There’s something about Moms and tea that seem to go together. As young children, we often have invited our moms to a school Mother’s Tea. Or when there’s a troublesome period in our lives, Mom will often sit down with her child over a cup of tea to chat about it. Even if a mom is not a tea drinker, somehow the tea allows the child to feel more adult while still indulging in an adult beverage other than the higher caffeinated coffee. In my family, even though my Dad was the British immigrant, he drank tea as an every day habit, while for my mother it was an avenue to conversation and understanding, or sometimes contemplation. As I grew up she became a special friend to many young girls in our neighborhood, taking care of them while their mothers worked, and I have over the years been told by so many how much their little talks over tea with my mother meant to them as they were growing up. She usually didn’t serve anything very fancy with it, but she could make the everyday seem special. She would set up a small table with a linen cloth and napkins, get out her special cups and saucers and plate. If she made a sandwich or toast to go with the tea, it would be cut in triangles with the crusts cut off. Although I often credit my British paternal grandmother, Nellie, with my inspiration to have a tea business, it really was my mother who taught me the civility and ceremony of having tea and how important it can be in our bustling, everyday life. Here’s wishing each of you fond memories of your mother or mother-like figure on this Mother’s Day. Cheers!Share
Welcome to Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year in Asian cultures. The Chinese Zodiac is based on the phases of the moon, and 2015 marks the Year of the Ram. The new year began on February 19th and will continue for two weeks. This is the biggest celebration in Asian culture, a time when everyone travels to be with their family. The celebration begins with a cleaning of the house followed by visiting with friends. In Asian neighborhoods, the New Year is started off by the traditional Dragon Parade. The New Year is sometimes called The Spring Festival, as it is a time of renewal and new beginnings. In tea growing areas, the newest crops will soon be starting to put forth their new buds in preparation for the first pluckings of the year. Many tea connoisseurs wait for the first crop with high anticipation. Here at Nellie’s, we celebrate the new year in recognition of its importance in the areas of the world where tea originated and where many of our teas come from.
If you don’t try green tea any other time, we would like to encourage you to try it during this time of year. You will be pleasantly surprised at the wide varieties of taste profiles among green teas, even the ones only from China. You might also want to try some Oolongs as well as Chinese black teas, which have a very different flavor profile from those grown in India or Sri Lanka where the British influence was much stronger. Stop in soon and join us for the celebration!Share
The first day of a new year is always full of such promise and anticipation. It makes so much sense to include tea in plans for the coming days and months. When thinking of starting the new year with a healthier regimen, you can’t get much healthier than tea. The second most consumed beverage in the world, after water, tea has been enjoyed for thousands of years for its medicinal and culinary properties. And now research is bearing out what tea drinkers have always known.
Perhaps you will pledge to learn more about tea: take one of our TEA 101 classes, go from tea bags to loose leaf, or switch from English style black tea with milk and sugar to a green tea or oolong tea.
Try enjoying tea in your culinary recipes. It is a great addition to so many dishes, either in its dry leaf form, used as you would an herb or spice, or in liquid form in place of water or other liquid.Share
Last month I traveled to Maryland to visit my hospitalized 99 year old aunt. Aunt Jean was always a favorite of mine and my brother’s (don’t tell the others!). She was always feisty, interested in everything that was going on, passionate about politics, loved being outdoors, and caring for her animals. Aunt Jean hated wearing a bra long before it was a feminist statement; the first thing she would do when she got home from work at her office job was to take off her bra. She and my uncle never had children, so they raised their property full of beautiful plants and their many animals with the same love and passion they would have for children. As she aged, she stubbornly insisted on remaining in her home despite the concerns of all those who cared about her.
Last week Aunt Jean died. Although she didn’t make it to her goal of living to be 100, she came darn close. In recent years a visit to her would find her sitting at her spot at the table with a cup of tea in front of her. As I’ve been juggling preparing for the holidays, taking care of her affairs, and preparing for her funeral service, my mind keeps going to one of my favorite poems/ books, especially at this time of year. A Cup of Christmas Tea, by Tom Hegg, followed by his second book, A Memory of Christmas Tea, are appropriate tributes to Aunt Jean, and a wonderful reminder to all of us to make time for those in our lives who are important to us. I hope you will join me in A Cup of Christmas Tea in honor of my Aunt Jean. Give everyone up there my love Aunt Jean, and God Bless!
The celebration of tea takes place in many cultures of the world, and within each culture there are customs and rituals associated with taking tea. In Eastern cultures China, home to the tea plant, has been using tea as medicine and later as a source of entertainment and hospitality for almost 5,000 years.
In Japan, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Cha Do, or Way of Tea is surrounded by a philosophy of the uniqueness of each moment linking host and guest, balance between the refined and nature, and peacefulness through a bowl of tea.
Tea was introduced to Japan along with Zen Buddhism in the 13th century by the monk Eisai, who brought tea seed back to Japan with him from China. The tea ceremony as known today grew out of the Zen Buddhist culture of Japan in the 16th century.
Tea appeared in Western Europe in 1610 when the Dutch began shipping tea home along with other desirable goods such as silk, spices, lacquer objects, and porcelain. Its use spread to other countries of Europe and to the New World, everywhere welcomed as a delicious and fashionable beverage. In Britain it was popularized when, in 1662, Charles II wed Princess Catherine of Braganza of Portugal who was an avid tea drinker. This led to the popularization of social traditions and, eventually “tea time” for British ladies. Those who traveled to the New World brought with them their love of tea and embraced the customs and traditions of their homeland.
Today, tea is enjoyed in the style of many cultures of the world, but also in a more contemporary, casual style, either in the company of friends or as a meditation, alone and contemplative. In any style, enjoy
the civility, the aroma and beauty of the leaf, and the many benefits of partaking of such a delightful beverage.
While I was attending the World Tea Expo in June, I happened to be sitting in a small lounge area between classes and struck up a conversation with a woman seated near me. You could have blown me over with a feather when I realized I was talking with Lisa See, the author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and so many other wonderful, best selling novels, including her recently released China Dolls. She is one of my all time favorite authors, so for me it really was meeting a celebrity. I asked what brought her to the Tea Expo and she explained that she had recently returned from visiting the tea growing regions of Yunnan Province in China, where she was researching her next novel, which will revolve around the tea cultures of China. When I asked how she came to focus on primarily Chinese stories in her novels, as to look at her you might think she is of Irish descent, she explained that in her family a handful of relatives look like her, but she has hundreds of relatives who are easily identified as Asian.
Anyhow, this thrilling encounter led me to follow Lisa on Facebook and she recently posted that she would be happy to SKYPE with any book groups discussing China Dolls. This in turn has led me to decide to start a book group here at Nellie’s. I have a few books in mind that I’ve recently stumbled across that have a story line focusing on tea cultures, so I thought people might be interested in including those in our book list. But the group will have the final decisions.
Our Inaugural Meeting will take place Monday October 20th at 6:00 PM here at our shop. Please RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-761-8041 so we have plenty of chairs in place. Complimentary beverages will be served. For those who are hungry, a Soup and Scone Special will be available for purchase, but there is no obligation.Share
This has certainly been a summer for iced tea. One of our favorites is Moroccan Mint, a blend of Gunpowder Green Tea with Mint. It’s beautiful to look at and the flavor is invigorating and refreshing. Recently we had a visit from Sandra Harris of the local radio station 94.9 WHOM. She was doing a piece on iced tea for the station blog and asked us to share some tips with her. You can check it out here at http://www.949whom.com/local-tea-expert-takes-mystery-out-of-iced-tea-preparation/
I hope you’re finding some creative ways to stay cool. Cheers!Share
For the past several years it has been our pleasure to help volunteers from the Victoria Mansion in Portland put on their annual Victoria Mansion Doll Tea. This is a fundraiser for the mansion, a gorgeous Victorian home in the heart of Portland which is maintained through the generous donations of its benefactors along with proceeds from tours of the mansion and sales from its gift shop. The mansion also offers educational and entertainment programs for both children and adults, ranging from Stories on the Stairs to Opera at the Mansion, and so many other events. I look forward to the Doll Tea every year. The decorations and prizes made by the volunteers and given to every guest are delightful and simply amazing. The appearance of the children arriving dressed in their favorite fancy clothes, carrying their favorite doll or other Lovey, accompanied by their adults warms my heart every time. The looks of awe on the faces of the children as they take in the gorgeous setting is so much fun to watch. And it never ceases to amaze me that behavior is always best at this event. There is something about a tea party that brings that out in each of us, young or old(er).
I am especially excited this year because my just-turned-6 year old grandaughter will attend for the first time. I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she experiences the decorations, the food, all the other children, the door prizes, and the dancers from Portland School of Ballet. While I’ll be occupied with making sure the teapots are kept filled and flowing, I can’t wait to keep peeking at her to see what her reactions will be. Stay tuned for a follow-up report after the Doll Tea.Share
John Harney, founder of Harney & Sons Fine Teas, started his tea company 30 years ago from a basement room in the White Hart Inn in Salisbury, CT where he was the owner/Inn Keeper. It was at the same inn 10 years ago that I first met him when I attended my first tea education event. A Tea Tutorial presented by Pearl Dexter, founder and Editor of TEA, A Magazine was an intensive long weekend course with 5 of us in attendance, focused on how to go about having a tea related business. Mr. Harney was a guest presenter at the Seminar, charming us all with his Irish wit and friendliness. The following day we had a lovely tour of the Harney tea shop and the factory in the nearby town of Millerton, NY, all under the personal attention of John Harney. It was following that weekend that I returned home and took a leap forward in opening my very small business.
Celebrating 30 years of continued growth and achievement, it is easy to see why this company has been so successful. Through hard work, extraordinary vision, continuous development of new products, and outstanding customer relations, they have not lost sight of the most important ingredient ~ sourcing the finest teas, taking great pains in developing their specialty blends, and producing a consistent product every time.
So, 30 years later, not only are the Harney sons and daughter-in-law involved in the business, but the young adult grandsons are as well, leading to their newest establishment in NYC where they opened a tea cafe and shop several years ago now.
I look forward to many years of continuing to see them grow and prosper, and I wish them a hearty congratulations on their first 30 years of success!Share
If you’re like me, I’m getting pretty tired of dealing with snow: shoveling snow, having to change plans because of snow, allowing extra time for everything I do because of the need to clean cars, drive more slowly, and watch for falling snow clumps! Now, I’ve lived my entire life in snow country, and I’ve actually always enjoyed it. Sledding parties and ice skating parties were always fun ways to entertain a group of kids of all ages. I took up skiing late in life, so never got off the intermediate slopes, but enjoyed it as a reason to be outdoors enjoying the beauty of snow country. But this year?…it seems a little tougher to keep a positive outlook. So, what are some ways to liven things up? Certainly, this is where tea can be a tremendous boost. A warming cup is so welcomed after coming in out of the cold. And there’s nothing more delightful than watching the flakes float through the air while inhaling the subtle aroma of a well made cup of fine tea. Or how about a little walk across the neighborhood followed by a cuppa tea and a scone with a friend? Or go all out and celebrate winter with an all out tea party! Rinse off those beautiful teacups of Aunt Mabel’s that you’re saving for…what is it you’re saving them for? Invite four, or six, or eight friends in. Make some goodies in little bite sized portions and serve them on pretty platters while you and your friends catch up on family, friends, recent trips, the latest episode of Downton Abby or The Bachelor! I guarantee that this will make life seem a bit brighter, some time will have passed, and we’ll be that much closer to Spring!Share