TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

May 30, 2012

Travels with Tea: Tea at “Home” in Bucuresti

Filed under: Darjeeling tea,food,friends,tea,tea journals,tea rooms,travel — by JanisB @ 9:51 am
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One of the benefits of my travels to Romania is our lovely apartment, which is located in a commercial area with easy access to transportation and is just a short walk from downtown. Aside from the cost savings and privacy, staying in an apartment rather than a hotel means the convenience of a washing machine and a full kitchen, and most importantly being able to collect things with the knowledge that they’ll be there for the next visit.

Read the entire post at English Tea Store blog.

November 23, 2008

Product review: Tea-themed stationery

an electronic worldThere’s a lot to be said for the speed and convenience of electronic contact: telephone or cell phone calls, texting, email, instant messaging, and all the other bits ‘n’ bytes methods that once were considered high-tech but are now part of our daily agenda. We’ve grown accustomed to sending our words and pictures through wires or airwaves. We rely on the comforting, near-instantaneous contact we can have with family and friends. Needless to say, we’re not likely to give it all up.

And yet …

I have never met anyone who doesn’t look forward to the daily arrival of their mail carrier, nor anyone who doesn’t hope that, along with the bills and catalogues, there will be an actual piece of mail for us — that someone took the time to write a card or letter, seal it up, put a stamp on it, and send it our way.

So what does this have to do with tea?

Pleasures of teaFor many a “tea person,” one of the great joys of a good cuppa is that it is a respite from the speed-of-light craziness that can be our everyday reality. We depend on tea to provide us with the purpose, and the process, to step back, to slow down and smell the tea leaves.

Preparing a proper cup of tea requires us to pay attention to, and follow, a specific protocol: rinse out the teapot with warm water to “hot” it, select a tea that suits the mood or the moment, choose a complementary teacup, carefully pour hot water over the leaves, steep for just the right amount of time, find a comfy spot to curl up by ourselves or with friends (or with a kitty cat or two). Even cleaning up and putting everything away when tea time is over requires one’s full and considered attention. I’ve heard many times that “tea is about slowing down,” and indeed a good cup of tea cannot be rushed, neither in preparation nor enjoyment. Savouring good tea is the polar opposite of grabbing a bottle of soda and downing it as quickly as possible — and it’s far more pleasurable.

Similarly, sending or receiving a handwritten letter or note is the farthest thing from instant electronic contact, because it also invites us take a few moments for ourselves and our own personal enjoyment.

The joy of snailmailThe friend or family member who receives a charming letter or card can — must! — take a few minutes to open it, read it, and think about the words and the person who wrote them. Maybe while sipping a good cup of tea. And probably re-read it several times, then tuck it into a drawer or a special box to be retrieved and savoured yet again in future days, months, or years.

As the sender of such a memento, we need to think carefully about what we’re going to write, because there’s no “delete” key for this function. Then there’s the choice of pen, ink colour, and of paramount importance: the stationery itself, choosing the paper or note card that expresses our taste while at the same time gladdening the heart the recipient.

The very act of writing requires us to slow down, to become absorbed in our actions of the moment, to retrieve fond memories of a dear friend or loved one. In these electronic times, sending a handwritten card or letter is perhaps one of the most thoughtful expressions possible for leting another person know that we care.

It’s a habit I don’t want to give up, and I’m certain that’s true for a good many people. Fortunately for us, there is an unlimited variety of note cards and note paper available for every muse, including beautiful tea-themed designs. I hope these will inspire you — even if you haven’t sent a handwritten note in a while — to brighten the day of someone dear to you in this very thoughtful manner.

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Kimberly Shaw Graphics
Retail and wholesale
Image courtesy of Kimberly Shaw Graphics

Let’s be honest: tea note cards are mostly a “girl” thing. But even the toughest women like pretty things — and Kimberly Shaw’s Tea Cup Cards are about the prettiest you’re going to find.

Each note card is printed from an original watercolour, in an extensive array of colourful designs ranging from simply sweet to superbly elegant. You’re sure to find a card to please whoever you have in mind as recipient — even your Red Hatted auntie.

The extra charm, and the uniqueness, of these cards is the clever little slot in each one that holds a wrapped teabag, inviting your dear one to “share” a cup of tea with you. The top of the wrapper, in a colour coordinated to the design, peeks out to display the type of tea or infusion you’ve chosen to share. The teabags are sourced from Harney & Sons and Harrisons & Crossfield, two top-of-the-line tea suppliers.

Your words and Kimberly’s pictures: Who wouldn’t be delighted to receive (or send!) one of these? (I do hope she doesn’t mind my use of her first name, but with products this warm and friendly it feels rather stilted to refer to “Ms. Shaw.”)

Most of the note card designs are also available as greeting cards for birthdays, thank yous, holidays, and invitations. You’ll also find notepads (teabag included), a clever perpetual calendar, and sheets of tea time stickers. If you’re like me, the sticker carousel is the first place you head for in any stationery store, searching — often in vain — for anything “tea-ish.”

Additional items in the collection are teacup night lights, a variety of accessories for tea service — including several teacups that appear to have inspired the designs — and a small selection of the teas used in the cards. Order online, for yourself or for gifts, at Kimberly Shaw Graphics. Resellers can click the Wholesale link at the bottom of any page for details.

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Hot Teas Gift Shop
Retail and wholesale
Image courtesy of Ceai Frumoasa, LLC

Here’s a somewhat different approach to tea-themed stationery. Girly designs? Yes. But also plenty of images that the most manly of tea drinkers can send without any loss of macho.

Photographic and oil pastel images, from tea plants and tea-tasting accoutrements to fancy tea sets and vintage tea party art, adorn this extensive collection of note cards, invitations for both adults’ and children’s tea parties, and even a few seasonal greeting cards mixed in.

If you’d like to send a note or a card to a tea drinker who doesn’t use teabags, it’s a good bet you’ll find a design to please both you and your recipient at Hot Teas Gift Shop — perhaps the tea flower shown above, or the popular (and “girlier”) Cup of Life design.

Additional tea-themed items are available, including tea shirts, aprons, calendars, and a variety of other products. Wholesale information available by email.

Wouldn’t this be a good time to start thinking about who would be delighted to receive a beautiful handwritten note from you? It just might be the most treasured gift you give this holiday season.

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September 8, 2007

Product review: Journals for tea lovers

Filed under: books,food,tea,tea accessories,tea gifts,tea journals,teapots — by JanisB @ 8:19 pm

Tea anyone?I admit it: I’m not a diarist. I don’t keep journals. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m probably the last person over the age of nine to set up a blog — and I don’t really blog, I use the format for product and book reviews in conjunction with the TeaGuide website. I much prefer function over form.

And I also admit that I envy people who have the patience and organization to keep journals of their travels through the world of tea, even if they travel no further than their own kitchen.

For all you patient, organized journal-keepers, I’ve come across three tea journals that you may find to be of interest. I did — in fact, they’re so tempting they may even turn me into a tea diarist!

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Tea Taster’s Journal — A Primer for Those New to the Journey Into Tea
by Elaine E. Terman
Retail and wholesale
Photo courtesy of Wild Orchid Teas

I think a more appropriate tag line would have been “For each new journey into tea.” After all, why should tea newcomers be the only ones enjoying this tasting journal? Each new tea one samples is in itself a journey.

Tea Taster's JournalOkay, semantic quibbling aside, this is a very well-done journal. Terman starts by outlining a brief history of tea, describes some common estate and blend teas in her Tea Basics 101 section, touches on health benefits, presents preparation guidelines, suggests appropriate vessels, and provides a comprehensive section on tasting and describing teas. (The tasting part is easy — it’s expressing what you’re tasting in actual words that makes tea-tasting more art than science.)

Following these introductory pages, the rest of the journal is simplicity itself. Each double page is dedicated to documenting exhaustive details about each particular tea you choose to sample. There’s plenty of room to enter the type of tea, source, preparation factors, and extensive tasting notes. No extra doodads, just wide open spaces beckoning you to fill them up!

There are sufficient pages for about a hundred teas. How quickly you fill it up depends on how frequently you sample new teas — and how frequently you keep notes on them in your Journal.

Visually the Journal is appealing, with an elegant cup and saucer on the soft cover, protected from errant tea stains by a clear overleaf. The spiral binding allows it to lay flat on tabletop, or to fold back if you’re inclined to lean it on your knee while writing. The size is just right for popping into your purse, tote, or briefcase if you’re doing your tasting away from home.

In addition to running her popular tea room in Ohio, the author is proprietor of Wild Orchid Teas, where she creates unique blends of teas and tisanes for tea lovers anywhere. Visit her website to purchase her Tea Taster’s Journal for yourself, for a gift, or wholesale for your tea shop.

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Tea Journal for Tea Room Enthusiasts
by Archana Pyatt
Retail and wholesale
Photo courtesy of Gable Wing Press

Unlike the previous Journal, this diary is designed to keep track of your visits to tea rooms and teahouses. A graceful tea set adorns the cover, and visually stunning photographs are interspersed throughout the journal pages. Introductory pages provide spots to record your favourite tea memories, keepsakes, and tea merchants, along with a general outline of steeping instructions. There’s also a list of translations for saying “tea” in various languages, helpful if you’re planning to travel abroad (although I was disappointed to see that if you visit Romania or Israel you’re on your own; Romanian and Hebrew languages are not included).

Tea Journal for Tea Room EnthusiastsTwo facing pages are allotted to each tea room visit. One page provides space to record information about the tea room, with entries ranging from the tea room’s name and date of visit, to menu details, your companions, and finally your ratings of the various aspects of your experience. The opposite page, labeled Scrapbook, can be used to attach photos, menu clips, or tea tags, or to write additional notes. There are sufficient pages to chronicle about fifty tea room visits.

Adding to the charm of this Journal are the memories contributed by a dozen or so tea lovers, including a number whose names you’ll recognize instantly if you keep up with the world of tea. As much as I like the author’s reproduction of the handwritten reminiscences, I found a few of them to be a tad difficult to read (clear evidence that tea, with its many positive attributes, does not improve one’s penmanship!). On the other hand, the writings and signatures are of particular interest to me. Most people don’t know that I’ve studied two schools of handwriting analysis, and received multiple certifications in this field. So I’m particularly enjoying these glimpses into some very interesting personalities.

Sized just right to slip into your purse, but unlike the Tea Journal above, this (paperback) book is perfect-bound, so it opens only so far, making it somewhat awkward to write in it. The journal-entry page is on the left, adding to the awkwardness for right-handers (perhaps — like so many creative people — the author is left-handed?). Maybe the next printing will take this into account.

All in all, if you keep up this Journal it will surely become a treasured keepsake.

Ms. Pyatt owns and operates a successful tea room in Texas. Visit her Serenitea Tea Room website to purchase online and for a list of walk-in shops that carry the Journal (contact the author direct if you’d like to carry the book in your retail shop).

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Linen and Tea Journal
by Bonnie L. Line
Retail and wholesale
Photo courtesy of Linen and Tea

Linen and Tea JournalThis too is a diary for recording tea room visits. I like the simple, homey quality of this Journal — it’s not as polished-looking as the two previous books, but there is an inviting warmth about it.

Included is the obligatory basic tea information — steeping chart, tasting terms, a brief history — and even a scone recipe. (Be sure to ignore the instructions for the urban-legend method for “decaf-ing” your tea.)

The Journal comprises about thirty double-page spreads: tea room details to be entered on the left, and a Photos page on the right — although, of course, you can use this space for additional notes if you prefer.Spiral binding, along with the book’s size and slimness, make it easy to carry and to write in.

Order online at Linen and Tea, or look through the list of retail outlets to see if there’s one near you. Contact the author — a tea speaker, teacher, and consultant — direct for wholesale information.

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I know I said three, but here’s one more for those of you who prefer to organize your tea diary yourself: Visit Hot Teas Gift Shop for a selection of journals in a variety of tea designs: whimsical teapots, elegant tea flowers, and several more charming designs. Choose your design, then select the page format: blank, lined, dot grid, or agenda. A custom gift for your favourite tea (or tea room) lover!

Now, fellow tea lovers, go out there with the journal of your choice and enjoy some tea!

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