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.