Nov 4 2014

Great Tea Parties of the Past and Present

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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.

Japanese Tea Ceremony, Chado

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.

Antique tea caddy for storing the precious leaf

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

Tea pots of all styles.

Formal Tea Service

the civility, the aroma and beauty of the leaf, and the many benefits of partaking of such a delightful beverage.

 

 

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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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Oct 16 2013

Tea Primer Revisited: Overview

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I’m often asked how a particular tea is made; for instance does green tea come from a different plant than black tea? What makes one tea different from another? So it seemed time to review the basics of tea. For starters, all true tea comes from the same type of plant, Camellia Sinensis – Sinensis or Camellia Sinensis – Assamica. The Sinensis plant is native to China and the Assamica plant is larger leafed and native to India. Although there are thousands of cultivars of these species, in the same way there are thousands of rose cultivars, just as a rose is a rose is a rose, so is tea, a tea, a tea…

Anything infused from a different plant, such as mint, Rooibos, chamomile, or fruit, is technically not tea but rather is an herbal infusion or tisane.

So, back to tea. The tea plant is a distant relative of the Camellia which grows so prolifically in our Southern states and whose flowers have such a sweet scent. The specific cultivar used might make a better green, black, white or oolong tea, but in general, any of the cultivars could be used to make any type of tea. The difference is in the process the leaf undergoes after it is harvested. For instance, if the leaf is plucked and very shortly heated and dried, it will be green tea because the leaf has not undergone any oxidation. On the other hand, if the leaf is plucked, bruised a bit and allowed to sit and fully oxidize before it is heated and dried, it will become black tea.

Tea is native to China and was first discovered 5,000 years ago. Throughout history it has sometimes been used medicinally, sometimes eaten as a vegetable, and has been at the core of wars, mystery, and intrigue. And yet this humble leaf when infused and ingested promotes such clarity and peace of mind, that I am quite sure those who planned and waged wars over tea were imbibing in quite another beverage. Below you can see freshly plucked leaves in the first step of becoming a fine tea. Stay tuned for the next issue of a Tea Primer. We’d also love to have you join one of our classes.

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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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