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

Teas as the Spice of Life…Satisfy that Chocolate Craving (with NO Carbs :-)

The other day we did a tea tasting event where we served petite desserts in the finishing course…  my decadent dark chocolate brownies are always a hit and a superb finishing bite paired with jasmine pearl green tea.   We cut the brownies into small bites… and o.k., I did need to taste one 🙂 mmmmm.  These sweets do have carbs and plenty of fat and are wonderful now and then, and one bite doesn’t seem to hurt my goal to stay within range on my diabetes management program; however, on a daily basis, this is a no go for me.  The good news is there are excellent alternatives in my tea cupboard which are enormously satisfying in this area.  Whenever I have a sweet craving, I can go to my tea stash and scan for which variety of tea will enhance my afternoon break, a little ritual for myself to perk me up through the dangerous “raid the pantry” time which occurs for me between 3 p.m .and 5 p.m.

Spices infused into whole leaf teas are a treat that can satisfy your desires while saving you (and me) from a regretful binge.

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies...bite sized...from Tea With Betty...

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies…bite sized…from Tea With Betty…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are savory, spicy, and sweet tasting varieties of teas that can boggle your taste buds. Try some that sound good to you.  My sister goes for the fruity infusions.  My grandsons just love chai.  Masala Chai is a powerful taste satisfier…having all the holiday spices and black pepper really punch up it’s flavor. While I add whole milk to this, I do NOT add sugar to any tea (my grandsons enjoy a bit of honey in theirs).  Peet’s brand Masala Chai is a delightful and powerful Indian blend which includes cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, cloves and pepper.  The pepper really comes through and it tastes like dessert.

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Peet's Masala Chai spiced black tea...delicious either hot or cold...blended too

Peet’s Masala Chai spiced black tea…delicious either hot or cold…blended too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate PU-ERH ancient teas by NUMI ... all organic and truly hits the chocolate in a satisfying manner

Chocolate PU-ERH ancient healing teas by NUMI … all organic and truly hits the chocolate in a satisfying manner

But when I crave chocolate…I go to chocolate infused teas.  I have tasted dozens and found remarkable varieties.  Mighty Leaf has several, some even include tiny chocolate chips which melt as you infuse the tea.  Numi Organic Chocolate Puerh is a particularly satisfying cup of tea…this and a small square (1 ounce ) of 70% dark chocolate is dessert in itself…and so good for you!  Of all the chocolate tea blends I have tried, this is my absolute favorite.  It truly tastes like a heart-warming cup of decadent chocolate and it’s claim of being “velvety smooth” is accurate…and 0 carbs!

This tea, with one or two squares of my organic Theo 70% Dark Chocolate Bar, or new favorite, organic CHOCXO 70% with chocolate nibs is a perfect indulgent, decadent and “legal” snack for me…it may work for you too.  And there is a little pick-me-up with the small amount of caffeine in both.

Drink tea…it’s good for you!

Tea & Tolstoy … Devouring War & Peace 31 Pages at a Time

My Lenten commitment - 2016 was to read War and Peace (unabridged)

A little “tea and Tolstoy” in our room in Carmel…on a Winter’s day…

While consuming lots and lots of tea, I accomplished a goal I’ve had for over a decade… to “re-read” a complete, unabridged, beautifully translated version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  How this came about? I was a Russian Lit minor in college and for decades have professed that my favorite book of all time is War and Peace.  However, I was 21 years old when I read this epic tome and had been wondering whether it would hold up over time as #1 for me still…I mean, I’ve read a lot of great books since then.

Part of my love for everything “tea” came from reading this book in my early 20’s.  I remember that there was a constant referral to teatime throughout the text …  and often tea was taken in the most remote places..with generals in a tent, in a Russian battlefield, in the cold of winter … prepared for them by servants who lugged their leader’s samovars and tea through tough terrain.  Tea was seemingly ALWAYS present.  Men drank tea as much or more than women.  This constant taking of afternoon tea struck me as being oddly civilized, while all around,  thousands of lives were being destroyed, often on the whim of an arrogant officer’s shallow desire to gain favor, accolades or medals from a general, prince or the “great” Napoleon.   

On our recent trip to Carmel, I decided to lug my 1,279 page hardback book along and see if I could muster the tenacity to start.  As the Lenten season began while on our vacation, I made it a goal to finish reading the book in 40 days…that meant plowing through 31 pages a day to accomplish this task. Many are long, hard pages, as there was French language to wade through with the English translation depicted at the bottom of the page.  There is also lots of philosophy and dissertation about  ‘life in all it’s manifestations” expounded throughout by the brilliant author.

Well, I did it!  It took Tolstoy five years to write it and me 37 days to read it.  And yes, it holds up beautifully.  What an awesome, remarkable book.  I am truly glad that I read it again at a time in my life when I can more fully appreciate Tolstoy’s philosophy and astute reflections on history and what factors manifest war and peace – o.k., and there are great love stories throughout too   :-).

I can attest that the referral to tea time is prevalent in War and Peace, and just as in Downton Abbey, the setting of taking tea encouraged a great deal of drama and dialogue.  I almost think that we really could solve most of the world’s problems over a cup of tea – if only we had the will to do so :-).

Reading Tolstoy again reinforced for me how “teatime can be anytime and anyplace,” and that,  great literature is great for a reason…because the universal themes of life transcend time.   I felt accomplished when done and comforted that while many things have changed since the war in 1812, the comfort and civilized rituals around having a cup of tea has withstood the test of time and continues to be a good thing in the scheme of life.. and war and peace.

Drink tea…it’s good for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

Leaf & Kettle…Fine Tea Delivered with Finesse!

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…we tasted four and will be going back soon.  It is an excellent experience with a knowledgeable, engaging staff, displays of gorgeous tea ware set in a clean, fresh, upscale, yet accessible, environment.  Located in Del Mar, California

Occasionally I literally “run into” a fine tea shop. Such was the case with Leaf & Kettle Fine Teas and Teaware in Del Mar, Ca.

Several weeks ago,  we trekked down to a  restaurant/bar in Del Mar, North San Diego area, to   hear live music from one of my husband’s favorite up and coming artists. Upon leaving the restaurant, I spotted this cool looking tea shop.  As it was late, the shop was closed, so we put it on our agenda to check it out soon.  We did, and what a treat. This contemporary tea shop…with tasting bar and over 100 fine teas was certainly my kind of tea house.  Sometimes I get in my own little world of tea and forget that there is this vast population of tea fanatics like me out there.  This shop was the epitome of what I enjoy about going to a tea shop.  We got to sit at this beautiful wooden bar and try four teas of our choosing while engaging in a lively, dynamic and informative dialogue with Leaf & Kettle’s tea smart manager.  The tea preparation was precise, ritual-like using Gaiwan lidded steeping cups, and an invigorating experience.  It was also fun.

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 – o.k., and yes I did go home with some of those darling little tasting cups and the wooden tray/saucer

 

About LEAF & KETTLE – they state:
“We are dedicated to providing our customers with a wide selection of high quality teas and tisanes backed by superior customer care and a passion for excellent service. We purchase in limited quantities to ensure all stocks are sold through and remain fresh. Season-specific teas, especially white and green teas, are always from the current harvest year unless otherwise noted.

One of our favorite aspects of tea is that it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. We don’t believe there is a “right” or “wrong” way to enjoy it. Some people would not dream of adding milk or sugar to their tea, while others have formed entire tea drinking rituals around the addition of these items. We believe you should enjoy tea in any way you see fit. We love it all and usually prepare our style of tea based on our mood, the weather, time of day, or how much time we have. On cold winter mornings, piping hot tea steeped in a pot is such a treat. For others, they may prefer a nice Wuyi Oolong with its dark, sweet roasted character best coaxed from a traditional Gaiwan (lidded cup). On a hot day, a freshly shaken glass of iced tea always hits the spot. Consider all of the different tea cultures around the world: tea taken with milk and sugar throughout the UK, the spicy sweet Masala Chai of India, the refreshing sweetened mint green tea from Morocco. And these are just a few! There are countless other ways tea is enjoyed around the world, all of them valid. So, establish your own favorite rituals and take your tea however you most enjoy it. That’s what we do!”

And I will say, they do it well and we came home with superior teas that I hadn’t tried before.

Photos also depict Casey, our tea barista, pouring my tasting of two Japanese green teas and, my favorite of the day,  Iron Goddess Reserve Oolong…I went home with 4 ounces of this well-balanced tea which was perfect after the lunch we came from.  It tasted warm, sweet, creamy with a slight hint of maple (one of my favorite flavors)…fresh, light and yummy at the same time.  My husband went for a large iced tea to go also…and the freshly steeped tea, shaken in ice and poured over ice is just stunning.  I now do it that way at home with a martini shaker that I hadn’t used in years.  The inside of the shop has beautiful tea ware.  Will share more of the tea ware later as I did pick up my new favorite everyday cup from them that day too.  All in all, a great tea day!!!  Thanks Casey and Leaf & Kettle!  We’ll be back.

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 (pictured above)…we also took home a fruity tisane (pictured below) which I would be infusing for an iced tea tasting class the following week…it was called Island Tradewinds – a blend of coconut, kiwi and ripe cherries. Light and refreshing…everyone in the class loved it for its mild, yet distinctively fresh fruit flavor and it’s simply beautiful pink blush color.  My husband tried a handful of the dried fruit – which prompted a few of the students to do the same, they claimed it tasted similar to a trail mix.

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Time to Celebrate “Tea Gone Cold”

I don’t know who comes up with these designations; however, tomorrow, June 10, is National Iced Tea Day in the U.S. and parts of Canada; therefore, I decided to celebrate by pulling out my brand new iced tea pitcher. For the past 30 years, I’ve pretty much used the same Princess house clear pitcher for my iced teas. But now I’ve gotten myself a fancy infuser model :-).   Spice Merchants in Laguna Beach carries a nice variety of iced tea infusers and tea pots.  I love it and it works well for hot tea too.  It’s a good size, holds 68 ounces of fluid, which makes plenty for a gathering.  When making iced tea, use double the amount of tea leaves as you would for a hot cup.  Once steeped, remove the leaves, let the strong tea cool, add equal parts pure, fresh water.  Chill. Add ice as you serve the tea.  This makes for the best iced tea.

For Life Brand Iced Tea Jug with a basket infuser that easily lifts out once tea has steeped.  Lid fits tight and it can be refrigerated...

For Life Brand Iced Tea Jug with a basket infuser that easily lifts out once tea has steeped. Lid fits tight and it can be refrigerated…

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In sunny So. Cal., iced tea in consumed in massive quantities.  In fact, over 90% of tea consumed in the United States is the iced variety.  It is said that iced tea was discovered at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair when on a very hot day, a tea merchant (Richard Blechynden), found that no one wanted his hot tea.  He borrowed ice from another vendor, poured his tea over it and there you have it, iced tea discovered.  While I believe this story to be true, and this certainly may have created the tipping point in exposing a broad population to the concept of iced tea, it seems that sweet iced tea existed in the American South long before 1904.   I read many civil war books and there’s definitely sweet iced tea being consumed and that was the middle 1800’s.  In any case, a freshly brewed jug of iced tea is my favorite thirst quencher…unsweetened for me.  Our Southern relatives call that “yankee style iced tea.”   If you are sweetening your tea, make a simple syrup by bring equal parts cane sugar and fresh water to a boil in  a saucepan until the sugar dissolves.  Cool it and you now have a sugar that is already dissolved as it hits your iced tea.

My absolute favorite iced tea away from home is Starbucks unsweetened black iced tea…shaken over ice.  It is just sooooo good.

Starbucks iced tea...shaken...delicious, unsweetened for me.

Starbucks iced tea…shaken…delicious, unsweetened for me.

Drink freshly prepared, whole-leaf steeped iced teas.  They are good for you.  And if you order iced tea in a restaurant and get something that tastes “off putting”…send it back.  It’s probably old.  Iced tea should be made fresh daily!