Tea and a Story: The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself

In honor of officially launching this section on Halloween, I thought my first set of stories would be stories about fear. Specifically, I’m exploring the variations of the story about the boy without fear who goes forth to find out what it is. The main story comes from the Brothers Grimm, who wrote a story called “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was” and I first encountered it as a child as part of the brilliant series Faerie Tale Theatre where it was called “The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers.”

In the story, a boy doesn’t know what fear is and so he tries in a few ways to learn about it. When the first attempt leads him to injure the local sexton, his father turns him out and he wanders the land trying to figure out this whole fear thing. He spends the night at a gallows, but doesn’t find anything to fear. Eventually, he’s led to a local haunted castle, where he spends three nights, ostensibly as part of a challenge set by the local king, but really because he wants to learn fear. He fights black cats and dogs, outwits ghosts and demons, and eventually breaks the curse on the castle, thereby winning the hand of the princess, but still has not learned fear, or as he puts it “how to shudder.” When he laments this fact to his new wife, she comes up with a plan and douses him with a bucket of ice water, complete with writhing eels, so he can learn what it is to shudder.

Honestly, this version of the story is a bit Pythonesque to me — the action of the story is fun, and the scenes where he encounters beings of varying spookiness are fun, but the ending is a bit… dumb. I mean, most of the youth’s “affliction” can be explained by simply being too stupid to realize that he’s in a dangerous situation. Even the fact that his wife is able to satisfy his curiosity with a trick does not look good for him.

This theme of the person (usually a boy) without fear encountering and besting supernatural creatures is not limited to the Brothers Grimm. I encountered another version of this story on the Myths and Legends Podcast in the episode titled “Native American Folklore: Skeletons.” Now, Jason does a wonderful job of telling the story, but the gist is that a fearless youth encounters and bests four skeletons who have a wager that they can strike fear into the fearless youth. But after coming out the victor in this battle against fear, the youth returns to his camp and promptly has a conniption over a spider. Now, this might seem just as silly to some people, but I honestly found it refreshing after the Grimm’s version. In the Native American version, the fearless youth isn’t simply stupid, but very, very confident. And maybe I feel a bit of kinship with this person who has a profound fear of spiders (ick).

But it is a third version of this story that found the most enjoyable of all. This version comes from Turkish folklore, and was collected by Andrew Lang and published in his Olive Fairy Book. In this story, called “The Boy Who Found Fear at Last,” the protagonist suffers from the same inability to understand fear, and goes forth to learn about it. Along the way, he encounters what appears to be the hand of a dead person trying to steal his food, a mysterious woman who tried to drown him after asking his help retrieving her brother in the middle of a river, and a storm that nearly kills a ship full of people. Rather than stupidly barreling ahead, the youth simply uses common sense and quick thinking to get through these trials, gaining riches and rescuing a ship full of people. He finds out that the three trials were the doing of three women, who drink his health because he didn’t show the fear that other men show. In a seemingly discontinuous leap, the boy then makes his way to a city that has lost their king. Probably because of his great lack of fear, the ritual that is supposed to show the people their next king chooses this youth. And upon being declared king, he learns fear at last, as he realizes that his life is no longer his own.

I like this version, despite its inconsistencies, because the youth isn’t simply stupid, but mostly uses common sense. I mean, if a hand reaches out of the grave, that’s unexpected, but not scary in and of itself, especially if it just wants some cake. But he learns true fear, and not by some trick, but by realizing that what he values about life (his freedom) has been taken away by responsibility. So perhaps the true moral this Halloween is that it is not necessarily brave nor foolhardy to be without fear, but that the only thing we have to fear is… responsibility.


“The Boy Who Left Home to Find out About the Shivers,” Faerie Tale Theatre [link]

“The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was,” Grimm’s Fairy Tales [link]

Myths and Legends Podcast, Episode 19, “Native American Folklore – Skeletons” [link]

“The Boy Who Found Fear at Last,” from The Olive Fairy Book, collected by Andrew Lang [link]


Matcha Week! Matcha Pancakes

This week, I’m celebrating Matcha Week to highlight all the ways I use matcha besides in my morning bowl of traditional thin matcha. I’m promoting my Volition Beauty campaign for a matcha-infused dual-targeted hair mask, which has just over a month longer to get all the votes it needs to go into production. Help me out by voting here, and maybe share my campaign with your friends and followers to help make this product a reality.

To close off the week, I thought I’d share a matcha food recipe. I wanted to make a matcha bundt cake, but my previous tests with the recipe were unsatisfactory and I ran out of time. So I present to you: Matcha Pancakes!

This was a spur-of-the-moment idea when Mr. Tweed and I decided to make pancakes for our Sunday breakfast. I decided to add a little extra sugar and some matcha powder to our pancake batter, which made for a delightfully green batter and a pleasantly subtle matcha flavor in the resultant pancakes. It was a fun change to the standard breakfast pancake, and I’d definitely do it again sometime. Although, be warned, that with a full tablespoon of matcha in a relatively small batch of pancakes, so there is a non-negligible amount of caffeine in a stack.

Matcha Pancakes:

Dry ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. culinary matcha
2 Tbsp. sugar

Wet ingredients:

2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups buttermilk


Sift together the dry ingredients and whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the wet to the dry and mix. Cook over medium heat in a buttered pan. Makes about 10-12 pancakes.

One final note: As you can probably tell by my erratic posting schedule, I’ve had some things going on that distract from this blog. One is a project that will be announced tomorrow, but the other is a bit more personal. While I don’t know how much I’ll feel like sharing in the future, know that I am physically fine and will return to blogging regularly as soon as I can. Thanks to all my readers for making this a positive part of my life. I should still be on Instagram, if you feel like checking in (at the very least, I tend to respond to messages, even if I’m not posting).


Tea Review: Koyo Teas Sencha and Matcha

NB: This review is of products sent to me free of charge in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own. For more information about my policies regarding review samples, click here.

A couple months ago, Anil at Koyo Tea Company contacted me to see if I would be interested in trying some of their teas. We went back and forth, discussing the teas. Anil was lovely to chat with over email, and I especially liked the clean design of their website, so I decided to give it a try. Then, one lovely September day, I was surprised with a package. Inside was a packet of sencha, a packets of matcha, and two small, single-use samples of other teas.

Koyo Tea Company sources its teas from small cooperative farms in Kyoto, such that they can try to find the best price for the teas they offer. Additionally, the source teas that are from a lesser-known cultivar that is supposed to have less bitterness. They’ve found this little niche, offering a few teas from this particular area and cultivar without the huge overhead of a large-scale tea export company, which I found interesting.

I’ve teased a little on Instagram, as I’ve tried the teas, but I thought I’d share my full thoughts about the teas in this review. I’m going to focus on the sencha and matcha, as I haven’t found the right time to try the other samples, but if the quality is comparable to the others, I expect them to be good.

Sencha: This looks like a standard sencha tea, with small, delicate leaves and an intense Japanese green tea scent to them. It is listed on the website at $12 for 1 oz., which is neither very expensive nor worryingly cheap. I brewed it with 175F water in a glass teapot for a minute, and was able to get two resteepings, steeped for one and two minutes respectively, after the first. The brewed tea is a pale yellow-green color that reminds me of some pinot grigio wines. The flavor is delicate and floral, with a hint of grassiness and almost no bitterness. The floral qualities come out even more strongly as I resteep. I found this to be a particularly enjoyable sencha and might consider buying more for myself, once I’ve worked my way through my current tea stash.

Matcha: The Koyo teas matcha at first seems like a very standard ceremonial-grade matcha. It’s listed on their website for $25 for 25g, which is right on par with other matchas I’ve bought. The powder is fine and whisks up without clumping. The color is not quite the brilliant emerald green of the Matchaeologist or O-Cha matchas I’ve tried, but the flavor is lovely. It is a very vegetal matcha, with a thick mouthfeel and body and a flavor reminiscent of boiled spinach, with a pronounced umami quality, but almost no bitterness. While I prefer more floral and acidic matchas, I did not find this difficult to drink and will enjoy finishing my batch. I would probably not repurchase this for myself, but I would recommend it for people who like matchas with that thick, vegetal quality.

So I definitely noticed the lack of bitterness in this cultivar, as Anil told me. Interestingly enough, I didn’t bother looking back at my old emails with Anil before I went ahead and brewed the teas, so I had actually forgotten that I might want to see if that was true. I found working with Anil to be enjoyable and the teas lovely, so if you’re interested in trying some excellent examples of classic Japanese green teas, you might want to check out Koyo Tea Company.

One final note: if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that beauty and tea are my two passions. If you’re interested in see how I’ve gotten those two passions to combine, check out my Volition Beauty campaign by clicking here. I would appreciate your support by voting for my campaign. Voting isn’t an obligation to buy the product if it is launched, but it does get you a discount if you do decide to buy it. Thanks.

Currently Listening: Myths and Legends Podcast

So I’ve spoken in the past about how I love the resurgence of podcasts and audio-based shows. I love them so much, I actually had a voice role in a podcast last year! But lately, I’ve found myself more and more enthralled with this storytelling podcast: Myths and Legends.

I found this podcast when I was looking for something interesting, yet innocuous, to listen to on one of my many flights this summer during my most intense travel season. What I found was an amazingly intricate treatment of Morgan Le Fay, drawn from multiple sources, and offering insight into this often-one-dimensional character from Arthurian legend. And then, a retelling of a story about a kelpie that was nearly laugh-out-loud hilarious (which would have been awkward on a crowded flight.

Jason, the host of the podcast, blends in-depth knowledge of folk tales, fairy tales, myths, and legends with a tongue-in-cheek narration style that makes these stories come to life in a way I probably haven’t encountered since my preschool story time. While some of the versions he tells differ in varying degrees from the versions I grew up enjoying, the podcast brings back my early and lifelong love of lore and stories.

You see, when I was a small child, I started reading early in life, but I pretended to read less well than I could so that my parents would continue to read me stories. I love hearing stories as much as I love reading them. Eventually, they caught on when I started correcting them while they were reading, and I had to read the stories to myself. When I was in middle school, we did a section in English class where we had to learn a folktale and tell it orally to the class. While researching for the project, I found out that our longtime neighbor had written a collection of West African folk tales, including the title story, “The Cow-Tail Switch.” Intrigued by both the fact that it was a non-European story and the local connection, I learned that story.

And now, as an adult, while I read as widely as I can, both modern books and old tales, there hasn’t really been anyone to tell me stories. Well, now through this podcast, I feel as though I’ve gone back, not only to the love of my childhood, but back to an oral tradition of stories. Anyone with an interest in stories should definitely check the podcast out.

How I Alter My Routine When My Skin is Irritated

Once again, I’ve been quiet on the blog. This happens every so often, and once again, it’s a mix of various other personal commitments, as well as a new project that I teased on Instagram yesterday. But one of the reasons I’ve been quiet is because I’ve had to largely put my beauty product testing on hold as I deal with my skin just freaking out for about a week.

A little over a week ago, I noticed my skin getting a bit dry around my jawline. Overnight, it went from “huh, maybe I should put a little extra moisture there” to a breakout and dry, scaly skin at the same time. It itched and was red. It was highly unpleasant, and I basically had to stop wearing all complexion makeup, despite having some very angry spots, because my skin was just too flaky for any makeup to stay looking good for longer than a half an hour.

My first instinct was to cut my skin routine down to the bare minimum: cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. I started using only my Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser, Avene Skin Comfort creme, and Avene Mineral sunscreen. That seemed to not make things much worse, although I was worried about removing a water-resistant sunscreen with a water-based cleanser. So I got a new bottle of Simple Hydrating Cleansing oil.

This basic routine helped calm my skin down, in terms of the redness and irritation. The cleansing oil lacks fragrance while the Milky Jelly is the only cleanser that has never irritated any part of my face. The Avene creme is a rich cream with simple ingredients and mineral oil for some occlusion to help my skin hold onto what little hydration it had left. And I opted for a moisturizing sunscreen using inorganic filters, as I’ve had irritation from organic filters in the past and just didn’t want to take any chances. I will say that, in general, I don’t consider inorganic filters superior and I look forward to feeling confident using my organic filter sunscreens again.

From there, my skin calmed, but didn’t heal. I needed hydration for that. I slowly started adding in some other products, and also started using a sunscreen with a slightly less moisturizing finish. My beloved Klairs toner was the first to be added back in, along with COSRX Acne patches for the spots that had sprung up. I also added some skin barrier support in the form of my A’pieu Madecassocide cream and Cerave Baby Moisturizing Cream. And eventually I tried a sheet mask, opting for the Klairs Rich Moist Soothing mask, which has very similar ingredients to the toner, and which I’ve used before to soothe hot or sensitive skin after spending time in the sun.

For the most part, I chose not to use any products that were completely new to me. The one exception I tried was to finally open up one of the generous samples of Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream that I received in my last two W2Beauty orders. I’d been curious about using this cream as a spot treatment on a few places that tend to be irritated, and when it seemed like things couldn’t get worse, I tried it out. It worked beautifully and now I’m tempted to buy a full-sized jar of it just in case this sort of thing happens again, or just for a spot treatment of the redness around my nostrils and under my lower lip.

So there you have it. A story of skin drama and recovery, starring, for the most part, products I’ve been using for a while and that I know help my skin relax, heal, and stop being irritated. I hope my experience might help someone else facing a similar issue deal with their own skin freakout. Generally, my advice would be to cut back to your bare minimum products, use only products that are very familiar to your skin, and add back in hydration and barrier support as your skin starts to calm down.

Tea and a Story: Hello and Welcome

Hello and welcome to Tea and a Story, a section of Tea Leaves and Tweed about stories and how they’re told from place to place and time to time. Fairy tales and mythology were early fascinations of mine and I’ve spent the last thirty years collecting stories from around the world. Here, I attempt to share the stories I love, share their connections among each other, and just generally share my love of these fantastical worlds that have endured for millennia. I hope you will come and sit with me, have a cup of tea, and listen to a story.

More to come later this month…