Friday, March 30, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Below is the Lloyds of London building, where the folks work who insure various curiosities, like Elton John's hands and Sharon Stone's legs, among other things. This very modern establishment has humble beginnings in a coffee house. Lloyds coffee house eventually became enlightened and served tea, too. Tho I seem to recall that this was a male-only establishment. Thankfully, times have changed.
The museum, while small, has a varied collection of tea and coffee wares. Notice the small teapot in the left of the picture to get a sense of scale for the larger teapot.
Two monkeys and a lady (Mary Jane, on the right).
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Day three was the Tea Master Class, sponsored by the UK Tea Council. The class was held at the lovely Chesterfield Hotel. I wish I had a photo of the staff. The young guys "in uniform" - that is, tuxedos with tails and a red carnation, were very handsome!
The class was led by Jane Pettigrew and Tim Clifton. Jane has written over 12 books on tea and is known worldwide. Tim is a highly-trained tea taster and previously Chairman of one of London's leading tea brokers.
Jane Pettigrew and Tim Clifton
Stephanie with two classmates
Tea Tasting - Black Teas
The class covered the following topics:
- The history of tea in Britain
- What is Tea?
- Why all teas are different
- The manufacture of black, green, white, oolong, pu’erh and flavoured teas with samples and tastings
- Tea growing regions
- From the plantation to the cup
- Loose tea & tea bags - different types, advantages & disadvantages
- Perfect brewing
- Tea and health
Later in the day, we enjoyed a full afternoon tea (tea sandwiches, scones and desserts). This was truly a special treat because we were only expecting a cream tea (scones and tea).
Scones and Clotted CreamWe also met other tea professionals from around the world. It was a very international and mind-expanding day!
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Here's a poem that I wrote recently about the blessings in my life.
Riches of My Life
A yellow daffodil and the scent of geranium
A safe home
Wealth enough to give me plenty of what I need and, thankfully,
Only some of what I want
A spirit and will that are my own
A body that I have befriended
A steadfast family
A life partner who challenges me, loves me, and feeds me -
My body and my soul
Friends that touch my heart
A mind that can discern its own truths
Enough pain and loss to make what I have
Plans and dreams
My life is 34 years beautiful
And I am present
I am flowing -
Flowing over with gratitude
Steph and the DH, first thing this morning
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Eggs have been a symbol of spring through the ages. The Druids saw them as symbols of fertility, and in more modern times, we're not so far off. The Easter Egg symbolizes birth, newness, rebirth (resurrection).
I picked up these sweet egg cups in London (at Whittards Tea Store in Windsor). "zak the zebra" and "terry the tiger."
Here's another pretty photo for you. It's daffodil time! Daffodils are among my favorite flowers!
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
We landed at the Gatwick airport about 8:30 am, London time. (That would be 3:30 am, Eastern time, for me!) Unfortunately, one of our party had a missing bag. Nonetheless, she persevered and never complained! We met our coach and our tour guide Sarah and made our way to the Grange White Hall hotel near Russell Square in London. The hotel was in a great location! We were next door to the British Museum and within walking distance of two (or more) lovely green squares, the theater district, the used bookstore street (Charing Cross) and many other interesting sights!
We enjoyed tea and cookies at our hotel. Since our rooms were not yet ready, we stored our luggage and set off for a sight-seeing (orientation) tour of London. Sarah, our tour guide, was incredible! She was a walking encyclopedia of London and English history. She customized her tour to address items of particular interest to our team. And she was funny and charming! We couldn't have been any luckier in our choice of tour guides! Sarah was with us much of the week, as we had an "escorted" tour. This means that any transit time became a tour. Needed to get from point A to point B? Great! We hopped on the coach and Sarah regaled us the whole way there!
Here are a few photo highlights from the tour.
Red phone booths: This photo is a little fuzzy, but I still like it! I really love the splashes of British red in the urban landscape! Phone booths and mail drop boxes shine brightly, even on dreary days.
Westminster Abbey: Where Kinds and Queens are made (coronated) and some are buried.
By the way, I'm not really into the whole "divine rights" or inherited privilege of the monarchy. I think it's an outdated concept. However, as Sarah said, "If we didn't have the Royal Family, who would we talk about?" It's such a part of the British history, that to extricate it would require major surgery. One modernization that I think is crucially important to the monarchy is to allow women to be first heir to the throne if they are first-born. The throne still goes to the eldest male child. Bugger to that!
Buckingham Palace: Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen. Her flag was not flying on the days we were there, which means she was not present. The Palace has more than 600 rooms, including 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms! I have photos that are better from another day, so for now I will show the close-up of the gate. Incredible ornamentation. Also, the large statue is of Queen Victoria. (She was a tea-drinking Queen!)
Tea Palace: A very trendy place for tea in Britain. It’s in Notting Hill and it’s common to see stars and models here, like Kate Moss. (We didn’t see anyone famous in our visit.) The inside is very modern, with its plum leather couches and minimalist décor. The company has over 160 loose-leaf teas and is a leader in bringing high-quality tea to Britain. I chose to bring home a scented/flavored green-oolong mix with red currants called Royal Star.
We had Afternoon Tea here and it was fantastic! (For those of you new to the tea world, the correct phrase is "Afternoon Tea." High tea is more like supper. The phrase is misused a lot in the US.) Our menu:
- Sandwiches: Egg salad, cucumber, salmon and tuna salad
- Scones: Currant scones with clotted cream and jam
- Desserts: Coconut-raspberry cake, Green tea chocolate gateau, Lemon tart
The Brits, while drinking a lot of tea, aren't known for drinking high-quality tea. The Tea Palace has a mission to educate the British about higher-quality teas. One way they do this is by bringing a small dish of the loose tea to the table for inspection. I thought this was a very nice touch!
We had a very full and fulfilling first day! I fell into bed and slept like a rock until the next morning. Fortunately, our wise tour organizer, Denise, gave us extra time to sleep in the next morning!
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Tea in London – March, 2007
Denise, our organizer
Thanks to you, we are much wiser!
You planned our days,
Our teas, our ways –
I can’t imagine a trip any nicer!
With humor and grace,Sarah kept us on pace.
Through left-hand streets we drove
With fair Sarah did rove.
With stories and tales
We were regaled,
As we drove through the streets
To pursue tea-time treats.
“I feel like Cinderella”
Lori said to the fella
As from the Palace of Tea,
Delivered were we.
Judi and Meagan, Mom and her girl
Together they came
To give London a whirl
Meagan and siblings
Joined hand in hand
To send Mom to London
To visit Tea-land!
Ann, such a good sport
With lost bags at airport
She still dressed with style
And shared her lovely smile.
Linda, from Kentucky
My, aren’t we so lucky!
Rich stories she was giving
Of self-catered English living.
“Silly, silly man”
Sarah did reprimand
With his bus in the way
And for us would delay.
Mayonnaise her selection
to the tea-time connection,
Stephanie chose to proclaim
Home-town’s claim to tea fame.
“There’s a pink cab!”
Her camera, she did grab.
Mary Jane did delight
In the pink taxi sight.
Lovely Jane and dapper Tim
We learned so much in depth from them.
Of white and green and black and styles
Of regions, seasons – ‘cross the miles.
“Hot the pot and out the spout!”
Our quiet Nancy did shout.
In discussions of brewing
And the avoidance of stewing.
Without our Phyllis,
Where would we be?
Not here in London
To have British tea!
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.
John Newton’s church in London found!
Thanks to Sandy, who made the connection
We’ll sing the hymn
With London recollection!
To Aunt Ida and Aunt Em
Sharing memories, thoughts of them
From their memories we rise,
Catch our dreams; lift our eyes.
To our heart’s next big dream,
Tea in Charleston with this team!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The trouble here is that the trip was so incredible, I don't know if I can truly capture the experience in words and images. A bit daunting, really. Nonetheless, I'll stick with my tried and true method, and just begin. I'll begin where I am....
I am still unwinding and recovering from jetlag. :-) And during this time of transition, I'm floating in wonderful memories. At the moment, I'm indulging in some treats I brought from London.
The teacup is an indulgence from the trip. I love its coloring and the details inside the rim. The tea tin was an impulse buy. I became enamored with phone booths in London, and had to have this. To my delight, the tea inside is actually pretty good! It's a ceylon blend with light bergamot flavoring. I can't really call it Earl Grey because the bergamot is very light. The tea tin calls it "Afternoon Tea." The "biscuits" (cookies) are called "chocolate digestives" and they are heavenly! They are made (partially) with wholemeal (what we call whole wheat) and have this incredible texture. Not too sweet. Just right! I brought back a whole suitcase of biscuits!
These are great gifts because the British take their tea and biscuits very seriously, and the biscuits are significantly different than our cookies. (I think I prefer the British ones). For a bit of fun, check out the Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down blog. You'll learn a lot about biscuits!
As I float in memories, some of the things that struck me as the most interesting about London are the following:
- It's a very safe city. The police don't even carry guns. I felt much safer than in any comparably-sized US city.
- It's an incredibly diverse city.
- It's the world's biggest financial market. Bigger than any US market. London is where the world's money exchange happens.
- It's a very, very expensive city. A starter "semi-detached" is about $500,000 US. Think of a semi-detached as a duplex, except you own your half. This is the most common suburban housing style.
- It blends well the old and new. London was a Roman city, and there are many artifacts of that. Lots of history and beautiful architecture. Also lots of cutting-edge, modern style.
- Londoners, regardless of gender, love their tea and go to tea rooms!
- In our hotel room, there was no coffee pot. Rather, we found a hot water boiler and a proper cup, saucer and spoon for tea. I love this!!!!
Well, that's a beginning....
Monday, March 12, 2007
Friday, March 02, 2007
Both of my friends who attended are much better cooks than I, so I was a bit intimidated to cook for them. But I persevered. :-) We had squash soup with teapot and heart puff pastries and a salad topped with pears, walnuts and an English Stilton cheese. (Special thanks to my London traveling companion for the puff pastry idea!!) With these, we enjoyed a jasmine (Queen of Heaven) artisan tea.
For the second course, we had the fresh crumpets with butter, blackberry jam and cherry curd. Yumm! The crumpets didn't turn out quite as nicely as my trial run but they tasted fine nonetheless. Must have been beginner's luck the first time! Actually, I used olive oil on the griddle the first time and canola the second. I prefer the olive oil. The canola seemed to brown up too quickly.
For dessert, one of my friends brought delightful coconut cupcakes, which we had with a robust Assam tea (and milk and sugar).