Tuesday, June 30, 2015


It is enough to break your heart - 800 unused tea bags buried, never to be drunk.
Japanese Lime Green Tea in a Pyramid Tea Bag

In Landcare Research scientist Dr Barbara Anderson's mind, it is all part of the plan to better understand climate change.

Anderson buried the tea bags to measure rates of organic decomposition across an altitudinal gradient at Mt Cardrona in Central Otago. When plant material decomposes, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Fast decay means more carbon in the atmosphere, while slower decay means more carbon stock in soil.

Pyramid-shaped tea bags were selected because the synthetic mesh bags did not decompose.

Decomposition was typically measured using hand-made bags of dried organic material, called "litterbags", she said.

"The litterbags are not only time-consuming to make but there's a huge amount of variance in the plant material in the bags unlike the tea bags which are standardised."

The tea bags serve just one part of Anderson's five-year Rutherford Discovery Fellowship. Decomposition rate was "one small piece in the puzzle of what will happen with climate change", she said. "The balance between carbon stored in the soil and carbon released back into the atmosphere is dependent on many factors, including temperature, and in turn has the potential to accelerate or buffer the effects of climate change."

Utrecht University in the Netherlands is operating a "citizen science" project, where people can do their own tea bag experiment and submit their results at www.decolab.org

If you are looking to do your own experiment, TEA TOTAL has got Pyramid Shaped Tea Bags for you to use. While we cannot say what the result of your Climate Change Experiment will be, we can certainly vouch for the ability of our pyramid tea bags to make a great cup of tea – no matter the climate.

Monday, June 1, 2015


Although tea took some time to spread from China to Japan, many believe that Japan was where tea met perfection in the art of Cha-no-yu, or the Japanese tea ceremony. After arriving in Japan many schools of the tea ceremony began, with influences ranging from monks to samurai warriors. These separate schools existed until the 16th century, when Sen Rikyu, considered the highest tea master, brought together these differing principles and set forth the practice that is still followed many years later.

Today the tea ceremony is still practiced by many in Japan and abroad, and survives as an honoured and thriving tradition, rather than an antiquated relic. The essence of the tea ceremony has made it a poignant reflection on life, even in today’s world. Cha-no-yu’s fundamentals lie in the humility of the guests, appreciating the moment’s uniqueness in terms of time and place, season and those present, and the art of simplicity and balance in form, movement and objects. These three fundamentals have found their way outside of the tea room and into many aspects of Japanese life. Consider, for example, the simple architecture of houses and buildings in Japan, or the balance and harmony found in the shapes and textures of a garden or in ikebana style flower arrangements.

In the tea ceremony, humility and respect are expected of the guests and the host. The door to the sukiya, or tea house, is a low crawl space that requires all who enter to bow and humble themselves before entering the precious space. Once inside, the first thing he or she will see is a simple flower arrangement, and a scroll of artwork or poetic calligraphy. The guest must humble themselves again upon seeing the greatness of such a simple yet beautiful artwork, and also for the flowers that are considered to be great sacrifices, because they are cut from their roots and will soon die. The ephemeral nature of the flower also helps the guest to realize the ephemeral nature of this present time and the experience that he or she is about to share with others.

The ceremony itself can take hours to complete, and a lifetime to learn, so it would be best to discuss just the preparation of the matcha and the utensils used, as this can apply to every day enjoyment of the tea. The equipage needed for preparing matcha are the chawan (tea bowl), chasen (bamboo whisk), chashaku (bamboo tea scoop), furui (matcha powder sifter), hishaku (bamboo ladle), kama (large kettle), and an hearth or heat source. First the matcha powder is sifted in the furui, so that it is the perfect fine consistency; this is usually prepared beforehand in the tea ceremony. The kama is placed over the heat source and allowed to come to a simmering boil. Using the hishaku, one will dip into the kama to draw out water to use to warm the tea bowl. This water is discarded. Then, the matcha is measured into the chawan using 2 or 3 scoops of the chasaku. Another ladle of hot water (about 4 oz.) is drawn from the kama and poured into the bowl. Using the chasen, the tea is whipped into a thick and frothy substance. The tea can then be drunk directly from the bowl.  If the process seems too much for you, try Tea Total's Japanese Genmaicha.

While tea ceremony is an important aspect of Japanese life, there are many other ways that the Japanese people enjoy tea every day. Recently, Western-style black tea has become popular, especially for breakfasts that include bread or pastries.