Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A bit of Keemun Sparkle

It is very quiet this morning, with the sort of silence that only comes with new snow fall. There is a drifting, dreaming quality to it as it slips and sifts through the trees.  Sunset last night was also special, as the last rays turned the bog pink, then gold and finally blue.

I hope you all have taken advantage of the myriad tea sales on the net and elsewhere.  Some sales are continuing until the end of November or into December, so you might want to check on your favorite venders.  Having more tea than I can drink in about 5 years, I did not, but it was a terrible temptation.

Today I am trying one of the Tea Trekker's tea, Keemun Mao Feng Premium.  This hails from Anhui Province in China and is organic.  The leaves are certainly black, twisted, thin and somewhat long.  They give off an aroma of oak, earth and cinnamon.  I brew it for about 4 minutes with water just off the boil.

This tea is as smooth as silk.  It indeed has a very oak wine barrel taste, with just a little hint of spice at the end - it leaves your tongue kind of sparkly.

These two old structures are in Durlach, Germany and date from the 1500s.  Europe really understands " Use it, use it up, re-use it."  While we were there, we had icecream in a fairly new structure - 1690.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Have a Blessed Day

To all my tea friends:  May this be a day full of goodness and gratitude.  May it be a day when all the food turns out just right - or bad enough to be a good Thanksgiving story  May your hearts be full of love and may you remember those who do not have much  - resolve to be generous.

Bless you all and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Prince Stops in For Soup

I've been making a lot of soups, like potato, bean and lentil.  I love these thick winter soups.  For some reason they brought to mind my mother.  Why, I don't know because her idea of soup was open a can or the box of Mrs. Grasso's noodle soup.  She was an okay cook.  She did some things well, mostly desserts and Sunday dinner type things.  But I do remember one spectacular failure which entered family legend.

You all know I grew up on a farm and most of us were on the poor side, so we shared equipment with other farmers - hay balers, wheat thrashers, silage makers etc.  This meant at harvest time there would be a large group of farmers at someone's house to help bring in whatever the current crop happened to be.  Mother had gotten a potato ricer and used it to do the potatoes for the 10+ men.  But she didn't add any butter or milk, so there were these hard little pellets of potato.  Not too popular, so she served them the next day!!!!!  My father suggested she serve something else and quietly threw out the dangerous tool.  But we all had many laughs about this over the years.

By the way, I put some Lapsang Souchong in my lentil soup, along with a smoked ham hock - yum, yum, yum.  The soup needed something and I thought that would do it and it did!.

I've been drinking Twinings Prince of Wales Tea.  I have been aging this for 3 years.  Or, since I really ought to tell the truth, I put it in a cupboard and forgot it for 3 years.  But the former sounds so special.  Oh well.  This is one of Twinings Classics, formulated many years ago.  A few years ago they tried to update this and Earl Grey, but there was such outrage from consumers that they now have "Classics" of these 2. 

The dry tea smells somewhat winey, somewhat of deep forests.  I suspect there is some spice there too, which all leads me to believe that the majority of this tea is Keemun, along with some Yunnan.  Fine with me, these are my favorites.  As it brews there is a touch of farmers' washing compound, steamy laundry and fresh air on a windy day.  The brewed tea does not disappoint.  It's a very smooth tea, quite at home either straight or with milk.  In spite of that there is a bit of a rough edge to keep it interesting.  To me, for some reason, it tasted something like granite or some other rough rock.  There was also a bit of deep wine barrel to add even more fun.

This morning was utterly gorgeous - we had fog and it froze on every twig, branch and leaf there is.  All silver and white.  Now there is blue sky and sun.  One thing I have learned in the Northeast, is to appreciate all the small things that are around in the late fall/winter seasons.  There is so much beauty if you look for it amid the gloom and gray.  Things may be small, but they can add wonderfully to a dismal day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One Brief Shining Moment

That is indeed what we had early this morning.  We had our first snow - all 1 inch of it!  As the sun was coming up, the trees around the bog were caught in the rising mist, all splendid, shining silver. Then the clouds, consumed with jealousy, hid it all and forced their gray selves upon us.  But we live for those momemts.

And... we comfort ourselves with tea, which can be another shining moment.  Today seems like an Oolong day and I am having Jung Xuan from Alishan, Taiwan via the Red Blossom Tea Company.  This is one of those little-balls-with-a-tail Oolongs that are such fun to watch unfurl.  In the packet, it smells like fresh hay or cut lawn, with a lovely hint of jasmine/orchid/gardenia coming out if you inhale deeply.

I brewed it for 3 minutes with water about 200 degrees.  The resulting liquid is a soft yellow-green, with that great floral aroma.  It has a light, fresh taste, with a lovely floral accompaniment.  On the whole it is very like almost every Ali Shan, I've tried.  I would rate it about in the middle of that pack.  Very pleasant, but not outstanding.

The day has had other lovley bits in it.  I saw three hawks - a harrier, a red-shouldered and a red tail in various places on my travels.  The best, only seen now that the leaves are gone was several!! oriole nests.  I am thrilled, as I wondered if we would ever see any more.  They used to nest in elms, usually over a stream, but the elms are gone.  Now, many of them nest over roads, which perhaps, seem like streams to them.  I had 3 of these gorgeous birds at the feeders this summer.

Speaking of which, Cornell U. has a program called Project Feeder Watch where you can keep track of birds in your yard and report them to a data collection site.  You can also find out which birds are where and the most common ones.  Just google Project Feeder Watch and read all about it.  A good thing to do with your tea.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tea and Flower Bulbs

Wow, 2 whole days of relatively warm temperatures!  For those of us who really blew it on planting bulbs, this was a real blessing!  I am always amazed about how many bulbs it takes to make a good showing.  Most of mine went around the lavender bed, so there will be some color while that is looking scruffy.  I don't bother planting tulips as all sorts of critters like them.  I finally bought myself some Fritillaria Persica, a tall dark purple member of this wide ranging family.  It is incredible to me that the tiny checkered fritillaria are in the same family as the very tall Fritillaria Imperialis - the bright orange and yellow ones.

I have drinking a lot of Royal Tea of Kenya's Kenya Black Highland Tea.  As you might be able to guess, it is a black tea, of the CTC variety and I swear these little balck pellets are the smallest I've seen.  This is what I would call a plain tea.There aren't any nuances and no surprises, but it's just a sturdy every day or morning tea.  I generally brew it about 2.5 minutes as CTC tea brews up very quickly.  Sometimes I've gone to 3 minutes and that is just fine as well.  I think more than that would see a lot of tannin come out.

J-Tea of Eugene, Oregon is having a big celebration of black teas on Black Friday (aka the day after Thanksgiving).  One of the features will be Minto Island Black Tea, which is grown in Oregon.  There will be lion dancers and tea leaf readings among many other things.  Check it out at

The Tea Spot is having a drawing to win free tea for a year.  It's on  their website or on Facebook.  I signed up, I'd love free tea for a year.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tea News

There will be an International Tea Festival in San Francisco on Sun. Mar 10 in San Francisco.  For more information  go to

There is a new tea company in Tennessee, Angelique Greer's Legacy Tea Blends.  She draws heavily from her African-American folk medicine roots, inspired also by European folk roots as well.  Angelique is a holistic nutritionist and uses these skills in her tea blending.  This is a true family business, as her husband and three children are also involved.  Many of her recipes she learned from her grandmother and she is now passing them on to her children and one day, hopefully to grandchildren.

The Republic of Tea has some new blends - Black Currant Cinnamon for one.  They have a lot of small samples that would make great stocking stuffers.

 Samovar Tea  has a twenty per cent sale on for black teas - use blackt20 as the code.  Only black teas, remember.

October saw the launch of the new on-line branch of Rare Tea Cellar, which previously only sold to the most exclusive and expensive restarants in the world.  I checked out the site and there are certainly some very pricey items there.  There are a few that are less expensive, but there is nothing to indicate how many ounces you are getting for your money.  There are also teawares and some high end food items

Thanksgiving Thought - Over the course of several days discussions about many things, I realized how thankful I am that I grew up in a family that may have been poor in worldly goods, but was rich in love and generosity.  That love and generosity was turned outward to the community in a sharing of what we had.  Long before there were books or catch phrases about "It takes a village", my family lived it.  I am thankful that I can be generous as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Anatevka, Anatevka, Tumble Down, Work-a-day

Oh wonder of wonders!  The sun shone almost all day!  Oh frabjouse joy!

I watched "Fiddler on the Roof" the other night for about the gazillioneth time.  I saw it first in NYC on Broadway with Zero Mostel.  I've seen it with Leonard Nimoy.  I've seen it in summer stock, on high school stages,  in a movie, just about anywhere.  It never fails to please and tear at my heart strings. This time I noticed Golde giving Yenta a cup of tea in small glasses, with metal holders and Yenta takes a lump (or the whole bowlful of lumps) of sugar to sip it through, in true Russian style. 

It encouraged me to have a cup of Czar Nicholas Russian tea to watch it with.  This is sort of an Earl Grey on steroids.  There is the somewhat floral note of the bergamot, but then there are the other citrus and maybe spice base notes that come in to give it more substance.  I have it often and while it is not a big favorite, I am intrigued by it as I can't separate out the different components and I am hoping that this time...  I did not sip it through lumps of sugar, not having any lumps, but perhaps I could try it with a bit of jam, which is also an acceptable Russian style.

I was driving along the river today and saw some beautiful scenes.  A stretch was very quiet and reflected first the red bushes by the edge, then the green pines and lastly the BLUE sky.  About halfway up another hill was a large stand of tamaracks, shining gold, the last of the pine type trees to lose their needles and the only ones to lose them all every year.  They are so heart-lifting when the rest of the hills are grey and brown.  There were a few yellow aspens and alders hanging on as well, but everything else got blown by Sandy.

I just got a sample from Lupicia, one of my favorite flavored tea folks - Caramel and Rum.  Doesn't that sound yummy for cold days?  I also heard that Simpson and Vail has a new holiday tea - a green rooibos named Candy Cane.  Don't forget your Celestial Seasonings offerings or the Eggnogger from Bigelow Teas.
Many of these can be ordered on line so you'll have them before the holidays arrive.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ernie Strikes Again

Why on earth should I write about cats and tea?

Well, for one thing, the Ernster cat has his head in my teacup, joyfully lapping up the last spoonful or two. He is always alert to the presence of food and drink in his life, especially if it is mine. He will circle in ever-narrowing rings, purring louder and louder until at last he has gained my lap, whereupon he pretends he is really not there. He does not like tea or ice cream and buttered toast is anathema to him. However, should a morsel of them be left, gentleman that he is, he will gladly lick them up, so I perhaps won't have to wash so many dishes. Uh hunh!

However, there are times when he is so eager to be helpful that a paw slides up over the edge of the dish, in case there are just too many crumbs or in fear I would be overtaxed by drinking too many more sips of tea or spoons of ice cream. It is so comforting to be cared for in such a loving manner.

Ernie does have his preferences. After all, he is a cat and must maintain standards. The tea he heartily approved of last week gets the “two-back-paws-covering-it-up” award this week. Cream is acceptable, skim milk garners only a disdainful sniff. He does believe that Oolong and green should never have anything in them and if you must, sugar, please, not that ghastly pink stuff.  Lemon is most assuredly not to be added.

Beyond this sometimes excessive care, he is also willing to warm my lap and provide a book rest. Thus, I may experience a triple attention to my needs - warmth, intellectual companionship and butler service. All this for just a bit of tea and toast. Almost as good as and much cheaper than a husband. But I think I’ll keep mine, anyway.

Ernie is not a spoiled cat. Heavens, no, he is indulged, as befits a cat.