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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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  1. The Art of Travel, or Shifts and Contrivances Available in Wild Countries []
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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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How to be perfect


This one’s dedicated to the fellow idealists and believers. All verses are quoted from the English Standard Version (ESV) bible. I find them a sufficient reminder for life of what’s truly perfect and what’s not. Hope you find these verses helpful too.


1. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 21:1-2)

2. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Roman 6:16)

3. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared,“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And thesatraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. (Daniel 3:24-27)

4. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-14)

5. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

6. Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

7. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

8. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-23)

9. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

10. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

11. How can a young man keep his ways pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! (Psalms 119:9-10)

12. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17)

13. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

14. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

15. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 21:3-6)

16. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)


Got more bible verse(s) on becoming perfect? Add your own favorites on the comments section below.



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Currently reading: I Know How She Does It


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I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam, page 127-128

“Fortunately, being mindful of your time – making a commitment to be there physically and mentally and enjoy life while doing so – makes memories possible. We control a lot less about our children’s outcomes in life than we think. They are their own people. But one thing parents do shape is whether kids remember their childhoods as happy. Creating a happy home is a conscious choice, as is creating a happy marriage.”





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Differentiating introversion


Continue reading Differentiating introversion

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What’s your type? I’m an INFJ: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)


extrovert (1)

Many times, I thought I understand the world better than I did yesterday. I thought if I did, it’ll help me to better relate to others, but I was fooling myself.

I know it’s humanly impossible to grasp even the slightest idea of how the world works (even though I always try), so the only way to find meaning behind our existence is through the details: its complex inhabitants that is us humans – us as a collective, us as individuals.

My nature tends to look at the outside world in its totality and try to understand it so I can adjust myself accordingly, when instead I should be glancing inward more than I speculate the outside. Since extraverting is a huge source of my stress, given an extended period of time, this constant adjusting always becomes a problem.

For the born-extraverts, it’s usually the other way around.

You thought you know yourself well enough to relate better with the world than before, but you’re only fooling yourself. Because truth is, when you zoom in from the world at large, you yourself as a human being is one of the greatest mysteries in your life.

Continue reading What’s your type? I’m an INFJ: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

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Currently revisiting: The Art of Thinking Clearly



The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, page 275-276

This goes out to the fellow chronic overthinkers out there. Hope it helps~

“When do you listen to your head and when do you heed your gut?
A rule of thumb might be: if it is something to do with practised activities, such as motor skills, or questions you’ve answered a thousand times, it’s better not to reflect to the last detail. It undermines your intuitive ability to solve problems. The same applies to decisions that our Stone Age ancestors faced – evaluating what was edible, who would make good friends, whom to trust. For such purposes, we have heuristics, mental shortcuts that are clearly superior to rational thought. With complex matters, though, such as investment decisions, sober reflection is indispensable. Evolution has not equipped us for such considerations, so logic trumps intuition.”





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Currently revisiting: The E-Myth Enterprise



The E-Myth Enterprise by Michael E. Gerber, page 94

“There is something else about E-Myth Enterprises that endow them with such a tangible difference. And it is that these businesses, these E-Myth Enterprises, are created, not by businesspeople, not by so-called entrepreneurs, but – and there is no other way to say it – by children.

These E-Myth Enterprises are created by the youngest part of us, not the most adult.

They are created by that part of us that believes it has the right to expect the world to change, to give us everything we want, exactly as we imagine it.

Not the methodical part, the dependable part, the reliable part, the responsible part, the grown-up in us all, the part one expects the manager to play.

Not the adult who has learned to limit his or her expectations, but the child who wants it all.”





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