Belgium Chinese Tea Centre

Chinese Tea Academy & Chinese Tea Culture Exchange Centre

My Journey with Tea

What a coincidence, two days after the self-reflection about my life journey with tea the other day, Marcus in Canada caught me early this morning and asked if he could have an interview with me about my story with tea:

Q: I was born in …..

When I shared my migration story with the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp many years ago, I started the migration and love story of my parents. My father was from Hunan and my mother was from ShanDong where there are more than 1,200km distance, if it wasn’t because my Dad’s troops were sent to Shandong to take over the territory after the surrender of Japan after the War when my Dad’s troops stationed at my Mom’s home property, the sparkle of romance of this couple won’t happened; in their romantic story there are love, laugh, sadness, tears and families. If it wasn’t because my parents followed the Chiang KaiShek to Taiwan in 1949, if it wasn’t because my biological parents gave me away for adoption to General Hsiao, then I don’t know how to ink my story from Taiwan to Europe in 1991 till today.

My father was a retired General and my mother was a full time Mom, my family basically have nothing to do with tea, but as the eldest daughter I enjoyed to prepare tea for my parents when I was about 8-9 years old. Due to the special health conditions of my Mom, so my first lessons about tea were about:

  • Tea has many health benefits, but must consider the who, what, when and how, otherwise the damages from tea could be worse than benefits
  • Be careful not to drink too much very strong tea
  • Health sustainability actually is not that difficult, the basic principle begins with “eating less, drinking mild”
  • Tea is not just about offering a cup of tea, but appropriate serving manners are very important in Chinese culture

Q: My medicine is …..

Instead of thinking of ‘medicine’, I thought about the what, which and how have supported me to survive from physical pains and psychological stress that I have been through in life.

Even though tea does provide me a lot of nutrient in daily diet with great flavors and tastes, but the medicine to sustain balance in body, mind and energy is more than tea but the combination of :

  • the traditional Confucius moral teachings that my father taught me in my childhood, that gives me a very pragmatic process to reach the inner self through reflection & problem solving
  • The purity, authenticity, honesty and respect to the Nature, respectful social behaviours and collective energy elaborated me when enjoying a complete tea moment
  • The practice of Daoyin Qigong since 1985 has not only helped me to ease physical pains through relaxation and zen philosophy through moving meditation, but also helped me to realise the importance of ‘alignment” in body, Qi and Spirit for health in life.

These three seem all separately, but actually can connect perfectly together to enhance the lifetime learning attitude and practices in actions.

Q: But it was not always this way…….

Well, I can basically divide my journey with tea in different phases:

If you asked me what was my relationship with tea before 1985, I would introduce myself as a “Tea Likers” as my parents:

  • As normal, if it’s not tea, then we drink boiled hot water
  • I liked the fine flavors and tastes when I made tea for my parents
  • I always ended up in tea fields when went for hiking with friends in the student time
  • Always like to have a cup of tea after heavy meal with friends and colleagues

If you asked me this question before 1991 after 1985, I would introduce myself as a ‘Qualified Tea Lover’, because I was truly attracted to tea when I found my ‘healing corner’ in the tea mountain near Taipei where

  • I learn how to brew the ‘Laoren Cha’ (the grandfather style of old traditional Caozhou brewing manner, which laid the base for ‘gongfu cha’ afterwards)
  • Through the brewing and tasting, I discovered more about tea; the more I know about tea, the more I was eager to learn more
  • When enjoy the calm and peaceful moment in the Nature with tea, I was able to set the stress aside, no planning, no desires for achievement, just me with tea while surrounding by the Nature.
  • By knowing more about the tea picking and making processes, I was entreated by those hard working people and priceless values behind each tea leaf in the cup

I moved to Belgium in 1991 because of marriage, it was sad that I left the most important people who truly loved me (my parents) behind. I tried my best to integrate in local society, meanwhile have to find my own inner peace and strength when facing racism and discrimination. The way I cope with home sick was to invite friends for Chinese dinner, afterwards served them a cup of tea. At that time till 1995, tea became my ‘secret lover’ who I knew it wouldn’t hurt or disappoint me as long as long as I stick to the principle of pure and authentic quality.

A Belgian friend, Yves, who regularly came to visit me and enjoyed tea at my home, requested me in 1994 to give Chinese tea workshop when his Taiji Centre was ready at end of 1995.

Living in Belgium allows me to contact China directly. The trust from Yves became my responsibilities and motivations to learn more about tea through tasting. During that time, I spent nearly 14-18 hours a day to taste, to find out more information about tea and Chinese tea culture. That learning process opened the door for me to have better 360 degree learning about tea without commercial interference, and I am freed from any political or relationship constraints。

The first group of ladies who came for the tea workshop helped me to realise: they knew nothing about tea, don’t know what and how to distinguish quality and don’t know how to brew tea. The mission that I need to commit was crystal clear immediately that unless more people know about tea, appreciate pure & authentic quality, then there is no chance for Chinese Speciality teas; European appreciate culture, so the best way is through the promotion of Chinese tea culture. During 1995 to 2001, I did my best to participate all kind of cultural activities in Belgium. I became a ”Crazy Investor” to tea and Chinese tea culture, gradually received recognition as Chinese tea ambassador.

Unexpectedly I was forced into family drama situation started in 2001, when the Pandora box was opened in 2002, I have to make every adjustment that I could do to take care two young children meanwhile handled the legal fights against my ex-. Even though I lost my company to my ex- that I couldn’t make any financial investment on tea, but it did not stop me to invest my time and passion to tea. As matter of fact, promoting Chinese tea culture and speaking for tea gave me a lot of strength to cope with the stress & pain from physical violence threats, unspeakable psychological and emotional stress during 2002-2005. Devotion to tea and Chinese tea culture became my rescuer, and we need each others.

Later, with supports and encouragement from my husband, Ivo, Belgium Chinese Tea Association was born.

The tea market was growing since 1995, but the pure tea growing was still facing the bottleneck due to the following reasons:

  • The priority for many tea shop owners is $$$ but not quality of tea
  • The market growing has actually enlarged the knowledge gap because most consumers still did not have sufficient knowledge about tea to health, tea selection and tea brewing
  • Numbers of tea sommeliers were (still are) increasing, but knowledge level was (still is) not increasing as the way the market was growing. Reasons? Simple, egoism, profit gaining and lack of collectivism are more important than the commitment to tea learning.
  • Conclusion: Those who would like to become more qualified tea sommelier require more serious education program and coaching for tea.

Mei Lan received the recognition from China Teaman Friendship Association as the ‘best tea teacher and promoter’ award in 2018 and the Association is being appointed as China Teaman Friendship Association Belgium Center.

The mission to promote correct and authentic knowledge about tea and to stimulate the growth of tea culture in Europe, it requires collective efforts from European tea seeds, therefore in the last few years, Mei Lan is devoting more efforts in Tea Sommelier Certification Programs to those who would like to upgrade their capability to provide better quality tea, services and coaching.

Belgium Chinese Tea Academy provides the following training programs:

  1. Tea Sommelier Certification Program
  2. Tea to health workshops for health coach
  3. Chinese tea ceremony – basic
  4. Tea meditation
  5. Cha Jing Study
  6. Chinese Cha Dao

Life Learning

Today I though about my conversations with my sons Cedric (萧光義) and Alexander (萧光仁) when they were teens. As mother, it is my duty to pass on my family values to my children based on what my father taught me to examine own actions based on morals, respect, obligations and duties since I have memories in life.

My father always reminds me even after he passed away for long time but he and his teaching are forever fresh in my heart:

Don’t ask what others do to you, but examine own deeds and actions to others, everyday!

My father taught me about respect, meantime emphasis law and order. He taught me the essence of tolerance, understanding and pragmatism, but he never taught me to surrender without moral and legal reason.

GuangYi 光義(Cedric) and GuangRen 光仁(Alexander)never have the chance to meet their grandfather, I do, however, hope they will remember the meaning of their Chinese names. and do their best to live based on moral teachings of Hsiao (Xiao 萧)family, Being able to be named by Hsiao family tree tradition is an exceptional recognition and explicits the family duty expectation that my father had on me before he passed away. It is more than moral duty but honor to me.

The world is facing a serious problem because lack of moral education for respect in our schooling system and social education in our society. Religion lessons =/= morals lessons because God can only help those who help themselves. Everyone like to talk about freedom and think they can claim unlimited rights to act whatever they like. They are wrong, there are Law and Order #lawandorder they have to follow. It is not like they could forgiven by confessing to priest in the church, even that, as a Buddhist I truly believe we all will be judged and received rightful punishment when we face God one day, In real life people who intentionally violate rights of others should be punished according to laws.

Laws and regulations set the legal boundary to build the peace and order in our society; only when being able to build can think and talk about growing. In life the #oposite of #freedom is #obligations; from #rights are #duties . One only has rights to claim freedom if s/he can first show respect to others and can act based on morals, obligations & duties.

When I read nonsense insults to Dr. Marc Van Ranst on twitter today, I sighed.  I do hope the Belgian schooling system can emphasis more moral and good social behaviors, but not emphasis on rights by ignore obligations and duties in education, which should start from the early as possible.

I do hope Belgian police can catch those who abusive their preconceived freedom and rights by insulting others on social media and let them receive the rightful punishments, regardless their age or social status.

Tomorrow will be better

Quietly tapping your sleeping heart, open your eyes slowly

See that past busy world is till spinning crazily as before

the spring breeze doesn’t realize how it awakens our young heart

Let the grieving tears of yesterday dried out on our face

Look up to wings in the sky, follow the trace of seasonal birds

Bring news of famine and ruthless wars that are still existing in the distance

White snow drifts on mountain and our young hearts are bouncing

Let’s true feelings melt into notes

Reach out your arms and sing out your passion

Let me embrace your dreams, let me hold your genuine face

Let our smiles full of youthful pride and devote our sincere pray for tomorrow

Who can not caring own home and ignore the childhood memories

Who can let sorrows of yesterday take away our smiles

We probably don’t understand because of young and innocent

Today let the long-lost tears nourish our face again

Sing out your passion and reach out your arms

Let me embrace your dreams, let me hold your genuine face

Let our smiles full of joyful pride and devote our sincere pray for a better tomorrow

 

 

 

 


Quietly tapping your
sleeping heart, open your eyes slowly

See that past busy world
is till spinning crazily as before

the spring breeze doesn’t
realize how it awakens our young heart

Let the grieving tears of
yesterday dried out on our face

Look up to wings in the
sky, follow the trace of seasonal birds

Bring news of famine and
ruthless wars that are still existing in the distance

White snow drifts on mountain and our
young hearts are bouncing

Let’s true feelings melt into notes

Reach out your arms and sing out your
passion

Let me embrace your dreams, let me hold
your genuine face

Let our smiles full of youthful pride and
devote our sincere pray for tomorrow

Who can not caring own home and ignore the
childhood memories

Who can let sorrows of yesterday take away
our smiles

We probably don’t understand because of
young and innocent

Today let the long-lost tears nourish our
face again

Sing out your passion and reach out your
arms

Let me embrace your dreams, let me hold
your genuine face

Let our smiles full of joyful pride and
devote our sincere pray for a better tomorrow

Tea Research to COVID-19 Coronavirus update

Since the first outbreak of COVID-19 happened in WuHan when doctors and nurses were doing their best to save live in hospitals and citizens were doing their best to follow the lock-down policy in order to reduce the burden to the medical helps that are need to the Coronavirus fight in that most critical and horrified moment, specialists in different disciplines have been working closely in China, including virus and medical research experts for medicine and vaccine, in meantime, there were many experts in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicines) and tea research area started to deepen their research from the past health benefits to specifically against the virus reactions or immunity system research; such researches  are still ongoing today.

When the effective curing medicines that don’t create other health problems and proven effective vaccine are not yet available, there are more and more people turning their head to find ‘solutions’ from tea.

Before we enter the discussion about what can tea do for us to fight against COVID-19 virus, I think it is important to establish a clear understanding and repeat the fundamental professional protocols that we need to follow:

  1. Tea does can provide many health benefits but shouldn’t consider tea as cure to disease.
  2. Whenever you have healthy, always suggest to check with your family doctor and/or specialist before following from what were written in books or social medias by anyone, neither from so-called “Guru” nor amateurs.
  3. Those who would like to be seen and respected as ‘tea sommelier’ definitely should take the responsibilities more strict, we can share and give suggestions based on confirmed scientific research data and facts, but may not play the doctor or medicine specialist roles.

I am very fortunately to have Prof. Wang FangCheng from Academia Sinica from Beijing, as good friend who I share the same passion for the facts and data researches in tea.  So whenever I read something interesting on line, I have a ‘double-checking windows’ to verify the accuracy and authenticity about the scientific research.

There are indeed two major tea research centers in China are devoting their resources and expertise to deepen their researches in tea and both have very encouraging progress  that related to the researches to Coronavirus, one is Zhejiang University Agriculture Department and the other one is Yunnan Agriculture University.

According to the Director of Research Center lead by Prof. Wang XuanJun, actually the FDA from USA has already approved the use of plant derived tea polyphenols for external use in 2006, which is used to treat diseases caused by virus.  Therefore research in antivirus functions from tea polyphenols is an important focus by tea research experts. Since the outbreak happened in WuHan, his team has deepened the research on tea polyenols for Coronavirus.

Prof. Wang’s research does not limit to Camellia sinensis only, actually in his lab his teams have tried to isolate 800 compound structures from 110 plants, including tea, honeysuckle and grapes; the computerized analysis showed 20 compounds have the potential to bind the S protein on the surface of the virus.  “Of course, there is potential gap between computerized analysis vs. reality that we need to investigate further”, according to Prof. Wang.  Prof. Wang and his teams so far have continue the actual binding test in which they discovered five compounds are preferred, and block experiments are performed at the molecular level. The blocking experiment means when compounds are present whether can block the virus from binding to the receptor.  If compounds can’t block the virus from binding, then it is meaningless with the claim for unite.

Based on the current research result, they discovered EGCG, a catechin monomer component in tea polyphenols in tea, can effectively block the binding of S protein to receptor ACE2 and almost 6 EGCG can achieve the ability of one human receptor to bind to viral S protein.  This is a very good news for tea lovers.

Many people thought only green tea has EGCG, as matter of fact, EGCG is one of richest compounds (80%) in catechin, as matter of fact richer EGCG can be found in large-leaf Pu’erh (Sheng) and green tea.  When analyzing  Theaflavins (yellow color), thearubins (red color) and theabrownins (brown color) in black tea from the tea process, they found theaflavins can also vind to S protein. Tea lovers can appreciate the theaflvins more from the golden tippy black tea.

What is amazing about tea is may be there are only small differences in tea polyphenol structures but the functions may be completely different, and that reflects the mysteries in life and Nature.

Due to the time rush and data were not sufficient enough, therefore Prof. Wang and his teams will continue with the research, they will only announce the final result after having sufficient data and facts.

At the same time, the experts in Zhejiang are studying how the warm tea drink to the relapse of virus infection.  Any research, either medicine, vaccine or tea, that related to COVID-19 Coronavirus require very struct research attitude, quantifiable and verifiable data and facts.  But with diligent and strict scientific researches we do can sense the light at the end of tunnel for Coronavirus.

Various health benefits that different kind of tea have already been scientifically confirmed, and people simply need to enhance the most foremost important learning – Listen to your body & respect your conditions but not follow information blindly and carefully choose pure and authentic quality tea, take responsibility for own decision. When you think you deserve the best, then learn to respect tea and the Nature.

During the interview by the Yunnan TV & Radio, Prof. Wang XJ said “there is no double drinking tea is good for health, but in order to reach the potential objective to prevent and cure from the virus, perhaps it is better use the extract of effective compounds, we are deepening the research on the application side, hopefully can provide more data to the research for COVID-19 Coronavirus.”

Tea learning in COVID-19 Pandemic period

The spike of COVID-19 pandemic rage the world by surprise; the announcement for lock-down took us by surprise; we have been hoping for reopening, but the announcement for gradually reopening gave us some joyful news, in the meantime, start to question ourselves “What and How should I do to cope with the new way of living”.

When we are in the process of preparing ourselves for the reopening, we probably also need to prepare ourselves to accept that most people are facing a same challenge that we will not able to have old life back so easily, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to change our social behaviors and the way of living for an unknow period of time ahead.

Actually the more I practice the Chinese tea ceremony, it is more clear why it’s helpful for everyone to manage the isolation and stress in the lock down period:

  • With tea, we learn to engage with ourselves through silence and simple focus
  • With the simple way of tea serving and sharing, we connect with other person who share the tea with in much calmer and peaceful manners.
  • With the practice of simple Chinese tea ceremony, even as short as one minute is a complete 60 seconds
  • When enjoy a cup of tea, there is no desire, no fear, no judgement, but simply pure concentration and appreciation

The nasty COVID-19 Coronavirus urged us to rethink what and how we should take actions for our future starting from today: Environment, Disinfection, and Unity. Public Health is no longer a government’s responsibility, but we have to take our part of responsibilities seriously.

Wearing Textile Masks

A friend told me she saw a Pharmacy in Brussels is selling textile mask, washable and can replace the ‘filter’. So my friend asked the pharmacist, are you also selling the filter? The reply was “No”. So question will be, can this kind of textile mask really helps to reduce the risk against Coronavirus without or using ‘coffee” filter?

What is the purpose of wearing mask in this particular time? To create a fancy looking? or try to reduce risk of virus infection, particularly for those who are working in the hospital? It is not a funny joke to see our medical personnel wear non-medical masks in the hospital. Same thing for the citizen who will return to work in the space where they face challenge to keep the safe 1.5m safety distance at work or in the shop or in any venue.

The textile mask is washable and allows reuse.  But it should have a protective filter in between two layers of textile fabric.  So the question would be : Is there a PM2.5 antibacterial filter between the front textile and inner layer of textile?

I have high respect to doctors and nurses and medical & health specialists because of their education and certificates, but it is sad to watch such unscientific demonstration to the fight against the aggressive Corornavirus.

Hope the following checking points are useful for you to choose the textile mask for the reopening:

  • The antibacterial efficiency %
  • The breathing level
  • You should have more than 1 or 2 masks so you can wash it everyday after use
  • There is life limited for the antibacterial filter, normally is 7 days under normal conditions
  • Textile masks are not recommended for those who already have breathing problem or children younger than 3 years old.
  • The government should be cleared with the import regulation and selling permission in order to avoid the chaotic situation happened to masks
    • Before the pandemic, masks were allowed to sell freely in shops / supermarkets
    • when the pandemic happened, retail of masks was not allowed otherwise can face severe fine punishment
    • Since today the non-medical masks are free to sell in shops

Even though the photo from hospital alert my worries about the ‘professional sense’ from some medical personnel, but still it is better to check with your family doctor or local specialist before buying masks.

©Mei Lan Hsiao, 04/05/2020, Antwerp

for more information, contact Mei Lan Hsiao, Tel: 0494506899, email: chinadesk.service@gmail.com

Priceless values in tea

How do you judge tea before making decision for your selection? What are you fancy desires from tea?

The foundation for fine flavours and tastes from authentic fine quality tea requires basic 3 factors 

  • Healthy balance in the #Nature ,
  • Hardworking people who we don’t know their names
  • Accumulated of wisdom from the inherited tea culture

When buying tea next time, perhaps can ask yourself a question, especially if you think you deserve better quality but on the other hand still hunt tea based on cheap price :

How can anyone judge the authentic quality from these basic 3 factors, the balance of Heaven, Earth and People, based on price and think it should be cheap?

The most critical 3 poles for the foundation, Heaven, Earth and People, never judge anyone, but simply growing, offering and sharing.

The Difference in Tea Journey

Tea and tea culture began from China that silently traveled, integrated in different cultures through human migration. The different selections for the first step have created different tones in tea cultural journeys in the West.

In five thousand years China history, Chinese have been using tea to bridge cultures through trading, tolerate and encourage cultural integration without imposing, encourage the simple concept of sharing for mutual prosperity, solidarity and friendships; it has been further cultivated into Chinese culture when tea eventually embedded in Chinese daily living culture without emphasizing cultural hierachy but the sharing of common wealth, self cultivation and good social behaviours.

However, the West started their tea journey from totally different angles. The initial ideas from those who brought tea to the West from China meant to make money and profit for their own but not for the common wealth. The high tea concept did encourage the growth of afternoon tea culture in England which further influences the tea culture in the world,

The western tea journey did not start as a social drink to promote common wealth of average people but more for rich and selected high society, just like how tea and tea culture were before the 7th century in China. Even though today became a social drink, but the hidden shadow of hierarchical show-case and comparative behaviors are not yet whitened out after the past two decades.

Under the horrified threats from Corona virus pandemic, it is not clear about potential impacts to the global economy, let’s hope the growth of tea drinkers and awakened awareness for solidarity can continue. Perhaps slowly, but let’s make sure it grows surely.

Flu vs. Virus Have Different Syndromes

Since the first outbreak happened in Wuhan to the raging global pandemic, we start to have some knowledge about Corona virus based on the accumulated observations and experience from those front line doctors and nurses who scarified or took risk of their live to help those infected patients.

Here is the summary from doctors who worked on the treatment for Cororna virus infection in WuHan, hopefully it gives us a clearer understanding different syndromes from Flue vs. Virus:

  • Air pollution: Dried coughing + sneezing
  • Having cold : coughing + slime + sneezing + running nose
  • Flue: Coughing + slime + sneezing + running nose + aching + fatigue + mild fever
  • Virus: Dried coughing + sneezing + aching + fatigue + high fever + breathing difficulties

Yesterday in New York City press conference, an American doctor said Corona virus is a very nasty virus, because some carriers don’t show any syndromes, otherwise testing positive even with the negative testing from the day before.

Hopefully with the continued down curve of infection numbers and increasing of healing numbers, our government will lift up the “home staying” policy, but it does not mean we should consider “We are freed”. We should still keep high alert because so far there is no effective medicines or vaccines. Even when we are able to reopen, it is better for us to continue the following practices:

  • Keeping social distancing
  • Washing hands regularly and thoroughly
  • Wearing mask in the public, particularly in the crowd environment
  • Consulting doctor before taking any medicines
  • Maintaining calm and positive energy

“To Be” starts from self

“Future” begins from today, right now.

Tea Enlightenment

Have a cup of tea to ease thirst, enjoy drinking tea;

Appreciate hard works for tea, have tea in heart;

Have fun living zen, appreciate zen in tea;

Practice zen in every moment in every minute, experience zen enlightenment in tea.

©copyrighted Mei Lan Hsiao, Antwerp, 4/4/2020

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