CREATING A TEA EXPERIENCE WITH THE EXPERTS AT FAR LEAVES TEA

When I think of making and drinking tea I get warm + fuzzy feelings from my childhood. Memories of my mom making herbal tea before bed, having a conversation with my Grandma over a cup of green tea, and growing up in the mountains, I enjoyed countless cups of hot tea after a long day in the snow. As I’ve grown up (and required more caffeine) I’ve developed a true love of coffee as well, but have realized that too much coffee is not good for me. The high caffeine makes me anxious and twitchy, and as my passion for health and wellness grows so does my love of tea and its many benefits. 

Although I still love a good cup of coffee, especially iced when the weather warms, I’ve really re-started my exploration of tea, and have Amy and the Far Leaves Tea team to thank! Tea time is sacred time. “Traditionally called “Cha Dao”, or the Dao of Tea, it is the harmony of tea, water, utensils, preparation, environment and conversation to create the perfect moment–a moment that can last for hours.”(2) Far Leaves  places a strong emphasis on this process and by taking part in a few tea tastings and watching them put their heart and soul into the tea process. So basically, I’ve been doing it all wrong, tea is a lot more than tea bag in tea cup! I am so excited to to take my tea drinking to the next level and dive in head first!

Here are nine important ‘tea experience best practices’ that I’ve learned in my explorations as a tea newbie:

  1. Invest in the right pot: Not all pots are created equal and finding the right one for you can require some testing and research. In terms of size, buying a larger or smaller pot will depend on how much tea you’re drinking during the day and whether or not you like to make tea for large groups of friends. Tea pots are made from several different materials as well; from cast iron to clay to glass and each has it’s own pros and cons. Far Leaves recommends glass tea pots as they allow the drinker to see the color of the tea they’re drinking and for pourability (see #3). My husband bought me a gorgeous cast iron pot for Christmas (see photo) and I absolutely love the aesthetic of it it, plus it keeps my tea warm for a long time!
  2. Water quality matters: I’m always preaching the importance of good, clean water and that rule still applies when it comes to making a perfect pot of tea. Start your brew with fresh, filtered water to really bring out the truest flavor in the leaves and avoid adding minerals and chlorine.
  3. Don’t pour poorly: See what I did there? Pouring method is really important and lends to the overall experience of tea drinking. During my tastings with the Far Leaves team I learned how to properly pour from a glass teapot with a large handle; hold the pot up high and gently rotate your wrist to to create an even pour, allowing the air and water mix for a lovely smell and perfect pour into your cup. According to Far Leaves, to properly pour tea “Pay attention not to drip, distribute the tea equally to all those who are present and pour tea for yourself last.”
  4. Reuse! Don’t waste your leaves: Tea leaves vs. tea bags allow you to re-brew the same leaves 2-3 times so remember to save leaves after the first steep and simply add them back in when you’re ready for round two!
  5. Ditch the bag: Although using a tea bag may be an easy method, it’s not the best way to drink tea. Tea bags break down tea leaves, resulting in less well-rounded flavors and are often left in the cup too long resulting in over steeping and bitterness.
  6. Temperature matters: Different teas require different water temperature to create the ideal brew. Through trial and error you’ll find the right temps for your favorite teas but here’s a quick guide to start you out:
  • White + Green Teas: 170-185°F
  • Oolong Tea: 180-190°F
  • Black + Herbal Teas: Full boil 208-212 °F

       7. Use a Timer: According to a British study, only 16% of tea drinkers steep their tea for the correct amount of time, and the British know their tea! While tea steeping is largely a matter of preference, be sure to do some research for your preferred tea type.

8.  Know the origin: Knowing where your tea leaves come from and whether or not they are organic is extremely important, but can be tricky to prove. If pesticides are used on tea leaves they’re generally not rinsed before drying, washing the pesticides right into your cup, yuck! Far Leaves places a strong emphasis on the sourcing and farming practices of their teas, and have trusted sources in China and Japan dedicated to keeping the taste and quality of the tea while skipping  the use of pesticides.

9.  Slow Down and Enjoy: This is the most important part of any tea ceremony and where the real benefits lie! Taking time              out of your day to spend with friends or family over a pot of tea is extremely important. We never make take the time to                  slow down and relax and the process of brewing, pouring and enjoying tea is the perfect opportunity to do so!

My Favorite flavors: Herbal (PM)- Lemongrass Medley | Green (AM)- Lavender White | Black (AM or afternoon)- Rose Grey

Read more about the insane health benefits of tea here, and if you’re in Berkeley, check out the Far Leaves tea room and share your favorite teas in the comments

**Far Leaves provided me with samples but as always my opinions are my own.

Resources:

  1. http://www.buzzfeed.com/ailbhemalone/milk-first-then-tea#.wlNWmexMd
  2. http://www.traditionalstudies.org/the-art-of-chinese-tea/

HOW TO PACK FOR YOGA TEACHER TRAINING ABROAD-THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE

It’s been almost one year since I went abroad to do my life changing 200hr yoga teacher training in Koh Phangan Thailand with Drishti Yoga International. In honor of this anniversary I wanted to share some of the things that I appreciated having with me during my 28 day training. Some of these I carried with me (packing light? what’s that?) and some I acquired on my travels. Even if you don’t plan on going to Costa Rica for a training, or Bali for a retreat, a lot of my must haves are good for any trip and will come in handy when you find yourself wandering away from the comforts of home. During my training lots of things came up that I didn’t expect but fortunately I was well prepared, and now hopefully you will be too!

#1 HAPPY BODY

1) Doterra Essential Oils- These little bottles of love are like a new age pharmacy. I had peppermint and grapefruit on me, but I would’ve taken more if I had known just how necessary they’d be. Thankfully, one of the other trainees was an oil expert and had most of the product line with her so we were all set (Thanks J!) ! I also love the ‘On-Guard’ beadlets, they are great for staying healthy in-flight.

2) Roll-On Fragrance- I’ve talked about these fabulous scents from heaven before. The Goddess Line is my favorite scent line ever, they are small and portable so you can simply throw them in your bag and go. Also good for those sweaty, showerless days during a retreat or training!

3) Traumeel- This stuff comes in pill and cream form and works great for muscle soreness, bruises, sports injuries and inflammation. Another benefit is the lack of aroma of most muscle goops, it’s basically odorless.

4) After Bite- I have a serious aversion to mosquito bites that developed in my twenties and now appears to be a full blown allergy. I discovered this on my honeymoon, when I left a window open on the first night resulting in giant welts all over my body, super sexy. I found this anti-itch product in Thailand. It brings the swelling down and keeps the itch at bay. Benedryl tabs are a great option as well, but often when the itching gets really bad a topical treatment is preferred.

5) Organic Coconut Oil- We found some locals that make their own coconut oil so I went a little crazy and got a huge bottle which I actually used most of in a couple of weeks. I put it on my hair and body and didn’t need anything else all day. Did you know that coconut oil is a natural sun block as well? Best product ever! Just make sure to go for the good stuff, organic, unrefined, extra virgin is the way to go!

6) Mozzie repellent lotion- Mozzie aka mosquito (that’s the Aussie term) repellant is a must have. I like the lotions because you can be more precise in application. Avoid Deet whenever possible and admittedly this one pictured smelled kind of nasty and perfumey and probably was not a super healthy option, I’d recommend searching for a more skin friendly version.

7) Nail Polish- Our schedule was pretty crazy for 28 days so finding a salon on the island and sitting down for a pedi wasn’t really happening. Save some time and money and just bring your favorite polish for touch ups. My sister and I love this Essie polish in Watermelon. All Essie nail polishes are DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde free, Essie.com.

8) Fingernail clippers- You’ll want these for sure. The baby ones are nice and easy to carry so your toenails don’t get freaky and distract your fellow retreaters.

9) Body Lotion with Sunscreen- Before I obtained my giant bottle of coconut oil (or even realized its sun blocking abilities) I found this cream. It was nice to put it on in the am and be moisturized and good to go through the morning sweat sesh. Absolutely bring sunblock as well to add during the hottest part of the afternoon and don’t forget sun rays can getcha’ in the shade too!

10) BB Cream- Getting up with the sun means no time (and a who gives a crap when you’re there to get your asana on) attitude around makeup. I like having some sunscreen on my face at all times and love the consistency and coverage of Tarte’s product. Two second application and you’re on your way!

11) Not pictured: Imodium…I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say the whole group went down for a few days straight. Just bring it, you’ll thank me.

#2 ADORNMENT

1) Headbands- I’ve always loved a good headband. After all, there’s nothing worse than having a hair meltdown all over your face. Violet Love does a killer job with fun designs.

2) Earrings- Notice how location and theme appropriate these styles are. *winks*

3) Mala- Great for meditation and to just feel more yogic in general. I got mine from the lovely Silver and Sage collection.

4) Wrappy Bracelet- Thanks to my mom-in-law Pat for this lovely piece. Great for when you’ve worn the same yoga pants 5 days in a row and just want to mix it up.

5) Alex and Ani- The go to line for mindful jewelry, they’re also treated with some kind of energy healing (who knows) they’re cool and you can layer them up for a night out on the playa.

6) A Crystal Necklace- I freakin’ love a good crystal necklace, seriously more than anything, dress it up, dress it down, just rock it, period.

#3 PROVISIONS

1) Pretzel Sticks- These ones are so so, but a healthier version if you’re Gluten Free.

2) Chia- As much as you can carry and more if possible. Chia is great to add to almost anything, provides a ton of fiber, antioxidants, and protein so you can’t lose.

3) Purely Elizabeth Granola These little mini pouches rule, especially when you discover breakfast on day 1 is literally a plate of fruit you’ll be thanking your favorite deity that you packed this.

4) Dark Chocolate!– Most important thing on this list. Just do it, but eat it quickly and maybe share with your friends so the bugs don’t get it!

5) Nut butters- Seriously, what is a vegetarian life without nut butter, it’s nothing, that’s what. Now there are super small jars and even pouches that are easy to carry.

6) Granola Bars- Some afternoons the gap between lunch and dinner is just too much, be prepared with some bars. It’s hard to find a good one that is totally clean, so just do your best and let people judge you, oh well.

7) Organic Tea- Our retreat location was totally coffee free with the closest caffeine quite a hike away. Losing coffee for a month was great for me, but a couple of afternoons I just really wanted a boost. Enter green tea stash. My friend Leisha from Crop Tops And Kale also sent me with the Aveda tea that is simply to die for, that flavor always reminds me of my trip now.

#4 A FEW EXTRAS

1) Probiotics- One of the toughest parts of traveling is keeping your digestive system happy. Always pack a probiotic, and if you don’t have a fridge, be sure to get a shelf stable version and keep them in a cool dry place to maintain effectiveness.

2) Muscle roller- While packing up your trusty gym foam roller may not always be plausible, the good news is  there are some amazing portable options as well. I love Soma System products, they have are a variety of shapes and sizes so you can find the right one for your sore muscle needs. Fortunately, getting a massage Thailand was super easy as well, but sometimes it’s nice to have your own personal masseuse available on demand.

3) Re-usable tote bag- Always have a reusable tote bag, it doubles as a beach bag, grocery bag, carry-on separator for things that may spill, and a day bag for all of your yoga essentials. I love my trusty Integrative Nutrition bag that folds up super small when you’re not using it, which is never.

4) Water Bottle– If you were stranded on a dessert island you’d definitely want to have a good water bottle. I’ve talked about my love for bkr bottle, it comes in lots of cutesy colors and because it’s made of glass can add hot and cold water and won’t have to worry about drinking plastic toxins.

5) Bobby Pins– I learned the importance of bobby pins in my theatre/dance days, you can never have enough. Probably a no-brainer but these are easy to carry and your fellow yogis will thank you immensely for supplying extras.

6) Not Pictured- A nice journal to jot down all of your favorite experiences, lessons, and teachings. I filled mine up, so be sure to bring a big one!

I’ll get into my must have yoga clothes in another post…stay tuned for that!

Anything that you loved that I missed here? I’d love to hear. Please share in the comments!

Happy Travels yogis!