Friday, May 24, 2013

Ice Tea Time

Aah, Bliss!  After some truly murderously hot days, the wind came up, the rain came down and it has been raining off and on for 3 days.  We really needed both the cool and the rain.  I don't think our cats would agree with either statement, so they go out and come in soaked, to drag their cold, wet tails across my ankles.

Back when it was hot, I had some of the Kangaita tea left over and so I iced it.  It was a bit strong for me, so I diluted it a little.  I don't think it does very well as ice tea - it loses all it's lovely nuances and becomes just "tea, tea", which is the family designation for ordinary tea. It is much too nice a tea to do that with it.  I actually prefer green ice tea.  It seems to hold on to nuance, delicacy and flavor better than many black teas.

There are at least three ways to make ice tea.  My favorite is to put a somewhat strong amount of tea in a tea sock, in a jug, fill the jug with cold water, cover with plastic wrap and bung it into the fridge.  For green tea, I let it go 5-6 hours, for black tea, it can go overnight. There is the sun tea method, where you put your tea in a glass container and set it in the sun all day.  I have done this many times, with no ill effects, but I know we are warned not to, lest bacteria invade it and make us sick.  I have not personally heard of this happening.  I don't usually do it because my cats would knock it over.

Last, but not least is the old brew a pot of strong tea method.  This is good when you want some ice tea right away.  I just make a regular pot, because I like my ice tea weak.  There are also a multitude of ice tea makers on the market and I confess to being attracted to them.  However, they are relatively expensive and refrigerator space and sunshine are not, so I will content myself with what I have.

I take part in a tea swap and I got the cutest  tea gadget, ideal for gardeners - a potted plant tea infuser.  The plant part comes out of the pot and has an infuser attached.  When you are done brewing your tea, you put it back in the pot.  It is made from food grade silicone rubber.  I am going to try it right now and see how it affects the taste.  I am going to use my SD Bell tea, as I know what that tastes like. 

Well, I think there is a faint, very faint taste of something like rubber and I think the tea is a bit weak.  But I am unused to making tea by the cup and if I do, I usually use a tea sock, so the tea has lots of room to open up.  But it is cute.

Yay, that blasted bully-boy blue jay got his comeuppance this morning!  He was trying his usual land on another bird trick, which he uses to intimidate smaller birds at the feeders, but the hairy woodpecker, though smaller, has a fierce, long, sharp beak,and he just pecked him several times and that ended that.  Ha ha, bully bird!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hoorah For Kenyan Tea

Memorial Day is coming and the ads are full of specials for grilling and picnicking.  But I am more reminded of the deeper meaning of the day.  It was set aside to remember all those soldiers who gave their lives  for our country, in one of our many, many wars.  I am firmly anti-war, but ...  The fact is many men and women have gone to war and paid horrific prices for the rest of us.  So let us remember them and say thank you.

Memorial Day is also a day to remember family and friends who have gone before us.  I remember going with each of my grandmothers to decorate family graves.  I'm not sure I understand the point of it, but I loved the stories that were told about the 2 sisters who married 2 brothers, about the family friend my great grandmother was named for, the baby boy who died at birth and the baby left behind in a New Jersey cemetery.  There were the graves with odd headstones, and the ones where a whole family was wiped out in a diphtheria epidemic, and that of the many greats-grandfather who lived to be 91 and had 127 grandchildren when he died!  There were sad tales and funny tales, but they wove my family into my heart and made them real.

I hope your families are very real and precious and that you have someone to tell you their stories and that you, in turn, tell the next generation those same stories.  Plant some rosemary for remembrance.  I have some thyme from the cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried - the whole place is covered with it and it smells wonderful when one walks on it.

I lift my cup today to soldiers and families and friends - may we all grow in love.  I am having some Kenyan tea from Camellia Sinensis Maison de The in Quebec, Canada, .  It is part of a tea swap.  It is called Kangaita and is both organic and fair trade.  In the packet it smells wonderful, with a deep winey aroma.  The medium sized leaves are very dark, but there is a lot of gold dust on the inner surfaces of the packet.  I am brewing it for 3.5 minutes with boiling water.  As it is brewing it has that deep wonderful fresh wash smell, coupled with old wine barrels and dark tree bark.  The liqueur is a very pretty rosy amber.

This smells so good, I can barely wait for it to cool enough to sip.  Oh, my this is wonderful tea.  It is very rich tasting, but has a light body.  There is that woodsy, earthy quality, but it is combined with something very close to caramel.  There is a pleasant, spicy note to the aftertaste.  This really is one of the best teas I have had in a while.  I am especially  pleased because  about 10 years ago, there was some wonderful Kenya tea and then there was a terrible slump and it was just awful, but this is one more proof  that Kenya's orthodox tea can stand with the best.

Wallflowers in Switzerland.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

If You Go Out In The Yard Today...

I think our resident "teddy" bears need to have their picnics somewhere other than my backyard.  I get tired of having to repair bird feeders, throwing out suet holders and jumping up and down on the feeder poles to straighten them out.  Besides, they stink and the cats won't even go in the yard for days.  A pox on them!

We've had summer weather for a good bit of April and May, but last night old man winter came back.  The wind died down and the thermometer plummeted to about 25.  I had all my unplanted things inside. I think everything survived.  Someday I am going to learn that May can turn on us gardeners and not be a bit pretty.

I am having another Williamson Tea to comfort myself in the cold.  This one is a High Grown Kenya and 1 pound of the purchase price of the tin goes to relief work in Africa.  I like seeing my money do that kind of work.  Again, these are tea bags.

This is not the best Kenya tea I have had, that honor goes to Royal Tea of Kenya, but it is far from the worst.  There isn't a whole lot to say about it.  It's dark and strong, with woodsy overtone, maybe a touch of cured tobacco.  It plays nicely with milk and on the whole, I like it.  Himself did, as well.

Yet another fancy schmancy altar.  What can I say, I like churches.  The somewhat darker structure on the left wall, would have been the royal box, so they could be separated from the common folk.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Games and Elephants and Tea

If women want to learn to play hard to get, they should watch the birds.  Mourning doves and downy woodpeckers are real experts at the game.  The doves basically ignore their proposed mates who prance and preen and are too, too persistent,while the woodpeckers lead theirs on an aerial ballet.  They are fascinating to watch.  Speaking of persistence, the squirrels, they are indeed persistent when it comes to a full bird feeder.  However, I have discovered that the presence of our largest cat, Orphan Andy, is quite the deterrent, all 20 pounds of him.  His other name is Fatso Catso, so you can imagine his shape.  He just sits on the steps and dares them to approach.  For all his size, he is very fast and an excellent mouser or squirreler.

Ah me, I have fallen into temptation once again.  This time it is Williamson Tea  Elephant Tea Caddies and the teas within.  They are all tea bags, so my standing as a tea snob is called into question, but sometimes a tea bag is all you're up for and Himself simply can't be bothered with making a pot of loose tea,  I think by now Williamson's has about 8 of these delightful caddies and I have 4.

The one I tried today is Quiet Afternoon and comes in a gold elephant, complete with calf and adorned with Christmas hangings, presents and mistletoe, decked out like Indian elephants for a special festival.  I have to say I like the tea.  It is like a mild Breakfast tea.  Has a hint of sweetness, though and perhaps a hint of fruit.  It can stand a drop of cream and doesn't get harsh if you overbrew it.  Altogether a very pleasant experience.

Another Hapsburg Palace in Vienna.  They just loved to build themselves mansions.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tea and Roses

You may remember that when I came home from World Tea East last fall, I was raving about some tea ice cream I had, made by Tea-rrific Ice Cream.  They were just awarded all three top awards for ice cream at the Specialty Foods 2013 conference in Connecticut.  They were awarded best New Product at WTE.  Currently they are only available in the NYC metro area and Connecticut (too sad).  We should bug Whole Foods to add them to their repertoire.  Their website is .

Himself took me out for Mother's Day today.  I hate to go on the day, everywhere is so crowded.  So we went to a tea shop I've had my eye on to try - The Rose Garden Tea Room in Endicott, NY.  It was very rosey and decorated with many old advertising prints from women's magazines and the various tea wares they had for sale.  The tea was all Harney's, so of course, it was good.  my husband had Paris, which he loved - anything with vanilla wins for him.  I had something called 1896, which was peachy, with a hint of raspberry and citrus.  The scones were apples walnut and came with jam, raspberries and cream.  I had chicken and biscuits, as I was quite hungry, and it was delicious.  Dessert was a very yummy coconut cake.  Next time, I am going to go for tea.

Spring green has finally climbed all the way to the top of the hills and the flowering trees and lilacs are just bursting with color.  Yesterday I noticed the dogwood is blooming in the woods across the road.  It is so lovely to see it here and there, shining through the trees.  The dawn chorus of the birds is just so loud, but so welcome to hear, after the silence of the winter.

May all you mothers have a lovely day and much super tea.

Another Karl's Kirche shot.  I just love this church.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Violets And Herbs

The violets are blooming.  They are nestled in what passes for our backyard and in some places, there are great drifts of them  Welcome, welcome!  I floated a few in my tea, which I had in my violet patterned teacups.  Now, if  I could only find a violet patterned teapot I really liked!

My tummy troubles have persisted, but I think they may finally be drawing to an end.  I gave up trying to have real tea - it just didn't smell or taste good or be kind to my tum.  What to do instead?

For probably centuries, One of the mainstays of folk medicine for ailing stomachs was peppermint .  It still is today.  It both soothes your innards while the lovely smell tends to pep you up a bit.  Another old stand-by is chamomile.  It is both soothing and calming, very good for relaxing one just before bed time.  The third, which was certainly a stand-by in tropical climes, is ginger.  By the time of the spice trades began coming to the west, I'm sure it caught on quickly.  My chiropractor recommends it for anyone whose stomach is ailing.  I have been giving it to my husband and it has helped him enormously.  I've been drinking it when the thought of food makes me feel nauseated.  It is good for nausea and also good for motion sickness.

I am not much for herbal teas in general, but I do find these to be very useful and they are always in my cupboard.

A massive hinge for a huge gate into a palace in Vienna.