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

Please see my current blog at

30 August 2005

Help Victims of Hurricane Katrina

The gulf coast of the U.S. has been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, and the now Tropical Depression Katrina continues to cause problems to the north. Hundreds are feared dead, and the devastation is staggering. Rescue and evacuation efforts are underway, but getting assistance to people who are still stranded is crucial for their survival. Please help those who are saving lives; make a donation to the American Red Cross.

I'm putting on a CD of good ol' delta blues in honor of my neighbors to the southeast, making a cup of tea, and loading up the American Red Cross Online Donation Form.

I encourge you to do the same, or to make a donation by calling toll free 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-257-7575 for Spanish speakers). Even $5 can help!

7:48pm Update: I'm turning off comments on this post because of too much spam

28 August 2005

Visiting New Mexico

Yay! I've finally got a computer connection. I've been visiting a friend in southern New Mexico -- a trip that was happily planned to coincide with the green chile harvest. No, it's not tea, but green chiles are another necessity of life. Tomorrow I plan to go find somewhere that I can moan over the smell of roasting chiles (those of you who have lived in New Mexico will understand), then I'm buying a big sack and shipping them home before catching my plane.

Oh, and in the morning I'm going to try to get to one of the first places I ever had loose tea -- Spirit Winds, near the NMSU campus in Las Cruces. It is the place where I first tried different types of teas and learned how to brew instead of just dunking a bag. I'll be home in a few days and will let you know how the tea is at Spirit Winds. :)

In the meantime, here are a few photos from my trip. They have nothing to do with tea, other than having been taken by a tea lover. Click each image to see a larger, more detailed picture.

A roadrunner came running up to me while I was watching birds in my friend's back yard.

The anvil-shaped thunderheads were building at sunset, and later that night a strong monsoon rain blew through Alamogordo.

I took this photo of the Organ Mountains today in Las Cruces. There wasn't a cloud to be seen, but within two hours another monsoon thunderstorm blew through.

24 August 2005

Seattle-Bremerton Ferry (with tea)

The Puget Sound is that part of the Pacific Ocean that pushes its way through the straits and narrows of western Washington, winding around islands, streaming into inlets, and creating a watery wedge between the peninsula and the rest of the state.

The Sound provides sheltered ocean waters for pods of Orcas, migrating whales, shellfish, salmon, and a huge variety of birds. It is ringed by mountains, with the Olympic range on the peninsula to the west and the Cascade range inland to the east. As you drive along the Cascades from north to south, it is easy to spot three volcanoes: Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St. Helens (which is the only one currently smoking). Most of the mountains in the Cascades are around 4,000-6,000 ft tall with a few shooting up higher, but Mt. Rainier towers above the others at 14,000+ feet. When fog or low clouds roll in, Rainier visually disconnects from the earth and seems to float in the sky. Often, though, it and most of the other peaks are hidden behind the clouds that catch in them. This is the first mountainous place I’ve lived where people refer to “the mountains being out today.”

On those days when the mountains are “out,” the sun is blazing, and high pressure offshore keeps the mist away, there is nowhere better to see the view than from a ferry crossing the waters of the Puget Sound.

It was with those views in mind that I headed for the waterfront on a very sunny and warm day a few weeks ago. There are many state ferry routes leaving from the Seattle area, but on this day I decided to take a ferry to check out a tea shop in Bremerton, a cute town on the inner side of the peninsula. The boat ride across the water is about 1 hour each way, so there is plenty of scenic viewing time. I filled a thermos with iced oolong, grabbed my camera, smeared on some sun screen, then headed for the ferry terminal.

After parking the car below deck, I went topside and found a sunny spot to watch as we left Seattle:

I sat back and enjoyed the view while sipping my iced tea (Nantou oolong from IPOT):

Can you see Mt. Rainier floating over the morning mist in the background of the picture below? Click the photo for a larger version, and you'll get a sense of the ethereal quality to the mountains here. They're watery and misty, not at all like the rugged and dramatically defined Rocky Mountains where I've lived in the past. Of course, once you get closer and start hiking or driving in the mountains, the clarity and depth change (but that's for a future post).

I forgot to take a picture of the town of Bremerton on my recent trip, so I'm including one from this past Spring. You can see the Olympic range peeking out from behind the clouds in the distance.

After docking in Bremerton, it was just a quick 5 minute drive to SpecialTea Pots.

It’s a small, cozy shop, with herbal tisanes and select teas, as well as a wide range of Yixing-style clay pots. The prices are quite reasonable, and the shop owner is a warm and friendly woman who poured me a very nice cup of iced herbal tea to try while I shopped. I spent some time looking at different pots and cup sets before deciding on a few items.

One of my goals with this trip was to find another yixing pot for puerh. Instead, I found a larger clay pot that I now use for golden yunnans. I wanted a chocolately-looking pot for the cocoa-mocha tones of my favorite yunnans, and this one suited me. It is larger than my Yixing pot, and it has a brewing basket which works well for a black tea. It was a relatively inexpensive teapot, and that’s what I wanted for my first attempt at seasoning a clay pot. All went well, and I’ve been using it for my first cup of tea each morning.

The shop owner has a Chinese speaking person come in to do translations of pots with text, and she had a few notes about the text and images on this one. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the specific meaning, but it had to do with purity or essence of water. That seemed quite fitting for my trip across the Sound.

A few last thoughts:

  • I missed one spot with the sunscreen, and oooooooooooooooh what a 5-inch sunburn that was!

  • Shiuwen of Floating Leaves found me the perfect little Yixing with the snubby-nose that I love. I’ll be using it for puerh (Shiuwen is seasoning it for me now).

  • My next ferry adventures will be Seattle – Bainbridge and Mukilteo – Whidbey Island. Both of these destinations have places for taking tea, so I can combine a boat ride with tea and sightseeing (or, in the case of Whidbey Island, some really fabulous hiking). More on those in the months to come.

Note: click any of the above photos to see larger versions.

Me and My Teeth

Thanks for all of the commiseration about dental work. I must admit that this particular procedure was actually painless –- my dentist gave me a free teeth whitening as a thank you for all the work I and my husband have had recently.

After years of sipping tea, I figured that getting rid of the staining and having a whiter smile might be a good thing. I just didn’t realize (until I had a mouthful of clay for molding the teeth guard) that it meant two weeks sans tea. The problem is that the whitening gel makes teeth more porous, so tea and coffee (or other staining foods) need to be avoided.

If any of you are considering a teeth whitening process, here are a few thoughts from a tea drinkers’ perspective:

  • If it’s free, take it! What you get from the dentist is much better than products you find at the grocery or drugstore, but it’s also quite a bit more expensive.

  • If you’re paying anyway, you might want to choose one of the shorter teeth whitening procedures. Some are only 3 or 4 days long, and some are done in-office.

  • Iced tea with a straw is only semi-effective. It’s still really tough to drink without getting any on your teeth, and it just doesn’t taste as good. I tried it once or twice, but in the end it was more frustrating than rewarding.

Now, back to getting a batch of photos ready for my next blog post. . .

22 August 2005

She's Ba-ack :)

Hi everyone -- sorry to have disappeared for a few weeks. There were a few unforeseen complications (including our family's bout with the stomach flu) that kept me from writing, but I’m working on some blog entries today and will post more soon.

This also marks the end of two terrible weeks of no-tea-for-Cindy. It was tough, but I had to forego drinking any tea while I was having some dental work done that made my teeth susceptible to staining. That’s part of why I didn’t post anything to the blog – just didn’t have the heart to face writing about tea when I couldn’t actually sip it!