Friday, July 22, 2016

Fiber Artist with a Tea Heart

I am very excited today to share with you tea artwork made by my friend Karen. I know Karen from our local Wu-Wo tea group. Her fabric art is full of color, texture, depth (literal and figurative), and heart. Karen customized these three pieces, and I'm so happy with the results! Keep reading to see the inspiration behind them. 

Karen, the artist

This is the first piece made. Karen invested a lot of time reading through this blog and finding visual cues to my tea life. She glowed like a child with a happy secret when she unveiled the piece.  Did I recognize it?  Slowly, awareness dawned. Yes - I knew this!  Study it for yourself, and then look carefully at the header on this blog.  This artwork is modeled after that exquisite tea leaf set. I was really taken with the attention to detail and the color variation that mirrors the photo. This artwork represents my passion for tea.

This second piece was done after my completion of a women's leadership program, where I learned to lead writing circles (and much more!). Karen designed the colors to pair well with the color of my living room walls. This artwork represents the sacred feminine and my my personal growth. 

The third objet d'art is absolutely inspired.  I knew the general idea, and yet I was completely blown away when Karen presented this to me.  She re-created a photo from my experience in Rwanda.  Go here to see the photo inspiration.  The white on white is so accurate - she even captures the bubbles in the tea! The fabric in the lower left is a souvenir I brought home from Rwanda.  This artwork is all heart. 

Finally, I want to share the three-dimensional aspect of this artwork. I love that the frames are painted and become part of the piece. It's like the art is reaching out to engage with me.

Find more information on Karen's fiber art here.  If you would like an introduction, let me know and I'll connect you!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

World Tea Expo: New Product Showcase and Regional Events

I've been in Vegas for a day-job conference, and it happened to coincide with World Tea Expo! Lucky me! I was able to pop in to the Expo Hall for a (much too short) lunch break.  Here are some of the things I found in the New Product Showcase area.

Meet Erica and her team. Erica has begun a lifestyle and accessory line based on tea. She wants to promote the positive aspects of a tea and a healthy lifestyle. I love the idea and wish her much success! (going live later this week). 

This is Thao.  She has developed a line of certified organic tea blends. Her blends are scented and flavored with natural oils and dried fruits, no sweeteners. She's a CPA by educational background and wanted to open a business aligned with her passions of health and being aware of what we consume. I loved chatting with Thao about labeling laws and the importance of transparency for consumers.

Now meet Suil. He is bringing to market powdered Japanese teas (organic), including teas beyond the traditional. There's matcha, of course, but also powdered sencha, genmaicha and hojicha. He brought these teas to market because, despite the popularity of matcha, he couldn't find what he knew as good matcha tea in New York. The combination of his English and Japanese allows him to work directly with tea farms. I enjoyed the powdered hojicha quite a lot. Suil and I discussed the froth-potential of the powdered teas. He felt that matcha was the only one that frothed as it should for a traditionally-whipped bowl. To make the others, he shakes them in a pitcher and that suspends the particles in the water.

At the booth below, I sampled instant teas that dissolve in cool water. While I don't think this product is for me (I'm all about interacting with the leaf), I think that this product has a market. I sampled the pu-erh tea crystals. They also carried rose, white, green and black tea crystals.

This booth also displayed a cool tea canister.  Inside were tea sachets.

And finally, perhaps the most interesting business concept I encountered was that of a tea curator.  I met Izaak and his colleague in the registration line.  They both live in a small town in Wyoming. Izaak curates tea for folks who are interested in drinking the good stuff. Along with high quality teas, he brings tea education to his clients who don't have a local source of good teas.

There were many other interesting new products, and I didn't have time to see them all but you can see the full list here

Also, a word about the World Tea Expo: It's an industry conference for trade professionals and press. It's not open to the public. Most of the vendors are building relationships and hoping to land new contracts. Read more about the attendance policy here. This is an important conference for the business of tea.  For those of us interested in tea conferences that are open to the public, there are a number of regional ones that are quite excellent.  See this list.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Cooling the Water

It's HOT here in the Pacific Northwest.  We've had temps hovering around 100 degrees for three days. That's intense - especially for June and for a region where a fair number of folks don't have air conditioning. 

In these hot temps, I still drink hot tea. I choose teas that do best with cooler waters, often greens and especially Japanese greens, like sencha (ironically, in the photo above, I'm not drinking a Japanese green).

There are several ways to cool the water: Take it off the heat before it reaches a boil, let it sit off the boil before using, or - as shown above - use a cooling pitcher. The cooling pitcher (yuzamashi) is a common feature in sencha sets (also in Korean tea sets).

I'm not using a thermometer, so I'm guessing at the temperature.  I sense that it's cooled to around 160 degrees.  After pouring the cooled water into the pitcher, I generally pour off at about 30 seconds, adjusting on the second brewing, as appropriate (usually a wee bit longer).

I confess: I've brewed some senchas really poorly, and more times than I care to admit.  It's always because I've been distracted. This is a tea that requires your full attention.

Below: I'm decanting straight into my teacup, but it's also possible to use the water cooling pitcher as a serving vessel.  Note that the tea will continue to cool in the wide-mouthed vessel, so at this point (the tea is done brewing), you want to serve quickly.

You don't need anything fancy to cool the water.  You can even use a Pyrex measuring cup.

Experiment and find the right process for making yourself a great cup of green tea with cooler water.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


"That we find a crystal or a poppy beautiful means that we are less alone,
that we are more deeply inserted into existence than the course of a
single life would lead us to believe."

~ John Berger

Thursday, May 05, 2016

A Beautiful Spring Tea

As the weather tips toward summer here, I am reflecting on a special spring tea party that I recently enjoyed. A friend did the hosting, and I am so, so grateful! I know how much detailed planning and work goes into one of these events. When I am invited as a guest, I am so thankful!

My girlfriend has recently begun collecting china, and she has several pieces in this lovely Royal Albert Lavender Rose pattern (made from 1961 - 2009). I know I'm preaching to the choir here - but golly, this stuff is pretty!

The food was wonderful.  Delicate and delicious sandwiches, Guinness scones with Devonshire cream, and fore dessert - macarons and a special orange cake served with creme fraiche. I savored each bite.

Above: Tulips from my garden and the delicious sweets.

Below: The lovely hostess.

And here we are again two weeks later, having another tea, this time oolong, at the Rhododendron Garden. 

It rained as we drank the tea, and then abruptly stopped! Here are two photos, one with rain and one without. 

I love how tea connects me with so many people in so many ways!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Second Look...

First look: What do you see?
Second look: What do you see?

Close your eyes: What do you see?
In your heart: What do you see?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month!  Poems share our hearts in ways that regular language cannot. Poetry and tea - fast friends! 

I'm giving NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) a go - want to join me?  30 poems in 30 days.  They don't have to be good.  They just have to be written - and that IS good!

~Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.