Monday, August 31, 2009

Tea & travels

Can you stand a few end-of-summer photos from Seagrove Beach, Fla., where I've been holed up the past few days? If so, here's what's ahead: Birds (sandpipers and seagulls, I believe), the ocean (of course), a pretty purpley pink flower (no idea what this is), an interesting log that appeared to have washed up on the beach, and the cordoned off area that was a protected sea turtle nest. Do you remember which of Laura Childs' tea shop mysteries centered around Theodora and friends trying to protect the sea turtles? If you're the first to correctly tell me the name of the book, I'll send you a card containing a few samples of some new teabags I found at the beach!

Alex and I actually saw buried in the sand one of the poor sea turtle babies that didn't make it, and he was still just adorable! Since today's post is a little photo-heavy, I'll share my "beach tea" reviews with you tomorrow.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tea Tasting Saturday #35 - Panyong Golden Needle

By the time I got off the phone with a most unhelpful computer "customer support" person the other night, I needed some Valium. Instead, when the call was over, I made tea! I had already planned to do my tea tasting that night, and I decided that would give me time to clear my head before attacking the computer problem on my own some more. I set about sniffing, measuring, steeping, straining, pouring and tasting my tea, and I was amazed at how much better I felt about everything (even though I wasn't wild about the tea). Just goes to prove that the calming effect of tea even works with computer problems!

Category: Black Tea

Purveyor: Upton Tea

Dry leaf appearance: Dark brown spindly leaves with lots of golden tips.

Wet leaf appearance: Most of the large brown leaves opened to full size.

Steeping temperature and time: 1 teaspoon of tea, 205 degrees, 4 minutes.

Scent: The dry tea's scent had an almost dessert-like quality to it, reminiscent of caramel or vanilla tea. The steeped tea's scent had almost mocha/chocolate notes.

Color: Deep copper brown.

Flavor: The first cup of tea had a nice mouth feel and a pleasant taste with a little zing of something that made me really like it. But near the end of the cup my mouth began to feel a little dry. By the time I got halfway through the second cup, it was so puckery I didn't care to finish it! I added cold water to the steeped leaves and put them in the fridge to cold brew overnight.

Additional notes: Michael Harney says that "unlike the more heavily fired black teas from the Wuyi Shan region, Panyong teas are finished in an oven. Discerning tea makers do not like fire flavors to overpower these rounded teas."

Next week's tea: Panyong Congou

Friday, August 28, 2009

Coolest tea earrings of the year!

Y'all know about my "thing" for tea-themed jewelry. Well, a recent cheapie eBay find (from Turkey, no less) is this pair of silver and turquoise earrings. They're badly tarnished, but I like them anyway!

At first, they look like just some funky figural earrings with a rather traditional silver and turquoise circular design up top, but it's what's below that makes these so interesting.

Upon closer inspection, there is what was described as "a tea set" swinging away on the tray. I love these! I may be the only one who knows what's going on behind my earlobes but I'll enjoy them anyway! Silver polish worked beautifully on the underside but I was a little cautious about polishing the "tea set," so I may try getting some liquid silver cleaner and dipping them. (Unless someone thinks that would be a bad idea. If so, please save me from disaster!)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A vintage tea(spoon) glass

If you'll permit me one more "glass" post, I'll get off the topic of tea glasses, I promise! (For a while, I mean. Surely there will be a new tea glass in the next year or two I'll want to write about!) This one was a $1 find at an antique mall in Rome, and I just love the graphics on this glass!

The teaspoon graphic reminds me very much of a rubber stamp design I've seen, and I'm going to save the image in my computer files in case I need a design of a vintage teaspoon one day. Invitations -- thank-you notes -- decoupage crafts. I can think of lots of uses for this design. I was drawn to it because I thought it was from an old newspaper (and I'm definitely an old newspaper girl!), but upon inspection I saw it was a reprint from a vintage Sears catalog. (And wouldn't you love to get six solid silver teaspoons for $3.66?)

I also like this design of a woman's boot, and it could have similar uses as the teaspoon graphic. I'll bet you've got some tea-themed goodies at your house as well that are just as suitable to be turned into "graphic images" for crafts!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Braswell's Pomegranate Passion Red Tea

I'll bet I'm not the only one who has wondered about those ready-to-drink Braswell's teas at T.J. Maxx, so I decided it was time to try one out. They're $2.49 and come in "collectible glassware." I chose the Pomegranate Passion Red Tea and really enjoyed the flavor. The tea (about 8 ounces, 60 calories, 14 grams of sugar) contains rooibos tea, pure cane sugar, juices of peach, pomegranate and passion fruit, and citric acid. It was very good, and I will likely try this again sometime as a treat.

The method of sealing the tea inside the glass was quite interesting. There was the typical metal lid you see on glass jars, yes, but there was a little pull tab as well. When you remove the tab, the button safety seal pops up. Turns out, there was a tiny little air hole beneath that pull tab. They must invest in really good adhesive to keep those pull tabs in place!

And here is what the glass looks like once you've drunk the tea and removed the labels. Do you know how hard it is to photograph a clear glass on a white background? At least you get the idea. Have you tried any flavors of this tea, and if so what did you think?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Do you have a penny lever lid tin?

The best things in life really *are* free, it seems. In the tea world, one of the greatest freebies I enjoy is the Upton Tea Quarterly published by Upton Tea Imports. They say it's free to customers and $12 a year for others, but I received free issues before I ever placed an order. The new issue arrived the other day, and as always this more-than-just-a-catalog publication is simply packed with great tea selections and articles for the tea lover's continuing education.

When I discovered the Upton Tea Quarterly several years ago, I couldn't believe they would actually send it out for free. Must be a catch, I thought. I'll get a bill after one year, or they'll pester me to death with e-mail "sales" or something. Nope. Just a nice, newsy and free publication, and I have greatly enjoyed reading and collecting these issues. (Go to to sign up if you haven't already!)

Page 3 always has a letter from Upton letting readers/customers know what is going on at the company. This time, I was pleasantly surprised to find a discussion of their tea tins. I have ordered only sample packets from Upton's this year, for my Saturday tea tastings, but I do have an older tin of their Rose Hips Tea.

The Upton article explains that this type of tin is known as the penny lever lid tin, "but our original supplier," says Upton, "called them by their nicknames, penny lid tins or lever lid tins. We have failed to find the source for that name, but perhaps a penny coin was once thought to be the proper lever to open the tin? Most people use the handle of their scooping spoon." Have you ever heard this type of tin referred to by any of these names (penny lever lid tin, penny lid tin, lever lid tin)? All these names were new ones to me, so I was quite intrigued with the Upton discussion!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Michael Miller's "Tea Party"

A tall chocolate cake ringed with strawberries fair

Or perhaps you'd prefer a peanut butter cake to share?

Cute petits fours are a welcome tea treat

And this beribboned cake is incredibly sweet!

A classic tiered server offers foods we adore

A gorgeous floral cake? Make room for one slice more!

This beautiful hat is the perfect finishing touch

And when I say this is the "yummiest" fabric ever, I'm not exaggerating much!

Yes, my poetry leaves a lot to be desired, but I hope you can see why I'm so charmed by this Michael Miller "Tea Party" fabric. It's available lots of places online, but I found mine for $5.50 a yard on Etsy. Bon appetit!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tea Tasting Saturday #34 - Golden Monkey

Category: Black Tea

Purveyor: Upton Tea

Dry leaf appearance: Dark greenish-brown leaves with smaller, irregular sized bits as well. (My camera color is a bit off and shows the tea as more green than brown.) Lots of color variation with a good portion of lighter brown leaves.

Wet leaf appearance: The larger leaves opened to what I think of as true "tea leaf" size. The smaller pieces had a very choppy appearance.

Steeping temperature and time: 1 teaspoon of tea, 205 degrees, 4 minutes.

Scent: Funny, but the dry tea smelled like a freshly opened box of Red Rose Tea! The steeped tea had slight smoky/nutty notes and smelled like the traditional hot teas I grew up drinking (over ice).

Color: Medium copper brown.

Flavor: I've become so fond of the lighter teas I wondered if I could happily go back to black, but yes, I can. This tea had a very pleasant, smooth taste. Nice mouth feel, only slight astringency. I'm happy with my steeping time (4 minutes from the suggested 4 to 5). I don't like my teas that strong, so this was a perfect choice for me and I could easily drink this tea without milk.

Additional notes: I'm glad Michael Harney explained that with most Chinese teas, the first name refers to the place of origin and the second to the style of tea leaf. Keemun Mao Feng, for instance, is a Mao Feng style tea from Keemun, he says. And the "monkey" part of Golden Monkey? It's for marketing purposes only and is "meant to suggest a high-quality tea."

Next week's tea: Panyong Golden Needle

Friday, August 21, 2009

Red Rose Tea & new Wade Whimsies

When I discovered Red Rose Tea years ago, I got a wee bit obsessed with collecting Wade Whimsies, the little collectible figurines tucked inside each box. They were giving away pieces in the Noah's Ark series at the time, and I was determined to get an ark full of them.

I bought so much tea back then (given to friends, family, colleagues), I didn't have to buy any plain old back tea for, literally, years. I eventually swore off buying any more Red Rose Tea "just to get the free figurines," but recently I was actually out of the tea and had a legitimate need for a new box.

After the Noah's Ark Series they moved on to the Pet Shop Series, and the new line is called the Calendar Series. I guess they aren't being introduced in any order, or else it is somebody's idea of a good joke to send "Snowman" figurines to Georgia stores in August! At any rate, if you, too, have a *legitimate* need for some good, plain tea (for making iced tea, for instance), give Red Rose a try. And if you want to know more about the new series of figurines, go here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tea & a misleading greeting

Yesterday I was browsing for a greeting card for a friend who's been going through a really rough time lately, on just about every front imaginable. Looking through some card racks in a local store, I was of course hoping to find something with teacups on it, and I did. I have the yellow envelope over part of the wording to give you time to see the words on the teacups. Double-click if you need to!

But check out the wording! For heaven's sake, did anybody *read* the words on the teacups before they printed it? Well, I bought it anyway and crossed out the word "coffee" and substituted the word "tea" before I mailed it to my friend. It just confirms what I've long thought, that our society is culturally biased against tea in favor of coffee. It just isn't right!

On a happier note, I also came across the perfect little goodie, a magnet, to tuck in my friend's card. I'm a real fan of Anne Taintor's sassy sayings, and I hope this -- and a teabag, of course -- will make my friend feel a bit better!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Liztech Teapot Pin

Lately I've taken to wearing my tea-themed jewelry even more than usual, and the one piece I've gotten comments on every single time I've worn it is this Liztech Teapot Pin. I first discovered the creative Jill Elizabeth and her Liztech jewelry months ago but simply didn't have $61 to spend on a teapot pin, lovely as these are. Happily, a careful watch of eBay turned up an older version of the pin for about a third of the going price.

The back of the pin makes it pretty clear this is indeed a handmade piece, and as someone who appreciates handmade things, I like that!

It's also a nice touch that there is a small gold tag stamped "Liztech" in addition to the handwritten signature Liztech '01 which lets me know when this pin was crafted. If you want to see the current crop of teapot pins, go here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New herbal teas from Mighty Leaf

You can't judge a book by its cover, and I've also learned you can't judge a tea by its name! The newest samples I received from Mighty Leaf are named Rooibos Renewal and Spirulina Stamina, and to be honest with you, because of the names I wasn't expecting them to taste very good. I figured they would be tolerable, and they would probably be *very* good for you, but they just wouldn't be very tasty and would probably be heavy on the mint flavor. I am happy to report I was wrong and these teas are perfectly delicious!

First, I tried the Rooibos Renewal. And may I just say what a PRETTY tea this is? I mean, really. Look at those neat little bits of flowers, especially that purple one. Here's what the description says: "Rooibos Renewal blends mineral and antioxidant-rich rooibos leaves with vitamin C-rich orange peels and flowers for a nurturing blend." I have enjoyed most of the rooibos teas I've tried anyway, but this one was extra tasty and citrusy. Nice!

Next I tried the one whose name I was really worried about, Spirulina Stamina. You can check out the definition of Spirulina on Wikipedia, but I don't really advise it. After all, do you *really* want to know your tea comes from a species of cyanobacteria? Instead, amuse yourself by looking at the pretty dried rosehips (they look like dried cranberries). Or just read the company's description of the tea: "Spirulina Stamina features calming lemon balm with blackberry leaves, vitamin C-rich rosehips, black currants and schizandra, along with mineral-rich green yerba mate. Rounding off this blend is spirulina, a superfood that is rich in protein, iron, magnesium and vitamin B-12." I was charmed the minute I opened the sample packet because of the spicy scent that made me think of entering a bakery. And the taste? It reminded me very much of some of the better apple cider type teas I've had in the fall. Yum!