So today I decided NOT to have coffee with my breakfast, but one of my very favorite breakfast teas from Upton Tea Company, River Shannon. This tea was a gift from one of my dear friends, Ashley, for my birthday, along with another favorite of mine, Black Currant. Yum! One thing that Upton does when you buy a gift of tea for someone, that is love, is a personalized label! So every time I pull out my tea, I see Ashley's greeting and remember our lovely friendship.
Here is my River Shannon tea from Ashley, as well as my tiny little teapot she gave me this year for Christmas. It's perfect for making tea for two on a "regular" afternoon when I'd rather not pull out the china pot. I also love the fact that it has the little basket, so I don't have to pull out a strainer to strain the tea leaves. And it even came with a nifty little scoop. I don't know where she got this little pot, but I love it. Thanks, Ash! And it's PINK - the color of my soon-to-be scrapbook room!
Another thing that I love about Upton Tea is their catalog! Each one contains a "chapter" on the history of tea. Their catalogs come out quarterly and I love reading it from front to back. They also have great information for those of us who aren't well versed in the Art of Tea - like not to bring the water to a boil if you are making green, white, oolong, or jasmine teas, and information like that.
For years, my experience with tea parties was limited to ones held in a tea room that sat in the middle of an enormous antique store in Baton Rouge. We would go there for girly family events, such as bridal showers and such. I had a bridesmaid tea there for one of my very best friends. Unfortunately, the tea room closed perhaps ten years ago.
So we had to learn to do it on our own. Our first "home made" tea party was held for the First Ginger of Steve's family - his aunt. (Yes, I'm the second Ginger C. - and we are both "officially" Virginias.) Aunt Ginger's tea party was a lovely affair at my SIL Connie's and got us really hooked. A few years later for my MIL's 65th birthday, we held another one. This one was really fun because Connie looked up all sorts of interesting trivia about the history of taking tea and everyone had a little card beneath their plate that they read at different times.
One of my favorite stories is about the origin of afternoon tea. The credit goes to the Duchess of Bedford — one of Queen Victoria's Ladies in Waiting — who came up with the idea of a late afternoon meal of tea, thin sandwiches, and small cakes to overcome the "sinking feeling" she felt. The notion caught on, with Queen Victoria's enthusiastic support. Now the phrase, "I have that sinking feeling" is our way to say we need some tea and a snack in the middle of the day. It's become a "family-ism."
We also have had lots of tea parties with our Birthday Club. Those are ALWAYS fun. We will start with a four-course tea at noon and rarely do we have enough room for the fourth course! Of course, our noon tea is only the start of things - Birthday Club Meetings always last for 12 hours. Say, I think we have one coming up next month! Fun, fun, fun!
Shall I pour out?
All tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Black tea consists of leaves that have been withered, rolled up to 6 times, then fully fermented. Green teas are produced by allowing the leaves to fully dry, then they are quickly heated to prevent fermentation. You aren't supposed to have milk or sweetener in a green tea, but I still add a bit of sweetener. Sometimes you just have to break the rules. White teas undergo the least amount of processing. The leaves are simply allowed to wither and then are roasted at a low temperature to remove most of their moisture. White teas have a very pale color and a delicate taste. I have a yummy tangerine white that is packaged in pyramidal silk bags. Very fancy. (I got this from Target - not so fancy.) There are also other types of processing that yields less common types of tea (such as oolong, lapsang souchong - Winston Churchill liked this kind - with scotch of all things - and pu'erh), but you'll have to read about those yourself. I can't do all the studying. ;^D
I like my tea with a little sugar (or Splenda or Stevia if I have some) and milk, never cream (cream brings out the astringency of tea). How do you take your tea? With milk or with lemon? With yak butter? (That's how they drink it in the Himalayas - I've not found yak butter at the grocery stores in Louisiana, so I skip that part.)