Saturday, April 28, 2012

Taking Tea At the Strand

I had a very pleasant tea today.  It is from The Strand Tea Co. .  It is called Portland Blend, as the company is located near Portland, Oregon.  It is billed as a breakfast blend, with estate teas originating in China and India.  The small to medium twisted black and brown leaves give off an appealing, gentle aroma that is soft and round and has perhaps a bit of walnut in it.

I brewed this for 4 minutes with boiling water.  The scent was still a warm, soft walnut with some green added to it.  The leaves were mostly one or two leaves and a bud, although there were some chopped ones in the mix as well.  As I sipped it, I could tell there was Keemun in there and a nice taste of toast.  This is not a very nuanced tea, but it is delicious, both with and without milk.  I think you could easily drink it all day and not be a bit unhappy.

I was intrigued by many of the teas on the Strand site and if I didn't have nearly a cupboard full of teas waiting to be tasted, I would get some.  I suggest you go over to their site and check them out.

Beautiful Sorrento, Italy and the Bay of Naples

Honest Tea is hosting a number of recycling events, the biggest in Manhattan.  The proceeds will go to establish urban gardens in school yards.  Way to go!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Uptons Does It Again

I do love Uptons Tea Imports.  You get good service, they let you know when a tea you are interested in comes in,  you can sample anything, there's an immense selection and they have some wonderful teas.  How can I go wrong?  Their Panyang (Panyong) China Congou is a case in point.    It is an excellent tea.

The dry leaves are quite small, well twisted and a mix of black and brown.  They smell like grass, new hay, old wood and have just the tiniest bit of spice sprinkled over.  I brewed them for 4 minutes, using boilung water.  The resulting tea was a very, very dark amber.  It smelled very fresh, with a clean earth aroma.

The  tea was really excellent, a bit earthy, with some walnut and biscuit and yes, a bit of spice.  There was a little acerbic kick at the end.  This was fine with milk, which round out the flavors a bit and added something of a caramel edge.

A baptismal font in Forio, Ischia, Italy.  It makes me think of some pyramidal candy I had when I was a kid.
Oh, I am in trouble.  The nurseries are opening with all those beautiful plants!  Oh woe, they call to me, wrapping a siren song of beautiful gardens around my head and I am led straight to where they are waiting, shining in the sun.  Then, clunk, I remember my terrible soil.  But I still over did it, with peopnies and daylillies and wild geraniums and oh yes, that lovely little yellow plant and there's one of those varigated iris and oooh, frilled pansies.  Oh my aching back and bank account!  Some of us never learn.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finally, A Great Golden Monkey

I've never been very taken with Golden Monkey Tea.  For me, it usually fell into the category of okay.  However, I have just had some from Teas Etc. that is absolutely top notch. 

The dry tea has a deep tobacco/wine barrel aroma.  The leaves are quite twisted, with many buds among the green/brown/gold twists.  The suggested time of infusion was 4 minutes.

The liqueur was a much, much paler golden amber than I anticipated and smelt of very fresh tea and milky chocolate.  It tasted of warm earthy chocolate with big hints of warmed flowers and apricots.  I added some milk to it and it then became somewhat sweet.  As it cooled, it's sweet and fruity nature came more to the fore.  A wonderful cup of tea.

I put some in the fridge and this is for sure going in the summer repetoire of ice teas.  It is sweet and fruity with a sturdy very subtle earthiness that will be much appreciated.

At the moment, however, we are dealing with snow!  Yeah, April 23, snow.  I guess since we had Spring in January, we'll have winter now.  Phooey.  Of course, I just potted up all my seedlings, ready to begin the in and out trek of mid-spring.
A large Swiss bell, from  Darstetten, my ancestral home.  I believe it was won in a singing competition by a choir from Darstetten.  The village crest is the red patch near the top of the belt.

Friday, April 20, 2012


The people from the Phoenix Tea House in Burien, WA, are working with the people from the Northwest Tea Festival to do a tasting of rare and wonderful teas on April 28.  This is NOT the Northwest Tea Festival itself, which is in the fall, but is related to it. 

Thank you for catching this mistake.

I have purchased teas from Phoenix and they carry some first rate teas, so this would be very worthwhile if you are in the area.

Take Me Out To The Expo, Take Me Out To Tea

The 2012 World Tea Expo Best New Product Award Winners have been announced and I must say, the level of innovation is wonderful.  If you go to the website  and click on any of their pictures you can find out more about them.

Speaking of which, The World Tea Expo is June 1-3 in Las Vegas.  There is an extensive educational core, a Taiwanese tea ceremony demonstration, many tea tastings, an art exhibit, a tea infusion contest and announcing the winners for best teas of the year.  This is a tenth anniversary year, so there are sure to be many special events.

The Northwest Tea Festival is the weekend of the 28th of April in Seattle.  The Phoenix  Tea Shop folks are having a tasting of some very rare and wonderful teas.  If you live in the area, make sure you go to this.
I am waiting for World Tea East in Philadelphia in the fall.  I am hoping there are no weather disasters this year so I can attend.

The newest teas have arrived!  Right here in my kitchen!  I ordered some early tea from Life in Teacup and today I am having 1400m Huang Shan Mao Feng, which was plucked and processed on April 6 of this year.  The literal translation of this Anhui Province tea is Yellow Mountain Fur Peak.  This is 2 leaves and a bud mixed with one leaf and a bud of the very first plucking of the year.  The leaves are mostly a bright green, with some tan and there is some golden dust from the buds lining the packet.  The scent is that of hay just beginning to dry in the sun, with the most delicate hint of wood smoke wafting through.  I brewed this at 170 degrees for 2minutes and was rewarded with the most beautiful tea color I've seen.  It is a light, light silvery green.  I brewed it in a glass pot so I could watch the leaves widen and stand up in the water.

The tea liqueur smells of green grass and flowers, very delicate.  It tastes of greenness and flowers, as well, with something stronger at the end that somehow reminds me of hard boiled eggs.  It doesn't taste like them, it's only a fleeting taste I simply can't place.  As it cools, that disappears and a somewhat stronger grass comes through.  There is some sweetness throughout.  It's a delightful tea.  Even if I didn't like it, I would brew it just to look at its beautiful color and to watch the leaves unfurl.

Ravenna, Italy - wonderful church buttresses from about 1000AD

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherry Macaroons

For those of you looking for something new for tea, go on over to .  On Wed., April 18 she has a recipe for Cherry Blossom Macaroons.  They look wonderful and I am going to make them when I have time.

That got me thinking about other sweet confections:  When I was still in college, my friend Ruth and I were in Paris.  Not too wealthy, as you might imagine.  There was a small cafe near our pensione and we felt so proud of ourselves to order "sandwich jambon et peche melba"  from our very patient waiter,  Monsieur Moustache.  Jambon is ham.  It was all we felt sure enough of pronouncing well.  The peach melba was delicious - how can you go wrong with peaches, raspberry sauce, whipped cream and I think, ice cream - it was a long time ago. 

Peach melba and a Swiss dessert of meringues, ice cream and raspberry sauce would make lovely desserts for tea.  They have the advantage of advance preparation and minimal put-together time.  Another I have made is cream puffs filled with slightly sweetened whipped cream, with some chocolate liqueur folded in, along with halved or quartered green grapes.  Make sure the grapes are not too tart, and that the cream is pretty stiff.  Don't be afraid of making cream puffs, they really are very easy.  The sweetening and amount of liqueur is a matter of taste.  Less tends to be better, however.  From there, you could do strawberries, blueberries, cherries, currants, all manner of summer fruit, with or without a liqueur addition.

I'm sure you've all heard of Pavlova.  It is layers of very crisp meringues that have vinegar and something I can't remember at the moment added so they can be held up to 5-6 hours,  held together by whipped cream and decorated with fresh fruits.  It is very easy to make and your guests feel very special, because it is so rich and utterly gorgeous, even if you haven't a lot of decorating talent, like me.

If I were serving these, I would go with a nice peachy Oolong or perhaps a fruit flavored green tea, depending on whether you want to contrast or play up the fruit tastes.  The strawberry tea from Lupicia I recently reviewed would be a definite consideration.

Gosh, now I've made myself hungry.  Maybe I'll make some meringues.....

This quiet space is the courtyard of a monastery.  It would be lovely to have tea here, listening to the doves, the angelus bells, the singing of the monks.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tea Magazine, Spring and, Of Course, Tea

Tea, a Magazine was recently sold by long-term owner, publisher, editor Pearl Dexter, although she remains as a writer/editor.  I have always really liked this magazine, as it dealt with more than just tea parties - I have another magazine for that.  The format is quite different, with lots more computer, iPod, app, etc. information.  It seems to have more down to earth tea info, which I like.  It really is quite a shift, but all of life must change.  To not change is to die.  Cups raised to Dan and his staff in their new endeavor.

It is so interesting to me to see Spring progressing at its own sloe rate.  The woods are so colorful.  A different and muted palette than Fall.  There is the base note of dark evergreens, the understories of almost full green, the weavings of yellow green, neon green, spring green, the silver green of white birch and cotton wood, the delicate tracings of pink, white, yellow and here and there a flash of orange, coupled with a trace of mahogany from the sumac candles.

On the home front, the violets are blooming and my irises are in bud!  Tomorrow I need to repot my basil, tomatoes and peppers into 4" pots, some to go to the Master Gardener Plant Sale and some to go right in my garden.

That doesn't really relate to tea, but it is part of what is filling my heart right now and it all calls for a celebration - blackberry scones and TEA.  Today's is from Lupicia and it is Hapjan Purbat, BOP (CTC) from Assam. The instructions say 1-2 minutes of steeping - short, even for me.  But, as this is a CTC, I will obey.  It certainly does brew quickly, by the end of a minute and a half, it is quite dark and has that classic malty Assam scent, coupled with some red wine barrel to make it interesting.  Even without milk, it seems rich and creamy.

Well, it is all there in the taste.  It is rich and creamy and malty and a tiny tad sweet.  All undergirded with a taste I can only describe as fresh.  Maybe that's clean and crisp, like wash dried in the sun.  Whatever it is,  it is quite good, with or without milk.

Italian flowers on a cliff in the merry month of May.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Whisper To Me of Whiteness

For those of you of the Orthodox faith - a happy and Holy Easter to you all!

Not many of us think of Kenya when we think of white teas, but I think we will have to change our minds.  Today I am drinking Royal Tea of Kenya's White Whisper.  This can be purchased from   I wasn't sure how to treat this so I brewed it for 2 minutes using water at about 175 degrees.
But let me back up a moment.  The dry tea is only long delicate buds, with the softest bud hairs covering them.  They have a faint, slightly sharp floral odor.  I used about 2 teaspoons for my 8 ounce cup.

The brews up into the softest, gentlest ivory green.  It has a somewhat full mouth feel with the barest hint of mint, then spring green and then some peachiness.  This is a tea you white tea drinkers have got to try.  The people at the World Tea Expo raved about it, and so do I.

As always, RTK's teas are all pesticide free, grown by small scale farmers and  processed through a farmer's co-operative.

We are actually getting some rain today - we need it badly.  The nueseries are beginning to open, so of course, I had to buy some plants.  Let's see, how many addictions is that?  Tea, good food, gardening, mysteries, laziness.  Obviously, I'm beyond hope.  Guess I'll go do a second wash on White Whisper.

Ah lovely Sorrento, Italy, with mist over Vesuvious.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Marshmallow Vodka Drives Me to Drink! Tea, That Is have a new tea to try.  Fittingly, it is a green one - Sweet Roast Green Tea (Dark) from Mauna Kea Tea.  This is a tea grown and processed in Hawaii.  It is organic and specially selected to be low in caffeine.  Above is a picture of it.  You can see the leaves are chopped, flat, and green, with a brownish tinge, the result of roasting.  The idea is to stop just as the tea sweetens, but before it is as roasted as an Oolong.

This tea has quite a unique aroma, a cross between roasted meat and Cracker Jack Peanuts.  Now, there's a combo for you!  The company recommends using boiling water, with a 2 minute brew.  The smell has shifted to that of roasted corn or nuts.  I had this tea pretty hot and then let it cool.  I have to say I did not catch much sweetness.  Instead, to me it tasted as though it was almost, but not quite, burnt.  That is, just before you browned your nuts too much but caught them just in time.  Which I always hope to do.

I will be the first to admit I have trouble with a lot of green teas and I am not a fan of heavily roasted Oolongs.  So this may just be a personal thing I can't get past to say whether or not it is good on it's own.  If you are at all intrigued, in spite of me, I would suggest you order a sample and try it for yourself.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  All my little seedlings are up and doing well.  Soon I will have to transfer them to larger pots.  The plants I brought in from their summer stay are beginning to look longingly towards trims and being out in the fresh air again.  Sadly, that's about 6 weeks off.  Especially since this spot is up a mountain and still quite chilly.

Okay, not tea related.  I was in the liquor store yesterday and there was a new flavor of Vodka - you'll never guess - marshmallow.  Ye Gods and little fishes!  I had to come home and have a whole pot of tea!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Man Worthy of Honor

This month Royal Tea of Kenya is celebrating the life and work of their founder, Arthur Njuguna Komo, who will be 112 sometime this year.  He is the oldest teaman in the world and fought long and hard, often tortured and in prison, to obtain rights and good working conditions for the tea workers in Kenya.  In spite of all that, he is a gracious and loving man who taught those around him to be loving and to do good and not harm to others. It is fitting that all of us who love tea raise our cups to honor this man, perhaps by having one of the fine teas the company offers that are named in his honor.

A while ago I reviewed Grandpa's Anytime Tea, which is a fine tea, suitable indeed for any time of the day.  Today I want to review Grandpa's Afternoon Tea, of which I have a most generous sample, thanks to Joy Njuguna, Arthur's granddaughter and the current company president.  Royal Teas come from a co-operative of many, many small scale tea farmers, whose tea is grown pesticide free.  It comes from the Kamienyaka Settlement,  Thika District Central Province highlands, next to the Kiene Forest.

The information on Grandpa's Afternoon Tea said to use 1.5 teaspoons per 8 ounce cup and brew it for 4 minutes with boiling water.  I viewed this with trepidation, as most CTC teas brew much faster.  However, I swallowed my fear and did it.  Was I glad I did!  This is wonderful tea, made to go with milk and sugar.  The flavor is quite bold, the tea is strong, but smooth and well-rounded.  It has those lovely Kenyan notes of wood and nuts and earth, but all done politely, so as not to overwhelm.  At 4 minutes, it was not a bit tannic, but there was a small acerbic bite at the end to make you appreciate the smoothness.  Although strong, it also did not seem to have an overwhelming amount of caffeine, as I should know, since I drank far more than my share of the pot.  Not everyone likes a hearty tea, but both of us do and this is definitely a keeper.

There are more signs of spring - a host of dandelions, the lambs on the farm down the road are here and when they are nursing, their little tails look like they will wag off, they move so fast.  There are new calves torttering around and the geese are all in rings, protecting the nests of the flock.  The forsythia is shifting from bright yellow to old gold and by the river, a few hawthorn shadblow are adding their white to the pink of the redbuds and maples.  Daily, a different bird adds its voice to the early morning songfest.  After a false start, we are having a nice slow spring, without much of either a mud season or pothole problems.  But, true to Northeastern Spring, it is snowing, lest we forget that Mother Nature is the one in charge here.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Day

Also not tea, but more thoughts for the day.

Christ is Risen!

Let our hearts be
As cracked and broken earth
   gulping down the essence of green
In torrents of spring rain,

Let them take this in -


Joy bursting!
Glory shouting!
Hallelujah hollering!

Christ Is Risen!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saturday, The Great Vigil of Easter

Not tea related, but my thoughts for the day.

Saturday's Vigil

We wait in the darkness of Friday's cross,

The day does not dawn.

Deep darkness stretches the sky.

Drugged with pain,
Deep in fear, doom filled,
Sorrow rends the earth.

... Leave us, leave us,

We cannot look at you.

Our hearts torn and broken from the day,
We cannot look beyond a tomb.

We cannot see
We cannot hear
We cannot sense

The distant morning.

"It's Friday, but Sunday is coming!"

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's Friday, but Sunday's Coming!

Today in the Christian world is Good Friday, when we remember the sufferings of Jesus Christ.  I use today and tomorrow as a time of quiet and meditation, to get ready to CELEBRATE on Easter.  I am reminded of a comment by Tony Campollo - "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!"

Tonite is also the beginning of Passover in the Jewish faith, when they and we remember that the Angel of Death "passed over" the Isrealites and led to their freedom from the slavery of the Egyptians.

I don't know about other faith's celebrations at this time of year, but I hope you all enjoy them.  I hope they are filled with peace, love and joy abundant.  I'll be back on Monday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Always Learning

Once again, the joke is on me.  After all my being so careful brewing Adagio's Assam Harmony, I find that about a heaping teaspoon for 4 minutes is just dandy, since this is a tea crafted to drink with milk and sugar.  It's lovely, a nice rounded, robust cup with a woodsy, nutty character.  I did try it with a slightly heaped teaspoon and 3.5 minutes.  Nope, so I gulped and pushed it and there it is, perfect.  A great morning or afternoon tea.  It was lovely with my orange molasses cookies.  This is a recipe from WWII when butter, sugar, vanilla and all sorts of other goodies were rationed.  I have a cake from that time, also and it is very good.

In fact, I will give you the cookies recipe right now.  When our kids were 9-10, they could make these with supervision, so they're not hard and you'll have cookies in about 35 minutes.

Ma's Molasses Cookies
325 oven

Grated  peel from 1 orange

Beat after each addition:
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup molasses - I use the darkest
1/2 teas. baking soda
3/4 teas baking powder
3/4 teas. cinnamon
1/2 teas. ginger
1/2 teascloves
3 cups flour
1/2 cup nuts

Turn out on lightly floured board and knead just a bit.
Form into two longish taller than they are wide and put on un greased cookie sheet.
If they seem a bit soft, stick pan and all in the fridge for 10-15 minutes
Bake for about 25 minutes.  They will be a  little bit soft on top but not much.
Let cool on pan for 5 minutes and then put on a rack.  Or eat from the pan.
You can slice these as you need them
You can double or triple the recipe.
If they are getting dry, put a slice of bread in with them, (or if you over-baked them.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tisanes and Tea

For those of you who are herbal tea or tisane fans, I found this recipe in Susan Wittig Albert's novel, Bleeding Hearts, p. 243 (in paperback):

China's Lemon-Lavender Tea
Mix 1/4 cup of each of the following  dried herbs: chopped lemon grass, lemon verbena, lemon balm.lavender flowers, and spearmint.
Store in an  opaque airtight container.
Use 2 teaspoons per cup, steep for 5 minutes

You can, of course, alter the recipe, just make sure everything has not been sprayed.

Most of these herbs can be easily grown, although some may have to be houseplants, at least where I live.  I am going to make some this summer.  I can imagine it to be very cooling, iced, on a summer day.

Today, however, I am feeling the need for warmth and strength, so I am having Assam Harmony from Adagio Teas.  When I opened the packet, I thought it smelled like crackers or not-too-sweet cookies.  The leaf was relatively small and a pretty mix of brown, gold and black.  I only brewed it for 3 minutes, as sometimes Assam can get tannic and astringent too early to suit me.  Besides, I have more of it to play with until it is just right for me.

This Assam brewed up on the red side of amber, with a good fresh air aroma.  Sadly, I didn't brew it long enough, so it was too weak to suit me.  Guess I'd better go for at least 3.5 or 4 minutes, as the information bills this as a quite hearty tea.  Tune in Thursday for an update.

This sort of a canyon on the side of one of Sorrento, Italy's main streets.  Under all that greenery are abandoned stone houses.  I don't know if it is left over from the bombing in WWII or if they are much earlier.  We did not go down and look.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring has Sprung, the Tea Iz (Here)

I must apologize for such infrequent postings.  My anemia has kicked up again and my energy level is about zero.

However, Thunderbolt Teas is expecting to ship this week.

Life in Teacup has some early greens.

The Tea Trekker has some also.

So, if you are a fan of the early teas, please check your merchants, maybe even some new to you, because the teas are coming in.  Celebrate Spring!

I saw a dandelion today and the most beautiful huge! weeping cherry and many ornamental pears.  Hooray, hooray.

Palms and pink houses!