Issue #7 September 2008
by Daniel Reid danreid.org
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Welcome to Tea Tidings 7
Snow and I are back home in Byron Bay, after a three-month journey across western Yunnan, in southwest China, where we signed a seven-year lease on an old traditional style Chinese courtyard house within the old city walls of the ancient city of Dali.
We'll go back there at the end of September, and while I work on renovating the house, Snow will offer her popular "Renew Your Lease on Life" integrated detox and regeneration program in Dali
for the entire month of October. See my website for details (click)
If any of you come to Dali, be sure to drop in for tea!
Tea at Tippy's...
If you live anywhere within driving distance of our home turf in Byron Bay, Australia, you might like to drive down on a Saturday to taste some of our finest teas, and learn the proper art of preparation, at the "Orient Express" restaurant on Fletcher Street in Byron Bay, owned and operated by our good friend and fellow OolongOz tea person, Tippy Heng, one of the reigning masters of Asian cuisine in Australia. Every Saturday from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM, Snow's brother Dexter sets up his tea tray at the Orient Express and prepares tea for the whole house. Anyone is welcome to come watch and enjoy a taste of our best teas, while savoring the flavor of Tippy's exquisite modern Asian cuisine. A variety of fine High Mountain Oolong Teas, as well as a selection of tea pots, cups, and other teaware from Taiwan, are available for sale at these Saturday tea soirees.
Cultivating "Tea Friends" (cha yo)
"When friends visit from afar, is this not indeed a pleasure!" wrote the sage Confucius in the opening line of The Analects. The Chinese have always regarded friendship as one of the truest treasures of life on earth, and sharing tea has always been a favorite way to welcome friends who visit from closeby or afar.
So what happens when you're sitting all alone at your tea table, drinking tea, and no one comes to visit? You cultivate your own special entourage of "tea friends," who are always there waiting faithfully for you at their assigned positions on your tea tray. Our favorite tea friends are frogs, although we also have a snail and a turtle on the table to keep the frogs company when we're not there.
These charming tea companions are made from a variety of materials, including glass, crystal, marble, stone, and the same terracotta clay used to make tea pots. You can "cultivate" a clay or stone tea friend the same way you cultivate a tea pot: by dribbling some tea over it from time to time, then polishing it to a sheen with a tea towel, thereby producing the same fine patina you get by rubbing your tea pots. We even carry one of our tea friends in our tea travel kit when we go overseas.
Small plants, particularly bonsai and "air plants" (such as is pictured here, growing out of the moss) also make excellent tea friends, and they get along very well with the frogs and turtles and other tea critters on the table. Until you actually try cultivating a tea friend or two on your own tray, it's difficult to imagine what a big difference this can make to your enjoyment of the art of tea, especially when you're drinking tea alone. The most important consideration when picking a tea friend for your table is that it appeals to you spontaneously and intuitively when you first lay eyes on it in a shop, sort of like "love at first sight." Thereafter, it becomes your friend for life.
"Ma Cha Bing Chi Ling" (Green Tea Ice Cream)
As you all probably know by now, we don't drink green tea in its leaf form, because it's a "raw" tea that irritates the lining of the stomach after only a few cups, and also because its flavor doesn't even come close to the celestial taste of our High Mountain Oolongs from Taiwan. In Japan, the traditional way to drink green tea is to grind it into a very fine powder, then whisk it into a bowl of hot water, producing a frothy bright green brew that tastes a lot like freshly mowed grass. Known as ma cha, this is the way it's done in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
A few years ago, I started experimenting with ma cha in the kitchen to make green tea ice cream, and came up with the recipe below, which we'd now like to share with our OolongOz tea friends. This is the real traditional way to make ice cream, using only fresh cream (no milk) and whole organic eggs, with maple syrup as the main sweetener. There's no better way on earth to make ice cream, and ma cha green tea powder is a serious contender for producing the best taste in ice cream. The cream and eggs protect the stomach from any tweeks and twinges from the green tea, while the maple and vanilla harmonize perfectly with the essential flavors of the green tea to create a beautiful taste sensation. It's by far the most popular ice cream in our household, and we hope you like it too. Here's how to make it:
Daniel's Green Tea ("Ma-Cha") Ice Cream
3-4 jars (1 to 1 ¼ liter total) of top quality organic grade pure whole cream; raw unpasteurized cream is best, if available;
2-3 whole free-range eggs
1/3 cup raw cane sugar
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
40 g (1 small can) Japanese "ma cha" green tea powder, sifted
1. Put eggs in a large bowl and beat well with electric beater or hand whisk until light and frothy.
2. Add 1 jar of the cream and beat gently until just combined.
3. Add the sugar and maple syrup and beat slowly until the sugar is completely dissolved, then add the vanilla and beat until blended.
4. Add the rest of the cream and beat gently until just combined.
5. Sift the ma-cha powder into a small bowl through a fine-mesh sieve, using the back of a spoon to push the powder through the screen, then slowly add the sifted tea powder to the cream mixture, beating continuously until blended.
7. Chill the ice cream mixture for a few hours, then churn it in an ice cream machine until thick. Freeze immediately in ice cream containers.
Optional: Chop up a bar of good quality dark chocolate (at least
70% cocoa mass) and add to the ice cream as it gets thick in the
ice cream machine.
This is a very good snack to serve along with High Mountain Oolong Tea at the tea table.
We started our recent journey in China in the scenic city of Hangjou, where we met our old friend Red Pine (Bill Porter), one of the world's most eminent translators of classical Chinese prose and poetry. He is particularly well known for his translations of important Buddhist and Taoist texts, such as the Heart Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, and the teachings of the Zen patriarch Bodhidharma (Da Mo / Daruma).
The latter remains one of my favorite books by Red Pine, and while browsing a used book shop called "The Bookworm" in the ancient city of Dali, in western Yunnan, I saw a copy of his Zen Teachings of Boddhidharma gazing at me from a shelf. I bought it, and it became my morning tea reading material in Dali for the next few weeks. As some of you may know, one of the explanations for the origin of tea in Chinese tea lore informs us that the first tea plants grew on the spot where Bodhidharma tossed his eyelids, after cutting them off to prevent him from falling asleep while meditating for nine years facing a stone wall.
On our second night in Hangjou, Red Pine told us that he had a friend flying in for a few days --a fellow tea person and a high level practitioner of the Tao-- and asked if he could invite him to join us for dinner.
Red Pine's friend turned out to be Wu Zhongxian, with whom we'd been communicating for several years by email, so we decided to celebrate this auspicious occasion by going to the famous Lou Wai Lou Restaurant, located on the willow-lined banks of West Lake and established over 150 years ago during the Ching Dynasty. It's been in continuous operation ever since.
In addition to teaching chi-gung and martial arts in America, Master Wu is an excellent calligrapher (one of his scrolls hangs in our house), a writer of books on the Tao, a devoted tea person, and an accomplished master of the ancient Chinese lute (gu chin). As a special treat for our flock of Tea Tidings friends, we have added a few of Master Wu's classical lute pieces to our Tea Tunes collection which you will find on our Tea Culture page on our website (click here) These tracks have been selected from Wu's first CD, entitled Shin Chin ("Heart Lute").
Over dinner, Wu told me about a book he had just finished writing, soon to be published, on the topic of the ancient I Ching
("The Book of Change") -- the world's oldest book -- and he asked me if I would write a Foreword for him.
I agreed immediately, always happy to help a fellow Taoist and tea friend dress up his work for its debut in the world, just as Red Pine helped me with that beautiful blurb he wrote for the back cover of my recently published translation of John Blofeld's memoirs, My Journey in Mystic China.
So, as a tailpiece to this 7th issue of
Tea Tidings, I offer our readers the
Foreword I wrote for Master Wu's
rendition of the I Ching.
As you will see, it has
everything to do with tea.
Click here to download Daniel Reid's
Foreword to Master Wu's I Ching
We have chosen to use the PDF format to preserve
formatting including the special chinese characters.
Master Wu's website: www.masterwu.net
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