Monthly Archives: July 2011

Simple Things

Decaffeinated Ceylon
by Harney & Sons
(Available by order from their Web site. Unless you happen to be lucky enough to live near one of their East Coast tea rooms. In that case, step 1 is to fly to St. Louis and pick up your favorite tea blogger on your way.)

Simple things. Isn’t that a Christmas song? Maybe it’s Favorite Things. And that’s not a Christmas song. (Although, I was forced to sing it in my high school Spanish class at a nursing home at Christmastime…in Spanish. An example of the kind of humiliation we’re subjected to as minors, because they know they can’t subject adults to that level of mortification. We wouldn’t stand for it. Probably because we’re still haunted by memories.)

I’ve been experiencing “pregnancy brain” this morning (hence, the Simple Things/Favorite Things intro). It’s one of those slow Saturday mornings, just me and the cat while Mike sleeps. We don’t have anything going on until this evening. A gathering for which I will make either apricot oat bars or chocolate chip cookies (with vanilla pudding mix). I think I know which treat would be more nutritious, and I think I know which treat Mike would prefer.

It’s one of those mornings in which I wander from room to room deciding what I’m going to do with my morning hours. Find something to read for my devotional, write a tea blog post, feed the cat, look for the camera–Oh right! That’s why I came in this room! It happens to senile people and pregnant women. At least it’s not as bad as taking Mike’s keys (and my keys) to work with me. I got a call from my poor, confused husband wondering how he was supposed to drive to work. I knew then, this gestational period was going to be an adventure.

Like just now, when I put my hand out to grab the mouse, but my laptop has a finger pad. Sigh.

Enough about my brain. On to better and tastier things. Simple, but good things.

A giant mug of hot, black tea is probably one of the most comforting things on this earth. The rich aroma of the leaves as they steep, the full-bodied sweet-bitter delight that hugs your tongue. It’s better than comfort food. It is comfort food.

This morning, I chose Harney & Sons Decaffeinated Ceylon. I have a big box of pyramid bags that are perfect for grabbing a morning cup, without any fuss or prep.

This box is actually on sale as of today at harney.com. While you’re there, you can pick up some of their featured iced tea…and let me know how you liked it. I’m anxious to try it. If you like fast, one-cup iced tea on the run, Twinings has a nice line of cold-brew iced tea bags. You just put a tea bag in your glass, fill it with room temperature water, let it steep a few minutes, and add ice. No boiling necessary. Very clever.

Over at Harney & Sons, you can also get decaf Assam. Both Ceylon and Assam are excellent black teas.

The first thing I do before I steep is bring the tea bag or spoonful of leaves to my nose and breath deeply. It’s the proper way to enjoy a hot cuppa, akin to sniffing the cork from a bottle of wine. Or like Steve Martin asking Kermit the Frog if he’d like to “smell the bottle cap” in the Muppet Movie. (This is where the post goes downhill. Feel free to take the above information and run.) My brother, Jason (lovingly called Goober–he lovingly calls me Aypooh), should be quoting this line aloud as he reads this.

Also on this Saturday morning–it’s getting darker…I sense some much-needed rain!–I chose an informal cup for my delicious black tea: my disappearing T.A.R.D.I.S. mug. Any Doctor Who fans? No? Good. Then you won’t judge me too harshly. Just skip past this series of photos and be confused. It’s a silly sci-fi fan thing. I’ve been hopelessly sucked into the world of British film and television.

T.A.R.D.I.S. mug. Giant enough for big gulps of black tea. Here, we see an empty hole in space. What might appear here, I wonder?

Oh, look. There's the T.A.R.D.I.S. sitting in the middle of a London street.

I pour my hot water over the tea bag and...wait! Where did it go?

Is this killing you yet?

Look up there! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a satellite. (We can't even see up there, but just pretend.) No! It's the T.A.R.D.I.S. back in space!

If you’d like to know more about Doctor Who and his traveling spaceship/time machine that resembles an old British police call box, you can Google it. But I realize you’re frightened beyond words by the geekiness that is free-flowing from this post today.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, full of simple things, or favorite things…or Christmas songs. And lots of black tea. Even though it’s decaf, Oliver can’t help dancing a little in my belly.

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Life of a Tea Drinker, Chapter VII

Chapter the Seventh
*Special Edition*

Image from babytidings.com

We had an ultrasound on Friday. (When I say we, I mean Mike and I. I’m not referring to me and the baby in the plural yet.) After they asked us 3 different times if we really wanted to know the sex, and after waiting two-thirds of the way through the ultrasound (measurements, etc.), they finally told us “It’s definitely a baby boy!”

We are both thrilled at the news. Mike is especially thrilled because he’s the one who was hoping for a boy. I would have been fine with either, though I had an inkling it was a boy.

My morning started off with all kinds of silly superstition. The underwear on top was blue, the next one was pink. What did that mean? Should I have shared my suspicions that it was a boy with Mike? Would it have made a difference? Seriously spinning myself in circles until my 1:30 appointment.

What now? A name. I had been making lists (and weeding out the ones that would really be better as future pet names–is this weird??). We had narrowed down the list further to indicate our favorites. There was really one girl name and one boy name that we had settled on. The night before, I asked Mike if we were ready to unveil the name after we found out. It was strange because the boy name was all ready, first and middle chosen and confirmed. The girl name had yet to receive a middle name we both agreed on. Another sign? (Seriously, I was taking the vibes too far.)

We chose the name Oliver Michael. His middle name is for his dad, and we both just really like the first name, and we figured it’s not as common as Michael. (We moved past Mike’s first choice a few months ago, which was Michael Ray Walker III. Sorry honey. I just don’t like duplicate names.)

I would have scanned and posted a new ultrasound picture, but they were so much better last time. Of course, they’re hanging on the fridge, but Oliver kept moving his arm in front of his face in the cool 3D shots. And I realize the “boy shot” would have been a little inappropriate for the World Wide Web.

That’s our news. Stay tuned as we decide on nursery decorations, registry options, and more!

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Honestly Sold, Still Honest

Image from treehugger.com

An article from E Magazine caught my attention, “The Big Green Buyout.” Featured in the article, along with other organic brands, was Honest Tea. I’ve posted reviews of their amazing Peach Oo-la-long and Lori’s Lemon.

Summarizing the sale of Honest Tea to Coke in 2008 and trying to form an opinion of whether it has affected the integrity of Honest Tea and other small organic companies (sold to different corporate leaders, including Kashi, Odwalla, Ben & Jerry’s, Silk), the article gave me some food for thought. The thing I like about Honest Tea is that it is “honest.” The ingredients are listed on the label, and preservatives are not tolerated. Real sugar is used for the slightly sweetened flavors, and the company provides an alternative drink to those loaded with empty calories. Since selling to Coke, that hasn’t changed.

I think it’s commendable that Honest Tea’s CEO Seth Goldman has stood up to Coke about key principles in his small business and won. If a huge company like Coke is paying your salary, would you have the guts to stand up for what you believe? It’s risky, but I think it paid off in the end (and I’m sure he’s still fighting). So it’s like he “sold out,” but he’s simultaneously fighting the big bad corporate world.

You can read the article for yourself, but I think it provided a way in which small companies can expand their outreach–I know I love being able to pick up an occasional bottle of Honest Tea at the grocery store–and keep their ideals too. The way Goldman describes it, Coke needs his little company to give it some integrity (some integrity), so he can afford to stand up for his principles and keep his customers coming back.

Honest Tea also continues to manufacture glass bottles, so Coke hasn’t entirely switched it over to plastic (although, some flavors are available in plastic bottles–they probably ship easier). Glass is more environmentally friendly and you can reuse the bottles. (I really have to start my repurposed glass bottle flower vase project and post about it!)

Even after refusing to remove “no high fructose corn syrup” from his labels (and Coke backed down!), Goldman still says “I can’t imagine any situation in which I wouldn’t speak what I believe.” As a customer who seeks alternatives, I found this reassuring.

Is it possible to change the corporate food world from the inside out? What do you think?

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Life of a Tea Drinker, Chapter VI

Chapter, the Sixth

In which the author grieves for her senses and explores the woes of caffeine withdrawal…

I didn’t think I’d really miss caffeine that much. I wasn’t a coffee drinker (I’ve heard this is a nightmare withdrawal for pregnant women in love with these beans). I drank enough herbal tea that I knew I’d still drink tea. Decaf black tea was starting to grow on me.

Let me give you a picture of how my day has progressed.

I wake up, get ready for work, run some laundry upstairs, iron Mike’s shirt, eat breakfast, feed Words, pack a lunch, and run out the door. Everything’s fine and dandy, I don’t think twice about it when I’m bombarded with e-mails about changes and the need for details, the work stacking up on my desk, the meetings. Then 3:00 rolls around. Uh oh. CRASH! My eyes are heavy. I find myself dozing, red pen mid-air.  To prevent an alcohol rubbing, ink removal ceremony later this evening (already went through that a few weeks ago), I run to the break room to make myself a cup of decaf black tea.

Suddenly, decaf is a poor man’s Assam. Adding sugar is like adding a tiny drop of syrup to a dry stack of pancakes. Has anyone noticed how unsatisfying decaf black tea is when you’re tasting the caffeinated version in your imagination? There is actually a taste difference. Nothing satisfies!

Powdered caffeine. Looks a lot like an illegal substance, doesn't it? Appropriately so. (Image from en.wikipedia.org)

I’ve heard that caffeine in small doses is fine for the average pregnant woman. Coffee has a lot, but tea isn’t bad. Chocolate is minimal in moderate (what’s that?) doses. The people who spout this information obviously have no idea how much caffeine I drank in a day, pre-pregnancy. And even if I had one cup, it would be a gateway cup. I would have to have more. Withdrawal would start all over again with pangs and cravings. Am I being too dramatic? I’ve been told I have the urge to overdramatize in my gestational state. (Deal with it.)

Besides, if I use up my caffeine quota on black tea, do you really want to be the one to stand between me and my chocolate fix later? I also heard that one of the pharmacists at my company was known to chug 5 sodas (pop, Coke–for those with dialects, read a book) every day while she was pregnant. It was one of those high-caffeine brands. I’m sorry, but that can’t be right. I know several doctors (and pharmacists) who pour out their knowledge of nutrition, and then cram Twinkies down their throats after clinical hours. No offense to nutritionists and doctors who at least try.

So I’ve decided that a nap after work (even if dinner is waiting) is necessary for my sanity, the health of those around me, and the well-being of the world, in that order.

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Cool, Minty Goodness Awaits You…

…at The Cooking Life! Michelle made an awesome black and mint iced tea that looks like it would cool the summer scorch. I know I’ll be trying it soon (but maybe with decaf). Check it out!

Mint leaves (image from en.wikipedia.com)

Wouldn’t you love to pick a bunch of this from your very own herb garden? I know, my expectations for a garden are fighting with my laziness, but someday… I have fond childhood memories of smelling (and trying to chew) mint leaves from our backyard. With our baby on the way, it might be worth looking into a serious garden project when he/she is old enough to walk barefoot through it with me. I’d like for our child to have the same memories and a value for homegrown food.

 
Speaking of growing your own food, Danielle Meitiv has a lot of garden ideas at her “barefoot blog.” If you’re interested, check it out. I subscribe and kick myself for not getting out there and starting my own! Maybe when I’ve got better balance and heat tolerance. Right now, I get a little dizzy standing in a line.
 
FYI, we find out this Friday if we’re having a boy or girl. I’ll be sure to post a special edition of Life of a Tea Drinker. Stay tuned!

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Peachy, Cheesy Lunch

Sound like a bad combo?

I’ve been so busy lately, and all the while thinking about my beloved tea blog! So I figured I’d write a quick post over my lunch break. And what goes better with lunch than peach tea?

Water, water, and more water. This has been my beverage of choice for days on end. When my stomach started grumbling today, I knew I needed to mix it up a little and add some flavor. Country Peach Passion by Celestial Seasonings is always in my desk drawer at work.

It’s a refreshing burst of fruity goodness that helps break up the monotony of water, or even black tea. (Blasphemy to the non-herbal drinkers out there.)

I’m pairing my peach tea today with macaroni and cheese leftovers I’ve been eating on for a few days. It’s really a treat and I should make it more often. My 90-year-old grandmom’s gourmet baked macaroni and cheese. Aren’t family recipes the best? I know, this isn’t a food blog. I’ll leave that to the experts. I will say that I had a little fun and added Herbes de Provence to her classic recipe for a little herby twist. It worked really well, especially considering it was in the oven during our power outage. (A story for another day…)

Wishing everyone a happy Friday and pleasant sipping.

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Rooibos With a Mint Twist

Desert Sage
by Republic of Tea
(Available at their site, or in stores where Republic is sold.)

It’s Friday morning and I’m at home! My company decided to give us Friday and Monday off for 4th of July this year. Of course, they’re taking away a day from the Christmas holiday, but I’ll have given birth by then (due December 13), so I won’t be in the office anyway. Free to enjoy my 4-day weekend!

So what am I doing with my free time? Drinking tea, of course!

Today’s post is truly a gem. I can’t believe I let it sit on my pantry shelf for as long as I did before having a chance to try it. Desert Sage is a combination of rooibos (African red tea) and a bountiful cornucopia of herbs that pleasantly compliment each other: orange bergamot mint (!), blackberry leaves, white sage, lemongrass, and labrador tea. I wouldn’t have thought to pair orange bergamot with rooibos, but it just shows that I don’t know anything about blending teas! And the mint variety is so refreshing. Really, for a cup of hot tea on a summer day, it’s a delight.

What’s labrador tea? This is when I’m proud of my little brain for storing bits of information from my editing job (one of the books I edit is an herbal guide). It’s an herbal tea made from a plant in the rhododendron family. It’s used medicinally by the Athabaskan and Inuit people in Alaska and Canada (and other areas). OK, I did have to look up the name of the native people. They use it for a number of common ailments like colds and stomach problems (and hangovers–every culture seems to have their own hangover remedy). If you like loose-leaf herbal, you’re most likely as thrilled as I am to consume infusions from roughage you would never eat by itself. Just look at the hodgepodge of goodness!

Rooibos, orange bergamot mint, blackberry leaves, white sage, lemongrass, and labrador tea

There are a lot of tiny pieces of leaves in this one, so you might see a few floaters that escape your infuser. That only enhances the loose-leaf experience for me. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t fully boil the water, and let it cool a little before steeping. You don’t want to cook the delicate herbs.

Enjoy an earthy cup of minty rooibos!

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