TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

May 16, 2012

Travels with Tea: Tea Rooms in Bucuresti, Romania

Filed under: Darjeeling tea,food,green tea,tea,tea rooms — by JanisB @ 11:04 am
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In Romania, like much of Europe, you won’t find “traditional” tea rooms serving formal English-style teas. A few upscale hotels used to offer this service, but now if you ask them about afternoon tea they’ll tell you “Sure, you can get a cup of tea here in the afternoon.” Romanian tea rooms – or ceainarie – generally serve not only tea but coffee, soft drinks and juices, and a selection of alcoholic beverages, plus light meals or snacks. Many still welcome smokers …

Read the entire post at English Tea Store blog.

December 11, 2008

Ramblings: Georgian “Old Lady” tea revisited

Filed under: exotic tea,food,Georgia tea,Russian tea,tea gifts,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 11:45 am
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I’ve had this tea since the spring and generally steep it as a black tea, albeit on the “light” end of black, similar to a first flush Darjeeling (slightly cooled boiled water, steep about 3 minutes). It’s an enjoyable, flavoury cup, with a hint of the subtle smokiness that I so enjoy in Georgia teas.

GaiwanNormally my morning cup is oolong, but as stock has been running low awaiting a certain holiday when I expect to find one or more teas under the Chanukiah, I decided to do my daily gong-fu with this tea instead, recalling several comments in Teamail discussions about multi-steeping of black teas.

The aroma of the dry leaf is outstanding — a floral/fruity combination with barely a whiff of smoke. Someone asked recently about whether aroma is always translated into the cup. In my experience the answer is “not necessarily.” But in this cup it most certainly does reflect the aroma.

Tea leavesQuite nice, not a hint of the bitterness I’ve gotten when I’ve tried this technique with other types of black teas. Actually, UK-based Nothing But Tea (retail and wholesale) lists the tea in their white tea category, but I’ve never before had luck treating it as anything but a black tea. Clearly my white-tea style steeping times have been too lengthy for this airy, twisty leaf.

A light floral – fruity – smoky cup. Just perfect this morning with a plate of fresh toast and buttery spread. And a kitty snoring merrily under my chair.

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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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