Friday, September 28, 2012

Festivals, Cranberries and Pumpkins

Two fruits we think of in the fall are cranberries and pumpkins.  One way to include them in our tea rituals is in scones.  There are many recipes on line for both of these tasty fruits.  But you can also include them in your tea.  Next time you are brewing a pot of black tea, put in a small handful of dried, sweetened cranberries.  They are so tart, I don't think regular cranberries would be too tasty.  However, you could make a smoothy, using fresh cranberries, tea, vanilla Greek yogurt, and enough sugar to taste.  Whiz it up until the cranberries are well and truly pulverized.  You might want to add some orange juice, too.

Try adding some pumpkin pie spice to your tea.  You can also make a pumpkin tea smoothie with perhaps 2 cups chai tea, a small container of vanilla yogurt, about 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, a bit of sugar.  If you are making pumpkin bread or muffins, try grinding some chai tea  and add it along with the dry ingredients.

You folks in the Northwest are having a great week, tea wise.  Oct 1-2 is the Tea Festival Portland.   Go to for more information.  In the Lan Su Chinese Garden (also in Portland, OR) is a month long celebration of The Essence of Tea.  Seattle is home to the Northwest Tea Festival, sponsered by the Pugent Sound Tea Education Association.  This will be held Oct 6-7.  Please go to for more information.

Both of these look like wonderful events.  Speaking of which, I am going to our own World Tea East, Tues and Wed in Philadelphia.  This is geared more toward businesses, but I am sure I will find plenty there to experience, from tea infused ice cream to a whole raft of award winning teas.  I will definitely be filling you all in when I get back!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Autumn Has Arrived

It is indeed well and truly and officially Fall.  The wind can no longer sneak through the trees, blowing and stirring the leaves silently.  Now they rustle and rattle or susurate as the tidal waves on the shore.  The sound announces that summer is scurrying off.  Receiving my box of fall bulbs to plant was another pretty clear indication.  That gay deceiver of a garden catalog has done it again!

I must say that tea catalogs have the same effect and here I am with too much tea and too many bulbs to plant.  However, to quote Edna St. Vincent Millay "But ah my foes and Oh my friends, they give a lovely light".  I am broadly interpreting light as something that illuminates and both tea and flowers can do so, especially in the early spring, when our eyes long for color or if we find ourselves in a doldrum and tea is there to lift (illumine)our spirits.

My tea today comes from Tea Vivre.  It is Fengping Dragon Pearl Black Tea.  It smells of forest floor, oaken wine barrels and leather.  The 1/2 inch balls are woven together out of long leaves of brown and tan and black.  I personally am delighted when tea appears in these different forms and marvel at their tiny perfection.  The suggested brew is for 1-2 minutes with boiling water.  The packet doesn't say, but about 1 ball or perhaps two is what I use per cup.  The brewing tea has that delightful fresh air aroma, coupled with  woodsy/leathery hints.  This carries forward into the cup, which is a very gentle brew that carries autumn with it; acorns and oak trees, dry leaves on the forest floor.  It is all quite subtle.  One of the nice things about this tea is you can do a second wash, which I did.  I used about half the water and twice the time and it tasted pretty much like the first cup, a gentle reminder of the year's drawing in on itself.

I have received my press pass to World Tea East and I am so excited!  Really, I can hardly wait.  I was going to go last year, but we had the flood and couldn't get off our hill for about 4 days just when I was to leave.

My, I have a rare treat this morning - 2 small herds of deer, a buck and three does and a buck and 2 does.  The bucks have only small racks, so I would guess they are only a year or two old.  Our backyards are a safe passage from the big meadow to the big woods.  Sounds a bit like Winnie the Pooh, doesn't it?

See what awaits us - snow, beautiful snow.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Have a marshmallow, my dear

I had such a great birthday, lovely cards and cupcakes at our bookstudy in the morning and dinner and champagne with old and very dear friends, one of whom is also a cancer survivor.  We went to our favorite Thai restaurant.  They make the best coconut soup I have ever had and I swear it keeps getting better, just so flavorful and it beats mine.  I think mine is good, but theirs is exquisite.  No tea, just bubbly!

When I was on my way into town today I spied a lovely arrangement of golden rod, white wild astors and brilliant orange and yellow touch-me-nots - nice going, Ma Nature.  Thankfully. some trees are beginning to actually get color - I was really afraid we would have a brown fall.

I made a huge pot of tomato soup today - we had so many they were going bad and I wasn't in the mood to actually can them and the freezer was full.  It's wonderful.  I put a bit of cinnamon and clove in it and it just tastes warm and comforting.

I am so stuck in a rut, tea wise, I've been having nothing but that lovely, unknown Assam.  It's not that I don't have a lot to choose from, I do, but a lot of them are flavored and I am not in the mood for them, at all.  I really like my tea plain, as they have their own charm and nuances, some are the best things I have ever drunk, why spoil them with things that often taste like chemicals or are so flavored, you don't even know they are made with tea.  I was reading about one, with a lot of additions, which billed itself as a white tea.  If you have ever drunk white teas, you know their flavor is very delicate.  It simply cannot stand up to a lot  of flavoring.  To add insult to injury, it was also mixed with black tea, the second ingredient.  I ask you, who are we kidding?

Following on that, in last week's NY Times magazine there was an article on flavored marshmallows.  Are you ready?  The list includes pretzels and beer, creamsicle, salty watermelon, horseradish, margarita, chocolate chipolte, turkey gravy and tomato.  If this does indeed float your boat, look for them at Mitchmallows in NYC.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lady Londonderry Comes To Tea With Earl Grey

Today is a very special day for me.  It is my birthday, but it is really special because I am alive to celebrate it!  Today is my 5 year cancer survivor's day!  All of you who are survivors or know survivors, raise your cups with me in a grand salute to life!  "To Life, to Life, L'Chaim:  L'Chaim, L'Chaim, to Life," to quote Tevya in A Fiddler on the Roof.  It is wonderful to be alive, to see and smell and taste and feel all the things that make up my life.  Thank you, Father for this time.

Part of my celebration, is, of course, tea.  I am trying something new that comes highly recommended by a tea friend, Marise, from Montreal, Quebec.  It is from Davids Tea and in English it is The Garden of Earl Grey.  It has strawberries along with the bergamot and some blue and yellow flower petals - quite lovely.  It smells very nice, too, with both the strawberries and the citrus of the bergamot front and center!  For me, it is like a cross between Lady Londonderry and the Earl.  I brewed it a bit too long - about 5.5 minutes, so there's a bit of an edge to it, but I put some milk in it and voila! that tamed it.  It really is a very good tea and would be quite perfect with scones and jam, cookies, birthday cake, lots of lovely things.

An old covered bridge in my family's hometown of Darstetten, Bern, Switzerland.

It is sunny and the perfect temperature today.  I am giving my friends the rest of my basil.  I just can't bear to do anymore with it.  It has been wonderfu, though and my freezer is stuffed and ready to produce summer in winter now.

The fall squashes are appearing.  Last night I mixed a delicata with an acorn, added a little butter and oh my, what wonderful stuff; sweet, spicey, almost a touch of lemon, but I had added nothing.  I had some plain Earl Grey with supper and the two were just perfect together.  I saw some of the huge hubbards and remember how my grandmother "peeled" them by dropping them on the sidewalk until they broke enough to fit the pieces in the oven.  She did a lot of creative things

Monday, September 17, 2012

Update on World Tea East

World Tea East is going to be very exciting this year, with a multitude of excellent classes from top-notch tea pros and so many exhibitors!  One of the really neat things is that all the finest teas, tea accessories and specialty tea items that won this year's competitions will be showcased.  Won't it be fun to see and hopefully  taste what's on the cutting edge in the tea world?  There will be things like a BUNN at home tea and coffee maker, tea infused ice cream, Northwest Glass's fine Euro cup and saucer, exquisite packaging winners, such as Vintage Tea Works, just for starters.  And, of course, lots of teas to taste.  I hope you have all made plans to attend.  If you get tired of tea, there is Philadelphia to visit, as well.  Hop on a purple bus and hit the highlights.

You've probably all heard of the Slow Food Movement, well Italy has founded a Slow Tea Movement, dedicated to preserving tea cultures around the world, as well as working to improve the working conditions  on tea estates, including biodiversity.  Raise your teacups to them!  Did you know that there is also an Italian Association for Tea Culture?  Check it out at

I was making a salad that called for grilled red peppers I didn't have and I wanted that smokey flavor - what to do?   Lapsang Souchong to the rescue!  I ground some up and added it to the dressing until I liked it - carefully, of course.  Yum.  It's also wonderful in a rub for grilled meats.  Oh yes, you can drink it, too. 

In fact, I think that is what I will have today, since I have a lot of it and it is again cool.  All I need to do is decide which one.  I am using a mix of Traditional and Superior, as there is not enough of either for more than a cup.  They are both from Life in Teacup.  Both come in small red sample packets, the traditional a dull, somewhat plain red, the superior in a highly decorated shiny foil.  The traditional is darker, with smaller leaves and  heavily smoked.  The superior one has longer, more twisted leaves and the barest hint of smoke overlying a leather/woodsy aroma.  I brewed them at 212 degrees for 3.5 minutes.  To do them justice, I know I should have brewed them separately and compared them, but I am impatient today.

The taste is so different from what I expected.  It is very smooth and delicate, with only the barest whisper of smoke.  The body is somewhat thin.  There are hints of vegetativeness about it and all in all it is a lovely tea.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Trekking Along

Oh yes, Autumn is definitely here.  I went out for the mail and there it was, that first whiff of dying vegetation, ripe acorns and wild asters!  Summer simply smells differntly.  Our days may be hot, but the nights are cool and getting cooler - perfect for good sleeping.  Today, however, is quite cool, perfect for tea, for long walks, for garden clean-up.

My tea is from the tea trekker, Jingdong Wuliang Golden Threads from Yunnan Province, China.  It is a fluffy tea, with long thin twisted leaves and an ample amount of golden bud.  It has a fine aroma of hay, silage and a whiff of citrus.  I brewed it about 200 degrees for nearly 5 minutes.  As it was brewing, the scent shifted somewhat into leather and chestnut, with touches of the other.  This is a very dark amber tea, shading towards old gold at the edges.  It seems to evoke a definitrly autumnal mood

The taste is on the autumnal side as well, with some chestnut and hay, but there is some acorn and oak wine barrel there as well.  A tiny bit of cream serves to round it out, if you are so inclined, but I am very happy with it straight.

I have brought all my plants in except one.  Most are not happy with temperatures in the 30's and I don't feel like doing the old move them in, move them out dance as temperatures and sunlight fluctuate.  The hibiscus are in bud, with some red, apricot and deep red flowers already blooming.  They are such rewarding plants - feed them, water them and your flowers are bountiful and beautiful.

I bought myself the Kindle that was on sale quite cheaply and have discovered a huge list of books on tea, many of them very inexpensive.  Oh dear, time to crank up the old will or perhaps I should say, won't power.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Earl Goes Cherry Picking

I am realizing how much I enjoy early morning and late evening light.  In the morning, the woods in back are lit with gold backed by dark green and black.  Just before sundown it is the reverse, with the tracery of black trees against the gold and bright green behind them.  It is always interesting to watch the morning fog dissipate and that which seemed almost spectral become solid and spring into the day.

This has led me to think of other things I've grown to appreciate and one of these, which gives me great pleasure is our afternoon tea time.  It is so satisfying to my senses to take a quiet break in the day with my husband.  We have a small treat, share a pot of tea, and just relax.  Then there is the tea.  It is a never ending parade of aromas and tastes, much loved by one such as I who so enjoys the new and different.  I love to read about tea cultures in other countries.  Sometimes they seem quite alien to me, but we are all bound together by our love for tea.  But I regard alien as good, variety and difference is what makes the world interesting.  Can you imagine what it would be like to only have 1 tree, 1 flower, 1 animal, 1 style of person?  Booooring!

I am trying another Earl Grey today.  This one comes from the Japanese company, Lupicia.  The tea base is Keemun, which comes from China.  Bergamot is Italian, so I am getting quite the international tour today.  When I opened the packet, there was the lovely flower/citrus aroma, along with an unmistakable hint of cherry.  I thought I was imagining it, but it is still there through the brewing and on into the taste.  It's faint, but it does add a nice fillip to the bergamot, which is more on the flowery side this time.  I brewed this for only 3 minutes, per suggestions and the bergamot is pretty strong.  But it is all very tasty and I quite like it.

I noticed just yesterday that there are swathes of color through the trees on the hills behind us.  I want to call it gold, but it is closer to tan.  We've not seen many geese this summer, but now they are appearing, great flocks of them, heading south.  Usually there is enough water around here that they hang around, but this year our ponds are pretty dried up, enough so the water lilies never bloomed but only curled up their leaves and turned brown.  The barn swallows, which decorated the telephone wires have quietly left as well and I've not seen a hummingbird for a week.

Fall is a quiet time, sometimes a time for reflection, some sadness that summer is ending and soon we'll have to hunker down for winter.  I am so hoping for snow - we had so little last year, that I am ready for big snows.  My tomatoes all have late blight, but this year I don't mind, as I am sick of them.  I know, bad attitude, but there it is.  I am ready for apples and have apple sauce cooking, the wonderful aroma is filling the house.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Have Some Pie, Leave The Tea

A perfect day for tea - cool and rainy.  I am so happy to see this weather.  My only difficulty is choosing a tea.  If only all my decisions were so hard - between 2 good things!  Hmm, I have some Adagio Earl Grey Lavender.  It has what it says plus orange peels, vanilla, blue cornflowers and creme flavoring.  Hmm, too bad I made it before I read it, as I am now predisposed to not like it.  It is pretty with the blue and lavender flowers and the bits of orange peel.  It does smell very odd however, like the bergamot and orange peel are fighting each other.  The lavender seems to have gotten lost.

However, the real test is the taste, which I am eagerly (?!) awaiting.  I can't say I care for the smell of the brewed tea.   Well, here goes - first sip - orange peel and chemicals.  But I press on for your sakes, dear readers.  My tongue is feeling like a bunch of little tiny needles are poking it and all I can still taste is orange peel and fake vanilla.  I put some cream in it and that has helped, but after about 1/3 of my cup, I have to say I think it it is horrible and the Earl will definitely not be leaving his calling card here!   I am going to make myself some of that lovely unknown Assam.  Himself says he doesn't mind it and "It's interesting".  He will have my share.

I found a really good recipe that would be a lovely savory for a tea.  It makes use of some of those tomatoes that are flooding our gardens.  It came from a small Upstate New York garden magazine I can't remember the name of.  It is delicious!  I got rave reviews when I served it.

Fresh Tomato Pie  
Oven at 400 degrees.

Core and slice about 4-5 medium to large ripe tomatoes, drain on several layers of paper towels for 15-20 minutes or more.

Make a pie crust for a 9" pie, prick it and bake for about 8 minutes  (until a bit dry and pale tan).

Turn the oven down to 350 when you take it out.

Spread the crust with 2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard.

Layer the tomatoes in the crust, sprinkling only with  pepper.

Mix  3/4 cup of mayonnaise mixed with 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, spread on top of the tomatoes.

Bake about 1/2-3/4 hour.  You probably will need to cover the top with foil for the last half.
Cool and serve at room temperature.

Note: It called for 8 ounces of grated cheddar cheese under the mayo mix, but I thought that was too much, so I left it out.  This way is more delicate and it is very pretty when you slice it.  plus, you can make it the day before, if you are using a crust that resists sogginess, or you can brush the crust with beaten egg white before you put it in the oven.  Actually, I think the mustard also serves that function.

My lavender bed really took off this summer.  I am so pleased, because it is a brand-new bed and this was a tough summer.  I got a few flowers, which are drying, but just this week the plants were big enough to give off the lovely, heady scent of lavender as we go by.  Next summer, with the lavender, alyssum, day lilies, and roses, our noses will be in heaven.  I try to plant as many scented flowers and herbs as I can, so there is something nice wafting around the garden all season.

A golden High Gothic Altar panel in the Liebfraukirche (Dear or Beloved Lady's Church) along the Rhine in Germany.  I do like Gothic in all it's soaring pointiness.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Autumnal Teas

Ah yes, summer is fading and fall is coming in.  The night insects are different, louder and more insistent.  Crickets  are making a lot of noise and soon, I expect one or two to come in.  The huge yellow striped garden spiders, the Black and Yellow Argiope, are weaving their nets over everything.  They are harmless unless seriously threatened and quite beautiful.  Ragweed and golden rod are more heavily blooming than I remember seeing.  Not good for those allergic to ragweed, like my poor husband.  Some poor unfortunates are also allergic to golden rod, which is very rare, so they are suffering a double whammy.

I guess it is time to think of fall teas.  I am not a fan of flavored teas, but I know many of you are.  Harney's has African Autumn, a blend of Rooibos, Cranberry and Orange.  They also have Cranberry Autumn and Boston Teas.  If you prefer spicier offerings, they have Cinnamon Spice and Indian Spice.  The only one I have had is Cranberry Autumn and I thought it was very good.

Simpson and Vail has a really nice one, Nutcracker, with chocolate, mint, cinnamon, cranberries and orange.  Good enough to eat?  Here's one that sounds like it - Pumpkin Pie Black Tea.  I really prefer my pie on the side, with some cheddar or ice cream.  If cranberries are your thing, you're in luck here, as they have 4 or 5 teas with cranberries in them.  To go with, there are a lot of scones, cookies and spreads with an autumn theme.

Celestial Seasonings has come out with Sweet Harvest Pumpkin, in addition to it's Christmas teas.  Gingerbread Spice is one that would be tasty now if  you prefer  no caffeine.  You can buy these on line if you are afraid of not catching them in the grocery stores,  I know their shelf life is really short as the holidays get closer.  Just go to their site - and order.

Personally, what I am waiting for are the autumnal Darjeelings to arrive, as they are my favorites.  They are somewhat heartier than the earlier ones and I like them.   The autumnal Oolongs from Taiwan are teas I've not tried and I am intending to do that this year.

What are some of the autumnal teas you like?

Some more early masonry, these from a monastery garden and probably several hundred years older than the High Gothic of the last blog.  Simple is also beautiful.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Little Bit Of This...

If you have a moment this Friday and Saturday, I invite you to celebrate with my village, Owego, NY and me.  We are celebrating our survival of the Sept 7/8, 2011 flood that devastated our town.  We are battered, some of us are broken, but most of us are still here and we remember the kindness of strangers who became family.  We know what it is to pull together and help each other.  We want to celebrate not only that we did survive, but  that we are going to thrive once again.  Owego has the same spirit as that little engine that could in the old children's story - "I think I can, I think I can, ...I know I can , I know I can,...I knew I could, I knew I could" as it climbs an impossibly high hill out of destruction.  We have a long way to go, but we're moving up.

The little tufted titmice, the nuthatches and the finches are all so pretty and sing so sweetly instead of jarring me out of my chair with raucous cries.  However, the crows have been busy, I think they are preparing for a fall convention.

Did you know the Coffee and Tea Festival will be in Atlantic City on November 3 and 4?  Now you do.  For more info, go to

Meanwhile, don't forget World Tea East in Philadelphia, October 2-3.  Joe Simrany, the long-term president of the Tea Association of the USA will be receiving the Cha Jing lifetime achievement award for service and leadership to the industry.  Joe has been a tireless worker in promoting tea.  He is the second recipient of this award.  Lots of good drinking and networking at both events!

It's a nice soft gray outside today.  There's a breeze and it is pleasant.  I am having a pot of smooth Gorreana Orange Pekoe Tea.  I have reviewed this before, but I was sent some in a tea swap, so I can appreciate it anew.  Gorreana comes from a small island off the coast of Portugal.  All of their teas that I have tried I have really liked.

Indie Tea has come out with some tasty sounding tea based spice rubs and salts, as well as some creative new tea blends such as Ride Off Into A Moroccan Sunset.  Check them out.  Each month they give part of the proceeds to a different charity - more bang for your tea buck.  Many tea companies, such as Ajiri and Harneys also make charitable donations.

A bit of Gothic eye candy, complete with saint.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Changes, Changes

Summer is ending.  While I don't look forward to the gray of winter, I am so tired of unrelenting heat, drought and sun.  The annuals are giving up, there are huge flocks of birds wheeling in the air, the deer are beginning to get brown.  Change is in the air.  The light is different, having a more golden cast and the sun is going down noticeably sooner.  Nights are cool and we can open all the windows and gulp in the refreshing air and breezes.  It's even supposed to rain this week.  It will be lovely to have brooks again.

Tea wise, this means a return to more pots of tea, rather than pitchers.  I saved so many teas for ice tea this year that I didn't get through them all, in spite of the inspiration of so much heat and the need for a cooling quaff.

I happened to be in one of our larger grocery stores and was really impressed by how great a variety of tea they had, including a section of organics and good quality bottled tea.  They didn't have much in the way of loose tea except some Twinings  and one other brand.  I couldn't really expect that, given the town they are in.  Upstate towns are not generally on the cutting edge, although that seems to be changing.

Today I am going to work in the garden and then I shall have a pot of tea and admire my autumn clematis, which is just coming in to sweet scented white bloom.  It didn't grow too well this year - too hot and dry - the gardener's mantra for the summer, but what there is is quite lovely.

Later - As I was out having tea and sniffing the air, a mama turkey and her poult came by and Bert the brave kitty tried to stalk it.  He was ignored.  Then a small herd of about 8-10 deer came out of the back woods, headed for the front woods.  There were 3 of this year's fawns - quite grown, but still in redcoats and 5-7 adults, all dressed in brown.  The young ones did not know what to do about the turkeys, but the birds just cocked a royal snook and went on.

My tea was Earl Gray from Steven Smith.  I have been hearing a lot about him lately, so I was eager to try the tea.  The aroma was wonderful a really luscious bergamot, juicy, flowery, sweet, but not a bit cloying.   Sadly, the flavor did not live up to it.  It was somewhat flat and not nearly strong enough.  The problem maybe it was a teabag and my cup was large.  However, I have another one and I will try it in a smaller cup.

IT'S RAINING - a lovely, slow soaking rain!  Thank you, Lord.