Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Some tea connections you might not have considered

As a writer, I love to come across offbeat books that make me think differently about things and people. Recently, that included the book Correlated: Surprising Connections Between Seemingly Unrelated Things by Shaun Gallagher. (Dollar Tree. One dollar. Score!)

I honestly had no idea a tea connection was in this book, so imagine my surprise when I'm reading along one night and came across this. Now, let me just say that regarding item number one, I do not wish to know your thoughts. TMI and NSFTB (Not Suitable For Tea Blog). But I am interested in the second item. It says 60 percent of people prefer mechanical pencils (to non-mechanical pencils, I assume). But among those who prefer tea to coffee (that includes me!), 71 percent prefer mechanical pencils (and I do *not* prefer mechanical pencils to non-mechanical ones). Do you? Just curious whether this tidbit holds up with readers of this blog!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Time for some teatime herbs

I believe the danger of frost has past, so that meant it was time to get going on some teatime garden projects for the new year. Fresh herbs for teatime sipping and cooking were definitely on my radar, so I made a visit to the Walmart garden center and picked up three pots of herbs to go in my teacup planter. The planter has become cracked on one side and may not make it another year, so I'm going to be on the lookout for another one just like it.

I purchased two mint plants, including this spearmint …

… and this chocolate mint (oh, does it smell yummy) …

And a pot of rosemary. I cannot seem to walk past a rosemary plant without touching it, crushing a few leaves, and sniffing my fingers because I love the scent so much. No wonder there's the saying "rosemary for remembrance."

Have plant tags, will study. Have you planted any teatime herbs this spring? I imagine my friends up north have not, but some of you in warmer climes probably have!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Guylian Matcha Green Tea Chocolates

The cookies and candies for sale at T.J. Maxx, I find, can be iffy. I've bought some chocolate teacups that disintegrated the moment I opened the package, and I've bought some cookies that tasted like slightly sugared cardboard. So while I'm happy to buy teas there, I don't often try the foods. But I decided to take a gamble and brought home these Guylian Matcha Green Tea Artisanal Belgian Chocolates when I saw them there the other day.

I loved the little seahorse shapes!

I turned one over and was surprised to find some milk chocolate along with the white chocolate shell.

Where was the matcha? I had to slice one open to confirm that the matcha filling was inside. (Or I could have just bitten into it, but that wouldn't make for a pretty photo.) And I'm delighted to report that these were absolutely delicious! These chocolates tasted fresh and sweet with just a light matcha taste. The consistency reminded me of Lindt Lindor Truffles, of which I have long been a fan.

There was only one box of these at the T.J. Maxx I visited, for an obvious reason, but if I see more, you can bet I'll be buying them! Have any of you tried these chocolates before? I'd love to have some of these on hand the next time I host a tea!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Some new tea from a new shop!

Several years ago, I learned from tea friend Denise about a new tea company in Huntsville, Alabama, called Piper & Leaf. I've not yet made it to the shop in Huntsville, but fortunately, the tea company has come to me! A new shop called Local Provisions recently opened in downtown Newnan, and they carry Piper & Leaf Tea!

I saw the display and wanted everything on it!

But I'll allow myself only one tea purchase at a time, and I started with the tea I've most wanted to try, their Front Porch Special blend. It contains black tea, spearmint, cornflowers, jasmine, and bergamot.

Think Earl Grey, but softer. I loved the scent of this tea, the sight of this tea, and most of all, the lovely, delicate flavor of this tea. Count me as the newest fan of Piper & Leaf — and Local Provisions!

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Steep & Go bottle infuser

When I was in Wisconsin recently, I bought a new tea gadget that I was eager to try, this Steep & Go cold brew bottle infuser for use with loose leaf tea.

The set consists of a cylindrical column with holes pierced in it,  a cap (shown at left), and two different sizes of ring attachments (both shown on the column here).

Just glancing at the package, I had assumed the column was supposed to then be filled with tea, but when I read the instructions, I learned that no, that is actually the part that filters out the loose leaf tea. That was surprising, and I liked the fact the loose leaf tea gets to "swim" while it is cold brewing.

I was skeptical, but friends, this thing works like a charm! I cold-brewed some Grapefruit Oolong from Adagio, and it gave me the citrusy taste I was expecting, and not one particle of tea slipped past that magnificent filter!

I also liked the fact it has a sports-bottle type of cap that lets you sort of squirt the tea out for sipping. Now I wish I'd bought two of these gadgets! Every year I try new bottled teas, and about 9 times out of 10 I am disappointed with the flavor. Now I have an easy way to take my owned bottled tea on the road, and I couldn't be happier with this infuser. It's made by The Tea Spot, and you can find it in their Green Tea color as well as a few other colors by clicking here.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The teapot tea infuser goes to …

Sandy Garvey! And Sandy, I've sent you an email asking for your snail mail address so I can get this new infuser headed your way. Congrats!

A new video and new teas from Fortnum & Mason

Do you all subscribe to the emails from Fortnum & Mason in London? I do, and I do not ask for very many emails. Yesterday, I enjoyed viewing this new tea video teased in their latest email. If you view it—and it's just about a minute and a half—watch for the Bloody Mary Tea. That caught my eye.

And so did this … Fortnum's is now offering silky teabags containing loose leaf tea, just as Harney and other US vendors have done for years. Even though I won't be flying to London to shop there anytime soon, I like knowing that my favorite UK department store is getting with the times and offering a more convenient form of their fabulous loose leaf tea!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Flea Market Garden Style magazine

I absolutely love the new gardening magazines that appear each spring, especially the ones that promote using flea market finds as garden decor. This week, I picked up Flea Market Garden Style at Walgreens and flipped through it to see if it needed to go home with me.

And it did! I love sedums, and I love teacups and sugar bowls, so what's not to love about this spread?

And oh, this lovely little mossy arrangement in an old enamel tea kettle is so charming! There are quite a few more winsome ideas in this issue as well, along with some "shabby chic" decor, old statuary, and vintage linens. If that sounds like your cup of you-know-what too, you might want to look for this magazine!

Monday, March 5, 2018

March Giveaway: Teapot-shaped tea infuser

One of my favorite tea infusers is this twisting tea ball from Oxo, but last fall I got (nicely) pulled out of line at the Milwaukee airport for having it in my suitcase. Oh, it's legal and all, but that plastic handle doesn't show up on the airport X-ray machine, and the infuser looks like a sharp metal weapon. I was as puzzled as the security guy when he pointed at the scan of the long skinny object in my bag and asked me what that might be. After he reached in and pulled out the tea infuser, he laughed and waved me on through. So on my most recent trip, I meant to take an infuser that wouldn't create any problems. Alas, I forgot it, and fortunately my stepdaughter had some tea filters left over from a previous visit, but still I *mean* to keep a plastic infuser in my suitcase for use in the event of a tea emergency. (I know, I know. First-world problem, for sure!) But when I found this silicone infuser on eBay for 99 cents, I decided I'd go ahead and order two, one for me and one to give away to one of you!

It's a pretty simple gadget to use, as the lid neatly pops off and right back into place after you scoop some tea inside.

As often happens with this type of infuser, I found a few tea leaves slipping through, so I will probably keep this as my "travel infuser" rather than an everyday infuser. Perhaps you're headed on a trip and could use one too? If so, just leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. EST on Friday, March 9, and you'll be entered to win. US and Canada only, please. And may the luck of the Irish be with ya!

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Currier & Ives tea print

Well, this is a first! I was browsing the Library of Congress website for vintage tea images, and I found one I'd never seen before, this print from Currier & Ives that reads "Splendid Tea!"

When I enlarged it, the line directly under the picture of the old lady, who bears more than a passing resemblance to a smiling Abe Lincoln, reads "Copyright 1881, By Currier & Ives, N.Y." Underneath "Splendid Tea!" it says only, "New York, Published by Currier & Ives, 115 Nassau St."

I've always associated Currier & Ives with the vintage prints of snow-laden landscapes, but I've certainly never seen any of their prints related to teatime. And what on earth do you suppose "Splendid Tea!" is about? Tea is splendid, I'll agree, but don't you think this was probably some sort of advertising piece? If you have any ideas on it, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Trying a new tea in a new-to-me teacup

One of the many things I enjoy about visiting my stepdaughter's family in Wisconsin (besides getting to visit our two adorable grandsons!) is that Heather and her husband always make me feel so welcome. Early on, she made it clear that her house was my house, so when she was busy working and I wanted a cup of tea, I knew I was welcome to browse in her cabinets and use anything I found, including this lovely teacup!

I was eager to try a new flavor of Bigelow tea I'd found at their local Walmart, the Toasted Coconut Almond Bark flavor.

It sounded quite delicious, billed as "a decadent combination of toasted coconut and almond flavors." I had high hopes for this tea, and I've loved almost everything I've ever tried from Bigelow, but I must admit that this one didn't quite live up to its promise. It was fine for an almond-flavored tea with a hint of sweetness, but I didn't detect the toasted coconut flavor at all. Maybe that's just me, though, and your experience might be different!

I did, however, enjoy learning that Heather found this gorgeous teacup for $3 at a Wisconsin garage sale (as evidenced by the sticker I found on the bottom), and it was a floral pattern I've seen before but not on this particular style of teacup. Yada is such a fun name for a china company. (If you have three of these teacups, do you have some "Yada, yada, yada"?)

And last but certainly not least, here are our sweet little Badger boys, as we call them, Andrew and Michael, on their way to school as we prepared to say goodbye and head back to Georgia!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Discovering a new tea spot in Green Bay, Wisconsin

Alex and I are up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, visiting family, and on Saturday, while they were all attending a birthday party for a young friend, we decided to check out The Attic, a used bookstore and tea and coffee shop in Green Bay. 

I sampled their "Dahl House" blend, a ginger and peach black tea, and a huge chocolate chip scone, both very good! Alex had a bagel and coffee, which he also enjoyed.

They had a great selection of loose teas, tea wares, and tea gadgets (including a new one I purchased and plan to review once I get back home).

I enjoyed seeing the clever collages displayed at the store, including this one with a familiar tea quote.

I left with a new tea tumbler (an unbreakable souvenir that's suited for air travel) and some Caramel Apple Rooibos that is a delicious antidote to the cold weather up here in Wisconsin!

Friday, February 23, 2018

"The Taster" by V. S. Alexander

Summary: Magda Ritter, a young woman in Nazi Germany, goes looking for a job, and a well-connected uncle helps her get one of the most interesting (and dangerous) occupations ever, serving as a personal taster for Adolf Hitler, even though she's not a Nazi party member and is by no means sold on Nazi beliefs. And without spoiling some of the storylines in the book, let me just say that the teacup on the cover represents quite a few pivotal scenes in this book. I was surprised!

My thoughts: Oh, I hope some of you have read (or will read) The Taster, because I found it thoroughly fascinating. I can't exactly say I "enjoyed" it, because I have always been and forever will be so appalled by the monster that was Hitler, but this book gave me lots of food for thought. I can't recall ever before reading a novel in which Hitler was a character, so it was intriguing to view him through the eyes of a young German woman who gets a job of making sure his food hasn't been poisoned. In some scenes, Hitler is actually nice to the people (and animals) around him, and I found myself thinking, "Could that have been possible?" The author certainly made it seem so. Magda gets involved with an SS officer who, like her, is no fan of Hitler, and it soon becomes clear that not everyone in Hitler's orbit is enamored with him. Although we all know how the story turned out, I found myself lingering over one part of the book about a failed assassination attempt on Hitler and thinking, "Oh, if only …" The Holocaust is referred to only briefly—and somewhat obliquely—and that is perhaps the book's greatest weakness.

Also, while I usually love to learn about any famous tea houses in history, I was bothered to learn that Hitler enjoyed a tea house, simply because I'm sorry to know that he ever enjoyed anything. The fictional Hitler had a fondness for tea and loved his apple cake, two things that are apparently true of the real Hitler.

The judgment: I highly recommend this book for some enlightening reading and discussion. The well-written book is an easy read, but it also is thought-provoking for anyone who wonders whether fascism is alive and well today. I used to think that "nationalist" thinking died with Hitler, but then I watched those awful videos from last year's white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville and realized that, tragically, such evil thinking is still with us. The book was a sobering reminder of what happens when evil leaders and beliefs are blindly accepted by the masses.

For discussion: Did you learn some new things about Hitler from this book? Do you have difficulty imagining him treating people or animals well? What did you think about Hitler's tea house and tea parties?

Next Month's Book: Whew! This month's book had such a heavy theme, I need some lighter fare and can't wait to get the new Laura Childs book, Plum Tea Crazy, as our Tea Lovers Book Club read for March. See you "back in the book club" on March 30!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A teacup toast to two queens!

Sometimes I wonder why I pay for cable TV, because there's not much on it I care to watch anymore. This winter, however, I finally caved and subscribed to Netflix, so in addition to PBS's "Victoria," I've also been enjoying "The Crown," and naturally I had to order the companion books that go with each series. 

I love history, and I realize the dramas are not 100 percent true to life, so I enjoy having these books to consult after each episode. I also have a designated teacup for sipping during each show. Is that silly? For "The Crown," the obvious choice was this teacup from Paragon, issued to commemorate the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

On a recent episode of "Victoria," I was sorry to learn that a storyline about Victoria and Albert getting lost in Scotland and seeking refuge in a poor couple's shack was not based on anything recorded. Wouldn't it be fun to think the two showed up like common beggars and requested a night's stay? Still, it's a fun show, and the designated teacup for viewing it is this one I bought at Windsor Castle, the teacup's pattern having come from a Minton dessert stand purchased by Queen Victoria at The Great Exhibition in 1851. Are any of you also watching and/or reading about Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth? Are you taking note of all those great tea scenes (and tea sets) as I am?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Some new shopping buddies!

Most of the time if I write about any weekend tea finds, you'll hear me mention that Aunt Jane is my regular shopping buddy. Once in a while, my youngest niece, Amelia, joins us. This weekend, however, it was my middle niece, Cari, and my sister's youngest child, nephew Matthew, who joined Aunt Jane and me. We had a great time together, and all of us came home with some fun new finds, including the tea and chintzware carafe here.

First we went to the mall in Douglasville, where the good news is that the Hallmark shop's tea I'd had my eye on was 75 percent off. Made for Hallmark Gold Crown, the Crafters & Co. tea was the organic Black Cinnamon flavor, and I believe it's the first tea I've seen with a pull-top can.

The bad news is that the tea wasn't very good. It tasted weak and not very appetizing, but perhaps it was simply old. That's not good, but the really bad news is that the Hallmark shop itself is going out of business! The one in my town closed a few years ago, and now one at a mall can't survive? I'm a little nervous about where I'll get my Hallmark Christmas ornaments for all the children in our family this year, but I guess there's always (Right?) I'm curious how many of you have a Hallmark store near you. Very many of you?

After we ate lunch at Chick-fil-A and finished up at the mall, Cari asked if I would *mind* going to a new antique mall nearby so she could look for vintage clothes. (Are you finished laughing yet?) Of course, good aunt that I am, I obliged. And to my surprise, I came upon something I'd been looking for but didn't expect to find anytime soon, a new carafe. I'd been looking for a simple water carafe for my bedside table, but the only ones I found online didn't appeal to me at all. This one, chintz and just $11.50, will do quite nicely!

Cari, by the way, bought a lovely pink vintage gown. She explained to me that she just loves all things vintage, and I was surprised (but delighted) to learn that my niece shares my love for old stuff, including this carriage at the entrance to Ben's Antiques.

And just in case I need to taunt him with it at his rehearsal dinner one day, here's a picture of me and Matthew. What a fun Saturday!