Monday, March 31, 2008

Sweet Sakura Tea

A friend in Tokyo sent me a surprise care package today in thanks for taping the Academy Awards for her. Among other things it included two kinds of Sweet Sakura Tea. One is a green tea, looks/tastes like Sencha, with “Cherry Blossom Essence and Leaves,” the other is actual cherry blossoms which tasted a bit “pickled.”

She told me that there are over 400 types of cherry trees and that the Japanese avidly follow the “cherry blossom front” on TV from subtropical Okinawa to Hokkaido which has weather similar to New England. Because it is Japan’s national flower, cherry blossom viewing parties have been held in public and private gardens for centuries. People often arrive early in the morning to spread a cloth to reserve their picnic space with the prettiest view.



Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness

One of the pleasures of working for oneself is the commute is short. My office is a few steps from my bedroom and I tend to turn the computer on while I’m boiling water in the kitchen for tea. That’s very convenient, but it’s way too tempting to check emails before the work day officially begins. Sometimes, if there’s a message from a colleague in another time zone, that needs to be addressed, I might sit down to problem solve in my pajamas and still be wearing them when it’s time to break for lunch. I refuse to eat lunch underdressed, unless I’ve got the flu, so I pull on a shirt and jeans appropriate sartorial splendor for a tuna melt.

Yesterday was a bad day, however. Problems with the printer in Hong Kong, so I didn’t get dressed until it was time to head off to a Meet-up with other people who worked for themselves. The only person I knew was the woman who designed my book and is my web master. But over a glass of wine, everyone 'fessed up to jammin’ the phone line in their jammies. Several of the others were writers, but there was also a kitchen and bath designer, a photographer, a textile designer/face painter and financial industry expert. It was such a pleasure to talk to men and women who understood the struggle between working alone and balancing life and work. As I walked home, in the soft evening rain, there was just enough light to see the pale lavender blossoms on a bush nodding in the breeze. This morning the ornamental pear tree in front of the dry cleaner’s has budded out. Spring is here. As Apollinaire said, “Now and then it’s good to pause in the pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” And get out of your pajamas.



Friday, March 14, 2008


Not that anyone is counting, but did you know that there are only 77 days until the 2008 World Tea Expo? The weather in Las Vegas is starting to warm up and Spring is definitely in the air - May 30th will be here before we know it!


1. Tea Purchasing

2. Pricing, Selling, and Tracking for Profit

3. 2008 World Tea Expo: Annual State-of-the-Industry Report

4. Tea & Chocolate Pairing

5. How to Conduct a Successful Tea Tasting

6. Health Benefits of Tea 2008

7. Selling Outside the Box

8. Tea as a Culinary Ingredient

9. Merchandising - Your Silent Salesperson & Secret Weapon, taught by Elizabeth Knight

10. The Profound World of Pu-erh

Our new Skill Building Workshops are selling exceptionally well. The Blending Workshop on Saturday was the first session to SELL OUT at 64 attendees. We added a second Blending Workshop for Sunday afternoon. Both the Cupping Workshop and Brewing/Serving Workshop are proving to be extremely popular as well.


The first-ever World Tea Championship™ (WTC) will take place at the 2008 World Tea Expo. The WTC is separated into two classes: Hot Tea and Iced Tea.

The WTC is open to all exhibitors. Don't miss this excellent opportunity to showcase your teas! Click here for information on how to enter.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How English tea could help fight terrorism

How English tea could help fight terrorism

From an article in The Telegraph [UK]:

English breakfast tea could be the latest bioterror countermeasure to protect the public against an anthrax attack, according to a study published today.

As well as protective suits and anthrax injections, a humble cup of black tea could well be added to national defences against the bacterium Bacillus anthracis - more commonly know as anthrax.

A joint American/British study has concluded that a cup of tea has more to offer than coffee as an antidote. The team led by Prof Les Baillie of the Welsh School of Pharmacy at Cardiff University and Dr Theresa Gallagher, Biodefense Institute, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, Baltimore, reports in the journal Microbiologist that English Breakfast tea has the potential to inhibit the activity of anthrax, so long as it is taken black.

The research sought to determine if English Breakfast tea was more effective than a commercially available American medium roast coffee at killing anthrax.

"Tea works", said Prof Baillie, who bought his antibioterror materials from the local supermarket. "You can drink enough to have an effect."

A serious and rapidly progressing form of the disease occurs when the bacterial spores are inhaled making anthrax a potent threat when used as a biological warfare agent.

"The tea works against the bug when it is has germinated and is causing an infection," he says.

"We found that special components in tea such as polyphenols have the ability to inhibit the activity of anthrax quite considerably.

Other work shows that tea inhibits Botulinum toxin, the most potent natural occurring toxin. The team is now testing the effects of tea on antibiotic resistant superbugs too.

The research shows that the addition of whole milk to a standard cup of tea inhibited its activity against anthrax.

Prof Baillie continues: "I would suggest that in the event that we are faced with a potential bio-terror attack, individuals may want to forgo their dash of milk at least until the situation is under control.

"What's more, given the ability of tea to bring solace and steady the mind, and to inactivate Bacillus anthracis and its toxin, perhaps the Boston Tea Party was not such a good idea after all," adds Prof Baillie, who is also a Director of the Biodefence Initiative, Medical Biotechnology Centre, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute in Baltimore, and has worked for the UK Ministry of Defence and the US Navy.

"It has caused a few chuckles among my American friends, who have a $5 billion programme of research on medical countermeasures and I just like the idea that all we Brits have to do is drink a cup of tea."

As a nation, Brits currently drink some 165 million cups of tea, and the healing benefits of the nation's favourite beverage have long been acknowledged.

The active constituents of tea, called polyphenols, are recognized antioxidants - chemicals that mop up damaging free radicals - and studies have claimed effects in countering cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and in boosting the activity of the immune system.

All varieties of tea come from the leaves of a single evergreen plant, Camellia sinensis. With the additional process of allowing the leaves to dry and oxidize, black tea is produced, the kind drunk in the UK.

Link to article:

Indian Tea and the Ganges River

When I’m writing I work best with classical music. Can’t seem to focus when others sing or talk, so I’m often tuned to WQXR, the classical music station of the New York Times. This morning there was a glorious program - “Sunshine in Music.” Discovered that Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) composed an aria about the sun rising over the Ganges River:

Already, from over the Ganges, the sun

More clearly sparkles

And dries every drop

Of the dawn, which weeps.

With the gilded ray

It adorns each blade of grass;

And the stars of the sky

Paint in the field.

As I listened to the Russian singer and the English orchestra, I remembered my trip to India as a guest of the Indian Tea Board. On one plane flight I happened to glance out the window and saw the most enormous river (1,569 miles), I had ever seen, glowing molten in the sun. It was so big that there was nothing to see, on either side of the plane, but sky and swirling water. I asked the stewardess to identify the body of water; she smiled and said with great pride, almost as if it were a member of her family, “That is the Ganja (Ganges).”

Hindus believe that those who bathe in the sacred river are absolved of their sins ; the dead who are cremated on the banks and have their ashes scattered in the river achieve salvation. The memory of standing waist-deep in tea bushes, on top of a mountain plantation, drunk on the scent of tea leaves warmed by the sun, is as close to heaven as I'm likely to get. If you ever get an opportunity to visit India, any part, for any reason, go!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tea & 19th Century English Health

Quoted in "The Shorter Mrs. Beeton- New concise Edition"

Our great nurse Miss Nightingale remarks that “a great deal too much against tea is said by wise people, and a great deal too much of tea is given to the sick by foolish people. When you see the natural and almost universal craving in English sick for their ‘tea,’ you cannot but feel that Nature knows what she is about. But a little tea or coffee restores them quite as much as a great deal; and especially of coffee, impairs the little power of digestion they have. There is nothing yet discovered which is a substitute to the English patient for his cup of tea; he can take it when he can take nothing else, and he often can’t take anything else if he has it not.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Afternoon tea is back at the newly reopened Plaza Hotel

Afternoon tea is back at the newly reopened Plaza Hotel

  • Story Highlights
  • Bland flavors of the original tea menu have been replaced with bold ingredients
  • The selection of teas has more than doubled to about two dozen
  • At $60 a person, it's one of the city's more expensive afternoon teas

NEW YORK (AP) -- Going to The Plaza Hotel for afternoon tea was never just about the food. It was about palm trees, harp music, what the ladies at the next table were wearing, and the spirit of Eloise -- that naughty little girl who lives at The Plaza in a famous fictional children's book.

But after a $400 million, three-year renovation to restore the hotel's grandeur, tea at The Plaza is now all about the food.

Sure, the harpist is back, alternating with a classical guitarist. And palm trees still decorate the Palm Court -- the lobby dining room where tea has been served since the hotel opened in 1907.

But the bland flavors of the original tea menu have been replaced with sophisticated, bold ingredients from the hotel's new French chef, Didier Virot. You'll still find cucumber on buttered white bread among the bite-size sandwiches -- but now with fresh mint. You'll also find prosciutto and tomato confit on olive bread, a tender pink morsel of lamb on a tiny grilled pita, and a piquant puree of eggplant, goat cheese and basil, with a sliver of olive, in a tart.

At $60 a person, it's one of the city's more expensive afternoon teas -- the St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton hotels charge $45. An alternate tea menu at The Plaza that includes lobster, black truffle, caviar and a chocolate pot de creme is even more, at $100.

But whether or not you can afford The Plaza's $1,000-a-night room rates, the $60 tea is "an attainable luxury," said The Plaza's tea consultant, Ellen Easton.

The Palm Court is also now home to one of the most talked-about features of the hotel restoration -- a stained-glass ceiling called a laylight.

The laylight was replaced in the 1940s by a plaster ceiling, so "it hasn't been seen in most people's lifetimes," said Sarah Carroll, director of preservation for the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, which worked on the restoration with the hotel's new owners, Elad Properties.

Glass shards and old photos were all researchers had to go on to recreate the laylight. Carroll called the result -- a backlit yellow-and-green geometric design trimmed with roses -- "a perfect crown" for the Palm Court.

Another change: The Palm Court's armless dining chairs were replaced with high-backed blue velvet upholstered chairs. The chairs are so tall that when you're seated, you feel like you're in a private room. The downside to the privacy: It's harder to gape at the other guests' shoes and handbags. The blue of the upholstery is echoed in the colors of the ornate Limoges china.

The old three-tiered tray with finger sandwiches, scones and sweets served simultaneously is gone; now the meal is presented in separate courses. This allows scones to be delivered warm -- with de rigeur pots of clotted cream and jam -- once you're finished with the sandwiches.

Sweets, designed by pastry chef Nicole Kaplan, come on their own three-tiered tray: Pink-frosted eclairs decorated with edible gold on top, along with linzer cookies; lemon poppy seed cake and a variable chef's surprise in the middle; opera cake and tangy passion fruit tartlets on the bottom, with fresh berries on the side.

The selection of teas has more than doubled to about two dozen, including herbal peppermint, chamomile and apple spice; white and green teas; and teas from Kenya, Japan, China, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

The loose-leaf tea is now decanted, meaning the water is steeped with tea leaves strained into a pot before being brought to the table. Lime slices are served alongside lemon in a nod to Caribbean tea traditions.

Elizabeth Knight, who leads Tea In the City guided tours -- -- to tea rooms and shops around Manhattan, said afternoon tea at a grand hotel remains an appealing ritual. "It allows people to reconnect to a time of romance and grandeur. Most of us don't live in places like that. It's almost like you get to be an aristocrat for a day -- you peek through the keyhole and enjoy yourself for two hours."

Hundreds of people stopped by the hotel March 1, the day it reopened, just to take a look. Among them were Lou Ann Graham of Pepper Pike, Ohio, and her daughter, Emily, 7.

"It's her favorite hotel," Graham said. "For her, it's about Eloise. We stayed here the last week of the month it closed. We even made a scrapbook about it." Then she turned to her daughter and said: "Maybe you and I can come back here for tea."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.