Thursday, June 27, 2013

Afternoon Tea in Washington Park

Today, I'm going to point you to my good friend Marilyn's blog for a summary of an Afternoon Tea event we enjoyed yesterday.  Photo by Marilyn.

Photo by Marilyn

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Afternoon Tea and Black Tea in Taiwan

Back to Taiwan travels!

Most of us think of oolong tea when we think of Taiwan, but the island has a long history of producing black teas.  We visited the popular Sun Moon Lake area where we were treated to black tea made from bushes of old growth plants dating to the Japanese occupation era (late 1800's into mid 1900's).  I've grown really fond of this tea.  It's delicious straight up, with no need for milk or sugar.

We stayed at a small inn a few miles from the tourist area of Sun Moon Lake.  The inn showcases the black tea production in the area and plays on a European theme.  They offer a British-style afternoon tea.  

We of course participated in afternoon tea! We enjoyed quiche and this delicious chocolate molten cake with cranberry and tea leaf garnish, along with many cups of the delicious black tea.  The photo below shows the accommodations.  We also had the chance for a Wu-Wo tea session in the front yard while staying here.

 I love the picture below of Shiuwen, our tea expert and guide.  Her laughter captures the moment well.

This afternoon tea experience was a nice surprise for us!  After drinking cup after cup after wonderful cup of tea made in the Taiwanese style, this experience reminded me of tea's diversity and flexibility.  It was also fun to see a "Western" cultural item translated into another peoples' context.

Friday, June 21, 2013


I like the challenge of this photo.  It makes my brain work hard to truly see it.  The gaiwan on the right is the apparent focus, with its bright color and crisper image.  Yet my eye is pulled toward the soft focus of the teapot on the left.  I have a hard time reconciling the two. The challenge gives me a reason to study the photo at length. The color contrasts, light reflection and textures play into this, too.  I see this picture best when I push my chair away and look at it from a distance, with a new perspective.  When I'm too close, my brain can't make it make sense.

Sometimes my life is like that, with parts that don't quite fit together, each pulling for attention in different ways. I see things better when I remember to push the chair away and look at them from a distance.

Happy Summer Solstice!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bergamot Lemon Curd

Busy Day Cake with bergamot lemon curd and garden strawberries

I made another batch of the Bergamot Lemon Curd over the weekend. What I didn't immediately lick off my fingers got used in the cake above or frozen for a burst of sunshine throughout the year.

Lemon curd makes a great topping for a simple cake. (One of our favorite cake recipes is Busy Day Cake, a recipe from an old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. That's what I'm using in the picture above, tho I've added whole wheat. We often make it vegan using vegetable oil or vegan margarine and flax seed meal/water to replace the egg.)

Here's my recipe for Bergamot Lemon Curd:

* 1 Tbsp (or more) bergamot citrus zest (it freezes well)
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 3 eggs
* 1 cup bergamot citrus juice (it freezes well; OK to augment with a bit of regular lemon juice if needed)
* 4 Tbsp butter, cold, cut into pieces
* Double boiler or a pot-over-pot method for cooking
* Bowl with ice, ready for cooling (store in fridge until needed)

Get out the double boiler or pot-over-pot and bring the water to a boil. In the mean time, place the sugar and zest into a food processor and whirl until the rind is well dispersed throughout the sugar mixture.

Turn the water down to a simmer (low). Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl. Add the sugar/zest and lemon juice while whisking. Then pour into the double boiler and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until thickened, approximately 7 - 10 minutes. You may need to skim some foam and if any bits of egg coagulate and form chunks, fish them out. Stir in butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it's well combined. Then set over a bowl of ice to cool. Give it a stir every now and then.

Stores well in the fridge for a week and freezes well, too.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quiet Time

I'm married to an introvert.  Over the years I've come to acknowledge, then accept, then appreciate and now admire his need for quiet time. In fact, even though I'm an extrovert I need and crave quiet time, too.  (Watch this Ted Talk by Susan Cain, author of Quiet, to learn more.) 

One of the things I love about the Wu-Wo tea ceremony is its mix of social time and quiet time.  There is designated time and space for both.  What a great blend!

When I was touring Taiwan, I had several opportunities to drink tea in silence (Wu-Wo and other times).   I found it peaceful, centering and sometimes challenging.   When I came home, I served tea to the DH and we sat with it in silence. 

Drinking tea in the quiet is a great way to reconnect with ourselves.   

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Strawberry Scones and Bergamot Lemon Curd

Our garden has been generous with providing amazing luscious strawberries!  I also had frozen bergamot citrus juice and rind I'd been wanting to use.  Over the weekend I made strawberry scones and bergamot lemon curd.  This combination was stellar!   
Bergamot is the Mediterranean citrus that is used to scent Earl Grey tea.  The scent comes from the rind.  To make this curd, I used the food processor to disperse the rind in small pieces throughout the sugar before adding to the custard mixture.  It worked well.  The bergamot aroma is subtle but prevalent.  It invites you to take a bite, close your eyes and smile.  It also balances the sweetness of the strawberry scones very well.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Meatless Monday: Green Hummus

It's been some time since I wrote about a Meatless Monday, and with the garden producing so much, I thought I'd get back to it.  We've grown fava beans for the first time this year.  LOVE them!  Not only do they fix nitrogen in the soil, but they produce this wonderfully plump and flavorful bean. 

The DH made up a recipe for this "green hummus":  fava beans (shelled and raw, skins included), parsley, lemon sorrel, lemon juice, tahini, dash of salt.  The parsley and lemon sorrel are also from the garden.  The raw fava beans are quite starchy and the other ingredients help balance that out.  It was very delicious!

Do you like fava beans?  How do you make them?  You may also know them as horse beans or broad beans.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Tea 101: Lu Yu (and Giveaway Winner!)

Congratulations to Caranam, who has won my blog giveaway!  I'll be in touch.

Lu Yu is an important character in tea's history (Tang dynasty period).  He is most known for writing the first book of tea (Ch'a Ching, called The Classic of Tea) and discovered the importance the quality of water makes when brewing tea.  He was also a bit of a rebel, which appeals to me.  :-) 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Tea Making Process and Stirring Green Video (Alishan)

Son-in-Law, Tea Farmer, considering his freshly made tea

At the Alishan tea farm, the Son-in-Law (that's what we called him) has stepped into the role of primary tea farmer.  He's tall, handsome and kind.  He has a sense of calm presence beyond his age (38).  He was our guide through the tea making process. 

The tea farmer works closely with the experts at the processing factory.  The tea waits for no one.  It's round-the-clock work once the tea is picked.  To make Alishan tea, it takes two days and one night.  Processing is done in small batches; in our case it was specific to a day's picking.  Each day of picking has a different shining quality (aroma, broth, mouth feel, etc.)  and therefore should be processed specifically to bring out its best features.   

Process for making tea, shown to us by the owner of the facility

The process for making Alishan tea:
1 - Tea picking
2 - Outdoor oxidation
3 - Indoor oxidation
4 - Stirring green
5 - Killing green
6 - Shaping
7 - Drying
8 - Fixing the product

Tea that is oxidizing, a very crucial part of the process that turns the raw leaf into magic

This tea processing facility is ISO certified at 4 stars.  (ISO is an international quality standards body and I know from work experience how big of a deal this is.) It seems as though only 5 Taiwan tea processing factories have 5 stars.

It takes 3 - 5 years for a talented person to become good at this tea making work.  It requires sensitivity to many factors including:  temperature and humidity, tea varietal and season, preferences of the tea maker, and of course the leaf itself.  Listening to the leaf is done in many ways, and a lot of it is done through the nose.  The tea makers use the tea aroma as an indication of when it's time for the next step.

For a tea geek like me, it's really exciting to have been there, in the quite literal middle of all of this.  The aromas of the withering teas, the hard work, the rhythms of it all.  Such anticipation for the first taste (see top photo).

Here's a video of "stirring green" which helps the "water travel" in the tea.  It's awesome to watch these guys do their thing.  (And you can go here for some pics of "killing the green.")