Posts Tagged ‘ceremony of tea’

Tea with Mary Kate believes this Nation of  Tea drinkers needs to reclaim that heritage

Often you’ll hear the cry “it doesn’t taste like it used to”, and James Pogson, owner of Northern Tea Merchants is the first to concede that there has been an inevitable influence from supermarkets. But both he and his father before him are strong advocates in supporting access to an appropriate standard and quality of tea. In part II of the series for Tea with Mary Kate, James Pogson, owner of Northern Tea Merchants gives a fascinating insight into tea quality and pricing.

Tea with Mary Kate visits Northern Tea Merchants. Owner James Pogson gives a fascinating insight into tea quality and pricing

From the history of growing tea to production and terminology, ethics and the environment to biodynamics, the marvelous myths, legends and stories that surround tea, there are a quite bewildering array of topics, each multifaceted and complex.  It is almost reason enough to give up before even embarking on an amazing  journey that is the world of Tea. But help is at hand! One of the key elements of being a tea merchant is to assure quality. Assessing and tasting tea is a critical part of the day job, and in this short video, James demonstrates his background, insights and passion for tea. Do click the HD button off if the video is a bit jittery for you…..

Tea with Mary Kate was enchanted and quite honestly overwhelmed by her visit to Northern Tea Merchants.

James generously shared his time, experience and insight into tea quality and pricing. Even though we spent the entire day there, I was left wishing we had more time, it was such a fantastic day. Tea With Mary Kate has a renewed enthusiasm for expanding her tea repertoire and developing her tea palate, and is very grateful to James for his time, his enthusiasm, and sharing his knowledge and passion for Tea.

Do look out for the next installment with James Pogson:

James Explains How to Assess the Quality of Tea

Read Full Post »

The tradition of making and taking tea in proper china tea cups is immediately calming

It forces you to slow down as there is no rushing the alchemy of tea leaves brewing in the freshly boiled water. The enquiry and offer of pouring a cup of tea is connecting, there is a joy and gift in the process, a sense of belonging and communion in sharing the occasion.

The Ceremony and Nostalgia of Tea

There are ceremony’s associated with tea and also quite distinctive noises. Water boiling and the warming the pot for brewing, and of course, the choice of what tea to brew. Then measuring your leaf tea, and my dears, it does have to be leaf tea, into the warmed pot. The first “hiss” of alchemy when the hot water starts to mix with the tea leaves, then allowing the necessary time to brew. These are all essential elements before even thinking of pouring your tea into your beautiful tea cups. The sound of  tea spoons, stirring milk or sugar as they ring against the china cup, the cup chinking on the saucer. Sipping the warm, aromatic, comforting liquid is simply part of the quite wonderful experience that is taking tea.

Royal Albert’s celebration of 100 years of tea cups very cleverly captures the essence of each the decades of the 20th Century

As well as the essential noises of a tea making when there is a gathering for tea, tea deserves a wonderful cup. To celebrate it’s 100 year anniversary, Royal Albert has chosen a beautiful selection of patterns that capture the essence of the decades in tea cups. I loved the 1960s Golden Roses design, one of their all time iconic patterns.

Royal Albert Golden Roses Tea Cup

As I always associate the 60s with the British tea lady, I adored this image from Yorkshire tea, such a unique part of those times.

Tea and the ceremony of  Tea Echo’s through our lives at every occasion

Tea is there at every time and every occasion. As a child, I remember having a “proper china tea cup” at my grandparents, and feeling so grown up. The cup was decorated with roses, the tea poured for me, with a gentle warning to blown on it before I drank, as it was hot and wanted to avoid me burning my tongue. Tea starts our day, waking us first thing in the morning. Tea is there when we celebrate a birthday, a wedding, as a perfect contrast with the sweetness of the cake. Carrying flasks of hot water for tea at picnic’s, when there is something quite magical about the challenge of making tea outdoors, the sip of a hot tea is there in the fresh air, and is quite delightful. Tea is there when gathered for sad times, to warm and comfort, when the offer is really more to take a moment to care for you.

Tea creates memories, it connects us, and allows us a moment of calm.

Tea with Mary Kate’s wish for this post is that it inspires you to create such a moment, to give the gift of that memory by creating such an occasion.

Celebrating 100 years of Royal Albert china Tea Cups

Read Full Post »

Tea with Mary Kate is exploring the world of tea

As the day draws to a close, and I contemplate my evening, there is an important decision to be made. Of course, it will include a gorgeous cup of tea, but what tea to choose? And not only the tea, important thought that is, what cup to serve it in? Tea is such a great big exciting world but quite frankly, there are so just many teas out there, it’s almost impossible to choose from!

As well as the tea, the ceremony and aesthetic are all important too.

There is a protocol about brewing tea in a proper tea pot – leaf tea being my preference, and without a shadow of a doubt, serving it in a gorgeous tea cup! Tea definitely deserves a beautiful cup.

Formosa Oolong in a beautiful vintage tea cup


I’ve recently discovered that I adore Formosa Oolong – it’s a tea with provenance, almost a personality of it’s own.

In 1867, English tea trader Jon Dodd started a tea company in Wanhua, Taipei  and started to sell Taiwanese oolong tea to the world under the name “Formosa Oolong”. The name oolong tea comes from the Chinese name meaning “black dragon tea”. Formosa Oolong is oolong tea grown and produced in Taiwan. Taiwan is also known as Formosa from the Portuguese Ilha Formosa, meaning “beautiful island”. So, your drinking beautiful Tea!

Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea, Camellia sinensis, that is somewhere in middle between green and black in oxidation. It has neither the taste and aroma of black tea nor the grassy, vegital taste that typify green tea. It is commonly brewed to be strong. I add milk.

Formosa Oolong form Cortney Wagner's 99 kettles

I adore the ceremony of making tea, laying the tray, the expectation of that first sip….

I loved the Oolong tea history but sipping the tea from the perfect vintage cup made the whole experience. The choice of the cup is a very personal consideration. I really enjoy that moment of contemplating the combination of tea and the cup, the expectation of the experience is almost as lovely, almost, as that first warm, amazing sip, smelling the aroma, steam rising as you relax into thinking about your second cup.

Just the perfect Tea tray

Part of the loveliness of tea the contrast with tea and something sweet.

With my formosa, I like sweet walnuts and dates, or gorgeous sushi. Do ensure that everything is there on your tray, so when you sit down, there is no need to move until you have drained the last drop of tea from the pot!

Tea with Mary Kate seeks to encourage you on a journey of Tea, to take time for Tea, and the ceremony and aesthetic of tea, as a way to reconnect and recharge your energies.

I concede it’s an indulgence, time is precious, but dare I say it, tea time is an important time for you – for quiet and contemplation, an escape from this hectic, fast paced world, while you move through the familiar ritual of the tea ceremony that you can make perfectly just for you, taking time to savour it completely.

Take time for tea

Read Full Post »

I was enchanted by a marvellous demonstration on how to make a corsage at the RHS flower show in Cardiff.  I loitered just long enough, and was given a beautiful rose corsage, just the inspiration for a rose inspired Vintage Afternoon Tea.

Make it special – Send an invitation for a rose inspired Vintage Afternoon Tea.

The sheer delight of receiving such an invitation is a signal that it is special. I think 3.30pm is the perfect time, ideal to do your preparations, and still have enough time for you to get ready too.

Elegance Vintage Attire is just the ticket

Your invitation could include a dress code, I would suggest nothing too complex or expensive, but something that will mark the event as a special occasion, which of course it is! I am enchanted by the elegance of a 1940s vintage tea dress, it conjures up waitresses in black and white uniforms serving an elegant clientele, quintessentially the perfect outfit for afternoon tea.

A rose corsage for each of your guests as they arrive is such a lovely gift.

I adore those corsages that are designed to be worn on your wrist, so very vintage! Do choose a perfumed rose, and the smell will be gorgeous. A creative alternative is to make them as part of your afternoon tea event on the day.

What really makes a vintage afternoon tea  is authentic vintage crockery

Of course, lay the table the vintage table cloths. In my imagination, there is chatter and the sound of teaspoons chinking on bone china. Harlequin sets are quite lovely, and you are feeling terribly generous, you could even give everyone their tea cups as a gift from the day. A favourite vintage china tea cup of mine at the moment is this beautiful Wellington china cup –  I love the bright yellow contrast to the stylish pink roses.


Beautiful vintage crockery makes all the difference


Another key element is a vintage Cake stand to display all those gorgeous sandwiches and cakes.

What you choose to serve is of course up to you but delicate sandwiches are a must. It could be a Welsh inspired theme. I look for inspiration in yesteryear cookery books like Mrs Beetons household management. For my rose themed tea, I’m planning on creating rose scented panna cotta.

No ifs, no buts, no maybes, Leaf Tea it must be!

The only rule I have stipulated for this rose inspired vintage afternoon tea event  is that the tea must be leaf tea. But oh, I hear you sigh, hesitating, what about washing out the teapots afterwards? Dismiss that minor inconvenience immediately – it is a vintage tea after all, where there would never have been a bag option – and leaf tea tastes so much better! I’ll be choosing a rose flavoured leaf tea, in keeping with the rose inspired vintage afternoon tea theme. As it’s fairly unusual, I’m looking forward to the novelty in exploring quite a different flavour. And you can always have a less exotic  but gorgeous blend on standby for those that are feeling less experimental. A personal favourite is Yorkshire Gold, a wonderful blend, with a good strong flavour, and to my palate has a gentle aromatic hint of peaches.

No reason is too big, too small, all it takes is the idea and some encouragement to motivate you!

Tea with Mary Kate is all about inspiration for living life, with idea’s for events that provide the motivation to connect with those who are important to us. Your Rose inspired Vintage Afternoon Tea could be to celebrate a birthday, to raise money for a charity event, or just to have a lovely girlie afternoon together.

Read Full Post »

An enchanting Ryokan that transports you to the essence of authentic Japan

You’d walk passed it if you did not know it was there, hidden behind high walls and a very plain door, but once you’re inside, you’re transported instantly into the heart of ancient Japan, into the traditional & aesthetic environment of a Ryokan. The Hiiragiya Ryokan, founded in 1818 is, without a shadow of a doubt,  my favourite place in all the world to stay! Walking into the entranceway, suddenly everything has slowed down, you’re surrounded by tranquility, in an oasis of calm from the bustling Kyoto outside.

Stunning Japanese decor and faultless service

Your luggage is whisked away, with the ryokans  trade mark holly leaf labels. You are shown to your room by a kimono wearing host, it makes you feel like returning family. The room is beautiful, stunning beautiful in that very minimal Japanese way, with screens, amazing art, tatami mats, traditional flower art, all just how it ought to be.

All is ready for your arrival….including the relaxing wooden hot tub

Overlooking the Zen Garden, your robes have been left for you to change into something more comfortable after you have taken a bath. The bathroom is a traditional, one where you wash with a small wooden stool and bowl, before you get into the bath to soak. Your wooden hot tub has already been filled, ready for your arrival. I adored this place because it was like coming home, with every comfort already prepared in anticipation.

Traditional Japanese bathroom

Superb Kaiseki cuisine  is served on beautiful Kyoto ceramics and lacquer ware

The evening meal is served discretely by the beautiful ladies in kimono’s. Each of the 17 course dinner is presented on a different style of Kyoto crafted ceramics & Japanese lacquer ware to display it at its best – this is the aesthetic of food at its very finest, an art form, and I relished every delicious morsel, even though it looked too beautiful to eat! Tray’s of decorated bowls, some with the signature holly leaf pattern, others more simply embellished, are a feast for the eyes, as well as displaying the amazing Kaiseki cuisine.

Beautifully presented dinner

Best tofu ever at Breakfast

Almost too beautiful to eat

I love Japan, it still remains foreign, different, with it’s own very distinct architecture, language & culture.

Do visit Kyoto – Nijojo Castle and Kinkaji, the Golden temple, are two of my favourites but there are so many more! Nara and Nikko are World heritage sites that are on my “totally unmissable” list. Exploring Tokyo is also well worth it, with an excellent metro system as you’d expect. I loved Ginza, and the sneak peak of the Geisha. We also experienced Matcha – Green tea in the traditional Japanese tea gardens, where the  frothy & bright green brew is served in big, beautiful bowls, the surface still bubbling from being freshly whisked.

Japanese tea ceremony

Visit during Spring and if you time it right, you’ll see the lovely cherry blossom, a rare treat. These beautiful trees are everywhere, with their blossom drifting in the air like confetti. It’s still a very important cultural ceremony for Japan and one I hope that endures.

Read Full Post »

If you walk back through A.T Welchs grocers shop on Hospital Street in Nantwich, Cheshire, browsing the well stocked shelves of this quality delicatessen, you will find a secret – the yesteryear Shoppe. Quite by accident I stumbled across the door just next to the cheese counter and it really is like stepping back in time into a 1940s tea shop – men with brown over coats serve you your freshly made order. More usually for us this is their signature dish of their own homemade “bangers and mash” from their own pork butchers. There is a care and a pride that is palpably translated into the food, how it is served and the feeling of the place.

A T Welch - Home of the yesteryear grocer's shop

A thought provoking collection of ration books scatter the counters. Old but familiar brands on large containers leap out at you, big OXO signs on the wall, Liptons Tea. You are transported back to a time where self service was unthought of, as was prepackaged goods – all was carefully measured to your exact requirements, orders would be left to be couried later by bike, in what ironically now we would consider now to be a very environmentally friendly way. I think that’s an idea worth reinstating and would instantly get rid of much bemoaned excessive packaging.

The yesteryear shoppe is a collection built up over years and it evokes a timely reminder that not so long ago, very careful thought was needed for the provision of food. You’ll often find a queue for the tea shop at peak times but rather than let impatience win, let it give you the opportunity to savour the atmosphere, look at the fascinating items, some of which I remember lurking in my grandmother’s cupboards, while the chink of tea cups on saucers, and convivial conversation surrounds you.

Move to Trash

Austin's yesteryear Grocers Shoppe

Do leave yourself enough time to brose the packed shelves which stocks all kinds of gorgeous jams and other useful food items, like milk, Welsh and farm butter, Jersey cream and a wonderful range of cheeses, including their own pork butcher, as well as chocolates, puddings, sweets, teas and coffee. If you can time your visit with Nantwich market day on the last Saturday of the month, all the better, as you can arrive laden and exhausted with your shopping for a lovely cup of tea in this enchanting tea shop. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, do bring cash, as there are no card payment facilities, just good old fashioned coins and notes – Do visit soon.

Read Full Post »

Historically, this was a day when serving girls in Britain were given the day off to visit their mothers, take them a cake & spend time with each other.

You’ll know by now from the numerous blog posts to this site, Tea with Mary Kate looks to inspire us to take note of the ordinary & appreciate it for the extraordinary that it is, each and every day. Many of you will know that it’s Mothering Sunday on 14th March 2010 in the UK, but at many different times around the world. Historically, this was a day when serving girls in Britain were given the day off to visit their mothers, take them a cake & spend time with each other. As a child, I remember all the ladies of the church, actual mother or not, receiving a beautifully scented daffodil corsage. It was a very special occasion & the smell of that daffodil can still transport me back to being on the steps of the church on that Sunday.

While I feel it’s important to say thank you, I also feel there is such pressure, such expectation these days that it can swamp the whole Mother’s Day affair & leave it feeling more like a duty than something you’d choose to do

But I hope this blog does inspire you to choose something different, unique & special this year, & far from necessarily expensive.

On this day for some, it’s a time to remember their mum’s who are no longer with them – but more I think it’s a time to appreciate those in our lives who play the role of “mum” to us (& this could be someone different from your “official mum”). What I hope this blog post will inspire you to do is to choose to show the mum to you what they mean to you, when they’ve really supported you & why you appreciated it – after all, it is the simple day to day acts of kindness through which we show our love of others.

Taking or more boldly making Afternoon Tea

This could be at one of the many excellent Tea shop’s that we have (see my blog posts on Bettys Tea rooms & Peak View tea rooms). While I can say that would be a truly lovely treat, there’s also a decent chance of these places being very busy or worse fully booked – so for this day if you’re running out of options, how about making an afternoon tea for that special person? You could serve it on a cake stand if you have one, alongside a small bunch of beautiful spring flowers, with your creation of cake that you’ve just wrecked the kitchen making ( do tidy this up though as otherwise, it will be fair to say that the treat could perhaps be perceived to be a little misplaced!).

Alongside the cake, I would suggest to serve this with bread & butter with the option to spread lashings of apricot Jam (home made if you have it) & whipped cream, together with a hot pie (gooseberry was my personal favorite, the next being blackcurrant, with the deep purple sweet juice to serve with it). You could also cheat & order from the  Clifton Cake cafe which supply their delicious cakes for your special event if you are in the Bristol area of UK.

Clifton Cake cafe mothering Sunday Tea & cake

Another savoury option is to make the ubiquitous but gorgeous egg & cress sandwiches (do add my secret ingredient garlic salt when you make up your egg mix, trust me, you’ll never have egg mayonnaise sandwiches without this again once you have tasted it). I love old fashioned cheese & pineapple on sticks, with Quiche & other pies.

And of course,  a big, steaming pot of strong tea to warm the heart as well as the toes, in the most lovely cups that you can find, to make it an extra special treat.

Mother’s Day Breakfast Tea Tray – tea in bed is such a wonderful indulgence on Mother’s Day.

Another idea is to hit the ground running from the first moment with breakfast in bed for your excellent mum. This could ba a tea tray, with a beautiful cloth on it, again, a beautiful bunch of flowers would go just perfectly alongside toast, marmalade & for simplicity, boiled eggs are a rather good addition. A lovely bowl of fruit salad or favourite cereal could also be served, the treat being that’s all ready for them in a lovely bowl, with all the cutlery shining & ready to use. And of course, this would have tea, a perfect breakfast blend to accompany breakfast – I can’t imagine a better treat – tea in bed is such a wonderful indulgence on any day, especially on Mother’s Day.

Beautiful tea tray for breakfast

Home made Mother’s Day lunch

If you are feeling like being extravagant & totally going for it – make Mother’s Day lunch! Devise a menu, lay the table with a crisp cloth, a simple decoration of spring flowers – daffodils, snowdrops & the first tulips in miniature buckets would be perfect. Even ivy laid trailing around the table is very effective at bringing spring indoors. You could print/write a menu, make little place cards, with the “mum” place card having pride of place.

And then serve your lunch. I’d go for a simple starter of homemade soup, or a fresh salad with grilled goats cheese or smoked salmon. Followed by a roasted main course, so yummy it is difficult to beat – roasted veggies are fabulous – do put in a little crushed garlic & I promise you they will taste gorgeous! Finally, a baked pudding of some sort is a lovely finish – but the sky’s your limit – make all their favourite food!

Mary Kate welcoming Sean & her brother to supper

If you’re far from home

Then do send a card, & perhaps some flowers & chocolates, but next time you’re together, have a “Belated Mother’s Day”, so you don’t miss out on the chance to say thank you.

I wanted to finish this mother’s Day treat’s blog with this lovely illustration of “A very Victorian tea party” from MME illustrations, a great idea for a mother’s day gift!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »