May 7 2015

Moms and Tea

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teapot centerpiece 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!

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Dec 9 2014

A Cup of Christmas Tea for Aunt Jean

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Aunt Jean in Spring

Aunt Jean in Spring 2011?

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!

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Apr 30 2014

Spring! The Perfect Tea Time…

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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.

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Mar 23 2014

Congratulations to John Harney & Sons!

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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!

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Feb 19 2014

Winter Doldrums?

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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!

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Sep 4 2013

Tea, Comfort, and Family…Miscellaneous Musings

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I’m heartbroken by the recent loss of my Big Brother. Of course, we both were well into the last half of our adulthood, but he’ll always be my Big Brother, all the same. We were only siblings, and divided by 5 years, so we didn’t really grow up running in the same circles. I was the pesky little sister, always wanting to tag along where I wasn’t wanted; as a teen I had a Big Crush on several of his older friends. But NO WAY was he going to let THAT go anywhere!While he definitely could view me as a pest, he was very protective.

Bill didn’t really like tea that much, except near the end of his life. But we both came from tea, so he understood my passion and fascination with it, in part because it was so entwined in our family life. Our Father and his family came to America from England, so tea was the beverage of choice growing up. For us it was a little tea with some sugar and lots of milk; for the adults tea with milk and sugar. Our mom, who grew up in the warmer climates of the Mid-Atlantic, contributed iced tea to the family table.

Both our Father and his Father worked for the A&P Supermarkets all their adult lives; during those times, it really was The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company! Bill’s first formal job the summer after he graduated High School was as a stock boy at the A&P, something he reminisced about during his final days. One of my proudest memories from my childhood was being old enough to be allowed to help Kathleen, the coffee lady, grind the coffee in the store; that smell has never left my nostrils, sometimes making it hard for me properly evaluate teas. So you see, we really were “Steeped in Tea”.

In recent years whenever Bill visited us, he was always willing to help me at Nellie’s in any way he could. One year we had him folding linen napkins and tying narrow ribbons around them in preparation  for a Spring Tea by the Sea at The Breakers. He had a great sense of humor and would often make fun of holding out his pinky as he drank his tea. He was a successful corporate businessman and was always trying to give me advice about how to proceed with Nellie’s; thing was he was used to a much bigger budget than mine!

Tea is a comfort food for me, and so recently as I think about my brother and our family, I revert to that English style black tea with milk and sugar. Granted, my palate is a little more sophisticated now, so Red Rose and Lipton don’t quite cut it, but English tea it is. I’ll continue to try to live up to the standards of my Big Brother; he was a great brother, son, father, and a good friend to so many who have come forward to tell their stories of him and how he treated people. Love you Bill. Here’s a tea to you XOXO 

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