Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Forgotten History" by Pam Hanson and Barbara Andrews

Miriam went to the oven and took out the pan of crusty croissants, sliding them into a basket lined with a blue-checkered linen napkin. "Do you like iced tea? I don't remember you as a tea drinker."

"I am since I learned there are no calories in tea," Bess said with a chuckle.

Forgotten History by Pam Hanson and Barbara Andrews

I was browsing in a Goodwill store recently when I came across this Guideposts book, part of their Chesapeake Antiques Mysteries. It's the story of Miriam Maxwell, who inherits an antiques business from her late sister Ruth. Miriam returns to her old hometown on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland to decide what to do with the store, and there she reconnects with quite a few people from her past. There's Bess Watkins, an old high school friend, and also Samuel Bentley, whom Miriam dated many years ago.

Although no one wants to lose a sister (at least I hope you don't!), I think many of us might not actually mind inheriting an antiques business. Miriam, however, is no antiques expert and finds herself overwhelmed at all the furniture and antiques her sister managed to pack into her cluttered building. One of her earliest customers happens to be her old flame, Samuel, who buys an antique desk that once belonged to Miriam's family. When he gets home with it, he finds an old letter from Miriam's ancestor in a hidden compartment inside, and that kicks off an intriguing subplot that is woven throughout the book.

I enjoyed meeting Ruth and her friends, and it was fun to learn about antiques through the eyes of someone new to the collecting scene. In fact, I found myself reaching for my iPhone so I could look up things like Westmoreland glass, which I'd never heard of before. The only negative about this series is that there appears to be only one more title, according to the Guideposts website, but I have it and am ready to see what's in store for Miriam next!

Monday, October 16, 2017

The gift card winner is ...

Gabie at the beautiful Tea End Blog! Gabie, I've sent you an email to let you know how to claim your prize. Congratulations, and I so appreciate the book recommendations of everyone who entered. Thanks to you all, I have a terrific new list of books to read! :)

A most delicious new holiday tea from Palais Des Thés!

Palais Des Thés in Paris wrote to see if I'd like to sample one of their new holiday blends, and since I have long enjoyed their teas, I naturally said yes. I was expecting perhaps a small envelope of this Thé des Gourmets, so I was quite surprised when a box arrived at my doorstep containing this beautiful ruby-red tin of tea.

Pretty, isn't it?

And don't you love that starry teacup? Lovely! But look at the flavors in this black tea: almond, cherry, and cranberry—my favorite holiday flavors! 

The minute I opened the tin, I was in tea heaven. This tea has a delightfully fruity scent and a taste that definitely seems like dessert in a teacup! The almond, cherry, and cranberry notes are there in equal measure, and it's a tea so sweet and rich that it definitely needs no sweetener. Normally I'd wait until the holidays to tell you about the tea I'll be drinking over Christmas, but since this is a limited edition, I thought I'd better go ahead and mention it now so it will be on everyone's tea radar. 

I'm going through this tea like crazy and wanted to order another tin, but it's not available yet. The minute it is, I'll be sure to mention it here, because I definitely have a new holiday favorite—and I'm pretty sure some of you will as well!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Teatime botanicals

This week I went over to a friend's new house to see it decorated for the first time. I'd been through when it was finishing construction and had a good idea of the layout and color scheme, but I was so amazed at how different the place looked fully decorated. One of the many things I loved about her new home is the wall of old botanical prints she has. I left there thinking, "Hmm ..." and when I found this "cha" drawing on the Library of Congress website, it set me thinking that it might be fine to have a wall of botanical tea prints!

And here's one for "Labrador tea" from the New York Public Library's digital collection. This herb has traditionally been used to make a tea drunk by the Eskimos and Indians of eastern Canada.

And Wikimedia Commons has this lovely image of the camellia sinensis plant, which is now in the public domain here in the US. A wall of these would certainly be pretty, don't you think!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

October Giveaway: Amazon electronic gift card

Well, I haven't found any cute fall teawares for the October giveaway, so I'm going with an old reliable giveaway item: an Amazon e-gift card for $15!

Here's how you can win: 1) Tell me the name of the last book you read and enjoyed (I'd rather hear about good books than bad ones!) 2) Be sure to include a way for me to get in touch with you if you're the winner.

You may enter the giveaway through 7 a.m. Monday, October 16. Good luck!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Fall 2017 mountain getaway to Dillard

Few things say "Southern hospitality" more than a Mason jar full of tea, and that's exactly what you'll see when you dine at the Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia, one of our favorite spots in the North Georgia Mountains. Alex and I just had the pleasure of spending another lovely few days up there, with plenty of time for reading, strolling, eating, and shopping!

On our last trip, we discovered the charms of nearby Clayton, Georgia, the hometown of a dear friend of mine. This time there were several new shops in town, including this funky art gallery I absolutely adored.

Isn't this column amazing?

Clayton also seems to have lots of hidden gardens tucked away behind some of its streets, like this one where I saw some folks relaxing as I shopped on Saturday.

The town clearly takes pride in its flowers and gardens. And does anyone know what this flower is? It's not the best photo since I took it with an iPhone and not the close-up lens on my camera, but it was so pretty, I had to try to get a shot. It reminds me of a bleeding heart, but bleeding hearts are all one color, aren't they?

The family-style meals at the Dillard House are so, so large, you really have to plan your dining well. You simply cannot, for instance, eat there twice in one day unless you want to be the size of one of those mountains. So we had breakfast there one day and saved lunch for another day. Here you see Alex at our empty table ...

And here you see our lunch table quite literally filled with bowls and platters of food! We ate plenty (I had skipped breakfast to make sure I was good and hungry), and we still had four large take-out containers full to take home, so I don't anticipate having to cook until later this week.

Hurricane Nate was moving in so I didn't get to take my usual photos of the dahlias in the garden out front, but I enjoyed the great view of the property from my table.

Oh, and one thing you do not want to save for later is their delicious hot strawberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream! It's a dreamy good dessert and well worth the splurge once a year!

I believe I shopped about eight antique malls while I was in town, yet I didn't see one teacup or tea mug that I just had to have, and I had recently read of a collector who said she no longer buys things she likes but buys only things she loves. I think that's a great rule at this stage of my over-collected life, and I surprised myself by buying only a new cross necklace on this trip. So while I didn't pick up any new teawares as I had expected, the Dillard House has mugs in the room, so this served quite well as my "tea mug" for this trip. It was another great time in Dillard with my sweetheart, and I hope we get to enjoy many more trips there!

Friday, October 6, 2017

The chest of Jared Joy

One challenge I find when I visit the Library of Congress website is that there's often very little information to accompany the photos. This week, for instance, I found this image, titled "Chest of Jared Joy, member of the original Boston tea party." I tried to enlarge it so I could read the words on the piece of paper attached to the lid, but that didn't work. So here's my question: do you think this was just an everyday chest that belonged to Mr. Joy, or do you think the chest had some significance to the Boston Tea Party? This couldn't possibly be the kind of thing that the tea was stored in, could it? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

And while I try not to covet, I must say that I would dearly love to own this item in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society, some original tea leaves "steeped in Boston Harbor."

Can you even imagine how delightful it must be to have an artifact that was actually there? Wow!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sampling Exquisite BOH Teas

Recently I learned of a new name in teas, BOH Teas from Malaysia. They sent me this lovely gift set to sample, and I was immediately impressed by the classy looking packaging!

Inside the package is an insert describing the six varieties of tea bags inside. This week, I sampled the first row of teas, which included, top from left, the BOH Cameronian Gold Blend, Seri Songket Lime Ginger, and Seri Songket Lemon Mandarin.

It would be hard to name a favorite of the three because they were all excellent! The BOH Cameronian Gold Blend had a rich, fresh taste, with that almost woodsy quality I have rarely found in a tea bag. And Lime Ginger teas are usually a disappointment because the lime is usually overshadowed by the ginger, but not with this tea! I got a great lime taste with a little zip from the ginger. The Lemon Mandarin tea was a delightfully citrusy treat, tasty as well as soothing for a throat that's been feeling the ravages of fall allergy season. You can find out more about these teas here, and now through December 31, 2017, you can use the code TFRIENDS (how cool!) to get 10 percent off your order of these and other BOH products on I think this gift set is quite attractively priced already, and with 10 percent off, it's even more appealing! So thank you to BOH Tea for the samples and for the nice discount for all my tea friends!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Teatime Holidays magazine

I was happy to see over the weekend that lots of holiday magazines have hit the rack at Ingles, and naturally, the one that caught my eye was the new Teatime Holidays, offering afternoon tea recipes for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.
Since I learned to use a cookie press a few years ago, these pretty embellished pressed cookies caught my eye, but when I realized they were made with matcha tea, that made me want to make them even more! 
And though I've always liked red velvet cake, I don't believe I've seen one adorned with crushed peppermints, which strikes me as a very, very good idea. I've also got a peppermint pie recipe from an old tearoom cookbook that I want to try this year, but this cake looks pretty yummy as well.

If you've picked up a few of these Teatime Holidays magazines over the years, you know exactly what to expect in the way of offerings, but I did want to mention one new savory idea that caught my eye. In at least two recipes, they've used those pre-packaged phyllo cups to serve salad-like treats including broccoli-kale slaw and crab salad. What do you think about that idea? I kind of like it. At any rate, if you're a collector of Christmas magazines as I am, here's one to look for now because it will be gone by the time you need it in December!

Friday, September 29, 2017

The coolest tea sample ever - Part Two!

Last week, I wrote about this unique tea sample I received from Teavivre, their Xinhui Green Mandarin Orange Ripened Pu-erh. After I read online that I could brew the entire dried orange full of tea, I had to give that a try as well!

Some of the tea leaves immediately floated out of the orange, which wasn't a surprise since I had loosened them last week. But I was curious to see whether the tea would indeed steep from its tightly packed home inside of the dried orange, and the answer is yes! I still think this is one of the most creative tea presentation ideas ever, and I'm so happy Teavivre shared this tea with me! (Still delicious, by the way. If you've been hesitant to sample a puerh, this would be a fun one to try.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Siegel-Cooper Afternoon Tea Menu from 1906

I read something recently about the New York Public Library, and that reminded me that I'd been meaning to explore some of the old tea menus in their digital collection that's now available online. Siegel-Cooper in New York is a store I'm not familiar with, but looking at one of their 1906 menus certainly makes me want to know more. I learned that the store opened in 1887 and closed in just 1917 after merging with B. Altman. It served as a military hospital during WWI, and the building was later renovated for new retail use. Today it's the home of Bed, Bath & Beyond, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, which is sort of a nice footnote to one of the old department stores.

I found it curious that on Oct. 12, 1906, all the specials featured oysters: oyster sandwich, oyster stew, oyster pie, and oyster fry.

I love all the pie choices (everything from apple to rhubarb), the pastry and dessert choices (lady fingers and napoleans always seem like a good idea), and I was especially impressed by the "fragrant teas" on offer.

This scan is not the clearest, but as you can probably make out, the "fragrant teas" included Young Hyson, English Breakfast, Formosa Oolong, Basket Fired Japan, India, and Ceylon. For some reason, I'm surprised that so many teas were available in 1906. Are you? At any rate, wouldn't it have been nice to dine there and enjoy a ten-cent pot of tea!

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Taste of Fall

The week of Hurricane Irma, temperatures here dipped to the sixties and seventies, and I just knew fall was here to stay. Last week, it was back to the nineties, typical for Georgia at this time of year, so over the weekend, I decided I'd just have to get a "taste of fall" in another manner. And since I had to run in Walmart for a few things, I decided to check out the fall home goods, and that's where I found this cheerful new "Happy Fall" mug for just $2.48. (I've been wanting a mug that says "Happy Fall, Y'all," but I have yet to see one with the comma between "Fall" and "Y'all," and since I'm a grammar geek, it would drive me nuts to have to look at a grammar error every time I sipped out of it. This "Happy Fall" one avoids that problem and will serve nicely.)

And while I love Walmart, I don't go in there often simply because it takes so long to go through the store! When I do hit a Walmart, however, I usually take my time and browse the home goods section, the office supply section (always need pens and paper), and of course the tea aisle. Now, did you know Walmart sold Harney tea? I don't think I did, and when I saw this tin of Hot Cinnamon Sunset tea for just $5.48, I grabbed it!
A few times over the years, friends have shared samples of this tea with me, but I don't believe I've ever purchased a tin of it for myself. I thought this was the tea that tasted like liquid red hot cinnamon candies, and when I got home, I was thrilled to discover that yes, this was the one! So while the calendar says it's fall, the weather outside does not, but at least my tea cabinet is looking and tasting a little more like fall. What about you? What's in your cup these days?

Friday, September 22, 2017

The coolest tea sample ever!

When Teavivre sends me samples to try, I like to space them out over time and not sip them all at once. That gives me something to look forward to, and I learn a little restraint in the process. This little sample packet had a nice fat bulge in the middle, so I had assumed the puerh inside would be one of those balls of tea I'd have to break apart with my puerh knife. This week, I decided it was time to give it a try.

The wrapped ball looked like this, and since this tea was their Xinhui Green Mandarin Orange Ripened Pu-erh Tea, I assume the graphics were of an orange, and maybe I'd see some orange peel mixed in with the loose tea. Is that what you would have assumed?

Well, you would have been wrong. When it says "Mandarin Orange Ripened," it means it was ripened *in* a mandarin orange. HOW COOL IS THAT? (Sorry, don't mean to shout, but I thought this was absolutely amazing!) I detected the citrusy scent as soon as I opened the silver foil packet, and the citrus scent was quite pronounced when I opened this dried orange with the puerh tea inside.

Here's what some of the tea leaf looks like. I liked puerh already, but I loved this orange-scented puerh. It had a great softening effect on the tea, resulting in an exceptionally smooth and less "earthy" tasting puerh. Simply brilliant! Later, I went online and learned that I can also infuse the entire orange full of tea and "the tea texture will be soaked out of the peel." I think I want to enjoy another cup or two of the loose tea first, but when I soak the whole orange in hot water, I'll be sure to post photos of the result. It ought to be interesting!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Two little girls at tea …

Oh, some of these old Library of Congress photos make me laugh! This one is adorable not only because of the little girls at tea but because of their expressions. What do you think they're saying and thinking? I think the little girl on the left is saying something like, "Hey, do you know why the chicken crossed the road?" And the little girl on the right is thinking, "If I have to listen to one more of your lame jokes, I may go cross that road myself."

The little girl on the right looks kind of bored and cranky, which of course makes me like her best. What about you? What do you think is going on in this photo?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The winner of the Tiesta Tea is ...

Robin Coxon! Robin, I've just sent you an email so that you can send me your mailing address, and I'll get this tea headed your way shortly. Congrats!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Some delightful and dainty new finds

My weekend visits to T.J. Maxx and Marshalls didn't turn up any good teawares, but the Douglasville Goodwill store produced two of the most charming (and thrifty) pieces I've found in a while!

First, I spotted this adorable little lacy bowl on the Christmas aisle, but when I saw how delicate it was, I just knew it had to be plastic. Nothing that fragile could have survived on the shelf at Goodwill, could it?

It was marked on the back "Iris 1922 Fine Porcelain Cluj-Napoca." So yes, porcelain! (And for $1.91!)

I ran my fingers around the edges about a hundred times, but I couldn't find one flaw or one break in the lines of this piece. Amazing! (And check out a similar piece that sold on eBay a few years ago. Wow! If anyone wants mine for $163, I'll bet we can make a deal.)

That would have made me happy enough, but then I found this! Many of you know that I collect Santa mugs and sip my tea out of them over Christmas, and I generally forego the snowman mugs (that would be a whole 'nuther collection), but something about this one caught my eye. This little fellow's expression looked so familiar, and when I turned it over, I found …

It is a mug of a snowman character from one of Jan Karon's beloved Mitford books! I came to those books late, long after everyone else had been reading them, and didn't learn about these collectibles until it was too late to buy them. Today, I will certainly scoop up any thrift store goodies I ever come across that are related to the Mitford books, which I read over and over again because they're an absolute pleasure to read and incredibly uplifting. So it was definitely a good day at Goodwill. Have you found any fun thrifted treasures lately?

Friday, September 15, 2017

September Giveaway: Nutty Almond Cream Tea

I start to get antsy if I haven't found a tea giveaway by the middle of the month, so I was delighted to come across one of my favorite new teas on sale this week and decided this would make a great fall giveaway. It's an apple cinnamon herbal tea from Tiesta Tea called Nutty Almond Cream. I say it tastes like a Krispy Kreme doughnut, but others insist it tastes like a cinnamon roll. Either is fine by me, and I hope that it sounds tempting to one of you!

If you'd like to be entered, just leave an "Enter me" to this post by Tuesday, September 19, at 7 a.m. and you'll be entered to win. US and Canada only, please. (And the teacup is not included since it was a gift from a friend!) Good luck!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Zhena's fall teas: The giveaway that wasn't

Friends, I have been looking for something fun for a fall giveaway, but so far it has eluded me. On Saturday, I was at T.J. Maxx when I came across these stackable tins of Zhena's teas, and I thought oh boy, this is it! With Pumpkin Spice, Caramel Apple, Chocolate Truffle, and Cranberry Bliss, what could be more perfect, right? Alas, I found only one set of the tins, and I selfishly decided to enjoy it for myself. On Sunday afternoon, I heated water in my electric tea kettle, plucked a tea bag from one of the tins (there were only 16 tea bags total, I discovered), and prepared to enjoy the flavors of fall.

But the Pumpkin Spice tea didn't taste very pumpkiny. It tasted like a so-so tea with a little cinnamon in it. Then I tried the Caramel Apple, and it tasted just as weak. Huh.

Later in the week, I tried the Chocolate Truffle. It was okay and did taste a little chocolatey. The Cranberry Bliss had a fairly fruity flavor, but compared to Zhena's teas I've enjoyed in the past, these weren't nearly as tasty. So the good news, I guess, is that I got stuck with them instead of one of you. I checked on the tin and the teas don't expire until 2019, so I'm mystified about how I ended up with such weak tea. Just an FYI in case, like me, you're at T.J. Maxx and lured by these flavors!