Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Willing to Do, Happy to Bear

Well, in the “about” section of my blog, I address you, the reader, as courteous, but just how art thou to be a courteous reader if thy has nothing to read! Absurd I know. Though, absent have I been for good reason. It all has to do with Tea of course. And since I now lack the time to keep any form of regular blog entries, I leave you, dear courteous reader, with one final TLC entry. Though I close one door, a much larger one opens…

Some of you know I live in Taiwan now. Below is a snippet into my new life. I wrote this for a newsletter called the Global Tea Hut, a global community of Spirit-minded tea imbibers. Below is just an article I wrote, but I’d recommend reading the entire newsletter here: Newsletter #12, January 2013. You can also read all of the previous GTH newsletters here. And if you’d like to become a member of our growing, loving community, you can sign up for the Tea of the Month, which means you’ll be receiving a paper copy of the newsletter, a tea gift, and “living” organic tea, while at the same supporting our tea center here in Taiwan and more importantly, supporting organic tea farmers and venders in Taiwan and Asia. Of course, if would be much better if you just come visit us at our center! We always have a bowl of tea ready for you, healthy vegetarian food, and comfortable, safe accommodations — all free of charge. That’s just what we do. We are here to serve. Oh yeah! and here’s a video detailing our future mountainside center: Light Meets Life.

Camellia Sinensis Blossom


It is said that as a student of this tradition, one does not simply learn how to make tea, but how to serve it. In one sense, this is meant literally, as in the learning of how to prepare and serve tea to guests who frequent our wayside hut. (Wonderful, beautiful guests from near and far. Please know that we are learning to serve you tea!) We are intimately working with water, teaware, tea, and heat sources to better communicate with this Leaf so that it may seamlessly convey its messages of Truth and Nature to us. In developing the skills to prepare tea with grace and gongfu, it is not so much us serving you as it is the Leaf serving you through us. Dearest Camellia has so much wisdom to offer and the avenue of Tea has been chosen to drive that wisdom home to us. In service, we are the road-keepers, sweeping the dust that inevitably settles for the many vehicles of truth that pass.

There is so much more to consider, directly pertaining to serving tea, both functional and aesthetic, seasonal and logistical, musical and spiritual, but I would like to consider the many other faces that tea-service takes indirectly. For this is not a pompous place; we are not here to simply serve tea and offer some sort of escape or bliss-out experience. We are not just here to brew and imbibe tea blind to the problems that the world faces today — in fact it is just the opposite. Tea brewed and consumed in the manner conducted here can open our eyes to the underlying reality that is. This is a thriving and dynamic tradition, very much alive, with a great purpose in mind: one that seeks to promote self-cultivation, meditation, sustainability, community, and a greater sense of connection with ourselves, one another, and Nature. Tea is the Great Connector. This sort of mission requires a lot, to say the least.

As a relatively new student learning the very basics, serving tea, for me, much more often means fetching water, buying groceries, doing the dishes, preparing meals, taking out the trash, watering plants, and cleaning doggy doo-doo. What has this to do with the service of tea? What have these menial responsibilities to do with the art of serving tea, and in a greater sense, the art of living? Lucky for all of us, we have a lively, beautiful, and functional center, largely in part due to a small group of people (including all of you!), and in particular, a teacher within that group who can allow Tea to serve through him. Therefore, in order for that opportunity of service to arise, simple daily tasks and everyday errands must be carried out. That’s where we, the students come in. That’s very often our role in serving tea. For while it may seem silly, not a drop of tea could be had, had the bills not been paid; the dishes not been cleaned; the bedding not been bought; and the physical space that makes so much of this possible not been duly tended to and made available to all of you at any time for free. All of the grandeur to be found at this center is not without the smallest detail: never negligible, but often unnoticed. To answer the questions I posed before, then, it becomes a little more clear that learning to serve tea means learning to carry out the responsibilities that make the literal service of tea possible. (Yes, that includes cleaning dog poop. It’s in the fine print.)

Naturally, my answer to the question, “What are you doing in Taiwan?” is that I am a student of the Leaf: a student of Tea. After all, I’ve moved halfway across the world and committed my time to some wayside joint called the Tea Sage Hut! What I’m learning is that being a student of tea means to be a student of serving tea, and to be a student of serving tea, within the realm of ChaDao, ultimately means to be a student of service. Tea is the medium through which we serve, and it’s a very conductive medium at that. But is an act of service carried out with ill-will the same as an act of service carried out with Love? Am I fetching water because I have to, or because I love to? Does it make a difference? On the level of surface, fetching water might look like fetching water, and like water itself, two different samples might look the same, but from where they were sourced is paramount. So too, where is our service sourced from? An inner Spring nestled within the Heart of compassion, or a rusty tap spouting from the ego? From where you source your intention makes all the difference in the energy that radiates from you out to the world. Just like the koans of Zen; anything you say or do in the right frame of mind is the right answer, and anything you say or do outside of that mind is the wrong answer, even if it’s the right answer! Spirituality has nothing to do with what you believe in and everything to do with your frame of consciousness.

There is a role of service to be played here, and it’s not so much the corporeal act of carrying it out as it is the intention with which you perform it. This is no simple task either. If actions speak louder than words then intentions break the sound barrier. I am inspired by Dharma Master Cheng Yen who said, “We must be willing to do and be happy to bear.” There is a lot to do as a student of the Leaf and that can be challenging, but where will growth and development come if not from somewhere outside our comfort zone. Surely, there is little room for growth when you’re having a good time! Let us be happy to bear, and let that happiness overflow into what must be done, in the form of pure intention.

Again, we must reflect; to be a student of tea within the realm of this tradition means to be a student of tea through service, and to truly perform that service, a particular frame of mind must be achieved (a state of presence in other words). Therefore, a student of tea must also be a student of mastery of mind.

Let us not get carried away though, nor get caught up in the role of a student or service person; it’s not about that. I don’t want to portray this life as something too serious. Life is pretty simple here: we drink tea, meditate, eat well, sleep, and work. The idea is to be willing to do whatever is required of you in any situation with great intention and presence, and be happy to bear that responsibility. Easier said than done, but it’s a challenge worth accepting…

Tea Sage Hut

Love and Light
Be Happy

chocolate picante con café

Meet our spicy coffee chocolate pyramid! Brought to you in part by Finca Luna Nueva Interns

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Fruit Kimchi (Fruit-Chi)

Alright, here’s the ingredients for this spectacular fruit-based Kimchi.
See below for quantities. Machete optional.

This recipe is modified from Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz




a bunch of Jackfruit * (I only used about a quarter of what you see in the above picture)
guanabana *
coconut *
(substitute for any fruit you have available and use as much as will fit in your fermenting jar)
1/2 cup almonds (or any nut)
Juice of 1 lemon *
1 bunch culantro, chopped *
2 tbps sea salt

Cut as you please and add in a big mixing bowl.


Blender mix
1/2 onion (I’m conservative with the onion; it’s a sharp flavour against the fruit)
5 cloves garlic (I always say, too much garlic is just enough garlic !!)
4 inches ginger (mas o menos) *
1 hot pepper (or to taste) *

In the blender she goes!


Flour Paste
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar or some sweetener substitute
2 tbsp flour
Annatto seeds* (the red rhambutan-looking thing)

Heat up the water and mix the flour and sugar in well. Let sit and cool. Once it has cooled, add it to the blender mix.


Starred ingredients (*) were harvested right off the farm at Finca Luna Nueva.

The pictures basically show how to do the rest. Interpret as you please!





The Art of Wild Fermentation

At Finca Luna Nueva, besides my main focus on Tea and Biodynamics, I’ve also had the chance to engage in other interesting activities like making chocolate from cacao, collecting butterflies, hiking to and swimming in volcanic craters, and effervescing like a mad man! Pictured below is a series of ferments myself and the other interns have been brewing. The sensations are wild and the flavours sensational.

Left to Right
Oolong, Puer, Ginger Brown Sugar, Oolong-Gaunabana

Fruit and Vegetable Kimchi! Both outstanding sensations and flavour profiles. Of course, we used some on-farm ingredients like guanabana, coconut, and culantro in the fruit kimchi, and ginger, turmeric, and pepper in the regular kimchi.

The great Guanabana Mead!!

Pickled baby ginger. The two on the outside are a natural pink as a result of quality baby ginger from our farm. The one in the middle is coloured with Annatto, also from the farm.

The Classic Kraut. Green and Purple Cabbage.

Effervescent party at Finca Luna! One day, with enough tea production, we’ll have a signature Biodynamic Black Tea Kombucha available!


Interning at Finca Luna Nueva: Day 10

I’m lounging up in a tower right now, some 60 feet high, well above the surrounding jungle canopy at Finca Luna Nueva, a sustainable rainforest eco-tour lodge and organic, biodynamic farm. Volcano Arenal lies to the West, dense jungle to the North, rainbows and lavender sunsets to the East, and the lounge area and pool to the South :) Cicada’s rattle, countless birds call, thunder shreds the skies, and the rhythm of the jungle breathes on in concert. Not a bad panoramic.


East facing rainbow from the tower

I’m one of the new interns at Finca Luna Nueva. This farm and eco-lodge offers 3-month internships where young adults can experience life on a biodynamic organic farm within a sustainable rainforest eco-lodge — it’s a good life. The internship program can be focused in areas such as biodynamics, farm work, construction, culinary, and even business. From what I understand, most interns have a hand in at least a few of these areas, blending the experiences together.


As for myself, I’ll be focusing on all tea-related aspects of the farm, from planting, harvesting, and processing, to pruning, propagating, and serving in casual ceremony. In just my first 10 days here, I’m already designing a new tea garden to be installed, spraying biodynamic preps on the existing tea garden, I’ve set date for a black-tea workshop in October that I’ll be conducting, and I recently had a skype conversation with my good tea friends in Hawaii which will help me to implement a sustainable harvesting and pruning schedule that lines up with the biodynamic calendar. And that’s not even accounting for all the time I enjoyed putting into the cob-oven project that intern, Kyle, has been spearheading for the last month (which still requires a few weeks of satisfying work).


Of course, it’s strange to call this “work” considering were given the opportunity to do something we really want to be doing, in returns for food and shelter. There hasn’t been a day when I felt like I was going to work, in the typical sense of the word. Not only will I do this work completely free of charge, but I’ll gladly do it with a smile on my face giving as much gratititude as I can for being given this opportunity to do what I love. Work-trading/WWOOFing should always at least be mutually beneficial but ideally should end in great friendship. The trick isn’t so much finding what it is you love to do, but cultivating the ability to choose to love whatever it is you find yourself doing. Whether I’m working with tea, or working on a cob-oven, it’s more so a choice to love doing it rather than doing it to see if you love it. In that sense, it’s going to be easy to enjoy any project here at la finca, which also has a lot do with the farm itself; all of the projects are a reflection of the sustainable, organic, eco-friendly, and caring nature of the farm.


I’ve traveled to a lot of places now, and had a lot of different work-trade experiences – all of which I’ve loved and learned volumes from — and already I can tell that this internship at Finca Luna Nueva is going to be a very notable experience. As far as internships go, I can’t think of a more conducive environment to learn and thrive in; one without micromanagement, one with an emphasis on self-directed projects, one with easily available resources for a wide variety of jobs, one within the realm of Nature, one with great food and caring staff, one that sets you up within a framework of success and allows for flexibility of content. The list could go on.

I still have a lot to cover, from the amazing tea garden that already exists here, to the cob-oven project in more detail, and a day in the life of an intern. But I’ll save those for future posts. For now, I might go enjoy the sunset again and take a dip in the pool before dinner…


Can you see Volcano Arenal?

Pura Vida


Finca Luna Nueva

My travels, adventures, and pursuit and personal development continue, this time at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica: a sustainable rainforest Eco-Lodge with a certified Organic Biodynamic farm. The farm, as part of the slow food movement, attempts to grow as much of their food for staff and guests as possible. They grow an array of fruits and vegetables, raise some animals, make their own chocolate, pepper, coffee, tea, and also grow turmeric and ginger, among many other things. The farm and eco-lodge are host to a number of other opportunities and activities that can all be found on  their website by clicking the link above.

I’ll be taking part in a 3-month farming internship. I plan to learn all about growing food, raising animals, medicinal plants, the world of Biodynamics, organics, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. I will also continue my own self-directed study of Permaculture design, Natural Farming, and Biointensive Farming as a complement to this internship program. To add to that, I hope to help manage all areas pertaining to tea on the farm, from planting, propagating, and harvesting, to pruning, processing, and serving.

I’m really excited to return to Costa Rica, which is where my farming adventures all began well over a year ago. Not only do I get to learn even more about sustainable farming practices and lifestyles, but I get to work with Camellia Sinensis and continue acting as  a student of the Leaf (all of which will prove syncronistically practical for my adventures post-Costa Rica, but that’s for another post well into the future). Anyway, I’ll be updating my blog regularly about live on la finca. My internship doesn’t start until next week, but look forward to some exciting new posts.


Brandy Oolong Kombucha and Sweet Roast Lei Cha

On the left, we have Lei Cha, a ground up medley of nuts, seeds, grains, tea, and tea powder brewed in hot water traditionally drunk by the Hakka people of Taiwan. (Click here to see my previous post on Lei Cha with pictures).

I used sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, Taiwanese high mountain Jade Oolong Tea, and ground up Sweet Roast (to a fine powder) from Mauna Kea Tea. These ingredients are ground together using a mortar and pestle. This hearty broth is actually quite enjoyable and filling. The batch I made here is a little more crude than the Lei Cha we made in Taiwan, but it’s a good Hawai’i version to start with :)

Pictured above right and below, I made some Kombucha using Ruby 18 Brandy Oolong Tea from Taiwan. Kombucha is a fermented beverage often made with tea. It becomes quite carbonated and takes on a sweet and sour or sugary and vinegar-like taste. This particular batch was my first and it turned out great. I’ve now tried other batches with different tea, but Ruby 18 has proven superior and I will continue to ferment with it.