Friday, November 21, 2014

A Reading Nook Moment

In my fantasy world, I have a room in my home referred to as "the library" that is lined with floor to ceiling bookshelves. One wall would be my own personal "Wall of Tea," while the rest of the shelves contained traditional, leather-bound books. There would be a fireplace, of course, and a comfy chair with a soft afghan draped over one arm. A little tea table would sit next to that. And I would spend hours there, in my own little world.

A nice little dream, but terribly impractical in my world. So, I'll take the next best thing: a tea blend that evokes all the feelings of my fantasy world. And I've found it in this: the Reading Nook Blend by PlumDeluxe.

Not only is this black tea blend beautiful to look at in its dry form (there are dried rosebuds, passionflowers and lavender), but the aroma is intoxicating (cinnamon, roses, and lavender with a creamy background).

As the weather as finally turned just chilly enough to justify sweaters and boots, it's a luxury to be able to steal a few minutes to pour a cup of tea, sit by the fire and read a chapter of a latest mystery.

Ah, the first sip. With a strong black tea base, the cinnamon and floral notes dance beautifully with each other. PlumDeluxe is absolutely correct in sharing that this blend pairs well with creativity, reading and writing.

I might not have my library, but a reading nook, a fire and this cup of tea suit me just fine.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Minnesota Daydream Moment Part 1

I am having a bit of a love affair. Granted, it's a little unconventional, but I find I'm reliving sweet memories and devoting inordinate amounts of daydreaming to it. I must confess, I've fallen head over heels for Minneapolis - St. Paul. As luck would have it, I was invited to speak at a conference in October, and I jumped at the chance to get back there. 

Looking at the weather they're experiencing this week, I can see how it may be viewed as a challenge, but the Twin Cities are so much more than weather.

I love the collaborative spirit I find there. If you have a good idea and you're willing to put in the work, it feels like everyone is ready and willing to cheer you on and support your venture. Which brings me to my current musing. While in town, I was happy to discover I had a bit of free time, and I had some writing to catch up on. I reached out to Lilly, owner of Verdant Tea, to see if she and her husband would be around that afternoon. As it turned out, they had a staff meeting and training session going that day, but she gave me an extensive list of recommendations of where I might want to go. At the top of her list was Kopplins, a coffee house in a cool neighborhood in St. Paul

It was the perfect, cozy neighborhood spot to grab a bite and get the creative juices flowing.

And, no accident, they just happened to have Verdant Tea's Kombucha on hand. Pink Robot, no less! (Kombucha is a fermented drink made from tea. Some are apparently tough to drink, but Verdant Tea's is as refreshing as an Arnold Palmer!)

To make things even more perfect, they had a cheese tasting plate available with the most savory cheese, salami and cornichons!

In every nook and cranny, there was reading, writing, and collaborating going on. The creativity was palpable. This place embodied that sense of community that I always pick up on in this town. And it makes sense. After all, it was the owner of Kopplin's who first discovered Lilly and David's Chai at a farmers market and wanted to sell it in his own store. Those discussions led to the opening of Verdant Tea. 

If you're in St. Paul and are in need of a good cup of coffee (or kombucha) and a place where innovation thrives, stop by Kopplin's. It will be one of the best decisions you make that day. 

ST. PAUL, MN 55104  
M-F 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Weekends 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Darling Darjeeling Moment

Fall made an appearance this week in Southern California. I got to break out the fuzzy socks, if only for one brief shining moment. With a nip in the morning air and the heater actually turning on, there was nothing better to accent it all than a tea cupping session.

Golden Tips Tea had sent me an amazing assortment of black teas, and among them were five Darjeelings from separate estates. Each estate name so beautiful and intriguing, it was  an exercise in restraint to allow each tea to steep for 2.5 minutes (a time chosen randomly by me, by the way. I typically steep longer than recommended, but that's just my taste).

Which would be my favorite? Would they all be very similar? Very different? Let the tasting begin!

Okayti Muscatel Darjeeling - From the Okayti Estate, this tea was plucked on June 3rd, 2014 and is a Second Flush Darjeeling. A deep, burnt orange colored liquid, this tea is rich, robust and full of tannins. Being one of the first slightly chilly days this fall, I really enjoyed the notes of roasted chestnut and, do my taste buds deceive me, a hint of lavender.

Gopaldhara Darjeeling - From the Gopaldhara Estate, this tea was plucked on April 6th, 2014 and is a First Flush Darjeeling. The light yellow liquid tastes of spring and sunshine. There's the faintest hint of grass and I could see this being a perfect, mellow afternoon companion.

Giddapahar Muscatel Darjeeling - From the Giddapahar Estate, this tea was plucked on June 8th, 2014 and is a Second Flush Darjeeling. This, too, offered a roasted essence and a deep amber color, but the flavor was more earthy and savory than the Okayti Muscatel. I found myself lingering over this cup and coming back to it again and again.

Arya Ruby Darjeeling - From the Arya Estate, this tea was plucked on June 27th, 2014 and is a Second Flush Darjeeling. I found this tea to be deep and rich with a wilder, unrestrained element. While the Muscatels came across as having smooth, finished edges, this one felt very jagged and exciting.

Thurbo Moonlight Darjeeling - From the Thurbo Estate, this tea was plucked on June 11th, 2014 and is a Second Flush Darjeeling. A deep yellow liquid, this tea was smooth and velvety with lilts of nuttiness. This was slightly more robust than the Gopaldhara.

Once again, my views of Darjeeling teas have been reshaped. For so many years, the Darjeelings I had been exposed to seemed flat, weak, watery. Whether my palate has been refined or I've just had the good fortune of experiencing better Darjeelings, I'm absolutely blown away by the range of personalities and the complexities they can offer. More and more, step by step, I'm understanding why this particular type of tea is the Darling of all teas.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Tea Blogger Directory Moment

Typically, I write about the moments I've experienced courtesy of countless amazing tea providers. Not only am I introduced to a spectrum of beautiful and interesting teas, I get to know the brilliant and intriguing people behind the teas. It is for that reason that I felt compelled to try and do something specifically for them. So, Tea Retailer friends, this one is for you!

I'm so excited to announce the official release of the 2014 Tea Blogger Directory

The world of tea is a vast and varied one, and as a tea retailer you have a unique story to tell. In this digital age, getting that story out to your target audience is priority number one, but knowing it and doing it are often two very different things.

In this directory, discover over 30 tea-focused bloggers who have as unique backgrounds and stories as you do. Each blogger has an extensive and focused reach to help you connect with your potential audience.

Additionally, learn some best practices on the do’s and don’t’s of working with a blogger. We are all a part of the tea community because we enjoy it and want to share that joy with others. Knowing some basic guidelines can leverage the positives and minimize any negatives.

Enjoy getting to know this international set of tea enthusiasts, and I hope you will see your customer engagement and audience grow tremendously as a result of the relationships that begin here.

Add to Cart

Join my list of Preferred Tea Retailers and be the first to learn about any future tea business resources that become available. More details HERE. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Moment of Luxuries Big and Small

Roctober. What a month.

Each year, I think I'm ready for it, and each year it pulls out tricks I never could have imagined or anticipated. As we have been barreling toward the finish line, there have been a few moments of grace, however, to allow me to catch my breath.

One happened over the weekend. After getting through a soccer game and remembering to assemble snacks for the team, my husband and oldest daughter packed up and headed for a camp out - their first together.  My daughter's first ever.

That left me with my little Hurricane. And she had some reckoning to accomplish. It's the rare moment when I get to spend time with just her. She flitted from coloring to play-doh to cars to tickling Ed's ears to doing a dance of joy when I announced we were going to the park.

I stood back as she ran laps around the playground, arms spread like wings as she laughed with glee. The other parents chuckled at her exuberance, and I kept thinking, "She's mine. She's really mine." Fearless. Free. Overflowing with joy and excitement. That I could bottle up her joie de vivre and sip it daily. I'll just have to work on absorbing it by osmosis.

The luxury of time with her.

By sheer miracle, she fell asleep at precisely 8:15 p.m., a full hour earlier than usual and it didn't require an hour of me laying next to her, ensuring she doesn't sneak out of bed.

The luxury of time alone.

I slept hard, and so did she. In another miraculous turn, she didn't come padding into my room until 5, and since there were just the two of us, she climbed over me, collapsed on the pillow and we slept until 7:30.

The luxury of sleep.

Our morning was leisurely, and I found that my little Hurricane was pure sunshine, entertaining herself. So, I took the opportunity to steep one of the most luxurious teas that has ever graced my home. Feng Huang Dan Cong Special Oolong from Palais des Thes had arrived just the week before. I had looked at it longingly for days, and now was my chance. A Sunday morning, with no reason to hurry, I steeped this rare and beautiful tea and watched the long, twisted leaves unfurl.

As I inhaled the toasted, woodsy aroma, I felt the reigns of October slacken a little. Ah, the first sip. Don't let the initial toasted notes fool you into thinking you're heading down a genmaicha path, because suddenly some bright citrus notes subtly begin to float in. Each sip is so incredibly smooth that "velvety" doesn't even begin to describe it. Rich, full, smooth, incredible. And the flavor continues to develop. Fruity undertones begin to appear, all the while with an unmistakable floral backdrop. I think we've discovered the true Garden of Eden.

The luxury of tea.

I sit and sip, I watch my 2 1/2 year old play, I appreciate the strong comforting presence of Eddie dog. I enjoy the moment. I swim in it. In my mind's eye, I'm running laps around the playground, arms spread wide like wings. For this moment, I can fly.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Moment with the Artiste

Some days you just need a little time in an oasis. Some days you crave food with soul. On days like those, I am grateful for a place like Coffee, Tea and Tulips in Mission Viejo, where the chef known as The Artiste, Michael Samawi and his gracious wife, Lina, provide food and hospitality like no other.

A pot of tea, a divine scone with preserves and cream, and a plate of tea sandweeches that are unforgettable . This time around I opted for the Mediterranean Veg that assembles flavors and textures that I literally dream about for days afterward. (What is this creamy, feta sauce magnificence beneath the cucumbers??? Sheer Genius!)

A quick chat, a sneak peek at the updated menu, that literally left my mouth watering, and an extra sachet of Midnight in Paris tea to enjoy at home, and I am refreshed and ready to get back to the real world.

All you who are hungry and weary, find your way to Coffee, Tea and Tulips, and let Michael and Lina do the rest.

Coffee, Tea and Tulips
25280 Marguerite Pkwy, Mission Viejo, CA 92692
(949) 587-9988
Hours: Wed - Sun 9 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Moment of Pause

There's a subtle shift in the air this week. An ongoing disturbance in the force has changed direction or is operating on a lower frequency. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but my sense is that it is a good thing.

Resolutions are slowly creeping in on a variety of fronts. Most noticeably, I saw one of the giant spiders during my run yesterday morning. As a rule, I hate those things, because every fall they build these giant, Halloween-sized webs - typically across a sidewalk - and walking into one of those is, well, I can't really talk about it. Too soon.

In any case, usually they arrive in late summer, mid August or so. But I haven't seen them this year. And the ridiculous population of flies is a testament to that fact! With their arrival, while in some ways is unwelcome, in other ways it is a relief. Small resolutions, tiny developments, subtle shifts.

Sitting in the cooler morning air, I'm soaking it all in with a Chinese Oolong from Kedocay. Wuyi Yancha Da Hong Pao Oolong has its own subtleties and shifts. As a dry, long, twisted leaf, it smells of drying hay, which feels appropriate for this harvest time of year. As the hot water is added, the scent transforms into a nutty, toasty fragrance that hints of cooler weather to come. The flavor is robust and has a toasted rice flavor, leaning toward a genmaicha profile, which is an unexpected, but pleasant twist.

I'm grateful for the noticeable reduction in flies today, I'm also grateful for the awareness that sometimes the answer that we thought was, "No," might actually just be, "Wait."