Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fabulous Fabric Rings

I've been making these fabulous fabric rings for gifts (and a few for myself!).  Thanks to the tutorial from V & Company.  I found the ring bases at JoAnn's and used fabric from my stash.  The ring takes only a 1" by 10" strip.  I enjoyed matching the colors of the rings to the personalities of my friends.

My suggestions:  Dedicate the first ring to getting the process figured out, and the rest will be fun and fast!  I also recommend (on the final step) applying pressure to hold the ring base and fabric together so that they have a wide base of adhesion.  

I experimented with different shapes.  The ring below is one of my favorites.  :-) 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I Just Couldn't Help Myself...

A jumper dress for the niece, dress for Kanani (the doll) and skirt for me!  :-)  This fabulous fabric came from my tea friend in Hawaii (some of you know her).  I'm very grateful.  My niece thought it was so cool since Kanani is from Hawaii, too. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

True Riches

May you enjoy true riches:
Love, family and friends, quiet peace
and good tea!


Friday, December 21, 2012

Celebrating Light

You can't have a light without a dark to stick it in. ~Arlo Guthrie

Today is the Winter Solstice, a day that I like to acknowledge.  We've made it through hours of increasing darkness and now the earth and we passengers in the Northern Hemisphere turn toward the light once more.  Light and dark - both important.  It's what we do with those times that matters. 

Keeping it light, I had fun last evening.  I joined a group of fellow revelers to run through a festively lit part of town.  The entire neighborhood of old Tudor houses goes all-out with twinkly lights.

Wishing you a light-filled holiday!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Making Tea in Kimono (A Special Gift)

At my chanoyou tea lesson last week, I was given a very special gift!  My sensei dressed me in one of her kimono and obi so that I could practice walking and making tea in kimono.  The kimono limits movement and adds volume to the sleeves, things that must be attended to when making tea!

The gift continued....she photo-documented the experience for me!  I'm so lucky to have a very generous teacher!  (Learn more about the Issoan Tea School.)  I feel compelled to confess - these photos make me look like I know what I'm doing!  ;-)  I'm still very much a beginner, needing to be coached through the process and clumsy in my ways.  However, with each lesson I grow in my knowledge, precision and confidence. 

Many of you have expressed an interest in what a Japanese Tea Ceremony looks here is a summary view from the perspective of the host making tea.  I'm sharing this wonderful gift with you.  Enjoy!

We begin with a bow and a greeting.  The host then stands and enters the room. 

Next the host carries in the utensils and places them in precise locations. 
The number of trips required varies depending on the procedure being used.  (A key learning for me along this journey - there are hundreds of tea procedures, not just one way!)

The host settles and takes a moment to gather composure, then removes the fukusa (silk cloth) from the obi (the wide belt).  The fukusa is folded in several special ways for purification of utensils.  I like this photo because it shows the sitting position (on knees/heels).

The color of the fukusa for women is typically red or orange, yang (male) colors to balance the feminine energy.  Correspondingly, men use deep purple, a yin (female) color.

I've just had an ah-ha.  The folding of the fukusa is becoming comfortable to me...that is something that at one point I never thought I'd master.  Progress!

Purifying the utensils is an important aspect of the procedure.  This is a symbolic act, as all utensils are clean when brought into the tea room.
Next the host opens the lid to the kettle.  Notice the length of the kimono sleeve.

And then the host pours hot water into the tea bowl.  Then she/he inspects the whisk and brushes the tines through the warm water.  This warms the tea bowl and the bamboo whisk.

Now the host pours off the excess water.  This step is one of the reasons my sensei wanted me to practice in kimono.  I have to be very careful not to drag my sleeve through the water basin.

The host uses a linen cloth to purify the outside and inside of the tea bowl. 

Now make tea!  The host adds two scoops of matcha, along with half a ladle of hot water.  The matcha is whisked briskly until the powder is well incorporated into the tea and a beautiful, silvery-green foam appears on top.

Now the host rotates the bowl so that the front is facing the guest, and places it next to the kettle for the guest to retrieve.

Finishing the ceremony:  The guest will have already enjoyed a sweet (very important to balance the flavor of the matcha!).  S/he will move forward and collect the tea bowl, acknowledge the host for making it and lift in silent thanks.  The guest then turns the front away (out of respect) and enjoys a delicous bowl of matcha!  The guest returns the bowl and the host prepares bowls for others.  Once everyone has been served, the host will tidy up and remove the utensils, and the ceremony finishes with a silent bow.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Joy in Small Things

Joy comes in simple things, like chocolate chip pancakes

It's not the holiday hoopla that I long for this season.  It's the muffled quiet of a new snowfall, the full moon in December, watching Christmas specials on TV with my Mom, a cup of hot chocolate, hearing my niece's voice, the DH's (dear hubby's) laugh.

What simple things do you long for?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Stash Tea's New Tea Bar in Portland

New Stash Tea store in Portland

Along a pretty tree-lined street in Portland OR,  Stash Tea has opened a tea bar and retail store.  This is the second retail store for the company and the first tea bar.  The neighborhood, Mississippi Avenue, is known for its independent and artsy shops and I very much enjoy visiting.  The Stash Tea Bar is a nice addition.

You probably know of Stash from is colorful teabags.  Until recently, I didn't realize that the company also sells loose-leaf teas.  When you walk into the store, you're greeted on the right by canister after canister of the loose leaf, and on the left by floor-to-ceiling shelves with teas ready for purchase.  You can also find a nice selection of tea pots and other implements.  I was particularly fond of little ceramic storage jars, and the price was very reasonable.  If you prefer bagged teas, you can find those, too.

Thanks to Stash Tea for this photo

Thanks to Stash Tea for this photo

While you're at it, sample one of the teas on display and contemplate a tea latte or other beverage at the tea bar.  The friendly staff will be happy to tell you about Stash's history and the architecture of the retail space.

The open and bright space is pleasant.  Grab a seat by the window to enjoy your tea beverage as you watch the hip shoppers pass by on the street.

Stash Retail Store and Tea Bar
3972 N Mississippi Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97227
Sunday-Saturday: 10 AM - 6 PM

This picture is just so, so Portland with the cyclist and the pretty trees!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gifts for Herbal Tea Lovers

Many of you have enjoyed my series on herbal infusions (mostly from the garden).  I thought I'd wrap up the year by pointing to a couple of vendor sources.

Bird's Eye Tea recently sent me a box of samples to review.  I'm always eager to support a small business, and this one is in my neck of the woods.  One of my favorite things about these samples was the hand labeling.  In the picture above and below, I'm drinking the Honeybush Spice.  It's a delicious and sweet cup, though no sweetener is added.  The sweetness comes from the honeybush itself, and balances well with the other warming spices.  I've also tasted the Xocotal which is unlike any hot chocolate I've ever had!  It's made of raw cacao, rose petals, chamomile, spearmint, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, chipotle powder and roasted cacao nibs.  Per the instructions, I steeped it, added some warm milk and then a bit of sweetener.  (I used just a touch of agave.)  It was really good!  Bird's Eye Tea offers these two herbal blends along with others as a tea-of-the-month arrangement.  See the website for more details.  I'm sending best wishes to this small, woman-run business.

Two Leaves Tea Company also recently sent me a sachet sampler packIt came with 18 tea sachets, samples from the entire line.  About half of these sachets are herbal teas, and I've been enjoying them in the evening.  This would make a nice gift for someone who appreciates herbal teas or is beginning to expand his/her knowledge of of  teas.  It's priced right at $14.95

Got any perfect herbal tea gifts to recommend?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Gong Fu Brewing in a Bowl

Question from reader:  "I'm a newbie.  I have a little clay teapot, but nothing else.  Can I still brew in Gong Fu style?" 

Steph's thoughts:  Yes!  For me, the spirit of tea is about humbleness and simplicity.  I love all the special tools and pretty accessories that surround tea brewing, but they are collections.  Making a good pot of tea requires very little.  In truth, sometimes the other stuff gets in the way.  

Gong Fu brewing can be done very simply.  In the picture above, I've taken a bowl from the cupboard.  Into that I've placed a small glass container to use as a rest for the the teapot.  (This is not necessary.  I did this because my bowl is very deep.)  Simple Gong Fu brewing in five steps:

  1. Warm.  Fill the teapot with hot water.  Put on the lid and then pour water over the pot.  The bowl catches the runoff.  Also warm your teacups and, if using, your serving vessel. 
  2. Add tea.  Pour off the hot water from the teapot and add your tea.  Put on the lid, wiggle in your hands, then lift the lid and enjoy the aroma.
  3. Rinse.  Now add hot water.  Many people prefer a quick rinse of the leaf, so after a very few seconds, pour this off.  (You could use this rinse water to warm your teacups if you haven't yet.)
  4. Brew.  Pour more hot water over your leaves.  This is your first brew, and it will be very short because in Gong Fu brewing, you use a high ratio of dry leaf to water.  Between 30 seconds and 1 minute, typically, depending on your tea.  While the tea is steeping, pour off the water in your teacups and serving vessel.
  5. Serve.  If desired, decant the tea into the serving vessel.  Pour into the cups.  Enjoy and repeat for several brews!
Here's the actual setup I used with a friend.  I have an extra bowl (also from the cupboard) because we went through several pots and I needed the extra waste water capacity.  The remaining items are fun and beautiful additions.  They aren't necessary to brew the tea well.  The utensils in the upper right include tongs for handling the teacups, a scoop for the tea, etc.  On the right is a little serving pitcher.  A creamer works just fine.  The brush can be used to sweep the dry leaf into the pot and to bathe the clay teapot with hot water as you brew.  

The key message: Making tea is a humble pursuit and requires very little.  All the extra stuff is for fun, but not necessary. Does this ring true for you?  Or, how does tea foster simplicity in your life?    

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Date Night at Uwajimaya

The DH (dear hubby) and I visited Uwajimaya's last weekend and we shared a fun two hours wandering the aisles, marveling at the unique and interesting items.  We were also goofing around, as you will see.  Uwajimaya is a large Asian grocery store, with its core being Japanese.  Visiting here is like taking a mini trip to Asia without getting on a plane.  Below are some photos of our adventure.  Of course, I had my eye on tea items.

Greeting us at the door, "Ready to Drink" oolong tea

The most exciting moment - finding A Tea Reader in the book section!
(I have an essay in this anthology.)

Lots and lots of tea choices (including Pu-Erh cakes) and these bubble tea supplies

The DH locked me up in these Chinese finger cuffs
And red bean ice cream!  I would have previously been suspicious, but after having so many delicious sweets in my Japanese Tea Ceremony classes based on red beans, I think this ice cream would be great.

Do you have an Asian grocer near you?  What do you find interesting or like to buy?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Meatless Monday 16: The Tofurkey Report

Tofurkey with mushroom gravy

In case you're curious, the Tofurkey at Thanksgiving was much better than expected.  In taste and texture, it was surprisingly passable.  It's not shaped like a turkey.  It comes as a loaf with a delicious wild rice stuffing in the center.  Ironically, it's local too!  Tofurkey is made just up the road in Hood River, OR.

Decent though it was, one slice was enough for me.  The rest was enjoyed by the DH throughout the week.  He insists that it was even better cold, straight from the fridge.  A fun experiment, but I still prefer the sides.

I comprised the pretty centerpiece below from cuttings made during a walk earlier that day.  Crabapples, rose hips, black eyed Susans, daisies, snow berries?  (I'm not sure what the white ones are) and evergreens.  It will be interesting to see what's available at Christmas, just one month later.

Have you tried Tofurkey?  OR...what's available outside right now for you to use in an arrangement?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Local Tea Happenings

A few local tea things of note:

Seattle Holiday Tea Fundraiser  Saturday, December 8th.  Wish I could go!  This will be a terrific event with tastings from Floating Leaves, McIntosh Tea, Miro Tea, Phoenix Tea, Tea Geek and more!

Stash Tea Opens its first Tea Bar: Most of us think of Stash only as tea bags, but I've heard that the store offers a selection of loose teas, too.  I'll check it out and report back.  I'm noting the trend of mainstream tea companies opening tea bars...Starbucks, Stash...who's next?

Wu-Wo Tea CeremonyOffering classes in the new year!  Interested?  Let the Wu-Wo group know.

Happy Holiday season!  I call the (herbal) tea below "Christmas Tree Tea" because the little stalks of thyme look like trees to me.

Christmas Tree Tea

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Safe Internet Behavior

Dear Friends - This is a Public Service Announcement for safe Internet behavior.  I work in high tech and my company does a good job of teaching us to use the Internet safely.  I want to pass along some best practices.

#1 - Don't shop or check your bank statements while using public wifi (e.g., from Starbuck's or the library).  Save the online shopping for when you are connected to a private network.  And make sure that your home wifi is password protected!

#2 - Only enter your personal information and credit card info at websites that start with https:// That "s" on the end of the string stands for "secure" and is really important.

#3 - Beware of holiday spam.  Unfortunately, many e-greetings come with hidden malware.  Watch out for spoofs (see #4) and avoid email pleas for donations (see #5).  I sound a little like the Grinch here - but please use caution with those "forward" e-mails that direct you to click on a link. While you may be taken to a funny video, you may also be downloading malware.  I don't click any link from a funny/forward email unless I personally know the original source of the website (and that's rare).

#4 - Never, ever, ever click a link that looks suspicious.  For example, you may receive an email out of the blue that looks like it's from a friend, but says only, "Check this out!" and points you to a link.  STOP!!  Don't click that link.  Instead, send a fresh (not a reply) email to your friend and ask if she intended to send you a link. 

#5 - When donating money, go straight to the charity's website (e.g., rather than clicking on links in an email or website sidebar. 

#6 - Don't tell the world or all of your Facebook friends that you're going to be out of town.  It's great to wax poetic after you've returned, but don't advertise in advance.

#7 - Check your social media privacy settings.  I've noticed that Facebook changes things a lot and I'm regularly needing to re-set my privacy settings to more stringent choices.  Make this a regular habit. 

#8 - Keep your virus protection software up to date.

#9 - Regularly check for spyware.  (I like the Spybot product and it's free.)

#10 - Accept Facebook Friend invitations with caution.  I only accept friends from people I know well, and I only do this from within Facebook itself after I've logged in with my password.  I do not accept them from email (see #4).  Facebook emails can be spoofed, so it's best to do your business within the application.

Got any other tips to share?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The New Year of Tea and Robiraki

I've recently learned that November is the month for new tea in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.  The spring-picked teas are stored in jars like this one and allowed to rest until November, when the seal is broken and the fresh tea is ground into matcha (as needed).  Look at the beauty of the knots that tie the jar.  Each side is unique.  In November, we drink the year's freshest tea! A definite cause for a special tea ceremony.

In parallel, November is when the tea room is reconfigured and the sunken hearth becomes the center, literally and figuratively.  (In the warmer months, we use a different type of brazier.)  The ceremony that celebrates the opening of the hearth and the year's new tea is called Robiraki.  I had the privilege of attending my tea school's Robiraki celebration recently and it was wonderful!

My attempt to describe this doesn't give the full picture. I'm writing a detailed account for my mother, and it's up to four pages already.  I'll try to be brief here.  :-)  In short, this was my first "full" tea ceremony experience which means that it included a meal, thick tea and thin tea.  The event was almost three hours.  Thank goodness I had been practicing sitting on my knees! 

The guests gathered in the waiting area and enjoyed hot water scented with puffed rice, served in beautiful sand colored cups with sky blue interiors.  When it was time, our first guest (our guide for the event) led us into the tea room.  We entered in a kneeling position, then stood and walked to appreciate the the scroll and the utensils.  Having settled ourselves in our places on the tatami mats, our host (Margie-sensei) entered the room and greeted each of us with a personal welcome.  

Next she served us a wonderful meal of seasonally-appropriate foods, including a soup with vegetables, mushrooms and lily flowers; rice pressed into beautiful shapes; a pillow of spinach served on a shiso leaf with grilled eggplant and drizzled in hoisin sauce; roasted chestnuts and kelp; a Japanese root vegetable and pickled fuyu persimmon.  We sipped a delicious sake, served cold in a very flat bowl (like a saucer).  Once we finished, we dropped our chopsticks in unison to signal to the host. After the dishes had been removed, we were treated to a very special and traditional sweet called zenzai, adzuki beans in a sweet, syrupy soup.  Delicious! 

We exited the tea room to stretch our legs while our host prepared for the central part of the experience, making the thick tea (koicha).  This is the most formal time of the event.  Upon hearing the singing bowl, we returned to the tea room.  A lovely incense aroma greeted us.  Margie-sensei entered with the tea-making implements.  She purified the items, this being for the symbolic purpose of preparing our hearts and minds as everything came into the tea room already cleaned.  She carefully warmed the tea bowl and whisk and then added the correct amount of matcha powder.  Since this is November, we drank fresh tea of a superior grade for koicha. She added hot water and kneaded the tea ~100 strokes until it became shiny and the right consistency.  She placed the bowl to her right, at the side of the hearth, and that is the signal the tea is ready. 

The first guest retrieved the bowl.  She excused herself for drinking before me, then thanked the host for preparing the tea.  After lifting the bowl in gratitude, she enjoyed her first sip.  She took about three sips then wiped the tea bowl where she has drank.  She passed the bowl to me and I repeated the process, then passing to the final guest.  The lingering sweetness from the zenzai mingled with the subtle bitterness of the tea in a way that was most pleasing. When the last guest finished, he returned the bowl to the first guest and in order, we each had a chance to admire the bowl.  Koicha is typically served in a black raku tea bowl and the verdant green against the black was striking. 

Margie-sensei then tidied up the utensils and closed this portion of the ceremony by removing the implements.  We took another stretch break while she prepared for thin tea, usucha.  (This is the portion of the tea ceremony that I am currently learning, and there are many variations.  I will be studying this for some time!)  She returned to the room with another type of sweet, senbei.  It's a lightly sweetened and flaky rice cracker.  She also brought in a new tea bowl, this one in shino style, and other tea-making tools.  She purified things once again and invited the first guest to enjoy her sweet.  With thin tea, each guest is made her/his own bowl of tea.  After the first guest enjoyed her sweet and tea, it was my turn.  The senbei was delicious and light, and again its flavors complement the usucha.  Usucha is made with less matcha powder than koicha.  In the style that I am studying (Urasenke),  it is whipped until a wonderful froth forms on top.  After I finished the tea, I looked at the bowl in detail and appreciated its beauty.  Once we have each enjoyed our bowl of tea, Margie-sensi closed the ceremony. 

It was an honor to participate in this tea ceremony.  Margie-sensei has given so much of her life to studying the way of tea.  I am drawn to this experience for the ritual of things.  After this experience, I find myself deeply soothed and centered, and quietly joyful. Making and drinking a bowl of tea can be transforming. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Meal of Thanksgiving

Thought I'd take a walk down memory lane with a meal of thanksgiving from a little over a year ago...

It was the last day of our China/India Tea Tour and we were visiting with Mr. Rajiv Lochan, of Lochan Tea, in Siliguri, India.  His family had prepared this delicious sendoff feast for us to enjoy in their home.  To have such a special home-cooked meal was deeply touching. 

I'll write more about the Lochan family tea business soon, but for now I want to focus on this meal.  My heart was full of thanks for the past several weeks of touring throughout China, Tibet and India.  I felt so honored to be invited into Mr. Lochan's home and to share this meal with his family.  It was especially touching to meet his children, his wife and his mother. 

The food was exceptional!  Our feast included two types of raita (cucumber/onion and pineapple), lentils, paneer cheese in a delicous sauce, peas and potatoes, beautiful rice, mint chutney and puri, a traditional fried puff bread.  We also enjoyed traditional Indian sweets - oh, my so good!  The orange cups above had a cookie center, covered with finely chopped and candied orange peel.  Wow!  And a milk sweet, which is milk that has been cooked down very slowly and becomes a wonderful texture.  
Rajiv Lochan in his office

As we were leaving, I placed my hands in the prayer-at-heart position and said "namaste" to Mr. Lochan's mother.  She offered the same parting wish to me and patted me on the arm.  It was like a blessing. This moment is with me still!

Today I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have taken this trip, the means to do so, and the  positive influence that tea has in my life.  I am thankful for the friends I made along the journey.

I give thanks to all my friends who share their kindness so generously.  I offer up thanks for my family that wants only the best for me.  And I am especially grateful for my wonderful DH (dear hubby).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Persimmon Hearts

If you need a last-minute, easy and yummy Thanksgiving treat, try these persimmon pastry hearts!  I made up this super-simple recipe, and I look forward to having it again soon.

Fuyu persimmons are new to me.  I grew up in the Midwest with the native persimmon, smaller and only edible when mushy.  When I discovered that fuyu persimmons could be eaten like an apple, I was doubtful...until I took my first bite.  They are yummy raw, but also cooked!  I even had pickled ones recently that were heavenly.
The photo above is from the Asia Tea Tour in 2011.  We visited a street market and these fuyu persimmons were colorful and abundant. (See more pictures of the Beijing street market.)

I had never seen them in the US in a store until I moved to the Pacific Northwest.  Are they now being carried back home in the Midwest or other places?

The recipe is simple...

The filling
* Peel and chop a fuyu persimmon into very small pieces
* Splash on a little lemon juice (just enough to wet)
* Sprinkle on 1-2 tsp of sugar, depending on your preference (it doesn't take much, the fruit is quite sweet)
* Sprinkle on a bit of your favorite spices (I used a sprinkling of cloves)
* Stir and let sit for a few minutes; the mix will get a little juicier

The pastry
* Either make or buy pie crust pastry (vegan versions work well for this!)
* Roll out the pastry to pie-pan size, and fold over to make a double layer (or place two sheets together)
* Cut out heart shapes (you want two layers)
* Open the layers and add a the filling, taking it near the edge
* Press the layers together

The baking
* Bake for ~15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is done and turning golden
* Once or twice during the baking, use a brush to bathe the crust with any juice that escapes (this helps with making it golden, especially for vegan pastry)
* When done, remove from oven and allow the hearts to cool until they can be handled with the fingers
* FYI - I made mine in the toaster oven; it's a fast treat for two

Monday, November 19, 2012

Honored to be Featured - Teaist Blog

Happy Monday!  I've been featured on the Teaist's blog in an interview.  Check it out!  I'm very honored. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Starbucks Buys Teavana: $620 Million

Wow -

I confess, I'm a skeptic.  There are at least two major camps of thought in the tea world right now.  Camp one:  Baaaaaaad  news.  Doom and gloom.  Camp Two:  Cautiously optimistic that this will help grow tea's popularity overall.

I see the logic in both of those viewpoints and I waffle betwen them freely.  I'll hope for the best.
What do you think?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Two Vegan Tea Party Sandwiches

Here are two very simple recipes from the after work tea party earlier in the week.  Let me know if you try them!  I'd love your feedback.

I needed things that could be made ahead.  I also wanted one sandwich that had a bit of sweetness and one that was more savory.  And they're both vegan, which is something you're going to see me write more about.  I'm not trying to be preachy, as I'm not strictly vegan or even vegetarian (mostly so inside our home).  Rather, I find this a fun challenge, and a healthy one too!  So here we go...

Chow Chow with Cream Cheese
Marmalady shared a jar of her famous chow chow with the me.  It's yummy!  Sweet with a bit of tartness, colorful and just perfect for a tea sandwich.

To prepare, I spread vegan cream cheese on both sides of hearty bread (with crusts removed).  It's easy to find vegan breads in the grocery store.  Just watch out for whey and honey, among the other obvious items.  Then I spread on the chow chow, taking it right up to the edge so that the color would peek through.  I cut into triangles and devoured an entire sandwich on the spot.  Delicious! 

Honestly, I'm surprised how well the vegan cream cheese works.

Mushroom on Toast

This one is sure to please even the most carnivorous of your friends.  Sautee half an onion and one crushed clove of garlic.  Add a pan full of diced mushrooms.  Sautee until the mushrooms release their juices and then reabsorb it (some liquid also evaporates).  Season with just a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper.  Shape your bread as desired and toast it.  Spoon on the mushroom mixture and enjoy several helpings.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An After-Work Tea Party

A friend and I enjoyed a tea party last evening after work. We've both got full schedules and wanted some dedicated time to catch up. Tea is the best way for that, I think!

We kept things streamlined and I think it turned out beautifully.  Notice the clean, unfussy display.  I love it!
We started with two finger sandwiches:  Mushrooms on toast and chow chow with cream cheese (recipes).  We enjoyed a delicious Summer 2012 “Mi Xiang” oolong tea from Global Tea Hut, sent by a generous friend in Taiwan. 
Next we enjoyed pumpkin scones with mock Devonshire cream and the DH's homemade red plum jam.  We drank a Yunnan Gold tea, courtesy of a sample provided by Jing Tea We experimented with the best way to brew this and agreed that it needs a light steeping (don't overdo it!).

The finishing touch was a fuyu persimmon heart.  I made this recipe up and was quite pleased with the result.  Lightly sweet with a pretty orange center.

And by the way, all recipes were vegan with the exception of the pastry crust.  And they were soooo yummy, even though I was the cook.  ;-)