Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Welcome, Sunshine

We have been having a whole string of beautiful days.  Some were only half days, but around here, you celebrate sun.  Perhaps you could even say we appreciate it more because it is somewhat rare in winter.  In the summer, we often welcome a cloudy day that is little cooler.

Some tea news first of all.  Choice Teas has just introduced an organic Korean Green Tea.  It only comes in teabags at the moment.  They also have some other new ones - decaf green, chai, and rooibos chai.  All their teas are organic.  Their website is http://www.choicesorganicteas.com/  At just 4.99 for 16 teabags, this is a good way to try out some Korean tea.  Generally, it is prohibitively expensive.

Numi Tea has just gotten some awards for their organic teas and for their efforts at sustainability.  http://www.numitea.com/ .  I am pleased to see organic companies rewarded for their work in helping the planet and its people.

The New York Coffee and Tea Festival is taking place February 25-26 and there are lots of tea courses available to choose from.

The World Tea Expo, held in June in Las Vegas is 10 years old this year!  Wow, I didn't know that, it's heartwarming that tea has been that important for that long.  I'll have more information about it later on. 

I am having Dragonwell Imperial Reserve from Teavana today.  It is part of a swap I got from participating in the Tea Review Blog swap.  I thought it suitable for the celebration of the Lunar Year of the Dragon.  These lovely green leaves are so much fun.  They are long, slender and absolutely flat as they are generally hand-fired in woks.  They feel like silk as they run through my fingers.  These seem to give off a sweet aroma.  I am brewing them at about 170 for 2 minutes.  Wow, does this smell wonderful.  A cross between spring green and a sweet orchid.  It is a very pale green.  It tastes as good as it smells, delicate, sweet, spring grassy, a great way to welcome the new year in.

I drove by my neighbor farmer this week and spotted a flock of about 50 wild turkeys gleaning in his corn field.  My little downy woodpeckers are back at the suet feeder and last night I heard the owls calling to each other in the woods - it is mating season and I suppose all the gents were telling the ladies how wonderful they are.  I have been saving my yarn ends from my projects for the birds and soon I will string them through the bushes for them to use in their nests.  I also put out dryer lint for the same purpose.

This is another German ancester's church.  I guess they liked blue.  At some point they had a flood, which rose above the pulpit and up over the balcony.  I now understand what that is like.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yaup, That's Tea

I was reading a mystery by Susan Wittig Albert, Mourning Gloria, and came across yaupon holly tea, aka ilex vomitoria.   As we can see from the Latin name for it, as well as the common name, it is part of the holly family.  The second part of the name indicates it has been used in the past as a purgative.  Ms Albert says that the leaves and twigs can be dried and used as tea, since it has caffeine in it, as an eye wash, a laxative and a purgative, depending on how strong you make it, and how much you drink.  She said nothing about the taste.  Wikipedia seems to think that the vomiting that was associated with this drink, as part of indigenous people's rituals, was actually learned behavior or caused by another drink.

This shrub can be grown in the Southeastern US.  Perhaps some of you have it growing in your gardens, as it is quite attractive.  If so, and you feel adventerous, try drying and brewing some.  Let us know so we can find out what it tastes like.  From several sources, other than Wikipedia, there seems to be a general consensus that it will not make one vomit.

I was waiting for a mammogram today and came across this quote in an O Magazine:  "True happiness is sustainable delight in the beautiful moments of everyday life."  That delight is a bulwark against sorrow, depression and the host of other things that can make our lives miserable.  Flowers, sunset, sunrise, animals, friends, clouds, light in the dark, cool shadows on a hot day, there are so many.  One certainly is drinking tea.  There is so much there to appreciate.  Warmth for both hands and tummy, scent and sight, a whole host of different tastes.  It is a wonderful gift.

My gift today comes from The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants http://www.thejasminepearl.com/  and was a gift, as it is a sample they included in my order for their wonderful t-shirt, "Pothead" - go check it out.  The tea is Jasmine Peony Organic Green Tea with jasmine blossoms.  It smells divine - very floral with the tiniest citrus hint.  The leaves are quite long, with lots of jasmine.  Because they are so long, I used a large teaspoon per cup with water about 180 degrees.  The JPT folks say to brew 3-4 minutes.  I did 3.  The leaves are very slow to unfurl, and don't dance around much as they do.  The liquor is a pretty pale yellow, with a very mellow jasmine aroma.

The taste is lovely, definitely jasmine, but neither too floral or too sweet, just mellow, as I mentioned. It is one of the few green teas I've had that is soft and sweet right to the end of a large cup, instead of getting bitter.

I liked this tea company's web site.  There was a lot of information about each tea and a good bit of educational information as well.  Also, a lot of their teas are organic, which I think is a big plus.

Part of the large central fountain in Durlach.  I think I was going to translate this information on the sign, but I haven't yet!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Winter Warm

Winter, what does that word conjure up for you?  Coming into the warm after being in the cold.  Growing up on the farm, it was a warm cow barn, new calves, molasses on the feed, and sneaking a little bit for myself from the barrel. It was a slow time, time to dream, time to fix what you didn't have time to fix in the summer or fall, the aroma of silage in the silos.  The light was different then, too, with a gentle golden pinkness towards the end of a day.

Winter was also harsh, walking a mile to the bus stop, digging out after a storm, trying to keep the ice out of the ditches.  Even fun was cold and often wet with sledding and ice skating to do.  But there was always  the knowledge of warmth waiting for us; warmth, hearty food, cats and dogs on laps and feet, the heat from the big black wood-burning stove, something warm to drink, generally  chamomile tea, gathered in the summer and carrying with it the scent of warm July days.

It is winter and I am warm.  There is tea to drink, which warms from the inside out.  There are still cats to warm my lap.  Life is good.

Today's tea is from one of my favorite companies, Upton Tea Imports.  It is ZY64 - China Yunnan, Select Dao Ming.  The dry leaves are long and twisted, brown and black with golden buds.  They give off a kind of woodland aroma, laced with spice.  The dark brown brewed tea smells more of roasted acorns or squash.  This organic tea has a lot of body to it, so it feels like it is more than just colored water.  As it cools only a little, more spice is apparent in the aroma.  The taste has a floral edge to it.  I tried it with milk and I think I liked it better.  It seemed to have zoomed into a freshness stratosphere.  Very interesting.  I brewed it for 4 minutes with boiling water.  I am a big Yunnan fan and this is one I will get more of, as it is quite different from the usual.

We're still in Durlach, Germany, as you can tell from the yellow sign on the right.  This is not a perspective problem with curving lines, the houses and street are following the inside curve of the ancient city walls.  Hopefully I will be able to find a picture of the outside curves of the walls.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Wind in the Trees

There's nothing like a hot cup of tea when you come in from a blustery winter walk.  The Ernster cat went with me and ran ahead and back, but we both stopped at the spinney to hear the secrets the trees were telling on the wind, the groaning of old limbs, and the rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker.  This morning's songster was silent, probably nestled in a hole somewhere to keep warm.

Once again I am having some Christmas present tea, something called Mim from a local shop.  It comes from the Metropolitan Tea Company, which is a wholesaler, but I am sure they would tell you a store you could purchase it in.  I did my usual 1 teaspoon, 212 degrees, 3.5 minutes that I use for new teas.  I have read in a few places lately that official tea tasters push that to 5 minutes for all teas because no off flavors can hide that way.  I've had some that were fine at 3.5, but awful at that longer time.

Th dry leaves were mostly short and black, with a few long, twisted ones and some gold leaves or buds.  There was a faint, sharp aroma.  However, by the time  it got in my cup, it was an autumn woodsy scent of dry leaves and wood.  It is a clear soft amber.  It is woodsy tasting and somewhat astringent.  Milk softens that edge.  It is pretty bland, but seems to get heartier as it cools.  This might be a good breakfast tea, if I made it stronger or indeed brewed it longer.

Just a small German garden I liked.  The plaque on the left indicates this house survived the 1698 fire in Durlach.  I was very impressed there, as everyone had these little gardens, often carving out a bit of street so they could put in a wisteria vine or something else pretty.  I was also impressed that their houses were over 300 years old.  Mine is almost 2.

Food hint for the day.  If your spaghetti sauce is somewhat sharp, there are a couple things you can do with it to cure that.  One is add a pinch of baking soda and stir.  This is ok, but not optimal. The other is add a pork chop, with the fat, please, or some lard.  My mother-in-law always said the pork sweetened the sauce and she was right.  I know some of you will be having conniptions about lard, but have you ever read what is in margarine?  You don't need much and if you can get some that doesn't have a bunch of chemicals in it, so much the better.  Sometimes a teaspoon of sugar helps, but be careful not to use so much you get sweet and sour sauce - it's very weird.

I am loving the snow on the branches - they are so well defined.  The evergreens have their own character; some look like lollipops, some like the spoon dancers in Beauty and the Beast, some have gawky stances, some are just naturally the shape we like for Christmas trees.  They're all lovely.  I am reminded of the old carole - "O Tannenbaum, oh tannenbaum, how lovely are your branches...."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Branching Out

Hooray for snow.  Beautiful sparkly white stuff.  Hooray for tea to drink when it is cold.  My next wish is for it to stay cold so we can keep the snow.  Well, two wishes, because I would like the sun to hang around also.

Today I am having the last of the flavored green teas I got from Blue Raven Teas.  It is called Caladosai and is made from sencha (Japanese) green tea, dried cherries, lime, lemongrass and Asian spices.  I brewed it with water about 180, for 3 minutes.  The resulting liquor was a pretty pale pink and smelled mostly of star anise and the green-ness of the sencha.  That is just what it tasted like, as well, with the barest hint of fruit.  I thought the dried fruits were strawberries but as I chewed them it was clear they were not.  But they tasted good.  I don't think this blend worked particularly well, as the star anise pretty well carried the day.  It's a strong spice, brought out by heat and moisture.  I like it, but only in moderate amounts.  I think if I had made this in a pot, instead of just one cup, I would have liked it more, as the ingredients would've been able to blend better.

Driving around, seeing the tree branches, I have been noticing how the different trees put out their limbs.  I have been marveling at the many genetic codes that make one tree short, one a giant, one send out branches in a cork-screw pattern, another vase-shaped, another very round, that one an arrow, etc.  The trees that have grown apart from others have the room to be fully themselves and some are breathtaking in the beauty of the arrangement of their limbs.  I still miss my favorite pine that went down in the tornado last spring, it had lovely branches.

I need to find beauty in the winter, it is not as apparent as it is in summer.  Well, perhaps, it is a different sort of beauty, quieter, waiting to be seen instead of showing off.  One very bright sight was spotting the brilliant red berries of some deciduous holly.  Did you know that there is such a thing?  I just found out myself.  Even against brown and gray it really reaches out and grabs your eye.

What has been beautiful for you this winter?

One of the many, many medieval fountains preserved in Durlach, Germany.  Note the frog climbing up the side of the bowl.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Of Ships and Shoes and Sealing Wax and Cabbages and Kings

Okay, I am forced to put down my stuck up nose about mixes.  I made a scone mix yesterday from King Arthur Flour, given to me along with so very many tea things for Christmas.  They were absolutely delicious!  I put some raisins in as I like raisins, but otherwise followed the recipe and baked them in my new scone baker.  Such a cinch!  We had them with lemon curd and Devonshire cream.  Way to go sister-in-law!  They didn't last long.

A. C. Cargill has written a fun piece about cats and tea lovers - see the Little Yellow Teapot link at the right.  I must admit I am both and I also admit I share both tea and goodies with the worst beggar in the universe, Ernie, the Earnest.  He is very serious about his pursuit of goodies.  Usually he creeps up on my lap, purring as loudly as possible, but not looking at my tea.  Slowly he edges closer, purr at high rev.  Finally he ever so casually pokes his nose or a paw on my plate.  When he was a kitten he wasn't nearly so subtle - then it was the lightening paw flick and away he went with his prize.  At the present time I can make him wait his turn, but I usually pour him a small bit of tea because he will keep putting his nose in it and I don't want it to spill.

It is okay to share small bits of goodies with cats, but be careful they only get things that won't harm them.  Please look on line to see what these may be.  Of course, one could have well disciplined cats, but that, my friends is an oxymoron.

I am having some of my Christmas tea - Golden Monkey from Adagio.  It is a pleasant, somewhat sweet tea with a nice woodsy edge to it and perhaps a pinch of spice to add interest.  I brewed it for 3.5 minutes with boiling water, but I think next time I am going to push it to 4 and see how it does.  It is one of those all purpose teas, strong enough for breakfast, but pleasant enough to do for tea.  Cold, it makes a very nice ice tea, as it is somewhat light at 3.5 minutes.  I thought it was just fine with or without milk.

Did you know you can make tea from saffron, those expensive and heavenly orange stamens from autumn crocus?  Hop on over to http://www.bellaonline.com/artibles/art174619.asp.zzz for an article about it.  Bella online is a website with many areas of interest, geared mostly to women.  Some of the tea articles are pretty good. 
Here you have an Austrio-Hungarian Emperor and some of his summer palace near Vienna.  it is so huge that the "short" tour takes over 2 hours and only covers about 1/20th of the rooms.  The last emperor, Franz Joseph, much beloved by his people, was married to Cissy, even more beloved.  She spent upwards of 8 hours a day beautifying herself for the evening.  Her hair touched the floor.  I am sorry, but I think that is a wasted life.  But she was beautiful.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nilgiri Noon

It's a perfect day for tea.  It is either snowing, sleeting or raining, depending on which minute you happen to look out the window.  The cats have snagged all the warm spots and it is pretty gloomy, even with the lights on.

I am having some of Upton's Premium Quality BOP Nilgiri.  BOP stands for Broken Orange Pekoe., meaning a largish leaf that has been chopped.  Nilgiri is in the far southwest of India and means Blue Mountains.  Perhaps they have a blueish haze like our Blue Ridge Mountains.  Upton's recommends a 3 minute brew with boiling water.  The smallish, dry, black and brown  leaves give off an odor of old wood in the sun.  The brewing tea has that fresh wash aroma.

Taste wise, this is nothing special.  It just tastes like tea.  It is pleasant and very middle-of-the-road.  There is nothing wrong with that, as we can't spend all our time searching for each little nuance in every cup we drink, although that is also very pleasant and rewarding.  I would serve this to people who aren't adventurous and I think it would make a good tea for a tea party as it is so pleasant.  I think it would probably go well with almost anything you serve.  For myself, I am going to push the steep time to 31/2 minutes and see how that affects the taste.

Just part of the houses built into the ancient walls of Durlach, Germany.  They are from the 1500's, although they have undergone many transformations.  This is a town that dates things from before and after "The Fire", which was in 1698.  When I asked someone where old Durlach was, they told me most of it had been destroyed in the fire.  I thought 20-30 years ago, not over 300.  I took most of these picture because at least some of them would have been scenes my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather may have seen as a boy.  It's quite a juxtaposition as I sit here in my 18 month old house.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tummy Trouble? Turn to Tisanes

We still have snow drifting down, turning everything to fairy land.

We also seem to be having tummy troubles.  They seem to be going around the area.  I thought I would talk about a few herbs that can be helpful and taste good, too.

The first that comes to mind is ginger because I am getting ready to plant a nice "hand" of ginger that is sprouting.  This is extremely easy to do if you have some sandy soil around.  I don't, but I have quick draining orchid soil and I am going to mix that with some potting soil and compost - my black gold - and in will go the ginger, a few inches under the top of the soil.  I'll water it well and soon it will grow nice green shoots.  In the fall, when the leaves die down I can harvest it and replant it.  This will be a back porch plant, where it will get filtered sun and I will remember to feed and water it well.  It needs to come in in the north, as it is a tropical plant.

In the meantime, I have cut off about 1 inch of it, peeled it and grated it for some tea.  This is very soothing to an upset stomach and the 1 inch piece will make enough for about 3 cups, which I will sweeten with honey.  Of course, if you happen to have ginger tea bags around, you don't need to do this, but I like it this way.  A very easy way to keep a big hand of ginger is to peel it and put it in a plastic bag in the freezer.  When you want some, grate it and return the rest.  Works a treat, as they say.

Another tummy friendly herb is peppermint or spearmint, in fact, most of the mints.  This is an extremely easy to grow plant, and if not controlled, it can take over,  so if you plant it, put it somewhere by itself.  You can snip all summer to add to tea or raitas or to put in Middle Eastern food.  It does do wonders in calming your tum and you can drink it cool or iced as well.  Alternating the ginger and peppermint throughout the day will help you feel better, as well as ensuring drinking enough liquids.

Our third tummy tamer is chamomile.  Not only can it ease distress, but it is generally a calming herb for the whole system.  It is very gentle and smells like apples.  Again, it is an easy to grow plant, but it is far more polite than the mint family.  I warn you, you need a lot to dry enough to be worthwhile.

For these and many other herbs, if you can't wait to grow them, I have found that Mountain Rose Herbs http://www.mountainroseherbs,com/ has very good ones at reasonable prices.  They also carry some herb seeds and some teas.  Make sure you get their catelog, it has a lot of neat stuff and they carry wonderful catnip, heartily approved by Andy, Sarah, Bert and Ernie, the little beggers.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Oolong in the Snow

Thank you Stephanie for hoping for snow for me.  It snowed!  Every little twig and branch is covered with it and it is absolutely beautiful!  I think we have about 3 inches.  Not a lot, but it is so much less gloomy looking.  The wind is blowing, so we won't have the tree beauty for long, but I love it while we've got it.

Same church, another view.  I love the soft yellow and blue.

Have you ever noticed how many things are fleeting?  Roses in June, most of the pernnial flowers, sunrise, sunset?  Perhaps if they were not we could not appreciate them as much.  But there are those which are not, the love between spouses, parent and child, friendship, and they are of value beyond price.  In the overall universe they are fleeting, what is 50 years compared to an eon?  And great moments in our lives are fleeting, but overall, we hope the love lasts and we work toward nurturing that love.

A cup of good tea is fleeting, but it's taste can go in our memory store so that when we find it again, we are cheered.  Such is a cup of Ali Shan (Formosa Oolong) from the puriTea.  I don't think I've met an Ali Shan I didn't like.  These high mountain teas are among the best Taiwan has to offer and this one is no exception.  I brewed it for 3 minutes at 180 degrees, after giving it a quick rinse to help the leaves unfurl.

The resulting brew was a soft, pale yellow, smelling sweetly of things to come.  From the aroma, which also had a slight vegetal edge, I think this is on the greener end of oxidation, which in Oolongs can range from 15-80% oxidized.  It really does stand between green and black teas.  The tea has a lovely flavor, being floral, vegetal and fruity, sometimes all at once, sometimes with 1 or 2 standing out.  It is one of those teas that seems to compell you to come back for yet another sip.

Most, if not all Oolongs can be brewed at least three times, although you should only do the first for a minute, the second for 11/2, the third for 2, etc.  Often the second one is the best, at least according to my taste.  Next time I have this, I think that is what I will do.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Tiny Little Teapot

Attention all you Anglophiles - I was at T J Maxx this am and they had the cutest tea pot.  It is a one cupper, with the British flag molded into the sides.  It's white and comes with 10 English Breakfast teabags for $6.99.  You mught want to check out your local T J or Marshall's if this is of interest.  Of course I bought it - too cute to resist.

Speaking of teapots, I was looking around the house yesterday and thought I had best shrink my collection before we have to move, which I will NOT do.  Between them and all my teas, it is getting ridiculous.  This after I just got another one.  Hopeless, just hopeless.

I am drinking a very nice Assam I got from my swap partner throught the Tea Blog Review tea swap, http://www.teareviewblog.com/ and look for "Tea Swap".  I don't know whose it is, but it commendably  brisk, malty and a great wake-me-up, which I needed after errand running today.  It is not a nuanced cup, just a pleasantly straightforward, good-tasting Assam.  Sometimes I am just tired of thinking about my tea and only want one that tastes good and requires nothing from me except making and swallowing.  I am very happy there at least both these sorts of tea in the world.  They are something to suit any mood or whimsey.

We got a wonderful food basket from my sister-in-law for Christmas and some of it was smoked duck breast (super tasting) and some was preserved duck leg.  I bought some beans and dragged out the French cook books and I am going to make cassoulet, which is basically baked beans with a few different kinds of meat and lots of garlic.  It is so good.  There are very traditional ways of making it, but I think that this peasant dish originated as using up what was on hand before the recipes got set in stone.  Therefore...  I think many dishes from many cuisines were like that and that we should be able to interpret our dishes that way.

As you may be able to tell from the colors, this is the organ of Tuesday's church, on the back wall  of the church.  It is so beautifully fancy, especially since the church is pretty plain.

The weather predictors say we will get 1-6 inches of snow tonight and tomorrow.  I would love it, but I am not going to hold my breath.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Oh, M'Lord!

M'Lord, Earl Grey seems to be getting shier and shier and hardly ever shows up in my cup in his best form.  Perhaps he is getting old and frail.  Like so many of the Earl Greys I've tried over the past 2-3 years, Simpson and Vail's Organic Darjeeling Earl Grey just cannot be seated in the House of Lords.

When I opened the packet, there was a faint sweet whiff of a lemon/floral fragrence to the small green, balck and brown leaves.  I brewed it for 3 minutes with boiling water and there appeared a very, very, very faint whiff of bergamot.  The brewed tea was the same, but it was also very bland.  I brewed a cup with more tea, no better luck.  I brewed more tea for a longer time and that was too long so it was much too astringent.  Then I ran out of my sample.  Usually S&V does their Earl Grey blends very well, but this was not a success.

This is the interior of yeaterday's church.  The cross and the baptismal font hanging on the wall to the right of the altar are original to the building, although personally I think the cross is a lot older and the font is from a later, more fussy period than the 1600's.  Not that it matters.  The new font is on the left and matches the altar.  It is such a thrill to be in the same place and in the same building where my ancester lived 260 years ago.  The great ongoingness of life.

I was having a cup of Keemun yesterday when I realized it was lunch time, so we had some leftover curry - what a lovely aroma that is.  I tried the 2 together and was very pleasantly surprised.  The Keemun was so sweet and the curry had an added piquancy.  Deelish!  The curry mix is my own blend from 2 brands of Garam Masala and Curry powder from my favorite Indian store.  Otherwise I mix it myself.  I can't tell you the names, I generally find the brand, in Hindi or some other language and then find the right color.  Sounds weird, but it works, especially with the gram masala, which has a wide range of color.  The one I like is kind of a greyish sandy color.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Surprise For Tea

I have known for at least 2 weeks that this is Hot Tea Month and haven't mentioned it.  I am doing a tea tasting in about 2 weeks to celebrate.  If you go over to Steph's Cup of tea, see the link on the right, you'll see a short article on a presentation she did at her library.  Whatever you do, from tea with a friend to a tea party to a public presentation, celebrate!  January can be a bit of a let-down from the hurry of the holiday season and around here it is often gray and ugly, so make an occasion to celebrate one of the best things in life - TEA

Did you know that Sara Lee Brands has bought out Tea Forte?  Tea Forte is probably quite happy, but I always am discomfited when smallish companies catering to a unique market,  tea drinkers for instance, get swallowed up.  I worry about loss of individuality, about too much mass marketing etc.  I don't want tea to become just another ho hum mall store, the same everywhere you go.  End of freakout.

On the other hand, I am in favor of large population studies and one such was just released in the UK giving credence to black tea drinking of at least 3 cups a dayas an aid to good health.  It can reduce the risk of heart disease 30 to 57 percent and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  I am sure it helps if one is also sensible about eating and exercise.  Apparently black tea reduces cholesterol and helps prevent the build-up of placque in arteries.  Go have some tea!

In Japan, a group of 20 tea farmers is going around Northern Japan to bring relief and hot tea to the folks still suffering from the tsunami and meltdown of the nuclear plant at Fukoshima.  You can follow their journey at www.obubutea.com/2012/01/tohoku-caravan-day-1-kickoff-travel-dairy-farm   There is also a place where you can donate to support this effort.

My own journey is a more humble one, only as far as my teapot.  I am having American Tea Room's Nirvana.  I have put this off for months, as it is a fruity tea with a Japanese Sencha base, two things I'm not crazy about.  More fool, I.  It contains rose petals, berries, fig and kiwi.  It smells wonderful and the tea is crowded with big chunks of fig and dried berries.  I wasn't as sure about the kiwi identification, but found them.  I brewed it at about 175 for 3 minutes.

The tea brewed up into an old gold color and still smelled wonderfully of fresh fruit.  It was sweet with a definite berry and fig taste.  I couldn't discern the kiwi, but I think it may have been keeping the other fruits from being too sweet, as kiwi has something of a piquant taste.  I loved it!  It is so well done.  I stuck some in the fridge, thinking this would make a good ice tea.  Right on!  I guess I will have to stop pre-judging my teas.  I think this would be lovely with desserts at a tea.  Too bad all my Christmas cookies are gone.
But summer's coming and I will be happy to present this to all my guests.

This is view of Durlach, Germany from which my many greats-grandfather, Christyan Ottman emigrated in 1751.  He came to Schoharie, NY, like many others from the Palitinate region, had 12 children and when he died, he had over 100 grandchildren!  Note the wonderful wisteria on the right.  The church in the background is one he either attended or was christened in.  The original baptismal font and cross are still part of it.  I think the church was built some time in the 1600's.  We had morning coffee across the square from the church in a building built in the 1500's.  And here we tear things down as "too old" when they are only 100 years old.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Aroound the World With Tea

One thing I love about tea is that it is a trip around the world, all in one cup.  So far today I have been to China, Taiwan, Japan, and now Ceylon.  Not too bad in the comfort of my kitchen, right?  Of course, right.

My Ceylonese trip is sponsered by Port of Columbo Tea Company and has taken me to the Hilltop Estate, high up in the Sri Lankan central highlands.  The dry tea is made of brown and some black medium leaves.  It smells of oak barrels and dark tobacco.  I brewed it for 4 minutes, with boiling water.

The resulting brew is a nice medium amber and the scent has shifted to that well-known fresh wash/fresh tea aroma.  This is a  plain tea, quite without nuances, but it tastes good and is refreshing.  It goes very nicely with some milk and although I am sure folks who are more particular would never do it, I warmed the leftovers for breakfast and it was still quite tasty.  For me, it is light enough to make ice tea with it.  I don't care for heavy or strong teas in the summer.

Which may be coming this month, the rate the weather is going.  It has been in the forties many days and there is no snow cover.  I live in New York, near Binghamton, if that is any help in placing me, and generally by this time, there is about 1 foot of snow and the temperatures are generally well below freezing.  It's lovely weather for walking, but I worry about the plants and animals.  The cats are in heaven, though, even La Principessa has been out and about.  One thing that is pleasant is you can see the shapes of trees and some of them have very beautiful branching.

Today has seen me finally fold over an omelet without it breaking up and looking awful.  I have a new-to-me French cookbook to thank for that, as well as the library book sale.  So I guess we will be having omelets for lunch for while so I can show off.  It's the first one, I have to celebrate!

One of the many German churches I loved.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Up Up and Away!

Yes, we certainly are journeying far up into the Himalayas of Nepal for our tea today.  Simpson and Vail was kind enough to import some for us from the Ilam estate, simply call Nepal Ilam.  It is listed as a black tea, but like many of its "neighboring" teas from Darjeeling, it looks more greenish, with pale brown, gray and green chopped leaves.  There isn't a great deal of scent in my sample.  Often there isn't until it begins to brew.

I brewed it for 3 minutes, with boiling water.  There is now that good fresh, invigorating aroma of tea.  The liquor is a palish gold/tan.  At first I thought it was just a very bland tea, but then I noticed it had some sort of citrus lingering around the edges, more towards an orange than anything.  It's not sharp, nor is it yet sweet.  It's pleasant, but I think I need to drink more to give it a fair trial.

It is hard for me to reconcile my picture of the Himalayas, gathered from many a mountain climbing book, with somethng as domestic as a tea estate.  But I keep going to Google Earth and looking and sure enough, there they are.  Not quite up at the summits, of course.

In the very tidy town of Durlach, Germany, a very small front

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Let's Do the Shagadelic!

Okaaay.  We got snow and today we had sun again!  I can hardly contain myself.  We also got cold - 6 degrees F when I got up this morning!  Bring on the TEA!  In great quantiteas!  I must say, adding a third color, white, to the brown and gray and having that color sparkle, really makes my view of life a lot better.

Shagadelic English breakfast from The Tea Spot makes my morning view a  lot better as well.  This is a blend of 4 teas from 3 Asian countries, India, Ceylon and China.  I can't tell you which ones, however.  The small dark leaves give off a wonderful winey aroma, so I think there's some Keemun in there.  I brewed it up for 4 minutes with some boiling water and just breathed in that wonderful scent, no with a touch of malt - aha - Assam. 

The resulting darkish brew was just so smooth and malty and perhaps a bit earthy, with that touch of wine.  A thoroughly good cup for a morning brew.  Hefty enough to get you going and with enough depth that you can appreciate the nuances once you wake up.

One of my many German ancestors came from this small town.  On the left, across from the church is a restaurant where we got to drink wonderful May Wine, flavored with Sweet Woodruff, which I am going to try and grow this year.  On the hill behind me is a wonderful medieval monastary that is still going strong.  Their abbot died in Dachau concentration camp in World War II.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"All The News That's Fit To Print"

Greetings everyone, I hope you welcomed the New Year in.  We have finally had a bit of snow and at the moment, sunshine.  It is so welcome.  We have had so little of it this fall.

All sorts of news to start the year off.  Bigelow Teas is having a drawing to win a trip for 2 to the Charleston Tea Plantation.  Go to their Facebook page and look for Sweepstakes in the column on the left.  I wish we could all win - wouldn't that be a party?!

Alex Zorach has announced that his wonderful website, http://www.ratetea.net/ has become http://www.ratetea.com/  Please note this and go visit the site, it is well worth it.  You might want to visit his blog as well, which is always thought-provoking.

Bruce Richardson, well-known tea historian and writer is the new Tea Master for the Boston Harbor "Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum", which will re-open in June 2012.  He will be designing teas based on the  cargos of the 3 ships, all of them China teas.  The ones tossed overboard on that famous night were Bohea, Congu and Souchong, black teas, and two greens, Singlo and Hyson.  He will also be designing menus and foods for the 100 seat tea room at the museum.  Definitely a summer destination for tea fans.

January 15-17 will find San Francisco home to the Winter Fancy Food Festival at the Moscone Center - tea included.

In the East, NYC will host the Coffee and Tea Festival at 7 W 34th St.  That's near Macy's if you want to shop as well.  The dates for this event are February 24-25.  The Specialty Tea Institute will be having Level I, II and Professional  classes.

Authentic Teas is now carrying herbal tisanes from Armenia.  If you can't remember where that is, their site has maps.  these are all wild grown, sustainable and hand processed from start to finish.  There is a selection of six and if you can't make up your mind, there is a sampler available.  http://www.authenticteas.com/

SerendipiTea http://www.serendipitea.com/ has Guatemalan tea on offer.  This is the first time this tea has been for sale in the US.  It comes from the Chirropec Tea Co-operative in northern Guatemala, near Coban.  German settlers in the late 19th century introduced the tea, which is grown at an elevation of 4,300 feet.  4 ounces is $12, a very good price.

How's this for your everyday Royal Bible book cover?  Solid gold.  From the Imperial Museum in Vienna.