Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Be Gentle with Green Tea!

I know that some of you prefer black teas to green. And that's fine. No hassle from me. All tea is good in my book. At the same time, let me suggest that if you find yourself with a chance to try a green tea again....please do the following. It will help your green tea taste much better!

1 - Do NOT use boiling water! This is the biggest problem most folks have with green teas. They treat a green just like a black. Green tea is much more delicate than black tea. As a rule of thumb, use water that is just shy of boiling. (I pick the kettle off the burner when it starts to rumble a bit...or when a few bubbles pop up.) Technically, water should be between 160-180 degrees F for green teas.

2 - Do NOT steep too long! Black teas can stand up to a long steep - 3 to 5 minutes. Generally, I steep green teas between 2 to 3 minutes. Steep duration is a very personal thing as people prefer differing stengths of tea. However, start on the low side and increase gradually until you find the time just right for you. Tip: keep a notebook with the name of the tea, the water temp (I use the shortcuts "rumble, shhh, or sing*"), and the steep length you prefer. These factors will vary even among green teas.

3 - If possible, use loose leaf tea rather than bagged. Bagged teas are OK in a pinch, but loose teas are almost always superior in quality.

As a related tip - if you don't like a particular tea on your first try, I suggest backing off the steep time and/or water temp and giving it another go.

Bottoms up to a better cup of green tea!

* My words describing sounds may not synch with what you hear. Here's a bit more on my descriptions.
Rumble = When the water is just starting to make noise in the kettle. Good for green teas.

Shhh = Just prior to making the kettle sing, the water "gets quiet." This is good for a solid oolong. Sometimes I back up a bit with oolongs, as well. It depends on the tea.

Sing = When the water is at full boil and the kettle chirps happily. Good for black teas.

100 Notable Books (NY Times)

In case you're needing something to read with that cup of tea...the NY Times has its yearly list out: 100 Notable Books of the Year. Let me know if you see any favorites on the list -- or any that you just couldn't stand to finish!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Tea in Church

Yesterday, I really enjoyed the children's story at church....particularly, because it was about tea!

The story for the children focused on being "open" to learning. The story was told (and enacted) about a very smart man who was looking for more knowledge. He had many, many college degrees and didn't think there was anything more in the world he could learn. Nonetheless, he heard of a very wise woman who lived on a mountain top. He decided to visit her, even though he was convinced he couldn't learn any more. When he sat down, he told the wise woman of his dilemma. She gave him a full cup of tea and then offered him more. He found this strange, but didn't want to be impolite, so he accepted. The sage poured the tea into the cup so that it overflowed (and kept overflowing). Finally, she asked the question, "How can you learn more when your cup is already full?" The message, to me, is to always have space for learning from an experience.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

This Just In...Nutmeg House in Ellettsville to Close

Hi, All - A friend just made me aware that the Nutmeg House, in Ellettsville, will be closing. Dec 30th is its last day. Full details are in today's Herald Times, front page of the food section. There is an open house on the 29th, from 2 - 4 pm. Unfortunately, I can't make it then. I'm thinking of trying to sneak in a visit on the 30th, its last day. Anyone want to go? Let me know. I'll make a reservation.

A Chilly Morning, Sort Of....and King Arthur Scones

The DH (dear husband) and I went for a run this morning. 29-degrees, a light dusting of snow, and windy. Most folks would think that's pretty chilly, but in reality, it's not. I was soaked with sweat by the time we were done! It's just a matter of knowing how to dress, because once I start running, my body generates a lot of heat. The key for me is to keep my face and hands warm. If that happens, I can go out in really, really cold weather and be fine. (I use a balaclava to keep my face warm - and it helps warm the air I breathe, too.)

The other source of motivation was that I knew I had King Arthur scones (cranberry & orange) waiting for me when I returned. I've tested a few varieties of scone mixes, and King Arthur is my favorite. Of course, anything with 5 tablespoons of butter would probably taste good! >-) The DH thinks his homemade scones are better, and he's right. But, when I'm cooking, King Arthur takes the "cake" for a speedy solution!


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tea at the Phoenician

I recently had tea at the Phoenician in Scottsdale, AZ. It was during one of those lucky pockets of extra time. My work group had wrapped up and dispersed, and I found myself left with an extra evening and nothing to do. The Phoenician is a lovely resort with fountains and sweeping views. The tea is served in the hotel lobby. I remember lots of cream and gold decorations. A massive fountain presides over the middle of the lobby.

The traditional three-courses are served. The tea sandwiches were very good (egg salad, curry chicken salad, portabella mushroom, cucumber.) Two scones were served - buttermilk and cranberry. Both were served warm and with generous dollops of lemon curd, strawberry preserves, and devonshire cream. Dessert was a delightful selection from several small, dainty treats. I chose the champagne mouse cake and a chocolate-dipped strawberry. I had Darjeeling tea (no surprises there - one of my favorites.)

The china is Wedgewood Oberon. Wasn't that the Elf King in A Midsummer Night's Dream? It makes sense as the china has a woodsy (yet delicate) look. The hostess and serving staff were wonderful! Very polite and gracious.

The tea was expensive, as compared to a standard tea room: $34. This is on par with fancy hotel teas. If you get the chance, it's worth going! The views and setting alone are worth it!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Tea in Bloomington?

Hi, All - Sorry it's been a few days since I've made a post. I had to be out of town for work last week. I had a question recently about places to have tea in Bloomington, IN. Here's what I recommend:

  • I have not discovered a tearoom in Bloomington that serves a full afternoon tea. >-( There's an opportunity here! I've thought about starting this business myself, and it could be great fun! At the same time, the reality is that a tearoom is a restaurant. I don't want to run a restaurant.
  • The Greenbriar Room (basement of the red Bloomington Antique Mall on 7th) is a lovely setting. Here, you can order a pot of tea and it's served in a real pot! I think the tea may be of the bagged variety. (Also, I should note that the Greenbriar Room has changed ownership since I last visited.)
  • The DH and I had lunch once at a "tearoom" on West Kirkwood. I can't remember the exact name, and I suspect the place may be closed. The restaurant was in an lovely restored home (along with a hair salon and spa). The menu was lunch fare (sandwiches, quiche, etc., no afternoon tea menu). Tea was served in a tea pot. It was bagged tea.
  • There's a new cafe and gift shop in the IU Art Museum, called Angles. I haven't been, but they advertise "whole-leaf teas."
  • In Elletsville, a nearby community, there is a bona fide tearoom called the Nutmeg House. See my earlier review of this tearoom.
  • The Winterberry Cafe (2100 S. Liberty) advertises a "traditional English High Tea." I haven't been here yet, but I look forward to testing it out. Remember, "high tea" means a full evening meal - not the "fancy" tea that most folks believe. I wonder if this is a misuse of the term by the Winterberry Cafe? I'll let you know.

A bit of shameless promotion here - under Serendipity Teas, I offer tea tastings and tea parties. If you're interested, let me know. (My site is down today - www.serendipityteas.com -
I am switching service providers.) I recommend a tea tasting! This is where you sample 5-6 different styles of tea (white, green, oolong, black, pu-erh) and note the distinctions between each. Very similar to a wine tasting. Gift certificates are available.

Happy tea outings! If you have tea locations or reviews to add, please post a comment and let me know! I will share! Thank you!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tea Guide

The TeaGuide(TM) is an excellent online resource for travel preparations! The guide provides a pretty comprehensive list of tea rooms around the US. Plus, if you know of one that's not listed, you can add it. You can also write tea room reviews.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Pretty Photo

I took this photo a few days ago. The tea set has a neat story to it. It was a gift from a friend, when I completed my MBA. The friend got the tea set from a neighbor. The tea set belonged to the neighbor's mother (she had passed away). The neighbor's father had brought the set to his mother from Asia, when he had served overseas in the military. The set has two tea "bowls," though only 1 is shown here.

The handle on the right is where you hold the tea pot for pouring.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Tea Poem

I found this poem over the weekend. It reminded me of a delightful afternoon in mid October when I was hunting for chestnuts. There is a chestnut tree about two miles from my house, and I brought home handfuls one day.

I found the poem on the back of a Victorian Papers greeting card. I am unsure who K. Pyle is, tho I suspect it may be Katharine Pyle, author and illustrator of children's books. If anyone can confirm the source of the poem, please let me know.

Untitled Poem by K. Pyle

We went to hunt for chestnuts
One fine October day,
And in the windy country
We wandered far away.

We built a fire of brush wood
Beneath the sheltering hill,
Among the rustling corn-shocks
The wind was never still.

We played that we were gypsies,
Who never slept in beds,
But lie beside their fires
With stars above their heads.

But when the air grew frosty,
Beneath the chestnut tree
We filled our bags and baskets
And hastened home to tea.

Friday, November 04, 2005


This morning's sunrise. I snapped this even before I started the water to boil.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

One Year

One year ago today, the DH (dear husband) and I rolled into our new home town. Wow. I don't experience it "feeling like" a year. 5-6 months tops. Tho, I have seen a full year of seasons come and go.

The passing of the first year calls for a special tea! I have a white jasmine that I've been saving for a special occasion. I'll bring it out tonight.

To many more happy years in this town!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

More on Lemon Curd...

I was so inspired by the previous Lemon Curd conversation, that I made a Lemon Curd cake over the weekend.

1 - Bake a white or lemon cake as directed, in two round cake pans.
2 - Cool the cakes completely.
3 - Cut off the rounded top of one, if needed, so the cakes stack flatly.
4 - In between the two cakes, spread a think layer of lemon curd. I use Dickinson's.
5 - On the top of the cake, drizzle lemon curd and powdered-sugar icing. (You can flavor the icing with lemon juice, if desired. I also added poppy seeds.) The lemon curd and icing should form strips on top of the cake, and pretty little pools of alternating color at the bottom. You may need to encourage these pools.
6 - Top with pretty flowers. Mine were white mums with yellow centers, courtesy of the DH.