Thursday, October 8, 2020

Book Review: Grow Your Own Tea

Did you know you can grow tea at home? I've been growing my own Camellia Sinensis plants at home for a couple of years now, mostly figuring things out as I go along. I was so excited to see the new book Grow Your Own Tea by tea farmer Christine Parks and tea historian Susan Walcott, Ph.D and couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

There are so many questions to answer before you start growing tea. Do I need seeds?  Where should I plant them? What kind of soil and light do the plants need? The questions can go on and on. This book covers all the basics of growing Camellia Sinensis plants at home, both indoors and out. 

Grow Your Own Tea: The Essentials

The information in the book is well organized and easy to follow. There are many illustrations and charts for easy reference. 

The book is written by both a tea farmer and a tea historian, and it features information on both. The book starts with some brief historical tea info and includes information on tea growers around North America and the U.K. Basics on the tea plant are explained before going deeper into the ins and outs of tea growing. 

The book is based on the authors' growing experience and has also been well researched. It gives all the necessary info on where to start your tea growing journey, and what the plants will look like as they grow. Readers are led through all the important decisions that need to be made before planting, all the way through tending adult tea plants ready for picking.

Once you have your tea plants started, what happens next? Grow Your Own Tea takes the reader through not just how to grow tea but how to care for them at various stages of their growth. The book also covers climate needs, and growing tea in colder areas. 

There are tasks to be done based on the season, making it easy to understand what your plants need, and when. There is even important information on how to take care of pests and other plant ailments. 

Grow Your Own Tea: As A Reference guide

Since my plants are already a couple of years old, I've been using this book as a helpful reference guide. I've been leafing through various chapters to learn about what else I should be doing for my little plants. My main issue lately has been the size of my plants. They seemed small for their age, and this book helped me troubleshoot why I've been having issues.

I had recently wondered why my plants were just growing straight up, and not branching out. Turns out I needed to prune them to encourage the branching! The book gives in-depth information on when and how to prune. 

Learning how to overwinter the plants is important, especially for my Brooklyn backyard seedlings. The book goes in depth on the steps to take, which has been very helpful for me.

Grow Your Own Tea: Important Extras

The book is a helpful reference guide, but also contains other interesting sections. I enjoyed reading about various tea growers throughout the US and the UK and what their experience has been.

There is even a section on growing tea in a changing climate, which is becoming more and more important. 

There are chapters on harvesting (knowing when to harvest is key) and processing tea at home. If my plants continue to thrive, perhaps one day I'll be able to try and process a batch of Brooklyn grown tea.

If you're thinking of growing tea at home, this guide is a great resource. It gives in-depth information and answered all of my questions about what to do. I'm grateful to add it to my tea library, and can see myself reaching for it often. Thank you to Timber Press for providing this copy for review.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Three Easy Iced Tea Methods

I love iced teas in the summer, they are easy to prepare and super refreshing. I've been having fun experimenting with various chilly tea-brewing methods and posting them to Instagram, and I've had many people ask me about the techniques! Here are three easy ways to have cool, refreshing teas: cold brewed, shaker chilled, and fizzy brewed. 

Cold Brewed Tea

Nothing beats a crisp cup of cold brewed tea on a hot day. It's simple to make, and just requires a little time to brew to your desired strength.

Necessary Equipment: A pitcher or vessel to brew the tea in. I love using something like this for my fridge, as it makes a large amount of tea and has a nice stopper to keep it covered. The glass is also quite strong and sturdy. Optional: loose leaf tea filters like these.

For something a little more elegant, I have a few of these, for smaller batches. They are beautiful and are great for presentation. They also fit the shelf on the fridge door.

Directions: Add about 2 teaspoons of loose leaf tea per cup of water- either directly into a pitcher or into a loose leaf tea filter. Fill up with water and pop into the fridge. Brew at least 8-12 hours, but you can go longer with great results. Strain the leaves as you pour the tea if you left them in the pitcher.

Notes: Many oxidized and roasted teas won't get bitter or over-brewed this way so you can brew as long as you like. White teas also seem to do well with a long brew. Greener teas may become a bit astringent if left too long, so taste every few hours and see what you think. Don't forget to try herbals with this, as they work just as well. You can also use teabags for cold brewing, just add 2 teabags per cup of water.

If you want to sweeten your tea, make a simple syrup mixture instead of using sugar. This will dissolve fully and give you a better tasting sip.  To make simple syrup: combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Gently bring to a boil and stir until dissolved. Cool fully and you can leave in the fridge until you need to sweeten your tea.

Shaker Chilled Tea

I wrote about this flash chilling method a few years ago, and recently noticed that Té Company posted their own version, reminding me give it another try. It's a great way to have a strong cup of iced tea with an amazing texture.

Necessary Equipment: A cocktail shaker (I have this one) or a jar with a good fitting lid, ice, spoon.

Directions: Make a small pot of a double-strength hot brewed tea (if you normally use 1 tsp of tea or 1 teabag per cup of water, make it 2), brew for 10 minutes and allow to cool to room temperature. Fill about 1/3 of a cocktail shaker with ice, and pour in the tea. Shake like crazy! Té Company recommends at least 33 shakes, and I say go for more. The more you shake, the more froth you'll get. When you're done shaking, remove the lid and pour into a glass. Most shakers have a strainer-like top, be sure not to pour through this or you can damage the beautiful froth.

Notes: You can pour over ice, but I enjoy the texture of the foam without the interruption of the ice cubes.

Use a spoon to get all of that foamy goodness out of the shaker!

If you want to sweeten this brew, add some simple syrup to the ingredients in the shaker, before you shake.

Fizzy Brewed Tea

This is my newest obsession! A refreshing, festive drink that doesn't need any added sweeteners. It's as easy to make as a regular cold-brew, and is super festive and refreshing. Plus, if you're a fan of those fizzy flavored seltzers, these are a great alternative without any questionable added 'natural flavor'. I think I first came across the idea for this method from In Pursuit Of Tea's Instagram post.

Necessary Equipment: A small bottle of sparking water or seltzer. Or prepare a bottle of carbonated water if you have a SodaStream. I prefer smaller bubbles, so I use sparkling water. But go with what you like best.

Directions: Uncap a small bottle of  bubbly water and add about 1 tsp of tea per 1 cup of water. You can err on the side of less tea here, and see how you like it. It's easy to add more next time, instead of having a brew that is too strong. Put the cap back on, and leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Have a taste, and see if it's ready. Not yet? Try another hour or two. Simply pour through a strainer into your glass and enjoy.

Notes: Herbal teas work great for this preparation, as do teas with floral and fruity flavors.

The tea seems to infuse much quicker in carbonated water than in still water. This is helpful since you don't want to go 8+ hours of brew time and risk loosing fizz.

If you don't want to steep directly into your fizzy water, you can make a standard cold-brew and add a few splashes of fizzy to your cup for some bubbly goodness.

I used 'Limonata Rosa' from Tielka Tea for my fizzy tea in the photo above, and the beautiful color makes it look like pink champagne! It's sweet, fruity, and beautifully floral. Such a festive sip!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Black-Owned Tea Businesses

We all need to support black-owned tea businesses. I often get questions on where to purchase tea, and I've created a comprehensive list of as many black-owned tea businesses as I can find. This list is based on recommendations, online lists, and word of mouth. Everything from local shops to online stores.

This post will be continually updated as I discover more places to add, so please add your favorites in the comments

Black-Owned Online Shops

Adjourn Tea House: Based in Virginia, this woman-owned shop specializes in limited edition, unique hand blended teas and accessories.

Bea's Wellness Teas: Woman-owned shop with a focus on functional herbal blends

The Black Leaf Tea And Culture Shop: Woman-owned shop with uniquely formulated tea blends.

Classy Hippie Tea Co: California based shop with many creative blends.

Dwell Tea Co: With a focus on tea and community, this DC based brand offers tea blends and accessories

Ellis Island Tea: Refreshing bottled iced tea and tisanes from heritage family recipes.

Hands of Sage: Mom-owned with a focus on wellness and herbal blends

Heal Her: Woman-owned with a focus on healing, the site offers various herbal blends.

Holland and Holland Teas: Family-owned company based in Virginia. Offering organic blends.

Hella Tea: Inspired by both tea and Hip-Hop culture this shop offers fun and creative blends.

Ivy's Tea Co.: Woman and herbalist owned shop inspired by pop culture and Hip-Hop. Focus on herbals and holistic health.

Kim Bees: Woman-owned shop with black tea blends and bottled teas.

Ke'Miyah's Tea: Woman-owned shop for relaxing blends and herbals.

Lady Rose Specialty Teas: Herbal teas for health and wellness, based in Virginia.

Little Urban Tea Co: Loose-leaf tea company from Virginia. Focus on naturally flavored blends.

Musicalitea: Veteran-owned, Fl based loose leaf and herbal tea seller.

Nirvana Tea: Woman-owned shop with loose leaf teas, blends and tisanes.

Rose Glow Tea Room: CBD infused tea blends from a certified tea sommelier and herbalist.

Samaya Herbals: Herbal teas and infused honeys from a woman-owned shop based in Maryland.

Sista Teas: Woman-owned online store for tea blends and accessories.

T By Daniel: Canadian tea company with wildly creative blends and a selection of pure teas.

True Serenity Tea: Offering monthly tea subscription boxes of loose leaf teas and herbal blends.

Taylor Made Holistic: Independent Online shop offering herbals and tea blends

The Tea Practitioner: Woman-owned shop based in Canada, a wide range of teas and tea kits available.

Teas With Meaning: California based, woman-owned shop that specializes in hand-crafted loose leaf seasonal blends and herbals.

TwenTea Company: Texas based, woman-owned shop with a large selection of teas and blends. 20% of all profits go toward raising awareness for suicide prevention and supporting organizations involved in suicide care.
Black-Owned Brick and Mortar And Online Shops

Brooklyn Tea: A well-loved shop in the community, they alsp offer pure teas and blends online as well as tea accessories.

Calabash Tea and Tonic: DC based shop with two locations. Offering loose leaf teas and blends with a focus on herbals.

Cuples Tea House: Maryland shop run by a husband and wife team. Focus on tea blends and tea events.

Ini Sips: Veteran and family owed shop based in Connecticut. They sell a range of sell loose leaf pure teas, blends, and herbals as well as tea accessories.

Just Add Honey: Based in Atlanta, GA. specialization in blends, holistic herbs and tea accessories.

Jayida Che: Family owned shop with tea blends and herbals, based in Georgia

Plentea: Toronto tea bar with an online tea company for unique blended teas.

Serengeti Tea and Spice Company: A community favorite tea shop on  125th street in Manhattan, and an online shop with everything from interesting blends to single-estate teas from Africa.

Serenity Tea Room: Family owned Maryland shop serving delicious food and teas. You can purchase loose leaf teas, bone china teaware, and even scones and curds in their online shop.

The Steeped Leaf Shop: Woman-owned shop offering a large selection of organic teas and teaware.

Teatopia: Missouri based shop selling pure and blended teas as well as food for pick-up.

Wellness Tea Therapy: Woman-owned shop based in Brooklyn, NY. Specializing in wellness blends and tea accessories.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

How COVID-19 Is Affecting Tea Vendors

It's a difficult time for everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I've wondered how tea vendors have been faring in this unprecedented environment. I recently published a post about how Chinese Tea Vendors were doing during the pandemic, and I decided to check in with a few tea industry friends, to see how COVID-19 has affected their tea businesses.

I spoke with a few tea vendors and online sellers. I wanted to get a sample of individuals working with brick and mortar tea stores, and also those selling tea online. I had the pleasure of speaking with:

Elena Liao, co-owner of Té Company
Kevin Gascoyne co-owner of Camellia Sinensis.
David Campbell owner of Tillerman Tea
Martin Connelly owner of Little Red Cup Tea Company
Theresa Wong, owner of T-Shop
Ana Dane of In Pursuit of Tea

They gave many observations and insights on how COVID-19 is affecting their tea businesses. Read about the concerns, issues, changes in sales, and surprises they've come across, below.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tea Activities To Do At Home

It's been a tough few weeks, and I know many people have it far worse. Living in the middle of a huge COVID-19 outbreak in NYC has been tough, but my family and I are trying to take it one day at a time. Sometimes one minute at a time when even a day becomes too much.

Blogging has been tough lately as I'm working from home while making sure my family is healthy and safe. But I thought it would be helpful to put together a few tea-related things to do if you are staying at home as much as possible.

Support Small Tea Vendors
Independent tea vendors need our help now more than ever. Brick and Mortar stores have had to close, but most places are doing online sales. Pick your favorite vendors and either purchase tea, teaware or gift cards if you don't need any products right now. There are so many places to choose from. I will work on a post highlighting a few vendors soon. If you have a favorite vendor, let me know in the comments of this post and I'll include it when I write about them.

Host A Virtual Tea Gathering
It's important to stay connected to our friends, and taking some time to raise a cup with a few is a great way to connect. You can use programs such as zoom, houseparty, google hangouts or facebook messenger hangouts to get together. I'd love to set up a few hangouts so let me know if you're interested.

Take Some Tea Outside
For those of us that are able to get out of the house and walk through a park or other outdoor space, try to take your tea outside. Or even just have tea on a fire escape, balcony, or by an open window. All you need is a thermos of hot water, a brewing vessel and a cup. I've been trying to do this as much as possible, and it has helped tremendously. Feeling the crisp fresh air, listening to birds, and sipping tea while staying socially distant.

Try A Tea Meditation
I recently wrote a post about doing your own tea meditation. Just take a few minutes for yourself and really focus on your tea. No matter how you do it, give yourself a little bit of time to completely unplug from the world. I promise it'll help.

Dig Deep Into Your Tea Stash
I'm sure most of us have a sizeable tea stash at home. This is the perfect time to go through it and try some teas you've forgotten about. Or maybe teas you were saving for a rainy day. Those expensive samples? Break them out! Why not treat yourself!

Share Your Tea Knowledge
If you live with family, teach them a little bit about tea. Host a little family tea tasting. Or host a zoom session with friends who may be curious about tea. Sharing what you know is a great way to interact.

Create Tea Pairings
You know I'm all about tea pairings. It's fun to get creative and see what flavors work together, and what doesn't. Get some snacks, maybe cook or bake a few things, and get pairing! You can read a little bit about tea pairing 101 here and here.

Use All Your Teaware
Let's admit it, we all collect teaware. If you're like me you've got your favorite pieces and those that usually get left behind. It's time to dust off the things haven't used in ages. You may just find you have a new favorite that's been lurking in your cabinet, waiting for its time to shine.

Create With Tea
Do something creative with your tea. I mentioned tea pairings earlier, but you can also take tasting notes, write a tea-inspired story, paint with tea, or take photos of your tea. I look forward to my Instagram sessions, and my Tween Tea Critic has been joining me most days. I love to see what my fellow Instagrammers are doing!

Find A New Tea Book
I have a library of tea-related books, and I haven't opened every single one. When I'm ready to focus I'll probably crack a new one open and get reading. There are endless tea books out there, and even tea-focused stories. In that future post I mentioned, I'll also be listing tea books to read. Feel free to suggest your own in the comments and I'll include them.

Accept That You Won't Be Productive
Finally, please note this post is a list of things you can do, but it's not a list of things you must do. Accept that these are difficult times, and we can't focus and accomplish things the way we did before. Yes, we're at home, but that doesn't mean it's easy to get things done. We're all stressed, anxious, and distracted. Let's find ways to try and make things enjoyable, but it's not important to write a novel, become a tea scholar, or even clean the whole house. Just do what you can to get through the day.

So what ideas have I missed? I'd love it if you shared some of your tea-themed stay-at-home entertainment tips!

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Novel Coronavirus and Chinese Tea Vendors

I've been reading articles about how the novel coronavirus has impacted the tea industry, and decided to find out how tea vendors have been faring. To start, I sent questions to various people selling Chinese tea to see how their business has (or hasn't) changed since the outbreak began in China.

Before we get into what I learned, let me be clear: this isn't an article about COVID-19 with regards to health or safety issues. This is an article focusing on Chinese tea vendors and how they have been impacted by the virus. Of course other vendors around the world have been affected as well, but I decided to limit the interviews to keep the post within reason. The people I interviewed are just a few small examples of how this pandemic is affecting tea.

As I mentioned, I thought I would check in on a few Chinese tea vendors to see what their tea-selling experience has been like lately. I had the chance to correspond with 5 tea vendors, and ask them a few questions. Below I've shared some of the answers I received- please note some of these interviews were done 1-2 weeks ago so responses may already be a bit outdated:

Glen, from Crimson Lotus Tea:

Have you heard concerns from your customers regarding the coronavirus and buying tea/teaware?
We've heard concerns from a few customers, but not many. I think we were ahead of the curve in awareness and posted information to social media and our website early. ( There is little to no reason to be concerned about getting the virus from a package since the virus can't live for long outside of a biological host.

Have you noticed a change in sales since the onset of the coronavirus?
I think that we're starting to. Not so much from fear of contamination but because there is so much uncertainty and delay for orders shipping from China. Nearly all of our orders are fulfilled and shipped from our warehouse in Kunming, Yunnan, China. We have seen very few packages successfully delivered since quarantines started a few weeks ago. Many packages get returned and others are just stuck. Again we wanted to be open with our customers and have warned them as soon as we started to see issues. We've ramped up the ability to ship from our Seattle inventory to compensate.

What is your biggest concern about the effects of the coronavirus on your company?
Obviously our first concern is with the safety and well being of our associates in Yunnan and all the citizens of China. This is a scary time for everyone and if it is safer to wait a few more weeks for packages to be delivered then to try to rush deliveries and maybe increase infection we're all for delaying things. We have a really amazing group of customers and we feel that they understand and agree with our values. It's going to be a difficult year for anyone whose business has any tie to China. We'll do what we can and see where it goes.

Are you concerned that the virus will have an impact on your business in the long term?
We do have our concerns. It's not so much the virus itself but the long term economic effects for the whole world. The ripple effects of the impact to the Chinese economy could be long lasting and far reaching.

Paul, from white2tea:

Have you noticed a change in sales since the onset of the coronavirus?
It’s been more or less the same for us. Some customers have expressed concerns, but I think most people understand that a virus would not survive a week or more journey without a host, so it’s been pretty typical business for white2tea / other than the shipping delays.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about the Chinese tea industry related to the effects of the coronavirus?
One thing to consider is whether workers will be able to safely pick and process tea during the spring. With travel between provinces and countries hampered by the virus there is a possibility that workers will not be able to travel safely or have safe work environments. That being said, China has taken some aggressive measures to get the situation under control; hopefully that will help both China and the rest of the world keep the situation under control.


Jonah from Bitterleaf Teas:

Have you heard concerns from your customers regarding the coronavirus and buying tea/teaware?
We received a number of questions during the Coronavirus. It has died down a little more recently (end of February), but early on it was daily. The concerns ranged from whether there is risk of infection by buying products from China, to whether we are continuing to ship orders or whether China Post/Customs are still processing orders. We had the same response each time, which has been that there is 0 risk, we are operating (almost) as normal, shipping 1-2 times per week in order to minimize how much time we spend outside and that China Post and Customs are operating as normal. For us, we let our employees stay in their hometowns and my partner and I processed all orders ourselves. We also didn’t hear anything from China Post about delays, and haven’t experienced any yet, based on the packages that have been sent since late January.
Even with all of this, we’ve noticed misinformation and unnecessary concern still popping up online.

Have you noticed a change in sales since the onset of the coronavirus?
We have noted a significant drop in sales since the start of this scare. This is obviously not something we like to see, but it is to be expected. We have tried to stay positive and accept that it will be temporary, as well as consider ourselves lucky compared to the many other businesses in China that have had to fold during this period due to lack of revenue.
Being a small company can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it. We don’t have the resources of large companies, but we also don’t have the same overhead and responsibilities. As a fairly small, independently operated company, we can be flexible and even make lifestyle adjustments to offset short terms setbacks. If we had high rent, a retail shop, a large payroll, etc, then we would be feeling the financial hit much more.

What is your biggest concern about the effects of the coronavirus on your company?
Our biggest concern right now is not for our immediate revenue (although reduced cash flow when heading into the biggest purchasing months is not ideal), but how it will affect those we work with and our ability to source new spring tea this year. So far it seems everything is improving, and just in time. But if our ability to travel to the tea mountains and source new teas is restricted, then it will make it difficult to find new teas, inspect gardens, liaise with farmers, etc. It wouldn’t “cancel” spring tea, but it could limit our buying, if trying to maintain our typical standards.
The other concern has been with teaware. We have not been able to restock very much teaware as the small studios and artists we buy from have not been back to work. Jingdezhen was blocking any non-locals (including those from other provinces who live and work there) from returning. Many artists and their workers couldn’t return, although I think this situation is improving as well. There may be a backlog of orders for them though, which we anticipate will cause delays for us to restock.
Other aspects were affected too. During this time we couldn’t even restock cardboard boxes for shipping. We barely made it through though, and found another supplier to send us some boxes just in time.
Again, I feel we’re in a fortunate position where we have been able to maintain, but there has definitely been disruption. We do anticipate things will be returning to normal soon though, so hopefully things like spring tea are unaffected.

Are you concerned that the virus will have an impact on your business in the long term?
To be honest, we’re not too concerned that this will affect us in the long term (1+ years). If it spreads outside of China and affects the global economy, then we can anticipate it impacting our business for several more months. Again, this is not something we want, not just for ourselves but for all the other businesses and people who will suffer. But if it does happen, it won’t be forever.
We’re optimistic that in a year from now this will be history. We can’t see into the future, but if the course of this is similar to SARS or other scares from the last 20 years, there is typically a good recovery period that follows shortly after. We’re also fortunate that our customer base is very supportive. Many of them have continued to support us during this time, even with the uncertainty and fear that’s all around. We’re quite lucky to be part of a community like this.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about the Chinese tea industry related to the effects of the coronavirus?
The one thing that we have stressed during this period is that there is no risk of being infected through tea or teaware purchased from China. I think most people are aware of this by now, but the question occasionally still pops up, and we want people to be informed. We also are not experiencing any shipping delays at this point, so if purchasing from a China based vendors that is still processing orders, it should arrive within a normal timeframe.
Otherwise, just try not to fall prey to the fear and media scare. That’s not to say dismiss the threat, but try not to get overrun by emotions. Do your best to stay safe if it’s spread to your country, and try to have compassion for those affected, whether they’re close or far. This has been a difficult time for many, and a lot of innocent people have been affected. We’re all in this together, on some level.

Angel from TeaVivre:

Have you heard concerns from your customers regarding the coronavirus and buying tea/teaware?
Yes, a small number of clients have the concerns and send us emails to cancel the orders. But many clients think the coronavirus have no effect on the wrapped and packed tea and teaware. Anyway, we totally understand these feelings and concerns and also we respect them and their choice.

Have you noticed a change in sales since the onset of the coronavirus?
Because the spread of coronavirus occurred during the traditional Chinese Spring Festival, my first reaction was that no matter what the circumstances, I must guarantee the safety of each colleague and each client, so we decided to extend the holidays for Xiamen warehouse and did not ship the packages. All staffs work online from home. We also sent emails to our clients who were still waiting for the delivery to explain the current situation. During the past 1 month, we only retained the US warehouse. Frankly speaking, our sales fell by more than 50% during this period, but I think the health of our staffs and clients is more important than sales. Health and life are always my first consideration.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about the Chinese tea industry related to the effects of the coronavirus?
I hope readers can know I have been in touch with our cooperated tea gardens and tea farmers. From their information, tea gardens are in good condition, like the town of Qiandao Lake tea garden, the Longjing producing area, the whole area even has no one case. Other areas may have sporadic cases, but they all occur in densely cities. The tea gardens are far away from cities, even among high mountains, so the tea gardens are not affected. At present many tea gardens are preparing for 2020 Spring teas. Thank you for your care and support. We have carefully read every emails and messages that you sent to us. During the difficult days, your kind words, understanding and support give me and my team great encouragement, comfort and confidence. At present, considering that Xiamen has no new cases for 18 days from Feb. 18 and all the 35 coronavirus patients have been cured on March 4, we consider gradually resuming the delivery of the Xiamen warehouse. We will continue to pay attention to the situation and provide good tea to you based on measures to guarantee safety. It is you who gave us the courage and confidence to go through the darkness. Thanks again for being with us.

Daniel of Tea Baby:
Have you noticed a change in sales since the onset of the coronavirus?
Yes, a lot. People are encouraged to stay in home, no one go to tea shop; Luckily online sales still available but some people can not enter their warehouse and shipping speed is much slower. The good is we drink more tea at home.

What is your biggest concern about the effects of the coronavirus on your company?
The post affection worries me more than what happing now, people will be cautious to gather together, and try to stay in home as long as they can. When the tea harvesting begins, the shortage of labors will be a big problem. Last year, the salary for the labor was about 30USD/DAY per people, right now it’s about 60USD, and workers come from other region needs to be quarantined for 14 days before start work.

I think these answers give some perspective to the tea vending situation, and I hope to speak with more people around the world as things develop. I do know that since these interviews took place, many companies have been able rectify shipping issues they've had. Thank you to Glen, Paul, Jonah, Angel, and Daniel for taking the time out to answer my questions!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

How To Do Your Own Tea Meditation Any Time Of Day

It's tough to find mindfulness in our busy lives. I try to set aside a few minutes for tea and quiet every day, but often there is only time for a few sips. Taking just a short few moments from the day to pause, make tea and breathe will help the day improve. Here are a few tips on how to create your own form of tea meditation no matter where you are, or what you have with you.

Tea Meditation- Stay In The Moment
First, it's important to point out that no matter what you do, staying in the moment is key. I personally look at it as a moment for myself, and nothing else. It doesn't need to be anything greater than this!

I've been slowly reading the book Every Day a Good Day by Noriko Morishita which is about the author's 25 year journey of learning chanoyu (the Japanese way of tea), and how it has shaped her life. One of the main things she learned is to always stay in the moment, and fully experience.
Morishita is constantly reminded by her sensei "When you sit in front of the kettle you have to be in front of the kettle...pour your heart and soul into each and every movement". We can bring this concept to our own tea meditation, no matter how casual. If you're having tea, even if it's just pouring hot water into a mug with a teabag, you can slow down, and be present while it steeps.

Tea Meditation- The Setup
As I mentioned before, you don't need any special tools. Whether you have a full gongfu set up or just a mug and some hot water, go with it. The main thing is to pause your day and try to focus on your moment. This isn't time to multitask, or take tasting notes. Just be with your tea!

If you can find a quiet place, great! If not, go with what you've got. Maybe you're in a cubicle in a large office or a similarly noisy environment. If you have headphones, I'd suggest using them. If not, just try to be in the moment and breathe (and try to ignore Janet from accounting).

A Sample Tea Meditation
As I mentioned, it's important to go with what you've got. Maybe you don't even have a few minutes for a full tea meditation. I often pause in the middle of a workday for just enough time to grab some hot water and steep my tea. I'll use the precious seconds while my tea is steeping to breathe, enjoy the tea's aroma, and clear my mind. Even if it's brief, give it a try.

If you can spare a few more moments, here is a sample tea meditation that you can use as a guide and tailor to you own needs. The key is to do everything mindfully. Be aware, focus, and try to clear your mind of everything else (if you can- and if you can't, just acknowledge how you are feeling).

If you have a hot water kettle, let's start there. While you are heating the water, take a listen. What do you hear around you? Can you focus on the different sounds the water makes as it starts to get warmer? Can you slow your breathing while you wait for the kettle to boil?

If you are near a window, maybe take a few moments to observe. What's the weather like? How does it make you feel? Can you hear anything outside? If you're in a crowded area, it's important to still stay in the present. Focus on where you are, and the act of making tea.

When you add your leaves (or tea bag) to your vessel, take a moment to observe. How do the leaves look? Smell? Feel? You can take your time with this, or simply give it a quick glance, whatever time allows.

Add your water to the leaves and observe with all your senses. Enjoy the aromas and warmth of the vessel. Observe the tea and how the colors and aroma change while it steeps.

When it's time to taste, observe the flavors and aromas and how they make you feel. Enjoy the warmth (or refreshing cold, if you have an icy brew). Do the flavors remind you of anything? Particular foods or past experiences?

All of this can take a few seconds, or much longer, depending on what you can spare.

Tea Meditation- Take a moment to reflect
Once I've taken a few sips, observed, and perhaps taken a few slow breaths, I like to focus a moment on gratitude for the tea. Thankfulness to all aspects of tea- from the plant, to the earth, to the people growing, plucking, processing, shipping, etc. You can of course show gratitude for whatever you like. Or don't... like I said, do whatever works for you in your tea moment.

Tea Meditation-Go Easy On Yourself
To be honest, I'm awful at meditation. I have a hard time clearing my mind and sitting still. But I find that through a tea meditation I can briefly calm my nerves, stop the world, and focus on mindfulness. I don't approach it as zen meditation or connecting with a higher universe. It's just to give time back to myself. And fully enjoy a good cup of tea. It's a time to be with yourself, and push the world out of your mind for a few moments.