Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Tea and Tempest Moment

One of the first Shakespeare plays that caught my imagination as a teenager was The Tempest, where in 1991 I was a volunteer usher for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. I was amazed at the portrayal of the elements and touched by the story of losing, finding and understanding family. And so I was so happy to learn that this year at our Ashland reunion, we would be seeing The Tempest at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival.

The Ashland reunion is the treasured biennial gathering of my mother, her sisters and their daughters and daughters-in-law. (Sometime I want to figure out how many years this reunion has been going on, but I will guess it is close to 20.) My aunt, D, is the one who organizes the lot of us, finding and renting a house in the small Oregon hamlet. Each reunion it seems the house she finds is more beautiful and more amazing, and this year was no exception: a 3-level, log-hewn home, more chalet than cabin, nestled in the wooded foothills above Lithia Park, the epicenter of the town.

For the past few reunions, I've been a part of the afternoon tea planning, and this year it was my pleasure to introduce my new obsession, Forsman Tea from Finland. Together with my Mom, Sister-In-Law, Cousin and 2 Nieces, we assembled sandwiches, pastry cups, fruit platters, salads, petit fours, and scones. I brewed a pot of Emperor's Choice Black Tea, a pot of LingonberryVanilla White/Green Tea, and a pot of Mao Hunan (a Chinese Green Tea that happened to be served to the Mayor of Shanghai when he visited Finland last August!).

Setting the table was an unexpected treat. Mom brought her own tea cups, tea pots and table cloths, so it felt more like home than ever! There's a story behind each tea cup, and the table cloth was a gift from Aunt Jane, my Mom's sister who was a big part of my discovery of tea. She passed away a few years ago. It was so nice to have that tangible reminder of her as we all enjoyed time together.

While I expected Emperor's Choice to be the runaway hit, I was pleasantly surprised to see my adventurous rellies try all of them!

Emperor's Choice was perfect for dressing with milk and sugar. (It has been a classic of Forsman Tea for nearly 20 years, and Finlands neighbor, Russia, is one of its biggest fans.) With hints of quince, lychee, orange and pineapple, the scent makes you happy even before the wonderful taste hits your taste buds.

Lingonberry Vanilla was an exploration into flavors none of us had experienced before. Lingonberries are the Scandinavian distant cousin to the cranberry. It lends a sweetness and almost an umami flavor to this beautifully balanced green and white tea blend.

And finally, Mao Hunan, a spiral green tea. A mellow green, it does not turn bitter very easily, which can be a challenge with a green tea if you're in the mood for slow-sipping. I was very happy to see many family members testing this one out and going back for seconds!

It makes me very happy to share these moments with some of the people I love the most. When friends hear about this particular reunion they have one of two reactions:
1. They wish they could come along too
2. They look at me in disbelief that I would actually choose to hang out with my extended family for multiple days.

We're a part of the same family, and there are tempests that each of us have weathered to get to where we are today, or even to this reunion, but in the end, this family time makes it more than worth it. Board games, a leisurely run on the forest trail, rocking on the porch swing, lying in the hammock, singing around the piano, a night out at the theatre - all rather like summer camp but with the best camp counselors you could ever
wish for.

Mom, Aunt S and Aunt D
I can't speak for the rest of the gals, but for now, my cup runneth over. I'm already looking forward to the next Ashland reunion. Two years and counting!

Enjoying another morning cup of Mokalbari Estate Assam
Thank you, Forsman Tea!
You can win a gift package of the 4 Forsman Teas we enjoyed in Ashland! To enter, simply "Follow" @ForsmanTea on Twitter or RT a post that includes @ForsmanTea between now and 11:59 p.m. on Monday, June 23rd. The winner will be randomly selected on June 24th. Drawing winner must have a U.S. mailing address to receive prize.

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