Monday, February 29, 2016

Some Days, It's All About Color

I spent a long time admiring this camellia - so long, my tea went cold. I set the Chaxi ("tea stage" literally, meaning a beautiful, intentional setting for drinking of tea) in, perhaps, a non-traditional way, but that color had me in its thrall!

What colors are calling to you these days?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tea and Dumpling Party at T Project

Small businesses hold a special place in my heart. My mom worked for many years at my aunt and uncle's family business. She knew most of the customers, and probably knew their families, too. People talked about their kids and their lives as they did business. They connected one another to other local services. Customers were loyal and customer service was excellent. My sister and I roamed in and out of the shop, always leaving with a hug. It's not something seen in big-box or chain shopping, for sure. 

Last weekend I attended T Project's tea and dumpling party and was taken back to that feeling of a small business with heart. Teri Gelber runs this highly curated shop in Portland, Oregon. She offers her own tea blends and local/regional items like salts, jams, pottery, linens and clothing. 

I appreciated Teri's discussion of her desire to source teas from small farmers. She believes that small businesses help one another survive.

This event was a celebration of the Lunar New Year. We enjoyed conversation, teas and delicious foods. We started with traditional foods like dates, watermelon seeds and citrus.  

Teri brewed several rounds of tea: Dragonwell Green, Old Tree Sheng Pu-Erh, Bi Luo Chun Golden/Black and Da Hong Pao Oolong. As she brewed, we enjoyed handmade dumplings - fabulous!

And to finish off, we sampled an assortment of Japanese sweets from Gena at Yume Confections. It's another example of small businesses supporting one another. 

It was a beautiful afternoon. My senses were full of color, texture, flavor. I met new people and enjoyed the company of old friends. I was reminded of the importance of, the gift of small business.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Tea Story at the Docklands Museum, London

Sometimes serendipity happens, and it's an amazing thing. I was recently in London and enjoyed tea at a pub. On my way out, I passed the Museum of London Docklands, in the same brick building. I popped in, expecting a bit of historical edification, but not expecting a tea connection.  I was so glad to be wrong!

To experience the museum as designed, visitors start at the top and work down through each floor. The museum highlights life around the Thames, particularly during past times when trade was done via long-distance, slow ocean shipping.  This building was a warehouse for the West India Quay.  Perhaps that name should have given me a clue...

It wasn't until I stumbled upon this exhibit that the light bulb went off in my head - TEA!  In fact, in this very warehouse, tea that had arrived on a clipper ship was weighed, sorted, sampled and laid out in lots prior to auction.

According to the museum materials, prior to 1834, nearly all tea arrived in the East India Quay and was part of the monolithic East India Company.  In 1834, the Company lost its monopoly. The importation of tea continued to increase, and some of that tea made its way to this very building in the West India Quay. In 1869, when the Suez Canal opened, steamships began to deliver tea further down river. 

Also at the Museum is the Sainsbury Study Center, an archival and research institution with an interesting display of retail and grocery. The photo below greeted me at the door. 

There are also interesting details to be found about tea in the museum's online site. For example, I learned that Sainsbury used to sell tea by the colored label, Blue, Brown, Green and Red.  Red is still sold today.  

Photo from Sainsbury Archive

And today...
Image from

If you find yourself on the East side of London, do make time for this museum, and tea next door!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Tumeric Herbal Tea

I recently sludged through a cold and decided to try some tumeric herbal tea. It's been making the rounds on the internet.  I read through several recipes and then made up my own variation.  The taste is pleasant, with a hint of bitterness beneath it. I appreciate bitter flavors. In fact, I think they're important, so this is fine with me.  However, it may not be for everyone.  

As for the efficacy of the concoction, I cannot say.  My cold was short lived and perhaps this herbal brew helped by reducing inflammation. I would try it again.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used coconut); for medicinal purposes, I recommend avoiding dairy which encourages phlegm
  • 1 tsp cinnamon and ginger (you could use fresh ginger)
  • Pinch of cloves and nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of ground tumeric; taste and add more if you can manage it
  • Honey, sweeten to taste (I used 1 tsp plus a bit more)
Simmer the water with the spices for about 10 minutes.  If using fresh ginger, strain out the pieces. Add the milk and honey and bring to the bubble stage.  Taste and adjust.  Enjoy!

Note that the mixture can be rather thick.  I found that I could enjoy it best if I kept stirring it, so that the particles didn't settle in the bottom.

Have you made tumeric tea? What's your secret? Any advice for using fresh tumeric?

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Tea at a London Pub

In the US, we might not consider a bar a place for afternoon tea, but it's pretty common in the UK.  When I was recently there, I had a lovely tea at Browns Brasserie & Bar. 

Tea was served in the traditional leaves-in-pot style, and I poured through a filter to strain. 

The food was delicious! 
Sandwiches: Watercress and egg salad, salmon with butter, and cucumber with cream cheese.
Scones with jam and clotted cream
Desserts: Vanilla custard, chocolate-covered cream puff, whoopie pie (might not be the British term!) and lemon tart

These serving trays seems to be "en vogue." The one from the yacht was similar.

I want to make a comment about British scones - here is a classic example. Simple, lightly sweet round scones, one plain and one with dried fruit.  The decadence comes from the addition of the jam and cream.  

It was a lovely, leisurely experience (though I got lost finding it, which was another adventure!). I had an entire corner to myself, and the pub wasn't busy yet so I was able to sit and write and sip.  I hope you have the chance to take tea in a pub someday, too.