Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Downton Abbey Marathon Moment

Can I tell you how excited I was when I received an email from J suggesting a Downton Abbey marathon, as she had just received the new season in its entirety from Amazon.com? And of course I was even more excited when asked if I could assist in some food prep and the accompanying tea selection!

We knew people would be coming and going throughout the day and night, depending on their level of commitment to the show as well as availability (oh, that old thing), so we decided to start with an afternoon tea service, and other snacks and dishes could be added throughout the day.

There were egg salad sandwiches, cucumber dill sandwiches, roast beef and horseradish sadwiches, melon wrapped in prosciutto, a cheese platter, pastries stuffed with cream and strawberries...

And scones, scones, scones, with homemade Devonshire cream, and more sweet amuse-bouches than you could ever dream of!

And then, of course, there was tea. Decisions, decisions. Since there well over 100 choices currently residing in my tea collection, narrowing down to just 4 choices was excruciating. In the end, we had:

Brioche, by American Tea Room - Nuanced and reminiscent of hot cinnamon buns, almond croissants, fine black tea and warm brioche with a touch of marmalade.

Toasted Walnut, by DavidsTea - Comforting, lightly bitter taste of toasted walnuts is sweetened and deepened with dried pineapple, coconut, almond and organic green tea.

Paris Singapore, by Urban Tea Merchant - Green tea enhanced with fragrant cherry blossoms and red fruits. (some say it smells like marzipan. I think it smells a bit like red licorice. Yum.)

Natural Leaf Tea (Black Tea), by Best International Tea - English Breakfast tea with full- bodied, yet elegant flavor. (Perfect for dressing up with milk and sugar! - cubed, not loose.)

Even Edie enjoyed a cup, even if she brought her iPad along to watch something else!

Though I was only able to stay for the opening episode, I was informed that Brioche made the biggest splash and had to be brewed a few more times to keep up with demand. High praise!

Thank you, J, for hosting a lovely viewing party, and for the amazing food!

Shop Gift Collections At American Tea Room


Sunday, February 24, 2013

An English Rose Tea Room Moment

I had the good fortune of arriving into Carefree, Arizona for a work event a little early. Too early to check into my hotel, and being right around the lunch hour, I headed to a place that had instant appeal: The English Rose Tea Room located on Easy Street.

The tea room is everything you would wish an English Tea Room to be: cozy, romantic, whimsical, and with plenty of homage to the Royals (and HRH's dogs).

Even the tables themselves were thoughtfully transformed into their own personalized moment, with the tabletops presenting vintage vignettes under a glass table top.

For my afternoon tea, I selected the Duchess of Bedford's Formal Afternoon Tea, promising all things wonderfully presented on a 3-tiered tray, which I love. Their actual tea selection has something for everyone. A good selection of black teas, black blends, fruit blends, green teas and herbal infusions. I was pleasantly surprised at the full page of options!

Service was fast and friendly, but there was no sense of rushing. And the tray of food was as much a feast for the eyes as for the stomach.

And, of course, the presence of real, cubed sugar (avec tongs) did not escape my notice. Bravo!

As I enjoyed my tea, the place filled up very quickly. There were old friends catching up (one of whom was the spitting image of my Grandma Church, who passed away when I was very young. I had to keep reminding myself not to stare.) There were mothers and daughters, a large group of friends, and preparations for a large bridal shower were underway. It was apparent to me that this is a beloved gathering place for the sharing of many special moments.

If you're ever passing through the Phoenix area, take a little detour, allow yourself to be "Carefree" and mosey on down to Easy Street for an afternoon tea. Hopefully, you'll have someone special with you to share that moment with. And while it's not the place to necessarily stop and smell the roses, just down the lane there is a breathtaking garden of sorts to stop and admire the cacti.

To visit The English Rose Tea Room:
201 Easy Street, #103
Carefree, AZ 85377
Phone: 480.488.4812
Open year round, 10:00am to 5:00pm ( Last seating for tea is 4:00pm) Monday through Saturday. Sundays 11:00am to 4:00pm

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Todd & Tea Moment: Every Cup Counts

I so enjoy Todd's great energy and passion about tea, and his desire to educate the world on the amazing health benefits of tea. So, as we were discussing his guest blog here I was really quite touched by his final work. The passion is there, yes, but it's a glimpse at the quiet, inner workings of this passionate man's mind.  Enjoy Todd's inner musings and lessons learned from a whistling tea kettle!

A Todd & Tea Moment: Every Cup Counts,
Guest Blog by Todd Michael Schultz, of the blog, Todd and Tea

I love the idea of this blog. Tea moments are some of the best moments, I’ve come to find. They are balanced, and teach patience. I’ve noticed how boiling water is a great test of patience and balanced consumption.


How much water do I pour? The amount of water can make the boiling time longer, and the pot heavier, which may seem unnecessary. However, if one can learn the value in seeing a patient approach to this, one can learn to make it through other activities with patience.
I notice the definite contrast in the style of my tea blog posts and Jen’s posts. I think I have done a lot to push tea on people, and it hasn’t always been the best and most balanced approach. I could, as a matter of fact, learn a lot from that moment when I’m ready to pour the tea, and the teapot is still only halfway to the boiling point.
I’ve noticed myself leaving the kitchen and forgetting the boiling teapot, until, and thank goodness for it being there, the whistle start to blow, calling me from the piano, or the computer.
By this time I’ve usually chosen the tea, placed it into my glass mug (glass mugs make every tea moment a more sophisticated moment. They are clean, and you can see the color of the liquid in a brilliant way.
Golden Moon Sencha
I can’t say every moment is a tea moment, even when I’m drinking tea. However, I can say that tea can seal the deal on deciding which one is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Tea Chai Te Moment - Part Deux

The nice thing about having my own blog is that I don't really have to have any rhyme or reason to what I write or when. Which is why, 4 months later, I've finally sat down to write the continuation of my experience at Tea Chai Te in Portland. See Part 1 here, in which Geoffrey Norman and I talk tea, Twitter and the writing of novels.

When I walked into this lovely little gem in "the Pearl" District of Portland, I looked around and realized I had visited this place before. I remember taking covert photos on my (then) new flip phone with photo capabilities. I just wanted to remember the coziness of the place. But it was two or three years before I started blogging, and who knows where those photos ended up. What I was happy to discover, however, is that the coziness remained.

I was hungry on this visit, and although Tea Chai Te does not serve your stereotypical afternoon tea fare, they were offering a Southwest Chicken Soup that sounded delicious. I paired it with Zhen Qu Golden Buds, because, well, why not?

While waiting for Geoffrey, I observed the owner, Dominic, discussing plans with another gentlemen. They were seated comfortable in the middle of store at one of the eclectic tables. I love it when I see owners so comfortable and at home in their place of business. It puts everyone else in the mindset of comfortable hominess as well.

I had the chance to chat a bit with the manager, Laura, who had worked there for a few years. She had been a bank teller and originally worked in the tea room 1 day per week, but in 2010 she was asked to be the manager, and she happily accepted. While she loves what she does and she has a knack for helping you narrow down what tea you are truly wanting, she is also given a lot of flexibility to enable her to pursue additional interests and travel as well. Those are the employer-employee relationships that I've seen be most fruitful, and it's obvious there is a real appreciation, respect and loyalty within this home grown business.

Laura helped me navigate my own tea desires, and I left with Sencha Fukamushi, a green tea that is rarely found outside of Japan.

The next time you're in Portland, first, see if @lazy_literatus is available for a tea meet-up. Then, go and hang out at Tea Chai Te. Take a book, take a friend. Whatever you take, take it easy once you arrive. Soak the tea into your bones and just be.

To Visit Tea Chai Te:
734 NW 23rd Ave 
Portland, Oregon 
(503) 228-0900

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Teatime Theatre Project Moment

I find this idea so very interesting! The possibilities are endless!

The Teatime Theatre Project
Bringing the Arts to Tearooms Across America
 Fort Myers Beach, Florida, January 31, 2013 – Laurie Nienhaus of Gilded Lily Publishing and Gail Gastelu of The Tea House Times are now collaborating on The Teatime Theatre Project, to encourage live theatre in tearooms over the next two years.
Says Gastelu, "I like the idea of bringing the arts to tearooms across America and Laurie's e-book: Teatime Theatre: In Your Tearoom well explains how to go about it, the benefits and just how manageable it can be. Teatime Theatre is entertaining. It's exciting. AND, it can provide additional revenue and exposure not only for tea room owners but for churches and not-for-profits.”
According to Nienhaus, although the SW Florida venues where her plays have been performed were pleased with the additional revenue and exposure the productions provided them, the larger world of tearoom owners remains relatively unaware of the possibilities a live theatre production can bring. Hence, The Teatime Theatre Project.
In order to explain the project and the substantial support tea room owners committing to the project will receive, both women have created an audio-taped introduction that interested business owners are encouraged to listen to. Both the audio and free e-book can be accessed at http://teatimetheatre.theteahousetimes.com. A live conference call is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, February 25th at 7 pm Eastern to answer questions and offer additional support to participating businesses.
"This is an exciting project," says Nienhaus. "And the plays are funny! I'm very much looking forward to the next two years."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Guest Post - A High Quality Tea Moment

Every once in a while, it's fun to take a step back and get back to the basics of tea. I'm very happy to have Mishka Thomas as my guest today as she gets down to the nitty-gritty basics of how to choose your tea and ensure that is of the high quality sort!

Are You Drinking High-Quality Tea?
One reason why tea is loved by many people is it comes in various varieties – you can choose from black, white, green, or oolong tea. There are also unique herbal teas like Tulsi tea, rose tea, and chamomile tea, to name a few, that are just as refreshing and pleasant as the usual tea choices.

But before you choose any type of tea, remember: you should only drink high-quality tea that will give you a truly satisfying and soothing experience.
Do you know how to choose a high-quality tea? If you’re not a tea expert, you will most likely end up with bland-tasting and unpalatable tea.

Simple Tips in Choosing a High-Quality Tea Variety
The value of tea actually depends on its quality. First, you will need to learn about the characteristics of the different types of tea that come from the Camellia sinensis plant. For example, black tea is a full-fermented tea with a slightly bitter taste and a honey-sugar aroma. Meanwhile, oolong has a blossom-like aroma, but a bitter taste is considered a flaw. 

Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a high-quality type of tea:

·         Check out the shape of the tea leaves. Tea leaves have different shapes. Oolong tea leaves are usually ball-shaped, while green tea leaves have a natural curved shape.

·         Are the tea leaves in good condition? High-quality tea leaves are usually handpicked, so they stay intact and undamaged. Poor-quality, machine-picked tea leaves are broken-down and cut into small pieces, and may even contain bits of stem.

After drinking a pot of tea, take out the leaves and observe them – if you see groups of two or three leaves joined together by a stem, then that tea is high-quality.

Watch out for teas that contain thick stems as well. If the stem is as thick as a matchstick, this may cause the tea to be too bitter, overpowering the natural fragrance of the leaves.

·         Study the color of the tea leaves. These are different depending on the tea variety. For example, oolong tea comes in dark green hues, depending on the degree of fermentation and baking.

·         Observe the color of the liquid. All fine tea varieties produce a transparent, clear, and light tea with a brilliant color. Jasmine tea is yellow-green in color, while oolong tea is golden yellow. 

·         Check out the aroma of the tea. The tea’s fragrance depends on the degree of fermentation. Non-fermented teas usually have a vegetable aroma, which is similar to fresh grass scent. Green tea has a light, fresh, and soothing fragrance. Meanwhile, lightly-fermented teas like oolong have a sweet, flower-like aroma. Black tea also has a sweet, floral fragrance that lingers longer than that of oolong tea.

Teas that have odd aromas like carbon, mildew, and smoke are not high-quality.

·         Taste the tea. In general, high-quality tea has a sweet aftertaste and should feel very slippery going down the throat. Green tea should have a fresh, not stale, flavor, but should not be too astringent. Meanwhile, black tea should be fresh and full-bodied.

Here’s Another Type of Tea You Can Try: Tulsi Tea
Once you’ve tried all the different Camellia sinensis tea varieties, you should try other herbal tea types as well. One good example is organic Tulsi tea.

Even before Tulsi tea benefits are being studied, it is already an integral part of Indian culture. Called "sacred" or "holy basil," Tulsi is one of the principle Ayurvedic herbs. Ayurveda is India's ancient holistic health system, with herbs at the center of its practice.
Tulsi tea can be enjoyed hot or cold, with a pleasing, blossom-like fragrance and a slightly sweet and spicy flavor. You can buy it in tea bags or as loose tea leaves. To make sure that you’re consuming high-quality Tulsi tea, buy it from a reliable and trustworthy manufacturer.

Make tea a part of your diet, whether it’s the Camellia sinensis varieties or herbal types like Tulsi tea. It’s surely a wonderful addition to your lifestyle.

About the Guest Author:
Mishka Thomas is a writer. She is currently researching about various tea varieties and their potential effects on a person’s overall wellbeing. She loves to drink tea, especially green tea and herbal varieties like Tulsi tea. She makes it a habit to drink tea at least twice a day.