The Word for Summer 2016 -- Marathon

Reflecting on Summer 2016 and how tea and books were a necessary prescription to survive the media marathon provided the public. 

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Simplicity -- A Lost Art?

Every new technology represents a trade-off: something is gained, but something is also lost. -- "Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat" by Bee Wilson (www.ConsidertheFork.com)

While researching tea, foodie trends, and lifestyles for my blog, I came across this quote regarding the basic wooden spoon. ("Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat" by Bee Wilson).

"The wooden spoon does not look particularly sophisticated—traditionally, it was given as a booby prize to the loser of a competition—but it has science on its side. Wood is nonabrasive and therefore gentle on pans—you can scrape away without fear of scarring the metal surface. It is nonreactive: you need not worry that it will leave a metallic taste or that its surface will degrade on contact with acidic citrus or tomatoes. It is also a poor conductor of heat, which is why you can stir hot soup with a wooden spoon without burning your hand. Above and beyond its functionality, however, we cook with wooden spoons because we always have."

After reading the above quote I began to think about how the enjoyment and preparation of tea has changed over the years. Interestingly, we return to three basic ingredients for our tea preparation and enjoyment -- water, tea leaves, and a cup.

Oh, how we have progressed from the simplicity of a leaf falling from a tree into a pot of boiling water to the high-tech water-heating devices available in today's tea markets. Tea has certainly moved into the world of technology. Take the BREVILLE® ONE-TOUCH TEA MAKER, it heats water to the correct temperature for your tea, lowers the tea basket automatically into the water, and, at the correct time, auto-lifts the basket to prevent over steeping. It will keep your tea warm for up to 60 minutes. Tea made simply. (http://www.teavana.com/us/en/teaware/tea-makers/breville-one-touch-tea-maker) I don't know about you but that certainly does not sound like "Tea made simply" to me. I have also found, through my own experiences, that the more technology involved the more likely it is that something will go wrong. . . Just saying. 

The Beauty and Peace of a Cup of Tea

The Beauty and Peace of a Cup of Tea

Somewhere in between the simplest form of tea preparation to the most high-tech tea preparation devices , we have the beautiful Japanese Tea Ceremony. This tea preparation ceremony joins the peacefulness of spirituality with the palatability of Japanese green tea in the surroundings of a setting arranged to enhance the experience. The History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage, p. 136, offers a splendid description of this particular form of tea preparation.

The Beauty and Simplicity of a Cuo of Matcha

The Beauty and Simplicity of a Cuo of Matcha

Just as the wooden spoon continues to be the most frequently used kitchen utensil let us continue to keep our tea time simple while concentrating on using the best water at the correct temperature, quality loose-leaf tea, and a peaceful, fun setting. The simplicity of a cup of tea shared with friends and family can certainly add joy and peace to one's existence in today's stressfull environment.

Remember, keep it simple. 

The Tea And Hat Lady  

Building a Tea Library

What could possibly be the best accompaniment with a cup of tea than a good book. Of course along with that cup of tea one should be wearing comfy sweats and be consumed in silence -- I am talking "home alone silence." So it only seems natural that a tea person should have a thorough tea library; in fact, every tea person I know has an extensive tea library some of the material in hardcopy, some ebooks, and some as audio books. You name the device and I bet I could find a tea publication that utilizes that media.

In many eyes this would be a very small tea library but in my eyes this demonstrates my tea passion through books, accessories, and tradition of family..  

In many eyes this would be a very small tea library but in my eyes this demonstrates my tea passion through books, accessories, and tradition of family..  

With all the Tea publications available, how does one choose which books to add to their personal library?  After all, there are books that address tea history as well as tea agriculture, processing, preparation, selection, culinary uses and let us not forget the occasional fictional character that enjoys a cuppa tea. As a student of the leaf, my approach was to first explore the authors available. My original selections were of authors I knew and respected for their knowledgeable and experience within the tea industry and authors known as the long-term (take  notice I did not say "old") sages of the industry. Therefore, my first selection of books were written by Norwood Pratt, John Harney, Michael Harney, Jane Pettigrew, and Bruce Richardson. I have had the opportunity to meet all these fantastic people through the Specialty Tea Institute and attendances at World Tea Expos. Later as I got to know more people in the industry, I added Lisa Bolt Richardson, Linda Gaylard, Earlene Grey, Kevin Gascoyne, and others to my preferred authors list.

Books, Books, and yet there are still tea books I have yet to discover.  

Books, Books, and yet there are still tea books I have yet to discover.  

Next I will select a book that addresses a specific topic about tea.  Reviewing my tea book selections, I find that I have books that address countries of origin, the terroirs of tea gardens, and detailed tea historical times. My most recent tea book purchases have been books on how to incorporate tea into culinary/beverage recipes. Tea can be used to create an marinade for meats, infusion for rice and vegetables, a rub for meats and fish, or as seasoning similar to using herbs just to mention a few of the culinary uses being written about by tea culinary enthusiasts. I would be amiss if I did not mention the trending use of tea as an ingredient to cocktails and, of course, there are books available on "how to" construct these cocktails. There is no limitation to the versatility of tea . . . Just let your imagination go!

Let us not forget the occasional fictional character that enjoys a splendid cuppa tea. My fictional tea library consists mostly of mysteries where the main character owns a tea room or shop, is a detective who enjoys tea, or where the magical calmness of tea enhances the hero or heroine's effectiveness to solve the pending mystery. Yes, I have definitely been known to buy and read a book just because the cover pictured a beautiful tea setting and even better yet if the tea setting included a woman, enjoying tea, wearing a chapeaux. 

Yes, my tea book library does include the latest trend . . . Tea coloring books. There are outstanding tea coloring books available that allows and encourages creativity. Enjoy!

Yes, my tea book library does include the latest trend . . . Tea coloring books. There are outstanding tea coloring books available that allows and encourages creativity. Enjoy!

Utilizing multi-media search engines one can usually find a book on any tea topic, for any tea use, or by any author. Oh my, I almost forgot to mention the books that are available to record the teas tasted, tea rooms visited, and tea experiences shared. I must admit that I spend more time reading about the fictional character who enjoys a cuppa tea than I do about the countries of origin or terroirs but I am able to state that I do learn something from each book I read. 

Here's to your next cuppa tea and learning experience through books,  

The Tea And Hat Lady

Tea or Tisane

Do you prefer Tea or a Tisane? In many cases people say they have had a cup of tea when what they enjoyed was a Tisane--an herbal infusion. To discuss Teas and Tisanes, let us first look at a definition for each.

Tea -- An infusion steeped from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. All teas (white, green, oolong, black, yellow and pu'erh) come from the same plant. The botanical name of this versatile plant is Camellia sinensis.  "Tea" is anything derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. All true teas contain some degree of caffeine.

 

The Camellia Sinensis plant with leaves, flowers, and seed pods

The Camellia Sinensis plant with leaves, flowers, and seed pods

 Tisane -- Herbal infusions (a French word for "herbal infusion") are usually dried flowers, fruits or herbs steeped in boiling water (no true tea leaves are included). Historically consumed for medicinal reasons or as a caffeine-free alternative.

Olive leaves with flowers. 

Olive leaves with flowers. 

I enjoy both true teas and tisanes, finding both to be beneficial for my well-being.  In my little corner of the tea world I enjoy (and believe benefit from) herbs infused with teas to create a beverage that will satisfy my thirst while providing wellness benefits. For example this morning I am in desperate need of a very strong bowl of Matcha followed by a strong cup of Chamomile. Both will provide me a calmness that I so desperately need. Granted, I have not actually infused my Matcha with Chamomile but after thinking about this statement, it would be possible and I believe appealing. I will give this a try and let you know about the results.

Some of my favorite Tea/Tisane infusions are a roasted Oolong with Hawthorn berries. I will also take a strong black tea (I.e., an English or Scottish Breakfast Tea)  and add tinctures of Astragalus or Ashwagandha to build my immune system. Please note that I have consulted, and recommend that you do the same, with an Herbalist and my physician before using these herbs, as some herbs can interfere with prescribed medications. I have also added lemons for the vitamin C to any iced tea, this is especially delicious in iced Matcha.

 

Iced Matcha with Lemon. 

Iced Matcha with Lemon. 

It just occurred to me that perhaps I had better explain what I am referring to when talking about infusions. In the culinary world infusion is the process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors from plant material in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the solvent over time. In simpler terms steeping tea in water creates an infusion. I will also make a tea infusion to substitute for water when making rice. Remember true tea is edible and can be added to food just like herbs and seasoning.

Whether you enjoy a Tea, Tisane or combination of these, Enjoy your wellness beverage.

The Tea And Hat Lady

Not Your Average Tea Event

The final days of World Tea Expo (WTE) were filled with social media development, sensory stimulation, and final visits to the exhibit floor to, once again, sampling the outstanding teas available.

Many of us continued our WTE experience by participating in a Meet and Greet gathering of the Mid-Atlantic Tea Business Association (MATBA) for the purpose of introducing those new to the tea industry to MATBA's mission and activities. Those of us in MATBA leadership roles are thrilled to welcome three new members and look forward to the opportunity to share our experiences in building success in tea.

 

A sampling of Pu'ers and teas available on the floor at WTE, 2016.  

A sampling of Pu'ers and teas available on the floor at WTE, 2016.  

 "A great meal is an experience that nourishes more than your body." In the March 28, 1948 letter Lulu writes to Mr. Beard. Delicious, A Novel by Ruth Reichl.

The above quote describes exactly how I felt after leaving The Tea Pairing in the Sky hosted by Alize and Seven Cups two weeks ago. The food, tea, and ambiance proved to be an experience worthy of the expenditure. Since I have posted and tweeted several times about the tea and food, I am going to concentrate on the overall event and  this phenomenal experience. I have attended many tea pairings, some interesting and enlightening while others were disappointing but, never have I left a tea pairing feeling as luxuriously pampered as I did when leaving this "tea experience."

After giving the event much thought I came to the conclusion that what was successfully offered that evening was a one of a kind "tea experience." Granted many of us have shared tea with famous tea professionals in many different types of surroundings and left feeling satisfied. But when you are provided properly prepared exceptional teas along with deliciously presented dishes while surrounded in an environment of soft music, soothing lightening, soft table linens, exquisite table and glassware all orchestrated to provide the attendee superior fooding stimulation -- that, my dear, is a "tea experience."

 

The ingredients of a "One-of-a-Kind" Tea Experience. 

The ingredients of a "One-of-a-Kind" Tea Experience. 

In my book, the standards have been set for providing others a "tea experience." It is no longer acceptable to just provide properly steeped good tea, you must consider the vessel in which the tea is served, the presentation of the tea, and the comfort of your participant. The key to success is in the preparation -- know your tea, present the tea in the most appealing form possible, and most of all provide an environment that will enhance the experience. Successful events are planned in advance -- tea and food are sampled, the atmosphere is created, and participant comfort is highlighted.

Lifting my cuppa that your next tea sampling will be a genuine Tea Experience, 

The Tea And Hat Lady