Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Czech this out!

Two weeks ago, my friend Liz left for a trip to the Czech Republic and promised to bring me a souvenir. Since I know what it's like to drag shopping bags full of breakables through airports and hotels and busy city streets, I warned her not to attempt to bring me anything large or anything breakable. Blessedly, she didn't listen to a word I said.

I may have detected the teensiest bit of a glare when we met yesterday for her to hand over my "loot," as she called it. Surely everything in that shopping bag wasn't for me? Friends, it was! Oh, it was!

My favorite part of the "loot" was, of course, a beautifully-gilded set of two pink cups and saucers with roses on them. I even love the satin-lined box. She also got me five boxes of tea, some cocoa flavored wafer cookies (which are great) and a bar of white chocolate. I can't read the names of most of the teas, but the images tell me they include pear, apple and raspberry flavors. I started with the pear, and it is incredibly delicious. I took a first hot sip to see if it required sweetener, and no, it had a strong pear taste with an amazingly sweet aftertaste. Later, I tried the Earl Grey and it was delicious as well, tasting as if it had extra bergamot flavoring. So now I'm broadening my experience in international tea tasting, and I have to say - I like it!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Gentle Art of Hospitality

In the past year, Alda Ellis has become one of my favorite lifestyle experts. I was already acquainted with her lovely gift products. Then I heard her give a presentation at the World Tea Expo. Then I met her in person and found her to be just a warm, down-to-earth person. Then I read her beautiful, idea-packed book "Sentimental Living from the Porch." This week, I've been enjoying a new Alda Ellis book, "The Gentle Art of Hospitality," and I heartily endorse this as a primer to get your senses ready to celebrate the holidays.

With Alda, it's the little things that mean so much. You can tell she really wants guests at her home to feel embraced, and she doesn't advise you to run out and spend a lot of money to make this happen. She decorates her home with family keepsakes and simple touches likes branches and berries picked up on a fall walk through the woods. I also like her idea about putting a Mason jar in a carved-out pumpkin and filling it with fall leaves, berries and grasses. She likes to tuck something in the hands of guests as they leave (a small gift, a recipe), and I can tell this is second nature to her because at the tea expo, I left her booth with this small glass bowl of jeweled sugar in my hand, a gift from Alda. I treasure it now. Scripture verses throughout the new book focus on the joy of showing hospitality to others, and you'll be encouraged to find new ways to share your home with family and friends.

The book also has some recipes, including one for the Pineapple Cookies shown here. I love this recipe! It uses a small can of crushed pineapple (with juice) right in the batter, and these cooked up absolutely perfectly from first batch to last. I'm taking them to work today to share, and somehow, I think Alda would be pleased. She also has a new blog, at, and it's a great place to pick up more ideas for homekeeping and entertaining.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Alligators & Swamp Tea

Have you ever heard of "swamp tea"? I hadn't until I came across the term in a book about alligators. Swamps contain "tea-colored" water because of the tannic acid in the water, the result of decaying vegetation. The names may be similar, but I learned that "tannins" in tea and "tannic acid" in the "swamp tea" are chemically different. Tannins are what cause oversteeped teas to have that bitter, astringent taste, and both they and swamp water are to be avoided!

Enjoying a long weekend away from work, my husband and I were visiting friends in Louisiana and got up close and personal with a few small alligators at Avery Island's Jungle Gardens. (Avery Island is more popularly known as the home office of Tabasco hot sauce, where they are currently building a levee around the plant so that it will be able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.) We saw bigger alligators in the "swamp tea" there, but these small gators (about 3 feet long) were as big as I cared to see from this close a distance.

For those who enjoy tea that is not brewed in a swamp, I must report that nowhere in Louisiana was I able to get a glass of sweet tea. Imagine! But at dinner at Prejean's, a fun, touristy place in Lafayette, La., I did get to enjoy fried alligator and alligator boulettes (sort of like crabcakes). Prejean's also has a 14-foot alligator on display, and I was much relieved that the only live alligator I got near in Louisiana was of the more modest variety.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hot Apple Cider Tea

As soon as I got those wicker tea glass holders a few weeks ago, I knew what tea would be fitting to drink out of them: that new Hot Apple Cider Tea from Republic of Tea.

I think I learned about the tea from an e-mail, or possibly from the ROT catalog. I really love cider, and the idea of finding that flavor in a tea was quite appealing.

Over the weekend I popped into a World Market store, and as usual I had to check out all the tea offerings at back. They have, among other things, some neat Twinings products, like a reproduction London taxi with a Twinings logo on the side. Although I couldn't justify spending $24.99 on what was basically a tea toy, I did permit myself the treat of a tin of this Hot Apple Cider Tea, and it's even better than I hoped it would be. If you like apples, cider and a hint of fall in your teacup, give this one a try.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Texas Tea Chili

Lapsang Souchong is not a tea for the indifferent. People seem to either love it or hate it, and I had to laugh when a friend of mine once wrote about it on her (non-tea-themed) blog and called it "vile stuff." Amen!

I've had a huge bag of LS tea in my cabinet, purchased in San Francisco by a fellow tea-drinking friend. I didn't trash it, figuring I would find some use for it one day, even if it was just to tea-dye lace. But then I began to think about what new chili recipe I would try this fall, and that's when it struck me: Instead of that liquid smoke like some people use in chili or baked beans, why not use the Lapsang Souchong tea to provide the smokiness?

I've made this three times now, adjusting this and that, and here's the recipe as I make it for my husband and me. We like chili without beans (like they make it in Texas, I'm told, where "cowboy chili" is the rule). This recipe yields about 4-6 servings, so if you hope to have leftovers for a couple of nights for yourself and the kids, you will probably want to double the recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

Texas Tea Chili

1 pound ground beef or ground chuck
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 green or yellow bellpepper (may substitute stronger peppers if desired)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) brewed Lapsang Souchong tea
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown meat and strain off grease. Add onion, garlic, spices and peppers and cook until onions are transparent. Then add remaining ingredients (including tomatoes in juice), the brewed tea, and add salt and pepper according to taste. Stir. I like to bring mine to the boil, then let it simmer on the stovetop until much of the liquid has been reduced and you have nice, thick chili.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"A woman is like a teabag ..."

"A woman is like a tea bag: You never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water."

Who said this? Was it a) Mae West b) Eleanor Roosevelt c) Nancy Reagan or d) Hillary Clinton? The answer? Well, depending on your source, all of the above!

The source of that quote has been concerning me for quite some time now. For one thing, you can't avoid it. It's printed on tea towels, pillows, and in books about tea. Visit any tea room with a nice gift shop and you are bound to see that quote on something. I first saw the quote attributed to Nancy Reagan, but then far more often I'd see it attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. A time or two, it was attributed to Mae West. Last week, Hillary Clinton is reported to have said it when quoting Eleanor Roosevelt. So who originally said it? Google the quote and you'll find thousands of references to it, but they don't all agree on the source of the quote.

The question came to mind again over the weekend as I was watching "Meet the Press." (And no, I don't always watch TV with a camera at my side. I just happened to have one handy this time.) Sally Bedell Smith (above right) has a new book out on the Clintons, "For Love of Politics." Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (above left) was also a guest, and she was comparing the Clinton marriage to the Roosevelt marriage. Someone then mentioned the famous teabag quote that Hillary recently attributed to Eleanor, and Goodwin said, "That's the worst image, that we're like teabags," saying that teabags flop around in the cup. (I guess she doesn't know about those Tea Forté teabags that stand tall in the cup and proudly salute the tea drinker, but I digress.)

After some extensive Googling, I finally traced the quote to Eleanor's 1960 book "You Learn by Living." And here is the quote as it (apparently) appears in the book: "A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it's in hot water." (Note that it is not "until SHE is in hot water," as usually is quoted, but "until IT'S in hot water.") Now I just need to get my hands on that book and I can put this taxing question to rest!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tea storage solutions

A couple of years ago, a girlfriend and I stopped by an Atlanta tea shop to check out the offerings. We both enjoyed sampling (and buying) tea, but what I most remember about that visit is What I Didn't Buy But Wish I Had: small glass jars with "chalkboard" labels you could use to ID your tea. I never saw them again, and I always regretted that I didn't buy a few, even if they were a little pricey at the time.

Fast forward to the weekend's visit to a local World Market store. I was happy to have found some new tea I was lusting over (more on that later in the week), but I was THRILLED to find the glass jars with the built-in chalkboard labels ... and for just $1.99 each! I got five but should have gotten 10, so I'm sure I'll be making a return trip to World Market very soon.

The jars are about 3-7/8 inches tall, have a plastic-lined lid for tight sealing and come with a full-size piece of chalk. They are absolutely perfect for holding the amount of tea in the small bags I usually get at tea rooms and gift shops, about an ounce or two. My tea cabinet is not in direct sunlight, so I'm not worried about the light getting to my teas. That tea cabinet is pretty much an organizational nightmare at the moment, and I had been trying to think of some neat solution to tidying up all those small bags of tea. Throw some out? No. Stop buying new teas? Definitely not. Transfer all these tidbits to $1.99 glass jars? Yessss!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Crumpet Tea Room & Brownies

One of the first tea rooms I ever visited was the Crumpet Tea Room in Rogers, Arkansas. It was the late eighties or early nineties. Still single at the time, I'd gotten in the habit of joining a girlfriend for trips to her home in northwest Arkansas, and her mother introduced me to the tea room. It's the first time I can remember eating ladies-who-lunch food off a frilly floral tablecloth on a table laden with beautifully mismatched china and napkins. The tea room was known for its Hot Orange Rolls, and I bought the cookbook containing the recipe (which I have yet to make!) as a souvenir of the visit.

Over the weekend, I was looking for a brownie recipe to make using the new Special Dark variety of Hershey's Cocoa. I love dark chocolate, and I was intrigued at the note on the side panel: "The natural antioxidants found in tea and certain fruits can also be found in Hershey's Cocoa." And isn't that a tea leaf I see depicted on the cocoa container?

At any rate, this cocoa makes terrific chocolate chip cookies, so I decided to see how it did in brownies. I tweaked a recipe I found in the Crumpet Tea Room Cookbook, and here's the result: a fudge type brownie that is wonderful with a cup of Upton's Melange de Chamonix tea!

Dark Chocolate and Walnut Brownies

1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
3 heaping tablespoons Hershey's Cocoa (Special Dark)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 x 8 inch pan with cooking spray.

Mix sugar and oil well. Add other ingredients and mix just until blended. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tea & Cookies

In a perfect world, petits fours would be nutritious, inexpensive, and as easy to find as a candy bar. That not being the case, we have to make do with whatever sweets are available to us in this world. The humble cookie is a favorite for many, and I am partial to those cookies that happen to have the word "Tea" stamped on the package and even the cookie itself.

The cookie at top is a Kedem chocolate flavored tea cookie. These were very inexpensive at my local Publix (about $1, I believe). It tastes like a chocolate animal cracker, and when I need a little something to go with a cup of chai tea, this serves me well. Can you see that it actually says "Special Tea" on the cookie? Neat.

In a neighboring town, there is a World Market store where I enjoy checking out foods from around the world, especially those in the British aisle. Most recently, I found these chocolate-dipped Rich Tea cookies from Cadbury, and they were just delicious. And though I don't have a package on hand at the moment, I also like the Social Tea Biscuits I get at the grocery store, the ones by Nabisco. If the makers are wise enough to put the word "Tea" right on the package, well, I have to support them!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Long live linens!

If you're like me, you can't resist going through the cast-off linens at antique stores and flea markets. As an almost lifelong needleworker, I find it a tad sad that someone went to all that trouble to stitch or hook this pretty item which some relative then tossed aside so casually. Fortunately, there are those who love linens (my friend "The Lace Lady" comes to mind), and so these treasures get rescued. If you're a tea lover, you can't have too many of them, either. Linens cover the table, decorate the shelves of cabinets, soften a display of teapots ... the list goes on and on. And so the pretty treasure above, a recent find, is waiting to be called into service in the tea world.

But there is the issue of what to do when there's a bit of a stain. Or at least that used to be a question. For several years now, I've been using LeBlanc Linen Wash, and I am now a devotee of this pleasantly-scented, fast-working product. I've spilled or dripped tea on linens plenty of times, and this always, always works at removing the stains.

Periodically I take a trip to the Wynn House in downtown Newnan for this Linen Wash, and last week I was all out and had to get another bottle. Naturally, I had to visit the clearance corner upstairs at this beautifully renovated old house. Finally! Those invitations I'd been admiring for quite some time were 75% off. They'll be used to invite guests to my next tea. And if the guests spill a drop or two, no problem. We're all set to return our linens to a state of grace!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sandy Lynam Clough's Tea Art

A road trip is in my future, so a few weeks ago I began looking for some sort of portable needlework kit to take with me. I love the quilt projects I'm currently working on, but applique involves too many teeny-tiny straight pins that I can just see scattered all over the car, and I haven't yet figured out a way to plug the sewing machine into the car's cigarette lighter. So. A Hobby Lobby near my mom's house was having a clearance sale on some kits, and I found the most wonderful one for 65% off! It's a Sandy Lynam Clough cross-stitch kit from Bucilla. It even features a design I have enjoyed on one of her calendars in the past.

Clough hasn't produced a calendar every year, alas, and I believe the last one I purchased was this one from 2004. It features, I think, some of her prettiest work ever. The cover image was on some notecards I used for quite a while.

Several years ago, I got to hear Clough in person when she and Emilie Barnes (another favorite tea personality) were speaking at an area church. Both women shared how God has led them in their careers, and it is amazing, really, the success they've both had with their tea-related work. This miniature hat box featuring a Clough design is part of a set of three. I haven't seen any new Clough designs lately. Have you?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tea & the Avon Lady

After years without an Avon Lady, I am just so happy that a friend put me in touch with her Avon Lady, who is now my Avon Lady. But times have changed. Remember the old jingle, "Ding-dong! Avon calling!" Well, that's been replaced by a quiet, efficient e-mail listing the latest specials and reminding me it's time to order. And my new Avon Lady is so sharp, she gives not just samples but a computer-generated invoice listing all her contact numbers and other helpful information. Lovely!

And in addition to finally being able to get some lipsticks I like and order some High School Musical lip gloss for my nieces, I was pleased to find some new tea products to try. First, the White Tea-Vanilla Shower Wash. (This is actually from Avon's Mark catalog for the young and hip set, but it works on 43-year-olds as well.) Delightfully scented, this is a pleasant addition to the array of scented shower products on my shelf.

And the latest catalog had another product I didn't order, but I'm certainly intrigued by it: detox patches containing green tea powder. Apparently, you wear these on your feet at bedtime and detox overnight. I'm not too sure about this one, but I am sure I love my new shower wash -- and the new Avon Lady.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pursuing Puerh

Have you ever tried Puerh tea? This is a Chinese tea known for its earthy taste and deep red color. I've tried some Puerh from Upton tea that I really enjoyed, figuring that my personal "tea education" ought to be a little more adventurous than simply adding a new fruity flavored tea to my collection.

Once again I have Puerh tea on the brain thanks to the new issue of The Art of Tea magazine, which I received over the weekend. (The good folks at sell single copies of this, if you're interested.) In one article, I was fascinated to read of the intensity with which some collectors are buying and storing cakes of Puerh tea. Some of these buyers don't even like or drink the tea but are rather buying it like stock to trade and sell. The vintage Puerh is also compared to vintage wine, with some collectors pursuing certain batches just like fine wines.

The other article that really impressed me from this issue is about the making of a Yixing teapot. Now I usually enjoy a good craft article with step-by-step photos, but this one takes the cake: 123 photos are shown! Now THAT is what I call step-by-step coverage!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Making Madeleines

My tea goal for the weekend is a simple one: master the art of making madeleines, those famous teatime treats. I tried two batches last weekend, and although they tasted great (my husband happily ate the rejects), I never ended up with the perfect, shell-shaped little cakes I wanted. If I can't see perfect ridges and a hint of brown around the edges, out they go. And I AM going to learn to make these goodies. ("I think I can, I think I can.")

My recipe comes from the "Invitation to Tea" boxed set from Sharon O'Connor's Music Cooks series. Some weeks ago I found another cookbook/music set from O'Connor, but this one is completely different and includes recipe cards with nice, clear photos and easy-to-read directions. The chamber music CD includes Pachelbel's Canon in D, a fond musical memory which always takes me back to my wedding day.

And for my fellow shoppers, I should mention that I got this tea and music set at a Homegoods store for just $12.99, but last weekend a tearoom had it for $27.95. So check Homegoods and its sister store, T.J. Maxx, if you want a bargain! And now, it's time to start the oven ...

Friday, October 12, 2007

My Upton tea order

Friends, this will have to be brief: there's an estate sale opening in 32 minutes at the end of my street, reported to have china, silver, and all manner of good stuff. Need I say more?

But I did want to report on some lovely new teas I got in the mail from Upton last night. After reading that book about herbal teas last week, I had a hankering to try some Rose Hips herbal tea, said to be packed with Vitamin C and with a tart, floral taste. It was great! I was also VERY pleased with the tea filters I got from Upton. They are $3.80 for 100, much cheaper than the $7.95+ I'm seeing for this same box of filters in the tea shops. (And standard shipping is just $3.80, which I find an incredible bargain.)

But the most fun part of the package was opening the smaller packets, the samples of tea I ordered. Melange de Chamonix is an Indian tea blended with cocoa, cardamom and a hint of cinnamon. The smell was just divine! The tea was delicious, and even more delicious was my other sample, Green Rooibos Poire Creme. Here's the description: "A pleasing blend of green rooibos and sunflower petals, flavored with pear and cream." Here's my review: "Yummmmm!" Highly, highly recommended. I'll be ordering a full size package of this!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some good deals at Goodwill

In my estimation, it's a sin to pass up a decent teacup and saucer set priced $2 or under. Here's my theory: One day I plan to open a tearoom, right? (Right.) I will need dozens of teacups in which to serve my customers their tea, right? (Right.) So I need to stock up now instead of waiting 'til I HAVE to have the teacups, and it just makes sense to do some shopping when the price is right, right? (Right!)

To be perfectly honest with you, I have different standards when it comes to shopping for teacups. If the teacup is incredibly beautiful (pink, roses, very dreamy) and I've never seen one like it before, it's probably going home with me if my pocketbook permits. If the teacup is the perfect gift for someone else, I'll cough up the price, too. But if it's just an average-ly pretty teacup, like this one, it's all about the price. And $2-$3 is my top price, so this $2 find qualified. The low price makes it prettier, don't you think? Mayfair, bone china, Made in England ... Perfectly acceptable.

On another note, check out these two little wicker cup holders fitted with glass inserts. Sort of a variation on a Russian tea glass, and how perfect for sipping those apple-flavored fall teas! ($1 each, thank you Goodwill.) So that's my report. What sort of thrifting deals are there where you live, dear reader?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

On Tea & Thrifting

One of the common threads I've noticed in the blogs I read is that we all seem to enjoy hearing about everyone's adventures in "thrifting," or visiting the thrift stores. Well, I've never had much luck at the local thrift stores. I'm a tightwad of the highest order, and even Goodwill wanted too much for some of their housewares, I thought. (When I can find it cheaper at an antique store, you know you're in trouble.) Friends have scored some great buys at the local thrift stores, but that was never my case. Until now.

Let me just begin by saying, "The Salvation Army rocks!" Where else could you leave with a bag full of teawares (carefully wrapped in newsprint) for $1.34?

My finds included the clever teabag mug at top (the exterior view, then the interior view showing the "faux" teabag), a mug with tea motifs and fall colors, and three clear glass Duralex teacups, which I'll use when baking those "teacup desserts" I found in Donna Hay magazine a while back. Tomorrow, this blog will answer the burning question: Did we find good will at Goodwill?

Time to Get a Grip?

Now, seriously, how would YOU react if your dear friend and co-worker showed up at your desk one day with THIS in tow? "Get A Grip. Herb Tea for PMS/Menopause." Lovely, right? Actually, my friend was laughing as she handed this over and explained that it was not to be taken personally. Then she told me some cockamamie story about her daughter having given her this tea, but then neither of them really cared for it, so perhaps this could be added to the office stash of teas. (So of course she wasn't suggesting *I* needed to get a grip. Harumph!)

The chicory root seemed to be the offending ingredient for these ladies, but I had pleasant memories of the chicory in the Cafe Du Monde coffee in New Orleans, sipped quite enjoyably with beignets during my trip to New Orleans last year. But alas, the pleasant memory was just a memory, because the chicory tea just doesn't grip me.

This is one of those funky teas made by Republic of Tea, whose other offerings, let me hasten to add, I like very much. Christmas teas? Yum. Green tea with pear flavor? De-lish. Ginger Peach Black Tea? Terrific. Get a Grip tea? Not so much. But then I don't really care for the idea of these new "medicinal" type teas anyway. Do you? Anyone had a different experience with Get a Grip?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Teatime Fabrics

I should probably warn you all that in the fall and winter, my inner crafter goes into overdrive and I'm always either making something or thinking about making something. This weekend, I finished quilting one applique block, got over halfway on another, and since this will be a floral quilt, I began thinking about what I want to work on next: another quilt with tea-themed fabrics.

I say "another" quilt with tea-themed fabrics because one is already in progress, a blended quilt featuring that pretty Victorian print up top. I got it from the (very lovely) folks at This mauve piece, however, was an eBay find I came across one day while looking for something else (don't you HATE when that happens!). I've been collecting brownish fabrics for a fall-themed quilt, and this will surely became a part of that, if not the central fabric.

Tea-themed fabrics are always a treat to come across, and not as common as you might wish. The cute forties looking print above and the bright whimsical print below were pieces I came across in fabric shop travels. The forties print may find a home in one of the classic vintage quilt designs. The whimsical one? I'm seeing it as part of a crayon-colored quilt set against a black background to make the colors pop. But don't think you have to be a quilter to enjoy teatime fabrics! They can also be used in many stitchless projects and scrapbooking, which is why I say, we all need a little fabric in our lives!

Friday, October 5, 2007

"Aromatic Teas and Herbal Infusions"

One thing I enjoy about the tea world is that there is always something new to learn. I realize I am an absolute amateur in my knowledge of tea, but I do have the sense to know how much I don't know! And so I turn to books. I just finished reading "Aromatic Teas and Herbal Infusions" by Laura Fronty (Clarkson Potter, 1997), and it was quite an enjoyable read.

The author, a French journalist and stylist, has such a way of writing that I practically felt this was a scented book. I could smell the mint and the rosemary and the violets, and I also enjoyed the recipes she included. (My dream for next spring: my own little tea garden!) The lush photography is by Yves Duronsoy, whose golden-hued portraits recall Toshi Otsuki's lovely photos which ran during the glory days of Victoria magazine. There is something about capturing the light that very few of the lifestyle photographers seem to get just right. This one does.

A study of tea also tends to involve a little geography, and this book revealed numerous fascinating bits about tea around the globe. Such as? Lebanon has a tea known as "white coffee" which contains no coffee at all. Jesuit missionaries sent to Argentina became consumers of mate', which was then called "Jesuits' tea." Germany is partial to rose hip tea, which is high in Vitamin C and said to be good for fighting colds. I like to try natural remedies for things anyway, so I know I'll be re-reading this book and concocting some new teas of my own.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Those old (and new) tea catalogs

Do you save old tea catalogs? I do, and I have several uses for them.

1. The covers are often pretty (Harney's and Bigelow's are especially nice), and these may be framed and used as artwork on the walls of the tearoom I plan to open one day.

2. They provide a cultural history of tea. Ten years from now, will white teas and rooibos still be popular? Will new tea accoutrements have appeared?

3. Tea catalogs are a good source for photos and graphics that can be used in collage art and various crafty things.

The Harney & Sons catalog for Fall 2007 has arrived, by the way, and is lovely as usual. The paper is a nice, thick stock, the photos are appealing, the layout is clear and easy to navigate. This is really an excellent catalog. I opened it and was reminded I am out of their Cranberry Autumn tea, a seasonal favorite. (I'm going to a tearoom this weekend and hope to find some there. If not, I'll mail order.) And I still have warm memories of the time I needed some of their Wedding Tea for a bridal shower I was giving. I had failed to order until the last minute and wrote a note to that effect on my online order. They shipped the tea out that very day and enclosed a note saying they hoped the bridal shower went well. Imagine that! (But then I've found this sort of customer service often in the tea world.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Raspberry jam made with green tomatoes?

"Did you know you can make a good raspberry jam using green tomatoes and raspberry gelatin?" See the Bigelow Tea Blog, which was kind enough to post the recipe for its readers! (See the Oct. 2 post and then click on comments for the recipe.)

Even fish like tea

Have you tried cooking with tea? It's fun to use tea as an ingredient in a dish, and I've cooked seafood and tea breads using tea with pleasant results.

A favorite recipe at our house is this salmon dish. I got the basic recipe from the book "Eat Tea" by Joanna Pruess with John Harney, although I make the recipe a little differently than they do (I never could find juniper berries, for one thing). So here's the recipe as I make it for two. I hope you enjoy it!

Earl Grey-Crusted Salmon

2 salmon fillets (3/4 to 1 pound total)
1 medium navel orange
1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea leaves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons butter
More salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grate the orange and save the zest. Then, remove remainder of skin from orange and cut fruit into 1/4-inch slices.

In food processor, combine about two tablespoons orange zest, the tea leaves, salt and pepper. Process for about a minute.

Melt butter in iron skillet over medium to high heat. Season salmon with salt and pepper and saute, flesh side down, for about 5 minutes. Turn salmon over in pan, sprinkle with any remaining butter, then spoon tea/orange zest mixture equally over fillets. Top each fillet with two orange slices (I removed one slice for the photo), and bake in oven for about 8-10 minutes. Delicious!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tea from Fortnum & Mason

Oh, happy day! My colleague Jonathan has returned from his latest trip abroad, and he successfully acquired just what I had requested: tea from Fortnum & Mason! He even knew that I'd want their signature blue-green bag (it's a color as iconic to F&M as Tiffany blue is to us).

I visited this legendary Piccadilly establishment in 2004, and I became quite fond of the Mango and Ginger Green Tea I purchased there. They don't make that blend anymore, but even when they did, you couldn't get it shipped to you here in the U.S. So, my solution? A friend goes across the pond and returns with F&M's Mango Tea as well as some Ginger Tea. Lovely! I've been enjoying both, although of course I have to sip them slowly or until my next friend books a flight to London.

Finally having the longed-for teas in hand, I reminisced about my own visit to Fortnum & Mason, and enjoying afternoon tea there, by revisiting the book "Fortnum & Mason: A Fine Tradition of Tea." And the one snippet I especially liked was a note that some of the tea thrown into Boston Harbor in 1773 is believed to be from F&M, and it was LAPSANG SOUCHONG! That's pretty much the only tea I despise, and it makes me proud of America all over again for having the good sense to dump that particular variety. (If they'd been carrying that Green Tea with Mango and Ginger, however, well that would have been a different story!)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Some tea news to chew on

If I hadn't been stuck in line at one of our nation's fine discount stores the other day, I never would have known about this interesting item: Ice Breakers Strawberry Gum "with antioxidants from Vitamin C & green tea."

Now I buy a package of chewing gum about, oh, once every five years, so I'm done for a while. This one has pieces of gum just about the size of the M&M's in the last post, and the serving size is 2 pieces. I tried two, which instantly reduced to about the size of a Chiclet, and the taste was pleasant enough, if you like fruity sugar-free gum. The nutrition information reveals that two pieces provide 10 percent of the daily value of Vitamin C. It also says the gum contains 2% or less of green tea leaf extract. Looks like I'm going to have to chew a lot of gum to get the benefits of that green tea, eh? Mostly, I'm intrigued that the marketing folks at Hershey, makers of the gum, are tuned in to touting the benefits of green tea.

In other green tea news, I was interested to read this bit about green tea in the Oct. 26, 2007 issue of All You magazine. Question: Are there any foods that can help burn calories? Answer: The article says researchers are studying "four potential calorie burners," which include green tea, coffee, hot peppers and grapefruit. Regarding the green tea, it says, "A 2002 study found that drinking about three 8-ounce cups a day for 12 weeks led to a 4 percent to 5 percent decrease in body weight (about six pounds for a 140-pound person)." Definitely something to chew on!