Tea 101… Practice Makes for YOUR Perfect Cup!

Last week we held an intimate class called Tea 101 at the fascinating, old-world styled spice / tea shop in Laguna Beach called Spice Merchants.  I posted about them last week here.  I hadn’t put on an “intro to tea” class in awhile; therefore, while pulling the materials together for the class, I was reminded of just how simple preparing a great cup of tea can be, and yet, how easily it can go all wrong.  Below are a few photos of our class set-up at Spice Merchants.  Our students were engaging and really interested in learning more about tea.  We had fun while tasting four different pure teas from the shelves of Spice Merchants, paired with a few tasty food bites.  Below are my tea making tips…it’s almost as easy as boiling water…a little practice will get you the results you desire.

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.

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In Tea With Betty, my tea manual, I include details of what key ingredients are needed to make a good cup of tea (there are 4)…along with steps about how to accomplish this fete :-).   While preparing a great cup of tea to your taste should be as easy as boiling water and tossing in some tea leaves….it’s often not…there are questions such as … what type of water to use? And at what temperature for which tea?  What type of tea to  use? Just how much tea for how much water?  And how long should the tea leaves sit on the water? Then, how do you effectively get the leaves off the water?  And finally, when do you add things such as milk (for black tea only plleeease!) …all these considerations go into the simple process of preparing a great cup of tea.  It sometimes feels like all the stars need to be aligned for the resulting brew to come out just the way you want it. Whew.

However, it is REALLY simple.  Here’s what you need.

1).  Good, clean, fresh spring or filtered water.  Tap water may have chlorine or other minerals which can distort or cover the lovely flavor of your delicate tea leaf as it exudes it’s liquor.

2). Use quality, leaf teas… tea leaves (not tea dust). I am careful to know where my tea leaves originated from…I primarily use teas from Harney & Sons, Mighty Leaf Teas, Adagio Teas, Tea Forte, Numi Organic Teas, Peet’s Teas, Steven Smith, Tazo, and a few others.  Spice Merchants teas are sourced primarily from these established tea purveyors.  It matters where your tea leaves come from…you are dousing them in water and ingesting the liquor these leaves leave behind…I want to know if these leaves are from a farm using sustainable practices and fair trade methods.

Variety of leaf teas on display

Variety of leaf teas on display – whole leaves, no tea “dust”…

Quantity of leaves to water ratio is where you will want to “test things out a bit to meet your preferred taste”; however, a rounded teaspoon per 8 ounce of fresh water is the place to start.

3). Water temperature makes a difference and varies depending of the type of tea you are brewing…just to boiling 212 degrees for black teas.  Greens and white teas scorch at this temperature, so go lower with these tea types (160 – 190 degrees).  Don’t boil your water to death, the oxygen in the water as it is coming to temp assists in releasing all the excellent flavor from your tea leaves as you pour the water over the leaves.

4) Brewing time matters.  Do not steep your tea longer than recommended or it will taste bitter.  The reason many Americans say they don’t enjoy tea is that they have experience leaf teas that have sat on the water too long and gotten astringent…not a pleasant thing to consume at that point.  Remove the tea (liquor exuded from the steeping leaves) as soon as they are done steeping.  Pour the tea into another warmed pot to serve or into your awaiting cup.

That’s it…not too difficult.  And practice a bit with a few steepings to determine what your favorite taste is…in the end, it is all about what you prefer.  Practice does make the perfect cup of tea for YOU!





A Year In Review…Well, Half Of It Anyway :-)

The past month has been a bit crazy …  I suppose it has been for most of you; however, I complicated things by throwing in a couple vacations, as well as, caught some kind of cold / virus that seems to want to fake me out…it comes and goes…then comes back just when I think I am better.  So…I got a little behind on my writing, but I think I am BACK now 🙂

2013 is gone.  While I don’t want to spend much time looking back, it was a year of interesting experiences inspired by tea for me.  I moved from my Tea With Betty blog to Eat Be Tea so I can expand the writing and experiences to include more about what I love…small bites of foods, paired with tea, experienced in numerous ways in various settings that often changes one’s life…one cup at a time, one bite at a time, one conversation at a time, one moment of reflection while waiting for the steep to finish.

I say goodbye to 2013 with this brief journey back.  I was blessed to have so many wonderful experiences over tea and food that I’ve had to break this into two posts…Below are photos for the first half 2013 of tea and food experiences that inspired and brought me joy –  beginning  with tea with my family at the Mission Inn, Riverside, Ca. last January 2…and ending with savoring a cup of Marriage Freres Darjeeling up in the Napa Valley while relaxing with a book.  In between, there were several garden tours that motivated us to redo our herb and vegetable beds (thanks to my sister’s invites and my husband’s hard work) and additional tea time items that touched me.

January - June 2013  Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

January – June 2013
Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

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Caption list:

1. Teatime at The Mission Inn with two darling little boys 🙂

2. Gonfu tea service…a favorite of mine enjoyed at several locations

3. Kusmi teas…a gift from my sister-in-law from their trip to France, their chocolate tea is as good as eating a piece of quality chocolate…seriously

4. Chocolates and confectionery my daughter and I made while at an Eat Street Culinary class with Chef Katie Averill in Anaheim…can’t believe we made these, from scratch.

5. Surfas opens in Costa Mesa, Ca…yay…lots of food and cooking supplies

6, 7, 8, 9. Napa Valley in February…the mustard in bloom as a cover crop for the grapevines, tea items at Dean & Deluca fine food purveyors…and they carried one of my favorite tea pots, featured on the cover of my tea book…the Betty pot and The French Laundry garden hot house.

10. Japanese tea house located in the bucolic Descanso Gardens L.A.

11. My Life Is Good “Tea Shirt”…a gift from my best friend.

12, 13, 14  Gorgeous tea foods prepared with the significant help from our friend Clive (the 5 layered tea sandwich he used to make at the Savoy, London and stunning lemon meringue tarts prepared by my niece Sammycakes. Also, my petite favorite biscuit scones.

15. Teapot with tea warmer at our dear friend Eugenie’s.

16. We discover pastry chef Kevin Montoya…owner of Carley Cakes. yum.

17 – 23. Out of the blue…I get asked to do a tea tasting for 100 and launch Eat Be Tea at this time….more Tea With Betty books are ordered, tables set in this gorgeous, rustic outdoor setting in the historic area of  San Juan Capistrano – my husband and Chef Kevin plate the food for the pairing with several organic teas from Mighty Leaf.

24.  Chef Kevin decides to name my biscuit scone…the Jones Scone and offer it in his pastry case with my fragrant and flavorful vanilla, cinnamon butter…at Hidden House Cafe on Los Rios Street in SJC.

Finally, we are up to June…back in Napa at the culinary institute where they claim “food is life”…so true…

Finally, I sit down to a fragrant darjeeling packaged in a darling cotton sack.

Happy New Year! Relax and drink tea!



Earl Grey Revisited

Most of the households I grew up around had a 100 count box of Lipton or Salada brand black tea bags in their kitchen pantries…tea dust in a stapled paper bag.  At our house, we also had either Twinings or Bigelow’s Earl Grey tea.  These and Bigelow’s Constant Comment tea were considered  fancy teas in my circle.   These days, I usually prefer pure, organic leaf teas … pure… meaning with no scents or flavors added, just the tea leaf.    I had not consumed an earl grey tea in ages…but a couple months ago, while hanging around the historic Los Rios Street in San Juan Capistrano getting ready for our big tea tasting events… I came upon Hidden House Coffee house and ordered a pot of earl grey, it was stunning!  It actually stopped me in my tracks!  I had to know where they got this spectacular tea from…it is Tea Forte‘s loose leaf earl grey. It’s more floral than most earl grey teas – I think because along with bergomot oil, they add corn flower petals too.  I got hooked again on this popular flavored tea.  I woke up craving “that” cup of tea for several days…which led me back to Hidden House to indulge in more pots of this fragrant brew.  I decided to check out Tea Forte online and spent an hour enjoying their site, their award winning tea accessories, as well as,  I now have a stash of my own Tea Forte earl grey at home too. (see photos below of their Kati brewing system and their single steep pre-portioned pouches for us lazy bones 🙂   This is my new favorite steeping tea cup and tea gift).

Today’s earl grey tea offerings are not like those of days gone by…the quality and choices available are delightful.

This got me thinking about other earl greys.  My daughter loves Mighty Leaf’s earl grey…offered in a silken pouch.

Mighty Leaf quality teas in a silken pouch

Mighty Leaf quality teas in a silken pouch


Harney & Sons has several, even a white earl grey.  Harney describes their Earl Grey Supreme as…

“To the connoisseur we offer Earl Grey Supreme, which uses a higher grade of teas along with the addition of Silver Tips. Most of our customers have never gone back to our regular Earl Grey once they have tasted the Supreme. If you love Bergamot and fine tea, this is the blend for you”
Dean & Deluca carries many French brands of fine teas, including Mariage Freres (which I purchased and posted about here.) Their Earl Grey tea came in a cute satchel -it has a hint of bergamot…they use darjeeling tea in this earl grey.

What makes earl grey an earl grey?  Bergamot.

Bergamot Orange...beautiful and fragrant

Bergamot Orange…beautiful and fragrant

Bergamot is an aromatic oil found in the peels of bergamot oranges. It’s floral and rich, with a slightly bitter or astringent taste.  Earl Grey tea is a tea blend with a distinctive flavor and aroma derived from the addition of this oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus.  Other varieties add lavender, jasmine, and differing citrus peels to the mix.

 Why is Earl Grey tea called Earl Grey?

Earl Grey was named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, (13 March 1764 – 17 July 1845), known as Viscount Howick between 1806 and 1807, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 22 November 1830 to 16 July 1834.  According to the  Howick Hall website, “The tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, to suit the water at Howick, using bergamot in particular to offset the taste of the lime in it. Lady Grey used it to entertain in London as a political hostess, and it proved so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came to market it. It is now sold worldwide and the Greys were sufficiently unbusinesslike not to register the trade mark; as a result, they have never received a penny!”

In getting out of my little tea rut … and branching out to try something new (even though it stems from something old for me)…I came across my new favorite tea gift for tea novices to tea lovers – Tea Forte’s Kati tea brewing system – allowing anyone to brew loose tea by the cup…..simple to use and enough design patterns to satisfy most needs and interests.

Individual steeping cup...double walled with stainless infuser...the Kati cup comes in several designs and is a great gift too.  Comes with Tea Forte single steeping pouches already portioned out for us lazy bones :-)

Individual steeping cup…double walled with stainless infuser…the Kati cup comes in several designs and is a great gift too. Comes with Tea Forte single steeping pouches already portioned out for us lazy bones 🙂

They describe the Kati system as:

“Our double-wall ceramic tumbler and integrated stainless steel infuser make brewing loose tea by the cup simple. The innovative double-wall construction keeps tea hot and the tumbler cozy to hold. Brews a generous 12 oz cup, is dishwasher and microwave safe.”

Tea Forte single steeps...use in their Kati tea cup with built in stainless infuser... a great gift with many style choices...I just love this double walled tea cup...

Tea Forte single steeps…use in their Kati tea cup with built in stainless infuser… a great gift with many style choices…I just love this double walled tea cup…










There is much innovation going on in the tea delivery systems and in the availability of high quality leaf teas…making it a great time to drink tea.  Hurray for us tea drinkers…it’s about time 🙂

Class Is Over! Two Magical Days Of Tea Tasting

What a remarkable couple of days. The weather was delightful for our two day, Eat . Be. Tea Tasting events held at Goin Native in the historic district of San Juan Capistrano, California.

Just enough sun and warmth came out to make for a cheery, comfortable environment. Everyone showed up who was supposed to and who registered. My assistants were remarkable, skilled, and a joy to work with…our site host, Marianne with Goin Native, offers a special environment which was beautifully set up for our guests. Our chef, Kevin Montoya of Carley Cakes was all I had hoped he would be and more. It was magical. In the end…there were scores of tea converts too. I know this to be a fact in that our local tea retail shop was “wiped out” next day of the varieties of teas we tasted and didn’t know why until someone explained to them about our class. They happily have more Jasmine Downey Pearl, Masala Chai, Ceylon, Ti Kuan Yin Oolong and Assam on order.

Set up went smoothly. One little glitch with the electrical for the three hot water kettles was quickly resolved by my able team and Marianne. As we set the tables, the place took on an air of beauty, peace and calm. A perfect environment to experience the “being” part of tea. I will need to share this experience in two posts…this one is about the setting…next will be about the food pairing.

Below are photos of the set up and Goin Native garden ambiance.

Set up...almost ready to go...tasting cups, hand-out reflecting tea info., menu, & recipes...under the shade of umbrellas and old, lovely trees

Set up…almost ready to go…tasting cups, hand-out reflecting tea info., menu, & recipes…under the shade of umbrellas and old, lovely trees – Hils is doing a final inspection before our guests arrive.

Place setting..with yellow Iris grown in Goin Native's back yard...she had a sea of them waving at you ...

Place setting..with yellow Iris grown in Goin Native’s back yard…she had a sea of them waving at you …

Getting ready...table runners were burlap with a lovely sheer overlay...functional, yet elegant

Getting ready…table runners were burlap with a lovely sheer overlay…functional, yet elegant

Comfy chairs...

Comfy chairs…


View of all three tables...ready to go... guest's seating, speaker's table, books signing table in way back View of all three tables…ready to go… guest’s seating, speaker’s table, books signing table in way back

I found this vintage Tea Time towel at Sur la table
Tea making station was perched on the porch...overlooking the audience...we made 5 organic, single estate teas from Mighty Leaf teas

Tea making station was perched on the porch…overlooking the audience…we made 5 organic, single estate teas from Mighty Leaf teas

Each tea was prepared with spring water.



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With the aid of three Breville hot water pots with varying temperature settings for tea and five Teavana infusers..the tea making was a breeze 🙂 just kidding as it was my daughter who got in a “zen” mode and delivered wonderful teas (50 cups x 5 types) with the able assistance of my sister and Hils (my editor, agent, and hype girl).

Detailed tea preparation chart posted on the wall behind the table...thanks to my daughter, sister, and Hils (my editor, agent and hype girl)each tea was perfectly prepared...50 cups x 5 times...whew

Detailed tea preparation chart posted on the wall behind the table…thanks to my daughter, sister, and Hils (my editor, agent and hype girl)each tea was perfectly prepared…50 cups x 5 times…whew

The setting at Goin Native is rustic, elegant, cool…there are “vignette” sitting areas all around and the retail is beautifully integrated into the setting.


The Goin Native property has a special aura to it...rustic, cool, elegant...with vignette sitting areas and retail neatly integrated into the setting

The Goin Native property has a special aura to it…rustic, cool, elegant…with vignette sitting areas and retail neatly integrated into the setting

It was a relaxed, lovely setting where I met guests to sign books and discuss all things tea...what an interesting and engaging group of guests

It was a relaxed, lovely setting where I met guests to sign books and discuss all things tea…what an interesting and engaging group of guests

I couldn't have asked for a more delightful and attentive audience...

I couldn’t have asked for a more delightful and attentive audience…

I am thankful to all who attended. We made new friends, reacquainted with old friends and I even got to meet one of my blog followers (L. and her husband who came from 60 miles away – thank you!)

In the end, it was an inspiring and exhilarating day for us. Each guest left with a “call to action” to drink tea and expect quality, whole leaf, teas which are prepared in pure water that is perfectly heated for your particular leaf. It’s finally time for wonderful tea served in America.

In a few days I will post about the food and pairing. Chef Kevin Montoya was like a “machine” in the kitchen…and had an awesome expediter (my husband)…what a team.

All Set For The Big Day…

I was so rushed getting ready for our tea tasting that I didn’t get this post out before the events…am sharing it with you tonight and will fill you in on how things went over the next few days…am working on the photos now.  I will say that from the wonderful response,  there will be many more tea drinkers after seeing how much the attendees enjoyed the Mighty Leaf whole leaf, single estate and organic teas we consumed during the tasting and pairing with recipes from Tea With Betty.

Going back to the night before the event days…Written Thursday night – May 9:

The car is loaded…and I mean loaded…with a plethora of tea paraphernalia…ready for day one of our two tea tasting events this weekend.   Over 90 guests have registered (45 attendees each day)…we’ll be preparing a lot of tea.

I have …

120 tasting cups, three electric kettles, five infusers, 4 clear glass pots, timers, teaspoons, pounds and pounds of teas, handouts, pitchers, dispensers, dump buckets, 20 gallons of spring water,  even a Kitchen aide stand up mixer with whisk (for our pastry chef catering the event to be able tomake meringue on site for the lemon meringue tarts), my mise en place for demonstrating how to make a biscuit scone, and of course, Tea With Betty books too…whew…I can’t get one more thing into the car.

We are ready to go!  Check out this car…


The car is loaded, ready to go...my mise en place for scone making in one box

The car is loaded, ready to go…my mise en place for scone making in one box

Car ready and loaded to go to the event site…tea tasting cups, Kitchen aide mixer, bottles of spring water, and more
Box filled with my “miss en place” for demonstrating how to make a quick bread – my favorite biscuit scone – dry ingredients are sealed with plastic wrap and butter and milk are in a cooler container ready for tomorrow

I went by our site to check out the set up with Marianne of Goin Native.  It feels good…cozy for such a big group.  We will put table cloths, table runners, and place settings out the morning of …it will transform the area into one of grace and beauty … 🙂  seriously…it will look beautiful thanks to others (I am not the best at decor…but have enormously talented people around me who are).

Location ready to set up

Location ready to set up

U shape set up for class – located in the unique, relaxing, historic area of San Juan Capistrano…on Los Rios Street at Goin Native garden.

U shape set up

U shape set up

Set up view from the other direction
This is the table where I will be setting up for signing Tea With Betty books after the class…a lovely location
Marianne / Goin Native has beautiful herbs and succulents for sale displayed in these rustic cabinets…a living keepsake from one’s time in this relaxing historic garden
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Retail area integrated into the setting... lovely Paseolivo Olive Oil on display

Retail area integrated into the setting… lovely Paseolivo Olive Oil on display

I am just about finished with my prep of my presentation…  What a challenge to distill seven years of research about tea and tea time activities and foods into 40 minutes of discussion…but it’s done..”follow the”KISS” method of presenting” is what my good buddy Hils says… (K.I.S.S. stands for keep it simple stupid (or “silly” would be a nicer way to put it I suppose 🙂

Tomorrow morning  my crack team of helpers will meet two hours before the tea tasting starts to help set up.  I am a lucky girl for sure to have family and friends who volunteer to pitch in whenever I need them…it’s wonderful.  I did bribe them with food and drink though 🙂  I will certainly be posting photos when we are done.  It will be interesting to see how day one goes versus day two…a bit like the movie “ground hog’s day” I suppose.

Am off to bed now hoping to get at least 6 hours of good sleep…will update  this weekend as soon as I catch my breath.

Oh, one more thing for those of you who were following my 12 week challenge to lose weight so my blood sugar would drop to a “non-diebetic” level…which was extended for another 12 weeks-so really it was a 24 week challenge…which just ended today…  drum roll please….

Hurray… I did it!  Got those numbers down to a “boring” level as my doctor said today…Yay…I actually feel better…it’s amazing what losing 10 pounds and eating a balanced diet of carbs, proteins and fats will do for you…that along w/ a bit of exercise… and I even had a couple of scones (petite though they were) now and then…thanks for all your support.  Now I am not going to go crazy and ruin this good state I am in…However, I do plan on having one of my scones at the tea tasting tomorrow and the rest of the menu (as it is small plate, small bite oriented…and who can resist a lemon curd tartlet)… this along with a bit of pure healthy tea is a good thing.

Enjoy and I look forward to sharing photos of my first tea and food tasting from Tea With Betty…

Getting Ready For Upcoming Tea Tasting Events…It’s A Party :-)

My life has been consumed with preparation for my first ever “public” tea tasting.  I posted about these May events I was asked to do in my April 9 “Join us” post…

It has been quite a fun journey to get to this point…items on my enormous check list are being accomplished (including a day of shopping with my sister to find something to wear,  a fun trip to the Container Store to find suitable carrier bags for my 144 tasting cups, and an internet search to see if we could get an “actual” Camellia Sinensis tea plant (yay, and yes we did!!!  well, it’s on the way, in the mail).

We sold out the Saturday event weeks in advance and are just about there for the Friday class too…I am so thrilled to be able to introduce this audience to some of my favorite pure, organic and whole leaf teas .. the ones that drive me to be so passionate about the subject…and over a setting that gets at the “being” of tea time…sharing it with friends, family, or as a break for yourself.

Our awesome chef, Kevin Montoya, who owns Carley Cakes has extensive training in New York and San Francisco culinary and baking schools. He did a delightful tasting for us last week.  This so we could tweak the menu and presentation where necessary (which very little was necessary…he prepares my recipes from Tea With Betty so well…how fun to see someone else’s take on recipes you’ve lived with for so long).

Here are some of the photos from that practice set up and tasting morning last week…the setting is outdoors, in Goin Native’s front yard garden.  This is in the historic district of San Juan Capistrano…the Mission church bells will be sounding during the tea tasting, as will a few trains rushing by…creating a unique, rustic, and gorgeous natural setting.  Marianne, Goin Native owner, offers beautiful native plant garden ideas and items.  She is brilliant at potting and planting and heads up our volunteer garden angel group.

Tasting items…on a full sheet pan…

Our rehearsal and tasting items for the EAT BE TEA event...full tray of each item prepared by chef Kevin Montoya (they were spot on delicious), place setting (elegant, rustic) and vanilla, cinnamon butter ready for the scones

Our rehearsal and tasting items for the EAT BE TEA event…full tray of each item prepared by chef Kevin Montoya (they were spot on delicious), place setting (elegant, rustic) and vanilla, cinnamon butter ready for the scones

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More of the setting…

Kevin’s scones and desserts were spot on (actually so much better than I can even make them…)  So…we worked on the rest of the table setting, set up, tea making area, check in and all…gorged ourselves on the samples (as I was ensuring not only quality, but also…was there enough food per person to be a lunch like meal since the event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m…. we all agreed we were fully satiated and hadn’t even had the teas with this tasting…

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Goin Native grounds..getting ready

Goin Native grounds..getting ready

goin native grounds

El Sereno Graphics... picking up my books...our printer has a cool 55 Chevy in the shop

El Sereno Graphics… picking up my books…our printer has a cool 55 Chevy in the shop

Next…my husband and I ran up to East L.A. to my wonderful printer, Rich, owner of El Sereno Graphics, and picked up an order of books to have available for signing at the events… I love going up to his print shop… and popping the top off a box of Tea With Betty books….

I have been sitting on my library floor, wrapping up individual tea gifts we are going to give to guests as they leave … while watching season 3 of Downton Abbey (oh my…have you seen it yet? … )  If watching…
“Don’t you just love how everything happens over having a cup of tea?”

Will let you know how it goes…am practicing making 50 to 100 cups of tea at a time this weekend to get the timing exact…

Life’s short…drink tea…and enjoy

My Mighty Leaf Teas...ready for tasting and wrapping up for gifts

My Mighty Leaf Teas…ready for tasting and wrapping up for gifts