Wow. Transformation of the Gourd and Bombilla

Wara Tea Set by Margaux Keller
bombilla style tea set

Inspired by Maté, a traditional South American infused drink, Margaux Keller has created a new way of drinking tea with glass straws and an oversized tea glass.

Wara Tea Set by Margaux Keller


The Internet of Things

As a part of my investigations into a steampunk tea kiosk, I’ve dived smack splash into the DIY (do it yourself) world of the Arduino, a tiny microprocessor board that has kicked the needle on the “Internet of Things”

Internet. Things. Add the “Of” and suddenly these three simple words become a magic meme — the theme we’ve been hearing all week at CES, the oft-heralded prediction that may have finally arrived in 2013.

While not devoid of hype and hyperbole, the Internet of Things (IoT) does represent a revolution happening right now. Companies of all kinds – not just technology and telecommunications firms – are linking “things” as diverse as smartphones, cars and household appliances to industrial-strength sensors, each other and the internet. The technical result may be mundane features such as intercommunication and autonomous machine-to-machine (M2M) data transfer, but the potential benefits to lifestyles and businesses are huge.

The Internet of Things Has Arrived — And So Have Massive Security Issues | Wired Opinion |

But it’s not “companies” that jump-started the IoT. It’s partly a DIY craze enabled by an extremely simple low cost board called Arduino, and wild weird developments like the website and platform “If This Then That” (ITTT). Check out this story:

The rise of the machines has begun: Steve Sande’s household fan is now self-aware. Sande, a Colorado-based tech writer, had noticed that his cat, Ruby, was suffering on hot summer days. His house doesn’t have air-conditioning, and he wasn’t always around to turn on the fan.

So Sande bought a new gizmo called the WeMo Switch, which connects to the Internet so you can turn on an outlet remotely. It’s also programmable. Using the free web service If This Then That, Sande created a script that monitors information from Yahoo Weather. If the temperature in his neighborhood hits 85 degrees, the fan turns itself on and cools the house. “This entire thing,” he says, “revolves around a 17-year-old cat.”

I love this story, because it illustrates something fascinating: The Internet of Things is finally arriving—and it’s bubbling up from the grassroots.

No Longer Vaporware: The Internet of Things Is Finally Talking | Wired Opinion |

Good article. I’d read the whole thing. Wired’s Clive Thompson remarks about the IoT corporate style “Back in the ’90s, big companies built systems to do tricks like this, but they were expensive, hard to use, and vendor-specific. The hype eventually boiled away. The Internet of Things turned out to be vaporware.”

Hackers began using increasingly inexpensive sensors and open source hardware—like the Arduino controller—to add intelligence to ordinary objects. There are now kits that let your plants tweet when they need to be watered and teensy printers that scour the web and print out stuff you might be interested in. And there are oodles of “quantified-self” projects: “I know a guy who put a tilt sensor in his beer mug. It lets him know precisely how much he drank during Oktoberfest,” Arduino hacker Charalampos Doukas says with a laugh. “Sensor prices are going down; sizes are going down. The only limit is your imagination.”

So, I started looking into this weird Italian board, the Arduino and dammit, I’m hooked. Of course I have a serious, commercial application in mind, so it’s ok for me to get addicted to a new hobby, right?


Green tea and red wine extracts disrupt Alzheimer’s

New research investigates the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages, then finds that compounds from green tea and red wine can disrupt the process.

Natural chemicals found in green tea and red wine may disrupt a key step of the Alzheimer’s disease pathway, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

In early-stage laboratory experiments, the researchers identified the process which allows harmful clumps of protein to latch on to brain cells, causing them to die. They were able to interrupt this pathway using the purified extracts of EGCG from green tea and resveratrol from red wine.

The findings, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, offer potential new targets for developing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, which affects some 800,000 people in the UK alone, and for which there is currently no cure.

“This is an important step in increasing our understanding of the cause and progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says lead researcher Professor Nigel Hooper of the University’s Faculty of Biological Sciences. “It’s a misconception that Alzheimer’s is a natural part of ageing; it’s a disease that we believe can ultimately be cured through finding new opportunities for drug targets like this.”

Green tea and red wine extracts disrupt Alzheimer’s – University of Leeds

The abstract of the original study is here


Tea compounds in Ginkgo

Proanthocyanidins from Ginkgo biloba leaf extract and their radical scavenging activity.


Faculty of Pharmacy, Petra University, Amman, Jordan.



Ginkgo biloba L (Ginkgoaceae) is a traditional herbal medicinal plant for the treatment of mild to moderate cognitive disorders, tinnitus, and dementia. These uses may be correlated with the presence of radical scavenging compounds.


The chemical composition and the 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging activity of the flavan-3-ols and proanthocyanidins from G. biloba were studied.


The compounds have been isolated using column chromatography on Sephadex LH-20 and MCI gel and the structures were determined on the basis of 1D- and 2D-NMR (HSQC, HMBC) experiments of their peracetylated derivatives, MALDI-TOF-MS and by acid-catalyzed degradation with phloroglucinol. The DPPH radical scavenging activities of the compounds were investigated.


The new trimeric prodelphinidin, epigallocatechin-(4β→8)-epigallocatechin-(4β→8)-catechin (compound 7), has been isolated from the air-dried leaves of the title plant, in addition to catechin, epigallocatechin, gallocatechin, and three dimeric proanthocyanidins. The dimeric prodelphinidin epigallocatechin-(4β→8)-epigallocatechin (compound 6) showed the strongest DPPH radical scavenging activity, with IC(50) 1.7 μg/mL, 10 times more active than the positive control, BHT (IC(50) 17.3 µg/mL), followed by the new trimeric proanthocyanidin epigallocatechin-(4β→8)-epigallocatechin-(4β→8)-catechin with IC(50) 2.1 µg/mL. The crude extract exhibited high DPPH radical scavenging activity with IC(50) 15.5 µg/mL comparable with that of BHT.


The results showed that all the isolated compounds from the tannin fraction exhibited potent free radical scavenging activities, which were higher than that of BHT, suggesting that the condensed tannins from G. biloba leaves strongly contribute to the overall antioxidant effects.

[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

[1] Qa’dan F, Mansoor K, AL-Adham I, Schmidt M, Nahrstedt A. Proanthocyanidins from Ginkgo biloba leaf extract and their radical scavenging activity. Pharm Biol. 2011 May;49(5):471-6. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2010.523831. Epub 2011 Mar 9. PubMed PMID: 21388236.


Gong Fu Cha post from the past

Quality Teas Around The World

Let’s face it, websites come and go. Sometimes an awesome volume of excellent content goes with them.
Case in point. I had several bookmarks for my gong fu cha self-education from a site called relax sip enjoy ( But alas, the domain is inactive as of late 2011 it appears and abandoned this year. But hey, that’s what the Wayback Machine is for. So, here is the last snapshot of the site.

Special Teas
So, farewell You had some excellent posts, including this:

The Chinese Ritual of Gongfu Cha

The gongfu method of tea first became popular in China during the
Ming dynasty (1250-1600) For the first time, tea was prepared in the
whole leaf style and the kilns of yixing grew famous for the purple clay
pots they so masterfully produced.

Gong-fu Tea takes its name from the same term kung-fu with
which we are all familiar. The use of the term with tea implies similar
types of concentration, practice, and spiritual benefit.

Originally intended for brewing oolongs, the centuries-old gong-fu ritual (meaning “to do things well”) now extends itself to other tea varieties.

Gongfu cha is performed in the following manner:

  1. Heat water to a temperature of about 170 degrees.
  2. Pour the host water into the teapot, which is placed on the tea platter or tea boat used for the ritual.
  3. Pour the water from the tea pot into the tea bowls to warm them well.
  4. Take about 1 teaspoon of leaves from a tea box and place in a tea pot.
  5. Drench the leaves with hot water, filling the tea pot to
    overflowing; pour this first, short infusion into the boat, leaving the
    tea leaves behind, and again pour hot water into the tea pot.
  6. Rotate the lid on top of the teapot to eliminate bubbles and close it again.
  7. Pout hot water over the exterior of the teapot to prevent the leaves from cooling.
  8. Empty the water from the tea bowls while the tea steeps for a minute.
  9. Pour the tea into the bowls in a circular motion. The tea
    can also be poured into another bowl, which is then poured into the
    drinking bowl: this allows everyone to savor the tea’s fragrance before
    drinking the infusion.
  10. Take small sips of the tea, which is thought of a a liqueur.

This ritual is carried out three times with the same leaves. It
has been taking place more and more often in France in true Chinese
teahouses to better celebrate “dragon teas.”




Blend tasting party

Here’s a fun culinary treat. We started with these excellent TR Spice Blends

This is called a Masala Dubba

It’s pretty perfect for this kind of party/tasting event
I coded each stainless spice container with a freebie sticker from some charity
You’ll note a stamp picture on each packet. Matching sticker on each blend

Then the fun begins. We’re using a raclette maker, though a simple griddle would do too. The advantage of the raclette grill is that it keeps the spice blend flavored juices in the mini grilling pans, so they can be poured on top of your mini dish when cooked. You can cook on the top, or under the broiler. Or both!

That’s the setup. Anything can go in the grilling pans – meats, fish, shrimp, scallops, portabellos, even (ugh) tofu or tempeh. We’re doing ground lamb sliders today.

The spice blend used on each is set in front of the grill so we know what’s what.
This shows grilling on the top. the pans can be slipped underneath too, for broiling.
We were concerned that broiling would overheat the spices, so used the surface,
but versatility and variety are the name of this fun, tasty cooking method.


Brew it strong. Carry on.