Friday, September 13, 2013

Some Tea News and Events

Image from Edible Portland

Tea Growing in Oregon!  The fall edition of Edible Portland features tea growing in Oregon!  Read it here and/or listen to the OPB interview.

Sunday, September 15th, 5 – 7 pm:  Pu-Erh Tea Tasting

A special tea tasting event at Newspace Center in Portland, Oregon. Jeffrey McIntosh of McIntosh Tea and Nicholas of Mist Peak Teas will be teaming up for an evening of exquisite tea, great company, and the opportunity to be a part of growing interest in the famous tea from the mountains of Yunnan, China, Puer Tea. More info and to register.

Learn Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony in October at the NW Tea Fest in Seattle!

When: NW Tea Fest is Saturday – Sunday, October 5 – 6
Location: Seattle Center
Conference website:

Register early! Last year we had a very full event!

Class info:  Experience the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony
(Instructor: Dewey Meyer)
Saturday, October 5, 11 am – Noon

Large Workshop Booth - ($10 materials fee for brewing participants – 10 brewing spaces available)
Up to 25 additional non-brewing participants

Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony was created in Taiwan in the 1980′s as an experience that allows many participants to brew and serve tea together. It is rooted in Chinese Gong-Fu small pot brewing. Wu-Wo translates to “selfless” and embodies that principle. Participants sit in a circle and silently brew, being present with tea, nature and each other. Those that you serve are not the ones you receive from, reinforcing the concept of giving without expectations.

Please join us! No need to bring anything. We will provide 10 brewing kits. 10 people who pay a $10 materials fee will be able to use these kits and be an active brewing participant in the ceremony. All participants, including non-brewers (which can attend at no fee), will be able to taste tea during the ceremony.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Cha-Kaiseki: The Meal at a Japanese Tea Ceremony

Me, drying dishes after cleanup of the meal at a recent kaiseki class

I have some serious foodie friends who will enjoy this post...

If you are invited to a full Japanese Tea Ceremony, you will first be treated to a delicious, light and healthy meal in the tea room prior to enjoying the tea.  The idea is to ensure the guests' comfort during what can be a lengthy and leisurely tea event.  The food helps keep us contented, and some people's bodies are better able to enjoy the matcha with a little something in the stomach.

You may have heard of, or even been to, a "kaiseki" restaurant.  Most people associate this style of dining with many small dishes of very fancy food.  In the cha (tea)-kaiseki, the food itself is more humble as well as seasonal and local.  Rather than being the focus, the food is there to ensure your comfort and lead you to the highlight of the experience, the serving of the koicha (thick tea), which comes after the meal.  

The cha-kaiseki actually reminds me a bit of the British afternoon tea in that the food is meant to blunt the appetite, not to be a large meal. The portions are petite and there are many small morsels to try, each presented in a beautiful dish to highlight the food's qualities. 

In my tea class, we've been studying how to handle the many bowls, cups and trays in the tea room.  And this weekend, I had the chance to attend a kaiseki cooking class where we prepared a meal.  And then, our two Sensei served us so that we could enjoy the food and practice handling the bowls.  Lucky us!  

A cha-kaiseki menu includes:

* Mikozuke, often a raw dish like sashimi served on the far side of the tray and arranged to face the guest
* Rice and miso soup, each served in its own lidded bowl
* These three are served together on a tray and enjoyed with sake

* Nimono, this simmered dish is brought out next and served in its own lidded bowl
* Yakimono, a grilled dish brought out for guests to serve themselves
* Hashiarai, a clear broth used to cleanse the palate and rinse the chopsticks, served in its own lidded cup
* Hassun, small morsels of "food from the mountain and food from the sea".  At this time, the host pours a bowl of sake for each guest, who in turn pours a bowl for the host.  It's worth noting that the bowls of sake are very flat and hold just a couple of sips each.   
*Yuto, broth with rice that has been crisped in the bottom of the pan, served with pickles

Additional items can be added, but these are the basics.  I experienced the process from shopping, cooking and savoring and I can tell you that much thought and attention goes into the preparation of these dishes.  Delicious, beautiful and subtle.  It's also worth noting that while fish is quite common in the meal, it's also easy to have vegetarian (even vegan) kaiseki meals.

And yet...all of this is not the highlight of the tea ceremony.  After the meal, you would be served a small sweet and then invited to take a stroll in the garden.  When you return, it's time for koicha!

Thursday, September 05, 2013


Whether, like me, you pronounce this "zee-nya" or say "zinn-ee-uh", the zinnia flower is worth a closer look. Old-fashioned and sturdy, it packs an intense color rush.  My grandmother used to grow a very long row of these alongside her garden. So many colors!  She could see them from her bedroom window.  When I think of zinnia's, I think of summers spent with Grandma.  What do they bring to mind for you?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Cake for Breakfast

Stone Fruit Skillet Cake

We went for an early walk to pick flowers today and came back home with nowhere to be and nothing to do.  So rare, too rare, precious.  In honor of this, I decided to make cake for breakfast.  A friend had given me a big bag of plums from her garden and I remembered this recipe for a cast iron cake with fruit.  Mmmm!  Slow mornings.  I love them, and cake for breakfast too.

I ate mine in a nearly-civilized way, with a 2nd flush Darjeeling and the paper.  But notice I couldn't wait for the cake to cool, allowing me to slice it nicely.  Nope, straight from the oven immediately to plate and mouth.  Only slightly more civilized than the DH who ate his with his fingers while standing over the cast iron skillet.  
Here's the recipe.  I may play with it some more and see if I can get it to work on the the grill, covered.   Gotta love the flexibility of cast iron!  My recipe, below, has been changed extensively from the original - adding whole wheat, reducing the sugar and veganizing.  It works great in vegan form!  If you'd like to see the non-vegan, white flour original, go and visit with Martha.

Stone Fruit Cast Iron Cake for Breakfast
(I've enjoyed this with plums and nectarines and I think any stone fruit would do well)

*4 Tbsp vegan "butter" plus enough to grease the pan
*An 8-9" cast iron skillet
* 1 cup whole wheat flour
*1/2 tsp baking powder
*1/4 tsp baking soda
* A dash of salt
* 1/2 cup sugar (down from 3/4 originally) plus 2 Tbsp for the top
* Egg replacement for 1 egg - I used 3 Tbsp water + 1 Tbsp flax seed meal, let sit 5 min
* 1/2 cup non-dairy milk + 2 tsp lemon juice, let sit for 5 min
* 2 - 4 ripe (but not mushy) stone fruit, stones removed and sliced thinly

Ready for the oven
The next time, I'll use more fruit and fill much of the top

Make the cake:
* Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
* Grease and flour the cast iron skillet
* Make the egg replacement and add the lemon juice to the non-dairy milk; set aside
* Whisk together the dry ingredients
* Beat vegan "butter" and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy; stir in egg replacement
* Add 1/3 of the flour and 1/3 of milk - mix gently and repeat until you have a batter; do not over mix
* Pour into cast iron skillet and smooth with a knife
* Add stone fruit in a pattern of your liking; I try to make mine skin-side-up so the color shines through after baking
* Sprinkle 2 Tbsp of sugar over the top; don't skip this, it makes a nice crunchy topping
* Bake for 30-35 min, until a toothpick comes out clean
* Technically, you should let it cool for a few min before cutting into the thing; I never do that