Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards - Brewing the Perfect Pot of Tea!
This is the first article in a series
that I've been longing to write
for years , detailing
the proper way to serve a
fabulous tea for any occasion.
As I always say, once you know the rules you can break the rules.
That's when it gets to be fun, so stay tuned!
~ Beth aka Milady's Pantry/ The Windesphere Witch
“It was nearly evening; his room was growing dark, and he could smell the luscious scents of tea preparing downstairs: fried sardines, fresh buttered crumpets, lemon sponge, cucumber sandwiches, sliced ham. He swallowed, suddenly ravenous.
He was strongly tempted to go down and have his tea instantly, but there were things he wanted more than food. Clarity, for one.”
Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “The Scottish Prisoner.”
How I love Lord John Grey and the way that he passionately follows his stomach and devours his tea. I love British tea period...it's an exquisite type of dining that brings such pleasure. Lately, I've really been craving a properly prepared cup of tea.....actually, not just craving,but obsessing over the thought. I've reread every book about tea that I owned, and went out and bought a few more. I've been fantasizing about a tea room , or perhaps a salon where friends could come and have a wonderful cup of tea and a sandwich (or two or ten)!
This fascination with afternoon tea has been with me for a very long time, actually ever since I was a little girl. Fortunately I had a mother with wonderful taste, who made it a point to introduce me to the art of afternoon tea very early in my life! Some of my most favorite memories are of the darling silver child sized tea set that she owned, that she used to let all us us play with whenever we wanted.
My mother had a lot of beautiful things, but we always used to joke and say that the little tea set was the one thing that we'd all fight over when she left us. My sister is it's keeper , but we promised each other that when we finally had grandchildren that we'd share it! That little bit of silver holds such extraordinary memories for us all.
This same wonderful mother, used to bring me tea and breakfast in bed when I was sick, on beautiful blue and white breakfast dishes. Somehow, I always got better quickly, but not until I'd milked at least two more days of lavish spoiling out of her! She was an amazing sick bed cook, making simple consommes for us , toasted cheese and cream tea...there was always tea and plenty of it!
No matter where we found ourselves together, mom and I always made time for tea. (Martini's too, but that's another story!) High teas, Afternoon teas, breakfast teas, luncheon teas, bridal teas , tea dances...whatever the occasion she could create a tea party around it! So many of the promotions that we did for our gift store were tea parties, there's just something about little sandwiches ,wonderful cookies and Wedgwood teapots that just makes anyone, even a very masculine man feel very relaxed and romantic!
We had Afternoon tea everyday in England, at every wonderful hotel and each seemed to be more delightful then the last. We were there touring every great porcelain factory that the UK and Ireland had to offer and everyday at 4:00 time would stop no matter where we were and out would come trays of lovely sandwiches and sweets and steaming hot pots of tea with lots of scones with clotted cream and fresh jam. My favorite was always the jasmine, my mothers, the Earl Grey. Lord John would have loved her. I can promise you that there isn't anything like the experience of having tea in the Spode factory. I'm salivating as I type this.
I've digressed though...I began this by talking about my current preoccupation with tea! When I was most recently in North Carolina , I fell in love with that so very Southern specialty known as sweet tea! You probably already know this, but everywhere you travel in the south, when you order an iced tea, the waitress will ask you if you'd like regular tea or sweet tea. It's addictive stuff, it really is. I've recently given up coffee, and you can blame it on that sweet tea!
A proper sweet tea is just delicious and easy, you start with a really good tea brewed, with the addition of a simple syrup and heavily iced! Some of my Southern friends insist that you need to forgo the syrup and instead stir superfine sugar into the hot tea. It doesn't matter to me, both work estimably well to my taste.
I returned home, made a simple mint syrup and went to brew a pot of tea. Imagine my horror when I realized that even after three decades in the family business where I handled the most beautiful china, crystal and silver that you could imagine, that I didn't even own a simple teapot with which to brew a some really good tea! Here's a little known fact to most Americans... you simply cannot brew a really GREAT pot of tea in a fancy teapot! Now, nothing is more wonderful to me than a bergamot and lavender infused Lady Grey tea served in a lovely Spode , silver or Limoges teapot...just not brewed in it! The English (who have made an entire lifestyle out of a glorious afternoon tea!) , know this well, which is why they created the teapot that I set out to find....The classic Brown Betty!
"Brown Betty Teapots are still made in Stoke-on Trent, formed from clay which comes from the same area where Elder Brothers found clay in 1695. The method of producing these pots was known as 'Jolleying' but over the years it has been modified to slip casting which gives the pot an even thickness and a smooth finish both inside and out. Generations of Englishmen have proved that the Brown Betty, as these Red Ware teapots are affectionately known, make the best pot of tea in the world. The shape of the pot causes the tea to be gently swirled as the boiling water is added. The red terracotta clay with its Rockingham Glaze, holds the heat better and simply brews the perfect cup of tea."
Well now that's quite a reputation to live up to, but I have discovered this to be the finest teapot that I've ever used! She's quite full bodied, with a lovely round shape and dressed with a beautiful brown glaze inside and out, made with solid red clay that's earthy and warm to the touch! I warmed her up with hot water while I waited for the water for the tea water to boil, dumped the water out and put the tea inside and added the boiling water. Then I waited bloody impatiently for the requisite 5 minutes that it takes to brew a great pot of tea!
Well to make a long story short, it was wonderful and it was the best pot of tea that I'd ever made.
I found a lovely Staffordshire cup (let it be known that for the most part I really hate mugs!) and added the mint syrup and a tablespoon of cream and took a sip!
It was Heaven, better than I'd ever imagined it could be! With some freshly baked lemon scones from the gluten free bakery around the corner it was ambrosia.....
You can find fabulous loose tea almost anywhere these days, and the choices to be made...black or green? Herbal or Gunpowder? are almost endless. For loads of fun, learning and an almost endless selection of some of the finest loose teas on the planet go quickly to the http://www.boulderteaco.com/
Water Temperature for Your Perfect Cup of Tea!
"The temperature at which you steep tea matters - delicate leaves steeped at too high of a temperature will burn and leave a bitter flavor in the cup. Each two leaves tea company™ tea has recommended steep temperatures, but there are a few hard and fast rules you can follow to determine what steep temperature to use:
Below Boiling Water Temperature
White and green teas have delicate leaves, and therefore require below boiling water temperatures between 170 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Too high of a temperature will cook the leaves and ruin their delicate flavors.
Medium Boil Temperature
Oolong teas should be brewed at temperatures between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
Full Boil Temperatures
Black and Herbal teas brew best at a full boil temperatures 208 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit."
Coffee, and it's endless jitters willl soothingly become a very distant memory!