Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 1 Part 2 The Japanese Tea Fields

I am heading back to Japan's lovely tea fields.  It is such a pleasure to share this with you especially in light of the recent tragedies...

After studying tea harvesting and initial processing and then a wonderful lunch experience in Shizouka, we headed to some tea gardens. All along our drive, we viewed tea being grown on the sides of the steep green hills. Can you see the tea on the hills?  This area of Japan is quite beautiful.

We arrived at this lovely tea garden to tour. Every nook and cranny had been planted with tea plants. There wasn't any space wasted. The tea fields went straight up to the house and alongside the garage with rock walls used as retaining walls holding in the soil. Because the plants are machine harvested, do you notice how manicured the tea plants look?  It was stunning. 

You might be wondering about the aprons you see me and others wearing on the trip. We had separate ones for each country. They came in quite handy with the big pocket. Each of us was given a notebook so we could carefully log down what we were being taught and the pocket was just the right size for the notebook and my camera! In fact, I have referred to my notebook quite a bit while blogging about my trip.

I took some time by myself to enjoy the garden and meandered around.  I discovered at the top of the tea garden was a small outdoor temple-like structure.  It was such an interesting building, I felt compelled to go in to discover more.

As I walked up the pathway, I was intrigued with what I saw.  There were lovely statuary pillars at either side of the entrance. Inside the small outdoor building, tea branches hung around some sort of alter-like structure underneath the roof.  I was told later that this was a memorial.  On this stretch of road alongside the tea garden, there have been many accidents from travelers.  So, the local people built this memorial on top of the hill to have their souls rest peacefully and peaceful it is!  I guess it would be similar in thought to the crosses we see in the USA where people have passed away. 

From inside the memorial, you could view the tea gardens. It was so peaceful to be at the top of the hill and overlooking the tea fields. What would have made the moment perfect would have been a cup of tea.  Wouldn't you agree?
Unfortunately we had to leave the garden.  As we were gathering to walk back to our bus, this lovely elderly woman, who was a resident of the house and relative of our guide Mr. Yamanashi, approached our group.  She was carrying handmade gifts for us.  She told us that she was in her 90's and that she was a teacher at a senior center in the area.  She taught others how to do this form of origami.  She recycles old brochures and papers into beautiful things such as the umbrellas like the ones she is carrying in her hand. 

I was so honored that she would give one to me.  It even made it home safely on the plane without being crushed. I now have it hanging in my home office.  I am delighted every time I look at it, as it is a reminder of the gracious lady and her beautiful tea gardens!
With gift in hand,  we headed back to the hotel. We were on our own to eat dinner that night.  A couple of my girlfriends and I shopped and hunted for a place to eat.  It was interesting to find something as none of us spoke Japanese and not many Japanese in that area spoke English. We ended up eating at a place that had pictures on the menu so we could point out what we wanted!!!

Along this fun and lively shopping area, we noticed two Starbucks within a very short walking distance.  You might find it interesting that their menu is slightly different to cater to their market.  Hojicha (to refresh your memory on Hojicha) is served as a latte, hot tea and iced tea within all the Japanese market.

I hope you will continue to travel with me.  Day 2 is going to be fun as we head to some processing plants-one of them is a Hojicha plant and the famous "Shizouka tea auction."  You might find it interesting how they "calculate and seal their deal."

Happy Sipping and Reminiscing, Lisa

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Quiet Reflection on Japan with Prayers, Support, & Iced Matcha Latte

The news that I woke up to on March 11, took my breath away.  Japan was on my mind already, since I was working on my blogs from my recent trip there.  I had just been in contact with my new Japanese friends in tea for questions concerning particulars about one of my blogs.  How fast life can change course.  It didn't seem right to go on blogging about my trip without the mention of the most recent disaster.  How beautiful the mountain range in Shizouka Prefecture was while I was there!

  The one below is a neighborhood just outside of a processing plant that we visited. 

I will continue my blogs about my trip, but I didn't want to show any disrespect to those who have been affected by this disaster.  I have been in touch with my friends in Japan and I am waiting to hear back about their well being.  My prayers and thoughts go out to the people of Japan during this horrible crisis.  My personal financial support is going to Samaritan's Purse Relief Efforts.  They are already on the ground in Japan with supply blankets, hygiene supplies, and water purification systems to those in need. There are also other organizations that are helping as well.

I thought it might be honoring to those in Japan on St. Patrick's Day, to make "your green drink of the day" an Iced Matcha Latte.  While making it and drinking it, we can stop and pray for those in need and if you can support the relief effort financially, that would be wonderful as well!

Iced Matcha Latte
2 teaspoons Matcha powder
6 oz milk (cow, soy, or rice)
Favorite sweetener such as stevia, honey, etc.

Put Matcha into a martini shaker
(if you don't have one, try a large jar with tight fitting lid)

Dissolve matcha by adding 1 Tablespoon hot water or milk
and stir until matcha becomes a smooth paste

Fill shaker with 1 cup ice

Add milk 

Sweeten to taste and stir
Shake well to blend green tea with milk

Strain your chilled green tea latte over a tall glass with fresh ice

Happy Sipping, Supporting, and Praying for those in Japan, Lisa

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 1 Shizouka-Heart of Japanese Tea with Touch of France

The day started great with breakfast at the hotel.  I have to say that the crescent served was one of the best I have ever tasted!  Who knew you would find a delicious crescent in Japan? After breakfast, we loaded up in our bus and headed to the tea fields.  Shizouka is the largest tea growing region in Japan.  It grows and produces roughly 60% of the teas for the nation.  I was so excited to start exploring the region and tea production.
Our first stop was Shizuoka Tea Experiment Station.  It has a small experimental tea farm and processing plant.  Almost all tea is machine harvested in Japan.  They either use a machine similar to this or a hand held device that is like a rounded hedge trimmer that is held by two workers on either side of the rows of plants.  This machine is nice, because it not only cuts the leaf, but also gathers the leaves into large white bags. 

Most farmers co-op with a factory to send their leaves for processing.  Tea is processed differently in Japan than in Taiwan.  Almost all the tea that comes out of Japan is green and is machine cut and processed.  It also has a two step processing procedure.

In order to stop the oxidation of the leaves and allow them to stay green, the leaves are steamed.  Then the tea leaves are sent to several different rolling machines while some of the moisture is being reduced.  It is then sent to a final drying machine.  At this point, the tea is a raw form called aracha. The aracha tea is then sent to a separate factory for further final processing.   We will visit that on day two of our tea trip. 

After a great morning of studying tea harvesting and processing, we got back in the bus and headed for lunch.  As we pulled into the parking lot to our restaurant, it looked like we could have been in France.  This lovely little cafe was so inviting! The name was Frutta Fresca - Tarte and Quiche.

We knew we were in Japan though because as soon as we sat down, we were brought some green tea!  I just loved the pottery that it was served in, don't you?

The chef was apparently trained in France and has tried to bring back a touch of it to her home country.  We all thought she had done a fabulous job.  Her garden in the back of the restaurant was surrounded by hills with tea gardens on them .  Along side the restaurant was a railroad track that had a steam engine train pass by as we ate.  The surroundings couldn't have been any more perfect and the day was just beautiful!

Our table ordered 4 things and we ate family style to try all the delicious food.  The groups favorite was the salad that was so fresh from her garden.  This was truly a farm to table experience for us as we sipped tea grown right in the area and ate the delicious salad that came from her garden out back!


Some of us purchased a dessert to go from her bakery.  I got a chocolate torte and had it for dessert that evening in my room with a cup of tea.  The chef and her staff were all so friendly.  They even came out to wave bye to our bus as we headed to our next stop.  Our group had been so well received in Taiwan and now in Japan as well.  It was an added bonus to know the people of Taiwan and Japan are so welcoming to foreigners. 

Tea is such a universal bridge to new friendships.  I am blessed to be in such a wonderful industry.  In my next blog, I will take you to the tea fields of Shizouka and introduce you to more lovely people!  What's in your cup today?

Happy Sipping and Remembering, Lisa

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Jo Malone Tea Inspired Fragrances

I am interrupting my Japan tea travels to share a really cool thing with you.  I usually don't like interruptions, but this is one I didn't want my readers and fellow tea lovers to miss out on!!!  When I hear about an interesting product or event having to do with tea, I love to tell everyone about it.  Those that know me, know I LOVE ALL THINGS TEA!

I was recently invited to speak about tea for a Jo Malone event at the Neiman Marcus Atlanta store.  Tim Harper and the team at Neiman's joined forces with the Jo Malone team to invite all their regular customers to an invitation-only afternoon tea for the launch of their new fragrance line.  I was unfamiliar with the fragrance company and was pleased to learn all about it.  What a treat to learn they have a new fragrance line which is TEA INSPIRED!

Before I tell you all about the fragrances, I want to share the Jo Malone story with you as I found it deeply inspirational.  Jo Malone was the daughter of a esthetician and she too loved skin care and fragrances from an early age.  It was evident when Jo created her first body oil as a child by mixing rose petals in some bath oil.  She followed in her mother's footsteps by doing facials, but tragedy struck when she lost her mother at the young age of 19. 

 However, this didn't deter her ambitions.  She soon became one of London's most sought after skin care technicians.  To thank her 20 most loyal customers, Jo hand-mixed a nutmeg and ginger bath oil to give as gifts.  One of those loyal customers loved the bath oil so much, she ordered 100 of them to give away at a prestigious dinner party.  What a big hit that turned out to be! Eighty-six of the one hundred guests wanted more. This is how the Jo Malone brand was born or as the representative at this event said, "the rest is history."

This first store was opened in 1994 in the Chelsea area of London, England.  In 1999, they moved their store to the prestigious Sloane Street address and it became their flagship store.  In 2001, a New York store was opened followed by branches in Paris and Tokyo.  Jo Malone has since sold her business to Estee Lauder. As a business owner, this story was inspiring to me to follow your passions and dreams. I hope it was inspiring to you as well!

As the guests listened to the presentation about the Jo Malone brand, tea, and the new tea fragrance blends, they nibbled on tasty treats from the tea trays on each table.  Each tray was full of scones, finger sandwiches, and yummy desserts!

At the event, customers were introduced to the new fragrances inspired by English tea traditions. What are the tea fragrances?  There are 3 basic fragrances and 2 mixers that are used to layer your fragrance which is what Jo Malone loves to do to create "your own unique scent."  

Assam and Grapefruit - created for an invigorating morning scent, with notes of citrus and black Assam tea.

Earl Grey and Cucumber - created for an afternoon scent, with notes of oil of bergamot (which is the flavor in Earl Grey tea) and cool cucumber.

Fresh Mint - created for an evening affair, with lovely hints of mint, basil, and mate.

Sweet Lemon - used to layer with the above, with notes of pineapple, peach, and fresh green cypress.

Sweet Milk - used to also layer with the above, with warm notes of star anise, almond, and vanilla.

I hope this has not just inspired you to go try the new tea fragrances from Jo Malone, but has also inspired your entrepreneurial spirit and creativity.  This new spring tea line is  for a limited time only, so you better hurry if you are interested.   Which one do you think might be your new 
"cup of tea?"

Happy Sipping and Scents, Lisa

*First four photos courtesy of  You may also visit that site for further information on Jo Malone history, etc.