Get steeped in the legends, culture and tea of China by celebrating the Moon Festival. Wound up in centuries of stories and tradition, this day is China’s way of celebrating the harvest. Dating back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 256 BC), the Moon Festival occurs when the moon is at its fullest following the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which means it falls on September 8th this year. Take a moment to enjoy a cup of one of our finest Chinese Teas such as Jade Oolong or Organic China Breakfast, and steep yourself in a few of the legends surrounding this second most celebrated day in China.
Mooncake and Other Customs
One of the legends that is now a traditional part of the Moon Festival is sharing and enjoying mooncake. During the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD), mooncakes were shared to pass secret messages organizing a revolt against oppressive rulers. The following harvest moon, the new leader gave moon cakes to his subordinates, and the tradition stuck.
Today, the Moon Festival is a time of offering sacrifices to the moon. These include round items such as soybeans, watermelons, oranges, grapefruits and wine. The offerings are placed where the moon light touches them. The Chinese word for “round” closely resembles the word for “reunion.” Family members come together in the evening to share a mooncake cut in equal portions. A piece is cut for family members who live far away as well. Prayers are written to the moon and then burned. Interested in tasting mooncake? Check out this recipe.
Traditions differ throughout China and Taiwan. Southern China holds fire dragon dances while children play with festival lanterns. In Shanghai, people burn incense buckets outdoors. And in Taiwan, unmarried girls set off sky lanterns and steal vegetables in hopes of finding a husband.
Check out our selection of Chinese Teas, and celebrate a few of these ancient traditions with us! More Moon Festival customs can be found here. What is your favorite way to celebrate the harvest season?
August 28th, 2014
If you are planning to fit in one last summer vacation over Labor Day weekend like many other Americans, then listen up. You don’t have to settle for hotel room varieties of tea bags or powdered iced-tea mixes from a drive-thru, for example. Take along the teas you love and brew them on the go. It requires a little extra space in your luggage and a little extra time, but it is well worth it when you want to enjoy vacation time down to the details. This means starting out the day with a good cup of tea. Whether you are planning the road trip of the decade or boarding a plane to get to your destination, here are a few tips that might come in handy.
Give up a little space in your carry-on bag for a single brew-in cup. For short trips, tea can be packed right inside the infuser to save even more space. A Travel Press is another handy choice for traveling with tea.
If you are staying in a hotel, many hotels have hot water available to their guests in the lobby area. If that is not the case, then run hot water through your in-room coffee pot to rinse out coffee smells first. Then run water through a second time to get hot water to pour over your tea leaves.
If you are driving to your vacation destination, many gas stations also offer hot water. The biggest factor in traveling with tea, however, is that you don’t have control over the temperature of the water. Of course you can always ask for ice cubes, bring a thermometer and take some time to get it just right. Remember, though, that you are on vacation. You don’t want to spend too much time on this and miss out on sightseeing or time with family or friends.
Instead, bring along teas that travel well and can take the heat (most gas station hot water is extremely hot). Black teas are the best choice such as Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, Traditional Masala Chai or Blacksmith Blend. But if you love a good cup of green tea, Pinhead Gunpowder can probably take more heat than most other greens and still taste good.
Of course, these are all good tips for enjoying your tea hot. Iced tea is another story and a little trickier one at that, but well worth it. Have you traveled with tea? What worked best for you?
August 21st, 2014
The start of school can feel like a nightmare if you have a child who suffers from attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And although the structure of a classroom and hours seated at a desk bring the symptoms of this disorder to the forefront in children, many adults also suffer from ADD or ADHD. Though not enough research has been done yet but a handful of studies show that a cup of tea could help you or someone you know keep focused.
Tea contains an amino acid called L-Theanine which helps to induce mental relaxation. It does this by promoting the release of dopamine which works with the nervous system to communicate with the rest of the body. Dopamine also plays a huge role in reward-motivated behavior. Green tea (Dragon Well or Organic Sencha, for example) is one of the best natural sources for L-Theanine. Read more about L-Theanine if you are considering getting on medication. Sometimes more awareness about ADD or ADHD and a few lifestyle changes as well as diet changes can make a big difference.
The drugs prescribed to those who suffer from ADD or ADHD are stimulants as is caffeine. Though the effects of caffeine may not be as strong or as long-lasting as some types of drugs prescribed to people with this disorder, they can prove helpful. Many people who “self-medicate” with caffeinated tea find that the it has the opposite effect on an ADD or ADHD brain. It causes them to calm down and focus better. In addition, tea does not have a caloric value when enjoyed on its own, unlike caffeinated soft drinks with lots of added sugar.
The best way to see if tea can improve your ability to function and focus is to give it a trial run. Enjoy a cup with your breakfast and a glass with lunch or in the early afternoon. Steer away from tea in the evening hours as caffeine can inhibit sleep. Find a variety you like (and there are plenty to choose from), and go with it. Just be aware that moderation in all things (even tea) is always good, especially if you are serving it to a school-aged child. Do you have any other questions about how tea can calm the symptoms of ADD and ADHD? Talk to your doctor to learn more.
August 14th, 2014
If you’ve been a regular at your local Farmer’s Markets this summer, or if you have a garden of your own, then you might find yourself overwhelmed with more fruits and vegetables than you can eat. Zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and beets all tend to rank high on the overstock list. Many of us simply don’t have time to do anything more than give these extra goodies away, but some of us may just need a little inspiration to savor these late summer tastes. Pair the perfect cup of tea with the suggestions that follow, and you have a reason to invite your neighbors over to show off your kitchen savvy with fresh, local produce.
Cucumbers, of course, come to mind when you hear of pickling things. This can be as easy as boiling up a brine of vinegar, onion, sugar, plus a few extra spices to make delicious refrigerator pickles. Did you know that lots of other vegetables can be pickled? Watermelon rinds are also delicious pickled, though the recipe varies just a little. Beets, carrots, cabbage and peaches can be pickled too and all without much hassle. Check out this complete pickling list for all things pickled. For salty pickled produce, a stout Assam tea compliments nicely. If you are pickling sweet flavors like peaches or watermelon, try pairing them with a malty Keemun tea.
When you hear the word “baked,” do you think sweet or savory? Excess zucchini can be prepared both ways. Grate it fresh into a cake, cookie or brownie recipe or slice it up with tomato sauce and mozzarella. One of the most productive vegetables is also, fortunately, one of the most versatile. Zucchini can be grilled, or fried too. A personal favorite is Zapple Pie. With the right spices, it easily passes as Apple Pie even for those who don’t claim to like zucchini. Try out this recipe with ice cream and a hot cup of Ceylon on the side:
6 c peeled, scooped out, quartered and thinly sliced zucchini
1 1/4 c sugar (3/4 – 1 1/4, adjust to your own taste)
1 t vanilla
4 T real butter
2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/3 c lemon juice + water to make 1/2 c
1/3 c flour
1 pie shell with top crust
Preheat Oven: 450.
In a saucepan over medium heat combine the zucchini, sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add 2 T lemon juice. Stir to mix and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Mix the rest of the lemon juice and water with the flour in a cup and stir into the zucchini mixture to thicken. Remove from heat.
Spoon the zucchini filling into the pie shell. Place the top crust on and crimp the edges to seal. Put the pie into the hot oven and close the door. Then reduce the heat to 350. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is browned and the filling is bubbling.
Cool completely before you enjoy it or serve slightly warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
(recipe from An American Housewife)
Next time you are at the Farmer’s Market, stock up on the discounted fruits and vegetables. And if you’re growing your own, invite your neighbors over for a treat before loading them up with your excess produce. What will you make?
August 7th, 2014
Geographical Indicator Status
Rooibos tea is traditionally grown in South Africa’s Cederberg Mountains, which are located 150 miles north of Cape Town on the southwestern tip of the African continent. Also known as “red bush” in Afrikaans (a language native to South Africa), the indigenous shrub-like rooibos has been proudly grown in South Africa for generations. As the popularity of this unique amber tea has increased in markets beyond Africa, companies in France and the United States have made bold attempts to trademark the rooibos name; however, in a recent Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, South Africa’s rooibos tea has been awarded geographical indicator status, an honor previously bestowed upon champagne, Darjeeling tea and Colombian coffee.
After hearing news of the decision last week, South Africa’s trade and industry minister Rob Davies explained: “It will be the rooibos tea manufacturers of South Africa which will have ownership of that particular name and that term will be applicable only to products that come from and are approved by us.” What does this mean for the tea industry? People selling rooibos cannot use the name as the brand. (The correct trading name would be, for example, Laager Rooibos or Freshpak Rooibos.)
Previous Trademark Challenges
The first trademark battle actually occurred in the Unites States in 2004 when a company registered Rooibos as a brand name. Although the matter has since been settled, South Africa could not export rooibos unless it was called rooibush at that time.
When the French company Compagnie de Trucy tried to trademark the name last year, the South African Rooibos Council had to intervene, fearing the company could secure exclusive use. According to Gerda De Wet, a spokeswoman for Rooibos Limited, it took a long time to resolve the French trademark issue, and the company is relieved a similar situation will not happen in the future with the new regulations in place.
The Future of Rooibos
Rooibos already has a strong foothold in European markets, but South African suppliers are seeking entry into Asian countries as well. South Africa began exporting its homegrown rooibos in 1904 and produces about 15,000 tons of the amber tea every year, half of which is exported and the rest consumed locally, resulting in an industry currently worth an estimated $57 million a year.
The country may have a bit of a ways to go if it wants to catch up with China or India, but South Africa’s place on the global tea map has now been solidified due to its recent legal victory. What’s more, the same trademark protection that applies to rooibos will likewise apply to honeybush, another tea indigenous to the Cape region, and Karoo lamb. In exchange, the northern South African city of Pretoria was forced to make a concession on feta cheese, which had been protected since 2002.
For additional reading on the new rooibos rules and previous trademark challenges, check out:
Rooibos tea trademark awarded to South Africa in deal with EU
Rooibos tea ruling gives exporters boost
South Africa fights to protect rooibos tea name after French trademark bid
July 31st, 2014