Saturday, July 11, 2020

Memories in a Tea Cozy/Cosy

How do you spell it?  Tea Cozy (common in the US) or Tea Cosy (common in the UK).  I appreciate both styles.  :-)  Anyway you spell it, they're handy. I dislike cold tea, and a cozy/cosy helps!  Especially this one, which has a thermal lining in the middle.  I used these instructions to make one sized for my smaller teapots. I wanted to feature the Darjeeling text, and on the other side, Ceylon, so I fussy cut the fabric.

This fabric was a gift from my "room friend," affectionately called Rose MacGyver due to her cleverness in devising solutions to all kinds of needs when we were traveling in China, Tibet and India. We also traveled together to London, and so it's my attempt to connect these adventures (a British-inspired cosy with the Indian tea-growing region prominently displayed). 

That's the DH, dear hubby, gardening in the background at a community garden plot 

This cozy/cosy also connects me with my trip back to Darjeeling this past October, and another dear friend who was my traveling companion, AM. I dream of the day when I can host a tea where these two women can meet and share talk of travel.  

I've been using this cozy/cosy nearly every day, and thinking of my friends and our adventures! Comfort and warmth in tough times.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Tea School, of Tea Fest PDX

The Portland Tea Festival is launching an online Tea School!  The classes are really awesome and really affordable! I hope you'll take a look. I'm teaching a class on Bowl-Style Brewing this Wednesday, 4/29 at 1 pm PDT.  It's a brew-along, and will be lots of fun! 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tea and Books Sustain Me > Helping the Sellers

Tea and books help sustain me in these unprecedented times.  (OK, Star Trek too.) 

I buy my teas from small specialty shops, and they need our help right now.  So do the independent bookstores.  Below are some of my favorites. If you are in the fortunate position of financial security, perhaps you can send some love to yourself, your mom, your neighbor, your favorite nurse, in the form of tea and books...

Jasmine Pearl Tea Company: A wide range of quality teas, including herbals.  I'm a fan of Bombay Breakfast, African Grey and Yoga blend.

Floating Leaves Tea: A shop that specializes in exquisite Taiwanese oolongs. If you like light teas, try a high mountain oolong. If you like dark, roasted flavors, try Charcoal Dong Ding. 

Young Mountain Tea: Working in India and Nepal to make not only amazing teas, but also to build vibrant local communities. Try the Black Orchid and the Ruby Oolong.

Powell's Books: A Portland icon! Or support your local bookstore.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Back to Glenburn Tea Estate

Woman plucking tea in Darjeeling

Thank you AM for snapping this photo!

A workmate pointed out that I used the word heaven three times in one sentence, as I was describing my trip to Darjeeling, India and particularly Glenburn Tea Estate. Beautiful tea fields, majestic mountains, ethereal mists, scrumptious meals, plenty of exercise and time for day dreaming, good friends (old and new), and of course -- Darjeeling tea! 

On the way to Glenburn, we stopped for a picnic next to a tea field.
The fogged-in field was other-worldly! 

The path to Glenburn is, quite literally, over the river and through the woods and up a mountain and through the tea fields. It's a winding, and towards the end, very bumpy journey. Along the way, you'll stop for a picnic in a beautiful scenic area. (If you're prone to motion sickness, as I am, take meds AND sit in the front seat!) The 3-4 hour journey is worth every minute. When you arrive, you'll be treated to a welcoming glass of lemonade and the kindness of the hosts and staff. 

Our first day there, we decided to relax and do a little exploring.  I requested a cup of tea and what arrived was Afternoon Tea with fried tea leaves, cake and cookies!

One of the best things about Glenburn is bed tea! 
Your wake-up call is a tray of tea, cookies and splendid views.

I had been to Glenburn once before and long wanted to return. This trip in early October was one of the most lovely experiences of 2019. Special thanks to my traveling companion AM, and the the staff of Glenburn!  Bertie, Audrey, Rudolph and team - you made us feel so welcome!

Me, taking a walk in the tea fields

Imagine plucking for hours on slopes like this! 
I have so much gratitude to the people who make our cups of Darjeeling tea possible.

The porch, where I spent many happy moments writing in my journal (and drinking tea)

We spent a morning in the factory, learning how the tea is processed and sampling the
Glenburn lineup

Dinner is a leisurely, multi-course event but always finished with chocolate and tea.

Somehow, I still slept soundly!

Bertie and Audrey (along with Rudolph, not shown) -- hosts extraordinaire!

It's heaven for me!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Chanoyu: What Have You Been Studying for So Long?

I have been studying Chanoyu, commonly referred to in English as the Japanese Tea Ceremony, for 7.5 years as of this writing. While my sensei considers me an intermediate student, in many ways I feel like a beginner. 

I'm almost universally met with a "Wow!" when I share that I've been studying for this long. And what most folks are too polite to ask is, "What's taking so long?" :-)  It's a fair question!

First, there isn't one "tea ceremony." There are many variations, based on numerous factors such as season, guests, occasion, utensils, location and much more. Also, the further into my studies I go, the more complicated and lengthy the procedures become.

Second, it's physically demanding! It's hard (at least for me) to sit on my knees for long periods. Add to that the need to walk in a specific manner, make each movement with deliberation, and rise gracefully from the kneeling position (with precious tea utensils in my hands). It takes practice, conditioning, and skill to make this all look effortless. There is much to be learned! 

Third, we learn about many Japanese art forms and much history as we go. This includes the art and craft of pottery, ceramics, iron, bamboo, calligraphy, lacquer, wood, incense, flowers and more. We learn and tell stories about the tea utensils and the people who have made them.

And finally, I've referred so far to Chanoyu, which means hot water for tea. The term Chado, or the way of tea, is another expression, one of great depth, used for tea ceremony. There are four grounding principles in the tea ceremony: Harmony, Respect, Purity and Tranquility. To me, Chado expresses the spirit one has when approaching tea ceremony with discipline, mindfulness and care, and when attempting to apply the four principles to life.

Like ballet or painting or writing, there are elements of both discipline and art that can be studied, practiced and honed over a lifetime. One of my favorite experiences of tea ceremony was when I was invited to a tea gathering in Nara, Japan a few years ago (as a guest of my sensei). We watched as women well into their 70s and 80s practiced tea, with their sensei being nearly 90. They moved fluidly through the steps of the ceremony and appeared to radiate with their love of tea. May I be so fortunate!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Lovejoy's Tea Room, Portland

Me, in a fabulous chair at Lovejoy's in Portland
Thank you @mitranite for the photo!

Portland has a new tea room, and I think (hope!) it’s here to stay!  Lovejoy's Tea Room on Killingsworth is a blend of traditional and cheeky, serious about the food and tea with the right blend of quirks and welcome to keep it interesting. 

The Queen's Tea ($29.95) comes with a scone and a crumpet

I've been here twice, and both times I enjoyed myself. The tea room attracts the traditional ladies who do tea, but also a young, diverse crowd. I think this could be the key to the tea room's sustained success. When I visited recently, a table entirely of young men sat just behind me. Owner Brendon Constans sets the tone for the environment, where one can be welcomed for who they are. All best wishes!

Brendon Constans, Owner

Tempting petit fours

Captain Picard watches over the tea room

Friday, March 22, 2019

Whisking Matcha for Enjoyment at Home

Matcha in tea caddy

Hello and happy Spring!  I'm going to be writing a series on the "Japanese Tea Ceremony" experience, known as Chanoyu or Chadō (the Way of Tea). But before we dive into that, I want to share how you can easily make and enjoy a bowl of matcha at home. 

And when I say bowl, I mean just that! In this style of drinking matcha, each person gets their own bowl of tea. I'll be making thin tea, called usucha. It's the frothy kind and it's amazing!

It's important to understand that there are many different schools of Chadō, and each has its own way of making tea. There are differences in how to whisk, the desired frothiness, etc. And yet each produces a beautiful and delicious bowl of tea. The school from Japan that I am associated with is Urasenke.  My local school is Issoan. Even though the instructions below are not for a tea ceremony, the style I've learned will show through.

In the picture above, you see a shaped "mountain" of matcha in a traditional tea caddy. Below are the typical implements: a bowl, whisk, scoop, tea caddy and a water ladle. You will not need all of these things.

Traditional tools for making matcha

What you WILL need: 
  • A bowl with a wide enough bottom for the whisk to move freely. Something like a rice or cereal bowl.
  • A measuring cup
  • A mesh strainer
  • Teaspoon
  • Bamboo whisk 
  • Matcha 
I recommend two investments for home enjoyment of matcha: A bamboo whisk (chasen) and good matcha. A reputable source available in the US is Ippodo. Please be careful where you buy your matcha and do not use cooking grade. You are ingesting the ground-up leaf and the flavor is intensified. You want the good stuff for drinking. Expect to pay $25-30/canister for a decent matcha.  See this site for more options. Also, don't buy large quantities and store the canister of matcha in a plastic bag with the air pushed out, in the freezer. 

Utensils for making matcha at home

    Sifting matcha
To make your bowl of matcha:

1. Rinse your bowl with hot water, then dry it out.  This pre-warms the bowl and removes liquid that might cause the matcha to clump.

2. Place the mesh strainer over the bowl. Measure in a scant (less than full) teaspoon of matcha. Tap the strainer or use the back of a spoon to push the tea through. Straining the tea helps reduce lumps.

3.Now add between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of hot water, ~170 degrees Fahrenheit. Please do not use boiling water. When I remove my kettle from the heat source and take the lid off, it takes ~3.5 minutes to cool to the right temp.

4. Take your whisk and lightly press down any floating tea. Then move the whisk briskly in a straight up-and-down motion. (Other tea schools do this differently.)  See the video below. You do not need to press down hard on the whisk (that can break the tines). Placing your hand over the top of the bowl helps to steady it.

                                                                            5. Keep whisking until you see a thick foam forming.
                                                                            Keep going a wee bit longer.  Then move the whisk
                                                                            across the top lightly to pop any big bubbles.

                                                                            6. Set the whisk down and enjoy the tea! 
                                                                            Matcha is commonly enjoyed with a small sweet.
Notice how the foam gets thicker over time.  Keep going!

If your matcha froth isn't thick, try using a little more matcha, a little less water, or whisking a little longer.

Mmmm.. frothy, foamy matcha