Friday, June 23, 2017

The vintage teacup winner is ...

Barbara C.! And Barbara (also known as Travelgirl16), I've sent you an email asking for your snail mail address so I can get the teacup headed your way. Congrats, and thanks to all who entered!

Tea and Pearls

I love pearls, the creamy white ones featured in jewelry, so it's probably no surprise that I was inclined to like any tea with "pearls" in the name. I've had green tea pearls that usually have a name like "Jasmine Dragon Pearls," and the latest "pearls" I've tried are these Black Dragon Pearls.

These pearls were in a sample I recently received for review from Adagio Teas. I find them similar to the jasmine-scented tea pearls, only they're much larger.

While jasmine pearls are what I would call pea sized, these are almost dime sized.

Of course, once the tea is steeped and the leaves unfurl, the steeped tea leaves are pretty indistinguishable from any other tea leaves. Aside from the novelty of tea pearls, I want to be sure to mention that the tea was quite tasty as well. When I saw the golden leaves in the pearls, I wasn't surprised to learn that this tea hails from Yunnan province. The tea had a pleasantly brisk and faintly earthy taste, and I greatly enjoyed trying on these new pearls, you might say! If you'd like to read more about this tea, click here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sampling some puerhs from Teaspec

I recently received some great puerh tea samples from Teaspec. I received samples of both the raw puerh and the ripe puerh.

This was the raw puerh, which had a lighter color (and it was a rainy gray day, so the color inside is a little off).

And the ripe puerh had the dark copper color I associate with puerhs. Both teas had that musky-earthy flavor so indicative of these "fermented" teas, and I liked them both, but I liked the ripe puerh best because it seemed stronger and yet smooth. According to the company, "Our teas are aged in Malaysia because it is widely acknowledged that Malaysian aged Pu'er is more sought after over Pu'er stored in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or elsewhere. This tea has matured like a much older vintage because it has been aged in Malaysia under the most ideal natural environment." I liked puerh tea (and I spell it "puerh") from the moment I first tried it, but I understand that it is not a favorite of all tea drinkers. If you happen to be a puerh fan, do you prefer raw or ripe puerhs — or does it matter? I'd love to know! (And you can click here to learn more about Teaspec.)

Monday, June 19, 2017

June Giveaway: A vintage footed teacup

Have y'all found any cute tea stuff in stores lately? I haven't. If you have, please send me a link or a photo or something for inspiration, because my search for a new item for a June giveaway came up short. And since that was the case, I decided to give away something many of us love, a vintage footed teacup with roses on it! There's no back stamp, and I have no idea where or when I got this teacup, but I have several similar ones and think the ornate handle is just so lovely.

If you'd like to be entered to win, simply leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. Friday, June 23, and you'll be entered to win.  US residents only, please. Also, you must include a way for me to contact you if you're the winner, and you can list your email this way if you wish: angelamcrae at charter dot net.  Good luck!

Friday, June 16, 2017

"Ultra Select Dishes for Afternoon Teas," 1913

My latest find on the Library of Congress website is an old cookbook I'd not heard of before, Ultra Select Dishes for Afternoon Teas by the "World Famous Chefs" of the United States, Canada, and Europe. It's copyright 1913 and was compiled and edited by A.C. Hoff.

Even the title page is lovely and so representative of its era.

I always like to learn what the cooks of yesteryear considered "fancy" sandwiches for tea. It's also interesting to see that the book recommends using wet napkins to keep sandwiches fresh, a trick we still use today (but with waxed paper in between them and the sandwiches to keep the sandwiches from getting soggy). I'm not sure I would have cared for the "Scraped Chicken Sandwich" very much, though!

I noted that the "Chicken Salad Palace," containing chicken, celery, mayonnaise, and bread, sounds quite similar to a simple chicken salad of today. It's always fun to see old recipes, and I so enjoy finding them on the Library of Congress website. Click here to view this book for yourself.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Adagio's Casablanca Twist Green Tea

I drink both hot tea and iced tea all year long, but this week, I decided to try one of the samples Adagio Teas provided me with earlier this year, their Casablanca Twist Green Tea.

Casablanca Twist is a blend of Darjeeling tea and peppermint, a combination I don't believe I've ever seen before.

Now I love peppermint teas, both hot and cold. I first sampled this tea hot, and I enjoyed its clean, fresh, minty taste. But then I tried it iced and loved it even more! Some teas seem to wimp out when ice is added to them, but this tea, if anything, had a more intense flavor when iced. And even though I do still drink a fair amount of hot tea, I know I've been drinking much more iced tea now that warmer days have arrived. What about you? Do you sip more iced tea or a mix of both hot and iced?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sweet-Tea-with-Lemon Cake

Last week I saw a magazine recipe on Facebook for a cake said to taste like sweet tea and lemonade. That certainly appealed to me, so I purchased the ingredients I needed for the cake and got ready to bake. Fortunately, just before I was about to head to the kitchen, I noted the reviews for the cake, which were abnormally low with lots of 1- and 2-star ratings. Apparently the cake was turning out too dry for lots of people, and some even found it inedible. Ruh-roh, as Scooby Doo would say!

I really liked the idea of a cake with the flavors of sweet tea and lemon, though, so I searched through vanilla cake recipes and thought about what works well in the cakes I like best. I decided to experiment with flavoring the cake batter with tea, and here’s the result, a dessert that made me happy (the cake was not dry!), and my husband said, “That one’s a keeper. Save that recipe.” So I am.

Sweet-Tea-with-Lemon Cake

1 cup whole milk
3 teaspoons loose black tea (or substitute tea bags)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Heat the milk on high in the microwave for 2 minutes, add the tea leaves, and steep tea for five minutes before removing from milk. (I used a paper tea filter for steeping the tea.) Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, add sugar, and combine. Add the oil and vanilla and combine well. Using a hand mixer, slowly add the dry ingredients alternately with the tea-infused milk. Pour batter into the pan, and  bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.

Frost cake with your favorite cream cheese icing recipe and flavor with lemon flavoring or fresh lemon juice, adjusting the amount of flavoring or juice to taste. (Here’s the recipe I used.)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Doilies, "Death," and Dollar Tree

Did you know that you can get a variety pack of doilies for just $1? I recently discovered these lovely rose design paper doilies at Dollar Tree, and the package of 32 includes eight each of the 6-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch doilies. Nice!

Do all paper doilies have roses on them? I haven't paid attention! I just know that I was fresh out of doilies and decided the price was definitely right on these.

And of course I am simply incapable of walking past those $1 books, and would you look at some of my recent cozy mystery finds! Death of a Cupcake Queen by Lee Hollis, and from our beloved tea shop mystery author Laura Childs, books from her two other cozy mystery series, Gilt Trip, a scrapbooking mystery, and Eggs in a Casket, a Cackleberry Club mystery. I think I'm set for a while!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wanted: The Perfect Pattern for The Sacred Fabric

Back in April, I wrote about my quest for some Susan Winget Tea Time fabric. Shortly thereafter, two kind readers very generously sent me a total of two yards of the fabric, precisely the amount I was looking for. Within the next month, I acquired two companion fabrics from the same Susan Winget collection, a simple blue solid (found at Jo-Ann crafts store) and a teacup-and-text pattern fabric (found on eBay).

And now, my problem is that I don't want to cut this lovely fabric with the teacups and handwriting on it! I now think of this particular stash as The Sacred Fabric. I have spent the better part of a month scouring every quilt catalog I can find for a simple pattern that will let me spotlight this wonderful print. The only contenders that I've found acceptable are here and here. (And the more I look at it, the second one makes me fear the pieces are still too small to feature the print.)

My challenge is, I don't want to cut The Sacred Fabric into too-small pieces. The two fabrics I found on my own, including this one, well, I'm willing to chop those into tiny squares if necessary, but The Sacred Fabric can't be purchased anymore, so the perfect pattern must be found before I take a stitch. If any of you quilters or sewing friends have ideas for where to find quilt patterns that showcase large-print fabrics, I'd be much obliged if you would share! At least every other day I find myself walking by and "petting" The Sacred Fabric (it's that pretty), and I probably need to think about cutting it before I just give up and pin the fabric to my walls!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Teatime treats from a trip to North Carolina

Last weekend I was in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the annual Red Adept Publishing party, and I once again squeezed in a visit to the wonderful Tin Roof Teas! This is my third year to stop by while I'm in town for the party, and oh, how I wish I had one of these stores back home. They have a huge variety of all kinds of great teas, and with teawares, tea samplers, sugars, strainers, infusers, and oh so much more, it's all deliciously overwhelming.

What I came home with this time was a beautiful new turquoise tea mug (sigh; I was trying to cut down) and one of the teas featured in a display, the Peachy Green Rooibos, which includes peach pieces and sunflower blossoms. It's as pretty as it is tasty! I got the fresh-juicy-peach flavor I was hoping for, and I also like the fact that rooibos is a low-maintenance sort of tea to prepare. I can wander off for 5-8 minutes instead of hovering nearby for the 2-4 minutes at which I usually prefer to steep my green and black teas.

And doesn't this sign just say it all? I so agree!

Friday, June 2, 2017

American Red Cross nurses at tea, 1918

Had I planned better, I would have shared this photo last month during National Nurses Week! This is one of the latest tea-related vintage photos I've found on the Library of Congress website, and this one is by photographer Lewis Wickes Hine and was created on June 25, 1918. The title is "How many Lumps? Afternoon tea in the American Red Cross Nurses' Rest Room in an American Hospital."

This image was taken at the hospital in the town of Chaumont, France, which was the headquarters of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Must say I was rather delighted to come across a teatime photo of nurses who were actually serving during wartime!

To read more about the American National Red Cross photograph collection at the Library of Congress, click here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rose Dragon Ball Black Tea

Teavivre has kindly sent me some new teas to sample, and I thought one of the packets had an odd shape to it, so I checked it out and inside found this!

As you can probably guess from the title of this post and from the picture of the ball of tea above, this Rose Dragon Ball Black Tea includes black tea and roses. Remember how artisan floral teas were all the rage a few years ago? I'd forgotten about them, so it was lovely to open this ball of tea leaves and discover the pretty rosebuds drifting off as the tea steeped in my glass teapot.

The taste, however, is what impressed me most about this tea. I was expecting a heavy perfumed taste because of the rose, but I found only the merest hint of rose in this tea. Mostly I tasted a very fresh, very brisk (but not astringent) Yunnan tea with its characteristic malty notes. According to Teavivre, the Rose Dragon Ball Black Tea is made from Yunnan large-leaf species of old tea trees. These old tea trees are between 50 and 300 years old. (Tea trees over 300 years old are considered to be "ancient" tea trees.) I greatly enjoyed the taste of this tea from "old tea trees," and I had several cups of it. Since I've sipped lots of flavored teas over the past week, a quality black tea seemed to be just what I was looking for, and I appreciated both the taste experience and the aesthetic experience of this lovely new tea. Go here if you'd like to learn more about Teavivre's Rose Dragon Ball Black Tea.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A tin tea mug for garden lovers!

For a couple of months now, I've noticed that the Peachtree City T.J. Maxx has had some cute $4.99 tea mugs made of tin. I've really tried to put the brakes on acquiring many more teacups and tea mugs, but I was in the checkout line at T.J. Maxx this week when I saw one of these mugs that I just couldn't leave behind!

Even the tags on this mug are cute! The back of the tag tells me that this mug of powder-coated steel should not be used in the microwave (not a problem), and it's a copyrighted design from Bell & Curfew, a company in Bath in the UK and Brooklyn, N.Y. 

I did wonder whether the handle of a tin tea mug filled with tea would be too hot to, you know, handle, but it wasn't. I wish I'd seen a few more of these mugs since I have a few friends they'd be perfect for, but alas, there was just the one. If you'd like one for yourself, though, be sure to check out the checkout line at your local T.J. Maxx!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"363 Days of Tea" by Ruby Silvious

Could you use a little art and inspiration in your life this week? If so, I am delighted to recommend a new book I recently ordered thanks to an Amazon gift card my sister gave me for my birthday. It's the book 363 Days of Tea by Ruby Silvious, and it chronicles the author's 2015 project of creating a new piece of artwork each day for a year with a used tea bag serving as her canvas. I've seen a few projects like various "dresses" that incorporated used tea bags, but Silvious has taken tea bag art to an entirely new level!

Tea lovers will enjoy this book for its tea information as well as for the beautiful artwork. For instance, I enjoyed examining all the hang tags and noting which teas I have tried and which I have not. Silvious has also made me consider my lowly tea bags in a new light. Have you ever thought about which tea bags have the most distinctive stains? Or which teas stick to the bags? She writes, "Over time, I learned the different tea bag shapes and constructions as well as the kinds of stains different teas produce. For instance, chamomile tea leaves stick to the tea bag paper, making them difficult to remove. Some green, white and herbal teas don't stain at all, so I reserve these for painting portraits. When going for distinct contrasts, I use black and rooibos-stained tea bags because they produce the best stains by far."

If you'd like to see a sample of the elegant artwork in this lovely book, click here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hats on parade at "Tea With Lynn"

Last Thursday at the McRitchie-Hollis Museum in Newnan, I had the pleasure of attending a program and tea sponsored by the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society, "Tea With Lynn." The speaker was Lynn Smith, a renowned local hat collector and beloved Newnan figure. I am quite pleased that Lynn also happens to be our longtime State Representative from Newnan. She works hard, doesn't seek the limelight, quietly reads bills and studies the issues, is well-respected for her leadership on environmental stewardship, and has never embarrassed us. I hope she serves forever.

Because Lynn donated her collection of 500-plus hats (many with hat boxes) to the historical society, they have a special exhibit of her hats on display. When I was a newspaper reporter many years ago, I actually interviewed Lynn about her collection, so I've followed with interest her adventures in hat collecting. Her display at the museum chronicled some of her collection, and this laminated feature page from 1990 looked familiar—and that's because I took the photos!

I was intrigued to learn about Lynn's early hat-collecting influences, such as her "Aunt Rosemary," who used to sweep down from New York, swathed in mink from head to toe and making an impression on her young niece. Lynn said she learned about fashion from her aunt, and she learned how to shop the great New York department stores—you shopped in the basement where things were more budget friendly.

Lynn's husband was in the military, so as a young bride she learned to stretch a budget. She said she visited estate sales and garage sales to find items for her home, and it was there she began to notice old designer hats for as little as a dollar. By that time few women wore hats anymore, so she started collecting them. And as we all know, one collection leads to another.

Lynn also collected magazines and books featuring hats.

And even some artwork of hats and hatboxes.

One of the most special "hat stories" she told was of one I knew about but had forgotten. In 2000, Lynn was chosen to greet Prince Philip when he came to Newnan to open the Slumberland USA mattress manufacturing facility. As the highest-ranking elected official in town, Lynn was contacted by the British embassy, and someone politely suggested that it might be appropriate if she were to wear gloves and a hat when she greeted the Prince. The gloves were actually pretty easy to find, she said, and she eventually found a hat that matched the suit she had chosen to wear.

Beautiful, isn't it?

After her program, the several dozen women in attendance got to ask questions, tour the house and hat collection, and partake of teatime treats courtesy of the historical society. We got to enjoy selections of Twinings Tea along with chicken salad and cucumber sandwiches, mini eclairs, delicious scones served with jam and cream, and some shortbread.

What a great way to celebrate an afternoon with a lovely woman and her lovely hats!

Friday, May 19, 2017

The winner of the Susan Branch book is ...

Farrah G.! And Farrah, I've just sent you an email requesting your snail mail address, so once I receive that, the book will be on its way. With over 100 entries, this giveaway was one of the most popular ones I've ever offered. Clearly, I need to give away more Susan Branch merchandise, so I'll be on the lookout for more!

Twins having tea

Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Are any of you twins? Do any of you have twins? I think most of us are probably fascinated by twins. My paternal grandmother, Ruby, was a twin. Grandmama Ruby had eleven children, including my father, but none of them had twins. Grandmama Ruby's twin sister, Ruth, had only one child. Now isn't that interesting? I was at a family reunion last year and asked some of my aunts and uncles (nine of the eleven are still alive) which twin was the oldest, and no one knew! But enough about twins in my family. I found some darling twins on the Library of Congress website that I wanted to share!

It's usually only the older photos that are in the public domain, but this image now appears on and is titled, "San Francisco, California's most famous twins, Marian (left) and Vivian Brown, photographed in the 1990s, enjoy afternoon tea."

Aren't they darling! I wonder what kind of caps they're wearing. Apparently the two were known for dressing alike. Go here if you'd like to learn more about the late Marian and Vivian Brown.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Road trip tea reviews: Pure Leaf Tea House Collection

So this week Alex and I have had the pleasure of enjoying a few days at a friend's condo in Orange Beach, Alabama. On the way down, I happened to be reading a new magazine and saw an ad for a new collection of teas from Pure Leaf called the Tea House Collection. I mentioned that I wanted to look for them on the trip, and to my surprise, the very next store we stopped at had them! (It was one of those nice huge convenience stores with a deli and a Cinnabon vendor inside, but still, I was surprised at how easy it was to find these.) I loved the modern looking glass bottles, and the flavors all sounded intriguing, but I limited myself to two.

The first one I tried was the Fuji Apple & Ginger organic green tea. Sweetened with cane sugar, this drink had a nice sweet but not-too-sweet taste, and I liked the little zip from the ginger. I drank about half of this from the bottle and enjoyed it, and I found I liked it even better when I got to the condo and poured the rest of it over ice.

The other flavor I tried was the Wild Blackberry & Sage organic black tea, and I had this one entirely with glasses of ice. I found that "hint of wild blackberry and sage" is accurate, but I did enjoy the mildness of the flavor. I would have to say that these two teas come pretty close to approximating a genuine freshly made iced tea, and I'll be trying the other flavors soon as well. Have any of you tried these teas? If so, what did you think? You can read more about these teas here.