Saturday, October 13, 2012

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 13} - Yixing Clay

O for Oolong!

For the last day in my tea week, I shall talk about an item that every avid tea lover should have:

A Yixing Clay tea vessel (pot or cup).

I just finally got my first (of many), and I am so thrilled to start using it.

The outside of my Yixing Tea Traveler

What is Yixing Clay

Why, you ask, is this clay so vital to your tea experience?

Because, I answer, the yixing (pronounces ee-shing) purple clay is very porous and traditionally unglazed. This means that through continual use, the tea pot or cup will become "seasoned" with the flavour of your tea, enhancing each and every cup you drink.

It has been said that eventually, you don't even need to use tea leaves; the vessel will have enough flavour that you can just pour in some hot water. There are however plenty of people out there saying this is untrue, and it is too early in my Yixing experience to tell for myself.

Now since this clay absorbs flavour, you are supposed to only use one tea in it, or at least one sub-type of tea (black, green, Oolong, white, etc.). Otherwise your different teas may mix with disastrous consequences!

Extremely Brief History

Now, I've lost my book I was going to look up the origin from, but I faintly remember the facts.

The clay comes from a province in China called Jiangsu. It used to be made for creating artistic pottery, until one day some brilliant man thought,

"Hey, that would make a great tea pot!"

Of course, these teapots can still be called works of art. Each one is made by hand, and the artist leaves his "chop," or basically signature, on his creation; usually on the bottom of the pot, inside the lid, or both.

You can of course still buy these today, either old or new, cheap or expensive. Online and in certain brick and mortar stores, you can buy a yixing pot in just about any price range; from $20 up to... well, I don't know the most expensive ones, but I've seen plenty over $10,000.

My New Yixing

Now, since I'm way too on the go these days, I have not bought an actual pot yet. But I did just purchase a travel cup with the precious clay!

The outside is brushed steel, as you saw in the first picture, and the inside is made from Yixing clay.

This is not exactly a work of art, there is no "chop" in there, but it's good enough for an on-the-go tea drinker!

Since I'm hooked on some Milk Oolong right now, that's what I've been using. Which works, because this cup is from Teavana and that dragon is their symbol for Oolong anyway.

Oh also, this cup comes with a stainless steel strainer, for those who want to use it. I don't need it though; I just keep the leaves in the cup, drink all the tea, and pour more water over the used leaves. Oolong is good for multiple steepings, plus it sinks down to the bottom so it's not like I'm getting mouthfuls of leaves.

Have any of you ever heard of these teapots before? I think the ones in BBC Sherlock's "The Blind Banker" were Yixing, but I'm not sure.

I love Sherlock

Thursday, October 11, 2012

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 12} - Unusual Uses for Tea

Bleh, I got sick today. And since I didn't prepare a post ahead of time, this one will be a short, simple list about some different uses of tea.

Tried and True

- A substitute for water when washing your hair (softens hair and adds some shine)
- A substitute for water when washing/rinsing your face (I use green tea in the
  mornings, after drinking some of it, for just a light wash)
- Potpourri (lavender herbal "tea" is my favourite to smell)
- Freeze into ice cubes to add to any drink, blend into a smoothie, or rub all over
  yourself when you need a refresher
- Relieve and help to heal a sunburn (soak yourself in some strong black tea)
- Soak tired feet in black tea (works as a pick-me-up, plus lessens foot odour)
- Cook with it, of course! (As in Lapsang Souchong Salmon)
- Give yourself a psychic reading (whether you believe in your reading or not, it's fun!)

Heard About

- A natural fertilizer/compost
- Dry up poison ivy (black tea applied to the rash)
- Eliminate odours in the fridge, litter box, carpet, shoes, etc.
- Polish wooden furniture (use a cloth soaked in tea)
- Shine mirrors (rub with tea bags or spray brewed tea - I really want to test this one soon!)
- Soothe tired, puffy, or infected eyes (place a wet tea bag on your eyes - simple, but I've yet to try it!)
- Age sheets of paper (dip the paper in black tea; when it dries, it will look antique - I always forget
  about this one)

Back to Resting...

Don't be fooled; there are oodles of other uses you can get from tea. These are just the ones my sick mind could think of.

Now, I'm getting back to drinking my green tea with raw honey. Yum!

Feel free to tell me about some uses that I missed!

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 11} - Sewing Your Own Teabags


One of my friends had just moved away when I decided to start selling full-leaf tea at my shop. She was very disappointed, as she loves tea and we had such an amazing variety here.

This got me wondering what kind of container I could send her several samples of teas in. As I had just recently discovered Pinterest, I was developing a very DIY mindset, and thought,

"Hey, wait! Surely I can just make my own teabags!"

So, I googled making your own teabags, and this cute little blog came up with just such a post.

A Beautiful Mess

All I needed was some thread, coffee filters, and something to dangle on the string. Easy! I had all those already.

Making the Bags

So I got to cutting out my coffee filters. I did all different shapes by just cutting two filters at once, and keeping the identical pieces together.

Next, I stitched them nearly all the way closed, leaving a hole for stuffing tea.

Now, don't make the same mistake I did at first: I didn't want to staple my strings to the bag, so my plan was just to leave a tail of thread when I was done. However, that means you need to end the sewing at a specific point - the place you want the string to actually hang from. As you can see from the pictures below, when I was finished sewing the heart my string ended up randomnly along the side somewhere.

After figuring that out, I was a little smarter with the rest. Once I had done most of the sewing on a teabag, I stuffed in about a tbls of tea, then finished up my stitches.

Lastly, I stapled the tail of the string to a matching cut-out shape, tied a knot around the staple, and ta-daa! I was done.

See the little stitched smiley face at the top? :)

Now, when you go to make your own, make them much bigger than I did. (For some reason, I have always had this mental block towards making things on a large scale) Full-leaf tea deserves to be free, so it can swirl around and properly infuse the water with it's goodness. A teabag is already going to inhibit that somewhat, so try to lessen the restriction as much as possible.

After that, just enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 10} - Lapsang Souchong Salmon

Last week, I noticed that my shop's supply of the smokey Lapsang Souchong Tea was getting pretty low. I was just about to put it back, wondering how soon until I sold the last cup of that tea, when a great idea struck!

I should marinate some salmon in this tea! Brilliant!

Hooray! I love great ideas, and I knew this was a good one.


Friday afternoon I took out some fish to thaw... and saw that I had 1 salmon fillet left, and 1 tilapia. I was skeptical about cooking the tilapia in my Lapsang, but I did it anyway just for sake of the experiment.

After the fish thawed, I put them in a little bowl of my steeped tea and let them soak it up for a couple of hours.

Steeping in tea!

Then, because I was worried that wasn't enough, I cooked them in all of that liquid too. On hindsight, I don't believe that was exactly necessary, but I'll have to see next time.

I definitely took them out at exactly 165 degrees... because I never overcook fish so far that it reaches 190, no, not every single time...


Hooray, time to try the fish!

This is exactly what my finished product looked like

They were a little soggy as I poked into them with my fork, having been cooked in liquid... but that wasn't the point of this. I wanted to see if they actually absorbed the smokey tea!

The salmon turned out really well! Of course, I put absolutely nothing on it but the tea, so it could definitely taste better. BUT, the important thing is that it tasted smokey!

Salmon, success.

Tilapia.... I can't really tell you how it turned out. I took a bite - or maybe a drink, I'm not sure. It REALLY didn't like being cooked in all the liquid - I gagged, and immediately shoved the memory of the experience out of my mind. It was so awful.

Tilapia, no. Just don't do it. No.


My results state that:

"Everyone should get off their duff and try some Lapsang Souchong Salmon!"

Just be sure not to boil it in liquid, and go ahead and spice it. Oh, and don't cook it to nearly 200 degrees.

Not that anybody would do that.

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 9} - TeaMind

Mmm, tea leaves are beautiful.

Okay, so this post isn't exactly about getting off your duff... it's more about sitting right down on it and relaxing!

Now, I don't mean relaxing like "I'm going to watch TV and laugh at other people's misery for a while." I mean relaxing like taking a few minutes for yourself to calm down, put your mind at peace, and really savour something.

You know what works perfectly to help you achieve these precious moments? Tea.

"The whole problem with civilization is that we've been trying to squeeze the mind into the brain and it won't fit. The great Gift of the Leaf is that it relaxes the brain, freeing it to float to its true home in the boundless and inexhaustible - the sublime state we call TeaMind"

-The Minister of Leaves, quoted from Republic of Tea's book Tea Chings

The Wonders of Tea

Tea is an extremely healthy drink for the human body. It has a few good vitamins, and green tea especially has the highest health benefits; it is full of more than 30 polyphenols ( a kind of antioxidant).

If you start looking into it, you can read about all kinds of studies that say tea does things like:

- reduce your risk of several types of cancer
- improve the health of your teeth (tea naturally has some flouride)
- provide you with more energy (we knew this one)
- lower your cholesterol
- soothe your aching stomach (again, you probably knew that)
- help sunburns to heal and stop hurting (you are supposed to steep yourself in a bath of black tea)

There almost seems to be no limit to the benefits one can get from tea!

I'm also convinced that tea makes you a happier person. If you noticed my little "About Me" over there, you'll know that I own a shop that sells tea. I have to say that rarely, do I get a tea drinker who is angry or frustrated.

Tea is made to be sipped and savoured, and I believe most people can feel this. It makes you slow down and appreciate life. As Republic of Tea says, enjoy life

"sip by sip rather than gulp by gulp."

Monday, October 8, 2012

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 8} - How to Beat Motion Sickness

As you may or may not have noticed, I did not post this on time yesterday. That would be because I was riding in a car, and I get very sick when I try to focus on something inside the vehicle. Just entering the car makes me feel a little nauseous.

However, a realization struck as I was thinking about my blog on the way back home. I had just eaten dinner, and was sitting staring out the window wondering if I would have the energy to write something when I finally got home, when it hit me; I wasn't feeling that little hint of nausea!

As I thought about it, I eventually came to the conclusion that having food in my stomach was the deciding factor here. When I had started the car ride, I was hungry, and therefore very susceptible to nausea. On the way back, my stomach was nice and satisfied, thus leaving me feeling just fine!

Finally, after two decades of misery, I noticed there was a hunger-to-motion-sickness ratio. Awesome.

Other Natural Ways to Combat Motion Sickness

- Eat mint; mint leaves, mint gum, mint tea, whatever you want
- Eat ginger; again, real ginger, ginger mints, ginger tea, etc.
- Apply pressure a little below your wrist, between your tendons (allegedly a nausea-controlling
  pressure point)
- Get up out of that car and walk around (there, this counts for a getting off your duff day, right?)
- Crack the window for some fresh air and a chilly breeze, both of which help me if
  I'm not too far gone

Don't forget, it's okay to walk a mile or two (or more, if you're up for it!) to your destination. The best way to beat motion sickness is to carry yourself with your own two feet!