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Archive for the ‘Thoughtful and Provactive Musings’ Category

Full of the sense of possibility, of positive “can do”, and wide eyed perfect smiles, the American dream is captivating, nevertheless, it was proving rather tricky to find a decent cup of tea in the good old USA.

Quite by accident, just when I had given up if truth be told, we found it – Tea and Sympathy, it’s name betraying its purpose – a perfect tea sanctuary. The essence of a British tea room found right in the heart of TriBeCa NY city. If you are a Brit in the US who like me felt the need for a feeling of home, this is the place for you. And if the leaf tea alone does not suffice, proper puddings are included too.

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The heady aroma of Jasmine, fig and olive scent the warm tuscan air. Tall cypress cast their long shadows as I gaze across the landscape. Time is slow in this ancient vista. Why then, dear readers, is not all perfect in Mary Kates’ world? The answer is simple, my dears, and it won’t come as a great shock to those dedicated tea aficionados – it is rather a challenge to find a decent cuppa here. Quite understandably, I will go to extraordinary lengths to have a nice proper cup of tea.

Fear not for my sanity though dear readers, for my tea has travelled with me. I boil bottled water to brew my leaves, after all, the water makes a huge difference to taste, and through ingenious use of a jug – there is a desperate lack of a tea pot – I have managed to create rather a splendid cup of tea. After all, what is a holiday without being able to sip a splendid cuppa.

Tuscany is beautiful – their tea is truly terrible – so I cannot help thinking there is an opportunity here. At this point in time however, when traveling to a country that prides itself on the quality of its’ coffee, Tea with Mary Kates’ advice is to be prepared!

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too adorable - A squadron of Bettys ganache bumble bee's

Too adorable – A squadron of Bettys ganache bumble bee’s

In an attempt to elevate the intellectual tenor of Mary Kate’s quite splendid tea blog, I thought  would broach the subject of a topic raised by Albert Einstein no less – the mysterious disappearance of bees. Einstein discussed his view that we all need to be very worried about the state of our planet if & when our bee populations start to dwindle.Not to mention the shortage of honey for adding to a lovely cup of Lapsang souchong.

Environmentalists have taken up this theme with the fall in bee numbers & quite honestly I do anticipate the disappearance of another group of bees quite imminently – fear not thought readers, these gorgeous edible bees are designed to disappear from the marvellous bakery that is Betty’s. China tea cup in hand with the bunting fluttering in the breeze I will be having my ganache bumble bee in the sunshine & with luck, I’ll be hearing the gentle buzz of real bees all summer long.

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All is calm  in this long lost dream of my perfect cup of tea.

The embroidered cloth crisply laundered hangs beside the beautiful carved oak chairs. I hear the busting sounds of tea making as I climb onto the seat. I am after all quite small. The  correct quantity of leaves is being expertly dispensed, the musical notes of china being placed on the tea tray and almost imperceptible sounds of steam rising from boiling water – these are the noises that I remember announcing my first proper cup of tea.

The tea is poured into pretty tea cups.

The atmosphere is deep and tranquil, cool after the warmth of the day. The heady aroma is unmistakable as its  floods the senses. It is the thick dark amber liquid of this perfect cup of tea that I seek to recreate always – or is it that moment the two are interconnected. Biscuits and battenburg compete with floral motifs, the china it was placed on is now an anchor to that past that brings back the memory.

oh to have that first grown up tea time again…………..

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Wouldn’t it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn’t have tea?

So said Noel Coward. Quite honestly, what self respecting tea drinker could possibly disagree. Indeed, I would go so far as to advocate the need to employ some sort of tea strategy to avoid at all costs that situation where you are unable to get a decent cuppa. Well, you wouldn’t wish to be caught short, craving for that all important and restorative cup of tea, especially when you are on holiday and meant to be having a splendid time.

Here are some thoughts on potential options:

1 Find a fabulous tea room PDQ (that’s pretty darn quick)

A local option is frankly an upside miracle in some situations, and plan B at best.  but what a rescue if you can locate such an establishment.

There is hope for this approach, as I have stumbled across some lovely places whilst on my travels.

2 Locate an amazing leaf tea supplier

I shudder to think of the scenario if, heaven forbid, you are in the inevitable position of having left or, she gasps in amazement, forgotten to pack your tea supplies from home. In this case, you’ll be hoping for strategic option 1, however, failing this, finding a seller of gorgeous leaf tea is then another possibility to remedy the omission.

3 Create you very own, home from home, portable travelling tea kit

As you may have guessed, this is my preferred approach, as at least you know you have something to fall back on! What I would advise, strongly is to create, or find your own kit. In my kit is an unbreakable tea pot, flasks with hot water and cold milk, and the all important leaf and ahem, tea bags (one never knows the constraints of the situation that may dictate the tea making…needs must and frankly this is preferable to no tea at all), flasks, and lovely cups. What I would just love to have in my possession though is a gorgeous vintage tea making picnic hamper. No hot water flasks requited here as the means to heat water is part of the set up. Quite frankly, freshly boiled water is so much better for tea making.

Beautiful and Practical Tea Picnic Hamper – From Huey Ying Hsu pinterest

If abroad from old Blighty, there are other key tea factors at play

I do confess that even the self created tea kit does have its limitations however……..The water will be different  for sure. I remember using filtered water when I lived in the US, and still tea just never quite was the same. I could not achieve that perfectly remembered brew until I returned home. Then, there is the additional complication if you take anything in your tea. As I am one of those, it is access to fresh milk that taxes me, and in hotter climes, my experience is that this is virtually an impossibility. Without wishing to sound like I am never going to leave the security of my home for fear of the lack of a decent cup of tea, one country that delighted the tea sense was Japan. I would return in a heartbeat.

It goes without argument then that when you are a tea girl who is a long way from home, clearly, one would wish to avoid being caught short. I’d be thrilled to hear of any more idea for avoiding such a dire situation as lacking tea while travelling.

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The health benefits of Tea – just what you need when feeling under the weather

There have been many, many articles on the health benefits of tea.

However, there have been a few articles also that point in the other way. A notable recent study was in prostate cancer in men. Quite honestly even its authors could not mitigate that this finding could be due to the fact these men had lived to an older age where the incidence and likely risk of prostate cancer is increasing. So what is the truth? Is tea doing anything at all?

A true test of tea

The prostate cancer data was from a collaborative study, but it got me to thinking that there can never ever be a truly double blind randomised controlled trial that is regarded as totally de rigour. For one, there could never be an absolute “double blind”, as quite honestly, it would be a bit tricky to disguise whether you were being given tea or not. In other words, all the participants would know, even if the “prescribers” were “blind” to who was getting what. There is undoubtably something in the anecdotal evidence that exists though, and the antioxidant argument  for one can be supported through other means. I would argue it is more than the tea per se.

There is another more essential Tea element

And it is this. Beyond the qualities of  the quite wonderful flavours of tea, there is the act of brewing that brings a moment of peace, a glimpse of mindfulness. More importantly though, there is an innate sense of belonging and feeling of care that is bestowed when one is making, or being made tea. It is that communion as well as the heady warmth of that first sip that I think gives an intangible health benefit of tea.

When unwell, what has perked me up is the prospect of a warm fragrant cup that will wake me, brewed under instruction by my darling whose pinnacle of tea brewing sophistication is Yorkshire Rwandan bag as he so eloquently has described it. Please don’t mistake me here, I am a huge fan of Yorkshire tea, and this seasons Rwandan is lovely, but  I do believe there is so much more to the health benefits of tea than its taste alone.

P.S. My thanks to the lovely friends who sent this card with their very kind and wise words that accompanied it.

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Practical & beautiful Teapot Vase – Talking tables pastries and pearls

Just perfect for adding that finishing touch to any self respecting vintage afternoon tea party, I loved these paper teacup vases from Paper Parlour. Practical as well as beautiful, they have a clever plastic inner to ensure your flowers remain in perfect bloom and the teapot does not get soggy. I will be rushing to order as very fortunately have a surfeit of lovely flowers at the moment.

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