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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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Currently reading: Quirkology + notes


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.”



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.


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



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Ways to reduce your carbon footprint right now


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The 5 different types of tea



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Nota Bene



The cure for anything is salt water –
sweat, tears, or the sea.

(Isak Dinesen)




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via Candice Celeste Jensen on Pinterest


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Look and feel ageless: Longevity secrets of Japanese women


Continue reading Look and feel ageless: Longevity secrets of Japanese women

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Tea haul: Lebaran 2015 edition

Continue reading Tea haul: Lebaran 2015 edition

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How to be happy and healthy for life

© tinylittletea

When you peel the layers of a person, it just comes down to skin, flesh, and bones. At least, this is what most people would agree.

We often forget that further still, right underneath our rib cage, there is the beating heart, and further beyond the heart seats the soul.

Considering the skin is the largest organ in the human body, it’s easy to think that it’s everything. Our looks, our image, our reputation. People go crazy these days, doing everything they can to make their skin tight and appear “right” and inject artifices with all their might, but they still perish. What happens to the flesh? It lusts after a particular appearance and envies those particulars of others. While it’s busy lusting and envying and greedily hauling the latest technologies to operate their skin, the flesh loses its density over time, as constant as gravity pulls, and all these sagging mass won’t be able to support itself with weak, drying bones.

All the while, everything beyond the heart is neglected. People would nod in agreement with the adage, the heart is fragile. But you know what’s even more fragile? These layers above it that’s supposed to protect it: Our bones, our flesh, our skin. It’s one big vessel that withers with age, and someday, layer by layer, it will turn back into dust.

The soul, on the other hand, is eternal. Where it may go after the rest of you died is up for question. Regardless of your choosing1, it’s where true healing begins. It’s the center where your spirit23 sovereigns over all the layers of your self, the impartial atom of your very being. That moment you feel empty inside? That’s when you forget the soul’s existence, after too much complying, complaining, and compromising. As your vessel undergoes the copious operations you let it through, the light within you wanes and wrinkles and wastes away. It vanishes, even, when you neglect it long enough.

So what’s a girl to do from hereon?

Be true to your soul, first and foremost, always. Walk in the spirit4, and it will protect you from all forms of dis-ease.

Guard your heart5, keep it safe, avoid toxins from penetrating6, and pace yourself7 accordingly, as your life depends on it.

Fortify your bones, because you don’t wanna become deformed8.

Discipline your flesh9. You want to stay focused and keep yourself upright for good10.

Protect your skin. It’s the only channel your light permeates through11.


  1. Luke 13:3 []
  2. Genesis 1:26-27 []
  3. John 10:34 []
  4. Galatians 5:16-18 []
  5. Proverbs 4:23-27 []
  6. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 []
  7. Proverbs 3:6 []
  8. Levicitus 21:18-23 []
  9. 1 Thessalonians 4:4 []
  10. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 []
  11. Matthew 5:14-16 []
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37 totally legit reasons why you should take up tennis


© tinylittletea
© tinylittletea

1. Tennis engages you physically as well as both mentally and emotionally – an all-rounder for your health.

2. It helps you stay in shape. And no, round is not a shape.

3. You’re less likely to get sick too, obvs.

4. You’ll burn fat and build muscles simultaneously. #timesaver

5. That said, you become more efficient with your time at the gym, ’cause you already get both cardio and resistance training in one game of tennis.

6. Which is why it’s an excellent, non-boring cross-training for those of you specializing in any other particular sport.

7. I mean, you ever watched Federer play? His movements are fluid and his limbs are flexible, pretty much all the requirements you need to do yoga.

8. Or what about Rafa? His hits explosive, his core strong, his strikes consistently powerful, his feet constantly moving. These are the hallmark skills of a true boxer.

9. You also get to understand your own pace and rhythm in your movements (long-distance runners, anyone?).

10. Tennis reduces stress. Something about running around, sweating it out, moving around, changing directions, sometimes lunging, often dashing, constantly reaching and jumping and striking the fuzzy yellow balls … that loses the appeal of yoga classes and hitting punch bags.

11. The more you play it, the more agile you become. You know when and where to start, stop, and pivot in unpredictable directions.

12. In between watching the oncoming ball and determining the perfect contact point, you’re improving your hand-eye coordination faster than playing Flappy Bird.

13. You simply become more alert than most people, especially in today’s ADHD-driven world.

14. You’ll develop an impressive reaction time. It’ll come in handy in daily life as well.

15. You’re more coordinated than non-tennis-playing people, ’cause you need to move quickly into position and adjust your body accordingly to hit the ball.

16. You a become a better decision-maker. There’s a longer anticipation between your opponent hitting the ball and you hitting back compared to other racquet sports. This allows for a timeframe to plan and act on a powerful countermove immediately, as the game is all about quick maneuvers (and not just hitting back and forth mindlessly).

17. This way, you’re going become a much more disciplined person, because as long as you’re on the court, you’re constantly practicing control.

18. Over time, you’ll also fail better. You learn that in order to win, minimizing errors is critical.


19. It’s a social sport. “Hanging out” with your buddies is interchangeable with “playing tennis”.

20. Plus, you increase your social skills. In between pre-match, switching sides on court, and after play, you chat, listen, laugh, help, take turns and just getting along with your playmates.

21. You become more confident about yourself. Hitting with power, increased fitness, anticipating problems, efficient problem-solving, learning from mistakes, improved overall performance, better mood, social validation, hello?

22. THE shot. Nothing feels better than hitting the ball the way you do in your head.

23. For as long as you play doubles, you learn the true meaning of teamwork.

24. You’ll master the art of fair play.

25. Consequently, you’ll also get more business connections. I mean, c’mon, golf? You’re barely burning calories.

26. Speaking of which, you burn an average 520 calories an hour playing singles1. Sounds better than a solitary HIIT sesh, eh?

27. As physicians and scientists always say, it’s THE sport for a lifetime. You can no longer to kick, dunk, hike, dive or score a touchdown 50 years later. But hey, you can still swing your racquet with style.

28. You’ll also live longer, btw. Scientists have proven this.

29. And play with your kids.

30. And get leggy like Ana and Maria and Daniela.

31. Not to mention that it’s the only sport where you get to wear a cute dress.

32. You’ll have stronger bones later in life.

33. And you learn that it’s important to keep moving – in tennis and in life. #footwork #resilience

34. You also learn how to remain gracious, both in victory and in loss.

35. And you will form lifelong friendships, ’cause those who sweat together,  stick together.

36. That said, you no longer feel the “work” in working up a sweat.

37. Because it’s recreational, it’s competitive, and it’s just plain fun.


Are you watching the Wimbledon this year?



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  1. An estimate for the 155-pound person. [The Healthy Eating Guide] []