Thursday, April 28, 2011


Photo by Mitra
Kanten, cherry blossom floating in agar agar

So many times I have mentioned feeling really fortunate here in Portland because of the interesting and active network of tea people and tea events.  Well, here I go again!  The opportunities keep expanding.  Here's my most recent adventure - to a wagashi tasting at a newly-opened tea bar, the Jasmine Pearl

Wagashi is a traditional type of Japanese sweet.  It's served before the tea in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.  (It's also used at other occasions.)  These sweets are prized for their visual appeal and texture, along with taste.  (Read more here.)

Not only did I get to taste these gems, but I also got to chat with the confections maker!  Please meet the owners of the tea room, Heather Agosta and Chuck Bauman, (left and center) and the wagashi maker Gena Renaud.
Tea room owners and wagashi maker

From left to right, sea glass, kanten (from agar agar), mochi with toasted soy flakes, and baked manju.

Sweets enjoyed with a beautiful cup of whisked matcha.

Sea glass.  To the touch, it feels solid and hard, but a surprise awaits your first bite!
Photo by Mitra
Mochi, a pounded rice flour confection.  This was dusted with toasted soy flakes.
A lovely texture, soft and mildly chewy.
Photo by Mitra

Look at how lovely the cherry blossom floats in this see-through half moon.  The cherry blossom is pickled, so it's a pleasant contrast to the sweet gelatin.
Photo by Mitra

A sunny, spring afternoon with tea-loving friends, what could be better?

To those of you who will be doing the Royal Wedding festivities with tea parties, etc....enjoy!  I'm skipping out for other plans, but will look forward to reading your blog. Cheers!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New Spring Dress

My new spring dress

My friend CO Tea Lover gave me this great pattern for Christmas, and encouraged me to up my sewing game.  With the promise of a sew-along, I agreed to give this a try even tho I thought this pattern was a step up from my routine.  I think maybe that was the point.  ;-)

CO Tea Lover helped me cut out the pattern and fit check it to my body.  We agreed a trial run might be a good idea, and I found some inexpensive fabric at JoAnn's.  Delightfully, it turned out to be wearable!  :-)  I'm really happy with the new dress.  I look forward to making another version.

Yesterday was one of those heavenly spring days - sunny, warm and meant for spending time outside.  Here I am, sipping blood orange mimosas (more on that in a future post) with a friend at her yard sale.

Photo by Mitra

The dress pattern, called The Torii Tunic, is by Serendipity Studio.  I found the pattern to be easy to understand and unfussy to sew. I was a bit perplexed when I noticed that the front and back of the sleeves did not match - one was wider than the other. This required a phone consultation from CO Tea Lover, who explained it's a normal method to help the sleeves hang properly.  The rest of the sewing flowed smoothly, despite many new techniques such as neckline and waist contrast and facings.  I would definitely try another pattern from Serendipity Studio.

Do you have any spring projects in the works?  What are you sewing?  Crafting?  Writing?  Thinking about creating?  I've got one more big one in the works...we're moving!  Only about 1/4 mile away, but it's still a lot of work! 

Yay for spring!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day and Tea

Happy Earth Day!  (And happy birthday to Esme!)

Photo taken by Voyager I, 1977

Today, as we sip our tea, let's think about its impact on the earth (and the people who pick and process the leaf).  Tea is not currently grown in any substantial volume in the US.  Simply by purchasing and consuming tea, we are responsible for understanding how that choice impacts our ecosystem.  Tea is flown a long way to get to us (lots of carbon emissions), yet we pay very little for it.  I ask myself - is the price too cheap?  Are we truly paying for the real cost of the production, including the impact to the environment?  I try to buy tea from reputable sources that use sustainable practices and treat tea workers fairly.  This means I pay more for tea.  Yet it's still a very affordable luxury.   

Do you know where your tea comes from?  About the farming practices used to produce it?  About the farm's relationship with the people that tend the leaf?  It can be a fun way to dive more deeply into the world of tea.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My New Tiered Tray

Sweetcakes has done it again with her master crafting and creativity.  She made for me this lovely tiered tray.  I'm dreaming up reasons to throw a tea party, just to show this off. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Working Girl's Tea Party

Marilyn has published a book!  I'm so thrilled for her.  It's called Tea Party in your Cupboard, and it encourages us to make a tea party today - with what we have at home! Seize and savor the moment. 

Inspired by this, along with conversations from a road trip to Chicago a few years ago, I decided to finally put into action a tea party in which nothing - NOTHING - was homemade.  I used the toaster oven to heat something, and that's it.  So thanks to Trader Joe's (where I got it all*), the DH and I had a lovely tea supper in front of the fire. 

My overarching thought is that sometimes we just don't have time to cook.   I work long hours (too long!), and my available free time is much protected.  It shouldn't mean I can't have a tea party,  even if I don't have time to cook.  To some, this may be heresy, and I missed making the treats myself.  But if it comes down to no tea party or a helped-along tea party, I'll take the latter. 

*All = All the food.  I used my own teas, which are (in my tea snob opinion) better than those at TJ's.

Trader Joe's, that fun food capital of the US, made this quite easy!  Don't have a TJ's near you?  Just look in your grocer's freezer aisle and think creatively.  Make use of bakeries and deli aisles, too!

First course: Crackers, cheese and kumquats, followed by spinach spanikopita (frozen - I used the toaster oven to bake)

Second course: Crumpets and plum jam

Finale: French macaroons and pistachio toffee

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pink Cherry Puffs

It's like a fairy tale around here right now...with all the pink cherry blossom! I've had a little fun in PhotoShop Elements.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Saturday Morning Scenes

What's your Saturday morning look like? Tell me about its colors, textures, visuals. What story does it tell?  What's the central feature? 

Here's mine...the central feature is the lovely northern light.

A favorite mug and a paper-covered egg
The bottom of my slipper.  I wore out my favorite down booties!
The  DH patched them for me.  

On the balcony

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Thinking of Japan

I spent a lovely hour recently drinking matcha thin tea in a serene tea room among friends and tea enthusiasts.  Our host, M (in the light kimono above), prepared our tea with beauty, precision and grace.  Her teacher (on the right), of the Sweet Persimmon blog, provided us with context and guidance on how to be a guest.  I felt very welcome and at ease, despite my novice participation. 

Enjoying a bowl of tea was educational and centering for me, yet I never lost sight of the reason we were gathered -- to honor and offer our thoughts and prayers for the people in Japan, and to make a donation to a non-profit agency helping with the recovery.   

One kind word can warm three winter months.
Japanese Proverb

Friday, April 01, 2011

Berkeley Imperial Tea Court

I have long been a fan of the Imperial Tea Court.  I remember my first visit to the original tea room in San Fran's Chinatown.  The front window was full of clay teapots, and I stood in awe!  It's there I had my first pu-erh.  It's from Imperial Tea Court that I drank my first Bai Hao Oolong and fell in love.  I've enjoyed ITC's Tea of the Month club (thanks Mom!).  ITC has played a key role in my tea appreciation and education.

I had the chance to visit the Berkeley tea room this past weekend.  It was fun to introduce my friend to the gaiwan style of brewing, and to share several cups of tea.
The entrance is lovely, and a sign of beautiful things to come

The peaceful courtyard

Inside the tea room - it was packed!  A much-loved place!

We had the Superior Four Season Spring Oolong, lightly sweet with the aroma of spring flowers

And butter cookies with tea leaves in them.  Delicious.

An additional highlight for me was meeting Roy Fong, the owner of Imperial Tea Court and a shining light (pioneer, educator, ambassador) in the American tea industry