Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Assam Daydream Moment

Occasionally, there are mornings that are perfectly still. Perfectly peaceful. The morning air is just the slightest bit damp, the leaves and flowers are plump and shiny with dew.

I'm sipping my cup of dark, malty tea. A single estate Assam. Its strength and smoothness a stark contrast to the quiet softness surrounding me.  What would it be like to be standing in the midst of the tea plantation of Assam Mangalam in the early morning mist? How would it feel to pluck the perfect leaves?

One day.

I'll know.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Chocolat et Fraise Moment

My first daughter often comes across as much older than her 5 years. So it thrills me to the core when I see her wholeheartedly throw herself into stereotypically 5-year-old games like playing "restaurant" or playing "teacher" with her class full of dolls and stuffed animals. Or playing dress-up.

On this particular morning, she dressed as a bride with tiara and requested tea with "the special sugars." Of course, my princess.

So we carefully chose the teapot, tea cups and accessories...

We selected and arranged the special sugars from Chambre de Sucre...

And then we chose from the sneak peek collection of teas that Chambre de Sucre will be releasing soon.  I read the names and descriptions of the teas aloud, we smelled the ones that she thought sounded most interesting. Her choice was quick, decisive. Tea No. 20 Chocolat et Fraise. Of course. The beauty of the dry blend and the aroma as it then steeps is a beautiful prelude to the first sip. The gentle sweetness of chocolate and strawberries is grounded firmly in an earthy puerh, so that the flavors are rich without being harsh or saccharine.

As she carefully selected her sugars (one for her tea and another to eat), we chatted about favorite summer activities. About how she'd like to visit New York City again and go to the Central Park zoo. She'd like to show her little sister the polar bear's butt (which is all we've ever been able to see when visiting the polar bear's habitat).  She wondered who she might marry someday (after graduating college, travelling the world a bit and finding a job, I added helpfully), and informed me that she would be getting TWO dogs when she was grown up. A big one and a little one. But they'd still be friends, even if they were different sizes.

And then she insisted on taking a picture of me, too.

I love that as she is getting older, she finds pleasure in having tea with me. Her current highlight is choosing beautiful Chambre de Sucre sugars for our special tea moments together. Regular lumps of sugar will no longer do! But beyond the choosing of the sugars or the tea or the tea cups, she's ultimately choosing me. My first daughter is choosing to spend time with me. And that's the best moment of all.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Free To Be Libre Moment

It's the middle of July, and the weather has turned suddenly from clear-sky triple-digit heat to a soft grey drizzle.

There's something cozy and comfortable to me about this kind of weather, as if I was born to live in Seattle or London.

And what better to accompany this strange, coolish weather than a cup of tea. An oolong. Milk Oolong from American Tea Room, to be more specific. And I want it in a special mug, a Libre Tea mug, a gift, that lets me watch the agony of the tea leaves, but lets me sip the pure tea through its stainless steel filter.

Milk oolong comes rolled in tight, little green pellets, and as the hot water soaks into them, they slowly, beautifully unfurl and you can see the fullness of each individual leaf. They are larger and longer leaves than one would imagine. How did they get rolled into such tiny little bundles? The craftsmanship shines through. And I can watch it come undone and appreciate its journey through my own clear glass window.


I sit, I sip, I sink into the coziness of this moment...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Tea Tangent Moment

My great-grandma loved wooden art. In my childhood memories, her home was filled with them. There was a large tree stump entwined in brass oak leaves and fitted with glass shelves where photographs and figurines lived. There were smaller pieces too throughout the house. When I see interesting pieces of hand crafted wooden art, I think of her.
We just got back from a trip to my home town over the 4th of July, and as we drove past my great-grandma's old street, I once again wished she could have met my girls. And so as I began my week, I decided I wanted a bit of an homage moment to her. I brought out one of her platinum-rimmed, Japanese tea cups and a beautiful wooden objet d'art I discovered just a few short weeks ago.

I love this beautiful "Tea Nest" from the creative and crafty minds of Tea Tangent. I especially love the instructions that accompanies each:
Gently lay the stainless steel strainer into the wood holder. Place over your favorite tea cup.
Peacefully place 1 teaspoon of loose tea into the strainer.
Quietly pour hot water over the tea and steep to your desired strength.
Enjoy the soothing healing ~ qualities of loose tea leaves

I had the pleasure of meeting the incredible husband and wife team behind Tea Tangent, Julia Edgerton Simons and Jonathan Simons, at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. 
Julia has been designing and Jonathan has been crafting beautiful wooden kitchen utensils for years out of solid cherry wood.  But it wasn't until Julia became ill with Lyme disease that the Tea Nest concept was born out of necessity. Developing allergies to all plastics, she was finding it difficult to find tea accessories that she could use. She came up with the design, and after getting several requests from anyone who saw it, Tea Tangent was born. 

The beautiful designs are simple perfection, each one created with obvious care. The cherry wood comes from ecologically managed forests  and hand crafted in Pennsylvania in Jonathan's wood shop. 

I guess that's two more people I wish my great grandma could have met. Or at least I would have known exactly what to get her for Christmas this year.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Liberator Moment

A short week is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we have the anticipation of visiting relatives we haven't seen for months and months. A curse because the volume of work and life must still be packed into 2 less days. Today, I have the luxury of a blank calendar. Only one brief meeting (with my team to share some exciting new data that will help our department do some great things in the 2nd half of the year), and then wide, open space.

As anyone who has watched an episode of Project Runway (@Teas_Etc know what I'm talking about) or Top Chef has learned, being granted carte blanche can either be overwhelming or liberating. I choose liberating. Or more specifically, Liberator.

I have an extensive to-do list and a mere 8 hours in which to achieve it. And as shocking as this may be to many of you, sometimes coffee sounds like it might just be the ticket. But the problem is, I don't care for coffee. Never have. In college, I had a single serving coffee maker that I used to heat water for tea or Cup O' Noodles (+Robert Godden, don't ask. You'd be horrified). I love the smell, I just don't dig the taste.

Enter Java Tea Co. Here are some brilliant minds who "get" my dilemma. And they take the solution to the next level. By making coffee-inspired teas and hand-crafting them to tantalize each of my senses, they've solved my problem. This morning, I have brewed the Liberator. While I expected a base of black tea, this blend is rooted in rooibos and green tea and chunks of real, organic dark chocolate and cocoa. One sniff of the blend, and you'd swear it is freshly ground coffee, which I'm guessing is achieved by the inclusion of chicory root. And for an additional feast for the eyes, the blend includes bright blue cornflowers. The scent, the beautiful array of colors, the texture of the blend. Now it's time to taste.

Note, because my brain is craving coffee, I had to dress it as I would dress coffee. I dash of milk, a lump of sugar. That first sip, always my favorite. A surprisingly mellow mocha flavor, not as intense or as bold as coffee, but smooth, satisfying. I'm instantly thinking of my dad and how he's trying to cut back on coffee and drink more tea. More green tea, in particular. This may be just the ticket.

I'm ready for my day. I feel fortified by this innovative collision of worlds. Watch out, to-do list. I'm coming after you.