Our Tea Journal

 

Here you will find a compilation of all the stories we have to share about our experiences with herbs, teas, the Japanese Tea Ceremony and so much more. 

Please feel free to peruse them all and don't forget to like and leave a comment. 😊



One of the most common herbs and personally one of my first and favourite herbs to have in my herb garden is mint.


In Jamaica, we have the Jamaican peppermint which has been by far my favourite mint to use when I want a nice boost to my digestive system in the mornings.

It is also a key ingredient in our popular Harmony Tea Blend.


Otherwise, my next favourite method of consuming mint is in the form of sweets, namely chewing gum. Not to mention the prevalence of mint in our toothpaste as well as its use as an aromatic fragrance in various household products.


I honestly cannot imagine living my life without mint. Luckily, with a bit of indoor gardening, I won't ever have to.


But what exactly is this mint? and where does it come from?

Read below to learn all about this remarkable herb.



History

Mentha, the scientific name for mint, is a genus of plants in the family Lamiaceae. It got its name from the Greek mythological figure Minthe, a Naiad-nymph who was transformed into the fragrant and aromatic herb.


For millennia, mint has been used as a symbolism of hospitality. In ancient Greece, it was rubbed on tables to welcome visitors. The herb was used to clear the air in temples and homes. In the Middle East, mint tea was and still is offered to guests upon their arrival.


Growing Mint

The mint plant is common and a favourite of many gardeners, so it's easy to grow your own.


Mint is mostly grown for its aromatic leaves. Oval and serrated, the leaves of mint are indented with veins and come to a point. They impart a fresh clean scent and a strong mint flavour with sweet overtones. Leaves are commonly bright to dark green in colour but some varieties can be purple, grey-green or even pale yellow. If allowed to flower mint will produce white and lavender to purple petite blooms. Young leaves will have the best flavour and texture, leaves allowed to mature on the plant for too long will become bitter and woodsy in flavour.



Usage

As an herb, mint is gluten-free and suitable for vegan, vegetarian, and paleo diets.


Each variety of mint has been traditionally used to treat numerous ailments, ranging from an upset stomach to nervousness. Modern medical research has focused on peppermint oil, which is now often sold as a dietary supplement capsule, medicinal tea, or topical preparation.


The cool taste and sensation mint imparts is a result of the naturally occurring compound, menthol contained in the herb.


Varieties

The major mint varieties used in cooking and cosmetics are:

  • Mentha arvenisis (Japanese mint, field mint, corn mint): thrives in tropical and Mediterranean climates, used fresh or grown for its essential oil.

  • Mentha piperita: (peppermint): a hybrid of three other mint species, now grown extensively for its essential oil and for its use (fresh and dried) in cooking.

  • Mentha spicata: (spearmint): a hybrid of two other mint species, grown also for its essential oil and its usefulness in cooking.


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Kuchikiri-no-chaji // 口切の茶事

tea ceremony celebrating the breaking of the seal on a jar of new tea.

In Japan, there is an important Tea Ceremony ritual that takes place in late November. It is considered one of the most formal tea events and a basic model for the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The kuchikiri ceremony is held to break the seal of a special tea urn called a chatsubo which was filled with tea leaves picked in May and allowed to mature for half a year.

“Kuchikiri” literally means “mouth cutting” in Japanese.


The act of breaking this seal of the jar is called Kuchikiri and is accompanied by a full tea ceremony or Chaji with a meal (kaiseki), thick tea (koicha) and thin tea (usucha).

Filling the Chatsubo

In early Summer, during the tea harvest, top quality tea leaves picked specifically for the tea ceremony are carefully selected by a chashi (master tea maker) who places freshly picked green tea for thick tea in a specially made paper bag and places it in a beautifully decorated pot (chatsubo) together with other green tea for thin tea.

The master then carefully closes the mouth of the pot and stamps the paper sealing the lid and the jar together with his hanko (signature seal). On the back of the box containing the tea jar a piece of paper called an iri-nikki (record of contents) is affixed stating the names of the teas included within the jar.

The jar is then returned to its owner along with a congratulatory gift where it is stored in a cool place. This might be in or around the teahouse or cooling cellar. In the past, it would have been stored in the ground or in the mountains.

The green tea inside the pot is well matured and ready for use after about 6 months.




The Kuchikiri ceremony is traditionally performed on or around the 10th day of the 10th month according to the lunar calendar, which falls on around mid November.

Around this time, the new year of tea starts and the Ro is used for the first time indicating the beginning of winter. At this time, to celebrate the beginning of a new season of tea, the seal of the chatsubo (tea urn) is cut with a special knife (pictured below) and the new, fresh tea is selected by the main guest.




There are two kinds of kuchi-kiri ceremonies:


(1) The nai-kuchi-kiri is when the chashi's seal is cut for the first time. To be invited to a nai-kuchi-kiri is considered a great honour.

(2) The second kuchi-kiri is much simpler. The once unsealed jar is resealed and marked with the host's seal. This second kuchi-kiri is held several times, until the koicha (thick tea) is done.

The tea event (Chaji) in this season of both Kuchikiri and Kairo (opening of the hearth) begins at noon and continue for about 4 hours with charcoal ceremony, Kaiseki cuisine, koicha (thick tea) and usucha (thin tea).



At the beginning of the ritual the host brings out the iri-nikki (record of contents) and hands it over to the main guest who chooses which tea they'd like for the ceremony. The chatsubo (tea urn) is then placed next to the Ro along with the knife and other implements.

Once opened, the tea pouch is removed and taken into the kitchen or mizuya (water preparation room) where it is placed into a tea-grinding mortar in preparation for the first serving of thick tea.

At homes with an ancestral shrine the first bowl of tea made is an offering.

While the tea is being ground the kaiseki (meal) is served.

This year, although I did not get to attend a full official kuchikiri no chaji, I was still able to experience the cutting of the chatsubo kuchi as well as the elaborate procedure associated with removing and placement of the colourful jar cover and cords.

It was a great priviledge to gain further insight into the various rituals and ceremonies involved within the Japanese Tea Ceremony.


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Rosemary is known as an antidepressant and a soothing tonic for the nerves, which makes it excellent for people who deal with anxiety, depression, and related conditions.Scientific researches also indicate that rosemary is an ideal memory stimulant for both adults and students.



Rosemary contains a series of secondary elements such as carnosol and carnosic acid, with a reflecting action in case of free radicals. Rosemary also has calming effects by working against fatigue, sadness, anxiety, calming muscle soreness, digestive pains and also, indigestion caused by stress.

In aromatherapy it is appreciated for bringing youth, protection, love, optimism, vitality health and a restful sleep. I keep some on my bedside table. The aroma is divine!

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