Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a colleague’s Pilates mat class where she donated all of the proceeds to the Tsunami relief efforts in Japan. It inspired me to find my own way to contribute to such a devastating disaster, so I got to thinking. I came to the realization that I have never really had much of a connection to Japan other than that I love sushi and have always been a fan of many Buddhist philosophies; until very recently. Just a couple of months ago I found my love for Japanese tea. I have been a coffee drinker on and off for years and in the past six months, I have been trying to find an alternative that would still sooth me emotionally in the way coffee does. There has always been this emotional connection to coffee for me; the thought of it always made me feel cozy, warm and relaxed. Yet, ironically, caffeine makes me wired, jittery, and unable to think clearly, among many other not-so-fabulous things.

Anyway, long story short, I tried all kinds of alternatives for my love of coffee such as, Yerba Matte and Teccino, and though significantly healthier, nothing gave me that same warm and fuzzy feeling. Then, I learned of a Japanese green tea called, Kukicha, and I had found my new morning love. Unlike most green teas, Kukicha has less caffeine (10% of coffee!) and has a rich, nutty flavor as opposed to a very earthy taste that I couldn’t get over when trying other green teas. I instantly fell in love with it.  Not only does it taste great but also the health benefits are endless! Rich in anti-oxidants, green tea is known to help lower cholesterol, fight cancer and heart disease, prevent diabetes and stroke, just to name a few. (For more on health benefits visit these sites: Green Tea Health Benefits, Tea and Cancer)

I love that it is a tea I can drink all day long, needs no sweetener or milk (although from time to time I will add a little agave or almond milk) and rather than messing with my digestive system, it aids it without the acidic number coffee used to do on my stomach.

After finding my love for Kukicha I began trying other green teas, convinced that they don’t all taste the same and next discovered Hojicha, which is a roasted green tea that has more caffeine than Kukicha for the days that I need it, but still a rich nutty flavor. I am quickly learning there are so many more types of green teas for me to try, and only wish I had made the discovery of the true enjoyment that can come from drinking tea sooner, as the Japanese figured out so many centuries ago.

The Japanese have embraced the tradition of drinking tea for over five hundred years. First used for medicinal reasons, it has now become an important part of their culture. Zen Buddhist Monks first introduced the tea ceremony to the Japanese from China.  The elements of the Japanese tea ceremony are the harmony of nature and self-cultivation, and enjoying tea in both a formal and informal setting.

On my recent surf through the web for new teas to try, I discovered that many tea companies are donating portions of their profits to the victims of Japan through the end of March and have posted the links below. So, with just a few days left to contribute, why not take this opportunity to discover your own love for tea?  It’s something small you can do to help Japan, while making a healthy choice for yourself.  Thank you.

Adagio Teas: 15% of all Japanese tea sales will be donated to Japan

Hancha Tea– 20% of all online tea sales being donated to Japan’s earthquake and Tsunami Relief efforts

The Tea Spot– 25% of all Japanese tea sales will be donated to Doctors Without Borders

Yogic Chai– You choose one of three organizations for 30% of your purchase to go towards Tsunami relief

East Pacific Tea– Will donate 25% of all sales of Japanese teas to the American Red Cross for Tsunami Relief

Pearl Fine Teas– For all Japanese green teas purchased 40% of sales will be donated to Red Cross and

Ito En Tea Company – Will donate more than 1,000,000 bottles of water and tea as well as 1.2 million dollars to earthquake relief.

If you would like to do more:

Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund

Red Cross