Sunday, August 28, 2005

How About A Tea Bath?

You hear a lot of things about tea these days. How it can heal your cancer, prevent a cold, take ten years off, and raise the dead. This is a post in that regard. Not every interesting tea story you read here will come from the dawn of civilization (there could be no civilization before tea). From time to time I'll share some of my personal experiences.

A couple of weeks ago I did something I've been meaning to try for a while now. I took a bath in tea. Sound weird? I promise I didn't drink it afterwards, nor expect anyone else to.

Sometimes when I'm out shopping with my girlfriend I'll come across some five-dollar satchel of tea for the bath. I'm not going to spend that kind of money on one bath and I hope that you wouldn't either. I'd had a rather long week and decided to take a nice long bath. Now, I'm six foot two and the tiny bathtub in my apartment is probably five foot six, so you know it must have been a rough week if I'm going to try to fit into that thing.

The problem was I couldn't find any of my girlfriend's bubble bath. Not to be deterred I set out to make my own. I remembered that at one point I'd discovered that the main ingredient in one of her Lush bath bombs (cool stuff but expensive) was baking soda, so I started there. Digging in the cupboards I found an old bottle of Dr.Bronners Tea Tree Oil soap. I'd never liked the smell of that stuff but I knew it would bubble up really good so it would do. At the time I was saving up my used tea leaves to put into my plants (they say it's a good fertilizer) and had a few days worth waiting to be used. I felt I had all the pieces now for a good bath.

I brewed a really big pot of tea with the spent leaves and took it to the bathroom. While the water was running I added the soap and baking soda then poured the brew in. For some reason I threw the leaves in there as well without really thinking. Immediately I regretted that as it looked rather swamp like in there. I'd spent too much time putting this together to just forget about it and made a mental note not to do that again and got in.

I immediately erased that mental note. This felt great! The baking soda was aerating the water and making the leaves float all over the place. The result was that it felt like sitting in a spa, a weak one, but still nice. The leaves were now brushing up against my skin, and the smell of the tea had begun to overpower the damned tea tree oil smell.

Suddenly the week wasn't all that bad. My skin had never felt better and my mind was refreshed. Yes, I have tried some of my girlfriend's expensive bath bombs (I'd rather not think about how much they cost) and they were nice, but this was definitely better. No doubt in part due to my having made it myself and feeling quite clever as a result.

Did it prevent a cold or heal my warts? Probably not, but when you feel good you tend to stay healthy.

Cost = Nothing, I already had everything. The baking soda was just sitting in the fridge, the soap was something I'd never intended to use, and the tea had already been used.

What were the final results of taking a bath in tea? Ahhhhhhh!

Do it! But find a way to do it cheap.

Now go have a cup.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

So you thought kids were bad these days...

At some point in the 15th century lived a man named Ichiro who was something of a scholar and philosopher and as most scholar/philosophers do lived as a hermit. He did so in a town called Sakai (the same town where tea master Sen no Rikyu would live and die.) His relevance on a page dedicated to tea stories is that he is known to have taken tea with the tea master Ikkyu at some point in his life and was in possession of a tea pot that has it's own tales and that he referred to as "The Handy Pot". The odd part of his life, though doubtfully the only odd part, is the way in which he died. No, it does not directly have anything to do with tea but does exemplify the lengths someone will go to when trying to make a point.

Ichiro had built a window into the wall that faced his garden that people would give him offerings through. It is not known if there was a sign on it stating that he was a veteran, but I suspect not. Apparently the children of the town took to throwing straw horse shoes and dung into it as a joke or perhaps as a rite of passage much like children growing up in the eighties would challenge each other to go up to the "scary German guy's" house and ring the bell. Well, he wasn't as inclined to invite these kids into the house for pie. Instead he sadly proclaimed that he was living in "...a degenerate age!" and proclaimed that he "...would have no more to do with it." At which point he stopped eating and eventually died as a result.

The moral of this story is first don't throw crap into people's windows. Or if you are a parent and you think that your child may have thrown crap into some ones window you should invite the crazy person over for some tea. He might just have a very good recipe for pie. Oh, and teach your damn kids some manners.

Now go have a nice cup.

"Cha-No-Yu" by A.L. Sadler

The tale in the above post came to my attention in "Cha-No-Yu:The Japanese Tea Ceremony" by A.L. Sadler. It is a great book on the history of the tea ceremony and philosophy of tea in Japan. It was originally written in the 1930's and spends a lot of time on the specifics of the tea rooms, utensils and art involved in the Japanese tea ceremony. I strongly suggest it to anyone who might feel that the Japanese have some crazy rules about their ceremony and take the fun out of enjoying a cup. That may be the way that some people do it but after reading this book it was very clear that the great masters had a different view when they were creating it. Yes they were very specific in every detail but it was done for the enjoyment of tea not in spite of it. A quote by Sen no Rikyu sums it up best:
"Tea is nought but this.
First you make the water boil,
Then infuse the tea.
Then you drink it properly.
That is all you need to know."

That is quite an oversimplification of what he meant though. He was referring to the essence of it but used the specifics of it. It starts with preparing it. If the person making it sucks at doing so the tea will suck as well and the whole point of having tea is to enjoy it. Thus they came to have some very specific methods of making tea properly. The drinking of tea properly is the part that people in modern times miss out on the most.

When done best (not necessarily properly) the tea ceremony involves all of the senses and takes nothing for granted. It begins before an invitation is sent and ends with death. That is to say that it should be planned as an event that will become a part of your life.

The key to success is in each individual person. It can be accomplished by a peaceful conversation in the midst of a crisis. Like taking your mother to a local cafe after grandma died. With the beauty of the flower in the vase on display at a Japanese ceremony. Even a walk on the beach alone at sunset barefoot with a cup of Jasmine Pearls on your 30th birthday would be considered an exceptional achievement in the enjoyment of tea. To truly enjoy a cup of tea is much harder to plan for than one might think, yet often comes without any planning whatsoever.

If this has peaked your interest in Tea in Japan you might want to check this page out.

Now go have a cup.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tea links that don't stinks?

Howdy all, since this is the first post here you'll notice that there is not a whole lot of anything. That is a temporary problem I assure you. There are many tales to be told. Here you will eventually find tales of the utmost stupidity, the outright thirsty, and the obscenely fickle eccentricities of tea drinkers, transporters, and makers.

Unfortunately it doesn't yet, does it? If you happened upon this before I could put some interesting things here I thought it would be best to give you some links to places that will interest you.

Stash Teas page dedicated to the many things that their drinkers have sent into them over the years. Some are interesting but most make me wonder how the word "WHAT" earned its all caps.
Typical post goes something like:
"One time when I was at band camp I stuck a biscotti in my hot Stash Osmanthus Guanqxi Guihua cup of tea and it was good."
Stash also gives us...
Seems more dedicated to being all inclusive rather than entertaining. Quite a few of them but unfortunately I haven't really found any all that interesting. I'm sure there are some hidden in there if you happen need a quote.

They have a page dedicated to the history of tea and of course purchasing. The former is not very entertaining and the latter, well that's also not very entertaining, unless you want to go shopping.

A monthly newsletter dedicated to tea. They tend to have decent articles but they only update it once a month and even then its only one article, one tea story or poem, and one Ask Mr. Tea (I pity the fool who thinks a real question has ever been answered!) The articles are hit and miss depending on what you're looking for but as a whole tend to paint a rather fair and full image of the world of tea and that's good. The poetry tends to be terrible. It's reminiscent of a time when rich wives and would compose poetry to their help with the pretense that they were helping them become cultured. As for "Ask Mr. Tea", half of the time he seems to be answering a question on how to buy his (not as impressive as he thinks) tea pot that strangely seems to want you to put the water in first (at least according to the animation on the page that sells it.) The rest of the time the questions are so basic that it begs the question "Why not just have a FAQ page to deal with the top twenty or so stupid questions about tea and get on with some real questions?" The most interesting one is about Einstein but I don't get it. I've read it several times and am still unsatisfied with "and the story tells itself." No it doesn't. Was it a double headed coin? Was it that he never told us which side of the coin corresponds to which drink? Could it be that he had mixed the two drinks as the beginning of the story suggests the tale will be about? And just how the hell old is this dude supposed to be? Sorry, I actually like this page, no really I do.

This page is part of the Adagio Teas page but I didn't link to the front page or you'd have to wait for that stupid tea pots animation to load. This page appears to be the money making force that puts out the Tea Muse Newsletter. Odd then that they have a better listing of the health benefits here. This is one of the most all inclusive lists on the health benefits being attributed to tea these days.
For more of the same you might also want to check out Tea 4 Health.

Well that seems like a good start. Now go have a nice cup.