Friday, February 27, 2015

A 'Fine Words Butter No Parsnips' Moment

When The Devotea issues a challenge, The Underground Tea Syndicate rises to the occasion most splendidly. In this case, we were asked to take on the issue of, "Fine Words Butter No Parsnips."

The Syndicate has managed to make the little known connection of Parsnips and Yaks through this exercise. Paula Deen has even been brought to the table (figuratively). The opinions on parsnips, butter and yaks are many and varied.

Taking this into consideration, I've devoted a good amount of time ruminating on the issue. And here's the conclusion I have come to.

Parsnip Preparation by Alan Telford

Fine words butter no parsnips.

People do.

And with that, I feel I can sleep well tonight.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Long Jing Grand Cru Moment

It's been an unusually warm winter in Southern California. There are days that I long for the chance to wear sweaters and boots, but those days have been few and far between. Then there are days with just a hint of crispness and the morning sun has that twinkle of spring that bounces off the dew drops covering the blades of grass and shoots of lavender.

It was on a morning like this that I brewed up a cup of something very special. I had received a gift from Le Palais de Thes, a Grand Cru. Long Jing Premium 2014. Long Jing is arguably the most well known Chinese green tea in the world, but the description of this particular one makes it even more exciting and enchanting.

The tea leaves are harvested starting on April 5th, a holiday known as Tomb Sweeping Day, and continues for several weeks. The very first leaves harvested during the first three days are not sold. These are specially gifted to Chinese dignitaries.

There is quite an art to shape these leaves into "Buddha's eyelid," with the resulting leaves looking like a young shoot. There is roasting for a specified amount of time and movement that requires extreme precision. In the end, something very special is created.

As I inhale the fragrance of this highly prized brew, I encounter spring in my cup.  I can't wait. Time for the first sip. The tea itself is the height of luxury, so smooth, so rich. There are hints of nuttiness that float on the bed of earthy green hay, with the lightest citrus rounding out the edges.

In moments like these, I don't mind that winter never really appeared. I'm happy to welcome spring.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Young Mountain Tea Moment

It's rare that I would champion a tea that I have not personally tried, but then a visionary comes along who presents an idea that seeks to elevate the many, and not just a few, and that's something I'm very happy to champion.
Photo by Young Mountain Tea

In the Himalayan Mountains, in the Kumaon region, tea grows wild - an abandoned experiment by the British, who found it too difficult to transport the tea grown there to the ports. Raj Vable, Young Mountain Tea's founder, was inspired by his work with the non-profit group Avani, that creates rural livelihoods. He felt that if the tea could be cultivated once more, it would be something the world would want. And so the project begins.

Photo by Young Mountain Tea

Today marks Day 1 of the 30-Day Young Mountain Tea Kickstarter fundraising campaign. They aim to raise $24,000 to launch Young Mountain Tea and bring a beautiful new tea, Kumaon White Peony Tea, to the marketplace.

Backers of the project will:
- Be the first to drink a new white tea hand made in small batches, using traditional techniques and the highest quality leaves
- Create dignified rural livelihoods for remote mountain communities in the Kumaon region of the Indian Himalayas
- Increase resilience of mountain ecosystems by supporting organic permaculture that intercrops tea with other mountainous crops to restore biodiversity, strengthen native soils and prevent landslides.

Backer rewards range from a $10 sapling sponsorship to a $5,000 authentic Indian Tea Pilgrimage, including spending time in the new tea region and tours of each of India's main tea growing regions.

Learn more about how you can support this project by visiting:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Moment at Pelican Hill

I've heard the name, "Pelican Hill," since I moved to California 15 years ago. It's the kind of place that's always said with a raised eyebrow or a meaningful nod. The meaning: a place reserved for the upper crust.

So when I discovered that Pelican Hill, the Pelican Hill, offered afternoon tea, I just had to find a way to check it out. As it happened, a friend suggested we get together for tea before the holidays, and I told her I knew just the place!

South Orange County has beautiful coastlines, but the wild, rugged beauty of this particular venue is breathtaking. Nestled in the foothills, at the end of a secluded road that alternates between ornate and manicured entry gates to exclusive neighborhoods and the wild, native flora of Southern California.

Arriving at Pelican Hill there is the option of self-parking or valet. On display at the entrance are a 2015 car enthusiast's dream line up of Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Porsche and Tesla - the owners off romping about the resort.

Upon entering, you can see straight through to the opposite wall of glass that offers that that breathtaking view of an unspoiled, native coast.

We were seated for tea, accompanied by the lovely strains from the harpist whose repertoire had something for everyone - from classical pieces, to Train, to AC/DC.

Champagne was the first item on the agenda, a perfect aide to the next task of choosing the tea. The tea selection was presented in probably my favorite presentation to date. A box with glass test tubes, each labeled with the type of tea or infusion contained within. We were encouraged to explore, remove the stoppers and inhale the aromas before making our selection.

The tiered tray of sweets and savories arrived and we tucked in. I was happy to enjoy a version of both cucumber sandwiches and egg salad as well. The currant scones included jam, clotted cream and lemon curd on the side. And I was very pleased to note that a bowl of proper sugar cubes was on the table as well!

It was a full house that day. Every type of occasion was being celebrated, from friends catching up, to mother-daughter time, to a couple of suspected dates, to a large family holiday party where a grandmother presided happily over her daughters and granddaughters.

I don't know what voodoo magic takes place over tea, but time flies and stands still at the same time. What a pleasure to spend time with a good friend, catching up on all that has been happening. It felt like we were there for just a half hour, but just like that three hours had passed!

The price tag might be higher than other tea venues, and it might not be an every day thing, but the place, the view, the beauty, the experience... the moment... is worth indulging in every once in a while.

Afternoon Tea in the Great Room at Pelican Hill
Served Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 3:30 p.m.
Reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance
Call: 855.315.8214
22701 Pelican Hill Road South
Newport CoastCA 92657