are also 5 elements in universe, though not completely identical to those in Ayurveda, I believe the differences being mainly on ways of interpretation, while their idea of seeing human being part of the universe are very similar to each other.

Blend selections

Yogi Tea blends are divided into categories of Green Tea, Herbal Tea, Woman’s Tea, Original Spice Tea and Chai Teas. With Ayurveda principle underneath it is also natural to create blends according to desired effect on body and mind, such as Bedtime tea, Calming tea, Cold Season tea, Stomach Ease etc. I have myself tried out one Woman’s tea and one spice tea (Choco), well, what can I say, they are just great! Those tea tastes nice and spices within bring people a intriguing and vibrant feelings.

Sources of spice

According to the company’s information, all the Yogi Tea spices and herbs are grown under a controlled organic environment whenever possible. Currently 63 spices are sourced organically around farms in South America, Intia, Indonesia, Europe and some other countries and regions. Teas are also certified organic by Skal, Netherlands and Soil Association, UK.

More information on Yogi Tea and Ayurveda:

Yogi Product

Yogi Tea

Ayurveda in Wiki

Ricola instant tea drink – Good Night Tea – is today’s topic. In my previous review, I stopped before I really started the reviewing. The reason for that was the sugar heavy make of the instant tea drink. Good Night Tea from Ricola is even sweeter as the sugar content is close to 98% and infused herbs are mellow and don’t give much kick to the taste.

The more I drink this stuff the more I feel that these drinks should be called just instant drinks. It is almost like a box of cookies that plaster (WITH HUGE FONT) 100% chocolate inside and when you read the contents information you notice that there is less than 10% of chocolate out of total weight of the cookie… so much for the 100% chocolate. Well, I shall not mention Ricola’s products here again but as a warning example. I’d label this stuff together with sodas and the likes.

As written in this post, ginger tea is extremely easy to make and no one can fail on that.

Here is a step-to-step proof to it:

1. Slice ginger roots into thin pieces

2. Add ginger slices into water

3. Add brown sugar into water.

4. Bring the water to the boiling point, after that continue to boil it with mild heat for another 10 minutes.

As for the amount of ginger slices and brown sugars, there is no special requirements on that, in other words, it depends on your personal taste only. If you prefer, black tea can also be added to enhance the taste.

Here you go, easiest tea in the world, isn’t it? : – )

Walking on the streets of Taipei and other bigger cities in Taiwan, you could easily find tea houses from different corners, some locate by big roads while some hidden in small alleys quietly waiting for visitors. Many of them works as restaurant or beverage bar where they serve tea along side with food and other beverages.

a taiwanese tea house, photo by Empress

I still remember vividly that in 80′ when the bubble tea’s trend started, opening a tea house was popular among locals. Since then, tea house was no longer considered as traditional places where only old men go, instead young people liked to gather in tea houses to meet friends, enjoy snacks, lunch, and a good glass of bubble tea which mostly served cold.

As how competition usually goes in an industry, not all the tea houses managed to survive through the next decades, however many quality ones remained. Further more, more and more tea house franchise stores showed up around the corners, having growing faithful customers over the years. In other words, another wave of competition started and remained until the present days.

Thanks to the tea house development the rich tea cultures in Taiwan not only remains but also has been reborn along the way. Nowadays it is easy to find a big variety of tea houses with special characters. Many of them are so called “mixed-stores” where both tea and quality meal are served.One can also find tea houses that serve tea from other countries, such as tea house for British tea, tea house for German tea… etc.

It is important to mention that the “traditional” tea houses remain and some art tea houses in remote mountain areas are just as popular as those city new comers. Those tea houses serve mainly traditional Chinese tea and Taiwanese mountain oolong tea, hot ones, of course. If you intend to visit traditional tea houses, be sure to reserve enough time to stay and invite good accompanies to get the best out of it, as people do not usually come to traditional tea houses for a quick drink, but having quality time with friends with pots of tea and immersing oneself into the calming atmosphere.

Ricola used to be my favourite big brand name manufacturer of foodstuffs. The company was established in 1924 and originally made various sugary sweets of which a cough drop with herbs became a big hit and was further developed into a Swiss Herbal Candy. Customers took the herbal candy and used it in the most peculiar manner. When candies were mixed into hot water the result was delicious herbal tea. Sales rocketed!

Eventually one thing led to another and the company became involved with supporting the growing herbs that they use in their production. Think of those pure plants high on the mountains, could there be a cleaner place to grow crops?

THE TEA REVIEW Enough of the company background and to the point. This time I’m going to focus on Ricola Herb Tea that is absolutely fantastic! With fantastic I refer to the taste, which is just delicious. Quick glance to the product information sheds some light on the reason for the taste. It must be delicious, because the herbal tea is basically sugar and only 2,7% of the content consists of herbs. Candy for kids, eh?

I don’t have scientific reports to back me up, but I believe that product, which has so much terrible carbon hydrates can’t compensate with a small amount of herbs. I know it tastes great, but for diabetes sake, don’t drink it! End of story. Drink real herbal tea instead!

THE GOOD OLD TEA MAKER I have been using my own tea maker for years now. It must be one of the most productive items in our house and has earned its value many times over. The funny thing is that is not especially flashy or trendy and the whole process of buying was so everyday and ordinary that I can’t even remember its name. Nevertheless, this tea maker without a brand name has been working just beautifully. Now, I wonder if it’s true what they say about the positive effect of green tea on one’s memory… Good luck finding it!

OF PLASTIC AND GLASS As you can see from the photoes, this tea maker is made of plastic and glass, which is a good combination for a tea maker as it becomes very light. Now, light objects are easy to handle plus you don’t need to worry about pre-heating the equipment as it doesn’t tap too much of the water heat just load it up and pour in the hot water and you are good to go. On the negative side is that the pot itself can’t reserve much heat and tea will cool much faster than in a traditional tea maker or tea pot.

HOW IT HANDLES IN CORNERS? The use of this tea maker couldn’t be easier or it could, but that would require a servant or an au pair. You load it up with your favourite tea leaves and pour some boiling hot water over them. Give it a minute or two and then it is ready to be generously offered for tea starving friends. Better not fill it to the brim because pouring out might be slightly too wet (what I mean is that the nook and the lid could have been designed a tad better). But it is good for about half a liter of ready tea, which is well enough for couple or for chain drinker. RELATIVELY EASY TO CLEAN The design is modular as the glass pot can be detached from the plastic frame making the tea maker a relatively easy to clean. However plastic as a material has some drawbacks what comes to ease of maintenance. From the pure durability point of view I still might go for the traditional alternative. But never mind the functionality, just look at the photoes and you’ll see that it is streamlined easy to lay your eye on it. INFUSER CUP IS EASY TO STAIN THOUGH The plastic infuser cup for tea leaves can hold enough tea leaves for making strong enough flavour, but the lightness comes with a down side. Plastic is easy to gain stains that are difficult to remove, furthermore preparing tea from two different varieties can leave a distinct side taste to the latter if the cup is not washed well between the uses. The design of the cup also comes with the old problem of keeping all the infuser holes open for faster infusion. This one is difficult to solve, so I’ll let it slide. Hey, now that you are reading, do you happen to know a good tea maker, just let me know down in the comments and I’ll check it out.

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