Friday, June 28, 2013

A Back-To-Nature Moment

A few weeks ago, I shared how we've been replacing our evening imbibing of wine with an herbal infusion instead. (By the way, there's a noticeable difference in how well we sleep!) And lately, I've been turning to herbals to deal with that after lunch near-coma. While a little afternoon tea could certainly help, the caffeine can wreak havoc on my attempts toward 8 hours of sleep. Okay 7. Well, 6. Anyway.

Alvita's Ginger Peppermint infusion is a one of those subtle reminders that so much of our well-being can be enhanced and maintained by nature itself. Think of that!

I was introduced to Alvita's new Category Director, Tonja Schenk, at the World Tea Expo. She has been an integral part of their rebranding initiative of the herbal company that got its start in 1922. While most of the herbals are single herb tisanes, there are some (like my Ginger-Peppermint) that combine herbs used for a common, traditional purpose.

Wall of herbs. Gorgeous!

Feeling refreshed, I have to admit. And my tummy is feeling a little less tortured after I completely over-ate. (Baja chicken burrito. With guacamole. Lost all control.)

There are a lot of things I'm loving about this new herbal discovery. First of all, the history is pretty inspiring. It started in the Roaring 20's with packaging alfalfa (known for its nutrients) in tea bags and selling in the newly developing health food market.  Ahead of its time then, its ahead of the curve yet again. The new packaging highlights beautiful botanical illustrations that are timeless.

And just the fact of what they're doing: single herb infusions traditionally used for remedies. I saw a cartoon recently that depicted society's cycle that started out as hunter-gatherers using herbs to address ailments to the use of tinctures to the discovery of drugs like penicillin to our utter dependence and obsession with prescription medication and how we're now back to naturopathic remedies, which take us right back to the use of basic herbs. I wish I could find it because it's way more interesting and clever than my description, but I think we can all relate to being "over" the barrage of prescription drugs that are so readily available for every possible issue.

In any case, I'm glad to have discovered Alvita. And now I can tackle that afternoon stack of paperwork thanks to this herbal boost!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Las Vegas Verandah Moment

Tea brings people together. I'll go ahead and say that is a universal truth. And as a result, about a dozen people from various corners of North America and, really, the globe, all gathered together in a lovely restaurant out of the Las Vegas heat to enjoy afternoon tea.

I've enjoyed tea at Verandah in the Four Seasons hotel a couple of times in the past, but this was different. This was with other tea enthusiasts, tea bloggers, tea retailers who had become acquainted through the world of social media.

Thanks to Nicole Schwartz! It was she who convinced Verandah to provide afternoon tea on a Saturday afternoon, which was normally only available Monday through Friday. They even reserved a private dining room for our group.

The menus were passed around and teas were pondered.

Many of us found it desirable to begin afternoon tea with a glass of champagne.

And while the savories were delightful and the sweets overabundant, the best part was the conversation, the story-telling, the question-and-answer, the re-calling as if we were all old friends... because in a way, that's what we are. Old friends meeting for the very first time.


And I'm so happy to have shared this moment with new old friends, especially those who I feel I've known for simply ages:

Tea Archives and Tea With Hats

Check out her Sweet Tea Body Lotion, by the way
and the first of The Underground Tea Syndicate I ever had the pleasure of meeting in person

To experience Afternoon Tea at Verandah at The Four Seasons Las Vegas, call (702) 632-5000.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Steampunk Moment

One of the fun discoveries I made at the 2013 World Tea Expo was Alpha Dominche's Steampunk. We've all been to coffee houses with their steaming, frothing and steaming espresso machines. A little bit of the draw to the coffee culture is the show, the personal touch that elevates a cup of coffee to a work of art. The Steampunk brings a little bit of that show to the tea world. 
 The ultra-modern design provides almost a sculptural touch to a tea room counter. And before your very eyes, your tea will be steamed and steeped to perfection. The Steampunk can be pre-programmed to steep anywhere from 15 to 25 different times and temperatures, so a Dragonwell can be set to steep at 180 F while the Golden Yunnan can be set to steep at 195 F. Because of the technology and agitation, steeping times can be a bit reduced and still keep the flavor profile true.
Easy to use, easy to clean between steeps, easy on the eyes. A pretty cool introduction to something that I hope to see in many tea cafes in the near future. Thanks to Jessica Tocci for showing me all the fun and fabulous features!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Sanctuary T Correspondent Moment

While I was getting ready to take off for the 2013 World Tea Expo, my other half was in New York on business. One afternoon, he texted, "Have you heard of Sanctuary T?"

Um, yes. Yes I have.

Apparently, his company dinner was going to take place there.


So, I instantly took to the Twitterverse and let @SanctuaryT know that the Man of the House would be dining there that evening and that he would be doing a review for me. I then let Gene know that I had notified Sanctuary T he would be there. His text?

"NY folks are too cool to seek anyone out."

"We'll see," I responded.

When he and his team arrived, East (mixologist extraordinaire) came up to him.

East. Sanctuary T's Genius Mixologist
"Hi. Are you Gene?"

Score 1 for the Underground Tea Syndicate.

And he brought gifts. A shot of Silver Needle infused vodka.

Score 2 for the Underground Tea Syndicate.

The menu East has created has something special for everyone.

As Gene encouraged his crowd to try a variety of the tea-infused cocktails, a couple became favorites very quickly:

Barrel of Red Chai
It came as no surprise to me that this was one of Gene's favorite. He's a fan of chai, and he found this to be full-bodied whose flavor lingered in your thoughts afterward with a spicy effect.

Red Moon Sangria
This was extremely popular with the group and very tasty. And he appreciated the presentation with the berries as well.

East, you exceeded my expectations of the hospitality that I was hoping my husband would experience, and you exceeded his expectations of what can come from tea+cocktails. (And the Underground Tea Syndicate.)

One day (hopefully very soon), I hope to be able to experience Sanctuary T myself. Am dying to see what their Afternoon Tea Service is all about! And a shot of Silver Needle Vodka wouldn't be so bad, either.

Sanctuary T is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, and brunch seven days per week.  The full bar is available daily from 12 pm until close.
Hours of Operation:
Daily 8:00AM until 11:00PM
Afternoon Tea Hours:
3:00PM until 5:00PM by reservation only
337B West Broadway (corner of Grand), New York City
Phone: 212-941-7832

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A 2013 World Tea Expo Overview Moment - Day 2

So much tea , so little time!

Day 2 started off for me at the "All About Terroir" session by Kevin Gascoyne of Camellia Senensis. This session was particularly fascinating to me, as I learned that not only does altitude, water supply and processing effect the flavor profiles of tea, but also how the tea plant responds to local insects, other vegetation in the area and more.

Next it was off to "Growing Your Customer Base on a Shoestring Budget," presented by Jessica Kochik of The Tea Spot. Whether an online retailer or a brick and mortar store, her number 1 recommendation: grow your email list!

From there, I walked by Chambre de Sucre and saw Lisa in action once more.

After that, I discovered Afternoon to Remember and met Owner Amy Lawrence, who not only sells lovely tea blends, but writes a wide range of books on all things tea. She's even opening a tea room this summer!

Next, I stopped by Capital Teas, where I was introduced to an amazing world of tea and wine combinations! Let me just say that they are doing magical things with tea and wine and tea and beer.

One of my favorite discoveries of the Expo was Tea Tangent! Their hand carved, wooden tea accessories are almost too lovely to use (though I'm sure I'll find away to get over that)! I want to see more of what artist Julia Edgerton Simons has introduced to the world!

Next, Aljiri Tea, which is a mother, daughter company that brings Kenyan Tea to the U.S. and employs women in Kisii, Kenya to handcraft the tea packaging. This provides employment for women and education for their children.

I was very happy to see Sencha Naturals again (Edie fell in love with their Bombay Chai Mints at the Tea Lovers Marketplace in Pasadena last month), so thank you, Michelle, for sending me home with a surprise supply for her!

After a day full of meeting and greeting, discoveries and re-discoveries, it was time for afternoon tea with some of my favorite tea people. I'll have plenty to say on this subject, but I do want to say thank you to all of you for a lovely end to my World Tea Expo experience. I'm now off to the airport, headed for home, wishing I could be there for the 3rd and final day of Expo. I'm grateful for the 2 days very well spent!

I hope to take tea with you all again very soon!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A 2013 World Tea Expo Overview Moment - Day 1

The World Tea Expo is a beautiful thing. Whether retailer or wholesaler, blender or buyer, importer, publisher, craftsman, or enthusiast, there's a little something for everyone.

So what is the World Tea Expo, you may well ask. It's a trade show. It's an educational conference. It's a marketplace. It's the piazza of the tea world. And I'm back.

I attended the very first World Tea Expo - at that time it was called "Take Me 2 Tea." I went as a nobody, as a fan. I went 2 or 3 other times. It was always big. It was always exciting. I always learned so very much.

And now, I'm back for its 11th year, press pass in hand and ready to share what it's all about. So much happened on Day 1, I couldn't possibly cover it all. So I'll highlight a little of what I've seen today, with the promise of expanding on some of the subjects a little more in future posts. (So much great Tea Moment fodder!)

I started the day off attending an educational session called "Le Nez du The" or The Nose of Tea, taught by Shabnam Weber of The Tea Emporium.

I love that we had the opportunity to taste teas and learn at the same time. All conferences should incorporate this somehow. Just sayin'.

After all that tea and learning, I needed... more tea! Fortunately, Teas Etc. was providing a surprisingly wide variety of loose leaf teas as refreshment. And that is where I laid on Beth for the first time.

Serving and teaching at the same time, she was the embodiment of having found her calling. Her joy and energy filled the room and was contagious!  We hugged, she served me some Assam Reserve (more please), we agreed to touch base later, and off I flew.

From there, I went to another educational session, entitled, "RealiTEA: The Real Life Evolution of a Tea Store," presented by Bill Waddington of TeaSource. Now, I've been a huge fan of Bill's for many years, and this session reinforced all that I appreciate about him. He is such a generous teacher. He shares all of his knowledge, withholding nothing. He shared the good, the bad and the ugly of opening a tea shop, and he provided sample letters, checklists, spreadsheets, and more based on his experiences to all the session attendees!  Double !!

He spoke to an absolutely full house, standing room only (except for the lone seat directly in front of me, apparently), and within minutes he had everyone eating from the palm of his hand. His passion for the industry, and his warmth and charisma translated to heavy, heavy traffic at the TeaSource booth!

After another stop in at the Refreshment Lounge and a cupful of Green Earl Grey (magnificent, by the way), I went back to my room to recharge (me and my iPhone), and then off to the trade show floor.

If it's your first time, the trade show floor is overwhelming. 11 long aisles of everything tea! While I wanted to wander slowly through the entire array, I had appointments, and so... off to Alpha Dominche, where I got to experience the Steampunk, - think espresso machine for loose leaf tea. Pretty cool.

Of course, I had to taste and cast my vote for the Black Tea Competition...

Then, off to Alvita and meeting Tonja Schenk, their new Director of the herbal category. (Loved their Wall Of Herbals!)

 Then there was the Teas Etc. Garden Party!

Where I ran into many of my fellow tea bloggers for the first - time - ever!

As well as Lisa of Chambre de Sucre, who provided all the sugars and sweets for the Garden Party!

And last, but certainly not least, it was the Bloggers' Roundtable!
Where we had a very engaged audience!

Overall, a full and wonderful Day 1, with LOTS of moments to expand upon. For up to the moment info, Like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or do a Twitter search for #WorldTeaExpo.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Sunny Alaskan Moment

It's been a week. Well, truth be told, it's been nearly two weeks of being in the "valley of the shadow." We've all been there. We eventually climb out. But there are times when things feel a little bleak.

And what should I get in the middle of it all, but a text from one of my oldest friends who happened to be in town for the afternoon. Please note, said friend lives in Alaska, and I am located in southern California. Such "happenings" are rare, indeed.

"Thought I would see if you have time for lunch or tea."
There's a reason we've been friends for so many years! Excellent notion, afternoon tea.

We met in the historic district of San Juan Capistrano at one of my old standbys, The Tea House on Los Rios. I knew such a place in such a town would be fun for her.

It's always a different, beautiful tea cup, but I always fill it with the same Queen Catherine blend.  AC chose a rooibos blend. And I was delighted when we discovered they had gluten-free bread available for tea sandwiches so my friend could enjoy the full afternoon tea experience.
What a breath of fresh air, what a lovely surprise to have one of my oldest friends appear from the far reaches of Alaska in such a week as this. There's no need for back story, there's no need for explanation. You can talk in shorthand and the other one "gets it." She gets it more than most, she's always been that intuitive kind of person. And I just soaked up her latest news as though I hadn't spoken with another human being in years. What the phrase? Balm for the soul? That just about sums it up.

It was a fun visit, but I had to tear myself away and get back to work. She, however, got to hang around a bit and see some of the local sights. It made me very happy to get another text from her:

"Spent the day wandering, photographing and soaking in sunshine and beauty."


Enjoy traditional and gluten-free afternoon tea fare at:
The Tea House on Los Rios
31731 Los Rios
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Tea House Hours
Wednesday thru Friday 11 - 5pm
Sat & Sun 9:30 - 5pm
Closed Monday & Tuesday

Phone: 949.443.3914

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Live Your Love Moment

One of the things I most enjoy about tea is that it brings people together. It is the great leveler. Old and young, rich and poor, every culture, every background. We can all sit and enjoy a cup of tea together.

So when I was introduced to Live Your Love tea, beyond the tea itself, I loved that its entire existence was about bringing people together to help those who need it most. I don't know how many British novels I've read where some character or other says, "A cup of tea will set you to rights." Well, this is a tea that will not only set you to rights, but many others as well.

Founded by Jeremy and Jasmine Dean, who met in Sri Lanka in 2005 while both doing voluntary relief work after the devastating tsunami, they now package and sell their own Sri Lankan (Ceylon) tea, the proceeds of which help finance current projects they are working on. Recent projects include helping fund foundations that support a medical clinic of Smile Lanka, which is focused on helping to provide clean drinking water. The reality that, world wide, 6 children die every minute due to diarrhea because of the lack of clean drinking water is something Smile Lanka is addressing close to home.

I love tea. I love helping. Supporting Live Your Love allows me to have the opportunity to do both. And regardless of your views on bagged tea, this tea sourced from Sri Lanka, is just the strong brew that I love to sink my teeth into. It packs the right kind of punch, and will hold up nicely to milk and sugar. This tea and me are already good friends.

Your tea supply is running low? I know a place where you can meet your need and meet some basics need for your fellow man. Thanks to Jasmine and Jeremy for Living Your Love and providing that opportunity for us as well!