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Chanoyu – Japanese Tea Ceremony

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Chanoyu – Japanese Tea Ceremony

Chanoyu – The Japanese Tea Ceremony is more complex, absorbing and meditative than the Chinese Tea Ceremony [Gonfu Cha].  For instance, through tea, every human encounter is a single occasion and is not repeated.  Nothing is permanent and every aspect of the ceremony is to be savored.  Seek beauty with your mind and your heart.  Cherish each moment. Tea culture is “god like” and is Teaism in Japan.

The ceremony happens in a designated room, with bamboo mats defining the area.  Guests remove thier shoes.  Kim is wearing a simple creamy blue kimono. Up to four guests participate, and on Saturday, Michael is the honored guest.  He enters the ceremony by crawling through an imaginary tunnel signifying leaving any material items outside of the tea ceremony.  All are equal regardless of status or social position. No words are spoken.

Water

Only the host touches the water which is held in a stone jar. The Yin is represented by water and the heat of the fire, Yang. The container symbolizes purity.  Guests are served a sweet while the host wipes the ceramic jar with a fine silk cloth or Fukusa.   The Fukusa is carefully folded after each movement, in other words, a high level of concentration or state of meditation is required.

The host rinses the tea bowl and whisk. Pouring the water reprsents a waterfall. The tea, in this case a matcha is scooped and whisked, then presented to the guest with a bow.

Teaware for Chanoyu – Japanese Tea Ceremony

Tea

The teaware does not match.  The tea bowl represents the moon (yin) and is cherished by the host.  The water container is next to the tea bowl representing the sun (yang). After each guest drinks, the host wipes the bowl.  The host does not drink any tea. The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a gift to the guest, a gesture of love or respect.

In conclusion, the crowd easily exceeded 100 people and is one part of the Asian Cultural Festival at Selby GardensLocal Tea Company is the sponor.   Kim answers many questions and is simply fabulous.

Next, see notes from the Korean Tea Ceremony soon.

The Tea Lady

Gongfu Cha – Chinese Tea Ceremony

Gongfu Cha – Chinese Tea Ceremony

Gongfu Cha.  This last weekend was the Asian Cultural Festival at Selby Gardens.  The event was packed with uniquely Asian activities; bonsai displays, martial arts performers, taiko drummers, and other dancers. For instance, on Saturday, Local Tea Company sponsored 3 tea ceremonies – Chinese, Japanese and Korean. I enjoyed all three and participated in the Korean Tea Ceremony.   Here are the details along with a few pictures.

Kim Phram

Kim Phram presents all three ceremonies in traditional attire.  She uses proper tea accessories and authentic teas. She owns Kaleisia Tea Lounge in Tampa. Kim is fantastic, very knowledgeable and thrilled to share the history and details with all that attended. Above all, Kim is a true student of tea ceremonies.

I will break the details into 3 posts.

Gongfu Cha

Gongfu Cha, the Chinese ceremony was first at 11am. This style of ceremony is all about the tea, what it tastes like and smells like. After that, the audience asked questions and Kim talked all the way through describing the ceremony as “tea with friends”.  Each step is meant to be a sensory exploration and appreciation. Similarly, a very small un-glazed clay teapot, yixing is filled a third full of tea for multiple, quick infusions. The pot and small drinking cups get rinsed with boiling water first, then the tea is rinsed or flushed.

The first infusion is only 30 seconds.

In other words, Kim explains the tea comes from a wild tea plant in the Yunnan Province of Chin.  She buys directly from farmers.  She calls it ‘No Name’ tea because the family drinks this tea and it has no name.  Above all, this very special tea is sweet and delicious.  And Kim wears a traditional Chinese special occasion dress of silk, but back to the Gongfu Cha.

No Name Tea

In other words, the tea is poured in a continual motion over each cup.  All are filled together and taste the same.  There are 2 cups, the larger is called the “snifter”.  This is tipped upside down releasing tea into the small drinking cups, about 2 sips worth. Then the snifter is smelled to appreciate the aroma. Kim moves everything using bamboo chopsticks. Typically up to five infusions are made from the same leaves, adding 10 seconds of steep each time.

Next up, the Japanese Tea Ceremony,

The Tea Lady

Cami to Chamomile

Cami to Chamomile

Someone asked me about Chamomile tea .  This herbal blend is not one of my favorite teas, however I wanted to find out why it is such a popular beverage.

Well, I found some information that has really perked my interest.  I might even be contemplating adding it to the pot!

The Chamomile plant (Matricaria recutita) is native to Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean region.  I found a long history of use for this mild botanical.  Most interesting, it’s safe to use for long periods of time without any adverse effects.  Be sure to consult your doctor.

Close up picture of Organic Egyptian Chamomile from Local Tea Company in Sarasota, Florida

Science Daily cites a study where researchers found over a 2 week period chamomile tea drinkers experienced increased anti-bacterial activity in their urine.  In simple terms, this means that chamomile can boost your immune system and fight illness.  In addition, the study found an increase in amino acids helping to alleviate muscle spasms and relax nerves.

Chamomile can help people suffering from stress, spasms and cramps.  Others found relief from intestinal discomfort and the reduction of gas.  Therefore, drink chamomile tea after meals to alleviate these symptoms.

Will I convert to drink Chamomile tea?  Perhaps, now that I know more about this lovely herbal tea.

The Tea Lady

Are you Spellbound?

Are you Spellbound?

While sampling our iced Earl Grey, a customer told me she had read that Bergamot was bad for you.

How can the most popular flavored tea in the world possibly have an ingredient that is bad for you?  I wanted to prove that theory very wrong and found some interesting facts. Though, I’ll tell you about our iced Earl Grey later.

Bergamot is a small, pear shaped citrus native to southeast Asia.  Now it is commercially grown in Calabria, Italy. The fruit thrives in the calabrian coast and is the symbol of the region. Like most citrus, I am sure it makes an excellent marmalade.  My Key Lime marmalade would be hard to top, but I digress.

Bergamot is used in half of all women’s perfumes.  And Bergamot is used in  aromatherapy to treat depression and aid digestion.  I couldn’t find much negative press.

Extract from the bergamot plant was used in sunscreens but was banned in 1995.  Bergamot blocked absorption of potassium in intestines.  Why would it be used as a digestive aid then?

I found that various North American plants of the mint family are also called bergamot due to their fragrance. One was used to make a beverage by the American Indian Oswego tribe.  In the 18th century colonists drank this ‘tea’ during their boycott of British teas!  We won’t get into that now though!

The worst info I found was that Bergamot has been used in Witchcraft. Maybe it cast a spell on all those people who think it is the best tasting tea ever! Are you spellbound?

Cheers,
The Tea Lady

Tea Party for 110

Tea Party for 110

On Sunday dawned the day I was to serve tea to the biggest tea party I have ever been involved with! This was definitely a first in my tea journey.

The occasion was to celebrate and give thanks to the Associates of Selby Gardens, all 110 of them and a bunch of tea lovers to boot! Not only that, they wanted the “Champagne of tea” Darjeeling. We selected a beautiful tea from the Tukdah Estate which was a first flush TGFOP. I just could not mess this one up!

Tea Party Prep

So, my dilemma. How to serve the perfect tasting, piping hot cup of tea to all these people? How much to make?  What time to start brewing?  When it boils down to it (sorry!) you just have to replicate what you do best when you are making tea for two. So that is just what I did, along with some helpers of course.

I got together all the containers (one of these was a Silver Samovar which looked fabulous) we were using.  I weighed the tea in correct proportions and got the kettles boiling! We steeped the leaves twice, first for 3 mins and second for 6 mins.  In  my experience, this gives a well balanced taste. It took one and a half hours to complete the process.

Tea Party Service

We delivered the tea to another building (no easy fete over the brick paving’s in the garden).  Then we decanted the hot tea into very nice Silver teapots owned by some of the Associates. The tables were served tea as the guests were invited to the buffet table. Each server came back for more and more tea!

It was a brilliant feeling seeing all those people slurping Darjeeling.  Sorry, Selby Associates don’t slurp, but you know what I mean.  We had plenty for everyone and very little left over tea.

It was great to receive such good comments and no negatives. Then you start to ask yourself, why did I worry so much?

“If you say you can, you will” is a great motto.  And one which is working well for me this month, stir in a little love and you have the perfect cups of tea.

So, if you are planning a BIG tea party call yours truly.

The Tea Lady

Tea Class at Selby

Tea Class at Selby

February 2009 certainly got off to a busy start in my tea world!  Tea Class at Selby.

Last Thursday we had our first Tea Appreciation course at Selby Gardens as part of the Sarasota County Adult Learning Education Program. From the second floor of the Payne Mansion with a wonderful view of Sarasota Bay, with the sun dazzling on the water and shining on the Ringling Bridge.

Does this sound amazing? It was!

The picture perfect tea morning, bright and sunny but on the cool side for us wimps in Florida.

I had 16 lovely ladies attend. (Come on you tea loving guys, there must be some of you out there!) During our 90 minutes together we tasted 6 different teas; 2 black, 2 green and 2 herbals. We discussed origin, processing, preparation and health benefits of each tea. There was time for lots of questions and some lively discussion about brewing the perfect cuppa.

I must not forget to thank my excellent cha walla Michael, who served the tea in true airline stewardess fashion! In Indian families ‘cha walla’ is used as a term of endearment to encourage a fellow member of the family to make the tea. Also a term used in the film “Slumdog Millionaire” for the hero Jamil Malik but not with the same endearment!

The ladies, as ladies are wont to do then proceeded to our Tasting Room to sample 3 more teas.

During the afternoon we had 3 more ladies attend and had an “unplugged version” of the same class. Very up close and personal but just as much fun. A brilliant start to the month.

Watch this space, we are planning more Tea Appreciation and other Tea associated classes in the coming months and it would be great to have you join us.

Cheers,
The Tea Lady

Holy Basil Tea

Holy Basil Tea

At our booth at the Downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market, someone asked for Holy Basil tea. I was not familiar with this tea and did some research that you may find interesting.

Holy Basil or the Tulsi plant is called ‘Holy’ and is an important symbol in the Hindu religion. Tulsi means “the incomparable one” and the plant is worshiped morning and evening.  No Hindu household is considered complete without a Tulsi plant.

Holy Basil Tea or Tulsi

Apart from the religious significance of Holy Basil, the plant has many medicinal benefits. In Ayurvedic medicine it is termed “the elixir of life” as it promotes longevity.  In other words, the tea has antioxidants to boost the body’s ability to fight nasty free radicals that can cause disease and aging. It is also an adaptogen that helps the body fight stress by balancing the mind, nerves and emotions and maintains health of the respiratory tract.

Initially I was curious why this customer wanted this tea.  I understood the importance of this tea when I learned about the spiritual nature of Holy Basil .  I thrilled to know a bit more about another aspect of this beverage we love called tea.

Cheers,
The Tea Lady