Styling My Tea

I recently read several blogs that detailed the home lands and backgrounds of foods and wines that are enjoyed in many parts of our world. These blogs motivated me to think about the various worldly styles of enjoying tea from the very formal British High Tea all the way down to grabbing a cuppa tea to go. Let me explain this particular blog is not going to be a study of the many ceremonial tea preparations but will be an amusing review of the different settings and ways in which I enjoy tea.

Afternoon Tea 

Probably one of my most favorite tea thing to do is . . . Afternoon tea with friends and family.  My absolutely favorite place to have afternoon tea is Nancy Reppert's Sweet Remembrances in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. I have traveled near and far to enjoy many afternoon tea events. The themes, and styles varied, but Sweet Remembrances remains at the top of my list of favorite afternoon teas. Nancy's setting is always appropriate, the food delicious, and, most importantly, the tea perfectly steeped and served. 

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Enjoying a special event tea "Ladies and Their Hats" at Sweet Remembrances.

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Various forms of tasting/comparing teas.  

Since I consider my palate to be less than exceptional, I am always eager to join a tea tasting with other tea peeps to hear what they are tasting and then I try so very hard to feel that taste within my palate vocabulary. I am always amazed with the difference in flavor from when a tea is served hot, room temperature, and cold. Group tea tastings are the greatest tea educational tool available.

 Tea On The Go

My favorite way to enjoy tea on the go is with the use of a a Tea Traveler. Granted this method does not always bring out the greatest attributes of a tea, specifically green teas. I have found Grandpa Style works very well with Oolong, Black, and Pu'erh teas. Enjoying tea all day every day Grandpa Style works for me because I can drink tea at any temperature, any time, and any place. 

Grandpa Style works well in a Tea Traveler and a great accompaniment to Blueberry pie, the sun, and the desert. Lifting my cup to your tea and your style,  The Tea And Hat Lady

Grandpa Style works well in a Tea Traveler and a great accompaniment to Blueberry pie, the sun, and the desert.

Lifting my cup to your tea and your style, 

The Tea And Hat Lady

No matter your personal style there is a tea enjoyment method that will work compliment you!

Lifting my cuppa tea to you and your style, 

The Tea And Hat Lady

Lifting my cuppa to you and your style,

The Tea And Hat Lady

Standards for Consistency

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Recent discussions in the tea industry have evolved around the establishment of industry-wide standards . . . Quality, classification, processing, and definition of teas as well as the accreditation of industry professionals. Although I am a proponent of establishing standards for tea as a whole, my initial wish would be to have standards of accreditation given study. This would eliminate discussions on whether a person is an industry recognized tea sommelier/master/expert or an enthusiast. The education/experience standards need to be established, recognized, and respected for any said tea professional title.

  • Let's begin our discussion by first defining Accreditation -- to certify (a school, college, or the like) as meeting all formal official requirements of academic excellence, curriculum, facilities, etc.

Okay, so what is the better method to gain accreditation . . . Hands-on experience or book learning. Granted the ideal method would be a perfect combination of both. Unfortunately, this option is not always possible for everyone. My initial reaction was that attending traditional classroom/book learning could be easily available to the masses. Of course, on-line classes are easily available and convenient for many but, how traditional are on-line classes, granted the basic method is traditional . . . Or is it? How possible is it to learn palate development on-line? I, for one, have learned how to differentiate teas, quality of teas, and characteristics of known tea processes through group cuppings and discussions--reinforcing the theory that the ideal could be a combination of book learning and hands-on experience.

Since there are currently no industry-wide regulations/standards that must be met to earn titles, a wide-open title granting policy exists. I, personally, have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours reading tea related books, articles, and blogs to reinforce my traditional classroom tea knowledge. When talking tea with others, I consistently refer to myself as an STI Certified Tea Specialist -- the professional classification I earned by successfully completing classes, tastings, and events sponsored by the Speciality Tea Institute -- the educational branch of the USA Tea Association. (It should also be noted here that after each class, students are required to pass a qualification examination.)

I have had the opportunity to study under several Tea Masters and Sommeliers, and would in no way consider myself to be either, if for no other reason than the respect I have for these professionals that have so willingly shared their tea knowledge with me and others. My experience has been that Tea Masters and Sommeliers have spent decades studying all aspects of tea, traveled to countries of origin and participated in the actual processing of tea from the leaf to the cup -- just not once or twice but many, many times throughout their tea life.

Many tea professionals I have the honor of knowing and calling friends consider themselves to be students of the leaf and will always be a student . . . As there is so very much to learn about tea -- the growing of tea in different parts of the world,  the processing and steeping of tea, recognizing quality tea, developing and appreciating tea essences, as well as many, many ways to study any and all of the above. Until an industry standard is established I suggest you select the method of learning best for you and enjoy tea but remember to be respectful of those willing to share their tea knowledge and experiences.

(It should be noted that the above is my opinion and does not reflect or endorse any of the many programs, courses or travel opportunities available to study tea.)

Always and forever I remain an eager student of the leaf, 

The Tea and Hat Lady

Getting ready for Tea Time, books, and knowledge.  

Leaving the 50's Palate Behind

I am always concerned that I am not appreciating all the flavorful essences my tea has to offer so I set out on several months of reading "how to" to develop or fine tune a palate (the sense of taste). This read-a-thon lead me to discover the worlds of Julia Child, M. F. K. Fisher, David Olney, James Beard, Ruth Reichl, David Leibovitz, Molly Wizenberg and their gastronomical worlds as foodies/chefs/cooks. Each one opened a new foodie interest for me -- sooooo much goes into developing a recipe, who knew! The similarities in developing a specific tea with perfecting a recipe are amazingly similiar beginning with the  processes of a series of repeats with slight changes until the desired taste is achieved.

A variety of food, wine, and tea for today's developing "foodie."  

A variety of food, wine, and tea for today's developing "foodie."  

Along with a renewed interest in food, tea, and wine I found several passages that certainly joined my "favorite" quotes.

  • "If she was going to gain weight, she decided, she’d rather do it with some good pâtés." From . . . Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child" by Bob Spitz
  • "Child had always known that what she did was teach people to be fearless, unintimidated, to try and if necessary to try again, to cook, to taste, to enjoy, to have fun—"
  • "She (Julia Childs) and Beard and all the other pioneers of cooking in postwar America had fended off 1950s “home ec” attitudes about convenience and speed— the idea that cooking should be fast, simple, processed, frozen, and prepackaged. But while maintaining her commitment to excellence, she had taken a key lesson from the “home ec” approach; she understood the importance of accessibility." From . . . Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child" by Bob Spitz

Having done a large part of my palate's basic development during the 50's the above excerpt and the following made absolute sense. I am wondering if the food of the 50's was so bland that, perhaps, some of the reason my palate does not distinguish fine taste is that those taste buds were never fully developed. I am thinking the way to correct this situation is to indulge in and learn to appreciate fine wine, food, and most definitely specialty Tea. (My justification for more fine wine, food, and tea!) Of course, for development of a fine palate must be repeated, and repeated, and repeated. 

  • ". . .the 1950s were a time of awful food in general in America. There was the convenience-driven rise of canned and processed foods to accompany increasing prosperity and suburban living—the “Station Wagon Way of Life,” as House Beautiful referred to it. Quick and easy cooking was celebrated. There were time-saving gadgets, premade salad dressings, instant and powdered soups, and Swanson TV dinners. . . "Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste" by Luke Barr.

Okay, there is only thing to do . . . Move behind my 50's palate. Here's to sharing more book/tea/food/wine adventures with you.  

The Tea and Hat Lady