Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A splendid-looking kettle

More stuff to covet: Here's a splendid-looking — and obviously rugged — tea kettle ...

Spotted it on Uncrate, it's available here. It's also $70, but your kettle (electric or otherwise) is not the piece of teaware you want to skimp on. Dig the stainless steel/zinc construction and natural cork handles (genius).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tea: 'The symbol of all of Turkey'

This video shows a presentation by writer Katharine Branning related to her book, Yes, I Would Love Another Glass of Tea. It's a curious read, written in the form of letters to a historical figure named Lady Mary Montagu — the idea is to give an overall impression of Turkey and its rich culture, which includes a specific take on tea. "In my eyes," she says, "this little glass of tea is the symbol of all of Turkey."

Turkey is high on my tea-travel wish list, and Branning's talk makes it even more appealing (though I'd like to knock the video editor upside the head here). "In Turkey, you don't say, 'Breakfast is ready,'" she says. "You say, 'The tea has steeped.'"

I'm going to start doing that.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Covet this wooden tea table

Lainie at Lainie Sips posted a nifty photo on Facebook a while back — this photo:

That's one lovely tea table. It folds up into the chest you see lower left, with beautifully carved storage shelves inside the doors, leaves for extra space and a stout stool.

Comes from this China exporter, no price listed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday Tea should happen eight days a week

Just a note to pass on a link — I wanted to comment in more than 140 characters ...

The Harvard Crimson published a story today (Wednesday) that I found quite touching. Seems a pastor at the university, the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, had a tradition of hosting Wednesday Tea. It sounds rich:

Immediately upon arriving at Sparks House, tea-goers would find themselves in the warm embrace of the Reverend. After an initial greeting, they would pass Gomes’ study — on the right — and enter the living and dining rooms — on the left — where tea was prepared. There, a designated “tea-pourer” would pour the steaming beverage from a polished silver tureen. Although the weekly event had little structure, the Reverend insisted on including typical Anglophile customs, choosing a different friend each week be the guest of honor and serve his visitors.

I now adore the Rev. Gomes. But he passed away last year. Nonetheless, students restarted the tradition last fall, and this story is full of students and faculty commenting on the revelatory aspects of these simple gatherings — "a real appreciation for the importance of social interaction and the preservation of communities," "hospitality in its purest form" and, indeed, "We don’t have anything like this in our culture."

Everything described here is exactly what I value most about tea. Read the full story here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thinker, sailor, soldier on and don't cry

These two are the totems of my table. The teacup, well, of course, always on hand. The wee Thinker — I bought him at a sidewalk market last fall. Deeply entrenched in graduate study, I looked at him and knew I needed his encouragement, his example. He sits by my computer, frozen in thought, as I hunch forward and crank the gears of my own creaky brain, analyzing research and cobbling together my own. Like a Buddha's belly, I sometimes rub his head for good luck before firing up Google Scholar and EndNote. Often, he's staring down into the tea cup, and I pity him because he looks like he'd love a cup.

My brain literally hurts. I've been away from this blog a short while (sorry, life happens), swamped by one of the busiest seasons I've experienced in a long, long time. Craziness at work, three grad classes, a personal life woven in there somewhere. I think back to a wealth of languid days last year, of afternoon teas that stretched on for hours (thank heavens for that well-insulated silver teapot of my grandmother's) — they seem like a dream. Thank heaven tea is as much a fuel for brain work as it is a social lubricant and a meditation for stolen moments. Those that I manage to steal nowadays are priceless.

I'm not complaining; you're busy, too, likely busier. I know so many unjustly laid-off people — busy is fine, busy is good, busy is a blessing I count every panicky morning. It feels great to have wind in my sails, even if I've no idea where I'm headed or how to get all this cargo home. Surely Robert Fortune had a few such moments.

(Forgive the dreadful pun in this post's title.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday tea tunes: Pimped out

"Tea time," sing the Pimps of Joytime, "do you wanna have some?"

Why, yes. I would.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Teas I've been tasting

I don't do a lot of reviewing on this site, but here are some splendid teas I've been drinking recently ...

Stash Tea's organic Lu'an Gua Pian green tea has been a delight, a summery green throughout this thus-far mild winter. It's an open, flat leaf, like a Japanese green, but with a sweet taste — more floral than vegetal, especially on the finish — and a bright yellow liquor. Great on its own.

A colleague from China passed along a packet of wonderful green tea from the Enshi Huazhi organic tea company. I'd relay more details if I could read the package. Bright green in the cup, good grassy flavor, great for gongfu.

A new location for Adagio Teas has opened in downtown Chicago, and on a rainy afternoon I finally stopped in for some sampling. I made two discoveries. First, I'm not much of an herbal drinker, but I'd just had a massage and was looking for something without caffeine — and I had a pronounced craving for hibiscus. I was guided to the Wild Strawberry, full of fruit (pieces of apple and berries), hibiscus and rose hips. Totally not my thing, but I really enjoyed it and bought some; not a bad dessert tea. The star in Adagio's lineup, though, is the Fujian Rain, a fired oolong with an eye-opening balance of flavors: woody, barely smoky, and every cup tastes like you steeped it with mineral water.