The past month in the tasting room at Selby Gardens we have had many European visitors, especially British. When they hear me speak we inevitably talk about where we are from and the type of tea we drink.

The choices being PG Tips, Typhoo, Yorkshire, Twinning’s etc. basically all the well known tea bags available. There was also a gentleman who mentioned Brooke Bond which was a real blast from the past! He was married to an American, and lives in Sarasota.  His wife sourced the tea for him and he was very pleased.

Anyway, the name Brooke Bond took me on a journey back to the small village in the Yorkshire Dales where I was born and raised.  Our little grocery shop, run by Mrs. Gosney had a large metal sign displayed outside in black and red advertising Brooke Bond! Mum sent me to buy tea and I remember Mrs. Gosney using an old fashioned scale with real weights and putting the weighed tea in a brown bag. When I got home mum would transfer the tea to our caddy (which I think was a tin that had once stored candy, probably Liquorices’ Allsorts) I can remember inhaling the most wonderful smell of fresh tea in the caddy. I was touched thinking about how we continue such practices, as I use such a caddy even now!

So where did the name caddy come from?  During the early British trading days in Asia, a language called “pidgin English” was created to facilitate commerce. Composed of English, Portuguese and Indian words pronounced in Chinese, “Pidgin” is actually the word which was used for “do business”.  The term “caddy” is from the Chinese word for one pound, which was the standard size for a tea container.

We meet such nice people when talk tea.  Great stories and legends are exchanged, and memories evoked when we talk about this amazing drink called TEA.

Sabdariffa Spritzer or Holiday Hibiscus

Looking for a fabulous iced tea drink for the 4th of July? I have one to share concocted from our hibiscus petals, botanical name sadariffa.

I had some hibiscus tea in the refrigerator and whilst I love this tea on its own I cannot drink that much of it. (and for those of you who don’t know me, I am a tea drinker!)

With the summer heat, I thought hibiscus would help keep me cool and give me all the other goodies Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Riboflavin, and antioxidant Anthocyanin. Hibiscus really is a good package of benefits.

I also drink a lot of Seltzer water, so here is what I did. Filled my glass half full with Hibiscus tea, some ice and topped off with Seltzer. A twist of lime is good too. There you have HIBISCUS SPRITZER!

What a beautiful drink, so refreshing and I can drink lots more Hibiscus this way.  If you want to go all out use a martini glass, it looks brilliant.

Sip on a healthy, vibrant, non-alcoholic cocktail.

Cheers me dears.


Margaret Thatcher comes to tea

Had a lovely week. Worked in the tasting room several days and enjoyed conversations with many visitors from the States and beyond, especially fellow Brits. Everyone is always interested in my story and how I come to be working with tea. What a great life, making conversation and drinking tea.

Talking of Brits I got to serve tea to the Iron Lady herself! (just in case you thought I was being serious, the lady was an actor) Margaret Thatcher was the theme at the afternoon tea which was to benefit the Women’s Resource Center. Our gracious hostess had a magnificent penthouse overlooking the bay and tea and food was served on a collection of exquisite china.

Iced Peach Paradise was set on the table in wine goblets (looked beautiful) When the ladies started eating sandwiches, our Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling was served and with desserts I served Goji Green tea. The tea was very well received. Why am I sounding so surprised, all of the loose leaf teas offered at Local Tea Company are delicious!

There followed some discussion about Margaret Thatcher’s time in office and how it would be if she were in office today. If I had been invited, I could have told a few home truths about my experiences during her ministry but I was there to talk tea so did my short presentation about tea and added a Thatcher quote…

“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done ask a woman.”

Sip Locally with your very own Tea Lady at the gardens. Stay Cool.


Infusion Confusion

I like the way this sounds so I am going to blab about brewing. So many visitors to the CarriageHouse Tea Room at Selby Gardens are confused about how to brew tea. I hope this helps.

Let’s start with the Kettle, used only to heat water. There are some great models on the market which switch off when boiling point is reached. There is even one with a thermometer so you can catch the water before boiling point is reached, when making green or white tea.

A Tea pot is the vessel in which the tea is made. You may brew directly in a cup or mug, but I love my tea pots. I always warm the pot with boiling water before adding the tea. After I pour out the heating water, I add the tea to the wet pot and after a minute or so I inhale deeply. As the leaves start to open, the aroma from these warm environs is fantastic and hints at the pleasure soon to come.

Use a teaspoon for each cup of tea you want to prepare. My mum used to say “and one for the pot” and my husband and I still always add an extra teaspoon of tea when we brew a pot. A teaspoon is different for each kind of tea, as teas come in many shapes and sizes. Not to fret, you will soon get accustomed to the amount of tea you prefer, as you brew more tea. Experiment, though it is not an exact science, have fun.

Steep your tea for the recommended time; white and green tea 2 to 3 minutes, black tea 4 to 6 minutes, and tisanes 8 to 10 minutes, though again personal preference is the rule. While I use a timer in the tasting room to bring garden visitors the perfect taste, at home I just look at the color of the liquor and guess!

Many tea pots have Infusers, mesh baskets to hold the loose tea or Strainers, to keep the leaves in the pot and out of your cup. I like to let the leaves move around in the pot, and with glass pots it can be quite a show.

Loose leaf tea holds a lot of flavors and I always recommend multiple steeping. Add more boiling water to the leaves and double the steeping time. Your second cuppa will not be as strong as your first, but I cannot bear the thought of throwing away tea leaves with even a bit of flavor. If you don’t plan to drink multiple cups, put the tea pot in your fridge and enjoy the tea over ice.

This afternoon I am brewing my favorite Oolong and will infuse the leaves at least four times before the leaves are laid to rest in my garden, but that’s another posting.

Sit back and enjoy the perfect cup of tea. Remember the journey is just as important as the destination. I hope this helps.

The tea lady

Korean Way of Tea – Panyaro

This ceremony was not as rigid as the Japanese Tea Ceremony [Chanoyu] but more formal than the Chinese Tea Ceremony [Chongu Cha]. Kim was very passionate in her presentation of the Korean Way of Tea or Panyaro, explaining tea is an important part of reclaiming the true heritage of the Koreans.

After the Japanese invaded Korea in 1910, many traditions and aspects of Korean cultural were lost, systematically wiped out by the invaders. Some writings survived in remote monasteries and from these historical relics Panyaro, the Korean Way of Tea has been revived.

Hyo Dang initiated the revival and wrote the first full length study of tea in modern Korea. The ceremony is an expression of the graceful way of life with peace and understanding in accompanying each cup of tea.

As with the previous ceremonies, Kim’s costume was beautiful (see the photo below). she knelt for the ceremony and the four guests, myself included tried to remain in the same position. It proved more difficult for all of us!

Each movement was performed slowly and precisely. Kim returned her hands to her lap after each movement. The tea items were covered with a cloth, red on one side representing the earth and blue on the other, representing the sky.

Hot water in a large teapot was poured into a bowl. The tea cups were each filled with hot water to warm them. Each time the bowl was lifted she used a small napkin to wipe the bamboo scoop before placing the tea into the teapot. The water was removed from the cups and each filled with a small amount of tea. Kim kept going back up the line again until each tea cup was filled.

With the same precise movements Kim placed each cup on a saucer and presented the cup to each of us. When she indicated, we all sipped together.

The cloth was placed on the cups and pots after we had finished our tea, we all bowed and with great relief stretched out our legs!

Here is a photo of me and Kim after the last ceremony.

Tea Lady and Kim Phram after the Korean Way of Tea

What a great day at Selby Gardens and a fantastic experience. So different from the English ritual of taking tea and yet in so many ways the same. My thought was that regardless of how you take your tea, make it special every time and embrace the moment. Local Tea Company was a proud sponsor of all three Tea Ceremonies at the Asian Cultural Festival.

The Tea Lady

Chanoyu – Japanese Tea Ceremony

Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese Tea Ceremony was a much more complex, absorbing and meditative than the Chinese Tea Ceremony [Chongu Cha]. Through tea every human encounter is recognized as a single occasion which cannot be repeated. As such, every aspect of the ceremony must be savored as nothing is permanent. Seek beauty with your mind and heart and cherish the moment. Tea culture is “god like” and referred to as Teaism in Japan.

The ceremony takes place in a designated room, in our case defined by bamboo mats with shoes removed. Kim wore a simple creamy blue kimono. Usually up to four guests participate, and on Saturday Michael was the honored guest. He entered the ceremony by crawling through an imaginary tunnel to signify leaving any material items outside of the tea ceremony, as all are equal regardless of status or social position. No words are spoken.

Water is held in a stone jar and touched only by the host. Water represents Yin and the heat of the fire, Yang. The container symbolizes purity. A sweet is served to the guest as the host uses a fine silk cloth or Fukusa to wipe the ceramic jar. The Fukusa is carefully folded after each movement and requires a high level of concentration or state of meditation.

The tea bowl and whisk are rinsed and wiped. The water is poured to represent a waterfall. The tea, in this case a matcha is scooped and whisked, then presented to the guest with a bow.

Teaware for Chanoyu – Japanese Tea Ceremony

The tea ware does not match and the tea bowl is usually a cherished item of the host and represents the moon (yin). It is placed next to the water container which represents the sun (yang). The bowl is wiped and turned after each guest drinks, though host does not drink any tea. The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a gift to the guest, a gesture of love or respect.

We had a crowd of well over 100 at the Activity Center at Selby Gardens for the Asian Cultural Festival. The tea ceremonies were sponsored by Local Tea Company. Kim answered many questions and was simply fabulous.

Next, I will post notes from the Korean Tea Ceremony soon.

The Tea Lady

Chongu Cha – Chinese Tea Ceremony

This last weekend was the Asian Cultural Festival at Selby Gardens. The event was packed with uniquely Asian activities; bonsai displays, martial arts performers, taiko drummers, and other dancers. On Saturday, Local Tea Company sponsored 3 tea ceremonies – Chinese, Japanese and Korean. I enjoyed all three and participated in the Korean Tea Ceremony. I’ll share the details here along with a few pictures.

Kim Phram resented all three ceremonies in traditional attire and using proper tea accessories and authentic teas. She owns Kaleisia Tea Lounge in Tampa. Kim was fantastic, very knowledgeable and thrilled to share the history and details with all that attended. Kim is a true student of tea ceremonies.

I will break the details into 3 posts.

Gongfu Cha, the Chinese ceremony was first at 11am. This style of ceremony is all about the tea, what it tastes like and smells like. The audience was encouraged to ask questions and Kim talked all the way through describing the ceremony as “tea with friends”. Each step is meant to be a sensory exploration and appreciation. A very small un-glazed clay teapot, yixing was filled a third full of tea for multiple, quick infusions. The pot and small drinking cups were all rinsed with boiling water first then the tea was rinsed or flushed.

The first infusion was only 30 seconds.

Kim explained the tea came from a wild tea plant in the Yunnan Province of China and was bought directly from a farmer. She calls it ‘No Name’ tea because this is tea the family drinks and has no name. Very special tea, sweet and delicious. And Kim wore a traditional Chinese special occasion dress of silk, but back to the Gongfu Cha.

No Name Tea

The tea is poured in a continual motion over each cup so all are filled together and taste the same. There are 2 cups with the larger is called the “snifter”. This was tipped upside down releasing tea into the small drinking cups, about 2 sips worth. Then the snifter is smelled to appreciate the aroma. Kim moved everything using bamboo chopsticks. Typically up to five infusions are made from the same leaves, adding 10 seconds of steep each time.

Next up, the Japanese Tea Ceremony,

The Tea Lady

Cami to Chamomile

I was asked again this week about Chamomile tea and as this has never been one of my favorite teas. I thought it was used as a sleep aid, and I just had to find out why it is such a popular beverage.

Well, I found some information that has really perked my interest and I might even be contemplating adding Chamomile to the pot!

The Chamomile plant (Matricaria recutita) is native to Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean region and has a long history as a mild botanical. It is safe to use for long periods of time without any adverse effects, although you are as always advised to consult your doctor.

Science Daily cites a study where researchers found over a 2 week period chamomile tea drinkers experienced increased anti-bacterial activity in their urine. In simple terms this means that chamomile can boost your immune system and fight illness.  The study also found an increase in amino acids that help alleviate muscle spasms and relax nerves.

Chamomile can help people suffering from stress, spasms and cramps as well as intestinal discomfort and the reduction of gas. It is recommended that you drink chamomile tea after meals to alleviate these symptoms.

Can I be converted to a Chamomile drinking tea lady? Perhaps, now that I know how this herbal tea can be used.

The Tea Lady

Are you Spellbound?

While sampling our iced Earl Grey, a customer told me she had read that Bergamot was bad for you.

How can the most popular flavored tea in the world possibly have an ingredient that is bad for you, I thought? Wanting to prove that theory very wrong I found some interesting facts. Though I’ll tell you about our iced Earl Grey later.

Bergamot is a small, pear shaped citrus native to southeast Asia but now commercially grown in Calabria, Italy. The fruit thrives in the calabrian coast and is the symbol of the region. Like most citrus, I am sure it makes an excellent marmalade, though my Key Lime marmalade would be hard to top, but I digress.

Used in half of women’s perfumes and in aromatherapy to treat depression and aid digestion, I couldn’t find much negative press. Extract from the bergamot plant was used in sunscreens but was banned in 1995, this did not make sense to me, then I found comments that bergamot blocked absorption of potassium in intestines. Why would it be used as a digestive aid then?

I found that various North American plants of the mint family are also called bergamot due to their fragrance. One was used to make a beverage by the American Indian Oswego tribe and was adopted by the 18th century colonists during their boycott of British teas! We won’t get into that now though!

The worst info I found was that Bergamot has been used in Witchcraft. Maybe it cast a spell on all those people who think it is the best tasting tea ever! Are you spellbound?

The Tea Lady

Tea Party for 110

On Sunday dawned the day I was to serve tea to the biggest tea party I have ever been involved with! This was definitely a first in my tea journey.

The occasion was to celebrate and give thanks to the Associates of Selby Gardens, all 110 of them and a bunch of tea lovers to boot! Not only that, they wanted the “Champagne of tea” Darjeeling. We selected a beautiful tea from the Tukdah Estate which was a first flush TGFOP. I just could not mess this one up!

So, my dilemma. How to serve the perfect tasting, piping hot cup of tea to all these people? How much to make, what time to start brewing? When it boils down to it (sorry!) you just have to replicate what you do best when you are making tea for two. So that is just what I did, along with some helpers of course.

I got together all the containers (one of these was a Silver Samovar which looked fabulous) we were using, weighed the tea in correct proportions and got the kettles boiling! We steeped the leaves twice, first for 3 mins and second for 6 mins which in my experience gives a well balanced taste. It took one and a half hours to complete the process.

We delivered the tea to another building (no easy fete over the brick paving’s in the garden) where it was decanted into very nice Silver teapots owned by some of the Associates. The tables were served tea in turn as the guests were invited to the buffet table. Each server came back for more and more tea!

It was a brilliant feeling seeing all those people slurping Darjeeling (sorry, associates don’t slurp but you know what I mean) which was hot and tasted perfect too! We had plenty for everyone and very little left which is also good.

It was great to receive such good comments and no negatives. Then you start to ask yourself, why did I worry so much?

“If you say you can, you will” is a great motto and one which is working well for me this month, stir in a little love and you have the perfect cups of tea.

So, if you are planning a BIG tea party call yours truly.

The Tea Lady