Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Tee to Tea Moment

It is a rare treat when I am ready, willing, and able to join Gene at the end of one of his business trips to steal a day or two of togetherness sans bébés. But I need all in place, and this week the stars aligned so that my parents could come for a visit and be the familial anchor my worrying mind needs. Also, it is the end of one of my busiest work months on record, and the destination? Hawaii. 'Nuff said.

A quick trip - arriving Wednesday night and departing first thing Saturday morning - there were just a few things penciled into the itinerary:
 - Golf at Oahu Country Club
 - A tea experience of some kind
 - Multiple hours on the beach
 - A fruity drink or two

The tea community being what it is, I asked where I should go for tea, and Nicole Martin, of Tea For Me Please, responded immediately that I needed to contact Elyse at Tealet who knows all things Hawaiian Tea.

So, on Thursday, we started the day at the Oahu Country Club, a beautiful place that was founded in 1906.
The staff was incredibly friendly and engaging, and despite both of us playing the absolute worst 9 holes in the history of mankind, we thoroughly enjoyed the lush, beautiful surroundings, the amazing variety of birds (though shocking lack of birdies), and the breathtaking views.
Then Gene headed off to a meeting and I headed from tee to Tealet.
Now let me just stop here and say that I was so struck by Elyse, her team and what they are accomplishing that I will be writing much more extensively about them in the near future. But for now, I'll focus on our tea moment.
Over the past year, the Tealet team has been working with small, independent tea growers around the world in order to help them gain access to the U.S. market. As I sat and listened - enraptured - to their story, Elyse's brother, Michael, brewed some tea.

The first was Japanese black tea, from Osamu Ueda, Tea Grower in Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan. (Check out his video interview to get the true flavor of his larger than life personality!) Kyoto, and Japan in general, is known for its green teas, so the idea of a Japanese black tea is exciting and new! This black tea had the delicate nature and coloring of a Darjeeling, but is extraordinarily smooth and velvety on the tongue. And while it is characteristically a black tea, there are threads of spring grassiness woven into the background, giving it a true mark of its Japanese origin.
The second was a Hawaii Rain Forest White from Bob Jacobson, Tea Grower on the Big Island of Hawaii. (Not currently available on Tealet.com, but you need to be aware of this tea!)This tea is a mere babe, being plucked from tea plants that are only 3 years old. And though young, this tea makes its presence known! A very full flavor, it hits every point on your palate, and there is the smallest floral nuance that makes me think of an oolong profile. But, being a Hawaiian-grown tea and thinking of the "terroir"- the soil, made up of such rich tropical fruits and flowers - it makes sense that essence would be absorbed into the tea's very being.
Though I only spent an hour with the Tealet team, I now consider myself to be a super-fan. One could even say I am an uber-fan. Their story is unique, inspiring and it makes the world a better place. I look forward to telling you all about them. Stay tuned!
The Tealet Team: Cody, Elyse and Michael 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Tea Fantasy Moment

On a week such as this, I give myself a moment or two to indulge in a brief fantasy. One that involves sitting at a little French table outside a little French sidewalk cafe, drinking a hot, French cup of tea. I watch the people walking by, the worker bees marching quickly to work, parents patiently guiding their dawdling little ones along to school, old men strolling along to their bar of choice, "comme d'habitude," some with little dogs, some without.

And there I sit, soaking it all in, luxuriating in the moment. Away from meetings, away from responsibility, away...

Just me and tea.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Tea and Testimony Moment

There were many things I knew, from a very early age, that I would absolutely never do. Deep sea diving. Getting married. Having children. Well, I was right about one of them. So far, anyway.

So now, being married with children, I have been exposed to entirely new and foreign worlds. One of them being Moms' groups. I was first wrangled into one by a former co-worker's wife who happened to have a newborn daughter at the same time I had Edie. It was a very informal group, all first time moms, all needing an outside activity. Then I was invited to a more formal group, known as MOPS, by that same former co-worker's wife. (She's a bit of a connector, you see. Over half of our MOPS group is there because of her!) I was hesitant about joining. I envisioned arts and crafts by the boat load, exchanging meat loaf recipes, and gossip sessions revolving around what idiots the men in our lives were.

As it turned out, it has been a very pleasant surprise to be a part of a group of women who are all in similar places in life (we all have small children), though with different backgrounds and roles (some are stay-at-home moms, some work part- or full-time, some grew up in California, some - like me - are transplants), and who are just as interested as I am in meeting new friends and asking for and sharing advice on the ever-changing landscape that is family life. The arts and crafts are almost nil (Hallelujah!), recipe exchanges are warmly welcomed by all (30-minute meals, anyone?), and the topics of conversation revolve around life in general, not male-bashing in particular (Hooray!).

For the second year, I have been involved in the annual Tea and Testimony night where we indulge in an evening tea and listen to a guest speaker. This year's menu included:


Refreshing cucumber sandwiches (see recipe below)

Waldorf salad sandwiches (see recipe below)


Gluten-Free Strawberry and Spinach Salad (recipe by Gluten Free Goddess)

Fruit Platter

Gluten-free cake

Dessert platter

Our tea was provided courtesy of American Tea Room. We chose no or low caffeine options because it was an evening event:

Decaf Earl Grey - I love this blend because it has all the full-bodied loveliness of its caffeinated counterpart, the light, citrus-y bergamot scent, and it works well with milk and sugar. (And yes, I brought sugar cubes!)

Lemoncello - You either love rooibos or you don't. Many of the moms loved this caffeine-free discovery that has hints of lemon, orange, and caramel-vanilla. And it smells just like its namesake!

Immortal Green - Always a favorite, this Japanese green tea with peach is very lightly caffeinated and is perfect for sipping hot or cold.

And as a special treat, American Tea Room provided its Bento Box Red Tea Collection as a door prize, which was given to our very special speaker.

The best tea moments are those that are shared, and the 30 women who gathered for this special evening had plenty of sweets, savories and sips to share, courtesy of the team of women who prepared the tea spread. Thank you to Dot, Megan, Rebecca, Julie and Sara for your culinary magic! As you can see, the result was happy Mamas!

The evening wrapped up with a guest speaker. This year, our speaker was extra special, in that she was one of our own group who had survived the kidnapping - and recovery - of her oldest son. Hearing her story and recognizing God's grace in each moment of what could be every mother's worst nightmare was incredibly moving and encouraging.  We were extremely blessed to be able to learn from what she and her family have been through. Thank you to SC for your words of strength and wisdom.

Whether you are a mom, a sister, a daughter or a friend, take some time to bring the special people in your life together over a cup of tea. Enjoy the conversation. Enjoy their presence. Enjoy a tea moment!

Additional Recipes

Refreshing Cucumber Sandwiches
1 – (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 medium cucumber, peeled, and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
8 white sandwich bread slices
1. Spread cream cheese on each slice of bread
2. Layer cucumber slices evenly on 4 slices of bread
3. Sprinkle dill lightly on remaining 4 slices of bread
4. Assemble sandwiches
5. Cut crusts from bread, using serrated bread knife (gentle back and forth sawing motion), discarding crusts.
6. Cut sandwiches diagonally into quarters. Store cucumber sandwiches in an airtight container for up to 1 hour before serving OR
 - Place slightly damp paper towel over the top of the sandwiches before placing the airtight lid on container for up to 12 hours.

Waldorf Salad Sandwich
3/4 cups walnuts (or pecans) coarsely chopped
3/4 cup Granny Smith apple, finely diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
2 scallions finely sliced
Salt to taste
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1.      Prepare dressing in small bowl and put in refrigerator to chill.
2.      Prepare remaining ingredients and place in larger bowl.
3.      When ready to assemble sandwiches, pour salad dressing over other ingredients and combine well.
4.      Butter 8 slices of whole wheat bread.
5.      Spread salad in a quarter-inch even layer between 2 buttered slices.
6.      Cut crusts from bread, using serrated bread knife (gentle back and forth sawing motion), discarding crusts.
7.      Cut sandwiches diagonally into quarters. Store sandwiches in an airtight container for up to 1 hour before serving OR
 - Place slightly damp paper towel over the top of the sandwiches before placing the airtight lid on container for up to 12 hours.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Himalayan Oolong Moment

I like to start my day with something dark and serious. A cup of tea that can grab me by the shoulders and give me a good shake. But recently, I've noticed that after lunch, I've got a hankerin' for something a little more mellow. Still bold - I need to know it's there - but slightly... less intense.

Lucky for me, a lovely package arrived in the mail just this week. A gift from my new friends at London-based Chateau Rouge Luxury Teas.

I love how each package is wrapped crisply and neatly in white tissue paper within the shipping box. The luxe experience begins upon its arrival on your doorstep!
To keep me company this afternoon, I'm enjoying their Himalayan Oolong. The description makes me that much more eager to taste it:

A very special tea from probably one of the most beatiful tea gardens up high in the Nepalese Himalayas. This Darjeeling styled rich oolong is made entirely by hand from only the tenderest autumnal leaves, producing long, twisted dark brown spicy fragrant leaves with golden tips. A must have for any tea connoisseur!

I don't know if it's just my repressed romanticism rearing its timid head, but I am completely captivated by reading the words, "one of the most beautiful tea gardens..."
On opening the tea, I'm met with a rich, earthy scent with a very, very faint touch of spice. I brew for the recommended 3 (ish) minutes, and it's time for that first sip.

Bold, smooth, with a touch of the floral bouquet I associate with oolongs, but it is balanced with an almost woodsy note. I could see the two of us spending many a productive afternoon together.

Chateau Rouge is a very new acquaintance, but I'm really enjoying their tea as well as their approach to tea. I don't know that I've ever done this before, but I encourage you to visit their web site. Their vision is helping us - the regular Joe's of the world - "discover remarkable teas." I like it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Rare But Exquisite Lady Devotea Moment

The tea enthusiast world is a lovely place, full of warm and wonderful individuals. Over the past few years, I've become acquainted with Robert Godden, aka The Devotea, who was kind enough to share a Moment here just a week ago. In the time I've gotten to know him, I've also seen glimpses of his "other half." He has spoken lovingly of finding a cabinet that he was sure she would love. He has mentioned times where the two of them have enjoyed an outing with friends, and his enjoyment of sharing those moments together with her absolutely shines through his written words. And so, when I received confirmation that The Lady Devotea herself was willing to share a Moment here, I was more than delighted! Any insights into the lives and goings-on in such a couple of Devoteas is a welcome event. Please enjoy this beautiful Tea Moment by Lady Devotea, Anne Drury-Godden.
My Dad was a Gentleman. Not in the “titled” sense, far from it.
He was humble, a family man, and had a heart of gold.
He loved Tea, and would walk in through the door, rubbing his hands together, saying “got the kettle on, love?” We always had.
I miss his jaunty walk, his caps, the smell of his aftershave. But most of all, I miss sharing a cuppa with him.
When Rob and I developed a Russian Caravan style tea, we decided to name it after my Dad, and so, Jim’s Caravan was born, or, should I say, brewed.
Dad enjoyed that slightly smokey taste, derived from centuries of campfires and dusty caravan trails.
Sitting there at our table, having that first, sweet sip, the emotions were running high.
But somehow, I felt his approval and his pride, his smile reflected in the ripples of the tea.
Just one cuppa, so many memories.
Anne Drury-Godden AKA Lady Devotea is one half of the dynamic duo who make up Australia’s most colourful tea company. When not actually blending the tea or conducting live tastings at pop-up tea shops she's adding the style and panache and keeping an elevated pinky on the pulse of tea.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Mandarin Oriental Tea Lounge Moment

It's a lovely thing to have a mobile office. It allows one, for example, to travel with husband on business trip, still work a full day, but have a lunch hour (or afternoon tea) at somewhere new and exciting.

And so here I am in Las Vegas, working from a Las Vegas Hotel room, and the Mandarin Oriental Tea Lounge is within walking distance! Perfect!

After making reservations (they strongly recommend it), I was able to secure a 2 p.m. seating.

Located at the top of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in City Center, Las Vegas, I have to say, the views are rather nice.

And the interior setting is not bad either!

They had my table waiting for me, and I was very impressed with the warmth, courtesy and professionalism of the entire staff!

The menu had a nice selection of teas to choose from: black, green, oolong and herbal infusions. (I chose Goldan Assam). If you like your teas to be strong, you may want to request they steep your tea for an extra minute, as I found mine to be barely understeeped. And although they committed the cardinal sin (in my book) of providing sugar packets instead of cubes, the tea pot warmer more than made up for it!

Their food presentation was one of the most unique I've experienced so far. They've taken the 3-tiered tray to a whole new level!

While they serve what I consider to be the basics: cucumber sandwich, egg salad, ham and curried chicken, the presentation was exceptional.

And the desserts were fun too!

There are only a few afternoon tea opportunities along the Las Vegas strip, and this one is worth a visit. So, when you're done with the gambling, the heavy drinking and the clubbing, and you need to inject some civility into your Vegas vacation, I know just the place for you:

The Mandarin Oriental
Tea Lounge
Tea service: 2 to 5 p.m. daily
Phone: (888) 881 9367