Monday, May 31, 2010

A Little Bit of This...

Everywhere, the mountains.

I am not reviewing tea today, as we are having unexpected company and I want to clean up what I can and make them food, so I'll just share some bits of information, mostly about tea, with you. Have a pleasant Memorial Day and do remember what it is about. I wish there were a better answer to conflict than war so we would not need to remember so many dead and damaged young men and women. I am thankful for our freedom, but I am appalled at the cost.

I don't remember where I heard about this, but it works. If you are making tea in the microwave – surely NOT one of us, (LOL ) put a plastic spoon in the cup with it. This enables bubbles to flow up the spoon instead of exploding your tea all over the micro and therefore making a mess and negating the calming effects of tea. Some of us do occasionally make tea this way, especially on bleary mornings, but I'm not naming them.

I happened to be awake this morning as the sun was getting up and the world was changing from gray half-tones to color. What really fascinated me was the ground mist, which seemed to rise as the strip of pink on the horizon widened. While there was no sun, there was no mist and once the sun was up for a while, it went away. I am sure there is a scientific explanation for this, but I just appreciated it.

For those of you who like Tea Gschwendner, they are opening a new retail store in Rockefeller Center in New York City. It will be opening the end of June in the Channel Gardens, near the ice skating rink. The company says it will be their “flagship” store. Oh gee, another reason to visit the Big Apple.

The World Tea Expo is happening in Las Vegas in just 2 weeks. If you go to you will be able to preview a number of new products. I was pleased to see that Ajiri Tea, which I reviewed a while back, won the top honor for best packaging. Since all their profits go to educate orphans, this is really a boost for them. Their tea's not bad either. Someday I hope to get to this exciting event. It certainly would've been a good break from moving.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Early or Late, it's Spring

More of those snazzy swords. The schloss museum had armor from the same period [around 1500] in another room and man, they were short people! The swords must have been 2 feet taller. I guess they would have been used on horse back.

I'm back in business. I got a filter that works and uses my old filter pods. I tried it last night with some decaf Red Rose and wasn't too thrilled – it's the teabags, I think, although as a pot, not a cup, it's not too awful.

Today, however, I am trying Life in Teacup's Frosty Spring Yunnan Roast Green, that was picked in January of this year. The dry leaves are very pretty, a mix of almost black, green and pale tan. Most of them are quite large and they smell like cut alfalfa that has just begun to dry or maybe somewhat dry lawn grass. The brewing leaves almost immediately sink to the bottom of the pot and very slowly unfurl. The scent is kind of odd, smelling very vegetal, but also meaty and the liquid is a very attractive pale green, with a slight lemon tinge. I did two infusions, both about 2 minutes at about 175. The second is darker and more yellow, and the leaves are all unfurled. I should have read the directions on the site, as I used too cool water for too long. So I'll do it tomorrow or Monday the way Gingko recommends.

In spite of that, I find this to be a pleasant tea. I can't pinpoint its taste, as it seems to change with every sip. It seems like a hearty tea, in spite of its delicate color. As it cools, it smells a tad flowery, although it is vegetal all the way. Now, which veggie? I am leaning toward roasted asparagus, but I'm not sure.

The second infusion is much lighter in taste, but also clearer. It just tastes of fresh green spring. I think I prefer it. Whatever, the next infusions, done “correctly”, will be the real test.

I was really pleased by the teas I ordered from Life in Teacup. For one, you can order in small amounts of 1 or 2 ounces. Secondly, they are not too expensive. They come in those handy metallic resealable pouches and lastly, but not leastly, she sent a number of free samples. You might want to check it out at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tea Taster Woes

Lake Thun, by Schloss Spiez.

Phoo and double phoo! I finally really tasted the water here and it's not very good. So I was on the lookout for a water filter to go on the faucet. I saw one on sale, cheap, that uses the same filter pack as my old one. Great, now I'm really in business! Until I tried to put the thing on. Easy directions, easy to do, BUT... It doesn't work and after getting thoroughly soaked twice and mildly sprayed 3 times I bunged it back in the package, to be returned. There is a reason it was cheap, I should've known.

No tea today other than the Chinese restaurant tea, which is only so-so. I don't understand how a restaurant can care about its food but not its tea, especially since tea is so very Chinese.

I was thinking some more about the whole issue of organic vs. non-organic and the earth. We lived for several years in southern York County, PA, which has some of the best farm land in the country. One old farmer there had us look at the difference in height between the edges of fields and the fields them selves – often as much as 3 feet. He said a lot of that had happened in his lifetime, as the earth lost its tilth due to greedy farm practices which took too much out of the soil without putting enough back in. He credited this to lack of crop rotation, overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, all of which threw off the natural rhythm of the earth. He said he was guilty too, as he mostly raised hogs and potatoes for potato chips, which meant just one kind of potato.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Icey White

Gosh, I really got carried away with the flowers, didn't I?

This morning we were treated to the sight of a doe and 2 almost-grown fawns, practicing fence jumping. Bert the brave was watching them from the window and wasn't sure if he should be afraid or not. There are lots of birds, including some blue birds, which I haven't seen in quite a while as they are not town birds. We understand it is very common to see black bear so one must be careful not to get between a mama and her cubs, as mama bears can be vicious if they perceive a threat to their young.

Last evening we were sitting on the porch, watching the shadows lengthen and the evening fall. I was reminded of many such evenings with my Gramma 'Duffee, the green tea drinker. When the work was done and evening approached, we'd put the porch chairs on the lawn and watch the shadows crawl across the hills, waiting for that last bit of glorious sunset, talking desultorily of this and that. She lived on a hillside above the Schoharie valley in Upstate New York. Perhaps that is where I acquired my love of hills. It certainly is one of the ways I learned to love tea, as she and I often shared a cup of gunpowder or Lipton's green, loose leaf.

Since we moved to a new house, I felt it was appropriate to buy a new teapot. Any excuse, right? I found one at that I had had my eye on and it was on sale! It is a white Foo Dog or Lion Dog and totally cute. Perhaps I should say fierce, as they are traditionally the sacred guardians of Buddhist temples. The pot was made in Nepal and came packed in Nepalese newspapers. I can't read them, but I enjoyed the photos. Of course, I had to buy some tea there as well. A sampler of 4 Himalayan teas – black ones flavored with cinnamon, mint, ginger and lemon. I also ordered some from Gingko at Life in Teacup and plan to get some Indigo Dreams from Madam Potts when she returns from her Paris fling.

Our local grocery has lots of tea. One that caught my eye was Inko's White Tea, billed as 100% natural white iced tea, unsweetened, of course. It cost $1.79 for a 16 oz bottle, which was glass, I was glad to see. It is a very pale gold. The only additional ingredient is citric acid. It's pretty good, tasting vaguely of apricots, strawberry and pineapple, with the faintest whiff of smokiness. The tastes don't seem to be there all at once, but kind of dosey-do in and out. In the interests of thoroughness, I added some sugar to the last of it and that seemed to bring out pineapple the most. All in all, I think it's a good brew.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Irish Breakfast in the Afternoon

More flowers from Schloss Spiez.

We have done the dread deed and we are officially in residence in our new home. So tired! However, it is immensely refreshing to listen to the night creatures and watch the sun begin to filter through the tall pines in the early morning. If I could just find more than 2 teacups and my dinner plates, I'd be a happier camper.

Perhaps later today I will find some tea to review, as well.

I did and I am having some Twining's Irish Breakfast. It's pretty plain. I brewed it at boiling for 2.5 minutes as it is pretty close to fannings grade. It's hearty and tastes pretty good. For me it would, fittingly enough, be a morning tea - one I wouldn't have to think about at all, just drink it down and wait to be conscious. Since that seems to be my afternoon state these days, it is an excellent choice.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Schloss (castle) Spiez - these swords are about 5 feet long - as tall or taller than men were at the time of their use. If you go to Switzerland, this is a great place to visit. The various rooms are arranged from different periods in the Schloss's life, from about 900 up to about the 1850's.

I was waiting for my tea to cool enough to drink and went over to Adagio's site. I came across their Tea Class . There are 34 FREE lessons, for beginning, intermediate and advanced tea persons. I have only looked at a few, but I thought it offered some very good information. And the price is right!

I found another tea to review. This is from the Assam Tea Company and is labeled Organic Large Namsang from the Rani Tea Estate, Autumn 2008, Batch 121. For an Assam, these are indeed large leaves. They are a very dark color, with some lighter brownish ones. The dry tea smells of some sort of deep, dark wine, with a corn silk touch to it. I personally did not like the smell of the brewing tea, but I think that is me. It smelled basically like the dry, but for some reason, it didn't set well. The tea liquor itself was very nice. Soft comes to mind, if that can describe tea. It seems to be well-rounded and lacking in astringency. It's not an exciting tea, just a pleasant, straight-forward Assam.

This is my last post for a week or so. It is time to shut down the computer, pack it up, move it, un pack it, wait for the cable guy and then we'll be in business again. Probably next Sat., May 22 or soon thereafter. Have a great week, drink some great teas and if you are so inclined, pray for a great move!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

In the Sweet, Sweet Summer

Another Swiss mountain, near Interlaken.

I was again looking through my teas and came across a sample from Gingko at Life In Teacup, Taiwan Sweet Summer Oolong. Great name, and for once, it is sunny and almost warm. I brewed it at almost boiling, with a bit over a teaspoon for my cup, for about 2 minutes. The leaves were tightly furled, so I rinsed them off for a few seconds. For some reason, Oolongs tend to do better if you add this step. The scent of the brewing tea reminded me of summer long ago - the smell of hot rubber - a good one to me, it brings back those wonderful, endless days. That, however, was fleeting and the main scent was that of orchid or osmanthus with a hearty understory of vegetal. The liquor was a lovely medium lemon orange color. Once again, Gingko has gotten some good tea. The taste is delightful, thick, lingering, slightly sweet, floral, very fresh. I am sure this will be a summer standby, once I move and start ordering teas again. It is so appealing I can picture myself on the back porch, listening to the birds, first thing in the morning.

It is interesting that Alex should comment on yesterday's post about another new "tea bag". I have to say I agree with him. I grew up on a farm, in the days before organic vs non-organic and I think on the whole we were organic. It was cheap, it worked and our animals , fields and gardens flourished. My grandfather and father were founding members of the Cooperative Extension and I have records of their experiments growing crops under many conditions. We have also spent a number of years in farming communities and can attest to the advisability of sustainable practices. The land simply does better and improves, rather than getting worn out.

We have seen the overuse of chemicals and it truly is a scourge on the land. It is also a scourge to us. It is no secret that there are more and more problems with breathing illnesses and behavioral illnesses that can be traced to widespread chemical ingestion. Forensically, scientists are discovering that bodies take longer to decay, due to the ingestion of preservatives. Ick, why hang around?

I am not 100% organic. If I am mad enough at the beetles, I may spray them and I don't always buy organic. But I have had many gardens that were wrested from heavy nasty clay soil and within three years they had wonderful tilth and fertility. How many of you can boast a small marigold the size of a bushel basket? I admit, I was surprised and give all the credit to horse manure. If I care about my food, I need to care about the people who produce it and try to make sure that neither them nor their children are exposed to too many chemicals.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hawaian Tea

The castle gardens at the castle in Spiez, Switzerland. These are pansies and I took this picture especially for my friend Carole, who loves pansies.

Did you know that not only do we have a tea estate in South Carolina that regularly produces and sells tea, but there is one in Hawaii as well?

'Tis true. Go to and discover it for yourself. I haven't tried any of their teas, but I have heard positive things about them from other bloggers.

I saw an ad for an innovative "tea bag". I am not sure what to call it. Premeasured tea in a longish cylindrical sack comes enclosed in a cardboard tube that you peel off, leaving a small handle. You put the sac in your cup and proceed as with a tea bag. I don't know if they are on the market yet, this was an ad in a trade journal. There are many tea infusers that are creative, but you really need to wonder if they work or are just a "gotcha" for the market, gone with the first try out.

A week from today is the big moving event and I finally feel like we are going to make it. I am so very happy I won't have to do this again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

iPhone App (I think)

Not so hot photographer, but a really fine door, with great hinges.

Not so hot tea today, either and no time to really taste it.

However, my Spring issue of Tea, A Magazine arrived and I discovered that if you have an iPhone that magazine, known as Teamag, is available.

All the tea news for today!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On a Snowy Day in May

See that white stuff up there on the mountains in Switzerland? That is snow. You know what we have here in the Southern Tier? SNOW! It doesn't hit the ground, but it is in the air! It's May, for goodness sake. And here I was, a few weeks earlier, complaining about the heat!

If any of you are lucky enough to be going to the British Isles anytime soon, you should go over to the UK Tea Council site and see what they are talking about. There is a big list of tea events, tea shops, tea rooms and other interesting stuff, all with enough information to help you decide where you might want to go for a “nice cuppa tea and a sit down”.

Did you ever wonder why your tea didn't taste like it was supposed to? There are lots of reasons having to do with the tea and the way you prepared it, but for today, let's focus on just you. Did you brush your teeth very recently? Eat some strong foods, like onion or garlic? Did you NOT brush your teeth? Have a candy bar? Does the cat food really smell? How much air freshener is there in the room, other than fresh air, that is? All these things can affect your tea's taste. If it is related to your mouth, one of the best things I've found for cleansing it is a rinse with water and then a couple of Trisquits. Saltines work, too, but I don't think they do quite as good a job. For the others, you can figure out what to do.

Have any of you tried Green tea ice cream? It's wonderful stuff. The best is a pale bright Spring green from the Matcha tea powder in it and delicately flavored. Matcha is a powdered green Japanese tea, used in their tea ceremonies. Many Oriental restaurants are serving it these days and it is worth trying. Some of the manufacturers have gotten overly exuberant with it and it can be very heavily flavored and much too sweet. You might want to share it with someone first time around. It's not tea-flavored, but Indian ice cream is really divine. I have tasted several of the flavors – rose, mango, (my favorite), pistachio, tutti frutti, cardamom and they are all super, very, very rich and sweet, so a small amount is fine.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

To all of you who are mothers:

Savor this day. Remember all the good things about your children. Appreciate them more. Tell them you love them each and every day. Hold them tightly in your heart while you are letting them go to be their own persons.

To those of you who have had mothers:

Remember the good things about them. Honor them by living an honorable life. If you had a horrible mother, try to forgive her, it will do you both good. If you had a terrific mother, tell her.

Life is short, too short to waste in hatred, self-pity, ingratitude, all those ugly things we fall into.

Sit down, have a nice cuppa and resolve to live and love more richly.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Teacher's Pot

I had an instructive cup of tea this afternoon. It was Narien Tea's Ceylon Kenilworth Estate. There was only enough in the sample from a tea swap friend to make one small pot. The dry tea had no scent and the brewing tea smelled vaguely of citrus. The taste was intriguing, as it tasted nothing like a Ceylon tea! Why is this you might wonder? I'll tell you.

When I got this tea, it was in its own small plastic envelope, but others in the package were quite heavily scented and flavored. Just the short few days it took to get from their house to mine infused this tea with a taste and scent other than its own. Remember, a while ago I mentioned that tea is very sensitive to odors and tastes? Here's the proof. Keep your teas carefully in scent proof, light proof containers. That is hard to do when you have small samples, I know, but I do try to keep scented and unscented ones apart.
We are officially moving on May 19, 2 weeks from today, so postings will probably be very scarce. Most of the tea I am drinking is "comfort tea". The ones I know I like and don't have to think about. They are also ones I have reviewed here. They are, if you're interested, Ajiri Kenya, Upton's Finest Russian Caravan, Tea Smith's South of the Border, unnamed Jasmine and Dream About Tea's Hairy Crab Oolong and, of course, PG Tips teabags. When my stomach gets knotty, I have some Ginger and Peppermint tea.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Mug of Masala

More Hapsburg Royalty glitz.

My very first whiff of the masala chai tea bags I bought yesterday at the Indian Bazaar in Albany was a good one – full of ginger and cardamom., two of my favorite spices. These new! teabags were from the Parivar Fantasy company, also labeled a Sapat product. I really am not sure of the brand, I am just giving you the label information. They come in a plastic jar with a green lid. The teabags are oblong, about a third full of spices and tea which are the "best" Assam tea, cardamom powder, cinnamon powder and clove powder, with natural Masala-Chai flavor. It is touted as “no-mess”, no straining, NO TEA LEAVES IN CUP. Well! There were a lot of bold comments and exclamation marks on the label.

Following the skimpy directions, I boiled up a cup of water, threw in the teabag, added the amount of milk I thought I would like and a teaspoon of sugar. And brought it up to a strong simmer for a few minutes. It was not quite right, so I added a bit more sugar. Umm-um good. It was flavorful, spicey, without being too strong and all around a nice cup for an unexpectedly chilly day, as it leaves both your mouth and tum nicely warmed. It is not the best chai I have had, as I like mine with a bit more punch, but it is still quite good. I am also not sure it saves that much time and effort. I did try it in the microwave, just for completeness, and there it is quite time saving, but you do have to be careful not to boil the milk all over, as I managed to do.
If you are of an experimental bent, as I seem to be, try making your own spice mix. They are easy to find on the internet. I always look for ones from Indian folks, as they would be more authentic. You will see that there are many different ones. I don't know if these are particularly regional or just the way "mother made it" Comfort food, which I think this probably is, can be fiercely debated, as part of the comfort is it brings back good memories of our childhood or some other time in our past, when a particular food made us feel good. Spices tend to warm us and at least for those of us in temperate climates, warm equals good.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Patience, Patience

The dark rich purple lilacs by the back deck are getting ready to bloom! I look at them several times a day thinking – maybe now they'll unfold, surely they are ready to let that wonderful smell pour out. I am so anxious for them to bloom – to take in their rich beautiful scent. Sometimes I feel like that about tea, if it's name or smell or appearance are particularly intriguing. I just can't wait to try it, to see if the taste lives up to the fanfare that name or aroma gives out. The brewing time seems to be eons, letting it cool enough to taste, almost as long. Sometimes I cheat and pour a bit in a saucer, so I can know right now, if it will be wonderful.
I found this really cute tea strainer on the Tea and Company blog at xx-teo-strainer.jpg. I wouldn't mind having one of these cheerful little people on my mug.
We went to/from Albany today and the only tea I've had was Lipton's Iced Green tea with citrus, in a big jug from the grocery store. Lots of sugar. Tasted a little better than green Kool-Aid, but not much. No, it actually tasted worse. If people think this is reaping the benefits of green tea, I think they are sadly deluded.

We went to the Indian store to stock up and I found some chai tea bags. Stop back in tomorrow for the review. The only other tea I came near was at the supermarket where we had stopped for coffee. It was all K cups from Green Mountain coffee and it was excellent! They had K cups for tea, but there was only one machine and I have had tea from coffee pots and while it is an experience, it is not one I care to repeat.

PS – the lilacs have started to bloom and I am a happy sniffer!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gingerbread Bears Are Better

Our lawn got mowed for the first time yesterday. I was kind of sorry to see that happen, as we have lots of violets this year and an abundance of pretty little rock cress. They are the very simplest of flowers – 4 white to pale pink petals, the whole flower only about 1/4 inch across. The ornamental crab and pear trees are in bloom and the tent caterpillars are being their usual obnoxious selves.

Between our current house and the new one is the most peculiar golf course. It looks like a convoy of dump trucks filled with dirt pulled in, dropped their loads, and left them as is. A few have flattened tops, for the greens, but the rest are just little hills. Very odd.

My new next door neighbor just informed me that a large black bear was sauntering through our yards to eat her woodpecker suet. Bears and coyotes and birds, Oh My!

By now you are probably wondering if this woman is ever going to get to the tea. I am, I am, here goes. I found a sample of one of Adagio's Christmas teas, Gingerbread, in my packing frenzy and it sounded good – I was in the mood for a sweet. Talk about truth in packaging! From the first whiff out of the tin to the last bit from the pot, it is gingerbread. A very mild and not too sweet confection, with pieces of what looks like dried ginger in it. I brewed it at 1 teaspoon for 3.5 minutes in almost boiling water. I think maybe an added half teaspoon would've been more to my taste. I also thought a bit of cream and sugar made it better and I also liked it with a bit of honey. A nice tea for an afternoon with cookies, either making or eating them. And for weary packers who need a pick-me-up!

If this sounds like your cuppa, start checking with Adagio, around Nov 15, so it will arrive before Christmas. I didn't and got mine for New Year's. One hopes I learned.