Posts made in July 2017

The Dynamics Of Tea In The Formation Of American Culture



A 5,000 year old leaf drink is making an impact on a culture addicted to its rival; coffee. American culture, like life itself, is in a constant state of change, and tea has taken an important role in facilitating this culture shift that’s embracing tea. Facilitating this change is Miriam Novalle, an entrepreneur with a nose for fragrances and a genius mixologist fluent in all the notes of tea. “Tea as liquid communication,” is how Novalle describes this unique language she speaks. “I’m a painter, a perfumer that put both of them together in a cup of tea,” she said.

Twenty-five years ago, Novalle, with help from a couple of friends, including Peter M. Brant, opened her first tea salon, (T Salon) in the basement of the Guggenheim Museum in SoHo following her success from developing a fragrance called Listen with trumpet player and record company executive, Herb Alpert. “Peter Brant and dear friends helped open the first T Salon below the Guggenheim Established in 1992. Brant was the landlord with an idea, but it was really my funds and two other dear friends that helped build it,” she says.

Sitting with her grandchildren on their special summer days together at one of their favorite tea stops in New York City; The Hyatt, one of her major tea accounts. Novalle, a new age and hands-on American grandmother who has a mission to influence and shape the next generation of tea drinkers, starting with her own two grandchildren, explains her move as an idea that developed following afternoon tea in Liverpool, England. “Everything was fabulous except the tea was washboard. I said, I don’t get it, I thought the English were supposed to have a great cup of tea.” That disappointing cup of afternoon tea in a country known for drinking the ancient brew is what led Novalle to her new venture utilizing her God-given blending forte to create the perfect cup of tea in her own country. Following her success from her partnership with Alpert, Novalle relocated with her young daughter to Florence, Italy. She says her travels across the globe is what opened her to the tea drinking culture. “We realized the whole world was drinking tea except for Americans in the 90s.”

Despite not being the main morning beverage of choice for many American consumers in the country’s relatively short democracy, tea played a major role in the formation of an independent America. Nonetheless, tea was a hot commodity regularly imported to American colonies in the 18th century. However, heavy taxation from Britain led to the December 16, 1773 destruction of tea in America by way of The Boston Tea Party, a significant event in American history that ended our love affair with the leafy drink.

“So, I did a little research, did my due diligence and I was going to open this little tea shop with teas from all over the world.” She says it was that idea that led to the suggestion from Brant to open a tea room in the basement of the Guggenheim that was being built in SoHo at the time.  “So, I built a 5,000 square foot, 257 seat tea room. All of a sudden, out of nowhere in the City of New York—they had never seen such a thing…who comes and opens a 5,000 square foot tea room?!—180 teas that I started putting my nose into and started blending…black teas, green teas, white teas.” Novalle says she kept building her tea empire with a variety of flavors like beet root, ginger, oranges and raspberry leaves until her sister’s health scare inspired her to develop a tea wellness program. “Nine years ago she got ovarian cancer that’s when I realized it can’t just be tea anymore; it had to be a wellness program. It had to be tea that makes a difference in your life.




She says her tea blends and creations couldn’t just be for having afternoon tea anymore. “And, so I went to India and sat with an Ayurvedic Doctor and told him what was going on with my sister. I told him everything she had and I told him what the world was dealing with. And, not only cancer but women that were always fearing their weight, people that can’t sleep, people that are always going through these cleanses and not really taking care of themselves and so we sat and worked on my wellness tea line. I worked on it for two years.” She says. Novalle goes on to explain that she uses tea for people that need to find themselves in a quiet moment just like the story of the birth of tea itself, which according to her and historical accounts, started with a Buddhist monk who accidentally discovered the mighty leaf.

Novalle’s new creation called High Tea was born out of her sister having ovarian cancer. “Here’s a woman that goes to chemo at the end of every month, here’s a woman that comes back and her immune system is shot, she’s completely almost left lifeless after going through this,” she says as she explains when she learned about the CBD—an oil combination of the Hemp and Cannabis plant—her sister was taking to help her through her illness. She says, “CBD Hemp is legal if there is 3 percent less THC in the product.” Novelle says she soon traveled to Colorado and found organic growers of Hemp CBD that’s grown just for the health benefits. “I took it back home to New York and I started blending,” she says as she talks about the booming business of this new High Tea craze. “Now, everybody and their brother is coming at me,” she quipped, adding, “Every well-known chef, every grower in Colorado and Oregon calls me every day on the phone, I mean, it’s like insane… I didn’t realize what industry I was getting into. How big it was, (11-billion dollar industry) how helpful it can be for people with Leukemia. … People with Parkinson whose hands are shaking that drink this CBD and you can see, all of a sudden, their hands calming down.” Novalle goes onto share a story of her client in Minnesota that uses her CBD products for her dispensary that’s seeing a major boost in sales, especially among cancer patients that find the product helpful in their healing journey. “And today, she’s on the road repping my products because she believes it helped her with her cancer,” she says.

Research by the World Health Organization shows tea beating coffee when it comes to measurable benefits; however the temperature of the popular morning and afternoon beverage is what makes a difference in how the human body processes it. “On the basis of available data, the working group concluded that coffee is possibly carcinogenic to the human urinary bladder. Evidence further suggests that coffee may actually protect humans against cancer of the colon and rectum. The risk for breast cancer was shown, with remarkable consistency, to have no association with coffee drinking. The second monograph evaluates the carcinogenicity of black and green teas. Although available data were judged inadequate to classify tea according to its carcinogenic risk, the analysis uncovered evidence suggesting that the temperature at which tea is drunk may be a more important determinant of risk than the chemical composition of the beverage.”

Despite the health benefits and ever expanding flavor combination of tea, Novalle says tea is not a substitution for coffee. “We’re never going to substitute. That’s like substituting the love of your life. I don’t think you ever want to substitute the love of your life. You just want to enjoy it, open your mind to it, and realize it’s a healthier lifestyle. If you would like an open healthier lifestyle, a bodhisattva lifestyle and have God in your heart, and being open, it’s going to happen with anything, but a cup of tea helps.”

America may be a Johnny-come-lately to the world’s tea table, but thanks to innovators like Miriam Novalle, the country is quickly catching up and even paving new roads to access all the benefits of this ancient and holistic brew.

Defining American Culture And Identity



America is one of the most diverse countries in the world, making defining American culture a difficult task to undertake. Considering the many traditions Americans from all walks of life adhere to, pass down, recognize and celebrate, one would be hard pressed to capture all that she encompasses and constitutes. Nevertheless, the University of Michigan took on the challenge and came up with 101 characteristics that define American culture.

The “Melting Pot” has been a fitting description for as long as the question of her identity has been pondered, but thanks to the break down, specifics have been added to our cultural description. Since her independence 241 years ago, America has steadily evolved into a more perfect union representative of the many facets of the world.  People from all walks of life can adequately represent what it means to be an American.

As the world turns, including our own democracy, we decided to post this question to various Americans in New York City and other parts of the state: How do you describe American culture? As you’ll see, the question wasn’t easily answered…





Searching For America On Independence Day



If you’ve seen the movie Idiocracy, chances are you’ve been experiencing life these past couple of years with a slack jaw, owing to the conduct across the country and especially from the white house and its new inhabitants. From Spicer to Conway, Manigault, Bannon and President Trump, the performances we’ve all witnessed equates to something concocted in a Hollywood studio. Disheartening poll numbers consistently drive home the realization that on her 241st birthday, America is in desperate need of some soul searching and healing.

America is going through a serious identity crisis, and questions addressing and reevaluating our core values and beliefs are certainly warranted now that the shift in civility and governing has taken a specific tone. What kind of people are Americans? Does Trump represent Americans adequately? Have we morphed into an anti-immigrants, anti-refugees and anti-Muslim nation now that Trump is president? Is the “Fake News” label a sign of things to come? Is it open season on journalists, and factual information? Even racism, a long standing social problem in the U.S. that has improved with time, has seen an uptick in discriminatory activities, leaving many wondering if we’re approaching an era of blatant bigotry and intolerance aimed at each other; American against American.

Unfortunately, America is still in the eye of the storm Democrats and Republicans have churned up and thus far, even on the eve of its independence from Britain, can’t seem to calm for the sake of her people. Putting a hideous stamp on this dysfunction that has built up like pond scum is Governor Chris Christie’s recent stunt concerning New Jersey beaches and parks. As if Bridgegate and his boorish behavior wasn’t enough, thanks to a budget standoff, Christie got to flaunt his special kind of audacity for the world to see by brazenly and shamefully going to one of the beaches he closed off for millions of other Americans on this special 4th of July weekend. Christie got to flippantly enjoy the beach while others suffered the consequences associated with the closings, and that’s exactly what his character in this real life unfolding of Idiocrazy does.

A recent NPR, PBS News Hour/Marist poll revealed how far down the spiral we’ve fallen when it comes to trust for politicians, the news media, our justice system and even our intelligence agencies. Some of the questions posed to likely voters concerned the rights Americans deeply value, and those numbers confirm the state of our relatively young country and democracy. The recently released poll by these reputable and respected organizations will undoubtedly be labeled as “Fake News” thanks to a president marching to a beat majority of the country can’t hear or follow. And yet somehow, his staunch supporters, or enablers as some pundits have described them, are behaving like certain guests on the Maury Povich show that swear up and down, “He’s the father!” right before Maury opens his envelope to reveal what’s really going on in the case of Trump and his backers. Regardless, they’re sticking with their man despite the static and skipping CD noise the president’s special beat is blaring in their ears.

When it comes to the president’s job approval ratings, only 37 percent of the population say he’s doing a good job while 51-percent disapprove of his performance. And, 41 percent say they don’t trust the Trump white house. Also, the year when the U.S. gained her independence, only 69 percent of the people answered this question correctly. And, as it pertains to our Intelligence Community, a mere 23 percent say they fully trust agencies like the CIA and FBI. Trump has done his own bashing of our Intelligence Community that has served as a rallying cry for his followers. Trust for America’s courts didn’t fare better during the poll conducted from June 21 to July 25, 2017. Since March, trust in our courts went from 23 to 22 percent. Rightfully, Congress is seeing terrible approval numbers too, with only 6 percent of support tallied. And, only 17 percent of Americans say they wholeheartedly trust that our elections are fairly carried out. Sentiments of an unfair election that put Trump in the white house can still be heard like wind chimes on windy days. The media, like Congress, didn’t do well in the polls either, showing only 8-percent say they trust the media, while 37-percent say they have zero trust in the media.

Many would argue that the negative rhetoric coming out of the white house against the media didn’t help their numbers, as the poll shows a clear mistrust of those responsible for disseminating information. However, when the sitting president is constantly tweeting insults and delegitimizing the news business these numbers shouldn’t come as a shock. Additionally, neither should the poll showing a mere 8-percent of Americans fully trust opinion polls. And, when it comes to the nation’s tone and level of civility in Washington, and comparing Trump and Obama’s ratings, 6-percent of people say civility has improved under the current administration, while the poll conducted in 2009 by USA Today and Gallop during the previous president’s administration, shows that 21 percent of the population thought civility amongst politicians on both sides of the isle had improved. President Trump’s unprofessional and disturbing behavior, during his short time in office, has already taken the twenty-one percent number to a 6… A number more fitting of his female rating system.

The numbers aren’t favorable. They expose a deeply dysfunctional system of governance that has side-stepped normal political operations and discourse. Operations, like the Constitution, that have been shaped and amended along the way by Americans yearning to live with liberties that make us unique among other earth inhabitants. It is these very same systems—which includes a collective belief system—that has kept us united as a nation of one people, despite the pitfalls of wars and civil strives along the way. Even with the bleak outlook these poll numbers divulge, we can’t keep our heads under water like geese in search of underwater snacks, hoping the tide will eventually turn in our favor. The time to bring about positive change is always upon us. As we celebrate this 241st milestone, it’s comforting knowing that America will find her way again if her people continue working towards a common goal for humanity and our culture, and a common love for our great nation.


Independence Day