I bought this bar of tea soap at last week's Taipei Tea Expo 2006. I've tried it today and can report that it works well. It's a little bit a paradox: the soap smells very strongly, but the hands come out with very little of that smell. I think I will use this soap to wash my hands before each tme I brew tea. As you may remember if you read me 'religiously' (as somebody just emailed me!), I recommend that you touch the tea leaves before you brew them. This happens naturally if you don't use a wooden spoon: you first put some leaves in your hand and then in the teapot/gaiwan. Some people say it's very bad to touch leaves, because tea is so sensitive and will pick your odors. And I must say they have a point. That's why your hands should be clean and you shouldn't wear strong perfume. But if you do this, why shouldn't the tea come in contact with you? The tea is going to give you it's essence, you can also give it some of yourself before the fusion of tea and you happens in your body. And the best leaves have been picked up by hand anyway.
This soap then reminded me of this 'tea seed powder'. This is also a soap, but traditionnally used for washing the dishes, before the days of P&G. Nowadays it's still used for washing the dishes, but it's marketed for those emphasizing natural and environment friendly products. I also found it works well to wash my hands before making tea. (For the dishes it's OK, but not as powerful as the modern stuff. I like it for my wok and for very dirty pots, but not for the fine touch.)
These 2 soaps are not directly made with tea then. But with the tea seed, the seed that grows from the tea flower:
It's with this seed that tea farmers press the very rich tea oil (bottle left) and then this oil is used to make the soap bar (right). To make the powder (middle), they just grind the tea seed.
Tea has many other derivatives. I recently saw my local supermarket selling bed pillows filled with brewed and dried again tea leaves! (Such pillows are cooler for the summer).This is something you can do yourself: sun dry the leaves instead of throwing them away. Once you have enough of them you can stuff them in a pillow. Maybe some puerh fans in this community should do this with puerh. I'm sure such a pillow would motivate them to go to bed earlier and have nice dreams instead of blogging into the late hours of the night! (Hey! Maybe I should try it myself!)