Thursday, January 27, 2011

Handled with Care

Few items convey a personal touch like a handwritten thank-you note. We expect more from such items because of the resourceful tool used to create them: the human hand. From china tea cups to Rolls-Royce automobiles, our hands are primarily responsible for working out the dreams our minds conceive. Hands help us creatively express ourselves in writing, in cooking, in building, and in processing and preparing tea.

Digital Construction

Take a look at a hand.

Studying the human anatomy, we understand that of the 206 bones contained within the entire skeleton, each hand and wrist has 27 bones and tendons. Fourteen bones (phalanges) give our fingers, also known as digits, their dexterity and range of movement. Whether pointing a finger or writing a letter, our fingers assist us in reaching our goals. Our fingerprints bear tangible proof that our ideas have come to life. So, handle ideas and people with care.

A Hand-Intensive Beverage

Without hands, there would be no tea. From the first pluck of the tender leaf, tea is the beverage that incorporates a personal touch from start to finish. Whether hand rolled or CTC, tea still requires hands to prepare it, to pour it into a cup, and to share a moment of liquid pleasure. It is the gracious care that extends to every cup of tea and presents itself with each sip. That being said, let's use our hands to create some joy. Cups up!


A Tea in Winter: New Appreciation

Winter is, without doubt, the least appreciated season. The snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain and slush that accompany winter are often portrayed as inconvenient foes to be fought and conquered, even though the weather behaves seasonally appropriate. As one who likens the sun and beach to heaven's offsite office space, I've gained new newfound respect this year for short, dark days, snow, frost and cold temperatures.

A Cup of Hibernation
Hibernation is not death. Every thing, including the ground, needs to pause, to slow down and to rest periodically. Winter is a tangible reminder for all of us to slow down and to regroup. The days with shorter sunlight teach me to conserve my energy for tasks that truly matter and to make the most of every moment.

In addition, success is not a function of whether or not there are spectators present. During hibernation, only the ones in the den know the amount of activity taking place there. Everyone else finds out what happened in the cave when winter is complete. When it is time, all will see.

Crisp Air and Clear Thoughts
Isn't it amazing how much visibility improves on a cold day? On a sunny day, the oxygen-rich air makes the sky appear even more blue and the scenery more vivid. As I inhale the cold, crisp air, its freshness removes any and all residual stale thoughts. It's a great incentive to keep breathing and to keep walking.

As I watch the snow fall, every snowflake prompts me to notice its uniqueness. Like snowflakes, there are no two people alike and no person is alive mistakenly. Snowflakes are particles of uniqueness. When individual snowflakes come together, however, they create a force that changes both plans and travel routes.

Winter is beautiful, powerful and restorative in a way that I've previously overlooked. Thankfully, this winter gives us all ample opportunity to think about the season's benefits over many pots of great tea.

Teas to Sip By
Here are some tea companies to help you replenish your winter stock:

> Upton Tea Imports (Every quarterly catalog includes tea history)

> Chicago Tea Garden (Golden Bi Luo, a tea for every cupboard)

>Rishi Tea (For the curious, Vanilla Mint Pu-Erh is very well-balanced)


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Of Tea Blends and Demographic Trends

This is what an unapologetic tea aficionado's cupboard looks like: a colorful variety of tea tins and other containers keeping precious tea leaves safe. Please notice that no one tea is vying for attention nor screaming to be noticed, steeped and consumed. Each tea will be enjoyed at a designated albeit unannounced moment. (For the observant and inquisitive reader, the clear pouch above is the 3 Essence of Beauty tisane by Fang Gourmet Tea. If you don't notice one or more of your favorite tea purveyors, they may be in another cupboard.)

Diverse Blends, Individual Taste

There is a tea for every moment and every palate. Tea is as marvelously diverse as the people who drink it. For example, some prefer their tea without a trace of additional flavors; others like tea blends featuring flowers, spices or fruits. Still others drink green tea and shun black. There are even some tea drinkers who really don't care what the tea tastes like as much as they care about seeing the word "organic" on a packaging label. In spite of these differences, this is the common denominator: we drink tea.

Tolerance and Teatime

Recently I visited some relatives and as we settled in for a good chat, we went to the kitchen to prepare tea. Did I mention that he prefers coffee? Well, as you can imagine, his cupboard view was not the same as mine. However, spending quality time with loved ones sometimes necessitates reaching across beverage boundaries. No, I consumed no coffee; we found some tea buried among the herbals. I steeped tea. He brewed coffee. We had a conversation. Mission accomplished.

What would happen if within our lives we focused on shared goals rather than our differences? After all, a spicy chai is prized because all the ingredients, e.g. ginger, clove, cardamom, black pepper, etc., work together towards increasing the drinker's body heat and energy level. No one asks a chai to taste like a Darjeeling. Indeed, asking either tea to taste like the other is ridiculous, even if they both originate in India. Each tea is appreciated for its own individual characteristics and appeal. What about people? This is an idea worth a contemplative sip or two.

Teas Worth a Sip
Teas to try include:
> Chandernagor, one of my favorite Mariage Frères blends, is a spicy Indian black tea that's heartwarming literally. Available at The Cultured Cup

> Gingers Oolong by Harney & Sons, a combination that's pleasantly memorable.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

When Steep Turns to Stew (Part 2)

Whether or not we tea drinkers want to confess it, flagrant oversteeping runs rampant. It happens sometimes in spite of our best intentions. During the brief wait, our attention wanders somewhere else and we become distracted. In the meantime, the tea leaves open up graciously. Then, after several more neglectful minutes, these same tea leaves release enough tannins to become bitter and ruined. Voilà! a tea stew guaranteed to make jaws pucker and eyes water. In memoriam of the cuppa which could have been, we sing another sad song about tea gone wrong.

Fatal Distractions

Distractions quickly derail the most carefully crafted plans, from a cup of tea to a life goal. Like oversteeping, distractions present themselves often and include anything or anyone tempting us to lose focus, to decrease momentum or to get off track. However, it is only a distraction if we choose to look. We decide where we focus our attention and how much time we can afford to spend there.

Anywhere But Backwards

Tea stew reminds me that steeping in distractions ultimately results in bitterness. A new year, a birthday, or any other major life event gives us the opportunity to evaluate where we are and, if necessary, to make adjustments. Again, we decide either to steep or to stew. Hint: a properly steeped tea pairs better with most foods, e.g. tiramisu dessert from Corrado Bread & Pastry pictured above. May diligent focus yield even more delicious outcomes within our lives.

Teas Worth a Sip
Teas and/or tisanes to try include:

> Osmanthus Oolong by Ten Ren Tea

> Organic Relaxation (tisane) by Teas Etc.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone