November 5th is the perfect time to talk about our Pinhead Gunpowder.  For me, this tea conjures up images of Guy Fawkes, a very celebrated and notorious fellow in Great Britain.  Born in Yorkshire, I am sure you have seen the mask below on Halloween or in the “V for Vendetta” movies or comic books, but do you know what Guy Fawkes was notorious for besides drinking Yorkshire tea?

Guy Fawkes

“Remember, remember the Fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”

In 1605 a group of conspirators including Guy Fawkes attempted to destroy the House of Parliament by filling the cellar with explosives.  Known as the “Gunpowder Plot”, the conspirators wanted a Catholic King rather than the protestant King James I.  The plan did not work and Guy Fawkes was captured, hung, drawn and quartered for his part in the plot, but his name lives on.  Guy Fawkes Night is a festival in Britain remembering the Gunpowder Plot and the King’s survival.

Every year on 5 November Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated with open air fires or bonfires in towns across England.  Dummies, or “guys” are burnt atop the fires.  A great tradition we children anticipated with excitement was making the “guy” dummies a few days before the 5th. We carried the dummies around the village shouting “penny for the guy.”  The quality of our ‘guy’ was determined by the number of pennies we collected.

Today, the Guy Fawkes mask is worn by protesters to demonstrate their commitment to a shared cause against the establishment as was the intent of Mr. Fawkes.

Pinhead Gunpowder

And so to our pinhead gunpowder, a classic green tea from Zhejiang province in China, made from leaves rolled into small pellets which look like actual gunpowder.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people visiting the Carriagehouse Tea Room at Selby Gardens comment on this fascinating tea.  The tiny pellets transform, unfurling into graceful, dancing leaves.  If you have a glass teapot, enjoy the performance.

Gunpowder green tea is harvested in the month of April, as this is the absolute best time of year for quality leaves.  The leaves are withered to reduce moisture content making them more pliable, then steamed, rolled and dried.  Although the individual leaves were formerly rolled by hand, today most gunpowder tea is rolled by machines, though the highest grades are still rolled by hand.   This rolling process also renders the leaves less susceptible to any breakage and allows them to retain more of their flavor and aroma. You can determine the freshness of gunpowder green tea by the sheen of the pellets.  And the smaller the better, as size is associated with quality, hence the name pinhead.

Our Pinhead Gunpowder green tea brews darker than most green teas with a rich flavor and a slight smokey finish.  I have enjoyed Pinhead staright up, infusing multiple times but it can be brewed very succesfully with both ginger or mint and used as an iced tea.

I hope you enjoyed the gunpowder plot and please do enjoy many infusions of this classic tea.

Cheers,

the TeaLady

Advertisements

In 18th century England Tea was an expensive commodity, heavily taxed and a luxury for the rich. At that time coffehouses were popular meeting places for social interaction where news and views were exchanged, though women were banned!  Because of escalating drunkenness of the working classes (gin and ale being their drinking options) it was decided to start serving tea to ‘persons of inferior rank’. Many new cafes and coffee houses opened as alternatives to pubs and inns leading to the Temperance movement.

The Preston Temperance Society of 1823 was started in the north of England by Joseph Livesey to promote abstinence from alcoholic beverages.  The movement quickly spread throughout England and to the States. In the village where I was raised in Yorkshire, there was a  hotel called the Temperance Hotel.  The picture above depicts Christian women in the New York promoting the movement .

It is not clear where the term ‘Teetotaler” originated and why someone who never drinks alcohol is referred to as such, but it has nothing to do with tea.  However, the movement laid the foundation to something that would change the world.

In 1864 the Aerated Bread Company opened what would become known as the ABC Teashop. The manageress of this London based company had been serving tea and snacks gratis to customers of all classes, and received permission to open a commercial tea room on the premises.  This created a place where women of the Victorian era could take a meal ‘unescorted’ without sullying her reputation!

Soon other companies followed and from the 1880’s onwards, fine hotels began to offer tea service. Going out to tea became a fashion reaching its heyday in the Edwardian era (1901-1914).  By 1913, tea was an elaborate and stylish affair served in palm courts with string quartets playing, leading to the even more fashionable tea dances.  How I would have loved to have been part of the era!

Changes in social patterns and lifestyle came about and fashions change.  Cocktails once again became popular, though tea continued as the choice of drink at home and the workplace.

Thankfully there is a new surge of interest in tea drinking and going out for tea.  I have enjoyed some recent outings myself as you can see in previous posts.  Tea dances are enjoying a revival and tea parties are becoming a popular option to celebrate weddings, family events and gatherings as our sister company, Local Catering offers.

Whether you are a Teetotaler or totally into to tea, please join Local Coffee + Tea in this fascinating journey of TEA through the centuries.  Maybe the best is yet to come!

Cheers, the TeaLady


George Orwell taking time for tea

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little
stronger with each year that passes”.

We answer a lot of tea questions at Local Coffee + Tea, and the most popular inquiry is about what makes for a good cup of tea?  This tea quote is taken from an essay published in the Evening Standard in 1946 by the English author George Orwell.  He directed his keen wit and passion for clarity in language to the topic of the perfect cup of tea.

Orwell identified 11 points which he regarded as ‘golden’ and whilst I risk an overly lengthy post, it would not seem right to leave any one of them out when each is so witty and so relevant to the last detail, though I have risked a touch of editing.  Enjoy…

  • First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea.  China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it.  One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it.  Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’, invariably means Indian tea.
  • Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware.
  • Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
  • Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones.  All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
  • Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot.  No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful.  Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.
  • Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about.  The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours.  Some people add that one should only use water
    that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.
  • Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
  • Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type.  The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.
  • Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
  • Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain
    there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable.  This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
  • Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar.  I know very well that I am in a minority here.  But still, how can you call yourself a true tea lover if you destroy the flavor of your tea by putting sugar in it?  It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt.  Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter.  If you sweeten
    it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.  Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away.  To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

(The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell)

Cheers, the TeaLady

When the world is at odds,

And the mind is at sea,

Then cease the useless tedium,

And brew a cup of tea.

_

There is magic in it’s fragrance,

There is solace in it’s taste;

And the laden moments vanish,

Somehow into space.

_

And the world becomes a lovely thing!

There’s beauty as you see;

All because you briefly stopped,

To brew a cup of tea.

                                              -Author unknown

No need to add any further sentiments to this ode. The words so sweetly sum up the importance of taking time for tea!

Cheers,

the TeaLady

Grahame and I have just come back from England and drinking lots of TEA was certainly on the agenda, in part due to the inclement weather we had for the whole 2 weeks! So it was ‘Oh well let’s go have another cuppa’.

Our first tea outing was planned ahead and it was actually a sunny afternoon when we arrived in the city of ELY.(SE England)  Laura had reserved a table at Peacocks Tea Room and it was just delightful.  The afternoon tea was excellent, consisting of 3 different sandwiches, scones with your choice of jam, followed by a cake of your choice.  I managed to eat the sandwiches and scone but had to take my cake home, there was simply too much to finish.  This was all washed down with copious amounts of tea (we all chose different ones!) served in individual teapots.

During afternoon tea (an earlier post explains the difference between high tea) we had a debate about the best way to eat scones.  If you were following correct etiquette then you would place your clotted cream and jam on the side of your plate, select your scone, slice in half and break into a bite sized piece.  One would then apply cream and jam (or lemon curd from a blog post from the Spring) as each piece was eaten, taking sips of tea in between.

However, I am not talking correct etiquette here.  In Yorkshire (a post bit about my hometown Harrogate) we don’t mess about with bite sized pieces!  Our debate was ‘Do you put jam on first before cream or cream on first before jam’.

I have always put jam on first and never really thought about changing the habit of a lifetime of scone eating, but it totally changed the taste experience and I loved it.  Grahame really enjoyed too!  Let us know which way you like your scone.  Please post on our Facebook page.

Thanks to Laura for finding this gem of a tearoom and thanks to Peacocks for the delicious afternoon tea.

How do you like your scones? Jam or cream 1st?

This holiday was our second of the summer, we visited northern Michigan in the Spring and here is a link to my earlier post.

Cheers,

the TeaLady

Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is a small tree native to the subtropical Atlantic forests of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. This evergreen member of the holly family was introduced to modern civilizations by the indigenous Guarani of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.  An infusion, brewed from the dried leaves and stems of the tree, is consumed by millions of South Americans as a healthful alternative to coffee.

What does the tea taste like?  Well yerba mate lives up to its name ‘cup herb’, it is very herby or vegetal/grassy but can be very agreeable if made correctly!  Water must NOT be boiling as this can cause bitterness.  Steaming hot is quite sufficient.  This is what Michael drinks most Saturday mornings at the Local Tea Company tent at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market.

Yerba Mate Tree

The traditional way to drink the infusion is from a hollowed out gourd through a straw called a ‘bombilla’.  The ritual is a common social practice shared with friends and carries a set of rules too.  Usually one person, the host will prepare and refill the drink. The gourd is passed around often in a clockwise circle and re brewed many times. You will say ‘gracias’ and return the gourd to your host only when you have had sufficient! I talk to many visitors who have enjoyed this experience when traveling in South America.

Yerba Mate in Gourd with Bombilla

I am a fan of our Roasted Mate.  As the name suggests when preparing the herb it is toasted as part of the drying process, imparting a slight roasted taste.  The leaf is dark and tastes almost coffee-like, and is a good choice if you are trying to ‘kick’ the coffee habit!

Michael prefers our Sweet Orange Mate which is a blend of green and roasted mate along with some citrus and licorice which tends to soften the ‘herbieness’ a little. Either way, you will receive a surge of energy and mental clarity which really gets you on the right track and sets you up for the day!

Like most teas, Yerba Mate is surrounded by legends.  First discovered centuries ago by the indigenous people in South America, Yerba Mate has become revered as the ‘drink of the gods’ because people survived drought and famine drinking this tea.  It is said to enhance health, vitality, and longevity and is now becoming an alternative to coffee in many other areas of the world too. With 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, high antioxidant levels and naturally occurring caffeine, yerba mate is a very well balanced stimulant!

Mate has some amazing qualities which make it a whole body tonic. The stimulation comes to us via 3 components called Xanthine Alkaloids: – Caffeine, Theophylline and Theobromine (found in chocolate!)  This mighty combination along with minerals to support the nervous system and B vitamins to relax the muscles produce a balanced and long lasting physical and mental stimulation!

You may find comments about Yerba Mate having ‘more anti oxidants than green tea’ so lets just say Mate contains ‘abundant anti oxidants’  and is low in tannins, so can be brewed very strong without any bitterness which also makes it easier on the stomach.  Along with a massive burst of energy, Mate will curb your appetite, raise your metabolism and burn calories i.e. loose weight.  Sounds easy if all you have to do is drink Yerba Mate.

As with all teas you can change the experience to suit you.  Brew your favorite way, whether in your favorite tea pot or a Travel Mug or a Tea Maker or a T sac.  Give it a try and let us know what you experience. Gracias.

Cheers,

the TeaLady

Whenever we sample Selby Select at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market it is a good day.  Selby Select is our best selling tea and was created to celebrate Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.  Orange peel and trace yogurt blended with rooibos, Selby Select is a bit of sunshine in your cup.  Caffeine free sunshine!

We also sampled iced Earl Grey and a green tea from Kenya, Kosabei Plantation FAIR TRADE.  We posted Who is Earl Grey? earlier this week and here is a link to a earlier post about rooibos.   This week we will offer $1 off packet of all three teas; Selby Select, Earl Grey and Kosabei Plantation FAIR TRADE green tea for online purchases.  And all orders over $40 ship at no charge.

Picture of the day is Papa Peperonata, Adrian with his son Nico.  See our Facebook page for the entire album.

Papa Peperonata and Nico

We are off next Saturday so see you in September.  Sip Locally.

md