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Recent tea reads

 

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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?

 

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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?

 
 
 


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Nota Bene

 

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You’ve got to put on
your shield of faith, and
doubt your doubts and
believe your beliefs.

(Rick Warren)

 

 
 
 


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via Lauren Conrad

 

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The goal of marriage

 

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‘Better Together’ was my engagement gift for hubby.

I truly believe the saying that goes, it’s better to stay single for the rest of your life than to get into a bad marriage. Compatibility alone doesn’t secure you lifelong marital bliss – in truth, every one of us is so different that we’re not naturally compatible with each other unless we’re willing to make the effort to get to know each other, find common grounds, form relationships, enter fellowship, and make an alliance. You are always going to have disagreements with people because of your differences, but if you commit to stick together through the test of time, both of you win.

There was a life-turning challenge that I took on recently, now that we’re a month into our marriage. During the first few weeks, we both responded to the incessant question “How’s married life?” with nothing but a candid “No difference than when we’re still dating.” It’s true. Even now, I can honestly say there isn’t much that’s changed if we’re strictly referring to our day-to-day lives. But if you rewind to a couple of weeks ago, something did took a huge turn. At least, for me.

Hubby and I went into a huge argument1 during the last days before we move in to our new home. I’m not here to speak details, but I was largely to blame. He showed anger, hurt, disappointment, fear, and sadness all at once. As he went on communicating his unmet needs and resulting feelings more, I began to understand the point … his point, the point of marriage, the point of us, him and me, together. Out of all the emotions he felt, I was quickest to respond to his sadness. If it wasn’t for this argument, I wouldn’t know I would get this sad if I see him sad. It was also this argument that finally changed how I see him. Since the day we stood at the altar, his feelings are no longer his own, just as my feelings are no longer just mine. Before walking down the aisle, I could hurt myself all I want and cry till dawn, and it’s still nobody else’s business. I certainly didn’t have to think much about anyone else’s pain, nor do I have to hold it together for anyone else, because it’s all about managing your own life and your emotions. But now, I realized that this kind of mentality is the very foundation that develops into a bad marriage2.

 

But while I was busy protecting my feelings and preventing myself from getting hurt, I couldn’t see the truth of the matter, that both of us are happier when we’re together than when we’re alone.

 

When I consciously chose to be single, I’ve set in stone to face the rest of my life with a one-person psychological thinking. I left no room for reliance and vulnerability. It took time from making this conviction to finally “opening up” to hubby, my then boyfriend, during our first years together, to trust him, communicate my needs, and to just stop being so difficult and egotistical. In the 4.5 years of our relationship before marriage, he’s constantly attacked by the guards I’ve held up so high around myself. Even though I was technically “with him”, I wasn’t at heart. The one thing I’ve never dared to hope for was believing in a safe and secure confidant, the kind of relationship I’ve always wanted to be in, but had decided then that it only existed in my dreams. Thing is I was okay alone, and that he was fairly happy by himself and his video games. But while I was busy protecting my feelings and preventing myself from getting hurt, I couldn’t see the truth of the matter, that both of us are happier when we’re together than when we’re alone.


Why marry? I asked. What’s the point? What’s the purpose of coupling at all? “So that we can build a harmonious family,” he assured me. What is harmony in the first place, you say? Harmony = Happy together, my husband reassured me. He then placed his hands on my shoulders and looked at me in the eye. “We are together now, no longer two, but one,” he went on. “So no one, not even you or me, can separate us.”

Funny how it’s only dawning on me now that I’m married – like, married married. And truth is, the sanctity of this union is at an all-time low in our culture today, so much so that you see more people making fun of the dreariness and displeasures of marital life (and consequently the glamorization of the cool, casual, and freewheeling single life) than they do emphasizing the true happiness as a result of the constitution. But know this: The key word of our motto isn’t the ‘happy’ – it’s our ‘together’-ness.

Just as you strive for win-win deals with others in your business, marriage takes teamwork. The challenge, living in the kind of society we’re in today, is to not let others woo you into thinking you and your spouse are so different that you cannot be on the same team. This also happens when you focus too much on the ‘happy’-ness than the ‘together’-ness, because what’s happening is that you’re letting your pride take the lead. This ego-based psychological system has broken hearts, ruined relationships, and caused unnecessary divorces. Because when one of you “loses”, it’s just personal pride that wins the moment, but you as one and as a whole lose more in the long run.

Thanks to our permanent union, we become better humans as a couple just as well as we are as individuals, because when I see him grin his widest grin, the whole world is alright.

 

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Drop me a message to order your copy of ‘Better Together’ :)

 
 
 


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 Footnote(s):

  1. and all married couples know … these arguments are joy opportunities in disguise []
  2. See: Psychologist Stan Tatkin Explains How to Pick the Right Mate [The Cheat Sheet] []
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Currently reading: Quirkology + notes


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Quirkology by Richard Wiseman, page xvi

I gotta admit, the book description alone got me hooked, and so I got this impulsively. But Quirkology turned to be a fascinating read, particularly if you have an affinity with trivia and are the type who questions everything. In the introductory pages, you’ll already learn many intriguing findings from the most unusual aspects of psychological research. One study that intrigued me was that of Victorian polymath Francis Galton, who devoted his life to offbeat topics throughout his scholastic career. Wiseman noted that, as with all scientists, Galton was so bothered by the mystery behind preparing the perfect cup of tea that he actually conducted tests to find out the exact temperature and steeping time to produce the best-tasting brew … at least, for his taste:

Even the making of tea caught Galton’s attention, what he spent months scientifically determining the best way to brew the perfect cup of tea. Having constructed a special thermometer that allowed him constantly to monitor the temperature of the water inside the teapot, after much rigorous testing Galton concluded that:

. . . the tea was full bodied, full tasted, and in no way bitter or flat . . . when the water in the teapot had remained between 180 and 190 degrees F (82.2 and 87.8 degrees C), and had stood eight minutes on the leaves.1

Satisfied with the thoroughness of his investigation, Galton proudly declared, “There is no other mystery in the teapot.”

 

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Interestingly enough, there’s a similar study recently published on The Journal of Food Science that compares the antioxidant capacity of each tea type depending on how it’s prepared, with also both the water temperature and steeping time factoring in the study. Now we know that to get more antioxidants out of your brew:

  • White tea:
    – Leave steeping time longer (up to 2 hours) in hot water
  • Green tea:
    – Leave steeping time longer (up to 2 hours) in cold water, or
    – leave steeping time short (up to 5 minutes) in hot water
  • Black tea:
    – Keep steeping time short (3-5 minutes) in hot water

While I firmly believe every individual best enjoys their cup of tea differently (and by individual I also mean Galton himself), at least we now know what’s the best way to get the most out of the nirvana.


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So my question to you is this: How are you going to brew your next cup of tea?

 



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 Footnote(s):

  1. The Art of Travel, or Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries []
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Ingredients 101: Aloe vera extract

 

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Natural or synthetic?

Natural

Also known as:

Aloe vera gel, aloe vera gel extract, aloe vera leaf extract, aloe vera juice, aloe vera leaf juice, aloe barbadensis juice, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, aloe barbadensis flower extract

Best for?

Soothing sunburn pains as well as addressing minor burns, wounds, rashes and sores, including erythema (redness of skin), eczema, psoriasis and even osteoarthritis. Overall, topical use of aloe is generally known to help reduce inflammation and heal tissue scarring, all the while producing mild antiseptic effects. The colorless, odorless liquid may also heal scars and abrasions, although one study reported that its gel form actually delays healing of deep surgical wounds (like laparotomy or caesarean section). All skin types benefit from aloe’s all-natural moisturizing properties. The fact that it;s also greaseless makes it the go-to moisturizing agent for oily skin types, as it won’t clog pores.

The story

Aloe use has a long tradition across many cultures in healing a wide range of skin conditions, particularly by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, Mediterranean civilizations and in Biblical times1. The Egyptians have been offering this succulent “plant of immortality” to deceased pharaohs as a burial gift as early as 6,000 years ago2. Thriving in the most arid regions of the world, the African native is still an important traditional medicine today in many countries. The clear gel, which is extracted from the inner leaves, are usually a featured ingredient in toners, gels, moisturizers, lotions, and sunblocks.

The science

Because the gel is basically 98.5% water, most aloe-containing products use it in place of water. Thanks to its polysaccharide (complex carbohydrates) and sterol content, aloe makes the perfect occlusive34 to keep your skin looking fresh and prevent water loss. Clinical studies have shown that these bioactive components in aloe, namely acemannan, are key to the plant’s tissue-regenerating properties. This mucilaginous makeup speeds up wound healing, boost immune function, increase natural collagen and hyaluronic acid production (to keep your skin looking supple), while producing anti-viral and anti-cancer effects. Generally, aloe vera’s efficacy for treating mild to moderate skin disorders are well-established, but evidence remains inconclusive for medicating third-degree burns.

Warning(s)

As with any other medication, do a patch test first to see if your skin produces any unwanted reaction within 48 hours, such as itching, redness, or any other forms of irritation. If not, work your way up to applying aloe gel 3-4 times a day to affected area until you see improvements. Despite all the consistent benefits of aloe vera for the skin, avoid it at all costs if you’re allergic to garlic, onions, tulips, and other plants of the Liliaceae family. There were minor reports of hypersensitivity reactions and contact dermatitis, but they’re likely caused by anthraquinone contaminations in the gel, which are natural phenolic compounds found in the juices just under the leaves of the plant. These compounds are potentially carcinogenic, so make sure the aloe product you’re getting undergoes decolorization. Tell-tale signs that anthraquinone concentrations are high in your product is when your aloe is predominantly red yellowish in color and is slightly fluid. Make sure your product is always colorless, and that your gel is viscous and transparent.

Is it safe?

Generally safe, as long as you limit application to topical use. When ingested orally, impure aloe extracts may likely cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), and electrolyte imbalance (hypokalemia), and if chronically ingested, liver failure.

Product(s)

 
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 Footnote(s):

  1. The Aloe vera phenomenon: a review of the properties and modern uses of the leaf parenchyma gel. [Journal of Ethnopharmacology] []
  2. Aloe Vera [National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health] []
  3. Ingredient Dictionary: Aloe Vera [Paula’s Choice] []
  4. water-binding agent []