Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Coffee Tea and Tulips Menu Moment

It had been far too long since I'd visited the Moody Chef at Coffee, Tea and Tulips in Mission Viejo. So, I chose to treat myself on my birthday and take myself to tea. I let them know my plans via Twitter and they responded enthusiastically and almost immediately! (Find them on Twitter @CoffeeTeaTulips)

A scone and my favorite blend of their tea (Midnight in Paris) were waiting for me, and then the Chef and his lovely and hospitable wife, Lina, provided a birthday surprise: the opportunity to taste 3 new teas they will be adding to their menu!

The first - A Pineapple Oolong that was ever so light and whimsical.

Next - White Sangria - an amazing blend of fruit essences in a white Pai Mu Tan and Sencha blend that doesn't have the overly sweet fruity aftertaste that some fruit-infused teas can have. So good!

And last but not least, Meyer Lemon Vanilla Rooibos. Let me say that in general, I am not a Rooibos enthusiast. I appreciate everything about it, but it's not necessarily a flavor I prefer. The same goes for vanilla teas. And yet. And yet... Here is a blend that has changed my mind about both of these elements. Bright, refreshing, this tea is much greater than the sum of its parts. Run, don't walk, to try this tea!

And then, as is key when you visit Coffee, Tea and Tulips, there is the food. Oh, how I've missed these delights. The Royal Tea offers what I consider the basics of afternoon tea fare, but it is elevated to culinary nirvana. The simple egg salad, cucumber mint and curry chicken sandweeches (yes, you read that correctly) are simply more than you can imagine.

So, it was with great delight that I got the sneak peek at the Valentine menu that has just been released to the public. If you are in Orange County and you want to do something different, fun, and unique for a dear friend or your significant other for Valentine's Day, look no further. Read the descriptions of the Chef's mouth-watering creations HERE.

Thank you Chef and Lina for a lovely and memorable birthday tea! I"ll see you again soon!

Coffee,Tea And Tulips©25280 Marguerite Parkway at La Paz,#B2
Mission Viejo,CA 92692 – Next to Steinmart in the Village Center,
across from the Mission Viejo Library / City Hall.
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 9a –2:30p. Sunday 9a –2p.

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Urban Tea Merchant Moment

January has been quite a month! Not only has every family member been sick with some cold or other since before Christmas, but Gene has been travelling weekly for work, and my work has been the busiest on record! So when I had the small window of opportunity to fly up to Vancouver, B.C. to spend one evening with Gene, I did not pass Go, I went directly to Canada!

Knowing that Gene would be tied up until late afternoon, I acted on a Twitter invitation from @Urban_Tea to visit The Urban Tea Merchant just blocks from my hotel. Walking up to their store front was an immediate visual treat. Artistic window displays with bright orange Chinese lanterns beckon the unsuspecting passing public.

Upon entering, I was greeted warmly by Shivantha, Tea Ambassador and Founding Member of the Tea Salon. He ushered me into the tea room and presented me with the tea menu and the Tea List.

Page after page of specialty teas, categorized by tea type (black, green, white, etc.) and country of origin. Be still my beating heart!  After much debate and recommendations by the excellent staff, I chose Castleton SFTGFOP1 (1st Flush), a special Darjeeling. Usually, with afternoon tea, I choose a strong English Breakfast blend so I can indulge in dressing it up with milk and sugar, but when presented with SUCH a Tea List, one must seize the moment and experience something extra special. I was not disappointed. No milk and sugar needed.

Delicate, yet full bodied, this Darjeeling smelled slightly more like a green tea rather than a black tea. Its initial flavor was very, very faintly floral, though as it cooled, the floral notes became more pronounced - they literally bloomed! I was intrigued with how the flavor profile changed in subtle yet noticeable ways as the temperature cooled.

And while I was tasting my tea, they were preparing their Signature Tea Service:

Any minor apprehension of the Asian influenced food disappeared the moment the three-tired serving tray was delivered to my table.

I am trying to decide which savory treat was my favorite, but I really can't decide! I was so surprised at how much I enjoyed this Asian-inspired tea service. I guess I'm so in love with the traditional  cucumber sandwiches and such, that it never occurred to me that it could be done so differently, so creatively, so DELICIOUSLY!

I've been craving these creations every day since I've had them.

While the tea and food offerings were the stuff of dreams, the service elevated the experience to the stuff of fantasy!  As I enjoyed my tea, the owner and founder, Tom, stopped by to introduce himself and see how everything was going. It was obvious he took great pleasure in chatting with his patrons, whether regulars or new guests. His daughter, Casey, the Director of Marketing and Events, also stopped by and offered to answer any questions I had. The wait staff took equal pleasure in their craft. More than once, I observed them bringing in teas from their "Tea Library" for guests to see and smell before choosing.

The sights, smells, and surroundings were so rich, I could barely finish the sweets before me.

The one item I was sure to taste was the gooseberry (that little orange fruit the size of a cherry tomato). I'd never had one before, but I learned they grow in that part of the country and they are absolutely delicious. Kind of like a cross between a grape and a peach? So good!

After having my fill, I had to take in their complete Tea Library. Or as I like to call it, their Wall of Tea.

Isn't it glorious?

As I perused the wall with Shivantha, I was joined by Reza, the Tea Sommelier, who remembered that I had expressed a die-hard love of Kaiser from Mariages Freres. He suggested one of their TWG teas that was similar. His remembrance of a preference I had posted on Twitter blew my mind!  It is this attention to detail and care for the customer that makes this tea salon a unique and amazing experience. Both Reza and Shivantha have been there from The Urban Tea Merchant's beginnings and very obviously live their professions with pride. It was something I saw in every employee I encountered. The perfect balance of hospitality, knowledge, service, tradition and innovation. I loved every second of my visit. If only it was not 1,329 miles away from me!

The next time you find yourself in the Vancouver, B.C. area, be sure to include The Urban Tea Merchant as a stop on your itinerary. And even if you're not travelling there any time soon, you can still enjoy their virtual Wall of Tea and find absolutely any tea your heart could desire. 

To Visit The Urban Tea Merchant:
SIGNATURE STORE in Downtown Vancouver
1070 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, B.C.
(Entrance also from Alberni Street & Valet Parking available in front of Italian Kitchen)
Phone: (604) 692-0071
10am - 7pm

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Downton Moment

Yep. I'm a fan too. And can you blame me? I'm fascinated with the characters, and the lives they each lead. (And the clothes. LOVE the clothes!)

But it struck me, as I was watching a Downton Abbey scene with tea, that often the concept of Afternoon Tea might seem intimidating to the average Jane, or Jen, for that matter. And it doesn't have to be. I did a little quick research (alright, fine! I Googled it!) I wanted to see what a "typical" afternoon tea spread looked like. Some suggested sample tea menus I found from the early 1900's just might surprise you.

Suggested home tea menus for a week from: Cookery Illustrated and Household Managment, Elizabeth Craig [Odshams Press:London]
  • "Afternoon Tea: Brown Bread and Butter, Potted Salmon Sandwiches, Picklets Rock Cakes, Scotch Jam Sandwich. (p. 619)
  • "Afternoon Tea: Hot Buttered Toast, Mustard and Cress Sandwiches, French Biscuits, Maids of Honour, Dundee Cake. Note--If liked, spread hot toast with butter creamed with caster sugar and ground cinnamon to taste.
  • "Afternoon Tea: Milk Bread and Butter, Whitstable Sandwiches, Rice Buns, Ginger Snaps, Caramel Layer Cake. (p. 622)
  • "Afternoon Tea: Bloater Cream Sandwiches, White Bread and Butter, Lemon Cheese, Rice Biscuits, Meringues, Canadian Layer Cake. (p. 625)
As found on

The general rule was to provide light refreshment that could carry one through to dinner, but also not soil one's gloves.

What I see is: some sort of bread and butter, a light sandwich (crustless, I'm sure), a bun or biscuit and a cake.

Armed with this information, why not throw a Downton Abbey afternoon tea viewing party? Here's your menu and recipes:

A Downton Afternoon Tea
Cinnamon Toast Points
Refreshing Cucumber Sandwiches
Gregg's Pumpkin Bread
Easy Butter Tea Cakes
Suggested Tea
Any strong black tea that will stand up to milk and sugar

Cinnamon Toast Points

Mix 2 Tbsp granulated sugar with desired amount of cinnamon to your taste. Butter 4 pieces of toast. Sprinkle light, even layer of sugar mixture across buttered toast. Cut toasts diagonally to create 4 triangles per piece of toast. Serves 8.

Refreshing Cucumber Sandwiches


·         1 – (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

·         1 medium cucumber, peeled, and thinly sliced

·         1/2 teaspoon dried dill

·         8 white sandwich bread slices


1.      Spread cream cheese on each slice of bread

2.      Layer cucumber slices evenly on 4 slices of bread

3.      Sprinkle dill lightly on remaining 4 slices of bread

4.      Assemble sandwiches

5.      Cut crusts from bread, using serrated bread knife, discarding crusts.

6.      Cut sandwiches diagonally into quarters. Store cucumber sandwiches in an airtight container for up to 1 hour before serving.

Gregg’s Pumpkin Bread


·         3 cups sugar

·         1 cup vegetable oil

·         4 eggs

·         2/3 cup water

·         1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree

·         2 tsp ground ginger

·         1 tsp ground allspice

·         1 tsp cinnamon

·         3 ½ cups all purpose flour

·         2 tsp baking soda

·         1 ½ tsp salt

·         ½ tsp baking powder


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice and cinnamon.

In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Easy Butter Tea Cakes


·         1 1/2 cups sugar

·         1 cup butter, room temperature

·         2 eggs

·         2 3/4 cups flour

·         1 teaspoon baking soda

·         2 teaspoons cream of tartar

·         1/2 teaspoon salt


Combine the sugar and butter in a mixer bowl, beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Shape cookie dough into small balls. Arrange on a cookie sheet. Press flat with the flat bottom of a glass. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.

And, of course, remember a little pitcher of milk and a bowl of sugar cubes!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Tea Lingerie Moment

You know, I was just thinking to myself, "I really need to update my intimate tea apparel."

Problem. Solved.

(Thanks Erika and

See more of Design-Dautore's creative genius on their Facebook Page.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A New Year Favorites Moment

In the past when the New Year arrives, I've enjoyed posting "Best of" moments from the previous year. This year, however, has started rather bleakly. Everyone in the family has been sick. Some are on round 2 of being sick. It's only January 7th. This month promises to be the most hectic on record with both the Man of the House and me travelling a total of 17 days collectively - with some of our travel overlapping.

I'm choosing not to think about it right now. Instead, I will take 15 minutes or so and live in ignorant bliss. Or at least pleasant denial. And I'll sip on one of my favorites: Kaiser from Mariages Freres. T and M picked up a new supply for me the last time they were in Paris. I've saved it for a special occasion. I feel that sanity is a special enough occasion.

Ahhhh.  Much better!