The Benefits of Tea: Make Tea not War

April 17, 2019 at 2pm in the Gallery, we discussed the benefits of tea, and experiencing the benefits first hand by tasting them. Teas we tasted were from, namely:  Rooi Relief, Serengeti, Ginseng Boost, and White Sparkling Berry.  Serengeti was the favorite, but many people were torn between that and Sparkling Berry. One participant pointed out that different teas would be good for different moods or times of day.  

Before you throw away your heart medication or your child’s epipen, check with a health professional.  Tea and herbs definitely do have an effect on people and it may or may not be the effect you need, especially if you are on medication.

CIS:E.349-2003Make Tea Not War

“Make Tea not War” says the sign in front Hayfield’s coffee shop in North Salem. If love can prevent war, why not tea? Tea, and it’s sisters, tisanes (herbal infusions that we usually call tea) seems to be able to prevent all kinds of bad things, and fix things that aren’t working right. But most of the studies are on rats, not people, and most of what we call “proof” is anecdotal.  What makes the purveyor of the coffee shop think that tea can replace war? What sort of benefits does this “elixir of life” (in the words of a 6th century Buddhist philosopher, Lao-Tzu) have in store for us today?

Tea’s Medicinal Beginnings

Anecdotal proof was enough for the Buddhist monks, who spread the use of tea from the camellia sinensis tree to monasteries throughout Asia for its medicinal value. They processed the tea differently, and so they had a much more bitter version, form the 3rd century BC to the 6th century AD.

Read on to learn what the healthy qualities are that live inside your delicious cup today. Continue reading “The Benefits of Tea: Make Tea not War”

Go Green! Tea Tasting for St. Paddy’s Day!

This month’s tea tasting featured 4 teas, 3 green teas and one Oolong known as Green Jade or Jade Cloud), and Da Hong Pao. All of them from China. Green Mint Jasmine was unanimously selected as the favorite, with Da Hong Pao next in line, and the small sampling of just 9 people attending. However, all the teas were deemed delicious. One of the participants noted that she did not agree with the suggested steeping times of some teas, which is 2-3 minutes for green tea.

My opinion is that no one can tell you what you taste. It is entirely up to the individual. So, it’s up to you to decide how you like your tea.

The nice things about all the teas we tried on March 18 is that all of them are good for multiple steeping. So, while the price tag may sometimes seem high, it is a gift to yourself all day long.  As we noted in the presentation, green tea especially took hold of Buddhist countries because of the humility- it can be enjoyed by the rich as well as the poor, and coincides nicely especially with the teachings of Buddhist philosopher Lao Tzu.

“Tea is the elixir of life”- Lao Tzu

The Mint Jasmine tea is made with Gunpowder Green tea. Gunpowder is the English name for the tea, given back in the 19th century by the British, who thought that the rolled grayish green pellets resembled the stuff they put in the earlier versions of weapons (not actually powder by modern standards). It seems appropriate to me that Gunpowder green tea would have a high level of caffeine in it. And, I recently read that it will keep much longer than the usual green tea (2 years versus up to 10 years!). However, once you put those nice herbs, jasmine and mint, you can count on the staying power to diminish, so don’t count on it lasting too long).

Green Dew Organic from the Hubei Province of China. This tea has a smooth, light body that stays nicely on the tongue that has an interesting combination of savory to start, then finishes sweet. If you’re looking for a green tea and want to expand your palate a little, this would be an excellent choice.

Finally, we tasted the Oolong. Da Hong Pao is the name of a small tea garden of about 25 trees. Original Da Hong Pao tea is the most expensive tea in the world, and given only to special visitors. Our Da Hong Pao is more likely to be a cutting from those original trees. One notices first that the leaves are huge, unruly things, difficult to measure and to put into a tea bag. The body is light, and smooth. It is a perfect afternoon tea, IMHO. Which is why I chose to finish the tasting with my personal favorite.

Due to time and equipment deficits, we didn’t get a chance to taste Japanese teas. Perhaps next St. Paddy’s Day!

A question came up during the program regarding proper tea preparation. Here are some guidelines:

  • Heat the pot and the cup with hot water before you begin.
  • Water for white and green teas should generally be between 170 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Oolong should be brewed between 180 and 190. And black and herbal teas should be brewed between 208 and 212 degrees.
  • Vendors usually provide the correct steeping time on the teas themselves.

The Chinese have another way to determining temperature, based on the look of the water:

  • Tiny bubbles that resemble “shrimp eyes” are good for delicate Japanese green teas. The temperature is roughly 160 at this point.
  • Slightly larger bubbles resembling “crab eyes,” with steam beginning to rise for Chinese green teas, white teas, and oolong teas. The temperature is roughly 175 Fahrenheit at this point.
  • When the bubbles look like “a string of pearls, then the temperature should be about 200 degrees, which is perfect for dark oolongs, black teas, or Darjeelings.
  • Finally, if you are making puehr tea, you want the water to be really hot, resembling a “raging torrent,” boiling violently. According to the Chinese, this is too hot for other teas because you run the risk of de-oxygenating the water.

Another time, we will go into why I think supporting fair trade is important. For now, let’s just get to the basics. Tea needs room to expand. Do not use the little ball infusers. Make sure you have plenty of space for your tea to unfurl. Otherwise, you’re cheating yourself of the aromas and flavors. I love the Finum brand large tea filters, which are biodegradable, unbleached, and without glue.

Where you sip your tea, and with whom you sip, will likely influence your taste of the tea. So, please keep coming back to sample more teas.

The next tasting is Wednesday, April 17 at 2pm. We will sample 4 teas and discuss the science behind claims of health benefits of tea.

See you there!


Mao Zhen Tea

I’m a sucker for a bargain, for organic products, for helping women, and for helping kids. Definitely not in that order.

This tea, Mao Zhen, is on clearance for $4.00 for 4 oz. of loose leaf tea, normally about $12 at Silvertips is a business that I can feel good about purchasing from, because I know they follow good practices, their prices are reasonable to start, and they are local (Elmsford, to be exact). Additionally, you can steep it 3 times, and it still has a nice flavor.

This tea very, very likely to have been hand-picked by women. Women have smaller hands, and the process of harvesting is very particular (a bud and two leaves) if you want high quality.  I know that pesticides can be particularly hard on women, especially if they happen to be pregnant, and to children. Therefore, if there’s one thing I like to buy organic, it’s tea.

This tea is a wonderful alternative, if you have a good thermos, to sending kids to school with water, as long as you don’t let it steep too long (keep it to 2 min, or else it tastes bitter).

Here are some effects that I’ve observed:

  • smoother skin
  • no more red blotches on middle aged skin
  • helps with teenage acne
  • improved concentration
  • improved energy
  • healthy feeling

These are just the benefits that I’ve personally observed. Stay tuned for more on the health benefits of tea…. that’s another post that I will write eventually.

Unfortunately, the only thing I can find so far about this tea is what is on the silvertips website. It’s organic. It’s from China. It’s on clearance.  I will let you know what the Armonk tea tasters think of it after my  next tea tasting.


For the Love of Tea Tasting

camellia SinensisThank you to everyone who attended the program, “For the Love of Tea.” Congratulations to our winners of extra loose leaf tea: the Black Tea table!

We sat at six tables of four. Each table was named after a “class” or “type” of tea, namely Black, Green, Yellow, Oolong, White, and Puehr These are the major groups of teas that all come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis (pictured left).  We tasted six black teas: Two from China, where tea originated (Yunnan (Ancient forest, where the oldest tea trees are known to exist) and Keemum (an extremely popular tea)), two from northern India (Darjeeling  (the “champagne of teas”) and Assam (extremely common in breakfast teas, known for being robust), and two from the sub-continent (Nilgiri, India (where the mountains are blue, because of the flowers) and Sri Lanka (which used to be called Ceylon).  All of these black teas that we tasted, and all black teas that we didn’t taste, are black because they are oxidized. Oxidized teas have the most caffeine.

We watched as the “agony of the leaves” (leaves opening as the water penetrates them) took place, and the liquor turned a reddish hue (in China, they call black tea red tea). Then, carefully following directions for correct timing, we sniffed, we swirled, and we slurped.  We neglected to spit.

We briefly discussed the history of tea, how a leaf supposedly fell into the hot water of Shen Yung, the emperor, in 2737 BC), and how it’s use spread because the Buddhist monks found it helpful in keeping them awake during mediation.

Then we had a cut-throat contest for extra tea, to see which table got the most from the information. Oolong and Yellow tables (if memory serves me), made excellent showings, with 8 or 9 points each, but in the end, Black took it with 10 points.

  1. Is the Ancient Forest Yunnan from one garden? Where is it from? – YUNNAN PROVINCE, yes from one location.  They don’t have estates in China, that is associated more with India and Ceylon.
  3. When teas are advertised as having a fruit flavor also, How is that obtained? Do they add dried fruit itself, or do they add flavoring? (I know that Silvertip’s berry teas have the berries in them, but is that true for all flavors? What about companies that bag teas? FRUITY TONES IN VARIETALS ARE NATURALLY DERIVED, SIMILAR TO WINES WHEN THEY ARE DESCRIBED AS FRUITY.  FOR FLAVORED TEAS, FRUITY FLAVORS ARE ADDED, E.G., RASPBERRY, PEACH ETC.

Thank you again for coming, please make sure you are signed up for the next tasting (March 18, 4pm) before it fills up: Go Irish! Go Green!

Comments below are most welcome!



High School Resources

A list of what’s available for free or as a North Castle Library taxpayer, if you go through the library website to find it. 

Many require a library card.

Always look for the word “Register” to gain access from home, possibly.

You will not have access to everything at home. You will need a library card. If your library doesn’t have a great digital library, you likely can visit one that does, and borrow a guest pass to use their system.


Baylor University Research Paper: Timeline

Fast, Furious and Fine Tuned: Google Searching

Citation Machine: Great tool, but it doesn’t always work. Double check it.

Metro Referral Card: These are card that give access to specific materials unavailable in your library, and allows you to use the material in the library itself. The material may be checked out when you want it. You are not likely to get access to online sources. Metro cards are good for 2 weeks, and allow you to use it one time.

10 Study Skills That Lead to Success

Academic Support

Khan Academy: you probably know this, so, just reminding you of it here. From Princeton Review: Online tutoring, homework help. Coming very soon (today???) to Westchester Libraries


Don’t hesitate to go down to a middle school when you look at encyclopedias. You probably just want to use them to see if a topic is interesting, then use articles and books for your report.

WikipediaUnedited, often repetitive, inefficiently written by any number of authors. Use for Sources listed, or when you can’t find your library card.

Encyclopedia Britannica Options (from )

  • Britannica Academic – Delivers fast and easy access to high-quality, comprehensive information. The rich combination of the venerable Encyclopædia Britannica plus Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, magazines and periodicals, and many other research tools provides the variety of reliable sources that students need to consult when conducting thorough collegiate research.
  • Britannica High – Encylopedia Britannica for high school students. Helps students get quick facts and in-depth information on a wide variety of subjects. Start research projects with multiple resources in one place and find multimedia to use in projects and presentations.
  • Britannica Middle – Encyclopedia Britannica for middle school students. Helps students find fast answers and get homework help, explore videos and articles on famous people and places as well as discover maps, photos, and illustrations for school projects.


How do you find a book? 

Literary Criticism 

Gale Literary Sources : Criticism, biographies, overviews, pirmary sources, etc..(Register for full access)

Salem Press Literary criticism, history, current events.(Register for full access)

History and Current Event Articles

JSTOR Journals, primary sources, and books. (Register for full access)

Salem Press Literary criticism, history, current events. (Register for full access)

From Westchester Libraries:

Academic OneFile – The premier source for peer-reviewed, full-text articles from the world’s leading journals and reference sources. Extensive coverage of the sciences, technology, medicine, the arts, theology, literature and other subjects.

Infotrac Newsstand (Gale) – Full-text newspaper database has several NY newspapers, including the NY Times from 1985-Present, as well as over fifty national and international newspapers. Click here for a title list. (Full-text)


Academic OneFile – The premier source for peer-reviewed, full-text articles from the world’s leading journals and reference sources. Extensive coverage of the sciences, technology, medicine, the arts, theology, literature and other subjects.

American Physical Society Journals – The American Physical Society is the world’s second largest organization of physicists and publishes more than a dozen scientific journals including the prestigious Physical Review and Physical Review Letters

Directory of Open Access Journals – A service that covers free, full-text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. – provides comprehensive information about vitamin, herbal and other supplements, and nutritional products. Includes’s independent product evaluations, test results for selected products and Approved Products from’s Quality Certification Program, product recalls, and safety warnings. A science-based encyclopedia of natural products is also provided, including a drug-interaction database. Note: This database is only accessible in the library at Home

Health Reference Center Academic – Multi-source database provides access to the full text of nursing and allied health journals, plus the wide variety of personal health information sources in InfoTrac’s award-winning Health Reference Center.

The Merck Manuals – Offering both the Professional and Consumer versions, The Merck Manuals are one of the world’s most widely used medical information resources. The Manuals have committed to making the best current medical information accessible by up to 3 billion health care professionals and patients on every continent by 2020.

X-Plain Patient Education Health Tutorials – More than 1400 educational videos with basic health information about illnesses or conditions, medical tests and procedures. Versiones en español de este contenido también están disponibles aquí

Secrets of the Sequences: Video series on the Life Sciences – With initial funding from the Pfizer Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences, VCU has assembled 50 of the best videos from the public television series, “Secrets of the Sequence” to assist teachers in the application of genetic research across the biology curriculum. Funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has allowed for the creation of additional videos, which are also included on this site.

Developing a Skill Set or Take an Online Course 

Learning Express Library: To learn Microsoft software (Word, Powerpoint, Excel,  etc) How to do fun things like put a video into a Powerpoint presentation, and also learn study skills and a slew of other things, like computer programing, management tips, financial management, etc…etc… Go through your library’s website to get it for free.

Gale Courses: Courses that are mostly aimed for technical rather than college, but could be very useful for anyone- like grammar, photography, basic legal training, along with LSAT test prep, etc…

The Great Courses Courses. Register through your library with RB digital, and get this from home: “The courses range from a myriad of subjects and includes: History — Study ancient and biblical times, medieval Europe, Eastern and Western civilizations, as well as how these historical periods still impact society. Health — Dive into courses on meditation, nutrition, natural healing and brain fitness. Science — Learn from America’s leading scientists in numerous areas of study ranging from biology, astronomy & space, engineering & technology and beyond. Language Arts — learning leadership, thinking and communication skills in both professional and personal lives are essential to get a head. And Much More!”

Khan Academy online academic classes. 


A to Z World Food, Thanks for Helping Me Ditch the Bird

Tired of Turkey?  Simply because the pilgrims (who were close to starvation and would have eaten anything at that point) ate it, doesn’t mean that we have to suffer through another year of it. We are still relative new-comers to the world stage. We have only been a country a little more than 200 years. We are not steeped in tradition. As New Yorkers especially, we should be proud of our melting pot, proud to try new things, proud to embrace cultures that are not our own.

In celebration of America, in a show of my patriotism, I am not suffering through another dry bird. This year, I, a person of Northern European decent, am honoring my country by honoring my fellow Americans who have made my life more interesting and more fun than any over-sized chicken ever could. I am making a Mediterranean main course this year: Lamb. And, to compliment it, I will be attempting Baklava. Further more, I making New England Clam chowder, because the fun is in the mix of flavors, and it goes well with lamb. Nothing’s going to stop me. You go ahead and bring the potatoes.

Oh, and by the way, they have some really great potato recipes at A to Z World Food, a database that lets you explore other cultures without going through security.  That’s where I’m heading for my alternative Thanksgiving feast.

To find it, go to, pull down on the right hand side of the page, General information, and click on A to Z World Food.

Buying a Used Car

My teenager totaled our Nissan Pathfinder. We needed a third car. It was terribly inconvenient but our schedules could be moved to wait until we found the best deal. We decided that the money we could save was worth searching out a private party, as opposed to giving a dealer a cut.

Here are some things to consider when buying from a private party:

  • Sometimes owners are oblivious about how disgusting they have kept their vehicle.
  • You might have to do some driving in different directions in order to see the cars.
  • You might have to be flexible makes and models, which means more research is needed.
  • You are meeting someone you don’t know; and you are possibly handing over a large sum of cash. You are taking a risk.
  • You need to have a mechanic check it out, which might be a real hassle if you are driving a distance away from your mechanic.

My friend, Bob, (yes, that’s his real name, and this really happened in the same time frame), on the other hand, was on his way to look for a car at a dealer when his twenty year old Toyota broke down.  Bob knew he wanted the same car, newer model and he was willing to spend a more to reduce the risks and hassle of private party purchasing.

Here are some considerations if you decide to buy a used car from a dealer:

  • The dealer, and negotiating expert, takes a cut of the sale.
  • Usually the dealer details the vehicle before bringing it to market, so it’s not gross.
  • If you fancy a certain make an model, it’s easy to find who sells it, and even if you have to look at different years; you can compare apples to apples, more or less.
  • You may have to drive to different dealers to get the best deal.
  • You want your mechanic to check it out before you buy.

Step 1, Narrow Down to the Car You want, using Consumer Reports

Whether you’re buying from a private party, like me, or buying from a dealer, like Bob, you want to start with Consumer Reports. They are the only non-advertising-driven publication that provides all of the following:  ratings and safety, driving experience, reliability, and owner satisfaction reviews of a particular car, (and unreliable lists of local inventory, so get that somewhere else).  Consumer Reports will also tell you the trouble spots of vehicles, which you can ask about and use as a negotiation point.

Step 2, Find Your Car

Bob got a list of cars available at local dealers, not from Consumer Reports, because they are older listings, but from the following: is an intuitive site that with wonderful graphics. They let you filter by make, cost, miles, options, engine type, fuel type, color, etc… etc.  It’s pretty fantastic.  They have nice green arrows to tell you if they consider what you’re buying to be a good deal. The only problem is that it’s advertising driven, so it’s not exactly unbiased. That didn’t stop Bob from taking what he found and gong to the different dealerships, to negotiate the best deal. Go Bob! is the place to go if you want to get picky, which both Bob and I wanted to do, and run the VIN (vehicle identification number) to make sure the cars we looked at weren’t in any accidents, and that the title was clean. Carfax has more listings, with information on such things as price drops, and number of owners, etc.. .  Carfax also has a payment calculator- maybe Bob needed that, too.

Here’s where I went to find a car being sold by a private party: This site hasn’t changed in years. The graphics are terrible, it gives tons of false hits, dealerships put their cars on there any way, so it’s not all private parties, and it takes a lot of time to sort through it all. People often misspell words, so you don’t always get all the ones you want. It is arguably not worth it. Then again, that might be where you find your deal. is equally as bad as craigslist, but sometimes people will advertise on one and not the other.

Step 3, Vehicle Records.

Go to to find out repair records, accidents, title history, etc… It’s worth the $15. Free or cheaper  VIN reports give you what you pay for.

By being aware of all that was available, Bob definitely got a great deal on his used Toyota, which the dealer had detailed for him. Despite its used condition, it looks new. What extra he may have spent by purchasing from a dealer, he made up for in keeping his job, not taking off to look for a car, and sparing himself a lot of hassle. Bob is a happy person.

After a few false starts, I ended up getting my daughter a super old, ugly, all-wheel drive, highly rated in safety, and easy to drive Subaru. I bought it from a mechanic, who did some work on it when the florist who previously owned it supposedly retired. It had dirt and dog prints all over it. It took more time and aggravation., but in the end, all I wanted to do was to give her a safe, reliable car to drive, and spend as little as possible, so I’m happy too.