Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #41 -- The Menger, San Antonio, Texas

This week's tea room postcard features an establishment that is actually still in business, the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. The caption on the postcard refers to the hotel's "tea rooms," plural, and I think they are quite lovely. I like their upholstered furniture, the wicker basket of roses on the bamboo table, and the pretty garlands over the archways. This would have been my kind of tea room back in the day!

The back of the card was postally unused, so I turned to the Internet to tell me a little more about this place. It turns out the hotel was built in 1858 by a German immigrant, and by the 1870s it was one of the best-known hotels in the southwest. Notable guests have included Robert E. Lee, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mae West, Babe Ruth, Oscar Wilde, Lillie Langtry, Cornelius Vanderbilt and William McKinley. Their website doesn't mention any tea service today, alas, but it does say that their Colonial Room Restaurant's "famous mango ice cream" was served at both of President Bill Clinton's inaugurations. If I'm ever in San Antonio, I think I might just enjoy a stay at the Menger Hotel!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sampling Twinings' Prince of Wales Tea

I just realized I've had a "first" here on Tea With Friends. Every single day this week I've featured a lovely "freebie" I have received from a friend or tea vendor. (I could get used to this!) Today's freebie is a sampling of Twinings' Prince of Wales Tea courtesy of my friend Lisa. My mug was a souvenir from the Twinings shop in London the first time I visited the U.K.

Now I see this tea in stores occasionally, and I thought I had surely tried it, but I can't find a record of ever having sipped this tea. And so I was happy to read the teabag wrapper and learn a bit about this tea. "Prince of Wales is a pure China black tea sourced from regions including the Yunnan province and other southern regions of China. This blend is light in colour and has a smooth and mild taste, with a well-rounded character. Great in the late morning or in the afternoon, it is perfect with or without milk and can be sweetened to taste." I actually found the tea has a bit of a smoky quality, which I very much enjoyed. I had this tea as an afternoon pick-me-up one day when I was working on a big editing project, and it gave me just the boost I needed. Have you tried this tea? If so, what did you think?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A surprise of vintage teatime recipes

Jenn in Massachusetts e-mailed a few days ago and said she had "a little something" she wanted to send me. When her package arrived, it contained the most charming 1904 book titled "A Book of Beverages."

I hope you can tell from the photo, but the title was printed on its own paper label and affixed to the book's cover. I just love that, but then I just love vintage things anyway. This book was published by Jenn's Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, the Colonel Timothy Bigelow (Bigelow!) Chapter. She said their chapter house is being reorganized, a stash of these books was found, and the group decided to use them as a fundraiser. I am, then, the happy recipient of one of them, and I found several recipes for tea inside!

This recipe for Ginger Tea sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? I tend to forget that homemade teas have been around for quite a while.

And this recipe for Boston Punch made with tea sounds easy and pretty. "A single violet may be added to each cup," it says. I think of edible flower embellishments as being a new trend, but apparently the idea has been around for some time. I've so enjoyed reading through this delightful gift from a thoughtful tea friend, and I look forward to enjoying this "Book of Beverages" for years to come!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Darjeelings: an experiment in black and white

This week I decided to try a tea tasting with some of the new samples I received from Golden Tips, and it struck me it might be fun to compare these two Darjeelings, one white and one black! On the left I have their Okayti Silver Needle Darjeeling, a white tea, and on the right is their Arya Ruby Darjeeling, a black tea.

Loose, the teas looked just as different as you might expect. The Okayti Silver Needle Darjeeling tea had a loose, fluffy appearance. It had a slight fragrance of wood shavings. The Arya Ruby Darjeeling had a distinct musky fragrance, and the tea leaves were much heavier and firmer.

Steeped, the Okayti Silver Needle Darjeeling had a pleasantly smooth, mellow taste to the pale yellow tea. The Arya Ruby Darjeeling, on the other hand, had an almost grape-like quality and produced a copper-colored brew, definitely my favorite of the two since I tend to like a tea that shows off. I very much enjoyed trying these two teas together. If you'd like to try some of Golden Tips' fine teas for yourself, go here to check out the offerings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Adagio's Rooibos Cinnamon Apple Tea

There are many reasons to love fall, but in recent years I have added a new one: I seem to hear from more tea companies offering to send me free samples in the fall! Adagio Teas, bless 'em, asked if I'd like a free gift certificate to select some new teas of my choice. Are you kidding me? Who wouldn't want that, especially since Adagio is a brand I've been sipping and savoring for years. And with fall upon us, most everything I ordered had a fall flair to it, including this nice big bag of their Rooibos Cinnamon Apple tea.

I think the color and texture of this tea even looks like fall, don't you? When I opened the package, I smelled a nice, spicy aroma, just as I was expecting. I hoped the tea would live up to its scent!

And I'm happy to report it did. Some fall teas are too heavy on the apple or too heavy on the cinnamon, but I thought this Rooibos Cinnamon Apple tea was well named since I could taste the familiar flavor of rooibos, I could taste the cinnamon, and I could taste the apple. And no one flavor overpowered the others. I've been drinking a lot of this lovely tea over the past few days, and if you'd like to check out Adagio Teas for yourself, go here to see what's new. Are you an Adagio fan as well? If so, which of their teas do you recommend?

Monday, October 13, 2014

The teabag infuser giveaway winner is ...

Nancy Reppert! Since I already have your address, Nancy, I'll soon have this headed your way. Congrats!

"Images of America - Newnan" is released!

Anyone who has entered an American bookstore in the last 20 years or so has probably come across one of the books in Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series of local history books, and I am absolutely delighted to have received a copy of their new release featuring my town of Newnan, Georgia, since the author is a friend and former colleague, Jeff Bishop. He's a father of five, a fact I got to enjoy and appreciate since our desks were next to each other for many years when he and I worked at the local newspaper together. Jeff went back to school a few years ago and got his Master's in Public History, and he now manages our local museums. When I heard he had written a new history book on Newnan, I knew it would be good and it would be right!

Newnan loves its history, and I am so proud to see my town has warranted a book in the "Images of America" series. Newnan was a big cotton town at one time, so I love this photo showing the North Court Square in the 1890s. The architecture of our downtown still looks very much like this today, and I love seeing the cotton wagons rolling along roads that have long since been replaced by asphalt. Newnan, founded in 1828, is known as the "City of Homes," and one reason for that is the many antebellum homes that have been preserved. Newnan also played a role as a hospital town during the Civil War, and more than 10,000 Confederate soldiers were treated at the seven hospitals here.

One of Newnan's many claims to fame is historic Dunaway Gardens, the majestic rock gardens built out in the countryside of Newnan in the 1920s and 1930s by theatrical producer Wayne P. Sewell and his bride, the actress Hetty Jane Dunaway. Here in Newnan they trained acting professionals who toured the Southeast, including an actress you might have heard of, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, more commonly known as the stage character Minnie Pearl. It was great to see Dunaway Gardens history so prominently featured in the book. I've seen the beautifully restored gardens today, and yet I've so wished I could have dined at the famous "Blue Bonnet Tea Room" that older folks have told me once served guests who visited Dunaway. Alas, I never saw a single image of anyone dining at the tea room until …

… Jeff's book arrived and look, there are guests dining inside the Blue Bonnet Tea Room at Dunaway Gardens! I liked the book already, but I truly *loved* it once I saw this photo. It was also fun to see photos of businesses of yesteryear, old families (both black and white, I was pleased to see), and even a vintage photo of my longtime newspaper boss with his father and grandfather. Jeff has done a great job of capturing the spirit of Newnan in the book, and I'm so proud of him for preserving Newnan history in this way. (If you happen to be by Barnes and Noble tonight, he has a book signing there at 6 p.m.) For those of you who live in Newnan, many of you will no doubt want to get a copy. And for those of you who know Newnan only as the home of your blogger friend here, I have a question. Do any of you live in towns or communities featured in an "Images of America" book? I'd love to know which friends live in towns that have been featured!

Newnan, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at or (888) 313-2665.

Photos are from the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society and courtesy of Arcadia Publishing

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #40 - Carson Pirie Scott & Co. Tea Room (Chicago, Ill.)

I don't often come across a tea room postcard with text written on the front, but that's the case with this one written on December 28, 1906. It shows the eighth floor restaurant at Carson Pirie Scott & Co. in Chicago, and what an elegant place it was! The card reads, "Dear Meta, Do you see me at one of these tables lunching? I hope you had a fine Xmas. With regards, Dr. Patrick." I don't know about you, but I've never had a doctor send me a postcard! Perhaps Dr. Patrick was Meta's neighbor, friend or suitor. (But a suitor wouldn't have signed it "Dr. Patrick," would he?)

The back of the card shows it was sent to Miss Meta Pillsbury at 515 E. Wash. St. (Washington Street?), in Macomb, Illinois. Do you suppose she was related to the famous Pillsbury family we know today? This was a fun postcard with more questions than answers!

Friday, October 10, 2014

A gift of teatime inspiration!

It's been a crazy busy week at my house, so I was more than ready to relax a little and thus overjoyed when a particular package landed in my mailbox. Reader Kris very generously offered to send me her issue of Daphne's Diary Magazine Number 2 from 2014, which I had been unable to find. I'm such a fan of this magazine that I knew I'd like whatever was inside, but I didn't realize how many surprises I had in store!

The magazine always features travel, and this time there's a beautiful feature on Ireland including this place, Castlewood House, where "there is always tea ready for anyone who would like some." Looking at both the house and the tea set, I can assure you I would like some!

And I absolutely LOVED the spread on pages 56 and 57 in which "Daphne" shares pictures she got by asking her Facebook friends to post a photograph of their cup of tea. Now isn't that a fun idea? I may have to steal this one and try it here on the blog one day! (Wouldn't it be fun to see what everyone was drinking at a certain day and time?)

Artists are regularly profiled in Daphne's Diary as well, and the work of one of the best ones yet is pictured here. Su Blackwell creates paper sculptures from the pages of vintage books, and in this spread you can see at lower right her "A Mad Tea Party" sculpture from 2007. I was so intrigued I had to look up more about the artist online, and this Daily Mail article features "A Mad Tea Party" and even more of her work. I think I may have to go create something this weekend! (Thanks again for the wonderful inspiration, Kris!)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Some fine new oolongs from Palais des Thés

One of the things I most enjoy about sampling new teas is comparing varieties and discovering new flavor experiences. This week I received samples of two new oolongs from Palais des Thés, some rare Grand Cru teas, and I couldn't wait to try them!

The first oolong I tried was this Dong Ding Jade Oolong Tea. The color of the leaf tells us a bit about how this tea gets its name, and I enjoyed watching these leaves unfurl to full size in my cup's infuser basket. My favorite oolongs have an almost creamy, coconuty taste, just as this one did, and this Dong Ding Jade Oolong was very rich and crisp tasting. It was a perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

I also enjoyed seeing how different these two oolongs looked. This second one, Feng Huang Dan Cong Special Oolong Tea, has very dark, very wiry leaves. When steeped, this tea did not at all have a creamy, coconuty taste but, to my surprise and delight, the distinct flavor of citrus! I wondered if I was going nuts to imagine that, but when I read the company's press release afterward, I saw that this tea is described as having "intense fruity, floral and spicy notes that are very rich and last incredibly long in the mouth." I quite agree, and I loved this tea! These teas are probably some of the most expensive ones I've ever had the pleasure of sipping ($42 per 3.5-ounce pouch for the Dong Ding Jade Oolong and $90 per 3.5-ounce pouch for the Feng Huang Dan Cong Special Oolong), so these definitely fall into the "luxury" category of teas. You can read more about these terrific Grand Cru teas here!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Upton Tea Quarterly and Sir Thomas Lipton

The new issue of the Upton Tea Quarterly has arrived, and the cover image is of tea merchant Thomas J. Lipton's Shamrock, at right, showing a lead over the Columbia, which was financed principally by banker J. Pierpont Morgan, in the America's Cup race in the summer of 1899.

Are you familiar with the history of Mr. Lipton? I find him a particularly fascinating man, and this issue contains Part XXXIII of their feature titled "Reversals of Fortune in the Tea Industry."

Here are some things I learned about Lipton:

• When he applied to be a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron in England, his application was rejected and only Prince Edward (only Prince Edward!) supported his membership. The prince was told that if Lipton got into the club, it would "have but two members, you and Sir Thomas."

• Some of his critics thought his interest in yachting was purely an act of self-promotion aimed at driving his tea sales. Whether that was his intent or not, Lipton did find his yachting news appearing in every major newspaper in the U.S., and tea sales soared.

• "… his association with the NYYC (New York Yacht Club) vis-à-vis his America's Cup challenges also provided entry to a social life that was unattainable for him in England."

Reading that last line, I can almost picture a Lady Mary Crawley (or perhaps the Dowager Countess) scoffing at the idea of Sir Thomas Lipton gaining entry to the British yacht club. And yet he managed to compete in the America's Cup anyway. Although he never won, he had a reputation as being a gracious and cheerful loser. If you'd like to know more about Sir Thomas, I highly recommend this book I read a few years ago. And if you don't (yet!) have a free subscription to the Upton Tea Quarterly, you can read the article here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sweet Potato-Pecan Tea Bread ... with a twist!

My baking is often inspired by whatever I've got sitting around that needs to be used. This time, it was some sweet potatoes fresh from my Daddy's garden. Using that little pull-out "Quick Breads" booklet from the October issue of Food Network magazine, I tweaked a recipe for Sweet Potato-Pecan Tea Bread.

First, I wanted to be sure and mention that I'm a fan of the magazine's recommendation to line the loaf pan with parchment and spray it with cooking spray. This loaf of bread turned out flawlessly thanks to this technique!

Now the recipe called for pumpkin pie spice, which I happen not to have at the moment. Also, it did *not* call for cardamom, which I do happen to have and wanted to use. I've cooked Indian food several times lately and cannot get enough of cardamom, an ingredient often used in Indian cookery and in making masala chai. So, I substituted a bit of cardamom and other spices for the pumpkin pie spice, and I was very pleased with the result! This tea bread has the goodness of fresh sweet potatoes and a spicy flavor that begs to be enjoyed with a cup of chai. Here's the recipe as I made it.

Sweet Potato-Pecan Tea Bread

1 cup pureed sweet potatoes (2-3 medium)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine sweet potatoes, oil, brown sugar, water, eggs and vanilla. Mix well using a wire whisk. In another medium bowl, add all the dry ingredients and stir. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Pour batter into prepared 9 x 5-inch loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 1 hour before removing loaf from pan.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A teabag-shaped tea infuser giveaway!

Recently a friend of mine mistakenly bought some loose leaf tea instead of teabags and had nothing to prepare it with. I was happy to supply her with a single-cup infuser and some extra make-your-own teabags I had on hand. I wished I had a "cute" tea infuser to give her, but I was fresh out. So when I saw this one at T.J. Maxx over the weekend, I thought it would be fun to offer here for this month's giveaway!

The "teabag" opens on the bottom for you to add (or remove) the tea leaves, and although I haven't used this style yet, it definitely looks easy to operate.

Of course it would be unkind to give you a new tea infuser without making sure you had some new loose leaf tea on hand, so I'm including a few sample packets of tea that the folks at Golden Tips and Teavivre recently shared with me. If you'd like to win this infuser-and-tea giveaway, just leave a comment to this post between now and next Monday, Oct. 13, at 7 a.m. EST and you'll be entered to win. (U.S. and Canada only, please.) Good luck!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #39 -- The Russian Tea Room (New York, N.Y.)

The Russian Tea Room is perhaps one of the most legendary tea rooms in the country, so I was quite intrigued when I came across a vintage postcard showing this tea room as it looked in years past!

"Next Door to Carnegie Hall," the postcard proudly notes, and it is said to offer "Exquisite RUSSIAN and FRENCH CUISINE. Lunch - Afternoon Tea - Dinner - After-Theatre Supper - Vodka - Cocktails - Wines - Liquors." I love the look of this postcard, the typography of this postcard — and if only someone had actually *mailed* this postcard! Even so, I decided I needed a Russian Tea Room postcard in my collection. I know my friend Linda has visited this tea room. Have any of you?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Want to go to a Holiday Tea at Something Special?

One of my favorite tea room cookbooks is this weathered old copy of "Favorite Recipes from Something Special" by Martha Sue McCain. The book features recipes from the former tea room on Greenville Street here in Newnan, which is now a special events facility. Happily, these "special events" will include a Holiday Tea on Saturday, Dec. 13, and I thought I'd go ahead and spread the word for any Tea With Friends readers who live within driving distance and might care to go!

Owner Mike Meyer sent word earlier this week that there will be a Holiday Tea on Saturday, Dec. 13, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and guests may come tour the 1859 Antebellum home "decked out for the holidays" and enjoy some delicious catering selections. The menu will include Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Cranberry Scones, Chicken Salad on Raisin Bread, Pimento Cheese Sandwiches, Fresh Fruit, Cheese Straws, a Holiday Dessert, Black Tea and Water. Cost is $16.95 per person (plus 7 percent tax and 18 percent gratuity).

That sounds like a great deal, and great fun, to me! Interested? I'm going, and I thought I'd see if any of you locals (or non-locals, for that matter!) would like to sign up as well, because it would be lots of fun if quite a few of us all plan to go at the same time. If you're interested, just contact me through the e-mail button at right. Thanks!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Tea Outdoors" by Marilyn J. Miller

Recently I learned that my fellow tea blogger Marilyn J. Miller had published a new book, "Tea Outdoors," so I ordered a copy and was delighted when it showed up in my mailbox earlier this week! Marilyn has often blogged about having teatime in the great outdoors over the years, so I knew I would enjoy her new book.

"As a young girl," she writes, "I spent most of my waking hours outdoors. A picnic was often tied in a bandana and tucked into my bicycle basket or carried on a walk in the woods. Now I love having my tea in the early morning on my back steps while enjoying the antics of squirrels and birds, thus taking time to pay attention to God's creation surrounding me."

The book includes teatime recipes and tips, and I appreciate Marilyn's advice that "oolongs, greens, and white tea are the best choice for using with thermos water, as the water can be cooler than boiling hot." I wouldn't have thought about that! There are also plenty of lovely tea quotations and scenic photography that will have you ready to head outdoors yourself with a simple teatime treat packed into an old lunchbox or tea basket, and perhaps with this sweet book tucked inside. If you're interested in getting a copy for yourself, please go here for more information. Congrats on your new book, Marilyn!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Daphne's Diary Magazine Number 5, 2014

When I used my Barnes & Noble gift card to buy some tea there over the weekend, I had enough funds left on the card to treat myself to the new issue of Daphne's Diary Magazine. I can't seem to find this magazine as regularly as I would like, so I grab it when I do see it!

I love to see the "shopping" pages, and this time I liked this violet and writing tea set since I love things with handwriting on them.

And lo and behold, after spotting a whole magazine about Wedgwood last month, now Daphne's Diary has a nice spread on these wares as well.

The magazine always includes free gifts of papercraft items, and this time the goodies include this "Holiday Diary."

Since my youngest niece texted me this week with what she wants for Christmas (a bed for her American Girl doll), I guess that's a sign I need to get going on my list. I think I'll ask Santa if he can make Daphne's Diary appear in our bookstores on a more regular basis in the coming year!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vintage graphics and Green Tea Soap

Last week, the unthinkable happened: I realized I'd run out of fancy tea-themed soaps! I've had so many of them for so long, I just assumed that basket underneath my bathroom sink still contained some nice green tea soaps, but alas, the cupboard was bare.

While out shopping over the weekend, I was plundering through the pile of pretty soaps at a Tuesday Morning store when a portion of a vintage graphic caught my eye. I hadn't seen any tea soaps at all, but then I caught the words "Sanborn" above the letter M and a hint of what I knew was "Teas and Coffees" here. I still don't know how I managed to see that!

When I turned the box over, it confirmed that yes, this was Green Tea Soap with cute packaging from Punch Studio. This is one of those times when the ingredients don't include any camellia sinensis, so I'm guessing it's just the fragrance, or perhaps the inspiration of green tea, in this soap.

Whatever the case, this $3.99 bar of soap smells dreamy and lathers up nice and creamy. Have you seen any tea-themed soaps lately? Obviously I haven't been keeping up!