April 17, 2015
After a long hiatus, we finally got organic rose petals back in stock!!!
Aside from adding a nice floral note to any tea, roses are excellent for your skin. They refresh and cool – just what we need here in the hot and dry desert climate.
- Simply infuse rose petals in jojoba or sesame oil and use the resulting fragrant oil as an additive to your daily moisturizer.
- If you overheat in the summer, soak a washcloth in some cooled rose/water infusion and apply to your temples and wrists. It is extremely cooling and comforting – not to mention beautifully fragrant!
- If you tried my previous recipe for rose vinegar, then know that it is not just a tasty dressing over a summer salad, but it can also be applied to a sunburn to soothe and heal!
Who would have thought – one flower – so many ways to enjoy it!
April 10, 2015
Spring is all about renewal and expansion into new life. As it is in nature, so it is at our little tea shop. We launched our spring menu April 1st and on it you will find a selection of wonderful teas – such as this “Cloud and Mist” tea from China
Traditionally called “Yunwu Cha” (literally meaning cloud and mist), this is the rarest category of green tea that China produces. Even though it has been produced much longer than other green teas, the volume manufactured is rather small.
Cloud and Mist teas take their name from the cloud seas surrounding certain peaks at particular times of the year. Not only are the clouds a source of water but they limit the amount of sunlight the tea plant is exposed to. By doing so, the plant is forced to develop more slowly and to compensate chemically for the absence of sunshine. As a result, more caffeine is developed and the amount of chlorophyll in the leaf increases. This altered chemistry produces quite unusual tea flavors.
Tang poet, Bai Juyi, wrote about this tea: “No wine can touch the senses, like this tea made with spring water”.
It’s delicate sweet and refreshing notes will surly convince you too!
April 6, 2015
Green tea does not equal green tea just like no two red wines are alike. Aside from growing region, elevation, climate and harvest time, the processing after the leaves have been picked also determines the aroma and flavor in the cup.
Chinese green teas, for example, are pan-fired which sometimes add a certain smoky aroma while Japanese green teas are briefly steamed. It is the steaming of the leaves that gives them their bright green color and the green/yellow hue in the cup.
The flavor of Japanese green teas is often described as fresh grass, seaweed or spinach. Some are smooth, rich in flavor and others brisk, slightly astringent and refreshing.
Since the leaves are steamed, flavor and color is extracted more easily and therefore steeping times should be shorter. I usually start steeping my tea 1 1/2 minutes but would not recommend to go longer than three minutes. Longer steeping times makes these teas bitter. I also use slightly cooler water than the recommended 175 for Chinese green teas since it prevents the tea from becoming too astringent. 165F – 170F usually produces a delicious cup.
Paying attention to these small details is worth it if you are looking for a superb tea experience!
April 3, 2015
For Easter this year, I plan on dying eggs the way my grandmother used to do it. No artificial colors were used in the process and the eggs always turned out with beautiful and rich colors.
Artificial colors may offer a wider variety of colors, however they are not necessarily good for you. You may think, what does it matter – I am coloring the outside of the egg. Aahh – but eggshells are porous and many times you’ll find that the egg white of your boiled egg as marble pattern of pink, blue or whatever color you used. In Europe, certain colors have even been banned because their use in food has been linked to ADHD.
So why fret over whether your egg dyes might be harmful or not – just turn to Mother nature and color your eggs naturally!
Experiment with fruits and vegetables such as turmeric for yellow eggs, red beet for pink eggs, black tea for brown, elderberries for blue/purple and spinach for a nice bright green color.
2 cups fruit or vegetable of choice
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
Take the fruit, vegetable of choice cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth. Let the liquid cool, then add 1tsp. distilled white vinegar (necessary to make the color stick to the egg shell).
Of course you’ll need plenty of hard boiled, cooled eggs. Place them in the dye and leave for 5 minutes – or until the desired hue is achieved.
Voila – your Easter eggs are ready to eat – colorful and completely natural!
March 30, 2015
Let’s finish the month with a little more “green”!
For this recipe, you don’t need any fancy equipment.
All you need are
2 tbsp. Matcha
2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup of heavy cream
- In a small bowl, mix the green tea powder with 2 tbsp of granulated sugar
- in a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks and remaining sugar
- Pour the milk into a small pan and gently heat taking care not to let it boil (ideally the temperature of the milk should be 176 F). Remove from the heat and mix a few spoonfuls of the warm milk with the green tea powder and sugar in a small bowl. When you have a smooth paste, add it to the remaining milk in the pan, then gradually combine with the egg yolk mixture.
- Return mixture to the stove and heat slowly over low heat (taking care to not let the mixture boil), until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine sieve and allow to cool completely.
- Lightly whip the cream and then add it to the cold green tea-milk mixture.
- Transfer the mixture to a large container and chill for one hour or two in the fridge – then place in the freezer. As ice crystals start to form, remove, and mix well with a spoon to break them up. Then return the mixture to the freezer . Repeat this a few times as it freezes to ensure that the ice cream is smooth.
Best served with aÂ slice of chocolate cake – yum!!! (make sure you use dark chocolate, then you maximize the antioxidant benefits in this tasty treat )
March 28, 2015
Today, more and more people realize the importance of a healthy diet and especially wholesome and healthy nutrition. They pay attention to the quality of their food, buy organically grown produce, read labels and hold the food industry to higher standards by refusing to buy products with harmful ingredients; the cosmetic industry is still flying under the radar of government agencies and the public eye.
Beauty, however, is more than skin deep and reading labels can open your eyes to the dangers lurking in today’s beauty products. From lead in lipsticks to the phthalates and parabens in your baby’s lotion, the list of toxic and health-damaging ingredients is long and expands daily
Did you know that the average woman uses a dozen personal care products, containing 168 chemicals, 89% of which have never been tested for the safety of their ingredients. (Uricchio, 2010)
While the The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with the oversight of cosmetics, it has no authority to require pre-market safety assessments. It can neither review and regulate what goes into cosmetics, nor can it recall products that are found to be harmful.
The top five harmful chemicals most commonly found in popular beauty products are lead, formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates and nitrosamines.
Lead is a toxic heavy metal and can be found in whitening toothpastes and lipsticks. The negative effects of lead exposure are well documented and reach from neuro-toxicity, seizures, gastrointestinal issues to reproductive and kidney dysfunction
Formaldehyde, another frequently used ingredient, is absorbed transdermally or by inhalation and can be found in nail polishes, shampoos and liquid body soaps. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, excessive and prolonged exposure can cause skin rashes and may contribute to the development of cancer.
Parabens are most often used as preservatives and found in body creams, lotions, shampoos as well as any beauty product that has water added to it. Parabens have been shown to disrupt hormones, cause skin reactions and have even been found in breast cancer tumors.
Phthalates are in a class of chemicals that has been linked to hormone disruption, which can affect development and fertility.
Nitrosamines can be found in almost every skin care product, in baby shampoos, mascara, and concealer. You won’t, however find them listed because they are classified as impurities not as ingredients. Many studies link nitrosamine to cancer and in 1996, the FDA suggested cosmetic manufacturers remove ingredients from their products that, when combined, create nitrosamine, but this suggestion has largely been ignored.
These are only a few on the long list of harmful and potentially dangerous chemicals that beauty products expose us to and while the cosmetic industry argues that these toxic ingredients are absorbed in such small amounts that they do not pose any danger, it is the repeated use and thereby cumulative effect of exposure over a lifetime as well as the timing of exposure such as during growth and development, that increases their harmful effects.
Europe takes a hazard-base, precautionary approach when it comes to potentially harmful chemicals and has banned 1100 ingredients from cosmetics, while the United States has banned or restricted only 11. Ironically, U.S. companies selling their products overseas have changed their formulas to comply with European regulations while still using controversial ingredients in products meant for the U.S. market.
Organizations such as cosmeticsinfo.org provide consumers with factual, scientific information on ingredients most commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products.
Trusting Mother Nature, I have been making many of skin care products myself. It really is not all that difficult to make lip balms, shampoos and lotions. If you are curious and would like to find out, how you can create the perfect moisturizer for your skin type, join us for a
March 27, 2015
In concert with our theme, this month, I wanted to share an article I recently read in “Mother Earth News”. The author had quite a few tips on how to manage the symptoms of seasonal allergies, some of which I was familiar with (and use frequently), others that were new but definitely worth a try!
- Build Your Defenses With Bacteria – based on research at the Osaka University School of Medicine, some probiotics are effective at treating nasal and sinus symptoms linked to allergies.
- Drink Green Tea – Green tea is packed with powerful antioxidants that block histamine and immunoglobulin E (IgE). Both of these naturally produced chemicals are linked with uncomfortable allergy symptoms. For best results, drink two to three cups per day.
- Take Quercetin to Quell Allergy Symptoms – Quercetin is an antioxidant, antiinflammatory and antihistamine phytonutrient. It has the ability to reduce allergy symptoms and improve lung function. Good sources are apples, onions, berries, cabbage AND tea!
- Flush Your Nasal Passages – Using a Neti Pot, flush your sinuses with a salt-water solution. Start with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to 1 cup of water. This is an excellent way to cleanse and eliminate mucous and microbes.
- Eliminate Sugar – Sugar is highly acid- and mucus forming – helping to aggravate allergies. Try a 30-day low sugar diet and you might be surprised at the results. (this is probably the toughest for me!!!)
March 23, 2015
Tea reached its height in England during the 19th century. Especially the Edwardians (think Downton Abbey) relished their tea and the rituals connected with it. Afternoon tea, introduced by Lady Bedford around 1840, became the social event for women of the upper echelon. The emergence of afternoon tea not only offered an opportunity for social gossip and indulgence in delectable treats, it was also an exclusivity that eventually appealed to the rising middle classes. It contributed to the creation of tea ware and equipment and even influenced the era’s fashion by designing the so-called “tea gown”.
The tea gown is an interior gown that emerged in England and France in the 1870s at a time when the growing number of etiquette manuals and lady’s periodicals contributed to the revival of teatime. The gown which was marked by Victorian eclecticism and often incorporated elements of fashionable European dresses from previous centuries, with exotic fabrics and patterns. The tea gown provided respectable women with an outlet for fantasy and innovation within the codified system of nineteenth-century dress and behavioral codes.
Tea gowns were intended to be worn without a corset or assistance from the maid; however, elegance always came first. However, during the 19th century, it was not appropriate for women to be seen in public wearing a tea gown. They were intended to be worn indoors with family and close friends during tea time.
Although tea gowns were meant for midday wear, they could be worn into the evening and women started wearing them in the evening for dinner or certain events at home with close friends and family. Tea gowns intended for day wear usually had high necks, while evening tea gowns had lower necks.
How things have changed! Today afternoon tea is a much more relaxed affair and the dress code not quite as strict.
Most venues have a ‘smart casual’ dress code, so there is no need for men to wear a jacket and tie (unless otherwise specified). Slacks or dress jeans, collared shirt and loafers are acceptable. No sportswear or sneakers. For the ladies, on the other hand, it still is the perfect excuse to get dressed up!
March 20, 2015
This is good news – especially for people with a serious sweet tooth like me!
According to Penn State food scientist an ingredient in green tea may help reduce blood sugar spikes.
The study which was conducted on mice that were fed EGCG ( a catechin found in green tea) simultaneously with corn starch showed that compared to the control group, these miceÂ showed a significant reduction in increase in their blood sugar – blood glucose – levels.
For humans, this may mean that green tea could help them control the typical blood sugar increase that are brought on when they eat starchy foods, like breads and bagels that are often a part of typical breakfasts.
There is one caveat, however. To reap the full benefits – you have to skip the sugar in your tea – otherwise these effects are negated.
On the other hand, it might be beneficial to have a cup of green tea with that cupcake – I will it certainly give it a try!
Ref. The National Institutes of Health; Penn State (2012, November 13) Medical News Today
March 16, 2015
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Spring is the time of renewal and even here in the desert, nature’s awakening does not go unnoticed. The aroma of orange blossoms fills the air and a sea of wildflowers paints the desert in beautiful colors.
On the other hand, spring is also the time, when we clean house – thoroughly, get our backyards looking nice and are getting rid of the old to make room for the new!
After the holiday feasts and the comfort foods of winter, our bodies deserve a gentle cleansing too. The accumulation of toxins often leaves us feeling sluggish and tired. Digestive disorders, headaches, joint pain, allergies and unwanted weight are often the result of toxic overload as well.
While our body is designed to rid itself from waste, this process can break down because liver and gallbladder can’t keep up any longer. When this happens, the excess toxins are stored as fat deposits and add to unwanted weight or enter the blood stream.
Cleansing, however, does not mean you have to go on a fast, or very restricted diet. It can be accomplished much gentler and easier by incorporating specific herbs into a well-balanced diet. My favorites are Nettle , Milk Thistle and Burdock Root.
Nettle – (Urtica dioica) has been used for centuries as a cleansing herb. Its diuretic action flushes the urinary tract of accumulated waste. It is rich in vitamins and minerals especially iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and chromium. It strengthens the kidneys and is excellent for allergies and hay fever!
Milk Thistle – (Silybum marianum) is a powerful antioxidant, stimulates liver function and even heals damaged liver cells. The seeds are rich in a compound that stimulates the liver regeneration of liver cells. In fact it is so powerful that it is the only known substance to provide relief from poisoning by death cap mushroom. Milk Thistle also assists gallbladder and kidney function.
Burdock Root – (Arctium lappa) is one of the superior tonic herbs. It alkalinizes and eliminates toxins in the blood stream and promotes kidney function. Its ability to expels uric acid from the body makes it perfect for treating gout and rheumatism. Like Nettle, Burdock Root is also rich in minerals and one of the best herbs for skin. It can be used internally and externally for exzema, psoriasis, acne and other skin imbalances that are the result of too many toxins in the body.
Whether it is to counteract a little overindulgence or to support your body’s cleansing functions on a regular basis, herbs can be a wonderful aid in this process.
In order to reap the most benefits, make sure to steep the herbs in boiling water for at least 20 minutes.
If you want to know more about how to use these and other herbs for health and wellbeing, visit us or better yet – sign up for our “Cleansing with Herbs” class on March 26th !.