Monday, May 20, 2019

A gift of tea & chocolate from afar

This teacup featuring Gustav Klimt's famous The Kiss comes from a totally unexpected source. You see, my husband has been ghostwriting a lot of books in recent years, and one of his current clients is an amazing woman from the Czech Republic. After they'd had a few meetings to discuss the book, he decided I should join them as well, and she and I hit it off over tea and coffee at an Atlanta café. She's got quite a story to tell, and part of it involves regular trips back home. When Alex and I met with her last week, she had this surprise for me!

This is definitely a teacup and saucer I didn't have in my collection, and I am fascinated that famous artwork is featured on it. It's got a nice large cup that I've been sipping from all weekend, and I'm enjoying this set so much. (Also, it reminds me of that Helen Mirren movie I saw a while back, Woman in Gold, which focuses on another famous Klimt painting that was stolen by the Nazis. Did any of you see it? I will always be fascinated by art and the mystique surrounding it.)

I'm even saving the satin-lined box the teacup and saucer came in, as I can't think of anything more appropriate for storing the art supplies I'm assembling as I get back into cardmaking and papercrafting.

And did you know that "Praha" is Czech for "Prague"? This new friend also brought back two large chocolate bars for Alex and me, and I claimed the white one, which is just so decadent and delicious. I'm again reminded of how incredibly blessed I am, and I marvel that tea (and chocolate!) is a love language spoken all over the world.

Friday, May 17, 2019

A thrifty new infuser mug for the office

Yesterday was a "book homework" day for me, one in which I sat at my computer, participated in a marketing webinar recommended by my publisher, and generally worked on the behind-the-scenes stuff that is required of authors these days. Necessary but not particularly fun stuff, in other words. You know what makes it better? A new tea mug! Downstairs, I generally sip out of bone china. But upstairs in my office, where desk space is valuable real estate, I don't need a saucer taking up space and instead use tea mugs. I found a new one (or perhaps a new "old" one) over the weekend at Goodwill. 

I couldn't quibble with the price. And hasn't Goodwill gotten fancy with their stickers! I just realized that I bought this tea mug the very day it is dated, so perhaps I got to it just before someone else did.

The two-piece set caught my eye immediately, and I love both the pretty seafoam-green color and the crackling, which I'm guessing is a design feature and not necessarily the result of age. And isn't that handle pretty? I love a handle like this because one finger can comfortably grip the inside while another perches on that little curve beneath it. 

The infuser appeared to be in great shape, and when I got it home and untaped the set, I was happy to find the infuser intact, since I always wonder whether the tape and stickers might be covering some flaw. I made a cup of oolong tea in this new mug and enjoyed several steepings of it thanks to the mug, which did a fine job of steeping my tea and made my day of work much more enjoyable than it might have otherwise been.

Do you suppose this is a Chinese or Japanese character? I have no idea, but I'd sure love to know who made my pretty and efficient little tea mug!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Brown Betty gets a makeover!

I have two Brown Betty teapots, a large one and a baby one, and thanks to sharp-eyed reader Diane, I have just learned that Brown Betty is getting a makeover!

After she sent me a link to an article on Brown Betty's redesign, I started to list all the things I learned, but honestly, I found so much new and intriguing information that I believe it's worth your while to read the full article. I won't spoil it for you by listing which of the teapot's new features I like best, but I'll bet you can guess, because they're probably the things you would like as well. Enjoy!

Monday, May 13, 2019

"Growing Your Own Tea Garden" by Jodi Helmer

It rained all weekend and I didn't get to play outside as I'd hoped, but I did take advantage of the rain to read a review copy of a new book I got from NetGalley, Growing Your Own Tea Garden by Jodi Helmer, and this is one of the first tea gardening books I've read that I believe would be useful even to those who have no intention of gardening but simply want to educate themselves.

The book opens with a brief history of tea, then it gives a good overview of selecting all the plants for the tea garden, from true tea plants (Camellia sinensis) to those "teas" made with leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots. "Some of the most popular 'teas' are not tea at all," Helmer notes. "True tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant; herbal teas, including popular brews such as chamomile and peppermint, are considered tisanes. Tisanes are made from ingredients such as herbs, flowers, fruits, bark, and roots but no white, green, black, or oolong teas."

The distinction is an important one to make, so even someone new to teatime will be clear about what is and isn't truly "tea" in the tea garden. I enjoy drinking tisanes as well as teas, and I learned a lot about the plants used to make tisanes (and flavor my Camellia sinensis) by reading this book. For instance, Helmer writes that "although bee balm smells like Earl Grey tea and was even used as a replacement for black tea after the Boston Tea Party, the essential oil used in the iconic tea is from a different plant." Doesn't that make you want to run out and get a bee balm plant?

Quite a few mints are featured in the book (along with the advice to plant them in pots so they don't overtake the garden), and readers will learn fun things like the fact that pineapple mint is a subspecies of apple mint, chocolate mint is a cultivar of peppermint, and 'Kentucky Colonel' mint is the cultivar preferred for mint juleps because of its large and attractive leaves.

For those of us who like the idea of making our own tisanes, Helmer has helpfully included lots of potential benefits as well as cautions for these plants. St. John's wort, for instance, is believed to be a natural antidepressant, yet it has been banned from products in France because of its potential interactions with certain medications, she says. Similarly, burdock is a plant which "might inhibit tumor growth," she notes, but it's also a diuretic and should be used carefully. The section on these plants was one of the most useful parts of the whole book and makes an excellent starting point for anyone who does wish to use tisanes to benefit their health.

The book also includes tips for harvesting plants, recipes for blending them, some suggestions for tea garden designs, and a resource list for further study. A quick, entertaining, and highly useful read, Growing Your Own Tea Garden is sure to get lots of tea drinkers reaching for their spades and shovels.

Friday, May 10, 2019

An unexpected teacup collector

Occasionally, I find articles pertaining to teatime when I'm not even looking for them, and that was the case when I sat in bed the other night and perused the new issue of Country Gardens.

Inside was a feature called "His & Her Anthology, about a husband-and-wife team who serve as historic interpreters at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, which I've not visited but have certainly heard of. One of them collects teacups, and one of them collects antique garden tools. But can you guess who collects what?

I was intrigued to learn that Bruce Craven collects antique transferware, especially those teacups with an agricultural motif. His wife, Christie Higginbottom, collects the garden tools. I'd never thought of "agricultural motifs" as something to look for, and I love knowing that a man in Massachusetts has this particular teacup-gathering interest, resulting in a collection of some 200 teacups. Other than a few tea wares with handwriting on them, I can't think of any particular "motif" I collect. Do you have a specialty?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

A Shabby Chic Tea Time Table

A few years ago, a dear friend who shares my passion for all things Rachel Ashwell recorded and shared episodes of Rachel's Shabby Chic program on the Style Network, which I couldn't access through my cable provider. I so enjoyed those old videos, though the only ones I ever saw were the ones my friend thoughtfully shared.

I follow Rachel Ashwell on Instagram, and I recently learned there that her old TV programs are now available on YouTube. Naturally, I trotted right on over there to check them out, and I was delighted to find one about teatime! Since so many of us who love tea also love the Shabby Chic look, I wanted to be sure you knew about her programs on YouTube, and this brief segment from one episode is a fine place to start.


Monday, May 6, 2019

Some things that are vintage …

No, this teacup isn't vintage, but it sure looks it, doesn't it? It's one of the things I bought with the T.J. Maxx gift card my sister gave me for my birthday. (And wow, how did she know I love T.J. Maxx?) Speaking of things that are vintage, I turned 55 on Saturday, and I am looking forward to seeing a few of those senior discounts kick in. If you know of a good one, please share!

This saucer is so pretty, it would even look nice hanging on the wall.

And like the truly vintage teacup I found last weekend, this one features flowers inside the cup as well as on the saucer. I absolutely loved this teacup from the moment I spotted it, and my only decision was whether I wanted the exterior to be this aqua color or a salmon pink (which was a close second). They also had versions with bubblegum pink and yellow exteriors, and for a ridiculous moment, I thought about getting all four with my gift card, but I decided that would be overkill.

So now I'm happily enjoying my tea in this lovely cup and saucer, which has a nice wide handle and is a pleasure to sip from.

And while I've noted that Grace's Teaware has made lots of teacups at T.J. Maxx in recent years, I was surprised that this one  truly feels like old bone china. 

When I got home from shopping, I sent my sister a cellphone picture of what she bought me, representing what I consider the three major retail food groups: clothes, jewelry, and tea wares!

Friday, May 3, 2019

"Tea Timer's Best Recipes"

I don't normally look through the many community cookbooks when I'm browsing through the stacks at Goodwill, but this one caught my eye the other day.

Tea Timer's Best Recipes, it said, and with the Old Country Roses on the cover, I knew this book was going home with me before I ever turned the page.

Douglasville, Georgia, is just about 30 minutes north of my house in Newnan, and I love knowing that the "Tea Timers" there had (or perhaps still have) a monthly tea. Most of the recipes appear to be simply the members' favorites, not teatime recipes, but there is a brief section of "This & That." It includes recipes for Carrot Cake Tea Sandwiches, in which a carrot and cream cheese mixture is served on cinnamon raisin bread, and Doris's Cucumber Sandwiches. Doris used vanilla yogurt along with cream cheese and toasted the bread on her sandwiches. I am going to have to give these a try just out of curiosity!

Community cookbooks like this one are always fun to read, because they're not just the stories of food but also the stories of people—and a group of tea-loving women, in this case. Do you own any/many community cookbooks? Have a favorite?

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A new green tea to love: Thé du Louvre from Palais des Thés

Paris has been on lots of minds around the world recently following that horrible fire at Notre Dame on April 15, and now everyone is hopeful that one of the world's great historic sites will be restored in a timely manner. This week, I'm thinking of another Paris landmark since Palais des Thés was kind enough to send me a sample of their new Thé du Louvre Garden Tea to sample.

I'm mesmerized by the design on the pretty tin.

When I opened it, I thought, "Cool! A plastic liner to keep the tea from spilling out." Oh, how many times I've lost a few ounces of tea during an overly enthusiastic tin opening.

And see that tab on the right? It means that I will never accidentally spill this tea upon first opening it, and I think this new packaging is simply brilliant.

Brilliant is also a good word to describe this gourmet green tea blend featuring notes of apple, plum, and quince, which Palais des Thés aims to make us recall "a stroll through the Tuileries Garden." This is one of two new blends that pay tribute to the Louvre (I'll also be trying the other one soon), and they're being released just as the museum celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Louvre Pyramid.

This is the tea I've been sipping all week in my new green teacup, and oh, is Thé du Louvre delicious! The scent and taste of the tea are so light and fruity that I find myself pausing just to inhale the steeped tea before I sip it—it's that good. Are you looking for a new green tea to try, one that evokes memories of Paris in springtime and that will get you drinking more green tea? Then I heartily recommend this one, and you can find it here.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A vintage Coalport teacup and saucer

Saturday's thrifting session with Aunt Jane was a good one. I found a book about King Edward and Wallis Simpson for 33 cents at the Salvation Army, and at the Blake House, one of the newer thrift stores on my Carrollton watch list, this teacup. I was just about to leave when I spotted a display rack with some teacups in a far back corner of the store, and there sat this set.

I couldn't quibble with the price. As always, I looked away and ran my finger around the rims of the cup and saucer to see if I could "feel" any chips or flea bites without looking, but there were none.

I think these mostly solid-color teacups with floral interiors are quite elegant. The gilding on this set is in excellent condition, and of course a spray of flowers in the center of both cup and saucer is always a good idea.

I don't know much about Coalport Bone China other than the name, but I do find it interesting that it says "Made in England A.D. 1750." When I Googled this, I found one website saying this mark was used from 1881 to 1939, and this set is in such great condition, I'm betting it's closer to the mid-1900s than the late 1800s. And I looked to see if I've blogged about finding any Coalport tea wares over the years, but apparently this is my first. Do you have any Coalport teacups?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Society, charity, and a mystery tea

Gentle readers, why am I so fascinated by vintage photos of women? I don't know, but I just am, and when I saw this photo on the Library of Congress website, I instantly began imagining lives for all of them. The lady seated at front left? She's a cool cucumber, going with the flow, perhaps a bit weary from her week. The austere-looking woman next to her has places to go and people to see and things to do and wishes the photographer would hurry up. The older woman seated at far right? She looks a bit startled, as if she wasn't quite ready for the photo to be taken and perhaps is uncomfortable being photographed.

I could make up stories for the back row too (especially that saucy-looking woman at far left, cutting her eyes at someone or something), but I won't. And with all these furs they're wearing, do you think it's safe to assume this photo was taken in the winter?

The LOC website reveals only that it was taken between 1910 and 1915. And while it's titled "Society at Charity Tea," dare I ask, "Where's the tea?"

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

St. Dalfour's Golden Peach Organic Tea

It seems I can go years sometimes without coming across any new tea purveyors, but T.J. Maxx has turned up yet another one I'd not heard of, St. Dalfour France.

The cellophane-wrapped box looked very peachy to me, and since I do love peach-flavored teas, I decided to give this one a try.

The tea bags are individually wrapped, always a plus in my book.

And I was surprised to find these tea bags are made in a style I've come across only in England before. See that string through the bag?

You *gently* pull on the tag to extend the string and make your tea. It's quite a clever way to make a tea bag, and I was delighted to come across this style once more. But most of all, I was happy to find another delicious black tea flavored with peach (and vanilla, it turns out). This $3.99 box of tea was definitely a winner!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Welbeck and, well, purple!

I almost didn't get around to decorating my tea trolley for Easter this year, but on Saturday, I was inspired by a vintage embroidered table runner I'd come across.

I'm trying to give away, donate, or toss a lot of the linens that I've let accumulate but don't use very often, yet something about this piece speaks to me. I'm not sure, but I believe it was in a pile of assorted linens my late mother gave me years ago.  Since I crochet, I know how much work went into this trim. And I love how these thick old linens have such a loose, floppy quality to them, as though they've been loved by many others before me.

And while I admire precise stitching and embroidery (my inner perfectionist gets so frustrated when I can't achieve that myself), I am somehow charmed by the crude quality of these lavender, purple, yellow, and green stitches. 

 The effect is still just lovely.

And of course it's always around Easter that I pull out my beloved Royal Winton Welbeck tea wares. A friend recently asked to borrow a dozen vintage teapots for a baby shower her daughter was hosting, and I was happy to be able to accommodate her. As I looked around my kitchen and dining room, though, I realized I am perfectly willing to loan out just about anything I have except my Welbeck and this teapot. I think it's because I could come close to replacing everything else, but not these pieces. (To be more accurate, I could replace the Welbeck, I just couldn't afford it anymore, because I know I couldn't duplicate the $20-or-less price I paid for the teapot, tray, and other pieces years ago thanks to an eagle-eyed girlfriend!)

Also in the display: a few faux flowers .

And since I'm going with a yellow-and-purple theme, I thought this teacup deserved a spot of honor.

This one too. 

A detail from a yellow rose plate.

And here's what I'll be sipping out of this week!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Trice Strawberry and Arctic Mint Tea

Spring is a time when I want to try some new fruity teas, and this herbal blend caught my eye when I was at T.J. Maxx earlier this week. It's from Trice, a company I don't believe I've heard of before, and it's their Strawberry and Arctic Mint flavor.

The attractive turquoise box with the nice teacup graphic struck me as really unusual, and when I got it home, it took me a bit to figure out how it opened!

I was pleasantly surprised to find individually packaged tea bags inside. Nice!

The tea contains rosehip, mint leaves, hibiscus, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, orange flower, pomegranate bits and natural flavoring.

I had wondered what a blend of strawberry and mint would taste like, and I found it deliciously intriguing. The tea wasn't tart, as some berry-flavored teas are, but it wasn't overly minty either. I'm not sure I'd have thought of combining these two flavors, but I'm impressed and very happy I tried this blend. Have you ever heard of Trice tea or tried this blend or any of their others?