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A Touch of Zen at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary


“A Touch of Zen: Tang Poems and Interpretations of Ancient Melodies” . . .

A concert featuring recent compositions and improvisations of music from the Tang Dynasty (600 BC) accompanied by Tang Poetry. The music is soulful and conducive to providing a “meditative mood” for the audience in the tranquil Japanese Garden in Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary.  Weishan Liu is one of the world’s leading gu-zheng virtuosos. She was the Guzheng Soloist with the Central Music and Dance Assemble in Beijing before coming to the United States. She toured around the world and performed for major heads of states in different countries, including President Jimmy Carter. Since coming to the U.S., Ms. Liu has collaborated with musicians here such as George Winston and made several recordings. Her music is deeply expressive, and combines deep feelings, strength, heart, emotion, experience, and wisdom. Anna Wong is a clinical psychologist and has been studying with Ms. Weishan Liu for the past 30 years. Anna has been collaborating and performing with Ms. Weishan Liu the past few years.

Chef Kristopher Kolkema
Chef Kristopher Kolkema is Amazing!


Michael Stusser Founder
Michael Stusser Founder

Osmosis began when its founder, Michael Stusser. . .

had his own life-changing healing and spiritual experience in Japan, which convinced him that it was his mission to offer the treatments in this country in a beautiful Japanese-style environment. Osmosis, which began very humbly in 1985 in a small backyard facility made from a recycled chicken coop, is now a spacious structure surrounded by exquisite Japanese gardens. The full service spa also currently offers a wide range of treatments in addition to its signature cedar enzyme baths. www.osmosis.com Read the whole story here.

a touch of zen osmosis day spa sanctuary
A Touch of Zen at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

 2004 Osmosis and the Tea Docents began their own Special Journey Together. . .

Nez and Donna Tokugawa had been guests at the Sanctuary since 2000 and after founding Chado-En tea company, aspired to have Osmosis offer our teas. We had an appointment with the then buyer and we were busy tasting, showing, serving all kinds of Japanese Teas as well as more main stream teas. Then suddenly the Magic occurred …Michael walked in to the sitting area,  drawn by the aroma, asked for a taste, closed his eyes and said “I feel as though I am in Kyoto – we must have this tea”. That was a wonderful day and since then management has evolved Osmosis into what it is today…nothing short of Extraordinary! There are many day spas in Northern Ca but only One Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary.

28 years after the first guest. . .

Osmosis owner Michael Stusser has just introduced “Spa Without Walls”

an outdoor spa ritual set in the creekside Japanese gardens. All through the summer, guests can participate in a daylong package of activities focused on health and wellness, and designed to create enjoyment and healing through communion with nature. The new package takes the spa “out of the box,” said Stusser and into the Kyoto-style meditation garden, a wild riparian area, a field of hammocks, and massage pagodas scattered inside peaceful woodland crisscrossed by babbling creeks. Read more

It is with much Gratitude the Tea Docents are able to call Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary our First and longest operating Retreat. We value the relationships we have developed over the years and continue to enjoy new friends and being a small part of the very special,  authentic work being done at Osmosis Sanctuary. It quite simply changes lives!                                                        Have you visited yet?  If not What are you waiting for?

Kritis Johnson and Michael Stusser Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary team
Kritis Johnson and Michael Stusser Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary team
The Way of Japanese Tea
The Way of Japanese Tea Harmony, Respect, Purity, Tranquility



Osmosis sanctuary managed by Kirtis Johnson
Many more Exciting Events yet to come this year!                                     Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary 




Healing Tea


Wonder Plant and Restorative Beverage of the Ages

Healing Tea is an ancient beverage steeped

How a Chinese Silk Tea Bag Changed the World

Once Upon a Tea Time

Red Silk Tea Bag Filled with Tea Leaves
Red Silk Tea Bag Filled with Tea Leaves

An unknown Chinese Tea Exporter sent a tiny silk bag containing a sample of tea leaves to the New York coffee merchant Thomas Sullivan, in hopes of finding a new market for his tea.  Perhaps Sullivan was unsure of just How To prepare tea and simply tossed the silk tea bag with tea leaf mistakenly into a pot of boiling water to brew. . . Easy Enough!

. . . This could be where the term brewed tea started, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

It may well have been this mistake that gave Sullivan the encouragement to become a coffee AND tea merchant, I am not sure.  But history does show that in 1904 Sullivan began using a patented teabag commercially and I am guessing because he was using boiling water, black teas, were first used in tea bags.

I am sure the Chinese exporter was proud to find a new market for his tea in America and I would guess as he described his new customer’s style of enjoying tea, to his experienced tea drinking friends and colleagues they enjoyed a Really Good Laugh!

Soon thereafter a Chinese visionary invented the tea shredder making placing tea dust into a bag easy! TaDa the Chinese tea market now had not only a way to use tea dust but now the ability to produce even more and sell it! Prior to this it was simply worthless.

So Back to Brewed vs. Steeped Tea Bags

This has long been a question in my mind, why do we so frequently use these words so interchangeably? So I decided to see what my old friend Merriam-Webster had to say!

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/steep Defines Steeping as:

1: to soak in a liquid at a temperature under the boiling point (as for softening, bleaching, or extracting an essence)

2: to cover with or plunge into a liquid (as in bathing, rinsing, or soaking)

3: to saturate with or subject thoroughly to (some strong or pervading influence) <practices steeped in tradition> intransitive verb: to undergo the process of soaking in a liquid

Steeper noun Examples of STEEP 1.Steep the tea for three minutes. 2. The tea steeped for five minutes.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brew and Defines Brewing like this:

1: to prepare (as beer or ale) by steeping, boiling, and fermentation or by infusion and fermentation

2a: to bring about: foment <brew trouble> b: contrive

3: to prepare (as tea) by infusion in hot water

intransitive verb: to brew beer or ale 2: to be in the process of forming <a storm is brewing>

brewer noun Examples of BREW 1. They brew the beer on the premises. 2. I’ll brew another pot of tea. 3 It feels like there’s a storm brewing.


Well there you go –   We should choose which term based on the type of tea. Using both terms are correct depending on the tea you’re talking about.  For example if you wanted to enjoy a cup of Tibetan Buttered Tea you would brew it because you need to boil it. If you wanted some Indian Chai you would also brew. If on the other hand you choose a more delicate Chinese Dragonwell/Lung Ching you would be steeping using cooler water and a Japanese Sencha steeped cooler yet.

What’s you opinion – Brew, Steep or both?



What value is a tea leaf after a cup of tea?

Have you ever thought about the value of a tea leaf after you have enjoyed your cup of tea?

tea leaf
What value is a tea leaf after a cup of tea

Turns out a tea leaf’s value is just beginning! Try some of these practices to extract even more great benefits from you leaves.

In the kitchen: 

  1.  Place a small dish of USED tea leaves in the refrigerator to keep it smelling fresh. Works significantly better than baking soda. The counter to this is to remember tea absorbs odors and doesn’t discriminate, so DO NOT store your dry tea leaf in the refrigerator or you will have a tea that tastes like it’s contents.
  2.  Wipe cutting boards, frying pans, woks and cooking utensils with used leaves to clean. Detergents will clean, but also remove time-honored seasoning.
  3.  Rubbing used leaves between your hands will remove onion odor from your skin and will also hydrate and soften your hands, keeping cuticle and nails beautiful.

Prevent Rust:
The tannin contained in green tea reacts with irons and forms a film on the surface. By wiping iron pans or garden tools with used tea leaves the worry of rust is gone!

Clean your home:

  1. Spread well-drained used leaves on hard surface floors and then simply sweep clean. It is common to see Chinese restaurants using this trick to clean oils from the kitchen floor.
  2. Place used leaves in a tightly tied clean rag and use to polish your wood furniture. The luster will amaze you with no sticky oil remaining on the surface.

Keep shoes fresh and odor free:
Tea’s anti-bacterial affects makes it a perfect choice for your shoes. Dry leaves by roasting in a pan, then wrap them in a piece of gauze to tuck into an old clean sock. Place the very dry leaves in your shoe closet or right into gym shoes for extra smelly relief.

Once you have lots and lots of used tea leaves you can. . .

Make Pillows: Small ones for your eyes, full ones to provide you with the most relaxing sleep ever. Simple dry the leaves as you go along and store in a cloth bag, or old pillow case to allow them to continue to dry fully as you accumulate. Once you have enough you can either sew a bag for them to go into your pillow case, or use two pillow cases with opposite openings. You can really be creative with this too by adding in things like, lavender, chamomile, rosemary and other dried plants that evoke a relaxing emotion for you. I have even used uncooked rice with tea leaves to create a small eye and sinus relief  pillow. Once your friends and family know about this, your list will be long with specials requests!

Great in the garden too:

  1. Of course we can compost with tea leaves, but did you know adding leaves at the base of your roses helps with pesky pests?
  2. Your acid loving plants will bloom even longer with a nice big pile of used leaves worked into the soil around them.

Steeping loose leaf tea is very easy once you know just a few simple tricks and the benefits compared to using a teabag are many.

I believe the benefit and value of tea ALL tea is simply amazing! I can think of no other single plant that has contributed so positively to mankind for as long or in as many ways. Weather you are consuming tea for the numerous health benefits, eating tea for new and different experiences or using tea to enrich your spiritual practices I encourage you to consider forgoing the ease of teabags in favor of the wide world of loose. You will not only have a nicer cup of tea you will then have all the added value of the precious tea leaf beyond the beverage.

How do you use your spent tea leaves? Drop a line below and lets share more ideas.


Japanese Tea Inspired Poetry

When the Body AND Heart Thirsts


Japanese Tea Inspired Poetry in Shizuoka where Tea is more than a beverage.

Here in the home of Mr. Maejima-san who is a 3rd generation Tea Master and also a Gyokuro Tea Farmer and Producer who has won many top awards has a 4 foot tall tea jar at the entrance of his home. Many homes of tea farmers or producers have these large vessels which store the tea allowing oxygen to move in and out of the clay vessels  naturally, slowly ageing tea  in a very desired Only by  Natural Way.

Most people think of Japanese tea as only at it’s finest as it’s youngest,  however the wise have come to understand time allows everything, all the processes, the energy of the masters, and processors  and the plant itself to gently blend and come into its own.

This specific tea jar has a very short but very profound poem that simple says:

When my body “thirsts” I drink Sencha. . . 

When my heart “thirsts” I drink Gyokuro!

Sencha is the tea most consumed in Japan and found in every grocery store and home. It is truly an everyday substitute for water.

Of course Gyokuro on the other hand  is considered the most highly valued and revered loose leaf tea in Japan so it makes sense it would be the topic of this poem. To create Gyokuro a farmer must create a cover to place over the entire  tea fields, because it is the lack of sunshine which forces the planet to pull more for the soil and then is most often is  hand picked, because only small fields can be treated in this way, finally to produce a leaf that is extremely sweet and rich in amino acids which prompt both good health and great taste! and maybe a little drink for your heart!

Have you experienced Gyokuro yet? would you like to? Need to know how to prepare it? No problem just as the Tea Docents today!

Does Fair Trade change the wage of a tea picker?


How poverty wages for tea pickers fuel India’s trade in child slavery

That was the headline of The Guardian’s article 20 July 2013. What followed was an in depth review of the world famous Assam tea grown primarily in the Lakhimpur District of India. Tea grown, picked and  packaged here with Fair Trade Certification was done so with wages so low that parents were tempted or forced to “send away” or maybe more to the point sell their daughters into slavery. If that isn’t bad enough, Gethin Chamberlain points out how and why this is possible and that tea pickers from plantations that are Fair Trade Certified make no more than tea pickers on none certified plantations. Upsetting to read, but sadly not news to me. I was trying to  figure out how to publish, this fact without singling out the Tea Industry. The whole Fair Trade thing is in my mind something like Unions in our country “was an amazing concept that somehow just didn’t fulfill it’s original intentions” But that is another story.

This mother hasn't seen her daughter in 4 years! She was ONLY 14 when she left home.
This mother hasn’t seen her daughter in 4 years! She was ONLY 14 when she left home.

Then I read. . .

 Admit it. you love cheap clothes. And you don’t care about child slave labour

What is the Real Price of "Cheap"
What is the Real Price of “Cheap”

WOW talk about to the point and a hit you in the face headline, albeit with a bit of a British accent!  The Guardian’s- Observer- Gethin-Chamberlain  is very passionate about exposing the bad to make it better.  Following is a direct quote from Chamberlain’s article on 28 July 2013

“This is how it works. Well Known Company makes shiny, pretty things in India or China. The Observer reports that the people making the shiny, pretty things are being paid buttons and, what’s more, have been using children’s nimble little fingers to put them together. There is much outrage, WKC professes its horror that it has been let down by its supply chain and promises to make everything better. And then nothing happens. WKC keeps making shiny, pretty things and people keep buying them. Because they love them. Because they are cheap. And because they have let themselves be bewitched.”

 His complete coverage of this article posted on The Guardian can be read here. Both of Chamberlain’s pieces reveal a very disturbing reality found in many industries, product manufactures and agricultural sectors, beyond tea and clothes and something I believe we can all learn from.

It is my opinion WE as consumers we should investigate and know our sources! Sounds good, but OMG when are you going to find the time to do that? Well what makes that easier is when we are lucky enough to find retailers who share that approach and only purchase products for us to buy that align with our values. I am sure you can think of some of these amazing retailers in your own neighborhoods. Try to support them!  But remember too not every product that is Good has a certification and not every Certified Fair Trade, Organic, Rain Forrest  or other sanitized certification labeled product is good either. We all want to do the right thing, buy the products that are ethically sourced, but lets face it, it is HARD TO KNOW!

Finding retailers who stay true to “know your source and be proud of it” purchasing is not so easy either. Unfortunately retailers need to compete and many consumers i.e. buyers are driven by price first.  I try to support brands who I can understand how they get that product into my hands.

None of us wants to pay too much, however the next time something seems “too cheap” or you find yourself saying how is that even possible think about. . .

What is the Real Cost of this Cheap Price? As Tea Docents we strongly believe all things are connected and partner with farmers and producers who share our values and are guided by a deep respect for the planet, which means people too!

I believe articles like the two Gethin Chamberlain wrote helps grow our awareness of not just the specifics here, but the reality of just how important it is for us to make purchases understanding the actions not just the hype behind as many brands as we can, and to support retailers who align with supporting the types of brands we want to support/buy.

What do you think? Drop a comment below and let’s talk about it. And thanks for reading to the end, I know 750+ words is an eyeful!


Stay Fit Green Tea Ice Cream at WTE


Stay Fit Green Tea Ice Cream at World Tea Expo.

Stay Fit Green Tea Ice Cream was the topic of discussion with Tea Docent Nez and Janet of Isabella Catalog at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. Stay Fit Tea is a Green Tea Powder from Japan, made from Sencha rather than Matcha. Most people don’t realize that using Sencha powder is much more convenient than Matcha. As anyone who has used Matcha knows, it clumps, it does not blend very easily. Sencha will blend much easier with any mixture. Stay Fit Tea starts out as a sweeter tea but is blended with persimmon powder to add a little more sweetness. With Matcha blends, you need to add sugar or other sweeteners to make it palatable. In this demonstration at the World Tea Expo, Stay Fit Tea is mixed with non dairy Oat Milk and put in an ice cream maker and in 2o minutes, you have a delicious non dairy ice cream, made fresh on the convention floor. Tea docent Nez explains that Stay Fit Tea can be mixed with pancakes, salad dressing and don’t forget eggs, fried green eggs. You can also make a great green tea martini.Stay Fit Green Tea Sake Martini
Click here to get Stay Fit Tea and start adding green tea to your diet.

Ancient writings of China’s Naxi Minority


Naxi minority writings on the wall.

While touring through old town of Lijiang, we came upon a wall with various Naxi hieroglyphics. Not so odd since the Naxi minority is the majority in Lijiang. Our guide “Woo”, part Naxi himself, explains some of its meanings. Before idea of written words and letters, all cultures communicated with these hieroglyphs. Now only a few Naxi Shamans can read old scriptures but these common ones on the street walls are familiar to most Naxis. He explains a little about their matriarchal society. He told us that a man married in a matriarchal society, he need not do any work and pursue the arts and leisure. Woo is married to a Han working for the government, thus he has to work.
Naxi Minority Hierogryphics

Learn more about the Naxi minority click here.

A must see Tea Shop in Lijiang, China


Eight Horses Tea Shop.

The biggest and the oldest tea shop in Lijiang, since 1736. It located on the busy intersection at the main entry into the Historic Ancient Village of Lijiang. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. What you see here is only the shop floor, it has many private tasting rooms up stairs where we enjoyed an hour of tasting selected puer and some local green teas. The staff was every knowledgeable and very friendly. In most of China, price is negotiable but when it comes to fine teas, there isn’t much room. The village has been rebuilt but has kept the old town feeling with no highrise buildings. You can find out more about Lijiang on the

THE drive along Ancient Tea Horse Trail


Shibao Shan GrottosYou know how some descriptions just give you a mental image of what you think you are going towards experience? Well that was the case for us when I read “drive through the majestic Cangshan Mountains to Lijiang. Stop for a short hike along the trail which was part of the old Tea Horse trail for centuries as you climb through some of the most beautiful scenery in southwestern China”. Ok OK it didn’t say it was going to be a peaceful lovely drive.  There was no mention of sipping tea along the drive, hearing traditional music as we passed UNESO sites or opening the windows to smell the flowers along the way, nope none of that, but that IS what my mind’s eye saw when I read those words.  What we actually experienced however was a 7, NOT 4 hour drive as promised, drive that went like this:

Start with an OK car with thankfully and excellent and experienced driver and English guide. This driver was truly the reason we actually made it to Shaxi and Lijiang alive and just one of the reasons I would choose Access China Tours to make arrangements for us again!

Now image a one lane road with three lanes of traffic (one each way and the middle is open for discussion of the horn)  over some paved, not paved or paved with huge pot holes road.  Image more construction trucks than you would see in a month in any fast growing city in the USA along the drive with you in just this one day,  tour buses packed with Chinese tourists, more cars than an LA afternoon commute and local people, bikes, animals and kids walking across all of this within each of the smaller villages we past through. Aggressive chaos would be one description, however all of this occurs with the purposeful use of the well understood language of the HORN! This is what I learned this new language to translate to mean:

As you see someone along the sides of the road who MIGHT move into your direction you should toot toot and the driver will smile, guide will not even notice.

If they actually step out then it is a full Honk, but not too long as the driver sips from his tea bottle and the guide keeps talking.

As you want to pass anyone in front of you (and it seems you always do, and it is often a huge truck or bus) give a longer beep beep beep beep as you do. Don’t worry about the upcoming curve you can see around the head on traffic will hear you and make adjustments. The driver will keep both hands on the wheel and the guide keeps talking.

If someone seems to not notice this or wants to move into your direction as you make the passing attempt then lay on the horn with a long LOUD HOOOOONNNNNNNKKKKKKKKKKKK. If that head on traffic didn’t hear your passing honk, then do the same as you both will then move here and there to avoid a crash. The drive will yell something out and the guide will take a look to see what is happening.

Now you would think we would have some photos, one or two anyway along this most hummmm “interesting” drive, but NOPE never tried to focus a camera, simply tried to look and mostly NOT look as we moved along. Every small city along the way had so much construction all you could see was a dust cloud, smaller villages had much of the same but here they are selling fruits on the road without seeming to notice the dust. If you saw one large crane anywhere you saw ten or more within the same sight line. To say China is growing, moving forward and developing quickly is one of the biggest under statements ever. This is our 8th trip to China, first to Yunnan and I have to say I believe if we took this same route 3 years from now, we would have NOT A CLUE we had been previously. That is just how fast many parts of China are changing today.

OK I have given you a mental visual that I hope aligns with what we actually SAW and now lets look at some cool photos we did capture!

Xiangllao Temple Front GateThis is the front gate view of Xiangllao Temple inside Shaxi.

Xiangllao Temple Guardian 1Xiangllao Temple Guardian  2Close up of the two Guardians!

Shaxi StreetWindowWhat the side streets just off the main square of Shaxi Village look like.

People are living here in a very simple and relaxed manner with some beautiful homes.




Shibao Shan Grottos! 

Day 4 Sideng


Shibao Shan Grotto We made it 

Shibao Shan Grottos

Shibao Shan along the wayInside Shibao Shan

Not easily accessed took us about 2 hours to climb up this mountain, but once there you not only have  amazing views, but inside you are in the presence of Buddha carvings that are several thousand years old. Of course taking photos inside is very limited and challenging, but I think you can get a sense just how amazing this entire Shibao Mountain Grotto area was.

next stop. . .  Lijiang and thankfully into an beautifully restored hotel located right in the UNESCO world heritage site complete with cobble stone alleys, canals, tiny bridges and picturesque  red lanterns in this exceptional ancient town which is home to the Naxi people who have lived in isolation under a matriarchal relationship for thousands of years.  Very interesting!