High Tea … often Misunderstood …

Contemporary English afternoon tea menu...rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea…lovely and not too sweet – this from Samovar Tea House in San Francisco

High tea is often confused with an Afternoon Tea; however, they are actually two distinctly different eating occasions. Each serves a relevant purpose.  Afternoon tea is said to have been inspired by the Duchess of Bedford who complained that she got famished between lunch and dinner and thus the traditional three-course “snack” of savory finger foods, scones and assorted petite sweets came into being served in upscale salons and sitting rooms all over England.  Afternoon tea can also be called a “low tea,” as it is often served in a salon or sitting room on low tables with participants relaxing in chairs or lounging on chaise’s or low furnishings.

High tea is a meal.  Often partaken by the working class; however, today, many who desire a special tea menu at a meal time blend the two.  A few months ago we put on a high tea for our niece and 20 family members which included a demonstration of scone making and tea tasting of three fancy green and oolong teas.  What was originally to be an afternoon tea turned into a dinnertime tea tasting; thus it became a “high tea” where we served a meal of multiple salads, hamsteak sliders, curried egg salad, along with scones and sweets.

The host wanted me to demonstrate two things for the group…1) how to make scones and 2) how to make a great cup of tea, which we did. We finished the meal with three petite desserts…decadent dark chocolate brownies, organic strawberries with mascarpone & cream fraiche, and, for our 8 year-old birthday girl who just loves pink, vibrant, pink frosted mini vanilla cupcakes.

The scones were a huge hit, served with raspberry jam, my tart lemon curd and creme fraiche.  The birthday girl, her sister and cousins served, and they were excellent at it, including exuding tons of personality in the process. Uncle David (my husband) oversaw everything beautifully as usual.  All had a great time and appeared to enjoy the scone making and consuming them fresh and hot from the oven, along with tasting the various oolong teas.

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The High Tea meal plating … 21 plates set to receive the ham steak biscuit slider and another salad…already plated are the egg salad stuffed rolls and the endive & watercress salad.

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One of my most favorite salads…bitter, sweet, salty, & crunch endive, watercress, bleu cheese, toasted pecans in a light champagne vinaigrette

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Grilled hamsteak with mustard on a fresh, warm yam biscuit to make a savory slider – these were a hit.

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Curried egg salad stuffed into hollowed out dinner rolls…seemed like a great idea when I saw them on a cooking show…ended up with almost everyone eating the egg salad out of the roll and leaving the roll (too much bread…particularly when you have awesome yam biscuits and scones to come).

And just a reminder, as mentioned in my last post….Next up…I am almost ready to launch my “communing with books blog”…am excited to see where delving into the classics will lead, along with contemporary “classic” authors too.  And know that many of the works include a tea time!  (such a civilized thing to do 🙂

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies...bite sized...from Tea With Betty...one of our desserts

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies…bite sized…from Tea With Betty…one of our desserts and always the favorite dessert for adults.

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I was told that the birthday girl just LOVED anything pink…the brighter pink the better, so I went for it…the pink was not a shy one…they loved them.

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Demonstration of jasmine tea  being released from my favorite diffuser into a glass tea pot

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My husband took care of the crowd…he is fabulous at doing that

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Our birthday girl and her sister were truly darling and enjoyed the entire evening…their service was excellent too

What I Learned In My Diabetes Nutrition Classes…

Vodka has zero (0) carbohydrates & Creme Brûlée is better for me than cake!

Darjeeling tea martini at "tea and tinis" end of 2013

Darjeeling tea martini — 0 carbs but still…one is probably enough 🙂

While intending a bit of wit and tongue in cheek perspective on “what to eat” that’s still yummy and fitting within the parameters of one’s diabetic diet, these two facts were actually helpful for me to learn.

Ten years ago, I participated in an 8 week course for diabetics (I was pre-diabetic at the time).  When my numbers shot up last summer, I went back to see what knew news was available from the nutritionist’s world regarding this insidious disease. My dietician said, “really, nothing had changed in the last 10 years.”  I told her I was flying somewhere soon and usually needed a drink or two to relax during the flight, but didn’t want to hurt myself with too much alcohol (wine was my usual drink – 4 grams of carbs are in five ounces and anticipated needing 10 ounces for a good buzz…her comment…”vodka has no carbs”…hmmm…    Vodka it was! (I decided I’d rather eat my carbs than drink them that day.)

What I realized at that nutritionist appointment, (an epiphany of sorts), was that I am now “on my own” in figuring out “what to eat.” I know all the general info. about what’s good and what’s not, what I want now is a personal, individualized, actual, customized action plan that let’s me still love my meals….and the only place to get that kind of detail, specifically designed for me, was from one source… me!  So I went to work on one.

Thanks to getting my own glucose monitoring device, I can check my blood sugars after eating and see what actually happens with certain foods – which ones spike my sugar levels and which don’t.  While I thought I’d drive my wonderful husband crazy with my diligent measuring, logging, testing, and cheering and/or bemoaning the results …he’s  been so supportive (no surprise really) and has gotten into complimenting my efforts.  There are other factors I am figuring out too, like the “dawn phenomena” of sugar spikes in the early a.m. hours and how to manage that.  It’s a work in progress – but I can assure you, I AM making good progress.  Each day, I am more comfortable with knowing “what to eat” and am expanding my testing to more exotic and once forbidden items with tweaks in the recipes. What’s working for me…using a little math (45 grams of carbs at a meal is my target) and ensuring balance between fats, carbs, and proteins.  Also, I eat real food, not artificial substitutes (more on that in upcoming posts).

Recently I’ve put puddings, brûlées, & custards back into my diet.  I just love them, savory and sweet, but have stayed away from the sweets completely for a couple years.  The reason a brûlée or pudding is better for me than cake is that there are normally more protein and fats in a pudding than those that exist in a cake.  Refined grains and sugars spike a diabetic’s sugar levels enormously.  Eggs and dairy (in puddings) are proteins and fats, which you actually need for balancing the sugars.  It’s all about balance…think balance and you can have a bit of everything.  Last month I enjoyed my niece’s pumpkin brûlée, and another day, a savory flan from Market Restaurant in San Diego.  Neither spiked my sugar levels…yay, I got to have my pudding, and eat it too 🙂

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée...I had mine without the "carmelized sugar" and no sugar spike later ...hurray...

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée…I had mine without the “carmelized sugar” and no sugar spike later …hurray…

Parmesan savory pudding with corn bread from Market in San Diego

Parmesan savory pudding with corn bread from Market in San Diego

 

 

Along with a lovely cup of tea…usually an oolong in the evening.

 

Aging and Eating….Whatever Your Age May Be

For the past few years I’ve struggled with managing my diet in an effort to keep my borderline type 2 Diabetes “borderline”… and after ten years, “borderline” went to actual “diabetes”.  It is a progressive disease.  I now know what that means.  After slinking into myself for several weeks – contemplating how to deal with this diagnosis, along with newly prescribed medicines, I’ve come out with a wider perspective on what to do, how to do it, and still and alwayscompletely enjoy my meals, because as some of you know, every morning I wake up just thrilled and excited about the prospects of “what to eat” and pair that with my favorite teas.

At 30 years old I went through something similar to this drama about “what to eat” when I first remember “ever” putting on weight. At a checkup, I actually asked my doctor, “what is all this stuff around my middle area?”  I was serious, she laughed and said, “That’s fat!  Quit eating so much.  You’re 30 now, your body is changing.  You can’t eat the way you did in your teens and 20’s.”

And, I ask you, “Is this happening in your house?” Christmas dinner was at our home. The menu needed to have the following options: gluten free, soy free, low sodium, low carb, vegetarian and carnivore dishes while being delicious, traditional, and cohesive…whew!!!  With a little thought, we did it.

I have concluded the once “niche” diet is actually the “mainstream” diet today.

Thank goodness for tea!  Always a great fit with an enormous variety of options for varied tastes… and here’s the deal with tea… it’s gluten free, vegetarian (vegan), no carb, no sodium, soy free, and can be paired with any type of food you desire…I say… awwwwwwesome 🙂

Eat . Be . Tea is taking a little different road going forward…focused onto  “a new way to eat”… Answering the question “What to eat?” and still feel good after consuming – with the caveat that we continue to just LOVE our meals and not just “settle” for some calories that are supposedly “good for us!”  It will be interesting, enlightening, and fun…and pertinent to each of us at any stage in our lives…if I had known all this at 30, I might not have two to three sizes of clothes in my closet today 🙂

You will see my favorite finds over the next several weeks … (I would have started sooner, but have had a multi-week glitch with my technology…now corrected we think,,yay)… I’m back!  And with a vengeance towards eating deliciously and well…my numbers are totally under control after 26 weeks of figuring out what works for me (and I now have to buy new clothes…a lower size)…all the way…there was always always tea.!!!!

See you soon…with foods and recipes to meet your needs today.

 

 

The Modern Tea Bar… My Visit to Samovar SFO

So, I got a little side-tracked over the last two months…but, I am back 🙂  and have so much to share with you about recent tea and food experiences that “wowed” me.  In late January I shared my excitement about getting to San Francisco to explore the Samovar Tea Bars.  The post is here, titled Samovar Tea Bar here I come...  This photo is a shot from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge from Berkeley going into San Francisco on a stunning, crisp, February afternoon.  The bridge is enormous and such an engineering feat…notice the pyramid shaped TransAmerica building in the right background…a famous landmark site as one enters this unique cosmopolitan city.

View from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge going from Berkeley to San Francisco...a crisp, beautiful winter afternoon

View from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge going from Berkeley to San Francisco…a crisp, beautiful winter afternoon

It was the January issue of Food and Wine magazine that turned me on to this hot tea spot.  Then last week, our dear friends J. & J. saw Bon Appetit’s  four page spread in their current May issue called “Join the Tea Party” where they noted Samovar as a hot spot for tea calling it “the newest outpost … offers organic and single-origin teas steeped in futuristic French presses.” After reading all about Samovar, we got to experience it live and in person. This is a seriously awesome tea bar.  We went to the Yerba Buena location situated at the Moscone Center.  It is a bustling area…we went at a quiet time (10:30 a.m.) and enjoyed excellent service and fabulous tea and beautiful foods – and I loved our server’s t-shirt..and his incredible attitude.

My mantra and sign off for most posts is... "Drink Tea...it's good for you".. so we loved our server's t-shirt...too bad, they don't sell them.  He was very funny too.  What a fabulous atmosphere

My mantra and sign off for most posts is… “Drink Tea…it’s good for you”.. so we loved our server’s t-shirt…too bad, they don’t sell them. He was very funny too. What a fabulous atmosphere and he was happy to pose for a photo.

Our view walking up to the entrance to Samovar, Yerba Buena…

Walking up to Samovar Tea Bar ... signage on walkway...view from the front is expansive of San Francisco

Walking up to Samovar Tea Bar … signage on walkway…view from the front is gorgeous scene of San Francisco buildings with a large seating outside seating area not yet set up for the day…we went inside…it was cool out

IMG_5034Entrance…note my guy sitting inside…you can barely see him

just outside door to samovar...if you look closely, my main guy is sitting at our table...

just outside door to samovar…if you look closely, my main guy is sitting at our table…white collar, glasses, menu in hand…tolerating me photographing

It is just a cool place…a wall of tea canisters and clean, chic, white Samovar bags of tea are hanging off a large wall, easy to shop…

Wall of Tea...at Samovar Yerba Buena SFO

Wall of Tea…at Samovar Yerba Buena SFO

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The demographic of clientele is broad and global in nature, also, as many men as women taking tea.  Their menu offerings reflect a global perspective, their teas are clearly of superior quality and the tea service is masterful.  They are tea masters. We so enjoyed the easy attitude, and unpretentious yet perfectly styled table ware for each global menu.  Being there brought back the inspiration which drove me to write Tea With Betty as a menu planner for teas from 17 different cultures and perspectives.  I opted for the Russian tea menu.  (well, of course,  the place is called “Samovar”…the Russian hot water / tea service centerpiece that fascinated me with tea and society during my Russian Literature reading days).

Below is my Russian Caravan tea service, lightly smoky with milk …and a lunch plate featuring Russian tastes, salmon, beets, eggs with caviar and a perfect Russian tea biscuit.  But first, David went more Asian with a delicious Matcha tea …we went home with some incredible teas too.

Matcha tea served from a clear beaker, my Russian Caravan service with milk ... a black smoky tea...my Tolstoy menu...beets, salmon, caviar on eggs and peppery Russian tea biscuit..delicious

Matcha tea served from a clear beaker, my Russian Caravan service with milk … a black smoky tea…my Tolstoy menu…beets, salmon, caviar on eggs and peppery Russian tea biscuit..delicious

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Our tea and food...Matcha from a clear beaker for David...Russian Caravan, smoky black tea w/ milk and and delightful Tolsoy menu w/ salmon, caviar on eggs, beets, peppered Russian tea biscuit...the perfect slightly sweet bite to finish this lunch plate

My peppered Russian tea biscuit…the perfect slightly sweet bite to finish this lunch plate

 

We look forward to returning and trying other teas and menus.  The British tea looked so appealing, the scone rustic and full of oats…this one photo is from Samovar’s site, as the one I snapped didn’t come out well.

English menu...rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea...lovely and not too sweet

English menu…rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea…lovely and not too sweet

It was a treat.  Wish they were near me. It would certainly be a weekly venture, but at least I have enjoyed steeping the teas I brought home.

Drink tea…it’s good for you 🙂

Enjoy

Samovar Tea Lounge…San Francisco Here I Come

The February issue of Food And Wine Magazine had a beautiful article about the modern teahouse.  Titled, Time For Tea, by Megan Krigbaum, she writes; “Spectacular new imports have helped create a tea obsession on par with the cult of coffee.  Here’s the latest news on the antioxidant rich drink.”  We are introduced to several beautiful tea shops, tea ware, and recipes.  In a few days, I am heading up to San Francisco…and am definitely going to spend time at Samovar Tea Lounges she writes about.  They look to be my idea of THE modern tea lounge…ones that I wish existed near our home.  Below are photos from their website…I will be taking my own and sharing with you soon, along with a bit of feedback as to which teas hit the mark for me and which pairings with foods were memorable.  In looking at their International tea time menus…they are reminiscent of how I laid out Tea With Betty (my tea manual)…seems what inspired me to write the book has, at last, come into existence in Northern California…

 

Samovar Tea Lounge...there are three locations...I plan to hit all of them when in San Francisco...

Samovar Tea Lounge…there are three locations…I plan to hit all of them when in San Francisco…

 

Various photos from Samovar Tea Lounge locations in the Bay area...can't wait to visit them all

Various photos from Samovar Tea Lounge locations in the Bay area…can’t wait to visit them all

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Reviewing these tea houses ought to be great fun…and they look to be so healthy too…

 

Gratitude…Reflected Upon Over A Cup of Tea (Best of 2014)

As we launch into 2015, I am grateful for a multitude of things, many of which I will continue to embrace and indulge further as we enter the new year.   I am so appreciative of … the support of my awesome family;  inspirational meetings with my hype girl (Hilary);  improving my downward dog thanks to my sister and Megan increasing my mindfulness through yoga;  the nerve to dance like a fool to Adam Levine’s, Map, and Taylor Swift’s, Shake It Off,  as a painless way to exercise;  the arrival this year of four gorgeous, bouncing baby boys into our family; and the “never taken for granted” gift of health which allows me to do any of these things.  And of course…I appreciate the comfort and joy of my daily tea ritual…which is always healthy, tasty, interesting, and motivating.   While restrictions in diets abound, particularly as we age, quality teas afford me the opportunity to explore and imbibe in an unrestricted manner.  There is a tea for any feeling, season, occasion, and need.  It’s versatility and breadth of variety continues to astound and fascinate me.

2014 brought several unique tea experiences my way.  I chose some of my favorites to reflect upon …below…

Beginning with the end in mind–at the end of 2013, we enjoyed trying the Darjeeling Tea Martini at the St. Regis “Tea and Tinis” event.   It impressed me enough that I tried making my own recently with my good friend A. — the champagne of teas with vodka…very tasty.

Darjeeling tea martini at "tea and tinis" end of 2013

Darjeeling tea martini at “tea and tinis” end of 2013

Then we were wowed last February while in Sacramento with the seriously spectacular eating and drinking experience at The Kitchen Restaurant ...while I enjoyed a lovely oolong served in a tetsubin iron pot…I later wished I had known of their fresh herbal tea preparation.  I would have opted for it.  They cut the fresh herbs and infuse them right in front of you . And while I am not usually an herbal infusion fan, this one looked to be special…guess we will have to go back 🙂 )

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The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side -- to your liking ---

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side — to your liking —

For our book group, I made my own stunning marbled tea eggs (with yolks perfectly centered by moving the egg slowing through the boiling water the first few minutes of cooking).  These made for a tasty small bite sandwich made with my angel biscuit (from a Martha Stewart Living recipe), served with a jasmine pearl tea…

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled tea eggs...served within an angel biscuit with mayonnaise...a tasty two bite sandwich...love the fragrant aromas from the eggs soaking in Chinese black tea, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon stick

Marbled tea eggs…served within an angel biscuit with mayonnaise…a tasty two bite sandwich…love the fragrant aromas from the eggs soaking in Chinese black tea, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon stick

In May, we were thrilled with the tea shops we explored on our trip to Portland, Oregon…what a great tea city.  Steven Smith Teas was an exceptional, contemporary, quality tea experience. My husband and nephew loved his teas, his tasting, and his packaging.  Of course, he should know what he is doing…as he began with Stash teas, created Tazo and sold it to Starbucks and now is focused on his own brand.

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Steven Smith Tea Room...the best tasting ever.

Steven Smith Tea Room…the best tasting ever.

We then came on an excellent tea shop much closer to us, in Del Mar, Ca…called Leaf and Kettle. Their tasting was performed in darling little tasting cups, and the way they used a martini shaker to prepare their iced tea inspired me to get our own shaker out and now is the preferred way for us to make the coldest, freshest iced tea.

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop...Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste...well, maybe just three at a time...excellent and knowledgeable staff too.

Leaf & Kettle Tea Shop…Beautiful, contemporary, over 100 teas waiting for you to taste…well, maybe just three at a time…excellent and knowledgeable staff too.

 

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We tasted and purchased several teas.  My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong...we also took home a fruity tisane I would be infusing for an  iced tea tasting class...it was called Island Tradewinds - a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries.  Light and refreshing...

We tasted and purchased several teas. My favorite was No. 49 Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong…we also took home a fruity tisane I would be infusing for an iced tea tasting class…it was called Island Tradewinds – a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries. Light and refreshing…

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience

Leaf & Kettle tasting using a gaiwan lidded cup and tiny tasting bowls made for a special experience

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I then re-discovered a favorite shop in Irvine…the first contemporary tea shop I came upon about 10 years ago – Cha for Tea...still making excellent infused tea to order.

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My new tea ware from Laguna Beach’s Spice Merchants is functional and beautiful…and I enjoyed doing a tea 101 class there in September…

Tea 101 ... ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach...an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

Tea 101 … ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

 

Now…wonder what’s in store for 2015?  I have a few ideas and look forward to sharing my finds and experiences with you.  And remember…Drink Tea…it’s good for you!!

Happy New Year!