Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tea Time!


A Cup of Tea
When the world is all at odds
And the mind is all at sea
Then cease the useless tedium
And brew a cup of tea.

There is magic in its fragrance,
There is solace in its taste;
And the laden moments vanish
Somehow into space.

And the world becomes a lovely thing!
There's beauty as you'll see;
All because you briefly stopped
To brew a cup of tea.

Tea helps our head and heart.
Tea medicates most every part.
Tea rejuvenates the very old.
Tea warms the hands of those who're cold.

(J. Jonker, Amsterdam, c.1670) 

It is no secret how much Julie and I enjoy tea.  We love going to tea, planning and giving themed tea parties for our friends and just slowing down and enjoying a cuppa.

There have been many practical uses for tea through time.  Years ago in Bellevue Washington, one of my favorite tea rooms was called Lisa's Tea Treasures. In 1997 they printed a few of her practical hints and uses for tea, besides the obvious of drinking it for pleasure and health.  Here are a few we will share with you.

- To stop bleeding on your gums, press a damp tea bag against the spot and hold for a few minutes.  It doesn't say, but this is usually black tea or something like a Liptons teabag when I have seen it noted before.

- To keep shoes fresh, leave a bag of dried tea leaves in each shoe.  If we are telling stinky stories, when my son was young and in grade school, he didn't like wearing socks. That seam bothered him...but his shoes and feet were so terribly smelly, active young lad that he was, so  I asked the Dr. for ideas and he told me to soak his feet in a tea bath a few times a week. Yup it worked! 

- Bags of cold, moist, used tea leaves make wonderful compresses for hot, puffy or tired eyes.

By Naama ym from Tel-Aviv, Israel (Tea for two) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

- Of course teas can be used as a dye. Some of us have dyed things we didn't plan to dye by spilling strong tea onto a light garment or table cloth.  They do make for wonderful linen and thread colors when planned though.

- Black tea and Chamomile tea can be added to henna for a more complex hair color.  Hummm don't think I will try dying my hair to do this one, someone else will have to let me know if it works. Julie? (Julie answers: While I used to use henna when I was younger, I didn't know about this then - of course, it couldn't have helped but be more complex, as henna makes for a pretty solid color.)

- For relief from sunburn, brew up a strong mint tea, let it cool and apply to the sunburned area with a compress. If you live in Washington, you might not have the opportunity to try this one either. So someone else in the Southern any other part of the country will have to let us know on this one.

- Chilled peppermint tea is a great soak for tired and hot feet.

- Tea is also great for cooking other items with such as chicken, eggs and fish. Some of the smoky oolong teas would do nicely for this.

Oolong Tea
Iateasquirrel at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Recently my husband and I have been enjoying "Tea Classes" at Experience Tea a new shop in Issaquah Washington.  Julie attended the first with us, which was a Tea Discovery Class.  We took another this last week - Exploring Rooibos, 
Rooibos Tea

Honey Bush and Tulsi Teas and have one more to go Experience Green Teas, in our package. Then we can decide if we wish to take any of the other classes they offer as well.  Along with a bit of history you do a tasting of the various types of tea, learn the proper brewing methods and what some of the proclaimed benefits might be from the various types of tea.  

Now before I go on further, yes, I am calling them all tea, when truly they are not all "Tea".  Only those that come from the camellia sinensis plant that is native to China and India are tea,

the rest are herbals or tisanes and we often call them tea but they do not have any of the camellia sinensis plant in them.  Any of you who watch the Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot series know that M. Poirot wouldn't dream of drinking anything but a "tisane".  It was watching him order his herbal tea that showed me how to pronounce the word.

In the Discovery tea class we tried white tea, green tea, oolong tea, black tea and Pu'erh tea.  In class we only tried the straight tea, no flavored teas which I tend to prefer, because I enjoy that taste of a little sweetness and many times fruity or spicy flavor.  It does help to taste them straight up, so you know that base you might prefer for your flavored teas.  

Brewing tea at the proper temperature and length of time, can be essential to getting the best flavor from your teas.  I truly learned this in the last class.  The last tea to taste was the Yerba Mate.  In the past I have not been a fan of this tea.  Again many times this is a tea that is in a tea bag not loose at stores. Also many times this tea is brewed at boiling and for too long and therefore creates a bitter taste.  It should be brewed at 175-185 degrees like your green tea and for only 2 minutes.  The taste was much better than before, but still not one I would go to for my cup of comfort.  It has a more roasted smell and taste and if you prefer coffee, you might give this a try. It is closer to that type of taste.  

Most black teas should be brewed between 195-200 degrees for about 3 minutes.  Keemun, a Chinese black tea should be brewed at boiling for 4-5 minutes, some call this tea red tea.  
Keemun tea

Ceylon, too, can be brewed at boiling for 4-5 minutes.  Your green tea you want to bring down the temperature to 175 degrees and brew 2-3 minutes.  

Green and Red Rooibos are tisanes and can be brewed at boiling for as long as you wish, you usually cannot cause these to become bitter. We brewed for about 5 minutes in class.  This is true for the Honeybush and Tulsi and Holy Basil that we tried as well.  I had not tried the Holy Basil and the one we tried is called Holy Detox in the store, it is a green blend. 

Holy Basil plant

I really enjoyed this one it had some lemon and spearmint tones to it.  The nice thing about the herbal tisanes is that they do not have caffeine. So these are nice for a nighttime beverage.  The yerba mates are brewed at 175-185 degrees and for 2 minutes. These can become bitter if left too long or brewed at too high a temperature. The Green Yerba Mate of the two we tasted was the better in my opinion. It had a lighter taste and not the roasted flavor of the other yerba mate we tried.

You can also steep your leaves of several of the types of teas and herbals more than once.  For some, one steeping is best, but some you can steep up to 4 times and you still are able to get good taste .

Tea is quite a science and has so much history as well as folklore surrounding it.  It has played many a role in history as well, as we can all remember hearing about the Boston tea party and the tea going into the harbor.  

"The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor" Nathaniel Currier

Tea is prominent in many novels from the past and current libraries and there is much tradition in taking tea, whether it be in Japan, England or here.  If you are interested there is so much you can enjoy and find on the web regarding all you ever wanted to know about tea.  

The history of tea begins in China.  There are claims that it was found and used as early as 2737 BC. Tea has traveled the world and is considered the most popular beverage as well as the healthiest. Tea has been used for medicinal properties as well as for religious offerings.  Tea was at times limited to the Kings and Queens and those of Royal titles.  Tea finally arrived in England in the 17th century. It was imported to England from East India.  English Breakfast and Earl Grey are the two most popular teas in England's history.  

Charles, the second Earl Grey, for whom the tea is named.

The Dutch first brought tea to America in the 17th century as well and then of course there is the history of the highly taxed tea being imported by England East India Tea Company and the Boston Tea Party that fills our history books when the colonist  protested the high taxes and poured the tea into the harbor.

Teavana gives a great history of tea, as does this site.  And here is a wonderful tea timeline.  I love the poems and stories found here.

There is much etiquette that accompanies an afternoon tea, especially in the English tradition through history.  I have one little book that is entitled Tea & Conversation, Develop the Art of Conversation with Afternoon Tea. 

Published in England, I purchased it on one of our trips to Historic Deerfield.  It tells of all the ways you should or should not engage in conversation; what is preferable to say, how to be the best hostess whether in your home or out to tea.  Some is very eccentric, but a fun read... "One should always say 'Drink Tea' and not 'Take Tea' which is a vulgarism!"   "Good humor may be said  to be one of the very best articles of dress one can wear in society."  Thackeray

What about reading tea leaves?  Can you tell your future by what is left in the bottom of your cup? Some believe you can.  

The residue in the cup is now swirled by the seeker three times clockwise. The seeker must then touch the edge of the saucer with the cup and wish a wish of the heart and turn it over immediately onto the saucer. This allows the tea to drain away before it is passed to the reader. If there is much sadness in the seeker's future, the tears or drops of tea, will not drain away. If a star does not appear at the top of the cup then the wish will not be fulfilled.  To learn how to read tea leaves, try this site.

There is some debate on what to do with the tea leaves once the reading is done. Thrown on the ground, they ward off evil spirits and if placed at the back of the fireplace or woodstove, they will ward off poverty.

Here are few symbols and their meanings, but there are so many more to see at this link.

BIRDS - good news
DUCK - money coming
GOAT - be careful of enemies
KITE - wishes coming true
NEEDLE - recognition, admiration
OWL - gossip, scandal
SHIP - worthwhile journey
THIMBLE - changes at home
WOLF - jealousy
If you can tell a wolf from a dog and a duck from a bird and a thimble from a cup, you are doing far better than I at reading your tea leaves!

There are many newsletters and magazines devoted to tea as well as blogs and web-sites.  Here are a few to get you started looking:

Along with tea there are all the little tastes to enjoy. The savories and sweets that make up the tea tray can become quite an art of their own.  I love just having a taste of this and that as refreshments. It is so much fun to think of how to portray your theme in these little morsels. The display and lay of the table are all important aspects to the special tea party. But just slowing down in the day and taking time to sit and sip and think without anything at all special becomes special in our age of going at such speeds to do it all.  I could go on and on about tea, but I think it's time to go for a cuppa. So won't you join me.  What will you choose today, hummmm I think I might have more of that lovely coconut oolong we recently purchased on a trip to the Bay area. It's light and just a hint to the scent of the tea with it's coconut. 

Julie recently invited a few girlfriends to a "Titanic Tea" party - here's a little taste of what we enjoyed.  

The first order of business was to choose your tea hat.  Depending on the hat you chose, you took on the persona of one of the survivors of the Titanic.  Which hat would you choose?
In the little white reticule at your place you'd find a roll of Lifesavers (might come in handy) and your first class ticket.

Here we are with our friend Beth, enjoying a bracing cup!

The food was themed, of course - and here is where Pinterest came in very handy, as Julie saw so many ideas for the food.  

Poor Devils in Lifejackets

And of course, we weren't afraid of a little Ice


The internet is a wonderful place to find lots of recipes for tea goodies:

As usual there are many more links to information and books at your library that can add to all of this if we have wetted your appetite for a tea party or just a cuppa for yourself ! 

Here are more of our recent tea photos.


  1. As usual,another amazing post. Thank you so much for taking the time--it all looks so wonderful! Yum.

  2. Oh how I've missed your blog! Sometimes I feel like I'm right there with you two on one of your tea adventures. I love the poem at the beginning. And I really am going to have a cuppa in just a few minutes....join me?
    love you gals, babs

  3. Now that sounds like a plan, Babs! I'll go put the kettle on.


  4. I missed this post first time round (I had to "mark as read" a whole load to catch up!).
    I love your themed tea parties, so much fun.
    My Mum has a very small kitchen but one whole cupboard is still devoted to her tea collection!


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