Monthly Archives: October 2014

Tea & Qi: A Community Celebration

Tea & Qi

Tea & Qi

On Sunday, Nov. 9, the Institute of Qigong and Integrative Medicine is holding a “Community Tea & Qi” in Bellevue.

It will be a celebration of things IQIM has accomplished over the past year and its plans for the future, as well as an opportunity to meet the people behind the organization plus a lot of Yi Ren Qigong practitioners.

Tea & Qi will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on the 9th at the South Bellevue Community Center, 14509 SE Newport Way, Bellevue. The cost is $25.

To register, go to

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The Qigong of Knitting—and Smartphones?

Needles and yarn.

Needles and yarn.

After a year’s hiatus, I am knitting again and finding it most satisfying.

Years ago I read somewhere that small, repetitive movements—the examples given were knitting and chewing gum—boosted the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain. That could be one reason I’m finding knitting so satisfying.

But I think there’s also something in the way one holds the work in front of the body, and the way fingers, wrists and forearms twist and move.

From a qigong perspective, one might note that the twisting and moving of the fingers, wrists and forearms must be stimulating the flow of qi through all the meridians that pass through the wrists. A good thing, no?

And perhaps all this action and the position of the hands in front of the body is also stimulating the heart center, one of the key centers on the ren meridian. That would be good, too, since they say that women are particularly drawn to, and need, stimulation of the heart center. Knitting is different in this way from, say, quilting, painting or gardening, which are done farther from the body.

I might have ended this post right here, short but sweet, except that as I thought about knitting as qigong practice, it occurred to me that maybe smartphone use is a form of qigong practice, too. Certainly the phone is held in the hands in front of the heart.

But nahhh…. When I’m using my smartphone, the meridians at the base of my thumbs may be getting a royal workout, but I have zero awareness of any part or aspect of my body other than my thumb tips. It’s almost as if the phone were wired to my intellectual mind.

And that definitely is not qigong.


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Pu-ehr Tea and Me

Pu-ehr teaI am trying to make Pu-ehr tea my go-to, drink-all-the-time beverage of choice — but it’s hard.

Pu-ehr tea (and damn it, Word, I really do intend to type Pu-ehr tea, not Pu-her tea) is the sauerkraut of Chinese teas, having been fermented by microorganisms growing on the leaves.

Like sauerkraut, it’s supposed to be really good for you. Generations of Chinese have believed that it regulates body weight, improves digestion (particularly after eating heavy, greasy foods), lowers blood pressure, eliminates toxins and more. Some of these claims have been supported by modern science, although I’m not feeling too fussy about this. (Did I mention that it’s said to promote weight loss?)

Just now I did some reading about Pu-ehr tea, and, oh, my, is there ever a lot to read! Turns out there is nothing simple about Pu-ehr tea. There are many steps involved in its production, and many types of Pu-ehr tea. The best Pu-ehr tea, for which connoisseurs pay big Chinese bucks, commands adjectives like “rich,” “earthy” and “deep”; the worst leans more towards “fishy,” “moldy” or “sour.”

All Pu-ehr tea starts as a type of large-leaf green tea grown in the mountains of Yunnan Province in southern China—and by 2008 decree of the Chinese government, it can’t start as tea grown anywhere else. (Roquefort cheese and Champagne wine have similar deals.)

Traditionally, Pu-ehr teas were dry fermented as they aged for 10-15 years or more. In the 1970s, a process akin to composting in its use of moisture and heat was developed to accelerate the fermentation so that the tea was ready in a year. Both types are available; you can guess which one you pay more for.

Two more pluses for Pu-ehr: It has less caffeine than regular tea. And it’s said you can re-brew a really high-quality Pu-ehr tea up to 20 times.

I have been trying two types of Pu-ehr tea, and I have tried re-brewing both of them, with so-so results, i.e., both types tasted significantly weaker the second time around, although this may have had more to do with my brewing technique than the tea.

One of the types is Rishi Pu-ehr Ginger, which has loose brown leaves with bits of ginger and orange peel for a bit of tang.

The other is Jasmine Pearl Sticky Rice Mini Tuocha Pu-ehr, where the “mini tuocha” means that the tea has been compressed into little bowl-shaped buttons, and the “sticky rice” refers to the tea containing a Chinese herb that tastes like sticky rice. Each button is wrapped in a square of pink paper covered with tiny Chinese characters; unwrapping a button and watching it disintegrate under a stream of hot water is very satisfying.

I find both of the teas to be earthy-tasting and pleasant to drink but also a bit flat, maybe even somehow wan, so I’m planning a trip to a Chinese tea shop to buy some unflavored, possibly higher quality Pu-ehr tea that may be more to my liking.

However, I doubt I will find a Pu-ehr tea with the so-nicely-mellowed-by-milk bite of English Breakfast Tea, or one that has the soul-satisfying substantiality of a cup of strong, hot, fresh-brewed coffee.

And I doubt Pu-ehr tea makes a good caramel macchiato…

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