Saturday, July 23, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea — New Hampshire

All I know about New Hampshire is that a friend of mine's sweet husband is from there, and she occasionally shares entertaining stories about the linguistic challenges he experiences here in the South. One of my favorites is the time he came home and told her about a coworker who had named her son "Soy-yur." My friend said, "What an odd name," until he went on and she finally realized, "Oh, you mean SAW-yer!" But fortunately I learned a bit more about New Hampshire, and its connections to tea, by doing a little research this week …

At Polly's Place, which became a well-known tearoom in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the initial offerings were simply cinnamon or plain toast and tea. The tearoom was the subject of a January 1922 feature in Woman's Home Companion magazine, which reads: "It started with a loaf of bread and a pound of tea, away off in the northernmost corner of the White Mountains, in a little hundred-year-old house at Colebrook, New Hampshire, ten miles from the Canadian border, with Mount Monadnock, in Vermont, just back of it, and the Rangeley Lakes country in Maine but twenty miles away. … After the little cottage had had many unhappy experiences with undesirable tenants, its owner decided to subject it to no more indignities, but to give it the dignified place deserved by the oldest house for many miles around. Accordingly, six years ago, it opened wide its yellow-painted door with a brass knocker on it, and made its bow as a tea room, the first one in the great North Country, and a decided novelty in its own home town." (If you'd like to read more of the article, click here.)

• For the second time this month, I have learned of some interesting tea research being conducted at a university here in the US. According to a segment on New Hampshire Public Radio in September of 2014, some genetic engineering of tea is under way at the University of New Hampshire, where a neuroscience major has been working to create a *genetically decaffeinated* tea plant. "If all goes as planned," the reporter says, "the tea from this plant will produce a more aromatic brew than chemically decaffeinated tea." If you'd like to read the full transcript for yourself, or to listen to the radio segment about the UNH project, click here.

Have a spare $3.2 million lying about? This New Hampshire farm with its own Japanese tea house could be yours! This screen grab from the website shows the farm, which comes with "a massive Japanese tea house, which, from the looks of things, is currently being used as a massive rec room." (Great news! I just did a search to see if the property is still available, and it is—and for only $2.95 million. Maybe we could all pitch in and open a tea-themed time-share?)


Friday, July 22, 2016

Republic of Tea's Coconut Cocoa Tea

I'm still having fun sipping my way through my stash of girlfriend-supplied tea samples, and a new one I tried this week was Republic of Tea's Cuppa Chocolate Tea Coconut Cocoa flavor. This low-caffeine herbal blend contains coconut, cocoa, dates, and malted barley.

As soon as I opened the packet, I detected a delightfully chocolaty scent. I'm happy to report that the rich chocolate flavor was one worthy of such a great scent, and I very much enjoyed discovering a fine new dessert tea. Have any of you tried these Republic of Tea chocolate blends? Are there any other new varieties you'd like to recommend?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Senate ladies having tea, 1920

Another of the photos I recently came across on the Library of Congress website was this charming photo titled "Senate ladies' tea, Washington, D.C." The photo is from December of 1920, and one of the subject headings is "legislators' spouses," so I'm assuming we're looking at the wives of the senators at that time.

I wish they had more detailed photos from the tea! I tried to zoom in on the table with my photo-editing program, but that didn't work, so I'll just have to leave it to our imaginations to ponder precisely which glassware and china the "Senate ladies" enjoyed using nearly a hundred years ago!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Our fellow tea lover, Jessica Fletcher

When "Murder, She Wrote" with Angela Lansbury first came out in the eighties, I was in college and more interested in keeping up with Madonna and getting MTV installed in the dorms. As an adult, however, I have become quite the fan, and the DVDs of old episodes are my guilty pleasure for weekend viewing. When I learned that a series of cozy mysteries had been written by "Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain," I decided to try one, but frankly, I was skeptical. It would be very hard to capture that gracious character's wit and charm in a book, I thought. Over the weekend, I finished reading "A Slaying in Savannah," book number 30 of 43 in the series, and to my delight, it was wonderful! I could truly "hear" Jessica Fletcher saying that dialogue, and it didn't hurt that I decided to dive into the series with a book set in Savannah, a city with which I'm already familiar.

Something else I did not expect was all the tea references, as it became clear Jessica prefers tea and not coffee. Here are a few of the lines I noted:

• "'I was just making myself a cup of tea,''' I said, turning back to the stove. I removed the tea bag from my cup and threw it away. I resisted offering the Grogans any tea. It would mean a long conversation and I was feeling tired again."

• "Mrs. Goodall walked in a few moments later with a tray holding the ice pack, a cup of tea, and two cookies cut in the shape of a shamrock and sprinkled with green sugar."

• "The waiter delivered a pot of tea and a slice of Lady Baltimore cake, 'compliments of the baker.' 'He’s experimenting with a new recipe,' he said, placing the white cake with fluffy icing on the table."

I'm so happy that I have more of these books to look forward to. Are any of you fans of "Murder, She Wrote"?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teatime and electronics

Call me late to the party, but over the weekend, it dawned on me that after owning an iPhone for three-plus years, I should look for a tea-themed wallpaper for the homescreen. The Shabby Tea wallpaper is the one I chose, and I just love it!

You can find lots of these wallpapers—for iPhones, iPads, and more—on Pinterest. Here, I simply typed in keywords "teatime iphone wallpaper," and here are some of the images that came up. As you can see, the aqua and pink one appealed to me immediately, but there are lots of great designs to choose from. Do you have any tea wallpapers on your electronics?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Blueberry & Brown Sugar Muffins

My dad has been sending me home with lots of fresh blueberries lately, so when it was time to bake something for our Sunday School breakfast social over the weekend, I decided to experiment with a new muffin recipe.

I do love the taste of ripe, fresh blueberries oozing through a muffin, especially since the result looks like a nice and tidy little cobbler. I also like the crunch of brown sugar on top of a muffin, so …

I decided to add cinnamon to my blueberry muffins, top them with brown sugar, and the result was a muffin I believe I'll be enjoying for quite a while to come. Maybe you too?

Blueberry & Brown Sugar Muffins

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk (I used 2-percent milk)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup fresh blueberries
About 1/3 cup brown sugar, or as desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, add flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon and mix well. In a 1-cup glass measuring cup, add the vegetable oil, egg, and enough milk to bring the total contents of the measuring cup to 1 cup. Add vanilla and blend well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix lightly, just till combined. Fold in blueberries. Divide batter among paper muffin cups, sprinkle with a scant teaspoon or so of brown sugar, and bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick or tester comes out clean. Yields 12 muffins.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea - Nevada

Did you know that "Nevada" is Spanish for "covered in snow"? And its nickname, it turns out, is "The Silver State" because of the Nevada silver rush days of the mid-1800s. Please remember these facts, as there may or may not be a pop quiz at the end of this year's Saturday series. (It may or may not involve a nice prize.)

Davidson's Organic Teas is based in Reno, Nevada, and has an outlet store in Sparks, Nevada. Are you familiar with this company? A friend introduced me to Davidson's years ago, and I'll forever be a fan because of their amazing line of dessert teas, which are delicious herbal blends that taste like calorie-free desserts! In fact, I visited their website and saw they've added a few new flavors since I last tried them. If you'd like to check them out too, click here.

• Las Vegas, Nevada, is the site of the World Tea Expo. This year's expo just wrapped up, and the next one is set for June 12-15, 2017 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. According to, this event is "the epicenter of the North American specialty tea market (and) serves the $8 billion US tea industry. Specialty/premium tea is driving this growth and holds nearly 60% of the marketshare today; it remains the main focus of products, services and education at World Tea Expo." I think it's also worth noting that the United States League of Tea Growers had its founding meeting at a World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, the one in June of 2013, so a lot of great things related to tea and teatime come out of these expos. 

Herbal teas were used as remedies in 19th century Nevada. Actually, herbal teas have been used as remedies in lots of places, but I read about these particular ones in the book "The Healers of 19th-Century Nevada" by Anton P. Sohn. If you'd like to see what Indian tea or Mormon tea (Ephedra Nevadensis) was used to cure, I'm not going to type the words here — not because I'm scandalized by the words themselves but simply because of all the unwanted spam I'm afraid would land in my blog comments —you may click here to find out for yourself!


Friday, July 15, 2016

Peach Tulsi Tea from Divinitea

After trying a disappointing peach-flavored tea earlier this week, I was only too happy to experience a nice fruity taste in this tea I recently received as a sample. Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, is said to be revered in India as a sacred, healing herb. This Peach Tulsi Tea blend from Divinitea contains organic black tea, organic purple tulsi, organic orange peel, and natural peach and orange flavor.

The tea looks very much like a rooibos, doesn't it?

The nice coppery brew that resulted was a perfectly satisfying cup of tea, with a light (but distinct) peach taste, a soft sweetness, and its flavor reminded me of a rooibos as well. A pleasant end to the week in tea-tasting!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Teatime at the Waldorf Astoria … a hundred years ago

Each week, as I'm looking up info on the history of tea and teatime in America, I come across great old images that I love to share. I'm so grateful to find these images in the public domain, and I also think some of these images might find their way onto tea party invitations, tea tote bags, tearoom walls, and who knows where else!

The 1914 image up top is from a menu at the Waldorf Astoria, and here is the inside of the menu. I'm surprised to find that tea was 25 cents per person (pretty pricey for back in the day), and I'm also surprised to see "Buds of Formosa Tea (Oolong)" and "Garden Young Hyson (Green)" teas on the menu. Are you?

But the menu item that puzzled me most was under the heading "Hot," and it reads, "Clear Green Turtle in Cups." I'm guessing this is turtle soup, and if so, no thank you. I'll stick with a pot of tea and one of the French pastries, perhaps the Choux Chocolat. (And I'm amused that the French pastries included "Southern Waffles.") So what would you order?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

When good teas go bad …

So the grocery store had this Tazo Organic Peachy Green flavor of tea on sale for just $2.99 a box this week, and I thought I'd give it a try. A blend of green and black teas with peach flavor? Sounded interesting.

"Flowery peach and delicate cucumber notes," it said. A) I want my cucumber in sandwiches, not my tea and B) Peach and cucumber? I didn't read that part or I might not have been so quick to purchase this bargain tea.

But here's the thing: this tastes like plain tea. No peach flavor that I could detect, and certainly no cucumber. It's not bad, exactly, and maybe it was simply past its sell-by date, but it's just not the flavorful tea I paid for and expected to sip. So this will go into my "mystery iced tea" collection. This summer, I've been having a fun time using up bits of leftover teas and blending a new iced tea every few days. I've sipped iced greens and blacks and rooiboses, and occasionally I've even blended plain black and green teas with some fruit-flavored tea bags. It's not a bad way to use up tea that's lost its luster. Like this one. What do you do with old or less-than-sparkling teas? Do you ever make iced tea with them?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Garnier Whole Blends Shampoo and Conditioner with Green Apple and Green Tea Extracts

Unable to find my usual shampoo and conditioner this weekend, I searched Kroger for something new and came across the Garnier Whole Blends Shampoo and Conditioner with Green Apple and Green Tea Extracts.

I wasn't too crazy about the scent of some shampoo I bought recently, so I decided that since these products were on sale (two for $7), they would be worth a try. First, however, I sniffed, and the scent was light and lovely, so these jumped into my grocery cart.

And, indeed, both products list "camellia sinensis leaf extract" as an ingredient. The conditioner also left my too-dry hair feeling nice and soft, so I was grateful to have come across these new haircare products!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Hallmark's Tea Time Ornaments by Tracy Larsen

In January, an old college friend sent me a picture of some new Hallmark ornaments that were being planned for 2016, this time with a tea theme. Then last week, tea friend Donna Z. alerted me to the arrival of the ornaments and thoughtfully sent me a coupon via email. Since I just happened to be by a Hallmark store at the mall on Saturday, I made my first tea-themed ornament purchase of 2016, and I was so happy!

These ornaments by Tracy Larsen are the first in a five-part series, and I can't wait to collect them all! Each year's design will feature a teacup and teapot. And I don't know if this will hold true for all of them, but I was surprised to learn these ornaments are porcelain and not plastic!

When I got home with my ornament "Dreambook" from Hallmark …

I realized that perhaps I shouldn't have been so hasty about picking up my Tea Time ornaments and running. Turns out, there's also a miniature fairy with a teapot …

And a full-size Mickey and Minnie in the famous spinning teacup! So if you're into tea-themed ornaments of any sort, Hallmark has something for us all this year, I'd say!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea — Nebraska

So are there any fun tea tidbits to know about the 37th state to be admitted to the Union?
Of course there are!

An 1888 photo I found on the Library of Congress website made me smile. When researching each state, I always type in the name of the state and the word tea ("Nebraska tea," in other words), and this is the only photo that popped up in the digital photo archives at The summary for the photo read, "The little girl to the right holds a doll and is displaying her toy tea service." That appears to be true, but wow, what a glum bunch of folks! The photo is said to have been taken in either "east Custer County or East Rosevale, Garfield County, Nebraska." If you could write a caption for this photo, what would it say? I think mine would be something like, "Great. Another day of the Pony Express showing up with no package of lemon curd." Your turn.

• My interest in old department store tearooms continues, and another of the ones I've read about was the tearoom of the old Miller and Paine Department Store in Lincoln, Nebraska. The store was founded in 1880 and acquired by Dillard's in 1988. The dish above is one I found online several years ago, marked, "Made expressly for Miller & Paine, Inc., Lincoln, Nebr." The 5 x 7-inch oval dish looks like just the sort of thing I imagine might have brought out a cinnamon roll or two to the ladies who lunched there. Miller and Paine was known for its cinnamon rolls, and in fact, a restaurant called Runza purchased the rights to the recipe and sells them today! So I don't have the recipe (and oh, I would dearly love to have it), but at least you can go here to see what the cinnamon rolls look like — or to order some!

Regional teas and tisanes are always a great source of interest, and this week I learned that in Nebraska, there is something called PurpleBerry tea that is a blend of white, green, and black loose leaf teas made with aronia berries, which are said to be packed with nutrients and antioxidants. You can check out the PurpleBerry Facebook page here to learn more. A fun find!

Friday, July 8, 2016

A great new green tea from Teavivre

Taking another break from fruity iced teas, I decided to try one of the new samples I recently received from Teavivre, their Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea

As soon as I opened the package, I realized I was smelling a very fresh tea with an aroma that reminded me of boiled vegetables. And I loved being able to see the fine little hairs on the tea leaves!

Tea is so full of pleasures. You get to admire the dry leaf, then you get to admire how beautifully it's transformed by the mere addition of some boiling water. And in this case, I then got the pleasure of savoring the rich, thick quality of this green tea, a smooth tea with what I call a buttery taste. I can't believe I once thought I didn't care for green tea, because a good green tea (or any good tea, really) is one of life's great luxuries, and this may well be my favorite green tea of the year so far!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

July tea column in The Coweta Shopper

Here is my latest tea column in The Coweta Shopper, this time on my ongoing fascination with Blue Willow. Those of you in Coweta will find this in your mailbox this month, and if you live outside Coweta and would like to read it, just click here!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Twenty years ago, in Victoria magazine …

My old issues of Victoria magazine continue to bring me much pleasure, including this one, which, I realized, set me on a quest to find this very Wedgwood teacup and saucer bearing the handwriting of Josiah Wedgwood. I wouldn't obtain my teacup until almost 12 years after this issue of the magazine appeared, but at least now I know exactly how long I'd been searching for it! (Moral of the story: If you're looking for something, don't give up!)

The July 1996 issue contained so many goodies, I thought I'd take you down memory lane with me here. First of all, aqua blue glass canning jars are all the rage today, and you can find them lots of places, but I didn't realize Victoria featured one of the vintage versions (naturally) way back in 1996.

I feel as if I'm on a tea-spotting treasure hunt each time I look into one of these old issues of the magazine, and here, I found a teapot I don't recall seeing before, one the article said is by Walsh Trading Co.

But the teawares I loved most, clearly, were these teacups by Wedgwood, which from the get-go appealed to my writerly soul. I knew that it was a facsimile of Josiah Wedgwood's handwriting on them, but I did not know that ...

... the letter was originally penned by Wedgwood on Valentine's Day of 1774. So thank you, Victoria, for the lovely memories, and for inspiring the purchase of a teaware or two!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tazo Chai Chocolate

After sorting some cards and letters over the weekend, I gathered up a nice stash of tea bags friends have included in recent months and started sampling.

One of the flavors new to me was this chocolate-flavored Tazo chai.

I've had Tazo teas plenty of times at Starbucks over the years, but I don't recall ever tasting a chocolate chai from Tazo before, and this one was great! It's a blend of black tea, cocoa, and chai spices, and it had such a sweet flavor that I would definitely consider this a dessert tea. After drinking so many fruity teas and iced teas lately, I found a cup of chocolatey black tea to be a delightfully tasty treat!