Sep 11 2015

September; Sizzling, Sad, Sentimental, School

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September is a full month no matter who you are, what age, or what gender. First, it always denotes the end of summertime activities and the start of the school year, if not in our reality, certainly in our memory. This year, September is  still sizzling which makes me full of sympathy for teachers and students who have had to spend their days in the classroom. But after such a gorgeous summer, I don’t think any of us have regrets for  missed sunshine or water activity weather.

Marianne & Mike cut cake

Marianne & Mike cut cake 1970

It is also a very sentimental month for me, as it is in this month that my husband and I were married. September is a beautiful month for weddings with some of the most gorgeous days of the year, making for lovely receptions and honeymoons to just about anywhere.

For all Americans, September will now forever carry the sadness of the day our lives changed on that September 11th morning of 2001 when attacked on our own soil, with the loss of so many innocent lives. The truly heroic acts of so many who came together in the aftermath speaks volumes of the stuff of which Americans are made. The heart wrenching stories over the years since then continue to remind us of the heroes and the angels who were born that day.Girl Scout 100th anniversary 008

 

Whether you have headed back to school, are planning a long awaited September getaway, or have embarked on your Fall schedule after a more leisurely summer, it is lovely to make tea a part of your daily routine. It’s a beautiful time to reconnect with friends over tea, perhaps outdoors while the weather still allows. We’ll raise our cups with you and look forward to seeing you soon.

 

 

old ladies tea and books

 

chengdu-old-mans-teahouse.jpg

 

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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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Jul 23 2014

Iced Tea Season is Here

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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!

A few of our favorites

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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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Nov 13 2013

Tea Primer, Part 2: Green Tea

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Green teas are relatively new to the palate of the western world, but in most parts of Asia they are often the tea enjoyed daily. Much of the research done on human health benefits of tea has been done using green tea, therefore more Americans have begun trying to drink it because of the press regarding its health benefits.

The process of making green tea goes like this: The tea is plucked, withered for only a very short time, and then heated to put a halt to oxidation of its enzymes. Often during the heating period the leaf is also shaped by pressing it against the sides of a wok or box, twisted, or rolled. In China, green tea is usually heated by pan firing or in an oven, whereas in Japan the tea is usually heated by steaming. These differing methods are partially responsible for the differences in shades of green that the finished tea exhibits, as well as differences in flavor and aroma. Other countries producing green tea include Korea, Thailand, and more recently India and Kenya, as well as others where experimentation is taking place.

Some of the most famous green teas include China’s Lung Ching (aka Dragon Well) of the West Lake area in Zhejiang province. Here the two leaves and a bud plucked from the plants are flattened against the sides of heated woks by hand to give the tea its characteristic appearance of smooth, flat, spearlike leaf shape which brews to a pale yellow liquor with aromas and flavors of bok choy and toasted walnut.

Another China Green tea is Gunpowder Green, probably the first green tea exported to the colonies. A sturdy, heartier green tea, it held up well in its long sailboat journey from China to Great Britain, and then on to the colonies. This tea gets its name from the rolled shape of it and the dark grey/green color which resembles the pellets once used by soldiers as musket shots. With a liquor ranging in color from bright yellow to green, its flavor and aroma is slightly vegetal and charred, reminsicent perhaps  of grilled leeks.

A classic addition to green tea in China is the infusion of the scent of flowers into the tea leaves. For centuries the Chinese have scented teas with flowers such as rose petals, osmanthus flowers, and Jasmine flowers. In the highest quality of Jasmine Pearl tea, high quality green tea with many tips, or buds, is plucked, dried, and stored in early spring. When the Jasmine flowers bloom, around June, they are rushed to the tea factory. There, the tea leaves are humidified to make them pliable, allowing the factory workers to roll the leaves into small neat pearls. The pearled leaves are spread out on permeable trays which are slid into racks, alternating with trays of fresh jasmine blossoms. The racks are stored in a small enclosed space for several days, with fresh blossoms changed out each day, until the desired fragrance is achieved. Enjoying a cup of this high grade Jasmine tea is a heavenly experience, and quite different from more cheaply made Jasmine teas where artificial flavoring is used.

 

In contrast, Japanese green teas are grown almost exclusively from the same cultivar, and are steamed to stop oxidation of the leaves. The Japanese cultivar is known for its “umami”, or “mouth feel” which differs from Chinese greens. And the practice of shading the tea plants for a period of time prior to harvest accounts for the vivid, bright green color of Japanese teas such as Gyokuro and Matcha as well as a smoother, more mellow and less astringent flavor than say, the sun-grown Sencha green tea which is the Japanese daily green.

These are only a handful of the varieties of green tea available. The best way to explore the differing styles, tastes, and nuances, is to taste a series of green teas with the goal of comparing and contrasting.

Next time…we’ll look at Oolong teas.

 

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Aug 6 2012

ICED TEA ANYONE?

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Wow! If this hasn’t been the summer for iced tea, I don’t know what would be. Did you know, you can ice any of your favorite teas. It’s so easy: just make your tea a little stronger than you would for hot tea (i.e. add more tea, not steep longer). Pack your glass or pitcher with lots of ice, and pour the tea over it. A few stirs or shakes, and you have fresh tasting, icy cold heaven in a glass. Shown here is a caffeine-free Blueberry infusion made with organic Highland Farms Blueberries.

I know a lot of people who swear by sun tea. Sun tea is made by filling a container with water, adding your tea and letting it sit in the sun for a day or so. Although I have never heard of anyone becoming ill from drinking sun tea, this practice would harbor the growth of any bacteria present in the mixture. Perhaps a more hygienic way of producing the same result, an iced tea without bitterness or cloudiness, is making a cold steep tea. To do this, simply measure your tea or tea bags into a container, fill with cold water, and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. By using cold water, the tea leaves do not produce the bitterness which steeping with hot water for such a long period would.

Our most popular iced tea this summer has been Moroccan Mint. This blend of Gunpowder Green Tea with Peppermint is flavorful and refreshing either hot or cold. But as an iced tea, it is just heavenly on a hot summer day. We would love to hear what your favorite iced tea is. Feel free to e-mail us and let us know.

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Mar 30 2012

Sakura; Celebrate Japanese Cherry Blossoms

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There is perhaps nothing more beautiful than the fleeting season of Sakura, Japanese cherry blossoms, in the spring. The delicate colors, the papery thin petals, and the sweetness of their blowing showers to the ground, all come together for a brief period every spring. In Japan the season is celebrated with festivals and colorful pageantry. Spring kimonos are brought out of storage, the cherry blossoms are incorporated into foods, beverages, and preserved in salt for later use. Branches of flowering cherry tree are displayed in vases, and illustrated on fabrics, scrolls, and ceramics. We’ll be featuring our Japanese teas this month, so be sure to stop by.

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Jan 13 2012

January is National Hot Tea Month ~ Let’s Celebrate!

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Try to imagine a world without tea; no kettle on, no homely, or delicately shaped tea pots around the house, no delicate tea cups handed down from one generation to the next, no steaming cup of tea offered to a friend or a sick family member to calm the tummy, or nerves, or to linger over with a friend or new acquaintance. I can’t imagine it. So, this month we celebrate that cup which soothes, lubricates, and alerts us all at the same time. After more than 5,000 years the leaf is gaining a widespread appreciation around the world. Always revered in Asian countries where it was native, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water. Having been the subject of espionage, wars, trade, and numerous legends and myths for millenia, the western world is becoming increasingly appreciative of all this good plant has to offer. The coldest month of the winter is the perfect time for us to celebrate it. Have a tea party and invite friends in; break out the prettiest tea pot and the delicate tea cups that are never used. Make tiny fingerfoods, or hearty comfort food to have with it. And most of all, be sure to inhale the aroma when you drink it and mentally observe its effect on your body as you sip.

 

 

 

 

 In honor of National Hot Tea Month, we are offering free tastings ever Saturday this month, with a focus on a different type of tea each week. Here is the lineup:

Saturday January 7th: Focus on Flavored Teas

Saturday January 14th: Focus on Black Teas

Saturday January 21st: Focus on Oolong Teas, and our Lunar New Year        Celebration

Saturday January 18th: Focus on Green and White Teas

Be sure to stop in and celebrate with us; you might just find a new tea you’ll enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dec 10 2011

Winter is Spring?…Inside

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Despite warmer than usual temperatures, the first day of winter is fast approaching and the holiday season is upon us. But I’ve recently noticed that inside, things are budding and blooming. At the shop, my Camellia Sinensis (tea plant) has finally opened it’s delicately fragrant, single blossom. And at home, both the Peace Plant and the Christmas Cactus are blooming. My amaryllis is not flowering yet, but I expect that it soon will push up its bud. This will be very exciting when the snow hits the ground. There may be nothing more homey than being surrounded by fragrant blossoms, drinking a cup of my favorite tea, with the cold wind and snow blowing outside. We hope you’ll join us often in the coming weeks and months of winter to warm your hands and your hearts with tea.
In the coming week

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Oct 7 2010

JOIN US FOR OUR FALL DIVA DAY!

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Please join us for our second Diva Day on Saturday October 23rd at The Woodfords Club in Portland. Our first event in July was a huge success, and we look forward to an even better event this time.  Meet a plethora of vendors of goods and services, get great ideas for holiday gift giving. Get pampered by the on-site massage and skin care provided, and win fabulous prizes. Sit and enjoy wonderful food from the on-site caterer. Tours of the Woodfords Club will be available; it’s a great place to hold your next event.

WHEN: Saturday October 23, 2010          

                  9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

WHERE: The Woodfords Club

                 179 Woodfords St.

                  Portland, Maine 04103

Fully handicapped accessible, plenty of parking, and great food onsite. No admission charge.

Nordic WalkingLots of vendors Jewelry

Lots of vendors

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