Monday, January 31, 2011

Long Live the King

Bacharach, Germany

We just got back from seeing a very special movie - "The King's Speech". It was so well done, with many tender moments, many of joy, many of pain. I thought all the actors did a superb job. I would really highly recommend it. The director wanted to do this about 25 years ago, but the Queen Mum asked him to wait until after her death, as she didn't think she could go through such awful pain again.

When I was tidying my tea drawer, I realized I have an awful lot of green teas that I need to report one, so for the next few days, that is just what I am going to do. I chose Ito En's Dragonwell for today. I got this from from friend Stephanie way out in Washington. This is one of the "Famous Teas" of China, a list of the top 10. Except it isn't really as there are about 15-20 that are on the list, many of them changing places as to whether they are on it or not. This one, however, seems to make the list all the time. It comes from Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, plucked in the spring and panfired in a wok..

I brewed the Dragonwell for about 2 minutes, with water about 180 degrees. The dry leaves smelled a bit like stone fruits and asparagus, but over all there was what I can only describe as a winter smell, with something of a metallic edge to it. As it brewed there was a scent of floral, along with the winter smell - a herald of spring? The tea tasted somewhat grassy, somewhat of asparagus, somewhat of citrus. Altogether a light, warming brew, carrying with it hints of spring weather. Much needed, as we appear to be in for some snow and freezing rain.

By the way, Ito En is considered to be an excellent source of good green teas.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chocolate Mint or Mint Chocolate

An Austrian farmstead.

Ah, more snow. It is so quiet, I can hear the snow falling and the cats running in it. They are chasing themselves up and down trees and all around the yard. It is quite pretty, with all the branches and pine needles outlined in white. However, it is supposed to go to -11 tonight, so if I want to walk, I had best go soon. I finally bought myself a ski mask so I can face the wind without pain. It is a pretty bright pink, but it still looks kind of freaky. I guess I have seen too many pictures of bad guys in ski masks.

I am really on a chocolate kick with my teas, as the one I am having today is Decaf Chocolate Mint Black from The Tea Table. The ingredients are decaf black tea, peppermint, chocolate pieces and natural flavoring. My Canadian friend Elizbeth sent this to me. As I opened the packet, the mint was the first scent out of it, with chocolate a very distant second. This continued to be the case as it brewed and in the cup as well. I used extra tea, but the cup was still weak and peppermint was the predominant flavor, although the chocolate was trying hard to make its presence felt. Peppermint is so hard to use well, as it can be overpowering. I think with less mint, this would've been better.

Oh sigh, I just used up the last of one of my favorite teas from Aura Teas - Formosa Natural Wuhe Honey Black. It really has a honey flavor on top of its lovely blackness and you can get at least two and sometimes three infusions from it, even if you make it in a big pot. I did a much fuller review back on Oct 25, if you want to read it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cha, Cha, Chai

I apologize for the paragraphing, Blogger is misbehaving again.

Another gray day in the neighborhood, but I see on the weather map we are about to have snow. It smells like it and the fur persons have been running in and out. There's an air of waiting outside and in spite of the gray, it is very bright.

We are in that awful period between ordering the plants and seeds for the spring and when you can start some seeds inside. It is always so heartening to see their little leaves poke up through the ground and amazing that these tiny 2 inch plants will become an 8 foot tomato vine. However, I have to wait until the end of February.

Today I am having a lovely tisane, sent from my friend Elizabeth in Canada. She is a fellow chocoholic and the tisane is President's Choice Chocolatey Chai. It has chicory, carob, spices, natural flavorings, cocoa shells, ginger, licorice root, stevia and cocoa, all packed in one small teabag. The bag comes in a wrapper, which has tiny pictures and written directions on how to brew this tea. It smells exactly like one of my favorite cookies - chocolate jumbles, which are thin, frosted chocolate spice cookies. It has a rich, deep aroma, which is pretty much how it tastes, with the chocolate, carob and chicory giving great depth and the spices rounding out a very tasty cup. My husband says it is very flowery and aromatic. This would be an excellent dessert tisane with some sugar cookies or pound cake.
I am making a sad comparison of this this with Golden Moon's Kahmiri Chai, made from black and green tea, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and spice oil. It smells very spicey and floral in the packet, with lemony hints from the cardamom. Unfortunately, it is very weak. The cardamom is the most forward spice, followed by the cinnamon. The flavor is well rounded and tasty. Perhaps if the sample had been larger, so the brew was stronger, I would have given it a higher rank. Compared to the other chai, this is a mere weakling. This comes from Golden Moon's sample pack of 30 different teas. My only complaint about the sampler is the samples are one cup only and kind of on the small side. However, I have had some truly excellent teas from them.
In spite of my quote a few days ago from MFK Fisher, I want no nasty comments about "boiled mice" and I am not drying this mouse to reuse it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Wondrous Little Bowl

Nice Dobbins, I think. The white hats keep the flies out of their
eyes and ears.

On this very gray and damp day I have finally conquered enough inertia to taste a new tea.

This one comes from Life in Teacup and was a small gift with my last order. The tea is in the form of a toucha, which looks like a small thick-walled bowl or bird's nest, about the size of a thumb nail. Generally these are Pu-erh teas, which I expect this to be. There wasn't any scent from the dry tea, but as the tea began to brew it first smelled like cherries, then tobacco, then a more earthy aroma with a sweet overlay. All that and I haven't even tasted it! It is a rich, deep amber and the little toucha, after only 2 minutes, is no more. As far as I can tell from Gingko's website, this is a Shu Pu-erh, meaning ripe, and is from 2007, Yunnan Province, China

As I begin to sip the tea, there is the unmistakable scent of white kindergarten paste, along with some cinnamon and maybe a bit of mint. At first there is a taste of banana, of all things, then white paste, dark cherries, earth. What a super interesting tea this is. You could be charmed for hours, drinking this. I let some brew for nearly 5 minutes and the color is much deeper, as is the taste, which has become more earthy, but a clear, clean earthiness. This is most definitely a good tea and well worth the money, which is only $4.50 for ten of the little goodies, enough for many small pots of interest.

Not that I have great experience,with Pu-erhs, which I do not, but this is really a good tea.

American Tea Room is having a 20% off sale until Jan 31. Their web site is I haven't had any of their teas, but other bloggers generally rate them highly.

There are some very cute kangaroo teacups over at . The site is in Spanish, but pictures are multi-lingual.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Case of the Lazy Tea lady

More of that Roman ruin in mid-town Vienna.

Lazy, lazy, lazy. That's me and tea this week. For some reason I have not quite woken up any day this week and the thought of having to think about my tea is just too excruciating. I did clean up and organize my tea drawers, if that counts.

However, I will tell you that Norwood Pratt is going to be in NY city at the SoHo location of Harney and Sons Tea this Saturday and Sunday and at their Millerton, NY shop on Monday. He will be doing tea tastings and sharing some of his vast knowledge of tea. If you live near either of these places, it would be worth your while to go and partake! He is said to be a witty raconteur, so I am sure it will be an interesting and fun time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No Mice in My Tea!

One of the tea books I got for Christmas, "Tea Lover's Treasury", was written by James Norwood Pratt in 1983 - back when we were all a lot younger. The introduction was written by MFK Fisher, a food writer whom I have always enjoyed. Part of it really cracked me up:

"My grandmother died before tea bags. I am thankful. My mother never admitted their existence. A friend has described them as boiled mice, and he is right, too, but I have some teas in little white bags for people who have never known anything else, and who are adept enough to leave the wee tail hanging over the edge of the cup. I am told that these mice are often dried out and used again..." I don't know if I can ever look a teabag in the face again.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Roses in the Sunshine

The monastery porch at Kloster Arnstein, in Germany. The abbot was
sent to die in the prison camps in Hitler's war, and there is a memorial to
him in the garden on the other side of this passage.

Woo wee, yesterday's mail was a treasure trove. I got some money for Christmas and spent it on tea books and some Swiss cookbooks at I got about 6 of the tea books yesterday, as well as an old mystery from the 1930's - "The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy". How could you possibly go wrong with that for a title? I love classic mysteries, especially the English ones, with manor houses, afternoon tea, a lord or 2. I also think many of the classics were better written - they relied on stories rather than violence.

I shall have to have some tea while reading my new whodunnit, before I go on to the more serious business of tea books. I am having Culinary Teas' Rose Congou Emperor Tea. It is a pretty tea, with quite black, small leaves with a bit of a sheen to them. They are offset by tiny rosebuds and rose petals. The tea smells just like tea roses, which have a slight lemon scent, overlying the rose aroma. This a a very nicely done tea, as the rose holds throughout the 3.5 minute brewing process and by the time I was sipping, it still smelled of roses, as well as the taste being accented by them. I thought a bit more of the lemon came out in the cup, but this is definitely a rose tea. I really appreciated the fact that neither the scent nor the flavor disappeared upon brewing. If you go to their site - - you'll find they are having some sales this week. Culinary Teas is also one of those companies that lets you buy 1 ounce samples for a small amount.

Never go for a cold walk with a cat who thinks he is a prince of the Orient and should, therefore, be carried. Bertie Baby threw himself at my feet about every other step, so it was either carry him or fall on my face! Once in his perch, he was quite happy, and I am sure I benefited aerobically from carrying his hefty little self.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Earl Grey Times Two

Keepers of the keys?

It was sooooooo beautiful this morning - sun shining on the 4 more inches of snow we got in the night. It was still stuck on each branch and the sides of the trees, so it was delightful.

I've had such a good week at our local "Sal's Boutique" aka Salvation Army aka Local Mission Store. I got a really pretty tea pot with a ring of roses around it's fat middle, a gorgeous Italian plate and a covered vegetable dish that almost matches my grand mother's rose strewn china. I always have to go for the "almost matches" as I have never seen it anywhere, but that's ok. Roses are roses.

Today I mixed two teas I like - both Upton's - Lavender Earl Grey and Earl Grey Blue Flower. Wow, I really like this combo! The bergamot seems perfectly balanced, strong, but not over-whelming, aromatic, but not perfumey. Just right. Plus, the two tea bases merged to give a deep solid cup that is very, very satisfying. I might just make up a can of this stuff, I am so happy about it.

Tea party - the real tea party - people unite. We must take back our name and stand up for civility in life. There is so much anger and hate-filled rhetoric floating through the air, it's wonder we aren't all dead. We really can't go on this way. We need to recapture politeness and ways of speaking which make a point without nastiness. It really doesn't matter where you are politically, religiously or any other way, being civil in all we do and say has to help, even if it is only a small way. There are lots of ways to express anger without going over the top. I should know, I am quck to anger and have had to learn how to say so without blasting the universe.
So, raise a cup with me!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ginger Up

I think we are having an ice storm today, or trying to. The temperature is hovering around 30 and it snows a bit and then mists. Anyway, it is that sort of cold that burrows right through your clothes and your flesh until your bones are cold. I even decided not to go for a walk and all the cats thought that was very smart as they settled in for a "long winter's nap".

My tea friend Stephanie lives way the other side of the country in Washington state and their crocuses and daffodils are pushing out of the ground and it is 50! today. The weather people expect us to go below zero by the weekend. I comfort myself that it is even grayer there than here.

I am having a new-to-me tea from another tea friend, Elizabeth. It is Bigelow's Ginger Snappish. It smells divine, so gingery. It is really an herbal tisane, made from lemongrass, lemon peel, cinnamon, ginger, lemon verbena, rosehips and natural flavorings. Whole lotta good stuff in there. It does smell like ginger snaps and it is pretty much the color of them, too. I don't think I have seen this one on the local shelves, but now I will look for it. It seems perfect for such a raw day. Oh yumm, it is so good. A bit sweet, definitely gingery, but not overwhelming and a lot like a gingersnap. The lemon flavors really just play a supporting role here and I am hardly aware of them. I don't think it needs a bit of sweetener and I may not even put cream in it. Warm hands from the mug, warm face from the steam, warm heart from a friend, and a warm tum from the tea itself. I can't ask for more than that.

I was reading a new cookbook I got from , an excellent source for cheap books, and found a recipe for Matcha flavored madeleine's. I love these wonderful little tea cakes and I think I need to buy some cooking grade Matcha so I can make some. There are at least 2 grades of Matcha - the more expensive, which can be $30 or more and ounce, is for tea ceremony use. It is lovely stuff and the ceremony is equally so.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tea From Snowy Mountain

There's that gray again! We were supposed to get another of those
big storms, but all we got was about 4" of snow at night and a tiny amount of freezing rain. By afternoon, it was okay for walking and we did, along with the orange escorts, who are currently trying to get in the way of my typing.

I opened some of Culinary Teas' Snowy Mountain Jian Tea. The Jian should have clued me in that it was green. But no, I thought it was black, so I boiled the water and then had to wait for it to cool.

Anyway... This is a pretty tea, with longish rolled leaves, some gold and a good bit of nice white down . It didn't smell like much dry - just good fresh tea. As it brewed for 2.5 minutes at about 200 - I was impatient - it smelled very vegetal and somewhat seaweedy, with a gentle smoke overtone. In the cup, it is a light tan. It did not taste at all smokey, but just a pleasant vegetable taste. It seems to hold up better than most greens in a mug size serving, as it doesn't get bitter as it cools and I think it is another one of those you could sip all day. If I did that, however, I would do several smallish pots, rather than one big one. It does get more assertive as it cools, but it's still a decent cup of tea

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Turkish Party

The perfect way to explore Vienna.

What a good time we had last night at the Turkish restaurant! There 7 of us and I think we managed to sample about everything on the menu. I can't remember how to spell them all but there was eggplant pureed with garlic and herbs [baba ganoosh], the best hummus, wonderful fresh pita, spinach pie, some sort of stuffed with feta and herbs pastry, fresh and unsalty feta, olives, we split a chicken, lamb and sausage plate and there was baklava, kadiefi [glorified shredded wheat] and rice pudding for dessert.

I had Turkish tea, which the waiter says comes from the south of Turkey and is very traditional. It was served in small glasses, shaped like small hyacinth sprouting glasses, with an actual tea spoon and all sitting in a little colorful bowl. It was a pretty dark amber and was very hot - they brew it to order. The taste was on the thin side, with a fresh taste and metallic and astringent overtones. I am not sure I would get it again, but it was a very pleasant accompaniment to the hors d'oerves. To be truthful, I would've preferred the Turkish coffee - tiny cups, bitter brew with lots of sludge in the bottom, but wonderful stuff. Hey, what can I say? I like both drinks.

I couldn't help but think how many of the dishes we were served would make a wonderfully exotic tea party. All those delicious spreads for small pitas, the tiny savory pastries, white bean salad, cucumber soup, small lamb or chicken skewers, and of course, those sweeter than sweet desserts. With an exotic tablecloth and napkins, and plenty of good black tea, you'd be in business. Many Turkish dishes are very similar to other Middle Eastern ones and most are fairly easy to prepare, with recipes readily available on the internet.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Explorations on the Tea Web

In the middle of the beautiful city of Austria, right in front of the
palace, there are these big holes in the ground. They are the Roman ruins! If you look carefully in the upper middle of the picture you will see a round hole, which provided running water. Yup, the Romans had running water and bathrooms far more similar to ours than any other time up to the early days of the 20th century.

I am suffering from an extreme case of laziness today and I am not trying any teas I haven't already told you about. I am saving my palate for going to a Turkish restaurant tonight. I've never been to one, so I am really looking forward to it. Some friends found it just by chance and so a bunch of us are having a new experience.

Instead, I am going to tell you about some interesting things I found on the tea blogs I frequent.
The Odd Box that is part of the United Kingdom blog has some interesting things - go to and check it out. They also feature many tea rooms if yyou are lucky enough to be going there any time soon.

At the Tea Gallery, there is an interesting article on aged gyokura, that very famous and expensive Japanese tea. Most people try to get the freshest, but some Japanese age it for about a year and say it is much better. Read about it here

Last but not least is a handy chart on tea processing, with explanations. This can be found at

Tomorrow I will reort on the Turkish restaurant and if they have tea or just those tiny cups of coffee. For now, I will finish the vacuuming and take a little nap.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hot Tea in the Old Town Today

Another weeny Italian vehicle. After taking a bus on the Amalfi
drive, I really understand small cars.

It is a perfect winter day. Beautiful snow, [we got about 9 inches], beautiful sky, sun shining, a perfect day for a walk. I have to buy a ski mask, however. When I was a kid I stayed out ice-skating too long and froze parts of my face. Now, if the wind is just right and it is cold enough, my face is really painful where I froze it. Otherwise I will have to stay in or wrap up like a mummy. So today I guess I'll be a mummy and next week a bank robber. Better than inside, though.

I am so tempted to order a tea plant along with my other plants and seeds, but... not enough window space in the winter and definitely not enough humidity. In the winter, I prefer flowers to just greenery, so I guess I'll let you all do the personal tea thing.

Speaking of which, I have belatedly realized it is Hot Tea Month. We need to have a party and celebrate! I am too partied out, but I certainly intend to have lots of hot tea. Guess I will go and do that. I am having some Shui Jiu China Yunnan . Upton's number ZY65, which is organic. The leaves are medium sized, with a good bit of gold in them and they smell of old wood and spice. As it brews for 4 minutes - long for me, that aroma remains, along with a toasty/fire/grill edge - not smokey,but reminding me of those things.

It is a fairly light amber in the cup with a medium body and some maltiness. There is a bit of spice and a bit of astringency to make it piquant. It kind of grabs the back of your mouth and makes it juicy. There is a definite taste of mellow old wood as I drink it - it's better a little cooler and there is a trace of cotton candy. It's not the smoothest, most mellow Yunnan I have had, but I would consider it quite good and will get more. With some half and half, it does reach a very mellow, full state and this is probably the way I will continue to have it. At $ 7.50for 125 grams, it's a real bargain.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mexico, Silver and Tea

It's really Wednesday January 12.

I love old stone work. I like to think about the people who shaped it and the strength of it and the age. Pretty impressive stuff.

We've been having some meals with a Mexican/Southwestern twist and I got to thinking about how you could do a Mexican themed tea party. Certainly there are enough foods that can be scaled down to do well as courses in a tea feast.

I was thinking of black bean soup, pureed, served with a small dollop of sour cream and a few of those corn chips that are long and skinny: A tropical fruit salad composed of pineapple, kiwi, mango or papaya with some raspberries or blueberries for color, drizzled with honey and lime juice: Taquitos, which are small and you can now get frozen, served with fresh homemade salsa: Homemade tortillias made from Masa Harina - small ones with Mexican style chicken and avocado slices and maybe grape tomatoes. You could also do small fried plantains or the ones made with peanuts and sour cream, or serve the tortillas with jam and butter or mock Devonshire cream. A small salad would be a pleasant addition.

For dessert there is flan or bunuelos or Tres Leches Cake, Mexican cookies or Jamaican bread pudding, made with a hefty dose of rum. For tea, I would definitely serve a good strong black. You could serve lime slices instead of lemon ones. With dessert, however, a nice chocolate tea with a dash of cinnamon would go very nicely. Mexican hot chocolate has cinnamon in it.

Okay, I have now heard enough about this and read enough that I can tell you. The best black tea is made in sterling silver teapots. Yup. Apparently this is a well-kept secret among the cognoscenti. It has something to do with chemical reactions and DOES NOT work with silverplate. Apparently black tea made in silverplate is absolutely awful. The only catch is that if you haven't inherited one or don't have beaucoup bucks you are out of luck, as sterling is astronomical in price. I have some teaspoons, but I don't think they'd do much for brewing the tea. Ah well, just one more reason to go junking. Such a sad thing to be forced to do. If you have a sterling teapot, please try it and leave me a note.

I do have some nice ceramic pots, however and I used one to brew up some of Culinary Teas Keemun Panda Grade 1 Black Tea. I used a little more than a teaspoon and did the usual 3.5 minutes with boiling water. The dry leaves had sort of an odd sharp smell I couldn't put my finger on. They were small and mostly black. As it brewed there was an aroma of old wood and a sour, but not unpleasant note, mixed with that fresh wash on the line scent. The taste was quite full and was something of a cross between hot toast and something deep and dark, but again, I can't think of the right word to describe it. Very frustrating. On the whole, it was a quite decent cup of tea.

Sweet Clover in the Snow

These are the usual trucks one sees scurrying around small towns
in southern Italy. In these old towns, the streets are very narrow
and there simply isn't a lot of room.

It has been so beautiful here, with snow covering all the branches and bushes. So quiet, you can hear the snow fall. When we've gone for a walk, you just hear the squeaking of our boots and the snow slipping onto the ground. Ernie often goes along and is so pretty against the snow - orange on white. This last time he walked along the top of the fence and since there was about 2 inches of snow on it, he left little scallops where his paws knocked some off.

Today I am having some lovely green tea from Dream About Tea - Liuan-guapian. The leaves are very green, very long, soft, thin and silky to my fingers. They come from Anhui Province, in China. They smell faintly of clover and of course, green tea. The instructions say to do a tablespoon per cup for 3 minutes at 200 degrees, for 3 infusions. Wow, that's a long time and a high temp for green tea! But I am a good doobie and do as I am told. I am amply rewarded, as the aroma of the tea continues with that faint clover and some additional vegetal. The flavor is more vegetal, but there is a sweetness flowing through it as well. The first cup is surprisingly very yellow, the second infusion almost as much. The second is much sweeter, with a bitter finish that mingles with the sweet, giving a very interesting taste.

The third infusion starts out much paler and a lot more green. The scent has shifted to a mild corn, with a hint of baked vegetables. The taste is definitely vegetal, but soft and elusive. I tried all three together and wasn't impressed, they are much better and far more interesting on their own. Once again, I discover that green tea is definitely better in small cups, fairly hot, as it tends to get bitter as it cools.

I did all these in my new little Yixing pot, that I told you about seasoning. It is so cute, short and round with bamboo markings and a twist of bamboo for the lid handle, which to me looks a bit like a worm.

Well, I had best go to the library before this big snow storm arrives. The last one gave us a whole inch. Weathermen have gotten much too frantic in their predictions. I realize loving snow can be selfish, but there it is, I love lots of it. If we do get lots, I will definitely hope you are all safe and sound.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Oh Well

Yes, indeedy, angels have smiled on us and we finally have enough snow
for everything to be pretty. There's about 5 inches and the trees and bushes and bird feeders are all capped. It is very quiet - that stillness that comes with new snow. It's wonderful. We'll go for a walk in a bit but I doubt we'll have company - the fur persons are content to watch from the back porch. Besides, we are taking down the Christmas decorations and there are all those boxes and that crinkly paper to play with!

Here I am again, with Far Western Trading Company's Grand Keemun China Black Tea. Today, there is nothing burning in the oven and no bad cat food smell to interfer. The dry tea still doesn't have much aroma - just a plain tea smell. The brewing tea has a kind of fresh wash, old wood scent, with a little something besides. Not sure what, though.

This is kind of an odd Keemun. Plain, it doesn't have anything distinctive about it - none of that winey deep flavor. I think it is a tad stale. It is somewhat acidic but not particularly pleasantly so. It is better with a touch of cream, but I have had much better Keemuns at better prices. I don't care for their packaging, either. The tea comes in a sealed, metallic sack, but you can't reseal it, so you need to hunt up a can for it.

Have your gardening catalogues started to arrive yet? Ours have and I want almost everything in them. However, good sense must prevail and I am going to buy some black raspberries, currants, and other small fruit I really want and just a few plants for the small patch in front. I'll get the other stuff locally. It's always such a trick to try and appreciate the now while looking forward. But if we don't, there is so much we can miss. Since I am at the older side of my life, with perhaps only 20-30 years left, I don't want to miss anything. My grandmother bought her last car - a red convertible at 85 and had her first motor boat ride at 90. You go, grannie!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Not So Good Day for Tasting

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, lots of sunshine, not too cold, great day for a walk. This time we were alone, with no show-offs along for the jaunt. Our hibiscus is blooming again, one is a coral and the other a double cherry-pop red. The second lot of narcissus have started and they smell soooooo good. I don't even get tired of the aroma. The next to come, in a few weeks will be an amaryllis. I love flowers in the winter.

It's a good day for tea, as is almost every day. Far Western Trading Company is on tap today, with their Grand Keemun, China Black Tea. Dry, the leaves are somewhat long and thin, with almost a grayish cast to the black leaves. I brewed it on the strong side - 9 teaspoons for a 7 cup pot and let it do its thing for 3.5 minutes. I can't say anything about the aroma as something burned on the oven floor and that is pretty much the smell in the house.

Because of that, I don't think this is a good day for tea tasting and I can't give this a fair trial, as smell is so closely related to taste. I 'll have some more tomorrow and let you know then.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tea for Me

Tuesday January 4, 2011

More of that courtyard in Italy. I am very jealous of them - they
have a 5 foot rosemary. But mine is still alive in its second winter -a near miracle. It's very hard to find the balance of cool, light and water.

I was going to brag about being good about after Christmas candy and chocolate sales. Until they had stuff I really liked at about 80% off. Especially the boxes of shortbread for $2 - usually $6 and the Lindt reindeer for 32 cents (even if my husband thinks it looks like a rabbit). I was only pretty good. It's still better than awful, right? I didn't find any tea sales that good, but a number of companies are having sales, so you should do some surfing and see what's available. I can't - it's either more tea or a new husband. It was a tough decision, but he won-lol.

I was in the doctor's office today and they had this month's issue of Your Health, one of those free papers. There was an article in there recommending drinking tea. It was very short, but listed the benefits of all the main types - white, green, oolong and black. I guess tea is coming into its own. Now if we could get people to concentrate more on tea and not flavorings.

Having said that, I am almost embarrassed to review today's tea - Creme Brulee from Metropolitan tea company, via our local tea seller Front N Center. I got it while I was discussing doing an interview with Simon, the owner and chef of Simon Says, the small restaurant attached to the shop. It's kind of a pretty tea, with attractive brown leaves and some red and blue petals to perk it up. It smells mostly of tea, with a sort of burnt smell. Creme Brulee means burnt cream, although it is really the sugar on top that is "burnt". I brewed it for 3.5 minutes and the aroma continued. The taste was just vaguely sweet on top of a pleasant Ceylon. There was a little kick of astringency at the end.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tea with Frances and the Saints

What a pretty day it is! The sky is a gorgeous blue and there is a vast assortment of clouds - real stratus - the layered ones, cumulus, cumulo-nimbus, cumulo-stratus, some mare's tails. It was hard to drive and look.

Church was interesting today - we sang a hymn I haven't sung in ages - "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God". The last verse talks about where you might meet these saints and one of the places was "over tea." What a surprise. I just hugged myself with glee. I love this little church of 10-12 hardy souls, 4 service dogs and assorted children. The church burned down a few months ago and here they are, carrying on. Their community is supporting them, other churches have given gifts of Bibles and hymn books and they have worked hard to salvage what they can and move forward. It took 20 washes to get their Christmas banners clean and their communion cloth is still singed, the organist's hymnal is grey with soot and the small electric organ she uses coughs and wheezes, but there we are.

I think it's time for this wannabee saint to have some tea. Upton's Frances Bissell's Special Blend seems to be calling me. This is a mix of select Ceylon teas. They are indeed a mixture of long black and brown leaves with a very earthy/good tobacco aroma. I know tobacco is bad for you, but I grew up in a family of pipe smokers and I loved to smell the different cans of tobacco the men had. We all reference what we know. Frances Bissell was a fairly well known Bristish cookbook author and food authority.

I brewed the tea for about 3.5 minutes with boiling water. As it brewed it continued with the earth/tobacco, but added a cornsilk/floral/citrus note. It is a fairly light tea, which I didn't expect, and the major flavor is somewhat citrussy, somewhat floral with only a few earthy base notes. I really expected it to be much stronger!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Day

The first day of a brand new year. A picture of an ancient courtyard. What will the new year bring?
We all hope and pray for peace. For love, hope, joy, contentment.
Today is a quiet day. Our socialization has consisted of meeting several neighbors, patting their dogs, as we take advantage of the warmth and walk around. Watch the squirrels and deer, laugh at the cats who show off their climbing skills and run along the top of the fence "Look at ME, Mom"
I got seriously partied out. At the last one, I knew I was done, so I've been trying to be a bit quiet and recharge my batteries.
I haven't even been in the mood for new teas. I am having an "old favorites" week. Today is Twining's Prince of Wales, which I have always loved. That and Earl Gray were among my first teas other than something like Lipton's. I felt so exotic drinking them. How our tastes change.