Ballenberg - This tiny cottage would be for the use of the cowherds in the summer, when they had taken the cattle up to the high pastures. There is a festival in each village on the day the cows go up and each cow has a ceremonial bell to wear, with the lead cow having the biggest and fanciest. One of my prized possessions is just such a bell. It is quite small, as cow bells go, since it was my grandfather's first and last bell before he came here. Some farmers may have 20 or 30 bells in graduated sizes, hung under the eaves, to commemorate the yearly trek and reused each year. The sound of the bells on all the pasture animals is really delightful, from the tiny tinkles of the baby kids up to the solid bongs of the big bells on the bulls.
As I mentioned last week, I just got a copy of Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss's new book, The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook. I had a chance over the weekend to go through a lot of it and it's a good one. There's brief overview of tea, a guide to purchasing different types and a guide to the 6 different classes of tea – white, green, yellow, Oolong, black and pu-erh. There is a very handy glossary and a short list of good tea merchants. The latter has several for Chinese and Japanese, but only 1 for Assam and nothing for Darjeeling or Nilgiri, which I find somewhat odd, as Darjeeling is considered the “champagne” of teas and I have certainly had some really good tea from Nilgiri.
That's about my only quibble, as this is a really well done book. There are a number of teas mentioned in each class, with directions on how to get the most from them in the brewing. There are tips on what to look for in a tea merchant and how to best store your purchases. There are brief descriptions of how each tea is processed and particular gardens or areas that the best variety comes from. All in all, this is a fairly small book that is packed to the rafters with excellent accessible information for a very decent price -$11.55 at Amazon. I can see that I will get a lot of use from it and intend to put it in the kitchen, next to my tea-making paraphernalia, so it will be handy when I am trying new teas.
I got the March and April copies of the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal within days of each other – one too late and the other on time. While tea often takes a back seat in this magazine, there usually is enough to justify the name. This time, there was nothing in the March issue and one 3 paragraph mention of tea in the April issue. I don't think I'll be renewing it.
I was at the grocery store yesterday and grabbed their free "magazine”. Lo and behold there was a 2 page spread about giving a tea party. It is, of course, a way to showcase their brands, but they did a good job, even going so far as to list about 5 teas and what foods they would go with. They made a tea party sound pretty easy for someone not used to giving them, which I hope encourages people to have one of these delightful meals.
I'm not tasting tea today, it is just too crazy a day, with meetings, appointments, a birthday party and maybe some more packing. I do expect to do some tomorrow, though.