Monday, March 20, 2017

Women in Tea: Jennifer Brenner

Today I would like to introduce you to Jennifer Brenner. She is leading the effort to bring a tea festival to Portland, and I am so excited to see this come to fruition!  Mark you calendars for July 22nd, and check out the website for details.  

Here's my interview with Jenn:

Q: I know that you were a Peace Corps volunteer, and that experience included tea.  Would you please tell us about that?
A: As a young adult, I traveled to Niger in West Africa for 3 years with the Peace Corps. It was there that I met tea. Tuareg people in Niger have a modified Moroccan tea ceremony that included three rounds of gunpowder tea and sugar, a small metal teapot, and a wire frame holding hot coals. The three rounds were for life, for friends, and for love. We would drink tea during the hottest time of the day, when the shade of the Neem tree beckoned.  These afternoons of drinking tea with my friends came to represent the spirit of Africa for me, where time was not to be hurried, laughter was abundant, and friendship and family prized above all.  

Q: You've taken on an exciting project with TeaFestPDX.  What will this be like?

A: TeaFestPDX is Portland's first tea festival, to be held at the World Forestry Center on July 22nd, 2017.  There will be a vendor area outside, selling tea and tea-related merchandise, as well kombucha, boba, and other tea vendors selling prepared tea.  Indoors we will have a variety tea tastings in the outer ring of the building, and the inner area devoted to exploring the larger tea cultures of the world.  Each area will have classes, tastings, and talks related to tea culture in that area of the world.  For example, there might be an area devoted to Chinese tea culture, with a Gong Fu ceremony, a talk on organic tea growing in China, or a tasting of Pu-er teas.  The first festival will be a one-day celebration.  Please check out our websites to sign up as a vendor, a presenter, or to volunteer -

Q: What brings you joy about this work?

A: Tea is interwoven into the fabric of my life and I love drinking tea with strangers, friends and family. Tea brings people together and encourages a pause and a slowing down.  I experience the joy of sharing this pause with others, either through dropping in at my favorite tea shop, or through an event as large as a festival.  

A giant THANK YOU to Jennifer and the core team of volunteers working to make the TeaFestPDX happen.  I am excited to be a part of the event!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Women in Tea: Heather Agosta

For International Women's Month, I am featuring some of the hard-working and cool women who are leading the cause of tea. I'm starting right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Introducing Heather Agosta, the co-founder, CEO and Tea Blend Formulator of Jasmine Pearl Tea Company

Heather Agosta in a tea field, Shizuoka, Japan

Q:  Could you share a childhood memory related to tea?
A: When I was a little girl, my friend and I would have tea parties in her parents' greenhouse. We would make orange spice black tea with lots of sugar and we would eat gingerbread cookies. I am sure we would get really jacked-up on sugar and caffeine. It was a blast!

At a matcha manufacturer, Japan

Q: Tell us about your business.  When did you begin?
A:  I started The Jasmine Pearl in 2004 with my husband, Chuck. We started out blending teas in the basement of our home. We ran the business out of our living room and basement for six years before we moved to a commercial space.

Q: What does your business offer, today? 
A: We offer 100+ loose-leaf teas, all blended on-site using our proprietary recipes. We directly import teas and source ingredients from all over the world. Our teas are sold to cafes, restaurants, spas and natural grocery stores. Retail customers can also purchase our teas online and in our NE Portland tea shop.
Heather and Jasmine Pearl Tea Company co-founder, Chuck Bauman

Q: What brings you joy about this tea work?
A: I really love tea! I particularly enjoy formulating blends for our company and for other companies, as well. Creating new tea blends is a fun and challenging task. It is especially rewarding to teach others how to blend and to see what interesting combinations they can create.

Stephanie's perspective: Whenever I spy the Jasmine Pearl cans on a grocer's shelf or in a restaurant, I smile (and I order that tea!). If you're in Portland and a tea lover, this shop is a must-see. I'm particularly fond of the tasting bar and the line of Japanese green teas. Sign up for one of the classes to enhance your tea knowledge and skill, or get grounded as you quietly sip your tea in the welcoming seating area. 

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Tea for the Muse and Me

Sometimes when I'm drinking tea alone, I will pour a second cup and invite someone special to join me in spirit. This time, I invited my muse. She appreciates flowers and beauty and quiet. She's helping me plan a writing workshop for the spring equinox.

Friday, March 03, 2017

San Diego: Shakespeare's Corner Shoppe

I recently had the chance to spend a lovely hour and a half at  Shakespeare Corner Shoppe & Afternoon Tea in San Diego. You might expect the sunshine photos, but I mostly experienced intense rain throughout the week, so the sunshine was very welcome.  

This British goods shop (tea, puddings, pastries, etc.) offers afternoon tea on its lovely front porch. The team excels at details, from the little flower shown above to the fact that as a solo diner, I was pampered even more vs. being pushed to the side. For example, I was offered two tea choices, one complimentary!

After I freshened my hands with a warm towel, I enjoyed a bowl of carrot and parsnip soup. It was delicious!

Followed on by the finger sandwiches: egg salad, cucumber with mustard pickle, rosemary chicken, roast beef with butter lettuce and horseradish.

Along with scones, double Devon cream and strawberry jam.  The owner is British, and these are the real deal. 

And then dessert... a dark chocolate raspberry tart, toffee cake, shortbread, black forest gateaux and sweet wine syllabub.  I knew of the old-fashioned dessert syllabub (it's like a mousse), but had never tried it. Delicious!

I definitely recommend this experience and hope to go back!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Iced Tea

 Here's another version of "iced tea!"  :-)  The Pacific Northwest has had quite the number of winter weather events this year, very unusual for us. This was taken last weekend after freezing rain.

My tea plant, Cami (short for Camellia), lives happily on the back balcony.  At least she did until last night when we had a snow storm!  I'm happy to report that the limb is bent, but not broken.

Mother Nature commands my attention, my respect, and my hard work to protect her.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Stolen Moments

I've decided that I need moments of creativity every day, or at least nearly every day. 
They can be spontaneous.
They can be brief. 
They can be stolen moments, in the middle of something else. 

Maybe it's picking out my socks
Or arranging the papers on my desk
Perhaps it's a doodle on the edge of a notebook
Or a new solution for a problem
Maybe it's placing a pretty fabric in a splash of sunshine
Or being inspired by someone else's creativity

It doesn't take long, but it does sustain me.