May 7 2015

Moms and Tea


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!


Feb 25 2015



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!



Dec 9 2014

A Cup of Christmas Tea for Aunt Jean

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!




Sep 20 2014

We’re starting a Book Group!


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 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.


Apr 30 2014

Spring! The Perfect Tea Time…


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.


Mar 23 2014

Congratulations to John Harney & Sons!


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!


Jan 25 2013

Patriots and THE Tea Party?


January 2013 has provided me personally with some great reminders of the link between tea, the greatness of our American Patriots, and the legacy they left us in the freedoms we enjoy on our home soil. Here at Nellie’s, since there are only my one part-time employee and me, rather than holding a company Christmas party, we go off on some sort of adventure after the holiday season is over. This year, we decided to travel to Boston on the DownEaster and visit the new Boston Tea Party Museum and Ships. Arriving on the waterfront via the T, the museum and ships were a lovely site to take in as we approached.


   Greeted by the museum staff, dressed in period costumes and speaking completely in character, we continued to enjoy the hour long museum tour and re-enactment of the night of December 16, 1773. This museum is not at all stuffy, the staff are engaging and dedicated to their roles, and the tour is extremely interactive, even to the point of our participation in throwing chests of tea overboard!                                     

After our tour we enjoyed a cup of tea in Abigail’s Tea Room (that’s Abigail Adams, of course!) A trip here is highly recommended and would be great for children. The events of that crucial  period in the history of our great country are really driven home as we experience some of the passion, anger, and risks these patriots endured for our future freedom.

All of this was driven home even more last week while watching the inaugural activities on TV. Although I was visiting family in the DC area at the time of the festivities, I participated only via the big screen. But as I watched, I was truly struck by the legacy of the Patriots of so long ago, and the fact that we still are the nation with the most personal freedoms in the world, that our leaders are elected by the citizens of this country, guaranteed the right to vote through a secret ballot protected under law, and that despite our problems and disagreements, we continue to be the greatest country in the world. I have always been convinced that if our country’s leaders and world leaders met over cups of tea rather than highly caffeinated coffee or inebriating wine or spirits, more would be accomplished, agreements could be reached more quickly, and the world would be a much more civil place. So, in celebration of our newly elected president, our great Patriots both past and present, and the unmatched freedoms which are ours, I raise my teacup to continuing the full circle of tea in our history.



Dec 6 2012

Happy Birthday to Us!


As I settled in to sleep last night after a busy day, it suddenly struck me that the day which had been in my thoughts becuse  it was coming up soon and we should be sure to mark it in some way…was here! December 5th marks the 9 year anniversary of the opening of Nellie’s Tea & Gifts. Nine years ago, after returning from a long weekend, intensive “Tea School” in  Connecticut held in early November, I contacted the two young women who owned Pot de Fleur in Biddeford and asked if they were still interested in having me join them in their shop. Tea School was organized and run by  Pearl Dexter of TEA, A Magazine and John Harney, founder of Harney & Sons Fine Teas. From these two icons of the modern day Specialty Tea industry, my classmates and I learned the basics of Specialty Tea as well as starting and operating a tea related business. I came home so enthused that I quickly pursued my budding plan of joining in an already established shop, since I knew I wouldn’t be leaving my day job just yet, by contacting Kelly Decker and Erin Donovan, two of the most creative and talented young women I’ve ever met. I became the weekend shop keeper in exchange for a very low rent and the chance to start my tea dream with baby steps. Our location at 265 Maine Street in Biddeford was in a  architecturally gorgeous space with lots of windows and light, but very little heat or other amenities. We didn’t care.

My original space was a corner of one room in the larger shop in which I displayed my wares on a counter I brought in, some built-in shelves, and a lovely window space on the rounded corner of the building. Over time I gradually added more space and more hours, other co-tenants came and went, and I became more knowledgeable and confident about my abilities to be a business owner. Please enjoy the photos shared below as Nellie’s has grown and evolved over the last nine years. It could not have happened without you, and we are so grateful for your support and business. 


Enjoy these pictures of my window at 265 Main St, the back room of our shop, ready for a Red Hatters group, and some of our artists during a Biddeford Art Walk. More to come.


Jun 20 2012

Tea Party? Oh, You Mean That One…The Original One!


Next week marks the opening of the long awaited Boston Tea Party Museum, featuring the three ships involved in the 1773 dumping of tea chests into the Boston Harbor, the two only remaining tea chests from the ships, and historical tours of the new facility. On hand for the Gala Opening on Monday June 25th  will be Bruce and Shelley Richardson, two of the premier tea importers and blenders in the U.S.A. Founders of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas in Perrysville, KY, and authors of numerous books on tea, Bruce and Shelley are the perfect fit for this historic occasion.

The new museum will feature the restored and retrofitted original ships The Beaver and Eleanor as well as the reproduced third ship, Dartmouth. It will also feature a tea room and a gift shop where teas specially blended for the museum by Bruce Richardson, will be on hand. Rising up out of the center of Boston Harbor, this new attraction will be a must for tea lovers, lovers of history, ships, and colonialism. I plan to visit very soon and I hope you will as well.


May 28 2012

Victoria Mansion Doll Tea…an Event not to be Missed!


Last weekend, we had the privilege of providing tea and helping to serve 96 guests at the Irish Heritage Center of Maine where volunteers from the Victoria Mansion in Portland put on their annual Doll Tea. Children and their adults arrived in beautiful splendor with a favorite doll or teddy bear in tow. I saw many American Dolls, baby dolls, and other loved and favorite companions. The event hall had been transformed by the volunteers with festoons of tull draped from pillar to pillar, beautifully decorated Victorian hats on each table, vintage china and tea cups at each place, table linens and chair festoons, and a corsage for each guest on their plate. Everyone received a bag full of wonderful goodies to take home, and door prizes were out of this world.

Six Tea Princesses were crowned, and the highlight of the event was a demonstration by dancers from the Portland School of Ballet, followed by all the guests having the opportunity to try some of the basic steps taught to them by the dancers.

The event was sold out, and with good reason! I predict that next year the Tea will be sold out well in advance; perhaps a second seating will have to be added. I do know that it is an event we always look forward to being asked to help with.