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Blast from the past: it’s the spiciest time of the year

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 12:42

This article was originally posted to T Ching in October of 2015.

Don’t you love Fall?  I’m a Fall person.  I love the leaves falling, the crisp freshness and the slight chill in the air, and the teas and herbals that are so much a part of the ambiance.

Every year about this time, tea businesses start to pick up as spicy beverages signal the start of the holiday season that seems to last for months.  Tastes turn from iced to hot, even though 80% of tea in the U.S. is consumed iced.  Now is the time to have your best and most creative spicy teas, herbals, and specialty beverages ready and waiting for customers who are going to be looking for and requesting them.

Fruits and spices together are especially wonderful: pumpkin, cranberry, pears, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves all warming and comforting.  These flavors have a quality of bringing back memories for me of holidays past, family gatherings, old movies and, if you’re a country person, things like hayrides and long walks in the woods.

There are a few classic specialty beverages I really look forward to as Fall moves toward Winter.  Hot chai lattes, hot spicy cider, and a really rich, dark hot chocolate with whipped cream and shaved chocolate on top.  When we had our store, these were our most popular choices for this time of year.  There were popular variations as well.  Ones I really loved were the coconut chai latte and peppermint hot chocolate.  As for the cider, we bought ours from a small farm in the Northeast that sold a cider concentrate.  It was absolutely amazing..spicy and rich. For hot chocolate, we did a very dark, thick chocolate sauce in steamed milk with lots of whipped cream.  I know pumpkin chai is a classic but if you haven’t had coconut chai, give it a shot, or try a shot of coconut syrup substituted for one of the pumpkin flavor.

People also seem to calm down in Fall, to slow down slightly and start getting into the “holiday spirit”.  This time of year, one of our best sellers, even now on the website, is a black tea with cinnamon and orange oil and real orange rind, slightly sweet from the cinnamon oil.  I usually hate oil in my teas, but bergamot oil in Earl Grey and a few of the light essential citrus oils are exceptions.  This orange spice tea is also amazing iced, but sipped piping hot on a chilly night as an accompaniment to a good book…perfect.  It’s a wonderful choice for getting into a more mellow mindset.

There are also wonderful baked good accompaniments tea houses can add this time of year.  We always loved pumpkin cheesecake, gingerbread, cranberry muffins, molasses cookies, and even the quintessential cinnamon rolls seem yummier when served with spicy drinks.

All alone at home last night, I brewed myself a big mug of Orange Cinnamon Spice tea and it just felt so right.  It’s been a long, hot summer and I’m ready to shift gears.  Welcome, Fall!

The post Blast from the past: it’s the spiciest time of the year appeared first on T Ching.

The Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha Tea aka The American Ginseng

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 12:37

-by Tony Solomon

Are you a fan of tea? If you are, chances are that you have heard of Ashwagandha, which is also known as the American Ginseng. If you haven’t, you should know that it has a lot of health benefits, which include its use in fighting diabetes and cancer, but also to diminish inflammation, asthma, arthritis, hypertension, rheumatism and stress. Next to that, it improves how much antioxidants your body receives, controls the immune system, and has antibacterial and anticonvulsant properties. If you thought that that’s all, then you’ll be surprised to learn that it is also helpful for men that suffer from infertility and erectile dysfunction.

Reduces anxiety and stress

Anxiety and stress are common ailments in today’s society, which are most often combatted with psychotherapy and medication. The good news is that if you want to try out herbs to help you in this battle, Ashwagandha is commonly used to boost physical and mental health. It has been traditionally prescribed as a way to produce a calming and soothing effect on people. While it is still unknown which active ingredient is responsible for this, studies have shown that it certainly helps in reducing stress and anxiety.

Aids against cancer

Research has shown that Ashwagandha could be the future alternative when it comes to oncology, because it has cancer killing properties that work well combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. For now, a study on animals has shown that the tea causes apoptosis, that is, programmed cell death of cancer cells. Furthermore, it is very useful because it has been proven to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy, without having any negative effects on the process.

Stimulates the thyroid gland and boosts immunity

Ashwagandha is also extremely helpful for people who suffer from hypothyroidism, as it has been proven to stimulate the thyroid gland. The consumption of the root extract on a daily basis boosts the secretion of thyroid hormones. Furthermore, various research has been done, and some of it has shown that consuming Ashwagandha has significantly affected the reactivity of the immune system, and prevented myelosuppression which was induced by immunosuppressive drugs. The plant boosted the count of red and white blood cells and platelets.

Controls levels of cholesterol

Due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, Ashwagandha has also been proven to have positive effects on cardiovascular health problems. It has the ability to control cholesterol levels, and makes the heart muscles stronger. In Arizona, they have conducted a study that shows that the plant has hypolipidemic properties, which are exactly what alleviates the levels of cholesterol.

Boosts blood production

Research has also shown that Ashwagandha has hematopoietic properties. The process of producing new blood is called hematopoiesis. This research was also done on mice, and has shown that when this particular herb was administered, the white blood cell and red blood cell counts were significantly boosted. What this basically means is that it could have the same positive effect on people, and can be used in battling anemia.

Improves athletic performance

Another benefit of using this herb is that it has adaptogenic properties, and therefore it boosts the body’s natural systems. When you exercise, it improves the oxygen flow towards muscle cells. This results in greater strength and better stamina. Furthermore, it’s also useful in battling the effects of stress hormones during exercise. Finally, it has value in controlling the development of lactic acid.

Increases fertility and helps with erectile dysfunction

If you are having trouble with erectile dysfunction, then Ashwagandha can help you out. It boosts the libido in men and is often used as a medicine for ED. Still, don’t use it on your own and make sure that you are under the supervision of a professional doctor. If you’ve tried it, along with other options, and it doesn’t help, then maybe you should try visiting a clinic such as Ageless Men’s Health. Next to being a libido booster, the herb also improves the quality of the semen. It works as an aphrodisiac medicine and improves the semen quality by boosting the sperm count as well as sperm mobility.

In summation

Ashwagandha tea, or the American Ginseng, is a beverage with many healthy properties. You can find Ashwagandha in the market in dried form, powdered form, or fresh root form. If you’re taking it for any particular ailment, you should consult a professional before you do so. You can easily make the tea – boil the powder in water for 10 minutes, but make sure that you don’t use more than a teaspoon.


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A new TEA Meetup!

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 12:54

Who’s doing what in your city and in your neighborhood? Most Internet searches on any topic of interest, in no time flat, will invariably lead you to a Meetup group. Go ahead, type something you’re interested in and see what comes up – better yet – enter “Tea Groups” and see what you find.

Because I know your time is valuable, I’ll help you out. There are 452 tea groups around the globe with over 207, 559 members. Boom! Now, have a look to see what is in your area.  Here is the San Diego TEA Meetup featuring Thomas Shu.

I was involved with the San Diego Tea Meetup, founded by Dianna Harbin in 2009, and have since started a new group in the area which I now live and just recently had our first gathering. Yes, things may start off slowly, but you keep trying. This is the new Murrieta TEA Meetup!

Starting a group is the easy part. Maintaining enthusiasm and encouraging participation can be a little more challenging. People very quickly join groups and some RSVP to attend just as quickly, but it’s the actual showing up that most members seem to find difficult to honor. Oh, they want to, I don’t doubt that, but physically attending seems to be the hard part.

With over 20 million members, in over 150 different countries, over 50,000 events happening weekly, and with over 65,000 organizers, Meetup.com is convincingly the place to be. (These numbers seem to vary widely from article to article, but the numbers are huge and forecast to grow.) They charge the organizer, a monthly fee of $14.99 for the unlimited membership, and this is very reasonable for the reach you will have. Nevertheless, do read and understand their rules – they have many. Meetup began after the 9/11 tragedy as a way to encourage face-to-face interactions with people to build and create a stronger sense of community.

Tea groups naturally spawn a sense of community – it’s just built into the beverage – it’s part of the history of tea. Group organizers do have to be patient and creative in making selections for each gathering.

I have put together a series of new books on how to meditate with tea where I give systematic instructions (suggestions) for anyone wishing to start a tea group or add tea and meditating with tea as a featured event for an existing group.

I ran the San Diego Tea Meetup group for several years by myself and learned some valuable lessons during that period that I’ve chosen to share in these books. I feel that people coming together for tea, education, and social interaction strengths communities. During and after our recent American disasters and tragedies, we witnessed people coming together and working in selfless unity.

Just as the Meetup creators immediately witnessed people reaching out to help strangers without a second thought after 9/11, they wanted to create something that had the power to do this without the tragedy. I believe they have indeed succeeded in doing so to a smaller extent – but every little bit helps. Tea is the perfect beverage of hospitality to bring people together. Please consider sharing your appreciation and knowledge of tea with others.


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Tell us about your favorite tea shop!

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 12:00

Most of us in the tea-loving community have that one tea shop they love to go to. Maybe they make the best cup of tea in town. Maybe they have the best selection of loose teas in the city. Maybe the people are just great! Some of us are lucky enough that we have many places to choose from.

But what about you? What is your go-to tea spot?

Part of what we do at T Ching is spreading the love and knowledge of tea to the world. But it is also important that we also spread the love and visibility of our local tea businesses. Without them, it would be that much harder to share the tea love!

Is there a tea shop by you that deserves some extra visibility? Have you had a stellar experience at a store you visited while on a trip? Are you a small tea business that would like to share your story? Tell us! Send your stories to editor@tching.com or post them on our Facebook page, and we will share some of them on our site!


The post Tell us about your favorite tea shop! appeared first on T Ching.

Blast from the past: the need for spice and warmth – fall baking and tea

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 12:51


This article was originally published to T Ching in October of 2010.

I grew up under the perpetually sunny skies of California.  I did not have the concept of the air cooling and becoming crisp, of the leaves changing and covering the streets in red and gold, and of the need for spice and warmth, making you want to bake.  This fall in Milwaukee has been unseasonably warm.  My fall vest is still in the closet, but the urge to bake is still strong and has led me to my collection of squash.  There’s pumpkin pie, but that’s too predictable.  So, I decided to experiment with butternut!

It only made sense to pair my butternut with the aromatic spices of chai and because I love chocolate, I combined them all to make Butternut Chai Chocolate Chip Muffins!

Recipe for Butternut Chai Chocolate Chip Muffins

Wet Ingredients
1 cup of butternut (Cube and bake it at 375 degrees for about half an hour, then mash with a fork – that way you end up with a few chunkies!)
2 eggs
1 stick of butter (cream with sugar a bit)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cup of Rishi Tea chai concentrate or one cup of strongly brewed chai

Dry Ingredients
2 cups of flour (I used a half-wheat, half-white blend)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp star anise
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt

1 cup of chocolate chips

Mix the wet ingredients together.  Then mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients without over-mixing.  Mix in the chocolate chips.

Bake at 375 degrees for 24 minutes.  Bake until a toothpick comes out dry.

Makes 18 small muffins.

Enjoy with a cup of chai!

The post Blast from the past: the need for spice and warmth – fall baking and tea appeared first on T Ching.

Lose Weight and Detoxify Naturally With Iaso Tea 

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 12:47

-by Lucy Wyndham

Are you overweight or feel physically and mentally drained? Besides exercise being extremely important, you need to look at your diet.  If you’re looking to boost your health while using a herbal slimming supplement, Iaso tea could be the solution for you.

The Iaso Tea Detox and Weight Loss Solution

With the added benefits of soluble fiber, Iaso Tea flushes body toxins from the intestines, cleansing the digestive system and supporting the liver and kidneys. Being 100% organic and with its gentle taste, Iaso tea helps in removing excess fat from the body and assists in the purification and circulation of the blood, promoting cardiovascular health. Iaso tea contains no stimulants such as caffeine and is a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.


Iaso Tea is a popular herbal tea consisting of a combination of natural ingredients like Persimmon leaves, Malva Leaves, Holy Thistle, Blessed Thistle, Marshmallow, Chamomile, Ginger and Myrrh.  These ingredients work together to give you the detox and weight loss you are promised. These are some of the results you can expect when using Iaso Tea.

Weight loss and detox

Iaso Tea contains Ginger which increases the ability for your body to burn cholesterol as well as Persimmon leaf extract that boosts digestion by helping the body eliminate toxins.  Holy Thistle and Blessed Thistle play a role in neutralizing toxins thereby supporting liver function and Malva leaf extract controls indigestion, lessening inflammation in the colon.  The cleansing and detoxing of vital body organs in the digestive system prevents unhealthy weight gain.

Iaso tea is rich in antioxidants and anti cancer compounds like flavonoids and vitamins that protect your cells from the damaging effects caused by free radicals. Persimmon leaf extract contains antioxidants reducing cell damage and protecting your body against life threatening conditions, all of which have an adverse effect on weight maintenance.

Inflammation may also be the culprit when it comes to unexplained weight gain. Permission leaf extract, Marshmallow and Myrrh all have anti-inflammatory properties in Iaso Tea.


Another health benefit of Iaso Tea is the calming effect of Chamomile which can help reduce stress, anxiety and insomnia.  Sleeping well and feeling happier can lead to a more active lifestyle where you burn more calories and lose more weight.

Iaso Tea is a zero-calorie beverage that can replace sugar loaded soft drinks or sweetened fruit juices, reducing your calorie intake immediately.  Drinking eight ounces of Iaso Tea twice a day will help shed the pounds and keep the doctor away.

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

The post Lose Weight and Detoxify Naturally With Iaso Tea  appeared first on T Ching.

Dive Into the Magical World of Herbs

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 12:46
While few people are aware that pharmacy-sold medications are often derived from plants, such as the willow bark-based aspirin we typically use to relieve headaches, or the mighty morphine from opium poppy, even fewer people know the full extent of herbal powers.

There are so many of them that are simple to obtain and even simpler to use in order to boost our health, so learning about their application can help us at least sneak a peek into their incredible potential and start using them to improve our lives on so many levels.

Kitchen as your medicine cabinet

Nature offers many delicious and convenient ways to relieve your various aches and pains, from muscle soreness to a headaches. However, it seems to be a matter of habit and cultural norm to reach out for the pills instinctively rather than brew a few cups of peppermint tea, or the soothing lavender, both of which are very easy to come by.

In addition to these, you can infuse your diet with herbs that are perfect for boosting your immune system and protecting you from bacterial and viral infections all-year-round. One such super-herb is the potent matcha green tea powder, which is brimming with antioxidants to soothe inflammation, and vitamins and minerals to improve your resilience.

Go green with your cleaning supplies

On the other hand, you might be surprised to discover that some of these tasty plants can also double as your homemade cleaning agent, free from all the toxic chemicals typically found in the harsh store-bought detergents. For example, mixing lemon and peppermint essential oil can provide you with a brilliant window-cleaning solution that not only smells divine, but also helps you live a more Earth-friendly life.

Essential oils derived from lavender, mint and eucalyptus are wonderful sources of home-friendly cleaners that can serve to disinfect your bathroom and kitchen, while even waxing your furniture can be achieved with the help of lavender oil mixed with beeswax and olive oil.

Spice up your menu

In addition to a hot cup of herbal tea, there is a whole range of commonly underestimated spices you can introduce in your diet to improve your health, purify your complexion, and ward off illnesses. For instance, despite its unpleasant smell, garlic is a powerful cancer-fighting ingredient, especially when consumed raw. Add a pinch of cinnamon to your rice cooked in milk, and you’ll have a satiating, healthy treat perfect for winter, while cinnamon makes for a delicious tea, as well.

Add some anti-inflammatory cumin to your morning omelet and you’ll find that your breakfast not only tastes better but also protects your immune system and improves your digestion.

However, if you find it difficult to incorporate more herbs into your diet, there are many digestive health supplements that contain aloe vera, ginkgo biloba, and similar herbs, proving that medicine is, simply put, going back to its green roots.

Herbal beauty

Another industry that has also started learning from nature in the past few years is the beauty industry, turning to plant-derived ingredients that protect and nourish your skin, whether it’s already healthy, or if you’re struggling with a condition such as eczema or psoriasis. What’s more, as the sun’s harmful radiation is only growing stronger, sun protection products based on skin-friendly zinc-oxide, chamomile and other herbs are another step forward in utilizing elements directly from Mother Nature.

Calendula, for instance, is known to have soothing effects for sunburns and insect bites, and it doubles as a wonderful way to lighten your hair. You can use many dried herbs, including lavender, calendula once again, and peppermint to steam your face and cleanse your pores. Finish off with a gentle, home-made, herbal moisturizing cream, and your entire routine can be natural and infused with herbs.  


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How does a tea hunter hunt for tea?

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 12:00

I’m a Tea Hunter living in Kyushu. It’s here where some of the very best Japanese tea leaves are grown, processed, blended and produced. But the question I’m asked most is, “how do you find your teas?”

And what a brilliant question that is! The simple answer is to hunt…and hunt and HUNT, usually getting lost in the process. And folks, only the brave trust Google maps, which will usually take you where no man has dared to go before. Back roads are a Tea Hunter’s dream and Kyushu’s network is one of the best, often revealing an unknown artisan producer or leading to a rare tea from a hidden location.

In the quest for hunting down the finest leaves in Kyushu, it surprised me that I hadn’t found amazing, mind-blowing tea on the eastern side of the island in the four years of living here. But that changed just two days before Typhoon Talim smashed into the eastern side of Kyushu in September.

Friends in the tea community had given me a tip that there was a small farmer somewhere in Miyazaki Prefecture, producing some pretty remarkable tea, and award-winning no less. That’s all I needed to know to jump in the car and head east.

Miyazaki is laid back. It’s where the Japanese go to surf the big waves. It has some of the oldest trees in Japan with shrines built around them. It’s also famous for the labyrinth of multicolored wildflowers in spring calling out to millions of visitors and of course home to the breathtaking Takachiho gorge.

Even with all of the natural beauty, one thing Miyazaki Prefecture isn’t synonymous with is Japanese tea. When you think of Kyushu teas, Chiran (Kagoshima Prefecture) and Yame (Fukuoka Prefecture, near Saga Prefecture) claim the fame. But Miyazaki’s climate is ideal for growing tea and the soil is incredible. It’s rich and dark: comparable in color to a block of Valrhona 86% cacao. In fact, I haven’t seen soil as dark as this anywhere else in Japan.

As I was trying to recover from a Google map mishap, I saw a child-height plastic Matcha ice cream cone proudly displayed in front of a small tea shop. Having driven in circles for what seemed like hours, I was in dire need of Matcha in any form it was delivered and stopped at the tiny shop for a cone.

As I parted the outdoor curtain and excused myself upon entering, I found a clean, wonderful, fairly modern little tea shop. The aroma of fresh tea leaves filled the air. One side of the shop was filled to the brim with cold tea brewers, tea snacks of all shapes and sizes, tea cups and pots. Along the adjacent wall was a very tidy display of teas packaged in simple but elegant bags. Two large award certificates hung proudly on the wall. I knew this must be the place my tea friends were mentioning.

Within seconds of entering, a young girl rushed over with a small cup of tea, explaining that it was their new autumn blend. The color was intense and the taste deep and layered with a roasted backend. I knew they added a higher heat during the final stages of drying to achieve that fired characteristic. I personally like teas that don’t use too much heat at the end as I don’t want to mask the true taste of the leaves. However, this tea was lovely and certainly not over fired.

The Master blender, Kuroki-san, suddenly appeared on the scene to answer some of my questions. I was immediately taken by his joyful energy and passion which bubbled over as soon as he found out that he didn’t need to speak English. He spoke enthusiastically about the cultivars in each of his teas and how he perceives their specific personalities. “Saemidori to me is like royalty and Okumidori reminds me of an elegant lady that lights up a room!” He went on to discuss how he likes to bring certain flavors to the forefront using temperatures to control the tea’s release.

Master Kuroki also explained that while they weren’t certified organic, they favor natural farming techniques and are well below the government standards on mild pesticides, unlike the large farms that often blanket the fields with protection using remote controlled planes.

As a Tea Hunter, I’m looking for that something special…a particular way a farmer goes about producing his tea. Does the farmer look at the different cultivars and blend them to bring out the best flavors? Or does he simply stick to Yabukita, the main cultivar known for being robust, and use steaming times to achieve a flavor? Does he choose to use heat during the drying cycle and cover up some of the leaves natural personality? How does he treat his Hojicha, the roasted tea – leaves only, twigs only or a mix of both? How about his Shiraore (karigane) – is it milky or fired and where do the stems come from? What kind of rice does he use in his Genmaicha and are his leaves first harvest or the standard Yanagicha? And one look at his packaging says a lot: can you see the tea through the package? Are there any bulk bins of teas with glass lids that let the sun in?

Master Kuroki certainly knows his tea, but I wanted a taste. I suggested trying his Shiraore (stem tea). Since I’m so particular with how it is handled during the final stages, this would be a good indication if we were like minds…

On the very first sip of his Shiraore kabusecha, I knew we were kindred spirits! There was a milky, creamy feeling on my tongue and none of the roasted backend that so many producers use to mask the perceived inferior stems. Master Kuroki is as picky about the stems as he is the processing method. He selects only kabusecha or gyokuro stems, and processes it in a way that allows the natural taste of the leaves and stems to shine through. One look at the cup and you can SEE the energy bounding forth.

After that sublime Shiraore, I knew I needed to try all of his teas and scooped up the lot. We are currently tasting them… It’s pretty clear that Master Kuroki will join our team of Rockstar producers!

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No Detectable Arsenic!

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 12:45

I have some good news for the people who’ve been following my heavy metal poisoning health problem.

As you can see, the laboratory found ND – “no detectable” arsenic in my brewed green tea from China.  The sample that I provide to the lab was steeped at 185 degrees for 5 minutes to simulate 3 steepings thorough out the day. My first steep is typically 1.5 minutes and each subsequent steeping I add 30 seconds. What a relief. As soon as the report came through email, the very first thing I did was make some Monkey King tea.

As you’ll recall, the lab made a mistake initially and tested the actual leaves without brewing it. So we now know that while the leaves do have arsenic in them, the brewed tea does not. Although terrific news for my daily ritual, I have periodically added matcha to my morning routine. As most of you know, matcha is powdered green tea which uses the entire leaf – without veins – to be ground into a powder and consumed in a frothy liquid. I’m curious to learn if perhaps matcha may present a problem for those concerned about arsenic.

One explanation for this may be a cultural issue. I’ve asked myself about rice and arsenic and the many cultures who eat rice as part of their daily meals. Why don’t they have issues with heavy metal poisoning? One possibility might be the spices that typically are associated with the rice. In Mexico and South American for example, rice is a staple, but it’s traditionally served with cilantro. Cilantro is an excellent chelator of arsenic.

I”ll be eager to hear other people’s thoughts about all of this. I think it would be worthwhile to test matcha to see if the brewed tea has detectible arsenic. If anyone pursues this, I hope they’ll share their results with us here at T Ching.


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