Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday tea tunes: Hiccup!

This song — a wobbly, space-age, theremin-infused delight — is called "Fur Teacup." Here's hoping they mean on the outside. The band: Tipsy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Antique tea cases, caddies at auction

C'mon, Powerball, get on the stick.

Christie's is putting up some bee-yoo-tiful teaware for auction, but you've got to be a 1 percenter to even think about bidding. Like this drop-dead gorgeous antique tea chest (pictured below), "circa 1790 — inlaid with swags and bell-husks, the cover with an oval patera, kingwood crossbanding and silver handle and escutcheon, the interior fitted with a pair of lift-out 'D' form caddies with locks." Salivate, drool.

There's also a lot of truly gorgeous, George III-era tea caddies "offered from the collection of a London gentleman."

The auction's live next month in England. But the Publisher's Clearinghouse Prize Patrol isn't due for another go-round till the end of October. Drat.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday tea tunes: Equinoxiffic

Autumn equinox is on the way later this weekend. Here's a synth-driven poject called Beneath Autumn Sky cooing over and over ("I had to run away and hide") in a song called "Morning Tea":

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Billy Corgan opens tea house

In my day gig, I published a piece this week about Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan — who today opens his own tea salon, Madame Zuzu's Tea House, in a northern Chicago suburb (announced late last year).

Corgan's on hand today, greeting customers and playing his 1930s Bosendorfer piano throughout the afternoon. He's hoping to create a real mixing, conversational atmosphere in the place, booking not only fellow musicians but guest speakers of every stripe. Earlier this summer, he told me he'd like the place to be "a more casual hang, a place where you could come see a guru or a rabbi talk."

The nice thing is, it's not really a celebrity vanity project. Corgan's not exactly that kind of guy. He's a genuine tea person — claims to have never had a sip of coffee ("I always hated the smell," he says) — and he himself is buying the teas for the shop.

A typical suburban kid who thought all tea was Lipton, his band hit big in the ’90s and he traveled the world — thus sampling great teas in their many native lands.

This week, he related to me a sublime tea moment that cemented his conviction to fulfill the dream of opening this shop: "I was staying at the Savoy Hotel in London, and they have this classic English tea area under a garden dome. I was ordering a pot of rose petal tea. I'm in this historic hotel drinking this incredibly pleasurable tea — it's the small things in life. It stopped time for those few minutes."

Shaken, not steeped

If you've read this blog for very long, you know I'm as much of a lush as I am a tea-totaler. Thus, I adore this nifty design.

Looks like a tea pot, no? But it's actually a cocktail shaker.

Try as I might, I can't find a video of this thing in action. I'm imagining the genius of its function, in addition to its form, is the handle — something underutilized in cocktail shaker design and crucial when you're trying to get your martini as cold as Valley Forge.

The design — Swedish, storied, dating to the 1920s or ’30s — is hard to come by. You'd have to really love your designs, cocktails or tea to purchase one in the States, though, given that they run more than $400 a piece. Looking and admiring is free.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday tea tunes: Moz's greasy spoon

Autumn comes and my musical mood always goes back to bedrock — cloudy days, moody ways, Morrissey.

One of his first solo singles, "Everyday Is Like Sunday," includes a lyric near the end that's always puzzled me: "Share some grease tea with me." I've seen fans argue about the meaning of this for decades, with nothing settled.

At the very least, you could order this mug with the lyric emblazoned on it, or go whole hog and drink tea right out of Morrissey's head.

Monday, September 10, 2012

No change? Need tea? Just tweet

There was a Coke machine in Singapore that gave you a soda if you hugged it. In Argentina, they tried a machine that dispensed beer (!) if you tackled it (!!). Now a South African company has unveiled a vending machine that dispenses a cold bottle of iced tea — for the price of a tweet.

Just approach the wonderfully sci-fi named Bevmax 4-45, whip out your smartphone (or tablet) and send a tweet — any ol' tweet — containing the hashtag #BOStweet4T. In seconds, somehow, the machine figures out you're the one who sent it and, with a fanfare of gadgetry and a spooky synth voice, delivers your tea.

BOS teas are made with rooibos, a caffeine-free infusion made from a plant native to Africa.

Here's the crazy thing in action ...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Moroccan tea glasses

I bought a set of hand-painted Moroccan tea glasses many years ago — I forget where, somewhere we were vacationing. This pre-dates the full bloom of my tea fixation. I originally bought them to shamelessly copy a foodie friend of mine who once served wine in tea glasses at a dinner party. Very handy for that, and pretty.

I've since gone back to using them for their intended purpose (though I hardly ever do the whole North African green-mint tea thing, pouring from three feet in the air). In an effort to moderate my tea intake — must be done, getting out of hand in the afternoons (he writes, his hands shaking) — they're delightful for sipping just moderate amounts of tea. They're also a lively and more harmonious way to bring tea to the table with meals. I don't have any of the silver holders with handles that are quite common for these glasses, and I most often have been using them for white teas served at a lower temperature, anyway.

Those are mine above, but below is a set I currently covet, from this list of five great Moroccan tea glass buys.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sleek, functional tea caddy

Given my fondness for tea cases and innovative designs, here's a beautiful, streamlined set that touches on both.

The stainless steel box serves as both storage (for the sugar bowl, milk jug, wooden tray, etc.) and a warming surface (a holder for tea lights fits underneath the teapot). The cups and pot are china, so no skimping on materials for tea on the go. Many more lovely photos here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday tea TV: 'Schoolhouse Rock'

Given that many of us are heading back to school right about now — my own tea kettle is doing stretches in preparation for another fall semester — here's a classic lesson on the basics of the Boston Tea Party, courtesy the great "Schoolhouse Rock":

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor, rest, repeat

A long work day, and it was only late morning. I stretched (a rare moment when I remembered to do so), I snapped and cracked my old bones, I took my tea and stared out the window at the sprinkling rain.

Tea and its dual uses: it revs me up for work, hones my focus, then it steps me down from the work, relaxing, soothing. Each day is a yin-yang cycle of work and retreat, of leisure and business. The trick is to master the wavelength — to bring the cycle of rest and work into a nice, even hum, with the two poles evenly spaced, or at least as spaced as they should be, as the work or the rest calls for. The rest benefits from the work, the accomplishment, the contrast. The work benefits from the stretch, the window, the moment.

Curiously, just recently I ran across this passage in an old journal, part of an entry from Christmas Eve 2004 describing one of my old staring spots:

Just took a tea break. When I need a mid-afternoon breather, I like to take my tall tea mug to a landing on the building's east stairwell. What was once the main entrance, on Main Street, features seven stories of steps with a wide, gentle rise curling around a cavern of empty space all the way up. Just outside the fifth floor, outside the receptionist area, there's a 12- or 14-foot window overlooking Main Street. I like to lean on the bannister and stare at the city. The 320 Boston building looms to the left, with its unpredictable design and occasional arches. I'd love to find the access to that patio up there. The whole building looks like Philadelphia Hall, but on top its jutting corners and Tetris-like construction look positively Roman. The owner of the Indian art gallery across the street is invariably standing on the sidewalk, smoking. The construction crews are laboring even today to get the rest of Main Street reopened to traffic after a couple of decades as a pedestrian mall. The vantage point on the buildings to the southeast couldn't be better composed. I should take pictures. The work world that goes on outside my head. Important to remember.