Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Years ago when a flight attendant on an airline would ask me the usual, “Coffee or Tea?”, I would say coffee without batting an eyelash. But after moving to China for the first time 3 years ago, tea has suddenly become a huge part of my life and I easily fell in love with it. Now, I hardly drink coffee anymore and would prefer tea to almost any other drink. I love how there are just endless flavors to choose from. I love the aromas and the powerful scents that engulf you as you take a sip from a teacup. I love the way it makes you feel: relaxed, energized, and most of all healthy. Most teas are good for you and can help heal a lot of small ailments, especially the herbal teas.

In China, herbal teas are not just the national drink…tea is an entire culture. Drinking tea is part of everyday life here and believe me, it flows like water. Some of my favorite teas in China are Green tea (which have many variations according to the region), Black teas, and Chrysanthemum tea. Other teas also widely drank in China are Jasmine tea, Oolong Tea and White Tea.

Recently, Marc and I stopped by the InterContinental Nanjing to try their afternoon tea special which featured a mixture of green teas, black teas and the highest-grade Chrysanthemum tea I’ve ever tried. It was a really interesting afternoon filled with tea delights.

The InterContinental Nanjing's tea spread 

( cha) pronounced lyew-cha

The most popular form of green tea in China is Longjing tea also called “Dragon Well Tea” which is cultivated in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. For our afternoon tea however, we were given Huangshan Mao Feng tea, a green tea produced in Anhui province and also one of the ten Chinese Famous Teas. This tea is grown near the Yellow Mountain and picked in the early Spring. Upon picking the tea, only the new tea buds and the leaf next to the bud are taken.

Marc's green tea

Another variation of green tea

Green tea leaves formed in the shape of a dragon

Green tea leaves shaped in the forms of a starfish,
teapot, and flower basket
Marc holding green tea leaves in the form of a rabbit
Drinking green tea has many health benefits. It is very high in antioxidants and decades of research reveal it to have the potential to fight cancer and heart disease, as well as the ability to lower cholesterol, burn fat, and prevent diabetes and stroke.

(júhuā chá) pronounced joo-hwah-cha

Chrysanthemum Tea is my favorite tea in China. I love drinking this. I love the “cooling effect” it has when you drink it. Though the water is hot, you immediately feel coolness and a refreshing wave inside of you which makes it perfect even for a hot summer day! This tea is a flower-based tea made from the Chrysanthemum flowers most popular in East Asia. The flowers are usually dried and steeped in hot water. The tea is usually a pale or bright yellow in color with a nice floral aroma. Chrysanthemum Tea was first drunk during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). 

Chrysanthemum Tea
This is a particular high-grade version which requires
the use of only one flower. Normally, 3-4 buds are used
for one cup.
Chrysanthemum tea’s health benefits are said to aid in the recovery of the flu, prevent sore throat and reduce fever. In Western herbal medicine, it is also used as a compress to treat circulatory disorders and varicose veins.

(hóngchá) pronounced hoong-cha

In the Chinese language, hóngchá actually means literally “red tea” which is what they call black tea due to the color of the liquid which usually has a reddish brown color. Black teas are post-fermented and are a type of tea that is more oxidized than green and white teas. They are made from the leaves of the shrub Camellia sinensis. Black tea has a stronger flavor than the less oxidized teas.

In 2001, Boston University released a study that concludes that long-term black tea consumption reverses endothelial vasomotor dysfunction in patients with coronary heart disease. 

Who knew tea could be so wonderful? So, it might be beneficial to start drinking more tea. After all, what’s the harm? I say cheers to long life, good health and a hot cup of tea. J

Black tea
Afternoon tea table set up

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I am a big fan of aromatherapy, not just for the wonderful scents that essential oils can bring to a home (I love those essential oil burners!) but also for its unique healing and beautifying properties. Here in China, I was so happy to discover that there is a continuing trend and a growing number of aromatherapy beauty products in the cosmetic market lately, and this just keeps on expanding.

I recently discovered two brands over here that incorporate the healing treasures of natural aromatic plants and essential oils into all of their skin care products...Pretty Valley and Dr. Magic.

Pretty Valley is originally a company that was created in Ontario, Canada selling natural products to the local community ranging from personal care, home décor and gift idea products. In 2001, Pretty Valley Natural Commodity Franchised Co., Ltd. put up their headquarters in Guangzhou and has now founded more than 500 chain stores in over 30 provinces in China.

Where to buy:   6F West Zone 48-49
                         Super Brand Mall
                         168 Lujiazui Xi Lu
                         Shanghai, China

Pretty Valley Rose & Sandalwood Regenerating Day Cream
This super moisturizing cream repairs the skin with jojoba seed oil,
rose and sandalwood oil, evening primrose oil, gingko biloba extract and
centella asiatica extract. I love the smell and feel on my skin!
Dr. Magic has a range of full face and body products using the different essential oil benefits in their Rose Whitening, Jasmine Hydrating, Gingko Refreshing, Ylang Ylang Firming, Chamomile Anti-Allergy and Tea Tree Oil-Control lines.

Where to buy: Available in almost all Watson’s stores all over China

Because of my new obsession with oils and their many benefits, I actually buy them now a lot more than lotions. Contrary to popular belief, many body oils are not greasy and absorb pretty quickly into the skin. For me, they sometimes moisturize the skin and smell a lot better than many lotions (depends of course what kind of body oil you buy).

Here are some that I can personally recommend as really GREAT products. I bought most of these back home in Manila. Marc has also become a fan of body oils and essential oils and we have been using them a lot this winter, so I seriously have to stock up on my next trip back to Manila!

Planet Noah Oasis Soothing Baby Oil &
Botany Works Sweet Almond Oil
Planet Noah Oasis Soothing Baby Oil – I really love this product! It is 100% plant-based and made of natural ingredients such as Colloidal Oatmeal, Aloe Vera, Calendula, Chamomile, Lavender and Evening Primrose Oil. It is perfect for dry and itchy skin. It fights eczema, psoriasis, rashes, insect bites etc.

Where to buy: Available at Sesou Nature stores in the Philippines

Botany Works Sweet Almond Oil – I love sweet almond oil because it is an excellent moisturizer and you can use it for anything! Almond oil is great for dry skin and also relieves itchiness, rashes and skin irritations. I use this mostly as a “base oil” for other essential oils. Since essential oils are very strong, you need to only mix a few drops of them into your “base oil” and massage into the body. Among massage therapists, sweet almond oil is one of the most popular “base oils”.

Where to buy: Available at Sesou Nature stores in the Philippines

Left to right: Derma e Tea Tree and E Oil, Durance Lavender Essential Oil
& GIGA Chamomile Essential Oil
Derma e Tea Tree and Vitamin E Oil – This product is so great! I put this on everything from pimples, wounds, scratches, insect bites, rashes and itchy skin. This blend of 75% tea tree oil and 25% Vitamin E oil is known as a “medicine kit in a bottle”. Tea tree oil has natural antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties while Vitamin E is a great antioxidant and moisturizer. One of the best things I’ve ever bought!

Where to buy: Available at all Healthy Options stores in the Philippines

Durance Huile Essentielle Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender Essential Oil) – If you have to buy one essential oil in your lifetime, it has to be Lavender Essential Oil. Lavender is the most versatile of all essential oils and it is also one of the safest. Unlike other essential oils, you can apply this on the skin neat or undiluted. It also has so many uses and healing properties: for relaxation (a few drops in the bath), mild analgesic (for headaches and stress), for cough and flu (can be used in steam inhalation) and for First-Aid (can use neat on wounds, cuts, sores and insect bites). It is also good for eczema, acne and psoriasis. Plus, it smells great!! You can also use Lavender Essential Oil as your perfume. Simply dot a few drops on your wrists and on your neck.

Where to buy: Available at Beauty Bar stores in the Philippines

Giga Chamomile Essential Oil – Chamomile essential oil is soothing and calming. It is a great blend to put in massage oils (just a few drops in a base oil). It is also great for insomnia (diffuse in an oil burner),menstrual cramps and indigestion (rub gently on the stomach after mixing with a base oil).

Where to buy: Available at Sesou Nature stores in the Philippines