Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tea Tasting from Tea Time Magazine

Today, Jessie Dean of the Asheville Tea Company, Jill Wasilewski of Ivory Road Cafe and Kitchen, and I got together to taste five teas that we had recently read about in Tea Time magazine.  In the July/ August 2018 issue of this magazine, you will find an article entitled "15 Teas Every Tea Lover Should Taste."  We gathered to taste five of the black teas recommended in this article.

The five teas we tasted, pictured here below from left to right, are:
1) Darjeeling Wonder Tea from chadotea.com
2) Himalayan Golden Black Tea from nepaliteatraders.com
3) China Cangyuan Yunnan Organic Black Tea from svtea.com
4) Keemun Mao Feng Imperial Black Tea from globalteamart.com
5) Nilgiri 6892 from chadotea.com

Jessie and I found the Keemun from global tea mart to be our favorite tea of the five.  The tea had a slightly roasted or smoky flavor that paired beautifully with the pistachio nuts that we had on the table.  Jill preferred the Yunnan black tea from Simpson & Vail.  All five of the teas were smooth and refined.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Tea Cup Fairy Gardens

I had such fun creating these tea cup fairy gardens this weekend.  I created most of the miniature elements from scratch, so the cost of putting them together was minimal.  I will give more detailed instructions here on Tuesday as a part of my series "Tea Craft Tuesdays."

Tea Cup Fairy Garden

Tea Cup Gnome Garden

Tea Cup Magic Garden

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Eco Printing with Tea Leaves

A friend taught me a new art/ craft process today:  Eco Printing.  So of course I had to try this process with tea. I used fresh tea leaves that I had clipped from the tea bush in my mother's garden.  (My mother is wonderful with plants, so I  had given her a small live tea plant many years ago.  She has tended the plant all these years and now has it living in her beautiful garden.)

Here is how my eco printing with tea leaves turned out today.  You can enlarge each image by clicking on it.  The reddish-brown blobs are bits of gardenia flower.  You will also see a sassafras leaf tucked in among the tea leaves.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Teacup as Symbol: Miss Everything by Amy Sherald

Print of Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance) by Amy Sherald

I was recently in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and had the good fortune of learning that this painting is on display at the University's Ackland Art Museum.  I will definitely stop in to see it on my next visit to that area.  It will be on display at the Ackland through August 26, 2018.  This painting, Amy Sherald's Miss Everything (Unsuppressed Deliverance), won the 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery.  Since 2016, the painting has been on tour as a part of the The Outwin: American Portraiture Today exhibition.

So what does this painting have to do with tea, you ask?  Well, just take a look at it.  The over-sized teacup takes center stage in this portrait.  And the figure wears white gloves to hold this teacup and saucer - bringing to my mind earlier days of well-heeled women "taking tea." But this portrait features a very young black woman - surely too young to be one of those tea-taking, hat-wearing women.

I have been very curious about this image and what role tea as symbol plays in it, so I have done a bit of background research.  I have not found anything written specifically about the tea aspect of this painting.  But online you can find many (non-tea specific) written and recorded interviews with the artist.

There is a short video online HERE in which the Amy Sherald discusses this specific painting.  In this video, the Sherald suggests that the young woman in the painting is playing dress up, engaged in fantasy, (inspired by the tale of Alice in Wonderland) but also perhaps striving to be something other than what she is.  Later In this video the artist says that she wants her artwork to be "relate-able." She wants people to be able to write their own stories about her paintings.  So that is what I will do, since tea is on my mind.

I see the teacup in this painting as a symbol of propriety, conformity to what is socially acceptable in certain circles.  In the case of this over-sized teacup, I see this young woman dreaming of being or becoming a woman who lives comfortably, a woman who has time to socialize and take tea with other women like herself.  Because the figure in this portrait is quite young, and the teacup is quite large, the painting feels dream-like and aspirational to me.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Book, Macarons, and Tea

Reading: Design for Tea: Wares from the Dragon Court to Afternoon Tea by Jane Pettigrew

This is a delightful book that I am thoroughly enjoying.  It is helping me in my new endeavor to understand the progression of accoutrements that have been associated with taking tea over these many years that tea has been drunk.

Eating: Macarons by A la Mode Macaron of Asheville, North Carolina

This new business in Asheville, North Carolina is a keeper!  I hope that it will stick around for a long while.  The French-style macarons that they make are melt in your mouth delicious.  Pictured are pistachio, rose, peaches n cream, and s'more.

Sipping: Marco Polo blend by Mariage Freres

I have had the Marco Polo blend before, but had forgotten just how much I enjoy it.   It is a fruity and flowery black tea blend which the Mariage Freres website describes as "a mysterious blend that will take you to distant lands and unforeseen territories."

Enjoying: New-to-me teapot and linens from Upstyled Setting

Kathy of Asheville's Upstyled Setting is selling off a large chunk of her huge inventory of china, silver, linens and party decor.  Contact her for an appointment if you are interested in seeing what she has available.  You can reach her at upstyledplacesetting (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Three Basic Teas & How to Enjoy Them

This book is a welcome and much needed addition to my library of books on tea.  It is a slim book, 84 pages long, but full of valuable information.  The author, Virginia Utermohlen Lovelace, MD, is a woman of many talents including an in-depth understanding of how we physiologically taste tea.

She begins this book by identifying what she considers to be the three basic teas: green, oolong, and black.  She discusses the ways that each of these teas is picked and processed.  She discusses the chemistry behind the taste of each tea type.  And she includes tips on how best to enjoy each of these types of tea - including food pairing suggestions!

I must admit that I skimmed over some sections of the book which discuss the chemistry of  tea flavors. But I read with interest all other sections - including her tea and food pairing suggestions.  I drink mostly black tea.  So, I was particularly interested to read her explanation of why raspberries and dark chocolate pair so beautifully with black tea.

This is an excellent book and well worth its modest price.  I recommend adding it to your library of books about tea.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

When Tea Bowls Became Tea Cups

A Family of Three at Tea (in the collection of the V&A Museum, London)

Throughout the long history of tea drinking in China, small bowls were used as the vessel of choice for holding this hot beverage.  When tea was first brought to the West in the 17th century these tea bowls were introduced to the Western world.  Such bowls were used for drinking tea at that time. Since the tea bowls were hot, various hand positions were used to hold the bowls comfortably.  These hand positions are shown in various paintings of the era.

It was not until the mid 18th century that European porcelain manufacturers began producing some of their tea bowls with handles attached. According to Jane Pettigrew in her book, Design for Tea: Tea Wares from the Dragon Court to Afternoon Tea (2004), the addition of a handle to tea bowls was inspired by the handles of the English "posset cup," a double handled cup used for hot beverages in 17th and 18th century England.

The European-made tea cups were also larger than their Chinese forebears.  The larger cup size accommodated the new habit of adding milk and sugar to tea.  Once source attributes this new habit of drinking tea with milk and sugar to Dutch influence of the time. Another source claims that it was a Parisian innovation.  In any case, tea drinking took new forms as it reached new audiences in the West.

Monday, May 28, 2018

My First Home Matcha

This morning I made matcha at home for the first time.  My daughter's friend had given her a canister of matcha powder, so being a lover of all things tea, I wanted to try it.  I looked up instructions online on how to prepare matcha, and this is what I came up with.

First, (above) I strained the matcha powder with a small kitchen strainer.

Second, (above) I poured just under boiling water into the powder and whisked it.  I must not have done it properly because, as you see, I did not get any froth.  This mixture tasted bitter and powdery to me, so I added sugar and milk to the bowl. See below.  Now that turned out to be delicious.

I don't think my methods were orthodox, however I produced a matcha which I enjoyed.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Tea Bag Holders

I have spent the morning searching for information about these little teapot-shaped thingies, variously called "tea bag holders," "tea bag rests," or "tea bag dishes." I have unintentionally amassed a small collection of them simply because: 1)  I drink a great deal of tea, 2) Friends give them to me as gifts, and 3) I buy them because they are so darn cute.

I have not found any historical information about these tea accessories.  If you can point me to references I would greatly appreciate it!  I can only guess that these developed and became popular as use of tea bags grew and became popular over the course of the 20th century.

It is not hard to find information about the invention of and spread in popularity of the tea bag.  Two nice summaries can be found HERE and HERE.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Blooming or Flowering Tea

Blooming or Flowering Teas are an art form originally from China. Each creation is made up of tea leaves hand tied around one or more flowers. The leaves and flowers are formed into a pod or bulb shape and are then set aside to dry.  When boiling water is poured over the pod, it unfurls to reveal a beautiful flower-like creation. This is an art form that requires time and contemplation - and a glass teapot or cup.

The two flowering teas I am highlighting here are "Seven Sons Congratulating" and "Dancing Snowflakes" both from Harney & Sons teas.  This first flowering tea pictured below is "Seven Sons Congratulating."  You see that once the pod opens you have a beautiful dark pink flower surrounded by a ring of white and a second outer ring of tea leaves.

The second tea pictured here below is "Dancing Snowflakes."  As the pod unfurls in hot water, tiny white flecks of flower rise to the top of the pot.  - thus giving this particular artful tea its name.