Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pairing food with wine -- oops, I mean, tea

The first time I read about pairing food with tea, I was a bit skeptical. Of course, I knew of food and wine pairings, but food and tea? For me, tea drinking had been just about the tea itself – the relaxation, the flavors in my cup, the pause in my schedule. At the most, I may have considered adding tea to a meal as a palate cleanser between courses.

And then I thought, why not?

People with culinary backgrounds assert that it’s easier and even better to pair food with tea than with wine. Because tea flavors don’t overpower the senses, they complement -- rather than dominate -- a meal. Plus, with its incredibly wide range of flavors and blends, tea certainly brings dimension and interest to a dining experience.

In fact, many fine hotels and restaurants are engaging tea sommeliers that sample, recommend and pour teas for clientele. OK, let’s pause a minute here. I’m not in favor of making tea tasting and tea drinking overly highbrow or inaccessible. However, I have come around on the idea of incorporating tea into my meal plans. And I’m certainly in favor of changing the traditional association of tea with doily-covered tables and cucumber sandwiches.

At the risk of oversimplifying, tea experts tend to recommend black teas with spicy or strongly flavored meals. The taste of black tea also holds up well against smoky flavors, as well as chocolates and pastry desserts.

Green tea works best with fruits and vegetables. Surprisingly, some say that green tea is a great accompaniment for even greasy fried foods -- mostly because it can calm the stomach and aid digestion. Green tea also complements cheeses. Of course, there are numerous other pairings suggested not only for black and green teas, but also for white and oolong teas. Some experts even advocate matching the regional origins of the food and the tea. For example, Japanese green tea might be paired with a meal of sushi.

You will have to decide whether you buy into all of this. I honestly saw recommendations for pairings with anchovies and macaroni & cheese (fortunately, not together), so perhaps a bit of skepticism is necessary. At least, pairings can serve as a reminder to all of us to stop, taste and enjoy our food. They can make us slow down, and eat and drink mindfully. And at the very least, tea’s satiating qualities can provide satisfaction at the conclusion of a meal.

In the end, I suggest that you experiment with reckless abandon and choose pairings that taste wonderful to you. (May I suggest starting with chocolate pairings?)

Copyright 2007, East West Blends, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Get real, baby!

Do you feel ready start your own business? Before you even begin to sketch out your business plan or examine the numbers, it’s important to pause for a personal reality check.

I think that entrepreneurship is often romanticized. Freedom. Independence. The ability to meet the school bus at 4:00 pm. I am familiar with this romantic vision because I had it myself.

It’s very important to spend some time soul-searching and considering the following questions:

1. Do you believe in your business idea – really believe in it? You must believe in your product or service and your ability to deliver it in a superior manner. I could not have taken this radically new path if I didn’t believe in my teas and in the wonderful experience of tea-drinking! It is truly meaningful to me.

2. Are you motivated for the long haul? When the initial creative excitement dies down, will you be able to keep your business passion alive? All businesses have their share of drudgery. I enjoyed the tea tasting and design elements of my business so much, but those tasks have now been overtaken by operations and inventory and distribution chains. Nevertheless, I’m happy to report that I do feel focused and motivated to keep at it.

3. Can you live with the stress? There will be long hours and financial pressure. Your business will probably, at least initially, seep into all parts of your life. My car passenger side has become a portable office, and I had to buy an enormous totebag to carry my laptop and samples and papers everywhere. Business doesn’t stop for tennis lessons and chess tournaments! Also important to consider is whether your family can roll with such changes. I am very thankful for a family that is tolerant of my (hopefully temporary) distraction!

All of this said, please don’t be scared. Most entrepreneurs say that advantages of having a business far outweigh the risks. There’s nothing like being your own boss and working for yourself. Nothing beats the excitement, challenge, and opportunities that entrepreneurship provides. So, get real and then get going!

Copyright 2007, East West Blends, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Taste, baby!

How do you know whether you enjoyed your cup of tea?

Well, you liked the taste, right? Of course, that is most important. Remember, though, that tea drinking can be a truly multi-sensory event. Whenever you can, slow down, be still, and really experience your tea.

After you steep your tea, break open that silken sachet and look inside. This is when you will truly appreciate whole leaf tea, as opposed to powdery tea dust. You will actually see those natural leaves (and perhaps flowers and spices, too), saturated and unfurled. Notice the color of the leaves – brown or red or green. Reach out at touch them, feel them on your fingers, and smell them.

Now, move on to your tea cup. Observe the rich amber or pale yellow-green colors of the liquid. Smell the bouquet -- tea aromas can range from woody to floral to spicy.

And now, the best part. Sip! Keep a bit of tea in your mouth and think. Is it bitter? Sweet? Smoky? What taste stays in your mouth after you swallow? You don’t have to be a professional tea taster to understand what types of tea you enjoy most. Do you like the slightly vegetal taste of green tea? The delicacy of white? Do you prefer the stimulation of spices and roots?

Happy tasting!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fill in that gap, baby!

The trouble with having a techie husband is that I have tended to leave all technology-related matters to him. (I know, shame on me.) This created quite a serious knowledge gap for me, especially when I began building an Internet-based business.

I am continually amazed by the rapidity with which technology originates, develops and becomes integrated in everyday life. I’m sure you are, too. Maybe because I’m out of school (way out, I admit), it seems to take me longer and longer to see and understand what tools are available to me. Believe it or not, this is not always a disadvantage. Often, by the time I get on board, the basic technology has already improved a lot.

A couple of years ago, my young, hip cousin had to tell me what a blog was. Now, though, the leaps and bounds in blog technology have helped me have my own blog. A couple of years ago, building a website on my own would have been laughably impossible. Now, though, I have so many tools available to build and maintain a website with relatively little guidance.

In short, I am slowly and painstakingly trying to fill in my knowledge gap, but each “Oh, now I get it!” makes it worth it.

So, what’s your knowledge gap, baby? Well, start filling it in. I guarantee that taking even a few steps will be gratifying and helpful. And you will surprise yourself with what you can absorb and integrate into your life and business.

Copyright 2007, East West Blends, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Calm down, baby!

We all know it -- women handle a lot. If you’re anything like me, your head sometimes spins from all the tasks and thoughts and plans in it. When I start jumping from one thing to another without accomplishing anything, I know it’s time to take a break and calm down!

I think we all have coping strategies that help us regain our focus. Here are my favorites -- and each can take less than half an hour. It’s time well spent because I’m much more productive afterwards.

Walk or run outside. On days that I feel particularly chained to my desk, nothing is more liberating than walking away from it. Exercise naturally relaxes the body, and sun and sky never fail to restore perspective.

Reach for a tea cup. A cup of tea works wonders for me! (You didn’t think I pass that up, did you?) In all seriousness, high quality tea contains theanine, an amino acid that has been found to promote physical and mental relaxation and to reduce anxiety.

Write it down. Whether I write in a cloth-bound journal or a chain of post-it notes, jotting down what’s troubling me always clarifies my thoughts. In fact, writing (and particularly, journaling) is a more powerful stress reliever than many people realize.

Laugh it out. Laughter is known to relax the body by lowering blood pressure and has been linked to the reduction of disease. Usually, I’ll reach for an old Dave Barry book or a Scrubs podcast – either way, I’m guaranteed a good belly laugh within minutes.

Meditate. Meditation is a practice that provides mental, physical and emotional balance. However, a year ago, it would not have been on my list. When I sit, my foot starts a-tapping, and I begin wondering what I should be doing instead. Then I found this lovely CD called (now, don’t laugh) Guided Meditations for Busy People, led by Bodipaksha. Available on, its nine extremely short meditations are perfect for the novice meditator (a.k.a., me).

Yoga. Yoga practice harmonizes the mind and body, helping to relax both. I am no expert (in fact, I may have the least flexible body on earth), but I continue to try. Concentrating so intensely on my body's movements definitely focuses and calms my mind.

And there you have it. You may find one or more of these methods helpful, or you may have a coping technique that works better for you. For example, some need to talk with or be around others to de-compress and relieve stress. Please share what works for you. It’s all about balance, baby!

Note that the above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The information and our products are not intended to be used for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of disease.