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Tea time talk: What is love to you?



Valentine is around the corner, and I encourage singletons and couplets alike to chat up, come clean, and be honest with yourselves with this question:

 What is love
to you?

My not-so-short answer: As a believer, I think the scripture’s famous verse about love is the very definition of it, and way more. The more part is the rest of the Bible, and the personal part is in my marriage.

Starting from the day we stood at the altar, we promised each other to put our relationship only second after our personal relationship with God, and that means the first above every other human relationships we have – including your own tumultuous relationship with yourself. Here’s what is and what isn’t to me: Loving your spouse is not a fleeting feeling but a moment-to-moment commitment, not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less, not focusing on a set of conditions but on making agreements, and not to be reduced to a definition but so much more to do with action. When he first laid eyes on me, something moved in his heart. But he didn’t depend on the vibes to last the marriage – he dedicates care and attention whenever he’s with me, even though he’s not a uni-tasker by nature (my love language is quality time). As for me, he wasn’t always the godly and upright man I’ve always seen in him, but I prepare food on the table and do the minimal house chores by the time he comes home from work, even though I’m a major mess (his love language is acts of service). Sometimes you’re frustrated with his shortcomings, sometimes you’re doubtful of his affection, and other times you’re afraid that someday, he’s going to stop appreciating you. But have you taken a good look at yourself lately? (So guilty). You see, the stuff in your head messes with you more than the actual marriage – if you would just trust his word on the altar without further question, as you do with God’s Word, you would serve him regardless of your own mental and emotional states, as you would unhesitantly obey the Lord. When you look back at the cross and at your husband and then back to the woman on the mirror (in that order), you can’t help but not not love him any less.

So yeap, love certainly isn’t all sunshine and lollipops and flying little piglets, but it’s worth all the time and energy and effort you put in, because you know what? In the end, it will all look beautiful and wonderful and pleasing in His eyes.

Now I want to hear from you: How do you define love?

Share your thoughts on the comments section below, and if you’ve already got plans (hubs and I haven’t), how are you going to spend Valentine’s Day this year? We welcome suggestions :DDD





Photography by Daddy Tjeuw


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How do you like your tea: Brewed bagged or let loose?


Same type of tea (white) – totally different experience. Left is a bland 30-second brew from dust and fannings in a mass-produced tea bag by an international tea brand, right is an aromatic, full-bodied 1-minute brew from whole tea leaves grown in Indonesia.

Ah, the age-old question of the tea industry: Who wins in the battle of tea bags versus loose teas?

As much as I love having them loose, it’s not always convenient to boil yourself with the full bloom. Modern, fast-paced lifestyle evolved us into much more mobile beings, and so portability plays a big factor on why people keep buying more tea bag teas than loose leaves. Unfortunately, this popularity has also shifted the general population’s perception of tea, so much so that people have automatically associated just the mention of the drink with those same, limited flavors of the standard commercial tea bag teas. Well, truth is, the standard grocery store tea bags contain latent freshness, aromas, and quality you probably never knew existed. Bagged tea’s popularity is also one of the reasons why we’re seeing a relative decline of tea popularity, at least, compared to the hype surrounding coffee (remember the days when coffee is mostly canned, instant, and stale?).

That said, you may think I’ve been enjoying nothing less but premium-quality, full-leaf teas like Shennong 神农1 did. But no! I didn’t always have my tea whole. As far as I can remember, I started out with commercial bagged teas and the occasional powdered matcha. In fact, I’ve got to thank tea bag teas in the first place for having titillated my taste buds with camellia sinensis early in life (age 11 or so). But over time, as I began having more and more brews from the full, beautiful, unbroken leaves, I began to discover more subtleties and nuances that only loose-leaf cuppings deliver, and now, I can no longer imagine my life having without.

At the end of the day though, it all comes back to your personal lifestyle: Do you like things fast or slow? Multiple dips or longer steep? Quick pick-me-up or all-day steady energy? Below is a quick list of facts on each brewing method. This way, you’ll get a better picture of which brew is best suited for you:

Click to enlarge

In a future post, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty for each method, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I wanna hear from you: How do you usually enjoy your tea?


Have it your way
How do you like your tea?





  1. The Chinese dude who first discovered tea back in 2737 BC []
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23 ways tea is a metaphor for Jesus


… Have you noticed? I secretly suspect He invented tea leaves to serve as a gentle reminder for us of His saving grace. Here’s a short list to get you pondering:


1. His grace is fragrance overflowing all over your insides.

2. He does way more than quenching your spiritual thirst – He’s literally above and beyond.

3. His awesomeness ceases to amaze you.

4. Sinking deep in Him and His Word alone is more than enough provision to last you for eternity.

5. He’s heaven-sent. (look how many times you’ve described a good tea as a ‘heavenly’ experience!)

6. The Father was boiling hot about you, but so loved you, He had to renew you with the only begotten bud with two leaves.

7. Just as the precious bud is for you, it’s also sent to serve those who believe it is their cup of tea.

8. You are required to patiently wait and have less on your plate in order to best enjoy Him.

9. He brings contentment like nothing else in the world does.

10. The longer you let Him sit in His Throne, the richer the quality of your tea.

11. Similarly, the more hurriedly you dip, in hopes of steeping faster, the bleaker your brew becomes.



12. Once you’re fully steeped though, you find Him soothing and sound.

13. Inhaling even just the top notes of His aroma lets you know you’re in a safe place, sheltered in His warm embrace.

14. His gentle character is so inviting, He’s open for conversations with you at any given time of the day.

15. His smooth consistency never fails to guide your walk and ground your paths.

16. His mercy is as deep as the good jade liquor – both complex and complete.

17. He is the highest and the purest form of joy, amazingly contained in a single cross.

18. Hoping in the cross heals you more than wallowing in your maladies.

19. And if you let Him, He will keep stirring your heart until peace rests within you from the inside out.

20. It is an honor to get just a taste of His wholesome love, but it was His pleasure to give you a cleanse in the first place.

21. Sipping the brew takes you out of yourself. With every sip you take, you develop God’s perspective on life.

22. There is no lukewarm tea that tastes like heaven – there is only hot tea fiery with zeal, or cold tea subduing your tempers.

23. Just this verse from the Book of He Brews (pun intended, hehe): The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. Hebrews 1:3 (NLT)




Anything I missed? Give your inner poet a try: Add your own tea-and-Jesus metaphors on the comments section below :)





via Alejandra S. on Pinterest


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Tea nose, as aromatherapy and a mnemonic


Floral and high: Sniffing frankincense, sipping Dong Ding, and relaxing with lavender.

If you’ve read Stillwater long enough, you already know I’m big on aromatherapy. While I don’t burn incense or embalm mummified corpses, concentrated botanical extracts are a big part of my daily life, particularly as an alternative medicine and for cosmetic care. The concept of aromatherapy is really simple: You inhale an aromatic bouquet to bring about a physical, emotional, and spiritual balance. But hey, doesn’t drinking tea do the same, wellness-wise? Well, yes, but let me broaden your perspective as to how learning aromatherapy basics can supercharge your tea tasting experience.



Did you smell that?

Like you would describe the massive diversity of tea flavors, in aromatherapy, essential oils usually fall into these 6 categories:

  1. Herbaceous (holy basil, fennel)
  2. Floral (rose geranium, jasmine)
  3. Citrus (lemon, tangerine)
  4. Minty (peppermint, cajeput)
  5. Woody (cananga, frankincense)
  6. Earthy (myrrh, patchouli)
  7. Spicy (clove, cinnamon)

Just as distilled flowers, roots, barks, leaves and resin do, little did I know before reading How To Make Tea that steeped tea leaves also releases volatile oils, much like the essential oils and the top notes you design for your personal fragrance in perfumery. Once tea leaves come in contact with warm water and blossom, these volatile oil compounds are released into the aqueous medium, with some of them so thin and mobile, they immediately evaporate over your brew.

That instant kick of mental clarity when you inhale the first wave of its aroma? Yup, that’s you sniffing the most diffusive notes of tea, and whether you realize it or not, that brief olfactory stimulation is a significant dimension to your whole tea-sipping experience. They even have a term for it – the “nose”, and every type of tea offers an aromatic bouquet that is unique to its flavor characteristics.


Remember when …


The nose of teas also “help lock into the brain the scents of each tea as a memory,” Brian Keating explains. How so? Well, we have a special system embedded throughout our whole physiology that the medics refer to as the “smell brain”. Put simply, it is the network in your brain that governs the direct relationship between your sense of smell (olfaction) and how you feel (emotions), why you act the way you do (motivations), and what you remember (memory). While this system is a discussion for a whole ‘nother blog post, we’re going to zoom in on how scenting helps you remember better for today.

Our sense of smell is at least 1,000 times more sensitive than any of the other 4 senses1, which makes recognizing a particular scent an immediate, automatic response. Our visual, auditory, gustatory, and somatosensory information has to travel through neurons and the spinal cord before they reach your brain, whereas your olfactory bulbs have neuron receptors that are actually an integral part of the brain … to be more specific, a very primitive part of the brain (that’s responsible for your emotional life and forming long-term memories). This direct exposure with the outside environment makes you register whatever scent you’re smelling right away, with little conscious thought or will, instantly reminding you of particular people, places, and/or events associated with the scent.

While memories are typically formed when you happen to catch a whiff of unsolicited scents (e.g. all the pleasant memories with your boyfriend came rushing the moment you sniff his sweat-soaked T-shirt), you can harness the power of aromas to trigger the kind of physical, emotional, and spiritual responses you are looking for … in our case, simply by taking a moment to:

  1. close your eyes,
  2. inhale your steeped tea, and
  3. enjoy the environment you’re having the tea at before drinking it.

This way, you’re extending the wellness benefits of tea above and beyond its sensory taste.


I mixed Teavana’s Wild Orange Blossom tisane with Utama Spice’s Citrus Fresh Blend (complete with ceramic diffuser in its packaging, available at your local stores) as a potpourri for our bathroom


Your tea, my environment, our memory.


Occasionally, I have guests at home, and my hope is to serve them well, causing them to leave the door more positive than before they step in. Because positive emotions is what I intend to elicit, I always make sure I’m in a good mood before letting anyone into our home, and that the house is neat and clean and tended. Of course, all this is just logic, right? You would want to make your space homey so that guests will be able to feel comfortable. But I’ve added another element to the hospitality mix, just to make for a stronger and more lasting impression: Serving tea. With its scents, mouthfeel, and flavors, they are sure to remember the one occasion when they have spent a good time at our home by drinking good tea. Ever since I started this tea-serving habit, starting from when I married my husband, I’m starting to feel that tea is a symbol for utmost service, and personally for me, my favorite floral and vegetal aromas of lesser-oxidized teas have transformed into an ultra-gentle nudge in my brain, that life is to be lived intentionally in order to be happy :)

Now my question for you to begin February is this: Have you stopped and smelled the roses (perhaps even literally) since the start of the year? What are you going to be more intentional about starting today?





  1. Why Smells Can Trigger Strong Memories [Mercola] []
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Recent tea reads



I’ve never really showed my share of books on tea around here. It’s always been a series of random books that I personally find interesting, which can range from business books to traditional fairy tales (you’re most likely to find me in bookstores around town …). But since you’re here now and probably a fellow tea and books lover, I want to share with you some of the most fascinating reads on tea, its origins and making, as well as the cultural connotations that the cup carries.


How to Make Tea: The Science Behind the Leaf by Brian R. Keating and Kim Long


For a 160-page book, this is a comprehensive read on tea basics and technical aspects of making the brew. If I have to sum it up in a short sentence, it’ll be “A definitive how-to article of everything you need to know about tea in book form” :p Not formal and definitely non-boring, so please don’t judge the book by its title :) If you’re a newfound lover of tea, I highly recommend How to Make Tea as your brewing companion.

P.S. The book features simple diagrams and lined illustrations along with its texts.


识茶·泡茶·品茶 (彩图版)


If you can read and understand simplified Mandarin Chinese, you should definitely get this book. I found it at a Kinokuniya bookstore, and it was on sale. So yeap, how could I not get it?! Everything you need to know about tea in China, with an encyclopedic introduction to the different types of Chinese teas along with how to best enjoy them respectively spanning the first half of the book, and with traditional tea recipes and their health benefits for soothing all sorts of ailments covering the second half of it. What I love most was that it’s modern, easy to understand, and highly applicable. So get the gem from the Chinese-language sales section of Kinokuniya, stat.



The Tea Book by Linda Gaylard


Better known as The Tea Stylist, Linda Gaylard is your go-to gal for learning how to love the cup of joy. Just because tea originated from China doesn’t mean Indians, Africans, Japanese, the Brits, or even Indonesians cannot enjoy the brew. Personally, I think this is highly condensed book about tea for the general public, but what I find helpful in your tea journey was the beautiful visuals and infographics throughout the pages – they really help you learn. The contents were neatly divided according to what the average Joe Schmoe would be interested in when he’s first introduced to tea, but probably still hasn’t delved deeper yet into its world. If you can’t tell the difference between Chinese red tea and rooibos tea, I highly recommend getting this guide for your toilet reading ;) The last chapters of the book features both tea and tisane recipes for you to try at home. Neat, huh?


The Ancient Art of Tea: Wisdom From the Old Chinese Tea Masters by Warren Peltier


Now if you’re the artsy-fartsy type (like I am) and is reaaally into the long, complex history behind the beverage, what made it so popular around the world, and the rich culture that it’s bore, I super duper recommend The Ancient Art of Tea. Just a couple of weeks ago I discussed what I learned about the factors affecting the taste of your tea when it concerns to companionship – do you enjoy it better in solitude, or with a friend? Turns out the ancient practitioners, i.e. the experts, claimed that tea is best enjoyed alone. I would argue that it’s best when you make it for your good tea-loving friend, but that’s just one of the interesting things you’ll learn from this handy 6-inch (square) hardcover. Its customs, rituals, and etiquettes are all classic wisdom for making tea your natural way of life.



So which one of these reads piqued your interest the most?





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Tea time talk: Do the people you spend most of your time with make you feel better about yourself, or worse?



Frankly, I’m surprised that most of us, especially us who’ve adopted the individualistic psyche of the West, never really considered relationships as an affective factor in steering the direction of our lives. We like to think that we’re in full control of our lives when, in fact, there are more things beyond our control than the things we do. You have your own goals and dreams to achieve, but you definitely need people who will be there for you when you finally achieve them all. Very likely, they’re the people surround yourself with most of the time, and therefore … most of your life. So here’s my question today:

Do the people you spend
most of your time with
make you feel better
about yourself, or worse?

My short answer: Better about myself. This has only been intentional for the past few years. I wasn’t always this nit-picky when it comes to choosing confidants. But it’s gotten increasingly stricter ever since I got married. No doubt, there are those bunch you simply cannot avoid in your life who seems to own a degree in constantly pulling you down, making fun of you, are never pleased with you, have never shown the slightest respect for your dignity, and/or simply never believe in you … these people may even be your own blood relatives. But one of the most life-changing advice I’ve ever received was this: You have the power to choose the people you want to surround yourself with. Yes, the power’s within your control. It’s true what they say, that at the end of the day, you become a sum of the 5 people you spend most of your time with … so choose wisely. Some acquaintances may only intend to stick around until they get what they need or what they want to know from you. But make sure you appreciate the genuine souls in your life who will be there for you in good times, in bad times, and even in meh times. I spent 80% of my young adulthood not knowing that I have this huge power of choice. So realize that you’ve got the gift of free will to choose who you want to be around, along with what you want to become, and most importantly, that you deserve just as much acknowledgement as a human being as the person who belittles you.

Think about it: Have you decided who are the people you want – and don’t want – to share most of your life with?





via Stacey Johnson on Pinterest