Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Moment of Wishes

It rained all of last night - a Christmas wish coming true for much of Southern California. As I stole a couple of quiet minutes on the front patio soaking in the foreign sight and sound and smell of rain, I began thinking of how the holiday season is a rather magical time when wishes large and small can indeed come true.

It's three days until Christmas, and not all the Christmas cards have been sent. It's a piecemeal Christmas season with the traditional CookieFest being spread out over 3 evenings rather than 1 full day. Get-togethers have been a hodge-podge of last minute and last second "Hey, if I bring a bottle of wine over, can the kids play for awhile?" to attending Disney's Frozen On Ice - which has been on the calendar since August, to the annual tamale-making with my friend's family, and anything and everything in-between.

And you know something? It's been really nice. Whether a quick afternoon tea at home with a friend or a large gathering of families, for whatever reason, the chaos and community of it all has been refreshing. It's all a bit of a blur, but a warm, fuzzy, wonderful blur.

There's a lot that needs to get done between now and Friday. And the reality is that it may or may not get done. But I'm rolling with that, this year. I think my friend, Lisa, of Chambre de Sucre got it right. She sent out several parcels to her friends that was filled with sweetness and the hope of wishes coming true. A set of pink mini heart-shaped sugars to make any day a little sweeter, and a tiny glass jar of wishes, ready to be set free whenever we need that extra push of hope or whimsy. That is exactly what this season is all about. Making each other's days a little sweeter, and remaining full of hope - and maybe creating hope for others as well.

If I don't write again before the end of the year, I wish you all peace, joy, and hope. Take care of the people around you, and enjoy the moments (rather than the things) that fill this Christmas season.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The 2015 Tea Moment Holiday Gift Guide

Isn't it fun to find the absolutely perfect gift for that friend, co-worker, family member, or special someone? If you know someone who enjoys tea, here are some of my favorite tea-inspired gift ideas for 2015.

For the Tea and Book Lover

The Tea Book, by Linda Gaylard, a.k.a. The Tea Stylist
A tea primer that masterfully unfolds the story of the tea plant, complete with a flavor wheel and the most comprehensive recipes for mixed tea beverages (both alcoholic and alcohol-free) that I've ever seen! Linda makes the world of tea beautiful, accessible and relevant in today's fast-paced society.

The Art and Craft of Tea, by Joseph Wesley Uhl
An enthusiast's guide to selecting, brewing and serving exquisite tea. Like everything Mr. Uhl creates, this book is masterful in telling the story of tea, revealing the simplicity and complexity of the world's favorite beverage, with many practical tips, recipes and brewing methods to take your personal tea experience to the next level.

Myths and Legends of Tea, by Gary Robson
Gary has a gift for making history come to life, and this book has become a fast favorite of mine. His tales span centuries and continents, and you'll find it hard to come up for air once you dive in. I'm relieved to see that this book is noted as Volume 1, because I can't wait to see what he'll write about next. (It also has the best "Forward" I've ever read, courtesy of Geoffrey Norman, a.k.a. The Lazy Literatus. 

The Ultimate Tea Mugs

Flying Tea Gourd Stainless Steel Tea Infuser Bottle
This 16 oz. Travel Tea Infuser has made me a believer. Not only is the stainless steel tea infuser basket deep enough to allow for proper steeping, this thing keeps your hot tea HOT and your cold tea COLD!!! If your tea lover is always on the go, this is the perfect gift that says, "Have tea, will travel." To receive $5 off, enter discount code TEAMOM15 at checkout.

American Tea Room Glass Tea Infuser Mug
Sheer elegance. Whether at home or in the office, this 16 oz. clear glass tea mug and its stainless steel infuser basket create an instant zen moment. Use the glass trivet to enclose the tea's aroma as it steeps and then place below the tea infuser once the infusion is complete. Give a gift that says, "I like what I see."

Tea Exploration
Tea of the Month by The Devotea
Choose a size, choose a frequency and get a package. It's as simple as that. This is a fun way to be introduced to a wider range of teas, whether single origin teas or club-only blends.  Each tea has a story, each blend - a rich history. Give a gift that says, "Signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours." To receive 20% off of your purchase, enter MOMENT at checkout.

Tea Blending Kit by A Gift of Tea
We each have a little bit if artist, a little bit of scientist in us, and this kit allows you to create your own custom masterpiece to be shared with loved ones or enjoyed on your own. Choose between Black Tea, Green Tea or Herbals. (If you're in the NYC area, you can register for tea blending classes too! Give a gift that says, "Choose your own adventure."

Four Seasons Tea Tan Yang Gong Fu Jin Xi Yu Tang -
Red Label Series
A relatively new tea company based in Toronto, this is a tea company that you'll want to keep on your radar. Not only is their website a guaranteed way to induce calm and relaxation, their tea is exquisite. Let Four Seasons Tea be your mentor in Chinese teas. Give a gift that says, "You're ready to take tea to the next level."

Joseph Wesley Tea For Two
A canister of the most incredible Chinese or Indian black tea and two cups nestled in a beautiful gift box, well, frankly, I'm hoping Santa delivers one of these to me! Whether a tea novice or connoisseur, these teas are among the best I've ever had, hands down. Perfection. Sophistication. No detail is left to chance. Give a gift that says, "Baby, you're worth it." To receive 20% off your purchase, enter 2015holidays at checkout.

Tea for the Animal Lover

Williamson Tea Christmas Special Gift Set
I love elephants, and I love tea, not necessarily in that order. But if your loved one is an animal lover and tea drinker, there is no better gift than this one for the holidays. A snowflake elephant tea caddy, Kenya Earth Tea (one of the best breakfast blends I've ever tasted), and a #KeepOnWandering enamel mug that will make you feel like you're on the set of "Out of Africa." All this, and with every purchase, £1 ($1.50 USD) will be donated to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that helps protect endangered African elephants and rhinos against poachers. Give a gift that says,"Let's address the elephant (caddy) in the room."

Enjoy this holiday season. Tell your family and friends how much you love and appreciate them. Invite them to join you for a cup of tea and share a Tea Moment together, be it silly or serious. It's not all about the gifts, though gift-giving can be so much fun. It's about being together, appreciating each other for who we truly are, and being grateful for the time we have with each other. I wish you joy, peace and contentment during this festive season.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Moment for Scottish Tea Growers

My mother being a Cunningham, I can't help but love all things Scottish. So when I heard that there was to be a gathering of Scottish Tea Growers, I was more than happy to share the news!

Scottish Tea Plantation. Photo courtesy of Wee Tea Plantation

Scotland’s Growing Wee Tea Gardens
Perthshire tea plantation has helped create ten more in Scotland due to high demand for iconic hotels!

A newly formed Scottish TeaGrowers’ Association has staged its first AGM on November 20, 2015 with the country now boasting ten gardens growing to the tipple. Wee Tea Plantation owner Tam O’Braan has been working alongside others in all corners of Scotland to develop a double figured number of growers.

Tea Garden on the roof of The Dorchester.
Photo courtesy of Wee Tea Plantation
Some of the gardens are already attracting elite customers such as The Dorchester hotel in Mayfair who were so inspired they installed their own roof top tea garden while serving Dumfries & Galloway’s own grey tea- Garrocher Grey. Garrocher Tea Garden owner Angela Hurrell went down to close an exclusive agreement with the iconic London hotel.

I have to admit I have never ordered Afternoon Tea before and The Dorchester Hotel gave me the confidence of knowing that with our tea every possible modern convenience was at hand but still there was time to rest and enjoy in very comfortable surroundings”

Terraced Tea Garden. Photo courtesy of Wee Tea Plantation
O’Braan stated that “It’s been our stated aim to grow an industry, not just one business and
while most of the members won’t have a commercial quantity until 2018 they’ve taken the first steps to grow a new drinks industry”. While traditionally no one would have considered Scotland a natural location the variety of tea plant used by all the Scottish growers (Cameliia sinensis sinensis) stems from the Himalayas already grows at minus 15 degrees centigrade.

Due to the slower growth of the Scottish leaf all of the resulting teas develop superior flavours. “A happy coincidence as to make this sustainable we have only supplied teas of the highest quality commanding a premium price. If one’s supplying The Dorchester then it’s no surprise when a call comes in from the Rtiz or one of their many comparable global rivals.

Turning down Harrods the prestigious retailer Fortnum & Mason were preferred by Dalreoch to launch Scottish teas in 2014 and were followed this year by their rivals Mariage Frères- the premium Salon du Thé au Paris. The Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh was the first hotel in Scotland to serve the tea early in 2015. All of those names and the many more +5 Star establishments are queuing up to work with the other Scottish Gardens in the coming years.

Scottish Tea Growers
Agronomist Tam O’Braan has worked in crop research in extreme heat or cold before returning to Scotland and starting his idea for Scottish tea in 2010. The Wee Tea Plantation uses cutting edge methods for growing tea. The teas are sold through his friends business The Wee Tea Company and given as gifts during UK trade and diplomatic visits.

Unique teas are being grown and developed in Aberdeenshire, The Isle of Mull, Lismore, Orkney, Peebles, Perthshire and Dumfries & Galloway. A processing centre for freshly picked tea leaf is under construction at Perth & Kinross. New jobs and program of high-end tea training not known to exist outside of Asia is presently underway for the two first ever young British Tea Sommelier.- both local young people with appropriately sensitive palates.

The Scottish Tea Growers.
Photo courtesy of Wee Tea Plantation

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Moment Among the Elephants

I must have been Edie's age, around 7 years old, the year my Grandma took me to the Circus. I remember two things: eating popcorn and riding an elephant. My Grandma could not believe that her quiet, shy granddaughter was truly determined to sit atop a pachyderm, but there it was. There would be no stopping me. Much to the chagrin of my older brother, an elephant ride for me meant an elephant ride for him. I could hardly contain my excitement as I climbed up into the carrier on top of that amazing creature. I don't know how many children were packed up there, but I made sure I was in front. I imagined I was alone, on an African savanna, just me and my elephant. I remember the deep, grey wrinkles and being surprised by the rough sprouts of hair on its skin. It was thrilling.

Elephants were always interesting to me. One of my favorite chapters in the book, "The Secret Garden," was when Mary discovered the room with the cabinet of carved elephants. I read that chapter again and again.

That's one of the reasons I was so excited to receive a beautiful elephant tea caddy gift set from Williamson Tea, Tea Farmers in Kenya since 1869. And with it, an enamel mug. Visions of sitting outside my safari tent near an open fire, my fingers curled around the mug, the trumpeting of elephants in the distance... it was nearly tangible.

I wasted no time in brewing a cup of Kenyan Earth, their English Breakfast blend, made with Kenyan tea. I'll admit I was hoping beyond hope that it would be good. I've had challenges with Kenyan teas in the past. This one had to be good. It just HAD to be.

And it was! The first sip, the first wonderful sip was everything an English Breakfast blend should be. Bold, malty, and smooth. Absolutely perfect. So perfect, in fact, it has been my morning cup of tea all week long. And the caddy? It sits atop my wall-of-tea that is a work-in-progress. I can look up from my desk and I can happily be aware of the elephant in the room.

These days, we're more aware of the treatment of animals in captivity, and even Ringling Brothers has said they will be retiring their 13 travelling elephants by 2018 in response to the changing attitudes of its customers. The focus has shifted to conservation, and rightly so. The elephant population continues to dwindle due to poachers (100,000 were killed in just 3 years according to one report).  Which is another reason I am quickly becoming an uber-fan of Williamson Tea. They partner with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of pioneering conservation organizations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. For every elephant caddy sold, Williamson Tea donates £1 to the Wildlife Trust. 

Thank you, Williamson Tea. #KeepOnWandering

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Moment in Tina's Traditional Old English Kitchen

Just outside the hustle and bustle of Indianapolis, lies a beautiful gem of a town called Carmel, Indiana. It was in this small town of boutiques and cafes that I found Tina's Traditional Old English Kitchen. 

In true British style, this tea room has corners dedicated to the Royals, 

as well as whimsy. 

But most important of all, it has traditional English Afternoon Tea.

I always enjoy seeing who visits local tea rooms, and at Tina's there was a bridal shower taking place in one corner, with family and friends enjoying their special time together, a couple of small tables of guests, and then a couple who obviously visited the tea room regularly, as they chatted with Aaron, the server, and exchanged news about mutual acquaintances. 

As I was given the menu, Aaron also offered the opportunity to learn a little history about the tradition of afternoon tea, which of course I accepted. And I was so glad I did! It was refreshing to hear the distinction of "High Tea" and "Afternoon Tea" and to understand that what I would be indulging in was Afternoon Tea. 

High tea refers to an early evening meal that typically consists of tea, a hot dish, bread and cake. It was traditionally the after work meal of the working class (now more often referred to as supper), and served at the kitchen table (as opposed to low tables next to comfy chairs in the parlor). Afternoon tea was more of an upper class refreshment with dainty sandwiches, scones and clotted cream. It was more of a social event than a meal. 
I ordered a pot of Prince of Wales, a black tea blend consisting of Kenyan and Assam teas, and I knew I had chosen the right venue when I saw there was a sugar bowl of sugar cubes (not packets) on the table.

When the 3-tiered tray was delivered, all was right with the world. Traditional tea sandwiches (cucumber, ham and mustard, coronation chicken), scones with imported clotted cream, and just the right amount of sweet treats to cap it all off.

Someone asked me today to describe what the 'draw' of afternoon tea is for me. I think a big part of it is a sense of tradition, of being part of something more than just a moment in today's world. We all have a need for heritage of some sort. This is one of the few instances where we can re-create a time and tableaux of the days of yore. There is a romantic notion surrounding tea with friends and family. Even tea all by myself.  It comes down to a feeling of being taken care of or taking care of others. Some people might enjoy it because they can show off their culinary or decorating skills. Some might be drawn to the effect it has on a crowd, however intimate or large: conversation flows easily over afternoon tea, similar to (and yet more refined than) gathering at a bar with friends. It's relaxing, it's elevating, it's fancy (and yes, sometimes a gal just needs to feel fancy).

Maybe that's why I enjoy visiting tea rooms across the country and around the world. I admire the environment these proprietors create so that people can enjoy a simple, yet elegant, pleasure. They are all so distinct and different, but there are basic elements that are the same.

If you're ever passing through Indiana, and you are in need of a moment with tea, look for the exit for Carmel, and stop by Tina's Traditional Old English Kitchen. Use all of your senses and drink it all in. And enjoy.

To visit:
Tina's Traditional Old English Kitchen
30 N Rangeline Rd,
Carmel, IN 46032
(317) 565 9716

Open from 11am - 4pm DAILY for lunch and afternoon tea
Brunch is served weekdays 9.30am - 11am
Full English Breakfast is available on Sundays from 11am

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Moment of Subtle-Teas

As November rolls in quickly after the hype and fanfare of Halloween, there is a subtle shift in the air. If you aren't paying attention, you'll wake up one day and wonder where the early morning chill came from or realize you suddenly need to switch the climate control to 'heat.'

But if you've been paying attention, you'll notice the temperatures dip a little lower, a little colder each evening. You'll pull on PJ pants one night rather than PJ shorts, then reach for an extra throw for the bed the next night, and then for an extra blanket the next. Mornings have that delicious chill. The kind that invites you to sit outside on the patio with that hot cup of tea, because the juxtaposition of hot hands and cold feet is suddenly perfectly balanced.

I enjoy those subtleties, and maybe that's why I enjoyed The Devotea's Ali Shan Oolong during these increasingly cool mornings. Oolongs in general, I find, are floral and perfume-y, usually in a good way. But this Ali Shan, which is one of the more refined oolongs, holds back and is rich in subtleties.

The steeped liquid is pale yellow and is as smooth as the fog that envelopes the tea plants in the Central Mountain range of Taiwan. The floral quality is exceptionally light, and there is a mild sweetness that lingers. It is not a bold or brash tea, nor is it meant to be. Steeping it longer will intensify the flavor but not the astringency, which is always a good thing in my book (and because I tend to oversteep everything!)

This Ali Shan is a perfect and gentle introduction to Oolongs for the reluctant explorer. And as the holidays approach, it could be the perfect gift for that special someone who enjoys tea. Go ahead - indulge in something subtle and sublime.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Moment with Tea of a Different Color

There's black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong tea. I've even heard of red tea. But yellow tea? This mythical brew was as steeped in reality as Bigfoot or efficient DMV offices, as far as I knew. 

Until I was invited to a private tasting, hosted by Jo Johnson, of A Gift of Tea. During this tasting, the participants would sample 3 teas, (one black and 2 yellow teas), and discuss our thoughts. There was a 4th tea we would be able to sample on our own and provide notes to the group. All teas were provided by the highly esteemed Seven Cups, based in Tucson, Arizona. 

A Tea Tasting is quite an event. But a long-distance Tea Tasting takes things to a whole new level! Our international group met via Google Hangout and included our host, Jo (New York), Nicole Martin of Tea For Me Please (New Jersey), Geoffrey Norman of Steep Stories of the Lazy Literatus (Oregon), Rachel Carter of iHeartTeas (Illinois), Robert Godden of The Devotea (Adelaide, Australia),  Linda Gaylard of The Tea Stylist (Toronto, Canada), Sara Shacket of Tea Happiness (New York), Darlene Meyers-Perry of The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook (New Jersey), and Nicole Schwartz of The Devotea USA (Virginia). 

Tea Bloggers Unite!

Yellow tea is a highly specialized tea, requiring lots of time to process. It is so specialized and complicated, that there are only 3 regions in China that still hone the skills to craft this unique tea. A lightly oxidized tea, it is said to create a lot of digestive enzymes, making it gentler on the stomach than green tea.

Seven Cups is one of the few American tea retailers who sells true Yellow Teas, and we were fortunate enough to taste two of the three they have available.

The first yellow tea was Meng Ding. The dry leaves are flat and light green. They resemble pine needles but smell like hay. Add hot water and suddenly the scent changes to asparagus and artichoke. Then it was time for my first sip. The green vegetable scents translated into the taste, and I realized this tea had an interesting influence of both green and oolong teas, though leaning more toward the green tea. I liked that the leaves can be steeped several times, and with each steeping, the flavor changes subtly.

The second was Mo Gan Huang Ya. These dry leaves smelled more grassy, with a hint of toasted almond. And then the big surprise: the steeped leaves gave of a lightly vanilla-grass aroma, and the first sip? Lightly creamy with some faintly toasted notes of rice or almonds. A cousin, perhaps, of Milk Oolong, which is one of my favorites. I fell in love with this one instantly.

The teas were lovely (thank you Austin Hodge for providing the teas for this tasting!), and the gathering of friends was fantastic. I got to glimpse a snippet of everyone's homes and lives, and enjoy their senses of humor in real-time. Discussions wandered from bears to electric blankets to chocolates to children's nighttime routines, to local farmer's markets. We got to say hello to Robert's lovely wife, wave goodnight to Rachel's son, enjoy background banter of everyone's "real" lives, and raise our handcrafted snails in their artist's honor (Thank you, Jo). 

Want to read more about our Tandem Tea Tasting?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Moment to Introduce Teforia

It's exciting to see a new business develop and unfold, and even more exciting when that business has to do with tea. That's why I've been anxiously awaiting this day, when the world gets to see what the creators of Teforia have been up to. I think what they are doing will take the experience of tea at home to a whole new level. And so, it is with great pleasure I help to announce the launch of Teforia and their Intelligent Infuser. (P.S. I must have one.)

Award­-Winning XBOX Designers Unveil Teforia, the First Machine­Learning Brewing Device That​Blends Centuries of Tea Knowledge With Modern Science to Craft the Perfect Cup of Tea

Offering exclusive teas from Mighty Leaf Tea, Samovar Tea and Smith Teamaker, Teforia creates a healthier cup of tea with customizable flavor profiles, caffeine dosage and antioxidant levels

For all the innovations of the last 5,000 years, there has been almost zero advancement in tea brewing. This means that for 158 million Americans who drink tea on any given day, it is a crude, unsophisticated experience typically consisting of a bleached tea bag in a cup of boiling water. To make matters worse, tea drinkers are also missing out on the rich, complex flavors of pure tea. This utilitarian approach to brewing tea has all but destroyed the ritual experience and ignores the intricacies around each varietal, leaving consumers without a fully developed expectation for the true sensory experience tea offers.

As the world’s most consumed beverage, second only to water, we’re way overdue for a way to advance tea into something healthier, full of flavor and more fitting to each person’s unique palate. Enter Teforia’s intelligent infuser.

The perfect blend of tradition and science

Utilizing proprietary Selective Infusion Process (“SIP”) ​technology and environmentally-­conscious smart packaging, Teforia automatically determines the best brewing method for each varietal. Teforia’s advanced algorithms combine the knowledge of multi­generational tea masters with modern machine-­learning technology to bring out the richest and most robust flavor in your tea. Rather than relying on the mundane and imprecise experience of a tea bag, the Teforia infuser is a tea master at your fingertips ­­ your tea always tastes exactly as it was intended to.

Crafting an exceptional cup of tea with the proper balance of flavors and aromas not only requires an intimate understanding of the tea itself, but also a scientific attention to detail. Consider two green teas ­­ Sencha and Dragonwell. Though similar in visual appearance, they actually require very different brewing techniques and deliver two distinctive flavors. A change of just three degrees in temperature and/or five seconds in brewing time can make all the difference between a bitter taste and an impeccable cup of tea.

Beyond recognizing the perfect recipe for every varietal, Teforia can also learn from, and adapt to, each tea drinker’s taste preferences while giving users the ability to customize each cup. For example, Teforia’s features include:

·         Personal recipe creation​­­ - Allows users to seamlessly adjust the various properties of any tea and create their own recipes with custom caffeine levels, antioxidant levels, flavor and aroma notes.
·         Caffeine management​­­ - Ability to program customized day and night settings for brewing tea with varying caffeine levels based on your preference for enjoying tea in the morning vs. evening. Users are even able to decrease caffeine content by up to 67%.
·         Antioxidant amplification­­​ - Users can increase the increase the amount of Gallocatechin (one of the major antioxidants found in tea) by up to 133% for an even healthier cup of tea.
·         Companion mobile app for iOS and Android­​­ - Offers seamless re­ordering options for teas and water filters, in­depth background on the grower and origin of each tea and recommendations for new teas based on the ones you already love.
·         Intuitive UI - ­­​Lets users slide their finger across the flavor/aroma palette to create and save their ideal tea recipes.
·         Quick & simple to use​­­ - One touch of a button delivers the perfect cup in half the time of conventional methods.

“On a trip to Asia three years ago, I had a cup of tea that changed my life and transported me back to my childhood,” said Allen Han, CEO and founder of Teforia. “That discovery led me to realize how the $90 billion dollar global tea market largely consists of commercialized brewing methods and treatments. Most tea drinkers don’t know what they’re missing, so I wanted to create a way to perfect the process of brewing tea while honoring its tradition.”

After several years and generations of product design and development, Teforia was created by some of the best minds in product design, responsible for category-­defining products such as the XBOX360 and Kindle Fire. The team has also won multiple Red Dot Design Awards, the IDEA Design Excellence Award and the Good Design Award ­­ awards given to the likes of Apple, BMW and Bose.

Teforia is accepting orders starting today for an exclusive limited release of 500 devices and will begin shipping throughout the United States in Spring 2016. Teforia will retail for $1299, but for the first 500 devices, buyers can enjoy an early ­bird price of $649. Early buyers will receive a special gift box including thirty servings of exclusive loose­ leaf tea from Teforia's private collection, and featuring tea from partners Mighty Leaf Tea, Samovar Tea and Smith Teamaker. The first 500 buyers will also be able to choose their own limited edition serial number for their Teforia Infuser, will receive an invitation to VIP tea tasting events, and have the opportunity to win a one­-week tea sourcing and tasting trip with Teforia at an exotic location.

To place an order for your Teforia and learn more, visit teforia.com.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Moment with The Tea Stylist

It was the summer that she was 7 years old. She and her mother had gone to visit her great aunt who owned a rustic lodge on a river in a resort town. It was on that visit that the great aunt announced, "I think Linda is ready to try some tea." The china was brought out, the tea was steeped - it was loose leaf Ceylon. The clink of the china, the deep amber color of the tea, the heat rising from the cup. As she sat there included in this female triumvirate, she knew it was a special moment.

For Linda Gaylard, a.k.a. The Tea Stylist, this is just one of so many moments that piqued her interest in tea and lead her to where she is today: a known and respected Sports News Wardrobe Stylist-turned Tea Sommelier, Educator, and - now - Author.

Linda's Susie Cooper saucer c. 1930’s and cup c. 1950’s
filled with Darjeeling tea from Singell Estate
I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of Linda's new book, The Tea Book (DK |Penguin Random House), and let's just say the world became a little brighter as a result.

Yes, there are many books available on the subject of tea. But what was most important to Linda as she researched and wrote and collaborated on this book (and what it most notable to me as a reader) is that it be accessible and accurate.

While enjoying a long distance cup of tea with Linda (she sipped a Darjeeling, I an Assam), she shared her vision of what The Tea Book should be: the resource she wished she had had when she was first exploring teas. And what a resource it is. Starting with a beautiful, simple, yet eloquent understanding of the tea plant and the variety of types of tea that come from that one plant, the book provides the practical instruction on how to store it, how to brew it, how to appreciate it.

One of my favorite pages in The Tea Book displays the "flavor wheel," which gives me better vocabulary on how to describe the spectrum of flavors and aromas I experience in different cups of tea. Hay or Bok Choy, for example, to more accurately describe something that is Vegetal. Butterscotch or Molasses to clarify a type of sweetness.

We discussed the layout of the book, because I found it to be so enjoyable and educational and easily consumable. You can lose yourself in the book for 2 minutes or 2 hours. The words, descriptions and observations are balanced equally with beautiful and complementary graphics and images. I asked her about her ability to boil such vast amounts of information down into bite sized pieces and she attributed it to her school years where the art of précis was instilled (a brief summary of the main points and ideas of a piece of writing or speech). I joked that our penchant for Twitter probably didn't hurt either!

I asked what Linda enjoys most about her work with tea, and she shared that teaching is the most enjoyable. Whether it's hearing the questions that come out from a group of students or seeing the recognition light up someone's face when they 'get it,' it's very rewarding. And if she has time (which is very difficult to pin down recently) she truly enjoys the art of Tea Styling: putting tableaux together of a tea moment - something I can definitely appreciate! She has always had lots of tea ware and is always on the lookout for something unusual from a different era or place.

When I asked what she enjoyed most about writing her book, she admitted the recipes were a lot of fun, and I can see why! There are nearly 70 pages of recipes for tea-based beverages for every type of tea and tisane. Both alcoholic and alcohol-free, there's a new and enlightening tea recipe for every palate! I find it a wonderful way to bring tea to the modern era in a very relevant way. (And her husband was happy to be a guinea pig for many of the trial recipes - Lucky Duck!)

Our conversation could fill an entire book, but for now we must be content with a rather lengthy blog post. I'm so grateful to have had the chance to get to know more about this educator, wife, mother, and creative spirit. If there's a tea enthusiast in your life, know that you now have the perfect gift idea for them as the holidays approach:

THE TEA BOOK, by Linda Gaylard
A DK Publication

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An American Moment - LA Style

The rumors have been circulating for well over a year: American Tea Room was opening a new location. In Downtown L.A.

When I first heard this rumor, I thought the choice odd. But then I began hearing about the "rebirth of #DTLA" (Go ahead. Google it) and it all began to make sense. Cut to the evening of October 8th, and the picture was crystal clear. American Tea Room is now in Downtown L.A. and is the epitome of hip, cool elegance.

Sleek lines, exposed duct work, an interactive Tea Zone, a living wall. All of this and amazing tea, too.

 My friend, Maritza, joined me for the event. Our first stop was at the Tea Cocktail station where we were served Sweet Dreams and Tonic, a vodka drink with Sleeping Beauty, an organic herbal with the heady aromas of rose, mint and fennel. 

Everywhere I looked, there was a feast for the eyes. Beautiful displays, eclectic artwork and comfortable lounge areas. The one thing I couldn't wait to see? The Wall Of Tea with its new gold pyramid tea canisters. It is glorious. 

The #DTLA American Tea Room Grand Opening event was about a place and about tea, yes, but it was also about people. It was so fun to see owner, David Barenholz, in his element.

And it was great to connect with Tony Gebely (American Tea Room's new Director of Technology and Distribution) and his wife, Katie.

As Downtown LA continues to reinvent itself, there is no doubt American Tea Room will be a hub of connections and indulgence. Maritza, let's meet there again soon.

The best moments are shared

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Moment to Fixate on Assam

I'm often asked what my favorite tea is, and although it's difficult to say exactly what my absolute favorite is (it can and does change daily), I do know what my favorite type of tea is.


Even the name is strong and soothing.

I like that Assam teas are typically bold, rich and malty. For those who are trying to find an alternative to a coffee habit, Assam teas can be a good option because of their robust characteristics. (Or as I like to say, a tea that kicks you in the teeth!)

While I love whole leaf, single estate teas, I also enjoy blended black teas that feature Assam as a main ingredient, most notably English or Irish Breakfast blends.

You'll find me sipping Assam - based Breakfast blends from a variety of cups or mugs ( the Rooster mug, most often), but when I'm indulging in a special, single estate or high quality Assam, it's time to bring out the white and platinum tea cup. My mother-in-law inherited this set of china, Konigl pr Tettau La Mer, from her aunt and gave it to us as our wedding china. Though we rarely use the dishes, I elevate certain cups of tea by using a beautiful cup and saucer from the set.

Some of my favorite Assams? I'm so glad you asked.

Top of my list:
Assam Black Tea No. 2 by Joseph Wesley Black Tea
Assam Hazelbank (which I can't find anywhere at the moment, much to my chagrin)
and Mokalbari Estate Assam from American Tea Room

These are teas that begin my days perfectly. They are the teas that allow me to slow down, contemplate, enjoy. They are the James Bonds of tea. Powerful, unfailingly smooth, unforgettable. (And I wouldn't mind fancying myself a Bond girl. But one of the Bond girls that doesn't end up dead. I much prefer staying alive, thank you.)

And if you find Assams overpowering, they also dress up very well (rather like a secret agent I know). A little milk and sugar, and you'll be hooked.

As I begin planning my wall of tea, you can be sure to find Assam being well-represented in the collection.

Friday, September 25, 2015

An Evening in the Jardin Moment

I hear that summer has officially ended, but as a resident of Southern California, we'll be having toasty days and sultry nights for at least a couple of months. So while many of my friends in the northern reaches are starting to enjoy warm evening tisanes and tumblers, I am in want of something chilled.

I'll enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio from time to time, but I'm wanting to avoid alcohol before bedtime. Iced tea is off limits, too, as any caffeine after 3 p.m. will keep me awake for hours.

As fortune would have it, I received a package from my friends at Palais des Thes, introducing me to their "Les Jardins" (Garden) collection of herbal infusions. From the moment I opened the package, my senses were already engaged. "Garden" is right! The delicate scents of fruits, berries, spices and flowers washed over me. My first infusion? Hanging Garden, or Jardin Suspendu.

The herbal tea bags are jumbo sized to brew an entire pot of tea with one bag. I steeped one bag in a half liter of water for about an hour at room temperature, then I removed the bag and put my steeped carafe into the refrigerator.

Night has fallen, the girls are finally in bed. It is finally my time to unwind. My first sip of chilled Hanging Garden is heavenly. The light floral bouquet with a hint of the citrus-y bergamot and the bright mango combine beautifully into a refreshing treat without being overly sweet. I'm able to sip slowly and savor the flavor and the scent.

The back door is open and the warmth of the evening drifts in lazily. I listen to the sounds of suburban California. Car doors shutting as families arrive home for the night. Giggles of the teenage girls down the street. Crickets. A rustle in the bushes from a bunny (or a skunk, though I prefer to think it's a bunny!).

Summer may be over, but warm nights on the patio with iced (herbal) tea are not.

Monday, September 21, 2015

An American Made Moment

One of the tea companies that I love the most is a 2015 Food Finalist in the Martha Stewart American Made Competition!

Joseph Wesley Black Tea has made quite an impression and has quite a story, which has caught the attention of Martha Stewart's empire. If you haven't heard about this remarkable company based in Detroit, Michagan, you can read my original blog post on them here.

I love so many of Joseph Wesley's black tea, but 2 of my favorites are 02 Assam and 07 Lapsang Souchong. Please take a few moments and vote your support for this remarkable company! 

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Moment with Jane

I've known the name, "Jane Pettigrew," for over a decade, now. Since I very first began learning more about the world of tea, her name has been at the top of the list of leading experts and educators on the subject. Her name was on the marquee of numerous seminar and panels at the conferences I'd attended. The books that she wrote were and are known as the gold standards of tea tomes. And yet, I'd never met her.

Until now.

There's always a tiny fear when one has the opportunity to meet someone he or she has respected and/or admired from afar. What if they are snobbish or condescending? What if they are full of themselves? Jane is non of those things. In fact, I found her to be as gracious, kind and effervescent in person as I've experienced from her presentations and writings.


As we chatted on our way to the studio, I learned that she got her start in tea 33 years ago when she and some friends opened a tea shop in London. They had no experience, no knowledge... they just thought it would be a fun and interesting business. Three decades later, she is recognized as on of the foremost voices of tea, as demonstrated by her 2014 World Tea Award for Best Educator and 2015 World Tea Awards (plural!) for Best Tea Personality and Best Tea Health Advocate.

I asked her what she's working on at the moment, and she shared the progress she's making in helping to found a Tea Institute in the UK. Yes, you read that correctly. There currently is no formal institution of higher learning on the subject of tea in the UK. And she's working to remedy that!

As we waited in the green room, we shared a cup of Golden Phoenix provided by Jesse Jacobs of Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. As we sipped this incredibly smooth tea, I sat back and enjoyed learning of more of Jane's life, growing up in London, and learning that one thing she was most excited about was flying home in time for the finale of The Proms, an 8-week summer season of classical music concerts and events that dates back to 1895. Though one can purchase tickets to an indoor seating area for the concerts, what Jane loves most is that anyone can still just "pay a fiver," bring a picnic and listen to the music in the nosebleed section, and have that access to a beautiful moment.

Once it was time to get to work, I enjoyed seeing Jane in action as much as I enjoyed chatting with her. She was kind and engaging with every person with whom she interacted. She was genuinely interested in each of them.

There's a reason Jane Pettigrew has risen to superstar status in the tea world. Yes, she is knowledgeable, and well-spoken, and talented as a speaker and author. But there is more to it. She's a lovely human being.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Down To The River Moment

It's been nearly 16 years since Gene and I packed up both of our cars and drove from Boise, Idaho to Southern California to start our new married life together. And while we enjoy the perks of living so close to the ocean, the truth is that I'm a mountain girl at heart.

Columbia River, Oregon
To scratch that itch, we used the long weekend to fly to Portland and take a mini road trip through the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon toward our final destination of Boise. As our drive began, there were lush, green pine forests in every direction. The late afternoon sky was blue with just a few fluffy white clouds, and then there was the river. The Columbia River. Surrounded alternately by steep mountains, thick forest and mossy banks, to me this is one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

We stopped at Skamania Lodge (because - how great is the name?) for the night and enjoyed being right in the thick of it. Mountains. Trees. River. I soaked it in. It fed my soul.

The complete contentment of the time there made me think about my connection to other rivers. One in particular came to mind. The Doke River of Bihar, India. I've never been there, but I've met the man who has nurtured a tea garden on the banks of that river, Mr. Rajiv Lochan.

The Doke River. Photo courtesy of Doke Tea
His family recently sent me a small collection of teas, and one in particular, has become a fast favorite. Although I've enjoyed it before, it's been awhile, and that first taste...  Well, it, too, fed my soul.

Doke Black Fusion. It has everything I want in a black tea - it's hearty, on the verge of bitter. There's a slight edge that brightens it and keeps it from sliding too far down the bitter path. While it's recommended to steep for 1-2 minutes, I find (happily) that I can steep it for longer. It only grows more robust rather than astringent. I was not at all surprised to learn that this year, Doke Black Fusion won a Gold Star at the Great Taste Awards. It's just that good.

This weekend was a good reminder to me on the importance of getting back to your essentials every once in a while. What is it that immediately calms you or makes you smile. Is it a place? A friend? A macaron? A cup of tea? Whatever it is, find a moment to be there.

Feed your soul.