Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tea and Pears.

An old chapel and bell tower belonging to the church my Swiss grandmother was baptized in.

A good day for a walk. There are piles and piles and piles of wood chips from our trees. I covet them and will indeed use them as mulch, with lots of high nitrogen fertilizer. We saw a small stand of spotted touch-me-nots too, with their odd orange/yellow/brown flowers, somewhat similar to an individual hanging snapdragon. We even spotted a pretty pink mushroom and some no bigger than my pinky finger nail.

Farmers’ market day again. The local grapes - Concord and Himrod are in, as well as Ginger Gold apples. These are wonderful, but they don’t keep their flavor long and from the grocery stores, they aren’t worth much, so I will enjoy the moment, while I await the Winesaps and Northern Spy which generally arrive in October. We are close to the Cornell University farms and can get all sorts of apples from them. They let you taste before you buy, which is really nice. I got a pair of Alpaca wool socks, too. They are so soft. Amazing what you find at the market - everything from socks to fruits and veggies, flowers and pasture fed beef and chicken.

I also bought some pear nut bread, which I am having with some Pear Spice White Tea from Gay Grace Teas . It is organic and contains star anise, helichrysum flowers and pear flavoring. In the packet, it is very pretty, but the tea looks overwhelmed by all the flowers and other bits. It seems some of it is bits of chili pepper. It smells rather medicinal, but also pear-like. It has a sweet taste, with some spice, but not much pear. I think it would appeal mostly to you herbal tea fans. Personally, it is not to my taste, although it seems to go nicely with the bread..

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ah, the Golden End of Summer

A lovely old stone watering trough in Switzerland.

What a gorgeous sight out my back window. It’s one of those moments in time - there is a soft mist the sun is hitting just right. It looks like the finest gold mesh over everything. It reminds me of one of my favorite paintings at the Smithsonian, where the artist has painted a gauze head covering so fine that the underlying cloth is clearly seen, as well as the gauze. I can tell you exactly where it is, but I don’t remember the name of either the artist or the painting. Typical of me.

It is now afternoon and this is one of those sterling summer days - warm enough, slight breeze, gorgeous sky. I was in trouble again today for not having enough suet out. This time, I got the lecture from Papa Jay. I ‘d rather listen to the Downy, she at least, is quieter and doesn't cal all her aunts and sisters and cousins by the dozen to add to the racket.

It must be heading for fall - the mums are available. I always get ones that are in bud, with only 1 or 2 flowers showing, other wise, they will be over long before it is too cold to have them. Unless I really am brave, they won’t go in this year’s garden - too much digging. I’d rather do roses and berries.

Today’s tea is from Culinary Teas, Darjeeling Soom, Gunpowder - BPS. I don’t know what those letters mean, Soom is the name of the tea estate.  It is a black tea, very black, actually, very tightly rolled little pellets that smell of earth and chocolate, with a slightly sour twist at the edge for piquancy. I brew it up for 3.5 minutes with boiling water. Those little pellets sure do expand hugely into leaves that look chopped in half. The aroma is mostly earthy, with a mere hint of chocolate. The brew is a medium amber. It is smooth and medium bodied, with a slight earthiness, but mostly it is just a middle of the road tea, nothing awful, nothing special. However, a bit of cream and a little more cooling and this is a lovely, sweet tea, with indeed, some hints of cocoa.  So, I guess I will serve it a bit about 120 degrees and it will come into its own

Monday, August 29, 2011

Can Good Tea Go Rogue?

Ho boy, when Tea Forte says something has cinnamon in it, they really mean it.
Even before I got the top of the canister completely off, I was overwhelmed by
the incredibly strong aroma pouring out of it.  Vienna Cinnamon is just too much, a prime example of the tea flavorer's imagination gone overboard.  It is not as hot as Red Hots candy, but it is as strong.  It is also sweet, without any sweetener.  It is hard to tell that you are drinking tea.  I really don't like this way of flavoring tea.  I like plain tea best and if it is flavored, the flavor should be an enhancement or a fillip, not too much of what might have been a good thing.  I mixed it with some very plain ice tea and then it was ok.  However, I shall comfort myself with some good old PG Tips.

They say good things come in threes.  But I ask, do they all have to come at
once? I am going to the World Tea Expo East, going to visit friends I haven't seen in too long and I signed up for the Master Gardener Program classes.  They are starting before I return from Philadelphia, so I miss the first session.  Phoo.

I have wanted to take this course to become a Master Gardener, for a very long time, but there never was one when I could take it.  It is a longish course covering a whole host of things gardeners need to know.  I am really thrilled to be able to do it.

Very locally we did not suffer from the wind and rain of Irene - just a bad storm here.  However, a little east of us several towns and villages were flooded and I know that many more in the path of the storm had a lot of damage.  Thankfully, it was not as bad as anticipated, although I am not sure that matters to those who lost loved ones .  They have all my sympathy and whatever help I can give.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Visit To Darjeeling

These beautiful windows were buried and hidden during WWII.  I am glad, as they are very beautiful in all their 90 foot tall splendor.

Yesterday we had a huge platter of corn for lunch, with the first of our own tomatoes.  The platter reminded me of summer meals at my grandmother's when my cousins were home and there would be 10-15 people for lunch or dinner, with big platters of corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, and what ever else was on the menu that day.  Such good times.  Lots of political and religious discussions.  Never sex, not in that WASP household!  The discussions were often loud, someone was always "dead wrong", but respectfully so.  You learned to stick up for yourself.  Today we had fried green tomatoes and corn pudding.  I do love summer food, that sense of great abundance, made better when it comes from your own garden, or the famers' market.

It is warm and quite humid today, as we await Hurricane Irene, reminding me of the weather in India.  So, I thought it very appropriate to have an Indian tea today.  This is from the Silver Tips Tea Company,  in Tarrytown, NY.  It comes from the new Steepster Select program.  It is Makaibari First Flush Darjeeling and indeed, is loaded with silver tips amongst the black and brown, smallish leaves.  In the packet, they smell quite peppery.  I follow directions and brew them with boiling water for three minutes, hoping they are right.  I have often found that first flush teas do better with shorter time and cooler water.  For those of you new to tea, first flush refers to the first new growth of leaves after the winter hiatus.  Akin to new dandelion greens, the first radish, the first baby lettuces. It is often the most highly prized of all the teas.

A lot of the pepper dissipated with the brewing, but it is there with a faint vegetal aroma and something like roasted tomatoes.  The liquor is a pleasant golden amber, just a few shades darker than our Bertie, the long-hair.  Ooh, good tea, a taste of citrus, some pepper, definite green.  An excellent first flush. Often firsts are too astringent or too lacking in body for me, but this has only the slightest astringency, which is the citrus, and the body of the tea is full and round.  However, as it cools, it does develop a bit more astringency, so I would either make this one cup at a time or fiddle with the time and water temp, so it is good to the last drop.

Tea is a very individual drink and we all have to play with it a bit to find what we consider the optimum.  We should use the company's guidelines first, and then adjust them to suit ourselves, as we gain experience.

If you are new to tea and want to expand your horizons, drink a lot of tea.  Experiment, see what you really like.  Fool around with your teas until you know what you like.  I have found keeping a notebook helps and then I can go back and get more of what I really like.  Trade tea with your friends.  I have found that good companies like Simpson and Vail, Harney and Sons, Tea Trekker, Life in Teacup, Upton's and others have samples or sell by the ounce, so that for not too much money, you can try a wide variety of teas.  Buy a good filter for your water or use something like Poland Spring bottled water to make your tea, it makes a difference.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Calm BeforeThe Storm

This is a view of our house from our next door neighbors back porch.  To the left is our porch and little garden; just barely discernible from the roof peak is a rainbow. You see we are pretty well surrounded by woods.

The Bon Teavant blog has a brief video of women tea pickers in Dong Ding.  I think it is in Wednesdays  article.  Those ladies are fast!  Thanks to them we have some wonderful teas to drink. Actually, most tea pickers are women, with men usually handling the processing.

It is a mixed weather day here, with sun and clouds and a good bit of warmth. I need to go out and bring in anything that high wind might carry off. I guess I’ll leave the bird feeders out until tomorrow evening. I just don’t want to get drenched bringing everything in.

Today I am baking bread and I am so pleased by how high the loaves have risen. I guess this batch of yeast is a bit more sprightly than the last. I am also making a peach and raspberry tart. I had to go by the farmers market again today and…

That tart will go nicely with my latest tea tasting - the Earl of Bengal from Teatulia. This company is a single garden, organic tea estate in Assam, selling directly to the States. I really like this tea. It is definitely a malty Assam, with a very pleasant hit of citrus. Not really a bergamot, just citrus. It is very smooth and a bit rich. Sweetener brings out the citrus a bit and milk seems to go ok, too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bohea For Me

There it is, the Swiss flag.

My, it has been an interesting day or two. Yesterday’s earthquake - ok, West Coasters, we’re wimps. Want a tornado? Hurricane? It did not get this far north. Only once have I experienced an earthquake and it was very mild and interesting.

Today Libyans are claiming their freedom. Yay Libya! Learn to govern well. I will toast them with tea!  And a good one it is, as the original tea called by this name was the tea the Colonists dumped in Boston Harbor in protest about “No taxation without representation”, the beginning of our struggles for freedom.   It is Bohea, which I believe is pronounced to rhyme with tea. At that time, it was quite cheap and  not of good quality. Not so today.

My particular cup is Bohea Imperial Organic, from Upton Teas, ZK72. It is a hand processed Congou from Fujian Province, China. The leaves are on the small side, very dark, twisted and smelling of smoke. Not as much as good Lapsang, but more than some may be comfortable with. I brewed it for 4.5 minutes with water at 212 degrees. A great deal of the smoke dissipated , leaving a clean milky aroma. The liquor is a pleasant medium amber.

Umm, what a good tasting tea. It is very mouth filling, smooth, with baked or roasted veggie elements. There is that hint of smoke, much modified from the aroma. There is also a hint of cocoa, in the way that cocoa often rounds out flavors. It actually is a rather delicate, rather than hearty tea, suitable for afternoon tea.  You might also try it with a bleu cheese, as I know Lapsang Souchang is good that way.

It is very windy today and I hear tell we may get a hurricane tail by Sunday. Last time that happened, I acquired my sweet Orphan Andy cat. The one before I had to grab my youngest as he sailed by, nearly blown off the porch.  We had no power for a week. One of our neighbors had a gas stove so our little cul-de-sac had a lot of communal meals. We all got together and played games and had a good time, since there wasn’t anything else we could do. I just hope we don’t lose any more trees. Enough already.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Slow Food and Slow Tea

This is a picture that was all cut out with scissors.  It is only about a foot square. It is an Old World  craft, although I am sure it is also practised here in the USA.
It’s another beautiful day in the neighborhood; warm, sunny, bright blue sky, great day to be out and about. My jaw no longer hurts from the tooth extraction and I can have hot tea today! The only real question is which?

Another flavored tea. I am trying to get through them and I am sorry I got whimsical and ordered so many. I really prefer plain teas, they have enough different flavors and are generally better teas. This one is Morning Meadow, from Blue Raven Teas. It is a green tea, with nice big leaves and it does indeed smell like all outdoors, with lots of additions, the clearest being dried apple pieces. It smells a bit of anise, pine, floral, apple - too much to clearly identify.

I brewed it up for about 2 minutes with 180 degree water. The resulting liquor is kind of an olive gold and smells like jasmine! And that is just what it tastes like - jasmine that is on the sweet side. No anise, pine or apple. Quel Surprise!

Alex Zorach’s blog - see at right - has a good article today on the Slow Food Movement, which I heartily endorse. Even when I was working and had kids we felt home cooked meals, together, were important. There is so much help these days from people like Rachel Ray and many others on the Food Channel and in magazines, so we can cook fast, but good and take the time to appreciate the food and each other.

As Alex said, this can apply to tea as well: taking the time to appreciate what we are drinking. Most of the time, I do that, savoring the dry leaves, the aroma, the pots and cups, the taste. I like knowing where my tea comes from, how it is made, who makes it (if possible). Sometimes, my brain is too full of other things and I just don’t care. There is room for both, but I am in trouble if the latter is always the case. Speaking from a life that is closer to the end, rather than the beginning - life isn’t worth much unless you appreciate its components. Tea time can be a brief time in your day that allows you to do just that.

If you are into herbal teas, there is a good article on the Herb Gardener’s Blog .  It is about harvesting the herbs, but I am sure you could look them up on the blog and find a wealth of information. Be prepared, the top logo is a large snail.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Teeth Picked Tea

It is certainly possible to find tea news in odd places. The News of the Weird column in Funny Times newspaper had this one. The historic Jiuhua Mountain Tea Plantation in Gushi, Henan Province, China has promised to hire 10 virgins, without scars or blemishes to pick tea in a special way. They are to do this using their teeth and dropping the leaves into small baskets tied around their necks. The reason for this is that this specially handled tea would bring prosperity and cure disease. The women are to be paid an unheard of $80 a day. (source, The London Mail) I wonder if this is really true? I wonder how much the tea would cost?  Surely more than I would pay.

Fall is truly coming, now the day insects are doing their end of summer songs. The sound of the chain saw and axe is heard, as people get their wood ready for winter burning. The trees on the hills are no longer super green, but are shifting towards their autumn colors. Nights are cool, there is morning fog. I am partly excited - I love fall, but a little sad, as I love summer’s produce. This morning I made more pesto from our basil and picked some tomatoes. Next year I really have to treat them better. I am beginning to think about soups and stews instead of tomato salad.

I made a watermelon and feta salad last night, with orange mint and lime juice - the essence of summer. The watermelon was a really super tasty one. Ice tea with it on the porch and it was lovely. Orange mint has such a nice intense flavor. It is good in Indian raitas and makes an excellent addition to a tea you might want to jazz up a bit. I am going to dry some for winter. Our attic is perfect - too hot to breathe and good air circulation. We also have chocolate mint, which is another good tea jazzer upper. They are both pretty plants, but can be aggressive. I am sort of using them as ground covers, because I got tired of digging in our awful soil.

Report on Tao of Tea’s Ginger Peach as ice tea. It’s not much. Maybe I should have doubled the amount of tea as they suggest, but I don’t like strong ice tea. This was just cold from the fridge - no ice, but it just tasted blah, with a tiny hint of maybe the ginger. Oh well, I liked it hot.

That is my entire tea report for the day - I had a tooth out and can’t drink anything hot. So, of course, I am dying for a cup of tea. Going to the dentist - my favorite thing. NOT

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Peachy Keen

I am so excited. I just got my tea shipment from Steepster Select’s new monthly program, along with a nice, new infuser, suitable for a small pot or cup. The teas are Ginger Peach from The Tao of Tea, Dragon Pearl Jasmine from Red Blossom Tea Company and Makaibari First Flush Darjeeling from Silver Tips Tea. I am additionally pleased by their shredded paper packing, clear directions for each tea,  a small blurb about each, and I have not had tea from any of these companies, so this will be another new journey for me.

Tea is so infinitely fascinating. There are so many varieties, so many sources and processes. The you can drink it hot or cold, cook with it, bake with it, dye your clothes (or leave a big blob on them), dye your hair, clean your carpet, mulch your garden, use it as a room deodorizer, the list goes on and on. You could live to be 100 and not finish with all you can do with tea. And it’s good for you. So much from one plant. Not to mention the flowers are pretty.

I decided to try the Ginger Peach first, as it is billed as being good for ice tea and that appeals to me in this muggy weather. It is from Fujian China, via Tao of Tea nd Steepster, as I mentioned.  First, I am going to have it hot, made with boiling water and infusing it for 5 minutes - see how brave I am getting - actually leaving behind my 3.5 minutes! The black leaves are on the small side, with many, many pieces of dried peach, ginger and flower petals. It smells decidedly subtly peach, with the sharpness of ginger, but so well done, it took a while for me to realize this was ginger.

I found this to be an excellent blend. I could taste the tea, which was accented with the peach and ginger, not overwhelmed by them. It is a surprisingly light tea, smooth as silk. I will report to you tomorrow about how it is as ice tea.

Rosemary of has kindly reminded me of another tea farm in Hawaii, Mauna Kea Teas. They are all organic and only raise about 50 lbs. of tea a year, which she says is delicious. I went to their web site and was impressed by some of their “Tea Talk” articles. Some day, I may try some of their teas, but I need to deal with what I have first.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Flowers For Tea

Oh Boy! As many of you know, while I love tea, I also love espresso. Today we hit the local coffee shop, which also carries our local teas from the Briar Patch.  I had a super drink/dessert - Affogato - emphasize the f’ and t, so it doesn’t sound like avocado. It’s ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over. So delicious. I would bet you could do that with a number of black teas and it would be excellent!

If you want to jazz up a tea party, you might consider turning it into a mystery. At you can either download or order print copies of directions for all you need to do one. There is a big selection and it really looks like a fun thing to do. A second idea I have seen is Teago or Tea Time Bingo, where things associated with tea are used instead of numbers to play a Bingo like game. Check it out at .

Did you know that Dartmouth College serves tea every day? Yup, it’s been happening there for over 80 years and everyone on campus is free to drop in. It is served in the English department’s library. Robert Frost once sipped here. A professor and librarian of the college, Edwin David Sanborn, started the tradition by inviting students to his home for tea and literary discussions. His son bequeathed money to build the English department and library, specifically with a tiny kitchen in which to prepare tea, plus funds for the purchase of tea and cookies, which has been happening since 1929. Students are the tea hosts and it is all very informal, but the tea is loose, cups and saucers and lemon slices abound. I think other schools should follow their example.

Today's tea is really a tisane, that is, it does not come from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.  It is Globe Amaranth from Fuzhou, China.  I purchased it in our local Chinese grocery.  Globe Amaranth is very familiar to gardeners who raise the flowers for dried arrangements and potpourri.  This version is the purpley pink one and it looks a lot like clover.  Most of the flowerheads are intact and give off a slightly tangy fragrance.

I brewed the tisane twice, following instructions to use water at about 200 degrees for 3 minutes the first time and 4 the second.  The first infusions was a very pale pink, with a mild vegetable scent.  The taste was also mild, sharp, a little sweet and vaguely floral, quite pleasant.  The second brew was definitely more pink, with a medicinal smell.  It was mostly sharp, like a mild soft hibiscus.

Globe Amaranth is considered a health tea and is used to prevent aging, stop coughs and asthma, help the liver and is good for the skin.  I often wonder how one herb can cover such a wide variety of bodily functions.  I think it would be a nice drink, pretty to look at.  I am not a lot into herbal medicine, although I am intrigued by it.  The multiple, often very different, properties claimed for them tends to put me off.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tea and Clover, With Shortbread on the Side.

This is a house sided with stones.  It is in a tiny remote village in the
Palatine region of Germany, from which some of my ancestors

Hooray, hooray! My clover is sprouting. This is the fastest that has happened. I guess the old tea really helped, in spite of a huge downpour. Thanks, Alex! Another use for tea is to compost it directly on your garden and house plants. I water the latter in the winter with leftover tea quite often and they seem to enjoy it. Most plants like things a bit on the acid side. It’s not tea, but roses love coffee grounds and ground up banana peel. I knew a man with wonderful roses who made the rounds of our town’s restaurants to collect coffee grounds for them.

It’s a beautiful morning, all misty and golden. A perfect morning for Golden Monkey from Teas Etc. This is a black organic tea from China. There are lots of gold buds and dust around these long, twisted leaves. They smell of tobacco, with a sharp, spice and fruit component. I brewed it for 4 minutes with boiling water. The golden amber liquid gave off an aroma of fresh wash, with a really zingy spicy, floral edge.

After all this, I was really expecting something super. Alas, it was not to be. The tea did not live up to its heralding and was quite bland, with nothing in the way of nuances. However, all was not lost. I did not finish it and when I sipped some of the cold tea it had a pleasant, woodsy, sweet taste. So perhaps this is one that is better served iced.

If you like shortbread with your tea, you might want to try McDuffie’s, from central New York. It is at least as good as Walkers and about ½ the price. (9 ounces is $3.99) Go to for stores or ordering on line. The owners are shirttail relatives of mine. If they were named McTaggert, I’d still recommend them, the shortbread is excellent.

Oh dear, one of our fur persons is too smart and demanding. (Of course he's not spoiled.) He has figured out where I keep the catnip and that the cupboard door won’t quite close and so he gets it open and drags out the container, crying piteously for me to give him some. He now tries that twice a day. But I am mean and nasty and concerned for his health, so he only gets it a few times a week.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Lifetime of Achievement

The entrance to a church in Ravenna, Italy, filled with beautiful mosaics.

The World Tea East has just announced its debut Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement award winner - John Harney. John is receiving this award for his huge contributions to tea, in education, mentoring and innovation. He is respected and revered by the tea world. He and his two sons own Harney and Sons Tea, which operates out of Millerton, NY. No one deserves this more.

Today has gone nicely. I found some miniature roses for only 99 cents each. Even better was finding my new Tea Taster’s Journal by Elaine E. Terman of Wild Orchid Teas. I had seen this on another blog, which I cannot remember the name of. I am very pleased with it and even more pleased that Elaine sent me 3 samples of tea to begin my book! There is a short history of tea, and explanation of the different types, a discussion of tisanes and brewing and tasting guides for both. And…there is room for notes on up to 3 infusions, as well as room for other notes, all in a compact 9x5 inch book. Can you tell I like it?

So, here I am, trying one of Elaine’s generous samples. It is Vithanakanda OP1, from Ceylon. The dry leaves are large, twisted, black, with a good tea smell. I brewed it up in my newest tea pot - a small 4 cup from the Salvation Army - you can find such good stuff there; 3.5 minutes with boiling water, a biggish teaspoon per cup, as the leaves are large. It brews up to a fairly light amber, having that good-wash-on-the line scent I associate with fresh Ceylon tea. It has a deep woodsy taste, reminds me of tree bark in the sun. There is a bit of honey there as well. Even with that woodsiness, this is by no means a heavy tea. It is light and refreshing.

The current issue of Tea, A Magazine just arrived and I must say, this is a good one. There is a lengthy article about “The Men of Tea” and many other things related to men and tea. At last year’s World Tea Expo in Las Vegas it was noticed by many that there is a large growing interest in tea among younger men. Hooray, keep those generations coming!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wonderful, Wonderful

For the moment I learned how to put a picture up from email, no telling if I will forget again.  I thought you might like to see who is doing all this yakking about tea.  Yeah, I have mostly white hair.  Does it count if I am really 29 inside?  Actually, I am content to be who I am, where I am and the age I am.  The yard behind me is ours, the trees are the ones I often talk about being back lit at night or in the morning.

Aah, Yunnan, you have such lovely teas! And I have found another super one. Just the aroma makes me feel happy and excited. This gem is China Yunnan Spiral Buds, from Upton Teas, ZY78. Upon opening the packet, I was hit with a deep sweet, spicy scent and lovely tightly curled golden buds, coated with gold dust. I was brave and brewed it for the recommended 5 minutes and was rewarded with some super tea.

The brewing tea first struck me as smelling of baked sweet potatoes, then spicy and a tad metallic. The tea tasted very initially of green banana and then settled into a spicy, earthy sweet mouthful, with a bit of copper and some vegetable floating over it.. The taste lingers and each sip enhances it. Wonderful, wonderful.

The red bellied woodpeckers have a second family and one is almost an albino, its markings are such a faint gray. Hopefully it will darken with age. Currently it’s coming to the suet feeder and wanting the father to feed it, but the father is trying to get it to be more independent. A noisy process.

I bought a small flat of basil that I am going to try to winter over. We have excellent windows for this, if we have sunshine. Last winter we had lots and it was wonderful. The year before was quite gray. I have learned how to water the orchids I bought and I must say they are now doing really well, sending out new shoots, blooming away. Outside the back porch, the clethera/summer sweet is in bloom and it smells so fine - a perfect accompaniment to meals. It is covered with baby bumble bees.  I wish they were honey bees.  We need our honey bees.

Don't forget the World Tea East, coming to Philadelphia Sept 11 and 12.  Jane Pettigrew will be there, along with Bruce Richardson.  On Thursday, there will be a "Around the World Tea Tasting".  It will be on the expensive side, but it is all day and covers an awful lot of teas, all of which will be top-notch.  Please go to and check out the offerings. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

White or Green?

I am feeling a little proud of myself. I was reading Alex Zorach’s article on uses for tea on  and went out and did one. We have an awful lawn and whenever the weather is right, I sow some clover on it, hoping it will someday look halfway decent. He suggested using tea as mulch for new seeding and so, I cleaned out all the tea that is too old or that we hate and sprinkled it on top of the clover seed. Since it is slowly drizzling today and tomorrow is also calling for rain, I am hoping this will be productive.

I have also decided to relearn knitting and crocheting. And to that end got a couple of very simple books and so far, I have knitted a piece about 4x5”. Slow going. I had such a hard time figuring out how to cast on. I think this book's method is a particularly odd one for that task. We’ll see.

Let’s move on to tea, at least I can boil water. Or, this case, bring it to 180 degrees. I am having White Monkey Green, from the puriTea. It originally hails from the Taimu Mountains of Fujian Province, China.
I used 1 tsp. in 180 degrees water for 2 minutes. I used a small glass teapot, so I could watch the leaves do their up and down dance as they unfurled. The dry leaves smelled like alfalfa. They were kind of chunky green leaves, obviously not processed too much. The brewing tea smelled very springy green, but also of nice, ripe pears. The liquor was a very light gold. The tea in my cup was sweet and mild, with a bit of spice and fruit and a tinge of grassiness, but pleasantly so. The finish had a bit of astringency, which I thought just added a very pleasant nuance to this delightful cup.

More signs of the ending of summer - Purple Loosestrife is blooming; a few maples are beginning to shift from green to yellow; the evening insects are  now very noisy and their noise is that of the close of the season.  Purple Loosestrife is a tall, spiky plant with soft purple pink flowers.  It is very pretty, but very invasive, choking out other native plants in small waterways.  I am sad to see some summer things go, but I always welcome fall.  Cooler temperatures will be very welcome for many people this year.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's a Blog Carnival!

Some tea professionals who keep track of trends have noticed that tea drinkers are no longer content to just savor their tea, they want to know all about it. To that end, Adagio Teas  has started a new endeavor- Adagio Roots Campaign - highlighting certain teas and the farmers who grow and process them. They are doing this in conjunction with the folks who are part of the Association of Tea Bloggers .  It is such a privilege to be able to not only try some top notch tea, but share, however briefly, in the lives of these dedicated people who bring us one of life’s true delights. At Adagio stores, there will be pre-addressed postcards for customers to write directly to the showcased farmers, which is a really nice, encouraging touch - good idea, Adagio!

The ATB is a great group of folk for whom tea is special and we want to share that with as many of you as we possibly can. We range from specialists in Pu‘erh or Oolongs to generalists like me. Some of us do very well-researched and thought-provoking articles about important issues related to tea. We review books and accessories, tea and teapots. We try to bring the news of the tea world to your computers. Today, all of us want all of you to join us and Adagio in celebrating the life and tea of Huang Jian Lin. So, we are having a Carnival, in which a group of us all write about the same subject. The address of the others is at the bottom of this blog.

Huang Jian Lin’s tea is Pi Lo Chun, from Dongting, Jiangsu, Fujian Province, China. It is a green tea, loaded with lovely silvery buds. Jian Lin started working in tea when he was about 20 and that has been his only job. In fact, tea is his life, as it is the life of many of those in his area. His home town is ideally suited to the production of this particular tea as it is in the shadow of a mountain and on the shore of a lake. This provides an ideal micro-climate and Pi Lo Chun is grown here to the exclusion of all other teas, so it receives extravagant, personalized care.

Like all true gardeners, Jian Lin is thrilled to see the final product, to hold it in his hands, to feel and smell the reward of all those hours of labor. I feel the same way when I finally have the first pesto of the season, or the first gorgeous daylily blooms. It makes the work and the wait all worthwhile. Even worth that bane of all gardeners around the world, weeding, which is Jian Lin’s most hated task, as he does it all by hand, so as not to harm the tea plants. As you may imagine, it is very slow, time-consuming work.

Pi Lo Chun can only be picked in the early spring, starting about 8 am, according to Jian Lin. It is hand-picked and hand-processed from start to finish. Jian Lin recommends 1 heaping teaspoon per cup, 180 degrees for 2 minutes. He further says this should be brewed in a glass cup, with no lid, so as to give it the honor it is due, as well as more air for the brewing. In addition, you can watch the leaves unfurl and dance about, which is a joy. I have a glass one cup tea pot I am going to use, without the lid. By the way, Gingko, from Life in Teacup also recommends this way of brewing.

In the packet it smells fresh green and springy, almost floral. Whilst brewing it has a definite meaty aroma, paired with asparagus.. The tea liquor is very full-bodied, very spring green with hints of floral. The leaves are small and tender. The tea seems somewhat hearty and savory for a green tea, but also delicate and sweet, with floral touches at the end. It seems to have the very essence of Spring.

Please go and visit my colleagues in this endeavor. Black Dragon Tea Bar, , Gongfu Girl , Leaf Joy, ,Notes on Tea, ,Tea Pages, The Tea Enthusiasts Scrapbook, ,  That Pour Girl and Walker Tea Review . You’ll find a wide range of articles about Adagio, Jian Lin and tea. Enjoy! I would also invite you to look through these blogs for more information on all things tea.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Take Me Out To The Tea Farm

Did you know there was a tea plantation in Alabama? Neither did I. And there is one in Washington that produces green tea? Neither did I. However, I was looking at Laura Childs’ website and there they are!

Fairhope Tea Plantation got its start when Donnie Barrett rescued three tea plants from a tea research station that was destroyed by Hurricane Frederick in the 1960’s. These stations had been run by Lipton when the loss of China’s tea was threatened at that time. He now has about 20,000 bushes and produces about 50 -100 pounds of tea a year. You can purchase this tea at , a gift shop in Alabama. If you are in the area of Fairhope, you can visit.

On the other side of the country, the Sakuma Brothers Farm, near Burlington, Washington has been growing tea for ten years. They sell white, green and Oolong. Their white tea was reviewed on Teaviews and received a very high rating.

Hopping across the ocean brings us to tea farms in Hawaii, of which there are at least three. One well-known one is Big Island Tea  They produce organic, artisan teas.

You all have read here about Roy Fong of the Imperial Tea Court starting a tea farm in California and there are people starting one in British Columbia, Canada. It is really exciting to think of all these new ventures in the tea world. We may not rival India and China in metric tons, but it looks like North America is carving out its own little tea niche.

At the World Tea East, Lisa Boalt Richardson is giving an introduction to tea as part of the educational wing of the conference. Beth Johnson, the founder of Teas Etc. will be doing some tastings of black teas. Pearl Dexter from Tea Magazine, will be speaking about the history of tea in America. Jane Pettigrew is leading a tasting of pu’erh teas. In addition, the president of the American Tea Association will also be lecturing. And that is less than half of the speakers. Pretty exciting stuff!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On the Tea Caravan Route

Swiss Covered bridge #2

It’s another beautiful day in the neighborhood. The sun is shining, the sky is beautiful, there’s a breeze and it is cool enough to work in the garden. Summer is drawing ever onward towards fall, however. The acorns are in a second drop, the Great Mullein is forming seeds and the milkweed pods are getting fat. Did you know you can use milkweed fluff like down, to insulate clothing? True. Of course, there could be a real problem with it getting wet.

Another indicator of summer ending is the teasels are all hardening up and turning brown. This is a form of thistle and is common to the British Isles and probably many other countries. Sheep farmers in Scotland would use them to “tease” the wool to get out burrs and other dirt before it was spun and woven. There is a very old English song about this but I only know a word or two of it.

It is a perfect day for a nice cup of hot tea. I was going to try a Lapsang Souchong I have, but the smoke was too overwhelming for my mood and perhaps my person in general. So I am having some of Blue Raven’s Fruity Russian Caravan instead. This is named for the teas that would go overland, along the horse/camel caravan route, from China to Russia, taking 18 months to arrive at their destination.  Along the way, the tea would be subjected to many campfires, which is why it usually has a whiff of smoke.  I was immediately struck by the scent - plums, smoke and good China tea. The smoke was only a mere lick, not a bit overwhelming. I brewed up the attractive brown leaves for about 3.5 minutes with boiling water and further enjoyed the lovely aroma, hoping the tea would also be as pleasant.

I am so pleased. This is a very nice tea. You can taste the good blend of teas that are enhanced with the plum flavor. It is as if they were made to go together. You know I don’t say that lightly, as I am generally not a fruity tea person. Maybe I should say I wasn’t, because I am finding more good blends, where the tea is first and the flavors are a grace note. This is a tea that should be drunk on its own, without milk and sugar. The milk adds nothing and I think sweetener would kick up the plum so it would be out of balance.  I should note that thanks to modern means of transport, there is no whiff of sweaty animals or humans to spoil this delicious brew.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tea With Tiny Tyrants

5889813306_c7ae761bfa_oThis is a scene from the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas last spring that we will see repeated in just a few weeks in Philadelphia at the World Tea East.  MarketSpice is one of the many vendors who will be there showing off their wares.  Can you tell I am excited to be going?  I am like one of those wind-up dolls you can't turn off. The photo is by Albert Chau.

Even so, this is a big deal.  So many of the larger tea events have taken place out West, especially in areas like Seattle, Portland and San Francisco that it is exciting to have this be in the East again.  It is an affordable journey for many of us and an affordable business expense for the small business owner.

It was incredibly beautiful out back last night.  The sky was a luminous silver tinged with gold and there was a mist behind the green/black of the trees, all seen through a silver sheen of rain.  A moment in time, gone in less than a minute, when it all became just regular.

All you fans of Laura Childs’ teashop mystery series now have a tea to go with at least one of her books (Blood Orange Brewing). Today I am brewing Wegmans’ Blood Orange Black tea. It’s been going for 4 minutes at just under a boil and smells wonderful. Makes me wish I had made scones.

The dry leaves are small and dark brown, enlivened by bright orange peel and what looks like some of the inner orange as well. Perhaps it will whisper secrets to the inner me. I guess I am being made silly by all the noisy machines we have around here, now including driveway pavers. Always something new in the neighborhood.

Back to the tea, which smells as luscious in my cup as it did in the pot. It is a very attractive golden amber. Oh my, it is good. None of the harshness or odd tingliness that can come from some flavorings. Just an honest to goodness orange. A wee bit bitter, which to me is blood orange. Perfect with some dark chocolate or a blueberry muffin or some pecan sticky buns. Maybe a great way to wake up as well. Very well done flavoring.

Having said that I must say that it was not until I added cream that I could taste the tea base. So there I was with a liquid tea flavored Creamsicle. Pretty good actually. They should market these for adults. I also discovered the orange flavor lasted a little too long after I was done with it. I just wish the tea base were a little more forward. Otherwise, as good as this is, it is a waste of tea when all you can taste is the flavor.

Gosh, nothing like making myself hungry. A walk will help.

The blue chicory is making clouds along the roadsides, punctuated by the tall brown of some unknown weed, and the little yellow flowers of butter-and-eggs, which we loved as children. The daisies are gone, but the brown eyed susans are flourishing. There are still a few white clusters of wild roses in the woods and the reeds have nice fat brown seed heads.

This morning I was thinking about filling the suet feeders when along came a tiny downy woodpecker. They are usually quiet souls, giving a sharp chirp now and then, but this little girl - no red on her head - let loose a long loud tirade about how I’d best get right out there and feed her. Such a lot of noise from such a tiny being, who only weighs about 2 ounces. Once the suet was out, peace was restored until the ever-noisy jays arrived. They, however, are a bit shy of the red-bellied woodpeckers, who are bigger and have a really, really BIG bill.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bengals for Breakfast

Sustainability fans, Rejoice! Tea Tulia Teas, grown in Northern Bangladesh is organic, from its single garden cooperative to its totally recyclable and compostable packaging. They work to create “sustainable prosperity for Bangladeshi women, men and children through education, entrepreneurship, health and cattle-lending programs.” I had heard of them and wanted to give them a fair trial. Feeling cheap at the moment, I only bought small packets of tea bags. I still got a free sample, which I am now having - Bengal Breakfast. Each triangular sachet is made from corn and holds enough real leaf tea - not fannings or CTC for 2 cups of tea. Actually, I think if you took it out of the bag, it would do three.

As you might imagine Bengal Breakfast is an English Breakfast type. It has a very pleasant dry aroma, with a definite hint of citrus, along with the Assam. I brewed it for 3 minutes at 210 degrees. It continued with a lovely slight citrus, slight floral aroma. In the cup, it is a fairly light amber. It is a fine tea, pleasantly malty, but not heavily so and the citrus and flower are right there, though a bit more muted. An excellent tea.

For breakfast, I had their Black Tea, which is a somewhat stronger version of the Breakfast.  I didn't find it as pleasant, but it is a decent  cup of tea.  By the way, one sachet will make 3 cups, but they're weak.  It does indeed, do fine for 2.

Another way of recycling I discovered on the back of Tea Time Magazine. Perhaps you have broken the last cup of Great-Aunt Harriet's set and you are are heart broken.  Don't despair completely, but contact the good folks at  Vintage Revival, and they can take the pieces to make you some very pretty jewelry from it.  My Gramma 'Duffee, who was not artistic, would, however, save bits of broken china from things she loved and glue them in pretty patterns on plain white dishes and hang those on the wall.  I wish my uncle has offered them to us, I would have loved them.

I have been checking out the vendors at World Tea East and there is such a variety.  There are the commercial ones for people in business,, but there are also folks selling tea themed clothing, at least 2 book publishers and several tea accessory sellers.  There are many classes to take  and I will describe more of them for you tomorrow.

Monday, August 8, 2011

World Tea East Coming to Philadelphia!

Theat looks like a path I'd like to take - perhaps to Heidi's Grandfather's House and then up into the mountains...

World Tea East is coming up Sept. 9-10 at the Philadelphia Convention center.There is still time to sign up to go, especially if you are a tea business owner or planning to be one. 

The purpose of this Expo is to support and fuel the expanding demand for specialty teas along the Eastern Seaboard and westward.  The organizers are planning to provide some solid tea education and have about 14 seminars planned, as well as certification courses by the Specialty Tea Institute.  There will be over a 100 leading manufacturers and suppliers present and there are at least 100 new products and teas being shown off.

The newbies that really caught my eye were Pu'Erh dessert teas - remember Pu'Erh does really well with chocolate;  Rooibos espresso - this one was a bit of a stretch for me; Guayusa, an Amazonian tea/tisane in use for centuries; a floating basket for making ice tea - gotte get me one of those and lots of other goodies.  I can see this will be a severe test of will power.

There will be lots of well-known tea folk there - Bruce Richardson and  The Harneys are among them.  Ajiri teas, who give their profits to the orphans of Kenya so they can get an education, will be there and I intend to see them, both to complement them on their tea and prizewinning packaging and for their good works.

For me, just being back in one of my favorite cities is a plus.  We'll be staying with a friend in South Philly, near the Italian market district, oh yum.  The convention center is merely a hop from Chinatown and only a slightly larger hop from my favorite gelato place in the USA.  It will certainly be dessert on the way home.  If only I will be able to make up my mind! Their very best creation is the darkest chocolate I've ever seen.

The ole tum is still not up for tea, so I'm not trying anything new , or old, for that matter.  If you want to eamil me, the address is the title of this blog, nospacesatyahoodotcom.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Growing Herbs for Tea and Tisanes

Wood pile and mountains near Darstetten, Switzerland.

I have some sort of stomach bug, so I am not having much in the way of tea these days.  Mostly just ginger or peppermint, both of which are good for the old tum.  Both are a nice addition to regular tea as well.  Ginger is good if you are prone to motion sickness and both can sweeten you breath.  And you can grow both of them easily.  Peppermint grows so easily it can become invasive and really only requires a moderately sunny spot.  It roots easily in water, so a sprig from a friend's plant will put you in business.

Ginger is a tiny bit more difficult as you need to find some that has fresh looking buds on it.  You plant this in a pot with some soil that has a high proportion of sand, water well and give it dappled sun.  You can grow it outside, but it must come in at the first hint of cold.  Go over to for more complete directions.  I don't have any at the moment, but I have grown this before and it is quite simple.

My lemongrass, another ingredient in herbal tisanes or addition to regular teas, is not doing superbly well.  One of the furpersons, Bert the Brat, has eaten far too much of it.  It also is in poor soil.  Soon I will be transplanting a number of my plants and this will definitely get some better soil and hopefully, some safety from this little marauder.  This is another plant you can almost get for free if you have an Asian market nearby.  Just look for shoots with roots attached, take them home and plant them.  Or check out your farmers market.  Mine has at least 2 people selling nice big plants for about $7.

Borage is not exactly a tea herb, but it has beautiful blue flowers that are edible and can add some pizazz to either ice or hot tea.  The have a very slight cucumber taste.  The leaves can be added to tea sandwiches or salad, as can the flowers.  It reseeds itself with joyful abandon.

Pineapple sage does indeed smell like pineapple and has the same mild taste.  This is a big fellow, but is so useful.  It makes a tasty herbal tea and if you use it's pretty red flowers, which have a sweet taste, it is a lovely color.  Again, it is handy in sandwiches and salads and in some desserts.

Rosemary, used sparingly makes a very nice tisane and I love it in salads.  In fact, I love to gather a handful of herbs, chop them finely and sprinkle them in salads.  They really spark up the taste, without being overwhelming.  Kind of a  less is more approach.

This is only a short list of all the possibilities there are in our gardens for either having as additions to our regular tea or making tisanes.  There are many more and from time to time, I'll tell you about them. 

What herbs do you grow and use in your teas?  There is such an abundance of them and so much room to experiment.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Another Swiss restaurant in Darstetten.

Good grief, the blue jays are having a hissy fit about something!  Such squawking and swearing!  One of this year's babies was yelling at a red-bellied woodpecker to either feed him or get off the suet, but was ignored.  However, his papa gave him a couple of thunks on the head to hush up and behave.

Finally, we have had something like the rain we need.  It rained most of the afternoon and night and some this morning.  We surely needed it.  It wouldn't hurt to have more.

 Have you ever seen a sphinx moth?  Officially known as a Hummingbird Hawk Moth.  They pretty much like the same flowers that hummingbirds like and their wings beat in a blur, like the birds and they also hover and fly backwards.  If you are not close enough, you can easily confuse the 2.  We have them both around our bergamot and sweet spice bushes.  It's so interesting to watch them.

In World Tea News I learned that the Japanese government is going to compensate tea farmers in affected ares for their losses due to radiation. I am reminding you that last year's Japanese tea is fine and any of this year's must pass stringent incoming inspection for radiation.

I brewed some of the Enchanted Forest tea I didn't care for hot as an ice tea and I must say, it really is improved.  The flavoring is softened and smoothed, so it isn't as assertive.  This I could like.

I just got some Nilgiri Tea from Mark T. Wendell and thought I would try that today.  The large twisted leaves are a pleasant combination of brown and black and smell wonderful, like fresh, earthy tobacco.  Nilgiri is in Southern India's Blue Mountains.  I brewed it for 4 minutes with boiling water.  What huge leaves!  The brewing scent was very roasted and baked, with a hint of honey.  The liquor was a lovely deep honey shade.  The flavor is very smooth, earthy, with a hint of citrus. It is nowhere near as deep as the aroma would indicate.  I can imagine this as a nice counterfoil to some afternoon tea goodies.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Golden Morning

The community building in Darstetten, Berne, Switzerland, my
grandfather's boyhood home
I read a good article in Cooks Illustrated this morning.  It was about the immediecy of sensory input when we are young and how it stays with you.  Many of you know I grew up on a farm and many of my referrents to how tea tastes and smells come from that time in my life.  For breakfast I had a small red plum that instantly transported me to Gramma 'Duffee's backyard in the hot August sun, with the mist just rising off Schoharie Creek and the grass still wet on my bare toes.  It's a good memory, filled with love and thoughts of breakfast, if I would just go and gather the eggs.

This morning I am having the Chicago Tea Garden's Golden Bi Luo.  This is a black tea from Yunnan Province, China.  I reviewed it last year and I am interested to see how this year's crop is.  This is in the style of the green Bi Luo or Snail Spring.  The leaves are tightly wound and look like small snails.  The can is covered in a rich golden dust from the buds.  They smell of wet hay after a rain.  I brewed it in one of thos bottom draining pots, so I could watch the dance of the leaves as they unfurl.

This is a tea that really deserves multiple infusions, but it is morning and I can't quite manage that, so it is 3.5 minutes with 212 degree water.  The tea smells rich and earthy, a bit like fermenting corn.  It is so smooth and rich , with great depth of taste, which is earthy and slightly spicey, so good.  I think it may be even better than last years.

Not all of life has to be related to our personal experiences in the past and I think we should strive to appreciate things on their own merits, whether it is tea, sunrise, the downy woodpecker on the suet or friends and family.  We just need to acknowledge that we are all inexorably tied to our past, good or bad and go on from there.  Each day is an opportunity to enjoy what is before us.  Doesn't always work that way, I know only too well, but then, tomorrow is another day.  May your day be one of deep appreciation of life around you and may you find joy in it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Enchanted Forest

Aah, mountains, with lovely snow on them.

Last evening was so beautiful. There was a slight mist rising from the bog behind the trees and it was like gold netting in the evening sun. The trees were all backlit, green and golden. Just lovely. A while later, it all looked eerie, the sun was gone, the trees were black and there was this ethereal mist swirling through them.

The Ernster kitty had to hit the vet again! Somehow, the poor critter keeps finding nymph ticks and then were he was bitten - usually his lip - swells up. he actually looked kind of funny - like he was pouting, with his lip stuck out. So we have to do the meds thing and keep him in for 2 weeks. He won't be the only one suffering, as he whines if loud caterwauling doesn't work. I will need much tea to survive.

If you want to make a beautiful cake for a tea, but aren't too talented as a decorator, like me, you might want to try for one of their cake molds or cake toppers. I can at least color inside the lines, so this looks like something I could use. They also have some fancy cake molds, like a cute puppy, which would be special for a kid's tea.

If you have broken or lost a piece of your china, silver or crystal, may have it. I have used them in the past to fill in my grandmother's china and was pleased. I think they are expensive, but if you feel desperate... Gramma's china was nothing special, so you don't have to be looking for only the top brands.

It's hot again today, so I think I am just going to grab a green tea to report on. I have some White Peony from the PuriTea in the fridge, but it is nothing special, it was much better hot.

I got some flavored green samples from Blue Raven Teas and this one is Enchanted Forest. It looks something like the understory of a forest, with it's mixed shades of gree, white, gold and some flower petals. It smelled like cherries and almonds with a hint of maybe citrus? I couldn't tell. I brewed it for about 2.5 minutes with 185 degree water. The resulting brew was a pale green-gold and it still smelled of cherry/almond, although more muted and somewhat muddied. That is pretty much the taste, as well. I did chill it and I felt it was much better cold. The flavor was clearer. I don't think it really was an enchanted forest, however.

Do you know a good way to clean your teapots and infusers? Fill with warm to hot tap water and about 1/2 cup of baking soda. Let it sit for an hour or so, scrub with a very clean brush - won't take much and Voila! clean again. Rinse very well. If you are in a big hurry, make a paste with the baking soda and scrub away.