TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

October 3, 2013

Tea for the birds: DIY teacup bird feeder

Autumn is here, and that means it’s time to start putting out food for our beautiful feathered friends. If you don’t have a bird feeder, or you’d like a prettier feeder (or two or more), or you’re looking for a useful do-it-yourself gift project, guest contributor Samantha Joyce shows you how to invite the birds to share tea with you.

bird feederWith a few odds and ends from a home improvement store you can make a mini platform bird feeder out of a cute cup and saucer. The teacup holds the bird feed while the saucer acts as a shield to prevent Mr. Squirrel from taking over the smorgasbord. Teacups are better suited than mugs since the cup and saucers are thin enough to drill through with a bit designed for porcelain.

Materials list:

  • teacup and saucer – from a thrift store or garage sale; the birds don’t mind mismatched or chipped!
  • wooden table leg – from a home improvement store, painted in the color of your choice
  • cordless drill – with Phillips head bit
  • spear point bit – with Tungsten carbide tip or similar
  • wood drill bit – smaller diameter than the wood screw
  • three (3) – plastic or rubber washers as cushions
  • one (1) – wood screw 1.5 inch to hold it together

Bird Feeder CollageFirst, find a stable surface. I have holes in my dining room table after one craft project that involved turning teapots into flowerpots. Do yourself a favor and use a magazine or phone book to prevent this kind of damage. Drill the bottom of the teacup slowly with a bit designed for porcelain, ceramic, and glass. I like to drill the teacup as it sits upside down for easier access. The hole should be centered but it does not need to be even. Be careful not to apply too much downward pressure. Let the drill do the work for you. Repeat this step with the saucer. Set aside.

bird feeder finishedA wooden table leg comes with a long pre-threaded section to attach it to various table surfaces. In this case we turn things upside down: the threaded end becomes a very sturdy spike to plant the bird feeder into the ground. Use the wood drill bit to pre-drill a starter hole for the wood screw on what used to be the bottom of the table leg. It does not have to be as large as your wood screw and only as deep as the wood screw. This is now the top of the bird feeder post.

The three rubber washers are used to insure that the teacup and saucer do not fracture under stress when you snug things up with the cordless drill and Phillips head bit. Have a friend hold the table leg, with the spike end down and the starter hole up. Balance a washer, then the saucer, an additional washer, the teacup, and the final washer. Carefully center the wood screw and use the cordless drill with Phillips head bit to slowly unite the layers at once.

Voilà! This is a quick and easy project once you get the hang of it. You can do it yourself, but it is always nice to have an extra set of hands. And a cup of tea! These make excellent homemade gifts and look charming in multiples around the yard. If you do not have a yard, they also look terrific set into a large potted plant.

For notes on selecting the right kind of bird feed, bird feeder placement and other common bird feeding questions see The Great Backyard Bird Count.

Samantha Joyce is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee and tea. She has made many, many teacup bird feeders — and you can too!

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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January 31, 2013

In my cups: Indian clay

Filed under: earth-friendly,eco-friendly,travel — by JanisB @ 12:02 pm
Tags: , , ,

blog-post-indian-cupsWhile we were chatting about the pros and cons of paper (which got mixed reviews) versus Styrofoam™ (a unanimous “yuck”) versus the hassle of carrying around a Thermos® bottle, one of our members – a tea estate owner and exporter, I believe – mentioned the disposable clay cups used in India. When I remarked that I had seen these in some movie or other (maybe Flame over India?) but had never seen them in person, he very kindly offered to send me one.

Read the entire article at English Tea Store blog.

February 2, 2011

Ramblings: Fair Trade and organic — does anyone care?

Filed under: earth-friendly,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 4:14 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Seems like every tea (and coffee) merchant these days is pushing “green:” Fair Trade and organic. Sustainable sources. Recyclable (or recycled) packaging.

These are business people who, one presumes, want to make a living selling their products. So one must also presume that they are offering these “earth-friendly” items because that’s what their customers want to buy.

But is this what consumers really want? Is it a purely emotional issue, or is there hard evidence to back it up?

Recently a member of my Teamail group asked for my help polling members on this very subject. The member wanted some reliable statistics for an in-the-works book. It’s a timely and important topic, so I posted a poll with questions about “eco-friendly” tea, and invited members to respond. 89 of them did, and added to the 64 who responded to the aforementioned member via another venue, approximately 150 tea and coffee consumers expressed their opinions on the subject. Granted that this is not a huge sampling, but the participants represent a very targeted group. Here is a breakdown of the questions (each starts with an arrow –>), which represent a wide spectrum of perspective, and the responses, in percentages (%):

–> I am careful to buy Fair Trade and organic teas, and only in eco-friendly packaging or take-out cups, preferably in an environment created with green or recycled materials. These issues are very important to me and I’m happy that tea sellers finally “get it” — I’m even willing to pay extra for these amenities: 2%

–> I much prefer to buy Fair Trade and organic teas from an eco-friendly vendor. While these issues are important to me, they are not the sole criterion for my purchasing decisions: 21%

–> If I have a choice I prefer Fair Trade and organic tea from an eco-friendly seller, but these criteria are not as important to me as taste, quality, price, and good customer service: 21%

–> I buy tea based on taste, quality, price, and customer service. If the tea happens to be Fair Trade and organic, the packaging or environment are eco-friendly and made of sustainable materials, that’s a bonus: 38%

–> I buy tea based on taste, quality, price, and customer service. I don’t really care if the tea is Fair Trade and organic, or if the packaging or take-out cups are made from sustainable materials: 3%

–> I buy tea based on taste, quality, price, and customer service. Period. The rest of it really doesn’t matter to me: 11%

–> I have no idea (so I guess I really don’t care) what Fair Trade, organic, eco-friendly, and sustainable have to do with tea. I just buy what I like!: 2%

–> I buy tea based on taste, quality, price, and customer service. I avoid “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” stuff because they really add nothing to the tea except for increasing the price: 1%

–> I specifically do not buy Fair Trade, organic, green, eco-friendly, or “sustainable” tea or anything else. I think it’s all a scam, and that the people who “certify” these products need to get real jobs in the real world: 1%

So after eliminating the 2% with strong opinions on either end of the discussion, we have 80% of consumers expressing various levels of interest in “green” products — but who are not willing to go out of their way, or pay extra, for it. And another 16% for whom the topic is barely on the radar.

What does this mean for the tea industry — to owners of tea businesses, and to prospective owners? Is “eco” just a fad, part and parcel to the discredited “global warming” scares? Based on these numbers, it seems to me that a business’ capital would be better spent on teas that taste good and are competitively priced, and top-notch customer service, than on spoons made from corn or other “eco” hype.

From growers, wholesalers, and retailers, to packaging manufacturers, to marketers, the tea and coffee industries seem to have a lot invested in “eco,” and I imagine there will be plenty of readers with opinions about the information presented here. Obviously my conclusions and views are not the last words on the subject. You’re welcome to leave your comments — please keep them civil and non-commercial.

And to put any rumours to the contrary to rest, my family and I live in a house devoid of cathedral ceilings and hot tubs, use energy-saving appliances and thermal draperies, and always turn out the lights when we leave a room. We recycle everything our local recycling centre accepts. Additionally, we grow a large garden and orchard which we enrich with cow manure and kitchen wastes (especially eggshells and spent tea leaves); all uncultivated land is left to natural woods and native plant growth. And we feed and house birds, too. So there!

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