Zen Tips: listen to the rain

Hello Nerds!  Apologies that we have not updated for awhile.  Sometimes time gets away with you and distractions are abound, aren’t they?  That’s why I feel it’s time for a new Zen Tip, since it’s all too easy for us to get caught up in the hubbub of our lives.  If you’re on the east coast, you’ve probably experienced a fair share of rain lately and if you’re in drier climates, I’m sure you can find a source of trickling water (or an app) for this one.  ;)

pouring rain and strong winds along side of road as seen from inside car

Caught in a strong storm, we pulled over to relax and enjoy the sounds.

The next time you find yourself facing inclement weather, make yourself a cozy spot next to the window.  Bring a cup of tea, a book, a blanket, or whatever else you need to feel warm and secure and close your eyes.  Listen to the pitter patter of the raindrops, the rolling and crashing thunder, and the whoosh of the wind.  Do you notice the calls of any animals?  (Probably not.  If you do, you might need to go save them.)  Can you tell if the leaves on the tree outside are being blown about?  How far away does the rumble of thunder seem to be coming from?

This is a nice way to let your sense of hearing take over for a bit.  After you try to identify what you can hear, let go and just let your ears hear without your mind having to interpret anything.  Breath without worry and take a few deep breaths to let out any tension.  You might just find the rhythmic sounds of the storm soothing or relaxing.  In fact, don’t be surprised if you drift off as the rain lulls you to sleep.

Is that really tea you’re drinking?

closeup of dry contents of chamomile herbal tea blendI’m sure many of you have heard of herbal “teas” and probably even drank them thinking you’d get the benefits of tea without the caffeine.  Well, I hope I’m not bursting your bubble when I tell you that herbal teas are technically not really teas.  In fact, they’re known as tisanes, which are herbal or plant infusions.  So while they may taste good and (generally) won’t keep you up at night, don’t count on them to help promote a healthy heart, prevent cancer, or aid in weight loss the way green, black, oolong, white, or pu-erh tea might.

Basically, actual tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant whereas herbal teas are made from just about anything else – leaves, flowers, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, or roots of non-Camellia sinensis plants.  This is distinctive from flavored teas, which are any of the aforementioned items blended with at least one type of tea, whether it be green, black, oolong, white, or pu-erh.  Examples of popular flavored teas include Earl Grey (black tea with bergamot oil) and jasmine tea (usually green or white tea with jasmine flowers).

Most herbal teas are caffeine-free because the plants that they’re made with are naturally caffeine-less.  Sometimes these are marketed as “decaffeinated” teas, but technically that’s inaccurate since there wasn’t any caffeine content to begin with.  How do you remove what’s already not there?  Exactly.  :-P  What these teas are particularly good for is providing a great variety of tastes sans caffeine, for those trying to get to sleep soon or particularly sensitive to the substance.

Some popular herbal teas include rooibos (made from the African herb), hibiscus (made from the flower), chamomile (made from the flower), and Yerba Mate (made from the holly-like plant).  Rooibos, hibiscus, and chamomile teas have no caffeine content, while Yerba Mate does.  One of the more unique types that I learned of recently is Tulsi tea, otherwise known as the “Holy Basil” of India.  This type of tea is also free of caffeine like a typical herbal tea.  Of course, you can really put any edible plant in hot water, let it steep, and make your own type of tea.  If you do decide to do that and come across something delicious, we’d love to know!

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Zen Tips: watch your tea unfurl

Hey Nerds!

Welcome to a new series on the blog, which we’re calling “Zen Tips.”  We will periodically provide ideas for little things you can do to give yourself a little extra peace in the midst of a hectic life.  Originally, I was going to call this Zen Fridays, but then I figured that it’s not just when we start off our weekends that we may seek a little zen.  In fact, taking a few seconds or minutes anytime during the week when you feel the stress building can help alleviate that feeling.

So, whether it’s Monday morning before you kick off another busy week, Wednesday afternoon when you’re feeling the slump of Hump Day, or even Saturday night as you worry if you can wrap up the chores for the weekend, take some time for yourself and try out some of our Zen Tips.  Most of of our ideas will revolve around tea, since it is such a relaxing, soothing, comforting thing, but we’ll also explore other ways that you can get a sigh of relief and enjoy your day a little more.  We’d love to hear about when you feel you need it the most and what you find to work best!

collage of tea leaves unfurled in glass cup, some floating, some sinkingOur first Zen Tip is about the simple power of slowing things down.  Just like when they say to “stop and smell the roses,” it can be rewarding to just sit and watch as your tea leaves unfurl.  This is a great time to enjoy quiet time and be a little pensive.  If you can focus on one little part of your life like that and let everything else go away for awhile, you can refresh your mind and energy.  A glass cup allows you the most viewing angles, but staring down into an opaque tea cup works too.  Try to really focus on every tiny detail you can as the leaves gently unfurl.  How does the color of the water change?  Which leaves sink and which ones float?  Do the leaves expand a lot or a little?  Allow yourself to be in the moment with the tea and watch as it does for you what it does each time you steep a cup.  You might just breathe a little easier and clear your mind.

Hunting for the Perfect Logo

Tea Nerds is on the lookout for a brand new logo that speaks to our nature as striving world-changers as well as to the healthful and energetic qualities that come with drinking tea on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, many of the places to purchase logos, both online and off, are priced way outside our budget (Nike was able to have their logo made for $35 back in the 70′s, about $186 when you adjust for inflation, and a pretty standard price I’ve found online has been about $300) and thereby force us to go with some sort of cheaper alternative.

Initially I thought I would try to create a logo using GIMP, but that didn’t pan out, as you can see:

Using GIMP when you’re bad at art.

 

There are a lot of great services being brought to life thanks to the internet, and one in particular that I have thoroughly enjoyed is Fiverr.com. Through Fiverr you can find talented individuals (future Tea Nerds themselves, of course) and ask them to create or do something for a flat rate of $5. I’ve contracted with a couple of people on Fiverr already and am stunned at the quality of work they’ve been able to produce for only $5! Especially when you consider that the work they are doing probably takes at least a half hour to do – starting from scratch and creating something custom that I ordered – which would bring their hourly wage to just slightly above the USA’s minimum wage.

Thanks to Fiverr we will be able to save a ton of money on producing a quality logo and then use those funds to invest in much higher quality website experience for Tea Nerds who want to be a part of our community!

You can find anything on there, and earlier I found this which gave me a laugh:

Stay healthy!

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Drinking hot tea to cool you down

set of tea pot and four cups on table outdoorsHere’s an interesting thought: when it’s hot outside, skip the iced tea and sip on some hot tea instead!  This may sound absolutely insane to the typical American, but you may be surprised to find it is common in many parts of Asia, including China and India.  And if billions of people in the Eastern hemisphere are doing it, it’s at least worth exploring, isn’t it?

NPR covered this topic last month, as heat waves hit state after state.  Now when it’s a sweltering 100+ outside and the humidity makes you feel like you’re choking on the air you’re breathing, a steaming cup of hot tea is probably the last thing you’d want to drink.  However, it might just be a good idea since certain receptors in your tongue respond to heat and tell your brain that you need to cool down.  This kick starts the sweating response to help cool you off, pronto.

The idea is that while drinking the hot tea will slightly raise your body temperature, the cooling response that it elicits exceeds the initial heating so that the overall effect is a cooling down.  I’d like to also posit the theory that when you warm up your core temperature, the air temperature feels cooler in comparison, so there could be a psychological effect of feeling “cooler” due to the contrast.  Of course, I’m no scientist, but I think there is wisdom in these ancient cultures so why not try drinking hot tea to cool off like they do?

While nobody knows for sure whether this tactic works or if billions of Asians are just crazy, there seem to be a lot of believers out there.  In fact, TeaVivre offers another reason why hot tea might be a good idea on a hot day: the caffeine in the tea “helps to transform fat in the body into energy, causing you to sweat, yet not feel hot.”  The caffeine in tea has been purported to aid in speeding up the metabolism, so perhaps there’s something to this claim.  Additionally, TeaVivre cites a study done in Britain that showed skin temperature dropped the most when subjects drank hot tea rather than warm/cold tea or even cold drinks in general.

Are you skeptical or convinced?  Give it a try and let us know what you think!  Or, if you’re like me and come from a culture that actively does this, did you do it out of habit or because you believe it to be true?

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The Tea Nerds Story

Once upon a time, many moons ago, a chance encounter paved the way to the creation of Tea Nerds.  Co-founders Luke and Mary discovered their shared passions for tea, business, personal development, and living a good life.  After work, we’d get together over tea and discuss ideas ranging from philosophies to food.  Eventually, these conversations led to a spark of inspiration and the creation of Tea Nerds!

collage of tea nerds co-founders, mary on left and luke on right

Initially it began with the realization that the beverage industry, particularly the tea segment, could use a major overhaul.  Many of the main players are still stuck in the age of brick-and-mortar establishments.  While you can definitely buy all sorts of tea online, we felt there was room for us to be the first truly tech-savvy tea company, born of the internet.  Additionally, we seek to go beyond just tea and healthy living; our goal is to promote a better life and lifestyle overall.

Tea is a great way to achieve this and it embodies so much of what we believe in.  It is a healthy product that evokes feelings of peace and tranquility.  In this modern day, who doesn’t need a little bit of zen?  Beyond that, tea has deep roots in tradition, yet it has constantly evolved as times changed.  Similarly, we believe that people should continue to learn and grow throughout their lives yet stay grounded to certain values.  There are so many great lessons we can take from a simple thing like tea, and we’d like to share that with you.

Join us as Tea Nerds grows and evolves too, all the while bringing you suggestions about how you can improve your life, one sip at a time.  Here’s to a happier, healthier, and wiser you!

Tea Sightings Around the World

From China to Hawaii to Virginia, tea & its accessories come in many forms!

blue and white tea cup with chinese designs

A Chinese tea cup in the qing hua style.

bag of darjeeling tea, harney & sons brand

A very fancy pouch of tea!

closeup of harney & sons logo on tea bag tab

Drinking some delicious tea in Hawaii.

pitcher of iced tea with fake ice cubes

Reusable ice cubes keep a pitcher of iced tea cool in the hot, hot East Coast.

Tea Nerds Get Social

Hey Tea Nerds!  Today we’re happy to announce that we’ve decided it was time to set up some social media accounts.  After all, we may be nerdy but we’re not anti-social!  We’d love it if you’d join us on these sites and “like,” “follow,” or “add” us.  :)

wooden tea display set for tea pot and four sections of tea, teanerds.com

Sneak peek of our inspiration and experimentation for the store.

You may notice that we don’t have anything up yet on our YouTube or Vimeo accounts, but never fear!  In the not-so-distant future, you can expect us to start sharing some videos with you.  Also, behind the scenes we’ve been working to bring you a store where you can get delicious organic teas as well as some tea accessories.  If there’s anything you’d like to see in this future store, just shoot us a line!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up to get email updates so you never miss a beat!

Growing tea

flower from the tea plant or camellia sinensis shrubHave you ever wondered how tea is grown?  While it’s probably not the first thing you think to ask about tea, as we become more environmentally-conscious, it is an issue that is getting more attention.  But even more simple than that lies the question: what is this mysterious camellia sinensis plant and how does it become tea?

Let’s start with the basics.  Camellia sinensis (which we will colloquially refer to as tea) can be grown in two conditions – in the sun and in the shade.  They are actually shrubs and can reach 1-2 meters in height.  Commercially, tea plants are grown in rows and pruned so that they regularly produce shoots that can be plucked.  If you don’t prune them they can grow even taller than 2 meters.

Traditionally, leaves are usually harvested three times a year, first in late April/early May, then in June/July, and finally in late July/early August.  Sometimes there will be a fourth harvest further into the fall season.  The first harvest is considered the best quality and produces the best leaves, therefore you will find they are sold at a premium.  Each subsequent harvest produces less quality leaves.  By the time fall is in full force, the tea shrub will flower with lovely white blossoms.

Tea grows best in climates similar to the ones found in the mid-west and southern United States.  However, you certainly don’t need to live in those areas to be able to enjoy this plant!  They can easily be grown in a greenhouse, planter, or pot.  When you plant them, aim for soil that is well-drained, sandy, and on the acidic side.  Also, it is recommended to add sphagnum moss to the potting mix.  Luckily, tea shrubs are pretty hardy and aren’t very picky about growing conditions.  They’re even drought-tolerant and can survive dry summers better than the average vegetable.

As for what to do with the tea leaves once your plant as grown, we’ll save that for another day.  Until then, why not pick up a camellia sinensis plant and prepare to enjoy your home-grown tea?  See you at the nursery!

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