Tea Network

Tea, the friendship-builder.  Tea, the networking tool.

Week 4: January 24-30
“Whom have you met because of something related to tea? Share something about this person and how your relationship began and blossomed.”

Cute little tea magnets

I can’t begin to count the friendships I’ve made through tea.  Instead, I’m going to mention a couple of significant ones, and note that I thoroughly enjoyed hosting the tea swaps, meeting so many tea lovers, and making new friends.

To clarify, I’m not sure how many people I’ve actually MET through tea related things, but it’s amazing how a shared love of tea has deepened many connections in my life. 

Because I never pulled out my camera while we were together, I don’t have a photo of Ruth.  I could steal one from her, but I won’t.  I can however, remind you of the tea she brought me when we met in person!    Tea, dogs, books, knitting, and a friendship was born.   We’ve shared one cuppa’ in person, and countless more as we email, read each other’s blogs and chat on Facebook almost daily!

I was thoroughly spoiled in one tea swap by Nannette.   Just because life gets in the way and we don’t chat regularly doesn’t mean I don’t still think of Nannette.  The garden flag she gave me still graces the back deck.

I believe tea swaps introduced me to Holly too, and as tea tends to do, I then got to know her sister Lacey.  (I have the flowering teas in my car, and next week when MJ is back in the office some, I’ll be able to get things shipped!)  They’re both kind, thoughtful, talented women and maybe one day, life will let us share a cuppa’ in person.

While I could go on all day, I’ll close by mentioning Wendy.  I’m not sure which swap brought us together, but she’s shared a lot of tea with me, in person and by mail.   In fact, I can’t  recall a time we’ve gotten together she hasn’t handed me some new tea finds to try.  (Now THAT is a true tea friend!)

I couldn’t begin to list all the friendships I’ve made through tea, whether tea brought us together or not.  Please know that if I didn’t mention you, I still adore you and appreciate the teas you’ve shared with me!

Tea is a special part of so many of my friendships, all the way back to my toddler days, when a neighbor lady took on my mother and insisted I could – WOULD – have a proper tea with her.  There’s just something cementing about sitting down with a cuppa’ and another person… if they aren’t a friend when you plop down, they will be before the last sip!

Thanks again Ruth, for continuing this Hot Tea Month tradition.  Sip on!

Tea house, Treehouse

Week Three: January 17th-23rd
If I could have my own Tea House this is how I would run things…..

Wow…  Ruth wanted to stretch our tea imagination, didn’t she?

I’m going to have to try to paint word pictures to illustrate my points, but this is truly uninspired by anything I’ve experienced.  I’ve never been to a “proper” tea house, meaning a business whose main purpose is to serve tea.  I’ve been TO tea at hotels and such, and certainly Keswick Hall, in my own back yard, does as nice a tea as anyone around.  (Hem, hem… there are no tea houses in the area, so…??)

A dusky view from the front porch, OBX 12-09

If you’re new to my blog, you might not know that I am most comfortable either at the beach, taking tea on our ocean-view screened porch or taking tea on my own deck, which is rather like being suspended in the woods.

Gretchen offers a glimpse of the fall views from the back deck, 10-09

That last photo is also a hint of what I have in mind.  I see a cottage off the beaten path somewhere, perhaps in a beach or mountain resort town.   It would have a beautiful garden in the front of the house, and you’d walk up the cobblestone path into a spacious foyer, with a happy retail room to one side.  After all, don’t we all want to take our new tea love home with us, be it a loose tea, a pretty cup, or a new book with tempting teatime recipes galore?

Photo by our own Scrabblequeen... one cup & saucer is mine, the other, hers

Then, there would be at least three different settings in which to take tea.  There would be a buffet of sorts in one room, with a roaring fireplace on cold days, and big, comfy chairs scattered about in pairs, with a fluffy loveseat or two here and there.  Think Panera’s, without the glass and all the other tables and chairs.  I know I often shop and sup alone, so I’d want an inviting spot for people to drop in unannounced, alone or with a friend, to use the free wi-fi connection, have a cuppa’, knit… 

Big comfy loveseat with tea tray for two

In another room, there would be comfortable, more traditional tea room furnishings.  (But do note that COMFORT comes first.)  Still, it isn’t a crowded room; none of these spaces are set up for maxium occupancy, but rather, for optimal enjoyment.  I want to be able to SNOL – snort out loud – and not offend the ladies at the next table too much.  Wait staff would attend to customers in a traditional fashion in this room.

Springtime view off the deck, 4-08

Finally, there would be an outdoor area, with access from within the shop or down another little path from outside.   Just as many pet boutiques are offering tailgates and socials for pets and their owners, I’d like a spot where a gal and her best friends can unwind together.  I’m thinking the outdoor area would be tiered, with pets only on the lower level, because while I am always happy to be with my dogs or anyone else’s, I know some of you are allergic, just aren’t that into pets, and/or simply want to get away!

Think english country chic, with assorted cups and saucers, and one last time, comfort abounds.  Managing is more than just setting the tone, so there would be a great pastry chef on staff, a Keurig for the coffee drinkers who lovingly followed their favorite tea drinker(s) to the tea house.  Of course, there would always be a glass pitcher of true Southern sweet tea in the refrigerator, and Virginia style ham biscuits would always be tucked into the buffet, along with some other heavier fare. 

Loose tea would be served, along with real cream, clotted cream for the scones, etc.  The staff would be trained to offer substitutions for those accustomed to mainstream tea bags, so that everyone has a great experience and can’t wait to come back.  So, that’s a quick tour of my little ideal tea house. 

(And no, I have no plans to open such a venture, but if you’re ever in the neighborhood, let’s meet for a cuppa’!)

Chai Forgot

While reading Monica‘s post, I realized I forgot chai.   I’m not precisely sure where it fits in the tea purist’s world, but I am no purist.  My own short and dirty definition of chai is that it’s an Indian beverage that blends black tea, spices, sugar and milk to make the most wonderful drink.  (If you click on the link above, Wikipedia will give you its lengthy, more precise explanation.)

Mugsy circa 9-06, perhaps waiting for a sip of chai

I don’t recall who introduced me to chai, but it was one of you, an internet buddy.  I’ve yet to try to make my own, in part because I took about a two-year hiatus from chai when Mugsy died.  Each of our fur-kids has had a couple of wacky food cravings, and chai was one of Mugsy’s.  That little guy would go NUTS when he smelled it simmering!  He’d race to the kitchen and park in front of the stove until I poured the liquid into a low, big mug.

For some reason, I’ve always taken my chai in these mugs.    Something about their low, spacious dots just seems right to me for chai.  I’d read somewhere that chai was traditionally served in shallower, large cups… 

Actually, I enjoy Celestial Seasonings chai varieties.  They change from time to time, and the Knight snagged a box of the coconut on Sunday’s grocery run.  I wish I had it with me now, but that’s just one more reason to long for the late afternoon and going home!

So, there’s no plied or otherwise finished spinning to share, nor did I pick up that second sock from 2009 to finish up.  Instead, I caved to peer pressure and cast on for Citron AND a sock mini KAL with some of those stash-bustin’ gals from the Stash Sock Club.   Hem, hem.  Don’t judge me.  Knitting’s my therapy, remember?

How goes your week, now that we’re half-way to the weekend?

Thinking Hot Thoughts

I’m brewing a cuppa’ as I type, which along with Monica‘s post, reminded me that I need to post week two’s discussion points…

Tell us about your favorite teas. Do you prefer black, green, white, red, or “herbal”? Do you like added flavors such as fruit, flowers, vanilla, chocolate, or spices, or are you a “purist”?

If I had to choose just one tea to drink for the rest of my life, hands down, it would have to be an Earl Grey.  It was my first tea, and I guess first loves really do stick with you.  (Y’all know I married my third-grade sweetheart, right?)  The Harney & Sons shown on the left is one often in my cupboard, but I also confess to having the best and kindest friends ever, so the precise brand varies.

But preferences?  Stay away from the red “rooibos” tea, and I’m game for most anything. 

I don’t like vanilla so much, but I do love chocolate mint teas.  In fact, I’m sipping one now. 

White teas, I like with a fruity twist.  Trader Joe’s makes a great pomegranate white tea.  It’s a tea BAG!  While I am a tea snob and prefer loose teas, I’m not going to deny that tea bags have a place in my life, and this is one of them. 

Green teas?  It’s all in the brewing.  Frankly, I only know of one other person who can brew the perfect cuppa’ for me, and that’s because she educated me in the delights that come from using the right water temperature and brewing times, especially for white and green teas.  

That’s my secret to the perfect tea, every time.  The Knight produces a perfect cuppa’ too, thanks to this baby.  He just has to figure out if it’s a white tea (there’s a Sharpie mark on my pot at home where I’ve found just the right brewing temperature), green (again, a mark in that green region near center on the dial), or black (of course!  a mark in the brown region).  That, and head for the low end of the recommended brewing time, and I’m all set.

Herbals have their place in my life.  Sissy comes by her love of peppermints naturally  erm, through me.  Celestial Seasonings Tummy Mint has been a staple in my tea cabinet for as long as I can remember.  I’m pretty sure I found it as an adult, out on my own, but I can’t recall when I was introduced to this balm.  I also keep plain ol’ peppermint, chamomille, something lemon, something orange and some version of a bring on the sleep tea in the cabinet.

Flowers.   On the table or in the garden, but not in my teas.  The fancy “art” teas like this are the worst.  It might make a neat centerpiece if I cared to sort out the details, but I’ve tried several brands, assorted varieties, and I just don’t like ’em.   Harney’s Chinese Flower loose tea is the sole exception.  It is one of a handful of teas that I always have on hand.

I do like to try new teas.  The Knight knows he can score brownie points for pointing out and/or purchasing teas that fit the above criteria.   This time of year, a good find will require a double purchase, because it needs to be on hand at home and at work. 

Well, I’m sure that’s quite enough of my babble about tea.   Please feel free to join in, for a single topic or for all of Hot Tea Month, over at the blog!  Don’t forget to link in if you do post!

I’m in the mood for…

… tea!

It’s time for the first discussion point  in the Hot Tea Month Blog-a-thon

But first, I have to note that yesterday was Ruth‘s – our tea hostess – own blogiversary.  How fitting that a lady of tea began her blogging career during Hot Tea Month, no?

So… the topic.

Week One: January 3rd-9th“Tea as a mood lifter: How does tea improve your day? What is your favorite time for a nice, hot cuppa?”

Oh goodness… there is no easy answer.  Tea improves my day in so many different ways.   Just the very ritual of making tea – the water has to be the right temperature, which cup, mug and/or teapot suits the purpose?, and the waiting on that perfect brewing time – soothes me.

Then, there are the memories.  Just about every flavor of tea has a memory associated with it, be it a gift from a friend, or a tradition from some cuppa’ shared long ago…

From a Woolgirl Embrace the Lace shipment

Not to mention that so many of my cups and mugs were also gifts…

Aladdin built-in brew basket travel mug

As for the perfect time, well, any time is the right time for tea!  I do tend to like a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, but for instance yesterday, I craved a nice strong, English Breakfast tea instead.  I tend to move through the tea spectrum as the day goes on, with black teas earlier in the day, then greens, then after dark, whites or herbals. 

(We are just talkin’ hot tea here.  Being a good Southern gal, iced tea – not to be confused with the sweet tea the Knight favors – is good for every waking moment in the warmer months.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go brew a pot of something fragrant and happy!

Hot, hot, hot…

Tea cozy by Ruth, teapot from Rosanne

Don’t you love hot tea?  Come on, I know many of you do!  Won’t you join the Hot Tea Month Blog-a-Thon?   Be sure to scroll down to the first post and sign in via Mr. Linky, then post the first question on your blog… 

I’ll be back later.  Okay, probably tomorrow.   Sissy wants to thank everyone for caring about her.  She’s not enjoying the ear medicine twice daily, and she has no idea that as soon as the special food arrives… 

Well, happy fake friday, and have a great New Year’s Eve if you’re celebrating!

Tea Room

May 11 – May 17
Tea Room Ventures and Venues
Share all about one of your favorite tea rooms. Use photos and descriptions to tell about the decor and ambiance, menus, service, and what makes this tea room special to you. Does this tea room have a gift shop? What kind of special treasures does it contain?


Another rather stark post from me, but…

Keswick Hall is the only local source I’ve used for a nice tea out with friends.  The hotel is grand and the service is first-class, but it’s a bittersweet reminder that the place has changed tremendously from the memories of my childhood in pools that have since been filled in.  The horseshow grounds are across the (dirt) road, and this weekend, I’m betting both the show grounds and the hotel will be packed. 

I’ve borrowed this photo from Keswick’s “afternoon tea” page, but the last time I went, it was for a weekend brunch tea.   Nevertheless, if you have a chance to “do tea” at any of the Orient Express Hotels,  you won’t be disappointed.  With a top price of $28 per person for tea, I think it’s a very affordable way to enjoy the luxury and refinement of a world-class hotel.  If ever you’re in these parts, let me know and I’d be delighted to have tea with you at Keswick Hall!

There’s not a gift shop in the tea treats sort of way, but if you’re in the area, don’t miss The Happy Cook or The Virginia Shop.   The Happy Cook has a great selection of loose teas and accessories to the far right when you walk in, and The Virginia Shop has my beloved Carriage House cheese straws and lots of other goodies.

Imaginary Table

Set the Table, Tea is On!

Share a creative afternoon tea table setting. Linens, serving pieces, teapots and teacup, tea accoutrement’s and accessories, centerpieces, tea trays or three-tiers, and more. Show one way you enjoy creating a memorable tea experience. This is your opportunity to show the world
the fun you have when you create your own special tea experience. Then. . .invite over a friend or neighbor and share some tea together. That way all your work is not for ought.


I guess it all comes from being a voracious reader as a child, but my ideal tea party would have to be arranged by the Madhatter and the Queen of Hearts.  When I envision my own gala, it would indeed be outside, with a lavish spread with my best linens, china, etc.

I ran out of time (obviously, since this is a week late already) to actually stage said table, or even to pull out my great-grandmother’s tablecloth for a photo.


However, I did snap a quick shot of my shaded side yarn, and in that little glade is where I’d set the table.   I’d even want the Knight to muscle out a sideboard of some sort, because I think a proper tea wants an excessive display of tiered serving pieces with everything from dainty sandwiches to decadent, miniature pastries. 

I apologize for asking you to use so much imagination here, but this way, it will be rather like Helen of Troy.  I’ve given you a framework in which you can manipulate the details to envision your own lovely outdoor tea party.  Just be sure to add lots of pretty flowers, and I’m sure we’ll all be on the same page!



Tea, Colorful Tea

April 27 – May 3
The White, Green, Black, and Herb of Tea

Tell about your favorite tea. How do you prepare it and serve it? Milk and sugar? Plain? What are some of your best memories of serving or sipping on this tea? Share a picture if you can. Tell the health benefits of the tea(s) you prefer. Where do you purchase your tea? Is there someplace you enjoying purchasing tea from? Who from and where?

This week’s assignment for the Tea Blog-along is tough, because I like ’em all (save red teas).  Every tea has a time and a reason.  So, as it happens around here rather regularly, grab a cuppa’ and a treat and away we go!

Here’s a day in my life with tea, or what one might look like, anyway…

Morning:  It takes a pot of black tea to knock the cobwebs out some mornings.  One of my favorites is Harney’s Irish Breakfast Tea.  It likes a healthy shot of cream (or milk) and about a half-packet of Splenda in a very large mug.  An alternative would be chai with a good dose of milk, but I’ve yet to find that perfect chai to share.

Next up, for through the day sipping is a nice green tea.  There are plenty of sites promoting the health benefits of green tea, but all I can tell you is I’m almost never sick, and if a cold finds me, it moves on quickly.  I like a variety of green teas, but one of my favorites for all day sipping in an iced form is Republic of Tea’s Sip for the Cure Pink Grapefruit Tea.  I drop four bags in the Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Pot and have a pitcher of tea ready in no time.  No sugar, no nothing. 


When I want a treat in a mug, I reach for Harney’s Chocolate Mint, which has a black tea base.  Again, add the dairy, please?

As the sun sets, I often switch to a white tea or an herbal for the last pot of the night.  My white tea favorite is Adagio’s Silver NeedleDevon gave me some White Pomegranate from Trader Joe’s that makes me long for said store here. 

Herbals are special-use teas for me.  Upset tummy?  Celestial Seasoning’s Tummy Mint.   Can’t sleep?  Yogi Tea’s Bedtime.  Both of those can be found in most grocery stores or health food stores. 

My favorite tea memories still come from my early childhood.  They’re hazy memories, but I treasure those first cups and pots of tea with our neighbor in the afternoons.  I think it was a basic black tea with plenty of cream and sugar.  I still feel elegant and “all grown up” when I use sugar cubes and tongs, although now, I find cane sugar too sweet!  That inspired me to have tea parties in my bedroom and in my sandbox with that great, nearly “adult-sized” plastic set.  (Know where I can find one, new and shiny?  Not china, but PLASTIC.)

Tea Treats

Well, I’m a week behind, but here’s last week’s -along’s topic.  Hopefully, I’ll get to THIS week’s soon!

April 20 – April 26

Share your favorite teatime recipe for sweets or savories. Tea sandwiches, scones, and dainty desserts all count in this category. Give credit to the originator of the recipe if possible. Post a picture if you can. This is sure to make everyone hungry for a delicious tea time treat!

(I have to give Grace an assist here, because I wasn’t sure what I’d share until she mentioned cheese straws in her post!)

While I love a good scone with my tea, my favorite treat to make is cheese straws.  I have a host of recipes, from my stepmom’s cheese biscuits with a pecan half in the center (thing more of a cheese wafer), to hot, spicy straws that require a good wash of ANY liquid behind them, but here is my favorite recipe. 

Cheese Straws

8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

11/2 cups flour

Paprika and salt to taste

Combine the cheese, butter, Tabasco sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and cayenne pepper in a bowl and mix well.  Add the flour, stirring until a soft and easily handled dough forms.  Spoon the dough into a cookie press fitted with disc #1  or a small star disc.  Press into long strips on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Cut the warm strips into 2-inch pieces.  Cool on the baking sheet.  Sprinkle lightly with paprika and salt.  Store in an airtight container.  If a cookie press is not available, roll the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into strips.

Yield: 6 dozen cheese straws

From Start Your Ovens, Junior League of Bristol.  I also collect JL cookbooks, and this is a favorite.  Their Starting Line chapter is full of great recipes for teas, brunches, etc., but the Cheese Straws are from Happy Hour.  Tea time certainly is a happy time too, right?