Saturday, December 25, 2010

Warm Holiday Greetings

Let love fill your heart, 
Laughter fill your home 
and good tea fill your cup this Holiday Season!

Merry& Happy, sharing the love of tea,


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy, Happy Birthday!

Sometimes the stars are aligned and everything just falls into place.  Recently, I celebrated my birthday while driving 9 hours from Columbus to Atlanta to support my husband participate in his first long distance Road Skate.  Before we left home, I opened my one-and-only birthday present--a shiny new Cuisinart Temperature Control Kettle! 

Two things make this an awesome gift:
 1) I mentioned this kettle to my husband months ago after reading a review in a magazine.  I thought my subtle aside was a "hey, listen to this cool thing I read about" conversation, not a "PAY ATTENTION I want this thing for my birthday hint."  He remembers it as the latter--yay for me either way!

2) It is lovely and amazing!  This is the mother of all programmable kettles. 

What makes it so great you ask? 

Well, let me tell you
  • It has temperature settings to heat water for a specific tea types
  • Its cordless so you can refresh your mug two rooms away
  • There is an illuminated water gage that allows you to see exactly how many liters of water are inside (so what if I don't know a liter from a kilometer)
  • It has a Keep Warm feature that allows the johnny-come-late-cup to mosey on down to the kitchen and reap the benefits of another's hard labor
I could go on and on, but no one likes a braggart!

Sharing the love of tea and a thoughtful hubby,


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Imaginary Summer Vacation

This year for my summer vacation my family traveled to Assam, a state in Northern India.  There we stayed in a bungalow on a working Tea Estate.  We enjoyed "Bed Tea" each morning, a delightful take on breakfast in bed with pots of perfectly brewed piping hot English Breakfast Tea.  Each afternoon we immersed ourselves in learning about a different facet of the tea estate or just wandered the land and smiled at the Assamese ladies on their breaks from picking the precious green gold.

This is how my back-to-school essay would read if I were:

a) still school age
b) had actually taken this trip

Late Summer always has me wistful for a vacation.  This year,  I was pining for a trip to India or Sri Lanka to visit a tea estate.  I love the idea of seeing the endless fields of green, green tea bushes growing under the dappled light of the acacia tree.  I've fallen in love with the photos of beautiful, dark haired women with basket of leaves balance on their heads going about their daily work of picking tea leaves that might later, much later end up in my cup.

I've actually found the perfect spot to fulfill this fantasy vacation.  It is called Ceylon Tea Trails and its website ( boasts:
" Guests are absorbed into life on a working tea estate, whilst reveling in five-star luxury. Tea Trails will teach you everything you need to know about the perfect brew. The unique Tea Experience tour with the tea planter in residence will show you the wonders of Camellia Sinensis."

Sounds fantastic, right? Maybe next year (sigh)

Until then, I will be enjoying a bright cup of English Breakfast on the veranda overlooking my rolling hill of green, green grass.

Sharing the love of tea,


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Good Slap in the Face

My Brother-in-law is visiting from Italy.  He mentioned once on a previous visit that green tea is very expensive in Italy, so I always have a bag of his favorite Japanese Sencha on hand during his visits.  I brewed it for him once or twice using the brewing instructions my mom and I painstakingly created for Two for Tea. Each of our bags of hand packed tea came with brewing instructions for maximum enjoyment.

Mr. Brother-in-law laughed when I pulled out the timer the first time. "You take tea way too seriously," he quipped.

Of course I take it too seriously, I thought--duh!

I have actually heard him say, on more than one occasion, that he likes his Sencha so strong "it jumps up out of the cup and slaps him in the face." Yuck! Apparently my perfectly timed brew is a bit weak for his taste. We shared a laugh about his comment, but to me over brewing is no laughing matter. Because I drink mostly Black tea, when I want Green or White tea I have no shame in referring to the instructions, getting out the measuring spoon and setting the timer.

Here are my key points on appropriately brewing tea: Use good water (spring or filtered tap) and measure both the tea and the water. Using too much tea can taste as bad as over brewing. Generally speaking you will want to use 1 heaping teaspoon for each 6 ounce cup. For Green Tea the water temperature is critical! Heat the water to 185 to 190 F. How the heck do you know when it is 185? If you don't have a programmable kettle--and I don't--heat the water until the first few wisps of steam start to escape.


Follow the manufacturer's steeping time suggestion and pour all the tea from the brewed leaves at once. Any liquid left in the pot continues to steep. Green and White teas usually brew for 1 to 2 minutes, Black tea for 3 to 4 minutes.

Adjust to suit your taste. Or for a good slap in the face.

Sharing the love of tea,


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Minty Fresh Summer

I am not a big fan of iced tea.  This is mainly the result of many disappointing glasses of mediocre restaurant iced tea.  In the summer however, I do tend to indulge, but I prefer to make it at home in the style of my paternal grandmother, Elvira Jackson.   Grandma Jackson made amazing iced tea!  During my annual summer visits to Bessemer, Alabama, she'd make what seemed like endless pitchers of it--brown, super sweet and with sprigs of fresh mint.  In all my worldly adolescent travels, I knew of no other person clever enough to use mint in iced tea.  Genius, I concluded. 

My involvement in making the iced tea, or anything else in Elvira Jackson's kitchen, was usually relegated to picking some vegetable or herb in the sprawling backyard garden behind the house.  Under heavy direction from one or both grandparents, I'd select the best possible sprigs.  In that garden, during those long, summer days, I learned a lot about gardening.  Much of the knowledge  I employ today in my own garden was obtained, by osmosis, on iced tea afternoons. 

photo: dara jackson wiggins

So, when the mint plant near the garage at my own home started taking over our sunny border,  I came up with the idea for making Mint Simple Syrup to jazz up regular Black Iced Tea.  This homage to my grandmother borrows from her original "recipe" but uses more mint and keeps nicely in the fridge for a month or more.  

I still put a fresh sprig in my glass as a tribute to Elvira.   I think she would approve.

Sharing the love of minted iced tea,


Mint Simple Syrup
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup sugar (I prefer brown sugar)
1 cup water

Bring the mint, sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into an airtight container like a mason jar and refrigerate until ready to use or at least three hours. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator for about a month.

Using Mint Simple Syrup in Iced Tea: Brew your favorite tea according to instructions for making iced tea. Add simple syrup to taste.  Stir, taste and add more if desired.  I usually start with about a 1/4 cup for 2 quarts of tea.  Unless you like really, really sweet--like Southern style--iced tea, DO NOT ADD sugar!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Enlightened Tea

“… Your own attention is what spiritualizes things. Attention to the meal you cook, the clothes you wash. Attention is love. And that’s transformative.”

Are you present when you prepare tea? Can you verbalize the steps involved in preparing the elixir that sustains you? I read this article from Body & Soul on the meditative possibilities of housecleaning [“The Meaning of Cleaning” by Amy Marlin, April 2010] and thought about my morning tea routine. How many steps are involved? Do I take advantage of the in-the-moment opportunity?

Here's what it looks like
Each morning at the behest of the cat or the alarm clock, I pad down to the kitchen. Almost always, I prepare the cat’s food first, fill the tea kettle and turn it on. While it cycles through its two minutes of preparation, I measure out two teaspoons of loose leaf tea, typically Earl Grey,  and though I love the smell I rarely stop top savor it in the morning. The tea drops into my glass French press. Often I spill a few leaves on the counter.

Save or Toss?

I move between spacing out and watching the steam to billow our of the kettle, a sure sign that the cycle is nearly complete.
“Click” says the kettle indicating its doneness.
A sound I recognize with almost Superwoman-like power from almost every room in the house.  I pour water just to the silver band ¼” from the edge of the top of my glass press. The plunger top on, the long silver plunger erect and ready and pull out a cup. On this morning I skip heating the cup—conserve water.

By wrote I add sweetener, then a squirt of organic milk. I’ve tried many times to break the sugar fix in my tea, but nothing doing. A quick peep at the clock to determine if its time to plunge. When preparing tea for others, I am a meticulous timekeeper, but for myself—a little weak or strong  is no biggie. Did I start at 8:06 or 8:09? Well, it looks done enough! My favorite part, I slowly press doe the plunger. The steeping successfully stopped, I pour the brew into my prepared cup.

Stir and enjoy!

Taking time to really ponder the steps I’d have to admit is enlightening.

Sharing the love of enlightened tea,


Monday, March 15, 2010

Afternoon Tea At Least Once Each Year

It has been over a year since I've enjoyed a formal Afternoon Tea. Pretty much since we packed up Two for Tea to be precise. I love Afternoon Tea anytime of year and truly drink hot tea even when it is 90 degrees outside, but something about winter makes we think of my favorite places to enjoy the fine art of taking tea.

The last time EJ and I enjoyed Afternoon Tea not by our own hands was a delightful trip to The Lobby at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. The Peninsula is a Five Star hotel on Chicago's magnificent Michigan Avenue. I am not sure of the history of fine hotels serving tea, but there is definitely a connection. Perhaps that will be a future post.

Until then, since Two for Tea is no longer open, I suggest these fine places for Afternoon Tea:

1. The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago
2. The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.
3. The Waldorf-Astoria in New York
4. The Plaza Hotel in New York

If your taste runs to the less high brow, what a shame! However, I suggest consulting This resource is a fairly comprehensive list of tearooms nationwide. Please call the tearoom ahead of time as many require reservations and even more may no longer be open.

Sharing the love of (Afternoon) tea,


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