Garden Party: blending your own tea

A tea lover’s life is not complete until they create their own tea. I’ve tried several times but it was not until attending a blending class at Smith Teas that I made a good cuppa.

It feels like a cross between being a mad scientist and creating your own work of art…

We tasted 14 different teas in various combinations (talk about caffeine jitters!) We learned the correct words, like wine, for tea’s characteristics. Things like astringent, biscuity, strong, vegetative…

As a lover of strong black tea with milk, it’s no surprise I stuck mainly to Assams. I selected a mixture of 3 Assams, a dash of Ceylon Nimbula and a pinch of Nilgiri. With the addition of black currant and peach skin essences, it’s a delicious and strong cuppa for the summer.

I call it “Garden Party” – hearkening back to British summer picnics, croquet, and a beautiful 1920s short story by Katherine Mansfield.

I highly recommend taking a tea blending class, especially at Smith Teas if your plans take you near Portland. ☕️

Advertisements

No. Six Depot – English Breakfast Tea ☕️

#TeaTuesday is here! And helping me wake up is No. Six Depot's English Breakfast. No. Six Depot is a small-batch café and gallery in the Berkshires, Massachusetts. They make and serve their own tea and coffee, and what looks like amazing food.

img_0354-e1500821749901.jpg

The gold tin is modern and simple. Once you open it, you see a mound of dark tea with hints of red. There are only a few leaves, most of the tea is "Fannings Grade", possibly mixed with "Broken Leaf Grade".

No Six Depot English Breakfast loose leaf tea

The brewed tea is incredibly strong. I'd suggest using less than a teaspoon per 8 oz cup as a little goes a very long way. The flavor is good but it has none of the nuances you'll get in a "Whole Leaf Grade". It finishes with a bold, astringent mouth feel.

Overall, a strong tea to wake you up, very much suited to milk and sugar. This would probably be a good tea to use for making tea-flavoured ice cream, as the flavour is quite concentrated.

Sing Tehus Earl Grey Tea ☕️

Today's #TeaTuesday features an Earl Grey from Sing Tehus. This tea came all the way from a shop in Kompagnistræde (Copenhagen's Latin Quarter). They specialize in green teas, but they do have a few black teas.

Sing Tehus Earl Grey tea tin and box

Inside the elegant box is an equally elegant tea tin. The tea itself is dark with a few golden pieces. I'm guessing it is Golden Broken Orange Pekoe (GBOP), which means it is a higher quality broken leaf tea.

Tea goes from Dust grade (tiny particles) to Fanning Grade (dust and some small broken leaves) to Broken Leaf Grade (high percentage of broken leaves) to Whole Leaf Grade (high percentage of whole leaves with tips).

Sing Tehus Earl Grey tea loose leaf in a tin

Brewed up, this is a fairly strong Earl Grey with bright, citrusy notes. The bergamot is more lemony than floral, but it still pairs nicely with milk.

A good tea for morning or afternoon, and can be paired with mild to medium flavoured food.

Are you a black tea and milk kinda person, or a green tea lover?

Bellocq Earl Grey Tea, No 35 ☕️

Today’s #TeaTuesday is Bellocq tea atelier’s The Earl Grey. Bellocq’s a luxury tea brand with many unique blends. The gorgeous tins will set you back a bit, but I have a weak spot for tea tins.

Vintage tea strainer on a vintage book, Bellocq Earl Grey
Photo courtesy Bellocq’s site

Bellocq’s take on Earl Grey pairs 100% Ceylon black tea with blue cornflowers and bergamot essence. Bergamot is an Italian citrus fruit. Cornflowers don’t add flavour, they’re purely aesthetic.

Earl Grey is said to be named after Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl of Grey and Prime Minister of England (1830-1834). Rumours say that a Chinese tea master blended it for the earl as a gift. No one knows if the bergamot was added just because or to counteract the water at Howick Hall.

Spoonful of Earl Grey tea, Bellocq tea atelier

Bellocq’s tea looks high quality. I’m going to guess it is Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP), which has a high proportion of tips to whole leaf. A leaf that includes the tip has the greatest flavour and nuance, so they’re the most expensive.

Brewed up, The Earl Grey No. 35 is a delicate tea that would be great for an afternoon reading a book or a tea party. The bergamot brings a lovely perfume and flavour without being overwhelming.

It is not robust like an Assam, so I suggest enjoying it with a splash of milk and a plate of mild food. Perhaps a dill cucumber sandwich or a Victoria sponge with fresh raspberry jam… mmm…

Bellocq tea atelier Earl Grey No 35, silver tea tin

Murchie’s Golden Jubilee Black Tea ☕️

Today’s #TeaTuesday is the Jubilee blend. A mixture of Ceylon, Assam, Darjeeling, Himalayan and Keemun teas. That’s one of the more complex mixtures I’ve seen but it works out beautifully.

Cup of tea and loose leaf tea on a wooden table
The Jubilee blend is a smooth, full-bodied tea. Highly recommended for people who aren’t sure if they like tea yet.

Murchie’s is a lovely tea shop in Victoria, BC. They serve all sorts of tempting treats and are well worth a visit. (Especially if you combine it with the bookstore next door!)

Tea and cake at Murchie's tea shop in Victoria BC
Ideal for: morning tea, afternoon tea 

Blyth Grove – a house untouched for 90 years

BlythGroveHouse.jpg

Built in 1905, this National Trust house is fascinating — it’s a time capsule unchanged since the head of household, Mr. Straw, died in 1932. In their grief, the family kept the house completely unchanged until the last Straw died in 1991.

What a rare glimpse of life between the wars, and a beautiful example of interior decoration from 1923. Even the food in the pantry is authentic, including Bovril, a thick, salty meat extract developed in the 1870s.

For more photos and a video tour, check out the Daily Mail article. It’s moments like these that I wish I lived in England, so I could hop on a train and see these amazing pieces of history.

A Proposal to Die For by Vivian Conroy

todieforA Proposal to Die For is a combined romance and mystery with the winning Lady Alkmene Callender. It goes quickly and is easy to read, with Lady Callender proving to be an enjoyable narrator. I like that she’s bored and this inspires her investigation, rather than thinking herself special.

From the book’s description: ‘With her father away in India, Lady Alkmene Callender finds being left to her own devices in London intolerably dull, until the glamorous Broadway star Evelyn Steinbeck arrives in town! Gossip abounds about the New York socialite, but when Ms Steinbeck’s wealthy uncle, Silas Norwhich, is found dead Lady Alkmene finds her interest is piqued. Because this death sounds a lot to her like murder…’

It should include the romance angle, since this features quite heavily in the book. There’s a mysterious reporter in the tall, dark and intriguing category. Lots of flashing looks and sizzling arguments.

The mystery of Mr. Norwhich’s death is a prominent part of the story. I love the setup for the crime and the host of suspects. The murder proves to be fairly straightforward and has few twists, but I enjoyed the book and would give the next one a try.

30-day ebook loan courtesy of NetGalley.

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Sherlock.jpg

A Study in Scarlet Women is a compelling take on Sherlock Holmes, probably quite distant from what Doyle would ever have imagined for his detective. Especially since he didn’t even want to keep writing Sherlock Holmes and was forced by public demand to revive him from an early death.

I intended to read only a chapter or two, but polished off the book in one sitting. There’s so much to love about the book, especially the feminine, food-loving Charlotte Holmes with a brilliant mind who gives herself the name Sherlock. The book’s concise characters, rapid pace and innumerable twisted threads gathered expertly together make this an excellent read. The mystery’s ending is rather dark, though handled with discretion.

Personally I was disappointed by her passion for Lord Ingram, though it is well written. I was hoping for Charlotte to prove as unusual in her love affairs as she is in habits. There’s something winning about the juxtaposition of a brilliant, daring mind with a fondness for baked goods, love of ruffles and a quotient of chins she allows herself.

I look forward to reading the next installment in the series. This is a NetGalley read that I decided I needed to purchase at my local bookstore!

Take Six Girls by Laura Thompson

Takesix.jpgIntriguing look at the Mitford sisters in the shadow of WWII

The Mitfords traced their heritage back to the Norman Conquest and it was only due to an accident with the eldest son that their father became a Baron. Six daughters and a son must have been incredibly worrying, a real-life Pride & Prejudice trying to get them all married off. The girls grew up in country houses, barely schooled and disciplined yet always under strict supervision.

The sisters emerge as complicated and immensely flawed humans. Take Six Girls is a great book for anyone wishing to learn more about them or the atmosphere of late 1920s through 1930s England. There are eerie shadows of current affairs; the schism of political leaders, the famous for fame scandals, the plague of racism.

As nonfiction, it pulls heavily from many sources and feels well researched. But the story itself is also enjoyable, as the Mitford sisters emerge one by one — unique, but all with a consistent strain of Mitfordism. You can argue, as the book does, that the Mitford girls are products of their time and rebelled against it in remarkable ways, again for their time. Though they are remarkable, I found them narrow minded and self-centered. (Although I can’t exactly argue with the beautiful writing of Love in a Cold Climate…)

30-day ebook loan courtesy of NetGalley.