Cup of Tea and a Blog

Welcome to my spot for musing about all things tea. Here you'll read reviews of quality teas, click through comments on tea rooms and shops I've visited, and see photos of leaves and cups. You’ll also find things I might talk about over a cup of tea, like philosophy, literature, current events, or fun ways to pass the time.

Location: Pacific Northwest, United States

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26 July 2005

Recently Clicked: July 26, 2005

Do you have problems coordinating tea breaks and the making of tea at work? Stop your fretting now! An enterprising Brit has created Teabuddy,“ a tool for keeping-up with the making of tea in the office, at home, or, just about anywhere.” Also see this fun Wired article that gives some of the background behind the web site.

Hacking the Wolfgang Puck Self-Heating Can. A blogger takes one of these cans apart to see how it works. It’s an interesting bit of reverse engineering, even if it is a can of coffee instead of tea (I’ve heard these self-heating cans are used for tea and soups in other countries).

Tea & Coffee Trade Online. This magazine is for professionals in the tea and coffee trade, but there are some articles that appeal to plain ol’ tea lovers like me. There is an extensive archive of back issues to search or read through, and the most recent issue (June 2005) has: “Recent Tea Travels: An Introduction to Chinese Tea.”

TrekEarth Photo Galleries. I found this web site when looking for something else, and just for fun I typed “tea” into their search form. The search turned up 36 pages of wonderful photos from around the world, although they become less and less tea-related as you click through. The first 8 or 9 pages are the most relevant for tea lovers. One of the things I really like about the images from this web site is that I get such a sense of the universality of tea. Here are a few photos that caught my imagination:

Iced Oolong Tea

Much of the U.S. has been blanketed in an oppressive heat wave, but in Seattle the weather has been mild and pleasant. July and August are generally the only months of the year when our daytime temperatures occasionally go above 80 degrees. Today, it is sunny with highs expected to climb into the mid-80s. There are no clouds on the horizon, which means the mountains are out.

(click image to see larger photo)

In preparation for the hot afternoon, I brewed another pitcher of iced oolong tea. This is just my second batch of refrigerator-brewed oolong, and I continue to be surprised by the knock-out flavor of these teas. There is an incredibly refreshing quality to oolong when brewed cold, and it is a very satisfying way to combat the heat.

Oh, iced oolong, why didn’t I know about you when I lived in the hot desert of southern New Mexico? I could have really used you back then!! :)

The process for this couldn't be simpler-- put oolong leaves in a pitcher, fill with room temperature water, then place in the refrigerator overnight. I used 2-3 spoonfuls of tea in the 1.5 quart pitcher. (my thanks to Shiuwen of Floating Leaves for her tips)

Many years ago I bought an iced tea pitcher with a strainer basket that makes removing the leaves a breeze. Mine came from Republic of Tea, but I’ve seen these elsewhere. I like the convenience of the brew pitcher. However, I'm sure that just pouring the tea through a strainer would work as well, and some might prefer a ceramic or glass pitcher for brewing.

Tasting Notes of Two Iced Oolongs

Nantou oolong, from In Pursuit of Tea: The tea is quite nice and rather dramatically floral when iced. I was surprised at how strongly the various aromas and flavors come through when it is cold-brewed. The liquid is the color of white grape juice or a white wine. There's no bitterness at all, and the floral aspect is stronger than when I made a hot cup of the tea yesterday. There's still a reminder of the brothier, greener taste, which creates a buttery and smooth sensation on the tongue.

Dong Ding oolong (shown above), a gift: This is what I’m sipping today. The liquid itself is darker and a tiny bit greener than the Nantou. There is definitely a more roasted note to this tea, and it is much less floral. I actually brewed this up yesterday afternoon and had some last night, but the tea tastes better today. I’m not sure if it needed to sit and relax a bit, or my taste buds are just more receptive in the morning.

Between the two iced versions, I think the Nantou oolong is better. The flavor of the tea retains its complexities (and its characteristic lilac aroma) even cold. I'll probably brew another pitcher of the Nantou, since we have a warm week predicted. Tomorrow I'll take some along with me on a ferry ride to Bremerton. I'm looking forward to many incredible views of mountains and the Puget Sound, as well as a tea shop purported to carry many yixing pots.

22 July 2005

Time Off for Tea with Harry, Hermione, & Ron

I'm determined to finish this book before stumbling across any more plot twists on well-meaning blogs and news sites. I'll be back and typing away in a day or two.

What am I sipping? IPOT's Royal Yunnan with just a splash of milk

What am I reading? Just starting chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

21 July 2005

Wild Pu er from Yi Wu, 2001

My new tea for the day is a very special puerh that Stéphane of TeaMasters’ blog sent me: 2001 Yi Wu Zheng Shan Ye Sheng Cha. His description of this tea (scroll down to Saturday, June 25, 2005) having hints of orchids and sweet corn appealed to me, the granddaughter of a Minnesota corn farmer. Stéphane purchased this for me from a wonderful puerh shop in Taiwan, and then he packed it in a box with samples of some of his favorite oolongs and other puerhs tucked around the edges, adding a fabulous CD of classical Chinese music and a really fun letter. He created a wonderful tea experience for me, one that I’ll be revisiting every time I sip one of these teas. Many thanks, Stéphane, for such treasure.

(click either image to see a larger, more detailed photo)

Here are my own tasting notes:

I carefully peeled away whole leaves from the cake. This was easier than expected; it wasn’t hard to separate the individual leaves. They are larger than those in the tou cha I’d tried previously, and not much crumbling or dust happened with this cake. I brewed this in my yixing pot, poured, then sipped.

What is that flavor? It’s musty and floral and a memory is kicking at me but isn’t getting through.

Intriguingly, this tea tastes like it is "aging" rather than aged. There’s a sense that the tea is in progress -- it's got that musty old character, but the strong aged flavor isn't there yet. However, it's young enough that there's still a sweetness and a floral taste.

Why can’t I pin down that musty floral sensation?

There is a lingering aftertaste, a smooth mustiness coating my tongue. I’m still contemplating the floral note, but there’s also an underlying woodiness that makes me think of late summer when the heat starts drying out the grass and flowers.

Marigolds! That’s it – marigolds! This tea reminds me of marigolds – great big streaming garlands of marigolds that make me think of Bollywood films (another thing I'm crazy for).

It does seem almost ironic, though, to be drinking a Chinese tea and start thinking about India. :) I went out to my deck and took some photos:

Still Life with Tea and Marigolds

(click image to see a larger, more detailed photo)

Restarted the process and brewed another batch, this time with only a few leaves, to see if I could coax out the sweet corn flavor that Stéphane described. With just a few leaves, the color of the liquid is very light, but the flavor is still quite powerful. This time, though, no marigolds -- instead, I taste the sweet corn now. Wow, really a different tea taste for me.

I will make some more of this tonight for my husband to get his reaction, and then I’ll probably tuck it away for a few years. Maybe once a year we’ll taste it to see how it’s aging, but this was a purchase for the future. Check back here in, oh, I dunno. . . 2008 for an update!

Tea & TV: Palin's Himalaya

This summer, the Travel Channel (on cable and satellite in the U.S.) has been showing Michael Palin's Himalaya. Yes, this is the Michael Palin of the infamous British comedy troupe, Monty Python. For several years, he's devoted quite a bit of time to travel documentaries and books done for the BBC.

I really enjoyed watching the Himalaya series over the past few weeks. There are six 1-hour episodes, as he winds through passes and canyons in and around the Himalayan range. While the scenery is stunning, this is a not so much a nature documentary as it is a look at the cultures and the individuals Palin meets along the way in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Burma.

Palin is always entertaining, and he adds a gentle charm to the show. But the real stars of Himalaya are the people he meets, from rulers to shopkeepers, from the extremely wealthy to the extremely poor, from polo stars to headhunters, and from isolated villagers to crowded city dwellers.

There are also occasional glimpses of tea drinking or production. The final episode is centered around the Bay of Bengal, including a tea plantation in Assam. Occasionally I spied tea vendors or people serving tea in other episodes, as well as other tea plantations along the route. At one point (episode 5, I think), he was traveling along an ancient tea trade route. Discussions of tea are minimal, but if you're at all interested in finding out more about the culture and setting for some of the places where tea is produced, then this is a great documentary series.

The Travel Channel is replaying all six episodes this Sunday (July 24, 2005). You might not want to sit inside for 6 hours on a summer afternoon (or maybe you do, if you live where it’s been swelteringly hot this week). However, it’s definitely worth recording to watch later.

Just for kicks, I pulled up a couple of classic Monty Python tea bits:

Four Yorkshiremen Sketch

Lumberjack Song (by the way, Palin does a quick few lines of this in the fifth episode), click to listen

20 July 2005

Taking Kids to Tea, Seattle & Elsewhere

These questions were also sent to the TeaMail group, so some of you might see this twice.

Julie, from Seattle, emailed me asking about places to take her well-behaved nieces/nephews to tea. She'd found my Spots for Tea in Seattle web site and was hoping for suggestions. I was a bit embarrassed to admit that I really hadn't considered it before, but still gave her a few suggestions for places that had kids pricing on their menus or that offered tea parties for children. I'm not sure how helpful that was, though, and I'm hoping to develop more information to post to my web site.

I don't have children of my own but do know the joys of taking my own nieces and nephew to special places, and it would be fun to take them out for tea when they visit me (or I go visit them). I'm also realizing that when people visit Seattle, they often have family with them and want to find a tearoom that welcomes their kids.

Now I'm wondering how to find out if a a tea room is child-friendly, and I turn to all of you experts out there -- the tea-loving moms, dads, uncles, aunts, grandparents -- for some good advice. Where do you take children to tea? What does one need to consider when finding the right place? Are there tricks to finding out whether a tearoom will be friendly (or snooty) to you when you've got children along?

Also, a few questions for tearoom owners: Is there a place for children in an adult tearoom? Are there special considerations that sippers with kids need to be aware of? Do you have any tips for those who bring kids along for tea?

I'd also be interested to hear from some international readers, to learn about cultures/customs for kids and tea.

For those of you in the Seattle area (and I know there are several of you out there!): do you know of tearooms that are kid-friendly? I'll pass any suggestions on Julie, and I'll add the tearoom to my web site.

Please feel free to add a comment to this post, or to contact me via e-mail: cindy at

19 July 2005


Quick apology to those of you with RSS feed. I edited my last post to add a link, and for some reason it decided to publish multiple versions. If you received 4 or 5 of the same post, that's why!

Special Day of Tea With Friends

On Friday, I was lucky enough to be joined for tea by two friends from Portland, Jan and Marilyn. We first met at a northwest Teamailers' get-together in Portland in April, and it was great to visit with them again during their trip to Seattle.

We spent quite a bit of time at the new Floating Leaves Tea House, where each of us took turns preparing the tea gongfu style. We were joined by two other sippers, including a man from Vancouver, B.C., who is in the planning stages of opening a tea shop. We had fun conversations and tried 4 teas: a bao zhong, ali shan, the house black, and a very special Oriental Beauty oolong that Shiuwen shared from her personal collection. Shiuwen said this tea makes her smile just to smell it, and I can understand why. I was blown away by the flavor of this special oolong. Each of us could strongly identify a slightly different fruit flavor – for me, it was like sipping a light and sweet grapefruit juice. Others suggested it tasted a bit like lychee fruit, although I found it more tart (but not bitter) than sweet.

I’m going to write a more complete review of the tea house soon, but now I turn back to my visit with Jan & Marilyn.

In addition to having tea at Floating Leaves, we visited the Artful Teapot Exhibit at the just re-opened Bellevue Arts Museum. If you are a tea lover who lives in (or will be visiting) the Pacific Northwest, I urge you to visit this exhibit before it leaves in October. The teapots are quite simply amazing. There are teapots from 20th Century artists and artisans around the world, in every color and theme imaginable. Some are huge and oddly shaped, while others look quite rugged and usable. Some are reinterpretations of traditional shapes by well-known designers (like Michael Graves), and some are beautiful art projects that stir one’s imagination. There is high art on display, as well as cultural collectibles (like the cute children’s pink plastic Shirley Temple tea set). I am always drawn to those with writing on them and was especially fond of an “old maid” pot with a rather funny verse.

Marilyn, also known as Marmalady, brought me an order of my favorite Darjeeling-Apricot jelly as well as a beautiful celadon Chinese teacup.

When I was in Portland this spring, she showed me one of these cups and told me she’d be stocking them soon. I was happy that she got some in before coming up to Seattle for the visit, and after using the cup today for the first time, I’m even more happy! It’s a beautiful cup, with a saucer, lid, and infuser. It is not fragile porcelain but a heavier ceramic – quite solid and sturdy in the hand, plus it keeps the tea warm (which is good, since it’s mug-sized and designed for longer sipping time). I think that this might make a good cup for the workplace, since it has a self-contained brewing system. It also might be a nice choice for men (I know that sometimes guys like chunkier things that fit large hands better).

This cup helped me unlock the flavors in a tea that has eluded me for a while – Black Piluochun from I’ve had a small amount of this tea for a few months, after it was recommended to me. The fragrance of the dry leaves is wonderfully complex, but every time I brewed it the flavor just didn’t come through. The tea obviously had more to offer, but my techniques weren’t working. Today, I put a teaspoon of the leaves in my new celadon cup, brewed it for a minute. . . didn’t seem dark or fragrant enough. . . continued brewing for another minute. . . PERFECT! The tea is really wonderfully complex, with some flavors that remind me of a good single-estate Assam. However, this is still distinctly a Chinese Black tea. It comes with a recommendation from me, but do be prepared to play with it a bit – it’s worth it!

After a wonderful Friday filled with tea-tasting and museum-visiting, I returned home with my bag of Marmalady’s goodies. My husband greeted me at the door with a big smile and a surprise – my tea from Stephane in Taiwan had arrived! That was a wonderful end to a very special day, and his box of goodies will get its own post shortly.

Some Catching Up To Do

Ack! I’ve fallen way behind on my blog, but I’ve had several distractions this past week. I have a bunch to share, though, so please check back later today and tomorrow for new posts. Among other things, I’ll be writing about:

I’m also reallyreallyreally excited about a special box of puerh and tea samples that I received from Stephane over at Tea Masters blog. I’ll be sampling and writing about these for quite a while.

Now it’s time to turn my attention to writing some of these reviews, so I’ll have something to post this afternoon. More soon!

13 July 2005

Poem: Drink Your Tea

(this one's for Stephanie)

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis

on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without

rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.

Only this moment is life.

by Thich Nhat Hahn

08 July 2005

Recently Clicked: July 8, 2005

Thinking of London

Yesterday I woke to radio news of the terrorist attacks, grabbed for the TV remote and turned to BBC-America for live coverage from England. One of the first images I saw was of folks on the street with thermoses, passing out steaming cups of tea and comfort.

Tonight I raise my cup of tea to London, toasting the British sense of resolve and determination.


I’ve been learning quite a bit about puerhs lately, and as always much of my learning comes via the Internet.

Three Articles from The China Daily

Unearthing Treasures of Clay, July 1, 2005, a travel article describing several parts of the city of Chaozhou, including one area noted for its tea shops and porcelain products.
“Small, well-decorated shops are scattered along the street, mainly selling tea and popular porcelain products. Crossing the old street, we caught the sound of a guzheng, zither-like 21-stringed or 25-stringed plucked musical instrument, and following it, found ourselves in a small shop stuffed with teapots, jars and other knick-knacks.”
Let's drink to rising tea prices, July 1, 2005, looks at the rising prices and hoarding of pu’er.

Hot commodity, May 30, 2005, Puerh is not the only tea commanding high prices at auction.

Odds & Ends

Tea Icons (beanlovers might like the coffee icons), available about halfway down the page. There's also this page, with Coffee and Tea icons.

The July Newsletter from Hou De Fine Asian Art has an interesting comparison between hand-harvested and machine-harvested tea. (please note: this is an Adobe Acrobat file, so you’ll need to download a free copy of Adobe Reader if you don’t already have one)

Tea Arts Photo Blog: I don’t know anything about the blogger (icetea), and there isn’t much text explaining things, but the photos here are wonderful. You’ll see Yixing pots in the park, pictures from a tea seminar, and more. Have fun looking through them -- I did!

Puerh & Margaritas

Tea Posur asked if I’d tried one of my found-in-the-cupboard puerhs yet, and that made me decide to brew some up before forgetting for the next 5 years. I'm typing this while sipping, so you’ll get the live play-by-play account. :)

(click image above for larger, more detailed photo)

This is really my first attempt on my own with a toucha, but I did try to follow the advice of fellow bloggers and teamailers. I attempted to gently peel and separate, but the toucha is pretty dry and the leaves fairly small, so mostly it crumbled away (into thin and rather delicate leaves, gold and brown with a hint of green).

FIRST ATTEMPT: I boiled the water, warmed the Yixing pot, added leaves, rinsed the leaves, then steeped for a few seconds. The tea that poured into the pitcher was lighter than expected, with a definite green tone to the tan (a khaki color).

First sip – ewwwww, yuck, bitter bitter bitter. But then, I often find a sharpness in the first brew and prefer the second (see below for a question about this). Resteeped again for a few seconds – not quite as bitter, and more palatable. The tea tastes like water with a wedge of lime in it, even with a sort of bitter peel flavor. Third steep produced not much flavor at all.

Is it bad puerh, puerh that needs more aging, or just my own mis-brewing? Probably the latter, so I’ll give it another try.

SECOND ATTEMPT: I brewed for only 2 or 3 seconds, out of concern that I had overbrewed last time. This did seem to make a difference. Either that, or as I pulled off more from the toucha, a different layer of leaf kicked in.

First steeping: Good -- I’ve erased that bitter flavor and it tastes much better now. There is still a definite flavor of fresh lime juice, perhaps even a lemongrass sensation, but now that is mediated by a muskiness that is quite pleasant. I suspect this hints at what the toucha can become in another 5 years.

Second brewing: darn, left it in the water for too long, and now it’s got that bitter lime peel flavor. Okay, so timing is indeed important.This is quite a finicky puerh, which I am going to attribute to its teenage years. :)

note the sediment left at the bottom of the pitcher

Question 1: is this amount of sediment normal?After pouring, the tea is initially quite cloudy, but it almost immediately settles down into a sediment at the bottom. I can tell that some of this is just the dust and broken leaves from crumbling. Does this mean I need to pull the leaves off more carefully?

OVERALL: At this point in time, the puerh is delicate and finicky. It tends toward a bitter, sour end, but there is a nice mustiness that promises of a deeper flavor in the future. I have a second toucha, which is tucked away for at least another 5 years. I'm not sure if I'll tuck this back in the cabinet or experiement further.

I do think it might be best paired with food. Saltiness would tame the sour a bit – like the salt on the rim of a margarita glass can control the musk of tequila and the sourness of lime juice. In fact, that was the one of the first similar flavors that came to mind for me, a margarita. I bet this would be good with some hot green chile salsa and tortilla chips!

This is the second time that I’ve thought about pairing puerh with hot and spicy food, in particular with chiles from New Mexico. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been missing the incredible chile rellenos and enchiladas of my grad student days. I’d like to think, though, that this could be an ultimate international fusion – who wouldn’t like sipping puerh while munching chips with super hot salsa, a perhaps pairing a nice musty 15-year-old puerh with posole and tortillas? Maybe I could start a new fad??? :)

(getting sidetracked. Back to tea . . . )

Question 2: Why don't I like the first steep of most puerhs? Even with the deep and musky and relatively easy loose leaf puerhs, I often reject the first steeping. I’m wondering if this is because of something incorrect in my brewing process, or if it is just a taste that rinses away. Are there any other puerh drinkers out there who have a similar reaction?

INCOMING! I am incredibly excited about some new puerh headed my way soon. Thanks to Stephane of Tea Masters blog, I’ll be soon be sipping some mighty fine teas. Sebastien of Jing Teas recently sent me samples also, and I’ll be posting notes and photos of those soon.

(July 9, edited to addlinks in the last two paragraphs)

06 July 2005

Floating Leaves Tea House, Seattle

One of my favorite online vendors is opening a local tea house. I have a feeling this will become a destination for regional tea lovers and out-of-town visitors, and I'm thrilled to have it close to home. The tea room is in a colorful and fun neighborhood, near several sightseeing stops (have to update my Tea in Seattle page with a new sightseeing-tea tour!).

I was lucky enough to attend a preview two weeks ago, where I spent a couple of hours happily sipping various oolongs and puerhs prepared gongfu style. I'll post a full review here next week, once I've visited again. For now, here's the information for their Grand Opening:

Floating Leaves Tea House
Seattle's Premier Source for Gourmet Chinese Tea
Saturday, July 9
2213 NW Market (in the Ballard area)

1/2 price drinks all day
Tea Tastings and Tea Talks
Live Music @ 7pm -- Koto, Shakuhachi & Songs by: Elizabeth Falconer, John Falconer, Aiko Shimada

Cindy's Sipping Recommendations, based on the recent tasting session and my own orders:

  • Bao Zhong, they have two and both are quite nice

  • Ali Shan & Li Shan Oolongs, with their rich and buttery aftertaste

  • House Black Tea (decent price and quite a nice, sturdy tea from yunnan -- holds up to milk well)

  • Forest Floor Puerh, my husband's favorite, is a wonderful loose leaf puerh from China that tastes as if it were specifically made for sipping in the Pacific Northwest

Standard Disclaimer: no affiliation other than being a happily satisfied customer.

04 July 2005

Tea & Independence

I suppose it is impossible to sip tea on Independence Day in the U.S. without thinking of the Boston Tea Party. That’s certainly what I found myself doing this morning.

What am I currently sipping, on this sunny morning of July 4, 2005? Imported tea from China, brewed up British style. Specifically, I chose the lightly smoky (thinking of tonight’s fireworks) Wuyi Shan China Lapsang from Perennial Tea Room.

It has been a while since my last American history class, so I decided to spend a quiet morning browsing Wikipedia and a few other online resources. As always, one web page led to another, and soon I was finding a wealth of information on the importance of tea protests to the American Revolution. I hope you enjoy these fun links as much as I did!

Two Tea Parties

England’s taxes on stamps, sugar, molasses, and especially the taxes on tea were meeting with waves of protest from the colonists. “Hancock organized a boycott of tea from China sold by the British East India Company, whose sales in the colonies then fell from 320,000 pounds to 520 pounds" (Wikipedia entry). Women were exchanging recipes for herbal infusions to substitute for tea, magazines and newspapers published poems and essays on boycotting tea, and merchants were refusing to purchase tea from the East India Company.

Tea was not directly responsible for the American Revolution, of course. However, there is no mistaking the importance of the colonists’ symbolic acts of protest over tea, from drinking herbs or coffees instead, to participating in the more aggressive Boston Tea Party. An Eyewitness Account by a Participant gives a fascinating (and fairly brief) look at the planning and execution of the Boston Tea Party. My favorite bit of the eyewitness tale is this,

“During the time we were throwing the tea overboard, there were several attempts made by some of the citizens of Boston and its vicinity to carry off small quantities of it for their family use. To effect that object, they would watch their opportunity to snatch up a handful from the deck, where it became plentifully scattered, and put it into their pockets.”

Obviously, many colonists were missing their tea! However, not all of them got away unscathed (read the full eyewitness account to find out more). Not much tea survived those costumed patriots who smashed the tea chests to pieces then flung them overboard. There are only two known surviving tea chests, one of which was grabbed from the shore by a 15-year-old, then passed down from generation to generation. The Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum has quite a few photos and a news article about the Robinson Half Chest.

The Boston Tea Party has become a patriotic symbol for the U.S., but did you know about the Edenton Tea Party? I didn't before today!

"Like their male counterparts, women held protests against British goods. The Edenton Tea Party is one example. On one October day in 1774, fifty-one women signed Penelope Baker's declaration to ban English imports. They renounced drinking British tea and wearing clothes made of British cloth. However, unlike the Boston Tea Party, the signers did not attempt to hide their identities, and boldly signed their true names."

(from a highly recommended essay titled American Athenas: Women in the Revolution, by Tina Ann Nguyen)

The site of the Edenton Tea Party is marked by a Colonial teapot mounted on a Revolutionary cannon. There’s also an Edenton Tea Party Chapter of the D.A.R.

The Declaration of Independence

Of course, all of these protests led to the writing of one of the most rhetorically stirring documents of all time. If for no other reason, it is worth reading the Declaration of Independence for the brilliance of the written argument (this is the writing teacher side of me showing through). Jefferson skillfully moved from establishing inalienable rights, to declaring philosophical truths, to leveling specific accusations that go against these truths, to declaring the separation of the colonies and the creation of the United States of America. It is a brilliant piece of persuasive writing, and it was a stirring document for all who read and signed it.

The British Are Coming!

"Paul Revere was not the only one who announced the British's arrival. Sybil Ludington rode through Connecticut on a chilly April night and yelled that the British were burning Danbury and warned soldiers to prepare for a raid. Thanks to her daring actions, the British were halted at Ridgefield, Connecticut on April 27, 1777 and were forced to retreat to Long Island Sound5."

(also from American Athenas: Women in the Revolution, by Tina Ann Nguyen)

I brewed my tea today in a brown betty, which can’t approach the beauty of this silver teapot by Paul Revere. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has two wonderful web sites that feature silver teapots and accessories: Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate in Early America, and Paul Revere, Jr., 1734 – 1818. Take some time to look at the gorgeous silver and reflect on how important tea really was for the colonists. Also note that Revere, like others in his time, took a few years off from teapot-making while that pesky revolution was happening.

After the Revolution

What was George Washington doing on July 4, 1787 (the anniversary of independence)? Why, sipping tea, of course!

"Wednesday 4th. Visited Doctr. Shovats Anatomical figures and (the Convention having adjourned for the purpose) went to hear an Oration on the anniversary of independence delivered by a Mr. Mitchell, a student of Law--After which I dined with the State Society of the Cincinnati at Epplees Tavern and drank Tea at Mr. Powells."

Tea seemed to be quite important to the orginal George W. Indeed, if you read through some of his diaries, you'll find that he meticulously records the taking of tea.

I greatly enjoyed this account of Tea with Martha Washington, 1790 (from a letter written by Judith Sargent Murray). Definitely read this for more of her rather breathless description of President George Washington:

“. . . his figure is elegant beyond what I have ever seen, that his countenance is benignly good, and that there is a kind of venerable gravity inscribed upon every feature -- as I sat by his side, Homer's Nestor frequently occurred to my imagination, and, of this I am certain, no Grecian Dame, could have beheld the hoary sage, with greater admiration”

It goes on like this for several more gloriously fawning lines – wonderful stuff! :)

Lest we forget the charm of that Washington countenance, I direct your attention to perhaps his most ostentatious profile, that is the one at Mount Rushmore National Monument. I’ve been to Rushmore and the Black Hills many times (my family lives a few hours away, in Wyoming). The best time to visit, in my opinion, is at night in the October or November– take a blanket and thermos of tea at dusk, then sit on a bench and wait for the lights to be switched on. You’re almost always alone, although you’ll see the ranger who opens the gate and turns on the floodlights. (those wonderful clicks through to photos are from Stephanie Sheldon's After Dark Photo Gallery)

Happy 229th Birthday, U.S.A! :)

01 July 2005

Hot Jam & Puerh

Found myself sipping absent-mindedly at a nice and earthy loose pu-erh (Meng Hai 1994 from Jing Tea) around noon today, and I realized that my stomach was growling for some lunch. So, I grabbed a packet of crackers, some cream cheese, and a small jar of extra hot pepper jam (purchased at a local farmer's market).

I smeared some cream cheese on the cracker, topped it with a dollop of jam, and popped it in my mouth. Ooof -- the jam packs quite a punch! I love spicy food and have a high threshold for heat (my years in New Mexico toughened me up), but the jam made my whole mouth tingle. Finding myself in need of a beverage after a few spicy mouthfuls, I resteeped my puerh (third time) and poured a cup.

photo of puerh, leaves, and cracker

What a surprise to find that this tea has a very soothing, cooling effect on a burning tongue! Is this generally the case, or is it a trait of this particular puerh? Has anyone else out there paired a puerh with hot and spicy food, the kind that lights your mouth on fire and makes your ears itch?

Next time I make up a batch of extra-hot chile verde or enchilada sauce, I'll definitely have some puerhs lined up, ready to compare tongue-cooling ability. :)

Note for any Seattle-area readers: the jam is "Guadalupe Pepper Jam, extra hot," by Hermitage Pantry of Duvall, WA. I get mine at the Redmond Saturday Market.