Aug 8, 2008

Teahouse of the August Spoon - 4

TODAY, I would like to introduce our leading lady, Camellia Sinensis. She is full of complexities. How she chooses to captivate her audience depends entirely on timing and preparation. She can be bold, flamboyant, zesty, delicate, subtle, soothing, mysterious, medicinal, and riddled with underlying surprises.

I could easily break down the basics of tea, but Bill Waddington, proprietor of the TeaSource shop in St. Paul, Minnesota has already done that for us. For many, this will be a review. Others will welcome this as a simple primer.

Kinds of Tea - From TeaSource:
All tea comes from the same basic plant, the Camellia Sinensis plant. The differences between teas arise from processing, growing conditions, and geography.

The Camellia Sinensis plant is native to Asia, but is currently cultivated around the world in tropical and subtropical areas. With over 3,000 varieties, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water.

Tea can be divided into five basic categories:
black, green, oolong, white, and puerh.

Black tea
is allowed to wither, which precedes a process called oxidation (sometimes incorrectly referred to as fermentation) during which water evaporates out of the leaf and the leaf absorbs more oxygen from the air. Black teas usually undergo full oxidation, and the results are the characteristic dark brown and black leaf, the typically more robust and pronounced flavors of black teas, and, when brewed appropriately, a higher caffeine content compared to other teas (50-65% of coffee, depending on the type and brewing technique).

Green tea
is allowed to wither only slightly after being picked. Then the oxidation process is stopped very quickly by firing (rapidly heating) the leaves. Therefore, when brewed at lower temperatures and for less time, green teas tend to have less caffeine (10-30% of coffee). Greens also tend to produce more subtle flavors with many undertones and accents that connoisseurs treasure.

Oolong tea
(also known as wulong tea) is allowed to undergo partial oxidation. These teas have a caffeine content between that of green teas and black teas. The flavor of oolong (wulong) teas is typically not as robust as blacks or as subtle as greens, but has its own extremely fragrant and intriguing tones. Oolongs (wulongs) are often compared to the taste and aroma of fresh flowers or fresh fruit.

White teas
are the most delicate of all teas. They are appreciated for their subtlety, complexity, and natural sweetness. They are hand processed using the youngest shoots of the tea plant, with no oxidation. When brewed correctly, with a very low temperature and a short steeping time, white teas can produce low amounts of caffeine.

is an aged black tea from China prized for its medicinal properties and earthy flavor. It is perhaps the most mysterious of all tea. Until 1995 it was illegal to import it into the U.S., and the process of its production is a closely guarded state secret in China. It is very strong with an incredibly deep and rich flavor, and no bitterness, and an element that could best be described as almost peaty in flavor.

Bill Waddington was recently a guest on the American Public Media broadcast of The Splendid Table, hosted by award winning writer, author, and speaker, Lynne Rossetto Kasper. In this episode, Bill offered a foolproof method for brewing iced tea.

I do want to share that my iced tea philosophy has changed radically in the last few years. My dad passed down the tradition of making sun tea and, until recently, it was a summer ritual for me. To my dismay, it has been proven that sun tea is not a healthy alternative. Basically, if someone wants to produce bacteria, just place moist vegetal matter in the hot sun. Oddly enough, the only thing that broke during our 1977 move, was my sun tea jar.

Here is Bill's Cold Brew Iced Tea method (I prefer loose tea, allowing it to float freely in the steeping water until it is strained off.):

Place 8-10 rounded teaspoons of tea in a gallon jug, either loose or in two #4 T-Sacs. Fill the jug with cold water. Let steep overnight (at least 8 hours). Strain or remove the T-Sac. Serve over ice. This method requires less tea and produces a smooth, light, and refreshing iced tea. When using a Beehouse pitcher, place 4-6 rounded teaspoons of tea in the infuser basket.

Here is Bill's list of Suggested Iced Teas:
Black Teas: Nilgiri Tamil Nadu, Kenya Pekoe, South India Iyerpadi, Sumatra BOP, China Black Special, Hunan Black, Ceylon Vithanakanda

Flavored Black Teas: TeaSource Gold, Prairie Passion, Georgia Sunshine, Strawberries & Cream, Lemon Solstice, Berried Treasure, Blueberry, Black Currant, Raspberry, Peach, Lychee

Oolongs: Formosa Choicest, Magnolia Oolong, Sweet Flower Oolong, Passionfruit Oolong

Flavored Green Teas: Bittersweet Green, Genmaicha, Sweet Ginger Green, Moroccan Mint, Green Tea with Mango, Green Tea with Mandarin, Green Tea with Pomegranate, Green Tea with Cherry, Green Melange, Sencha Peach Pancake

Herbals: African Skies, Lemon Sunset, Peach Paradise, Basket of Berries, Scarlet O'Peara, Hibiscus Punch, Orange Blossom Special, Starfire Licorice, Montana Gold, Red Berries
The first 2 people to comment on this post will receive some tea from

Aug 7, 2008

Teahouse of the August Spoon - 3

One of my favorite tea traditions is purchasing The Collectible Teapot & Tea Calender written by Joni Miller and photographed by Martin Brigdale. The text is informative and the photographs inspire cravings and a deep desire to stage tea vignettes throughout my home.

Joni captures the fellowship of tea on the introduction page of the 2008 edition:
In Reverend Sydney Smith's day, gentlemen as well as ladies enjoyed being asked to attend a sociable five-o'clock tea in the drawing room. Although many gentlemen took tea at their clubs, an invitation to an "At Home" was always welcome. Guests usually arrived in the drawing room between a quarter past four and half past five. These get-togethers gave one and all an opportunity to make new acquaintances and to renew old friendships. A butler or footman usually brought the tea caddy, teapot, kettle, and delicate teacups into the room, but it was the hostess who brewed the tea, graciously proffering the filled cups to guests herself or asking one of the gentlemen to assist. And among the array of "dainties" one could expect were paper-thin bread and butter tea sandwiches, a fanciful cake, and assorted tartlets.
My good friend, Debbie, treated me to an enchanting High Tea on Tuesday. Except for a sweet waiter whose chattiness somewhat prolonged the arrival of each course, everything blended beautifully. We did, however, need to take our tea sandwiches and chocolate mousse home with us.

After arriving home, I allowed the display of tea leftovers to flirt with my daughter Briana's sensibilities, promising her that we would share these indulgences. There were no objections.

First I needed to run some errands, and while I was gone, I received a disturbing phone call. Briana alerted me that my 13-year old son, Bryce, had devoured the sandwiches during a refrigerator raid and that he had generously shared with his friends! Yes, I did teach my teenager to share...

Timing is everything, isn't it? Bryce can be very thankful that I was several miles away when I heard this news. I wasn't happy. Not only was I looking forward to this late afternoon snack, but I knew full well that not one of those boys had truly appreciated the quality of those dainties as they wolfed them down!

Aug 6, 2008

Teahouse of the August Spoon - 2

Before I segue into the full on tea experience, I want to discuss my detours. As much as I love coffee and tea, I do need periodic breaks from caffeine and sugar. Celestial Seasonings has a product called Roastaroma. It's a blend of roasted barley, chicory, and carob; cinnamon, allspice, and Chinese star anise. It tastes like a spicy, herbal version of coffee.

To the Roastaroma, I add a bit of agave syrup, a natural sweetener from the agave plant. As a matter of fact, Tequila is a byproduct of agave. The flavor falls between sugar and honey. It doesn't elevate the blood sugar like sucrose does, and it's a natural alternative.

Back by popular demand, is Celestial Seasonings' Fast Lane Tea*!
Their website gives this description:
A welcome break from coffee, this high-energy tea blend contains the Java-grown leaves favored by the Dutch for centuries. We pack in eleuthero to create something extraordinary and strong. Along with eleuthero, we add spicy cinnamon and nutmeg for an exhilarating taste. When you need an all-natural boost without the coffee jitters, brew up a cup of Fast Lane Tea—the original energy drink!
*Fast Lane Tea is available on their website and at their Boulder Colorado facility.

Aug 5, 2008

Teahouse of the August Spoon - 1

Silk Ribbon - Pink & Green - Bailiwick Designs at

Several posts ago, I promised that I would be doing a series in August called, "Teahouse of the August Spoon." Perhaps you're familiar with the satirical 1956 Movie, Teahouse of the August Moon, starring Glenn Ford and Marlon Brando. The movie was adapted from the original stage play and the plot centered around Americans who were still in Japan one year after World War II was over. Basically, the only thing I have borrowed from the film is the title and some of the Japanese influence on tea matters.

This month, I will be dipping my teaspoon into the sweet teacups of life. When I first began this blog, I emphasized coffee to the point that some readers thought I was running a coffee blog. I like to think of myself more as a tea aficionado. As you can see from the above photo, teacups can be full of surprises!

So join with me as we explore some of the wonderful attributes of tea, the pleasure of taking it, and its embellishments.


Sean Paajanen, the host of Coffee/Tea recently answered this question...
Question: Why does my iced tea turn cloudy?

Iced tea usually turns cloudy because you've chilled it too quickly, like putting it straight into the fridge while still quite warm. Various particles in the tea (like tannin) come out of solution and darken your iced tea. Let your freshly made iced tea cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge.

The Downtown Boutique Giveaways

As you can see from my sidebar, Downtown Boutique is a blog centered on Giveaways. Angie is the charming host and she works diligently at bringing wonderfully handcrafted items into our prefabricated worlds. There's a wide variety of prizes, including items for children and adults.

This custom Black Mountain Furniture bench is being featured in one of Angie's current Giveaways. It measures 24"L X 12.5"W X 19"H and it's color is matte black. UPDATE: The winner has been selected.

Aug 4, 2008

A Munchers Paradise

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

When I took a gander over at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking, I spotted Sandi's post ("Southern Style Pedicure?") witch contained the above photo. At first glance, this looked to me like a pedicure with leaves stuffed between toes. Then, I realized my error. These are FISH.....nibbling 33-year old Tracy Roberts' feet!

The country of Turkey started this practice and Asian countries followed suit. The fish are called garra rufa and nicknamed, perhaps lovingly, Doctor Fish. They have no teeth. They eat dead skin and leave the healthy tissue alone. What? They're picky eaters?

When several people submerge their feet at once, the fish will swim toward the greatest feast. The person with the largest amount of dead, scaly skin, WINS!

Can you imagine? The feet of 2 ladies are submerged in a fish tank. They chat happily until one woman notices that her feet aren't getting much action. She observes that her friend's feet look like sea urchins as dozens of fish fight for food! Wouldn't this fishy attention be a tad embarrassing?

Read more about it at

Aug 3, 2008

An award that I'm "Wylde" about!

This is the beautiful “Wylde Women Award.” Artist, Tammy Vitale created this whimsical celebration of sisterhood and expression. And, Jo of NeereAnDear Creations graciously bestowed this award upon me and I am honored and humbled, especially after reading the descriptions of the other recipients.

Purpose of the Award: To send love and acknowledgment to women who brighten your day, teach you new things, and live their lives fully with generosity and joy. Tammy would love to see this travel around the world!

Here are the rules:

1. You can give it to one or one hundred or any number in between - it’s up to you. Make sure you link to their site in your post.

2. Link back to this blog, Women, Art, Life: Weaving it All Together (so Tammy can go visit all these wonderful women.)

Again, this is difficult because I am inspired by many. However, today, these 3 ladies came to mind...

Judy of Fabric Art and Crafts... She shares her generosity and joy through the language of her art.
Beverly of How Sweet the Sound... She writes eloquently and always seems to find that unique perspective. The opening lyric to Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides, Now," came to mind when I thought of Beverly...
Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way.
Beverly of Tea Time and Roses... She is the epitome of loveliness!

Thank-YOU, Jo!

Spiritual Sundays: Diving In!

In the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma, Ado Annie sings: "With me it's all er nuthin'. Is it all er nuthin' with you? It cain't be in between, It cain't be now and then. No half and half romance will do!" Although she's addressing a romantic relationship, there are some spiritual applications.

What causes us to be now and then; half and half; or in between? What prevents us from taking the leaps of faith needed to invest ourselves fully? Fear? Worry? Lack of resolve? The Bible reminds us that worry does not add one cubit to our stature (Matt. 6:27).
With "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7)," we can choose 100% commitment.

For instance, I love to swim and I typically dive into the pool head first. Years ago, I recognized that testing the water gives me too many reasons to do nothing. I don't disregard caution; but when the peace of God rules my heart, I can bypass the toe-dipping and take the plunge. The water may be freezing. At least I'm committed.

Philippians 4:6, 7 (The Message) "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

[For more information or to participate, visit Spiritual Sundays.]

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