Getting Over a Cold, the Tea Leaves and Tweed Way

First, a bit of self-promotion: Please take a minute of time to take a look at my current Volition Beauty campaign. I’ve spent the last few months in discussions with Volition to develop the idea for a dual-targeted, matcha-infused hair multi-masking system and I’m excited that the campaign is finally live. I would appreciate it so much if my readers would help vote this into reality!

So I’ve been a bit quiet lately and part of the reason for that is that I’ve been sick. It started last week with a bit of a sore throat, that seemed to peak and get better by Friday, but then came back, along with congestion and coughing, this past Tuesday. I spent Wednesday and Thursday at home, recovering. I’m feeling better, though still not 100%.

Because the first sign of illness was a sore throat, my regimen of treatment has focused heavily on tea with honey in it. I’ve split my tea between herbal infusions and the occasional cup of green tea. I find that when I’m home sick, it’s very easy to forget to have a cup of something with a bit of caffeine, and a caffeine withdrawal headache is not something I need on top of a bad cold. So I have a bit of a cup of green tea with some honey and then switch to herbals. My favorite this time has been ginger because it both helps soothe a sore throat and helps break up mucus. I apologize, but given the state of things, there was no way I was going to get through this post without mentioning mucus at least once. Twice, now.

At first, rest and honeyed tea were my main remedies, but my other favorite cold remedy is even simpler: salt water. For a sore throat, I mixed up a cup of warm salt water to use as a gargle on my raw throat. Later on, when the congestion set in, I used warm salt water in my neti pot to help clear my sinuses. Of course, I boil the water I use in my neti pot, just in case anything unsavory lurks in my water, and then let it cool until it’s comfortable to pour into my nose. It’s not exactly a fun thing to do, but it is effective.

Other than that, I’ve been getting lots of rest. I’m grateful that most of my job can be done from the sofa, so I’ve worked at home, away from coworkers I could infect. I would get up only to make some soup or some more tea. Luckily, it wasn’t a terrible cold, and I was feeling well enough last night to meet some friends for dinner, so hopefully I’m completely on the mend now and not going to relapse again. I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

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Outing: Handmade Wagashi at the Matsukawaya DC Pop-Up Shop

I posted a few teasers on Instagram this weekend, but I thought I’d share a full recap from my weekend outing to the pop-up shop of the wagashi artisans at Matsukawaya DC at Union Market. This was a relatively spur-of-the-moment outing, as I was about to head downtown to my Saturday morning barre class when I turned to Mr. Tweed and asked if he’d be willing to meet me downtown after my class so we could go to the market for lunch and to see the confectionery.

The stand itself was somewhat unassuming among the delightful chaos of Union Market, but the stunning artistry of the sweets still caught the eye. They had a display of shaped namagashi and displays of wrapped sweets, along with samples of mochi, monaka, and other sweets. They were even making fresh strawberry mochi, which was absolutely sublime. I’d never had mochi this fresh and it was amazing. It absolutely melted in the mouth. After gathering our lunch, I stopped back at the stand and spent a while agonizing over the selections. I settled on one namagashi and a gei monaka to take home for later with my tea. The lovely young lady working at the stall included a couple other sweets as service, and the nice man who was folding origami presented me with a pink crane. With my treasures in hand, we made our way home.

I think here is a good place to pause and talk a bit about wagashi. The word “wagashi” comes from the word for sweets — originally referring to fruits and nuts, but eventually including sugared sweets — with a prefix indicating they are a Japanese art. They are made with sugar, yes, but also such typically-Japanese ingredients as sweet rice flour, red bean paste, and kanten or agar. The variety called namagashi are served with the traditional Japanese tea ceremony as a complement to the bitterness of the tea. As I was told during my tea demonstration, the sweets are served and the ceremony is timed such that the sweetness is still on your tongue when you first sip the bowl of matcha. So wagashi are not only best eaten with a nice cup of green tea, but indeed they are inextricably culturally linked to tea. So it was no surprise that this pop-up shop was hosted by one of my favorite local tea houses, Teaism.

Upon returning home, I immediately started heating my kettle and gathering my matcha supplies. I decided to use my O-Cha organic ceremonial grade matcha for the occasion, whisked up in my new bowl purchased recently from a local artist. As the water heated, I opened my bag of sweets and pulled out the beautiful chrysanthemum namagashi in its little display box. As I opened it and separated it from the protective film underneath, I was struck by how delicate the sweet was. I placed it on a small saucer and made my tea. I took both to a quiet, sunny corner of our living room and sat to enjoy my little treat.

The sweet itself was quite soft, with a flavor that surprised me, given that I thought the most care would be taken with the appearance. But of course, wagashi are meant to appeal to all five senses. While the sound of this tender sweet was silence and its visual appeal apparent, I was delighted by the other three sense as well. It was a soft and smooth texture, yielding but not mushy. As someone who takes issue with a lot of textures, I found it amazing. As I bit into it, I smelled the rice and sweetness scent and tasted the complex flavors that married into this delicious sweet. It had a smooth sweet bean paste filling. And the small size meant that I enjoyed every bite, rather than becoming overloaded as I often do with a Western pastry. Despite being against tradition, I did pause and sip some matcha in between bites of sweet, but I found they blended so well together. And when the moment was over, I was able to bask in the peace and pleasure of it.

Later on, I broke into the gei monaka, a sweet made from red bean jelly sandwiched between two crisp rice crackers. I had had one of these before on my last visit to Teaism, and I knew I enjoyed it. I still haven’t tried the service sweets I was given, but I look forward to them as well. All in all, this was a lovely outing, and I encourage everyone in the DC area to take a trip out to Union Market before the 30th of September when the pop-up shop goes away.

A final note: Please remember my campaign for a matcha-infused, dual-targeted masking system at Volition Beauty. Go here to vote.

An Exciting New Project: Dual Hair Mask with Volition Beauty

I’ve got a rather exciting announcement today. For the last few months, I’ve been working with Volition Beauty to develop an idea for a commercial version of my hair multi-masking technique and yesterday, the voting campaign went live. Meet the Dual-Targeted Matcha Hair Mask.

Now, the way this works is that Volition mocks up the idea and puts it up for a vote. If enough people vote for a product, they develop it into reality. So now begins the process of asking you, my readers, to help me bring this truly into reality.

A bit about the product idea: I’ve written in the past about how I use a double-masking technique to address the different needs of my hair versus my scalp. I brought this idea to Volition and they came up with the additional idea of infusing the ingredients with one of my favorite things: matcha green tea. The scalp mask is targeted at reducing scalp oil, while the other will contain ingredients aimed at nourishing dry length. Of course, the product will be free of sulfates, and will take advantage of both the nourishing and stimulating properties of green tea.

So, please take a look. Voting does not obligate you to buy the product, but if you decide you would like to buy it in the future, voting gives you a little discount off the list price. I’m exciting for this and I hope some others will be too.

Tea Review: Rishi Tea Matcha Travel Packs

The other day one of my Instagram friends posted a story about trying a matcha-to-go packet and being generally underwhelmed. Well, that got me thinking about the things I like or don’t like in a matcha, given that I typically spend too much and drink it traditionally (or else make a latte). I’m not really a matcha-to-go person. But then I noticed that my grocery store had boxes of Rishi Tea’s matcha travel packs and thought I’d give them a try.

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Now, fair warning, these are not cheap. They’re actually about the same price as the regular Teahouse Matcha that Rishi also sells at the grocery store, which is also not listed as ceremonial grade. On their website, Rishi also sells sencha travel packs, which have powdered sencha tea for mixing into a water bottle, for a lower price. But either way, the Matcha Travel Packs are listed for $19 for a box of 12 packets, or about $1.05/g or $1.60 per serving. The packets are 1.5 g each, which I think might be a bit more than I usually use to make a standard bowl of matcha. That said, my grocery store loves to list things below MSRP, so I got the box for $18, or about $1/g and $1.50 per serving. For comparison, my current favorite ceremonial-grade matcha from Matchaeologist is Meiko and is sold at $14 for 20g, or about $0.70/g and just over $1 for a 1.5-g serving. So you’re paying for convenience, but probably not quality.

Anyway, the official instructions for this powder say to mix one 1.5-g packet into a 16-oz. bottle of water, which already didn’t fill me with hope that this would be a quality, tasty matcha. I mean, if the flavor is going to come through when mixed in roughly five or six times more water than I would normally use, what is going to be there when tasted at a more concentrated level? But I pressed on.

My first test was to try brewing it traditionally. I mean, it’s matcha, right? It should be able to be judged like any matcha I drink. So I sifted a packet into my matcha bowl. I will say, the powder was a pleasingly bright color and fine consistency. I poured in 2 oz. of hot water and whisked it up. I got a respectable amount of froth with minimal elbow grease, and then sat to enjoy it. It had a pleasant vegetal aroma while whisking. The taste is certainly not subtle, but I got notes of green leafy vegetables, umami, a smooth mouthfeel, and a balanced amount of bitterness. The reason I’m pretty sure it’s a larger amount of matcha than I typically use is because I felt a serious buzz, too. But all in all, not an unenjoyable experience. Which, y’know, for $1/g, I would certainly hope would be true.

Next, I tried it in a matcha latte. I tried in both my cold almond milk, pre-workout, protein, sweetened matcha latte and in a standard, unsweetened hot matcha latte with cow’s milk. In both formats, I really appreciated how much the flavor of the matcha came through. Especially in the almond milk latte, I need to add maple syrup to sweeten it up (because I use unsweetened almond milk) and I found that the Rishi matcha came through more strongly than my standard latte matchas. And it blended easily without and special equipment. For the cold latte, I literally tossed everything into a jar and shook it together without pre-mixing at all.

Finally, I wanted to try the matcha the way it was intended: added to a 16-oz. bottle of water and shaken together. I filled my favorite glass water bottle with water, sipped a little off the top to make room, and then added a packet of matcha. I capped it and shook. It immediately blended into a brilliant green liquid, somewhat reminiscent of kale juice. Tasting it, the matcha flavor was even more complex in this format. The extra dilution allowed some of the subtler flavors to come through, including a floral sweetness that I found quite pleasant. It was refreshing and energizing without being overly bitter and without any grittiness, even down to the last swallow. Some of the powder would settle as the bottle sat, but a quick shake or swirl got everything suspended again and I never felt like I had a mouthful of powder or sludge.

So, I would say that, all in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this matcha. I really wasn’t expecting much from a matcha that I poured out of a packet, but I have to say, this is a decent little matcha. It’s probably not the best price you could hope for, but I’m impressed with Rishi’s balance of quality and accessibility. They tend to sell their teas in local stores, so it’s not necessary to order online. And the convenience of a packet should appeal to some. I probably won’t buy this again too often, but I will definitely use what I have for travel.

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and was not given any incentive to review it. All opinions are my own.