Tag Archives: Harney & Sons

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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Matcha Matcha Man…I Want to Be a Matcha Man!

Matcha Powder
by The Republic of Tea
(Order it online at their site.)

Like a loyal citizen, I subscribe to The Republic of Tea’s TeaChing e-mails. They feature new or popular teas and give a description, health benefits, and steeping instructions. When I saw powdered green tea leaves, Matcha, I was hooked. (This post turned into a long-winded monologue. Fair warning. There’s a special offer for anyone who reads the entire blog. Keep reading to find out.)

Matcha is made by grinding Japanese Tencha tea leaves into a fine powder. You’ve heard of Sencha leaves, the Tencha isn’t actually intended for direct tea consumption. It’s the unused leaf product from batches that are prepared for making Matcha. So Tencha tea would be a little more rare. Harney & Sons sells it packaged for drinking, but it’s quite expensive. Tencha leaves are grown in shade, as opposed to the direct light given to Sencha leaves. Supposedly, it gives the leaves a deeper, darker appearance and a sweet taste. Matcha is used to flavor and color additive to some Japanese foods, including Matcha ice cream. Are you now thoroughly confused by all Japanese words ending in “cha”? Good, so am I. Moving on.

Matcha is definitely green. Green tea leaves are a dark green color, and when you brew it, it has a light green tint. But Matcha is GREEN.

It’s unlike any other tea I’ve prepared. Green tea is typically steeped in water that is hot, but not fully boiled (because of the tender leaves). Matcha should be prepared the same way. Because you have a powder, instead of leaves in a strainer or a tea bag, it will need to be mixed in to the water. Heat the water until boiling, but not a rolling boil. (If it’s in a kettle, the kettle shouldn’t whistle.)

It’s conveniently stored in a plastic bag inside the tin, so you can keep it dry.

Resealable bag inside the tin

Then pour the water into your cup and add a teaspoon of matcha. If you’re using a bigger cup—not sure why you’d want a huge hot-chocolate-sized mug of matcha, but just in case—you’ll need to use about 1 teaspoon per 6 ounces of water. I’ve given you a close-up of the powder, so you can really see the out-of-this world green powder (at least, out of this country). It looks like you’re going to make yourself a nice cup of green cocoa. (Remember green and purple ketchup? Those didn’t last long. I knew kids who wouldn’t touch it because it was a different color.)

Then you’re supposed to use a tea whisk to froth it up before drinking. Well, I don’t have a tea whisk. I don’t usually drink traditionally prepared Japanese tea or hold tea ceremonies. When I read about Matcha, I knew I had to try it because it looked strange. Overwhelmed with curiosity, I perused Republic’s offerings of the powder. The regular size (what most people would order from Republic) is a little more expensive than bagged or loose. I didn’t want to spend $16 plus shipping if I didn’t know what I was getting into. I chose the $7 sample size: the price to satisfy my curiosity. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to find myself a tea whisk just to try this tea.

But what was I supposed to do? I had a large balloon whisk (not going to fit in the cup) and a smaller whisk attachment from the blender. I chose the blender whisk. Instead of whisking in the cup, I boiled the water in a small pot and added the powder into the pot after removing it from heat. (I filled my cup with water and added a little extra to decide how much to boil—in case I lost some as it evaporated—but you can also measure 6 ounces.)

Whisking matcha in a pot

After all my whisking efforts, I wasn’t able to get it exactly frothy. I’ll have to look into this tea whisk thing. I’m sure you could use it for chai lattes, etc., too (in my American way of repurposing things). Here’s the tea whisk I ended up ordering.

The taste of matcha is grassy and slightly sweet and what you would expect from green tea, but it tasted grassier. Maybe it was a psychological combination of smelling the powder, dropping it into a pot, and whisking it that made me think I was eating soup or some kind of soupy sauce instead of tea. (Frothing with a tea whisk will produce better results, and what is intended.) Regardless, it tastes like a health drink. (You don’t eat whole grain wheat bread because it’s the sweetest, fluffiest bread you’ve ever tasted. You eat it because it’s healthy. Although, I do like whole grains. As a kid, I liked eating things that made me feel like a rabbit foraging for food, or a cow chewing something tough—I did eat compact sticks of grains meant for cows on a ranch once—but that’s another story.)

I would urge you to try Matcha tea, if nothing else, to satisfy your itching curiosity to try a powdered, bright green tea. It has less caffeine than regular green tea (which is less than black tea) and it has high amounts of antioxidants.

Drink to your health!

P. S. (Like I’m writing a letter to my pen-pal.) I thought I’d comment on the Republic’s choice of packaging.


I opened the box and found, to my delight, a bunch of cardboard triangles. The Republic’s usual shipping fodder consists of the trimmings from their tea bags, so this was something new and exciting (probably because I’m a geek). As you can see in the photo, they’re called ExpandOS. I’m guessing they come in a flat cut-out and are assembled before packaging to make little triangle air pockets (preferable to plastic air pockets or Styrofoam peanuts). I had to know what this was, so I checked out their Web site (yes, they have a site). Using tea bag trimmings is an eco-friendly way to avoid extra manufactured packaging, but made-from-post-industrial-waste ExpandOS is also a good option.

I’ve been pondering what to do with these guys. If I were artistically inclined, I would use them to build some kind of sculpture, or use them in a found-object project. But, alas, I’m not artistically anything. So….if you want these, I’ll send them to you. It’s my first reader giveaway! (Don’t get too excited.) If you’re a reader and you’d like these ExpandOS for an art project, or something else creative, leave a comment below. First person to comment can have the box full of ExpandOS—under one condition. You have to do a guest post on Tea Notes with a photo showing how you used the ExpandOS. This could be fun and an awesome way to promote reusable materials.

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Life of a Tea Drinker, Chapter I

Chapter, the First
In which the author introduces herself to her readership, after much time since the dawning of her Web log…

I’ve added a new category: Life of a Tea Drinker. Sometimes a girl just needs to write, regardless of her influx (or no flux) of new tea. (FYI, I did get an exciting shipment of Harney & Sons on Saturday, so look for more tea blogs soon!) I’ll designate occasional blogs to this Life category that are “optional,” as if you need permission to read or not read any of this nonsense. Feel free to peruse at your own risk—it may get personal. Fair warning.

To start off, I’d like to make friends by showing you my cat, Wordsworth.

Isn’t he adorable? If you don’t think so, please refrain from commenting. He’s the closest thing we have to a child, and only-child syndrome set in long ago. This furball likes to coat the furniture in a thin layer of white fluff as he travels to his favorite spots around the house. He also likes to shout (or the equivalent of shouting in cat meows).

Why the funny name? I’ve always wanted to name someone Wordsworth. It’s so distinguished and uncommon. I didn’t care too much for the poet, but didn’t hate him. I couldn’t, in good conscience, name a child after him. So the cat name was born. He enjoys everything I do: movies, TV shows, books, tea (especially if milk is added). I consider myself lucky to have a cat who shares so many interests with me. I know he’s interested because he’s always right next to me when I do these various activities, so it has to mean he likes them too, right?

Oddly enough, the second person I’d like to introduce is the more important man in my life (shh! Don’t tell the cat!), my husband, Mike.

Also adorable, no? He’s my best friend and possesses an infinite understanding of all my quirks. Apart from similar tastes in movies, food, or other activities, Mike and I are very different. I was an English major; Mike is an electrical engineer. I was kicked out of violin lessons when I was younger because of a short attention span; Mike plays more instruments than you can count on one hand, but prefers piano and guitar. He’s working on his Master’s thesis for another electrical engineering degree, so that occupies most of his time at the present.

I’m an editor by trade, but I’m not terribly fond of medical editing, which seems to be my lot in life, at least for now. I’m working on a novel on the side, but I use the word working very loosely. I think the last time I touched it was several months ago. It goes in and out of favor with me, but I may find time to work on it again very soon. It’s all about motivation.

Aside from all things related to the written word, I consider myself an activist for the environment. My particular interest is ocean conservation (Sylvia Earle is my hero), for which I spend a lot of my time reading blogs and news about marine biology, marine ecosystems, and conservation. I’m also interested in saving endangered species (ocean dwelling or not) and trees (which help us to breathe; although, so does the ocean). Mike and I constantly fight over toilet paper: I like to buy recycled toilet tissue and his preferences lie with the plusher variety. I can understand this (I enjoy a good Charmin commercial), but using fewer trees should be more of priority in the world today. I send Congress(wo)men e-mails lobbying various environmental bills, for which the replies are usually very frustrating. I’m a fervent promoter of reusable items like grocery bags and lunch pouches. I’ve been saving glass bottles for the past year to paint and re-purpose as flower vases, but haven’t started painting yet. (Words likes to consume plants, so fresh-cut flowers are a rare sight inside the house.) For all my environmental awareness, I hate gardening. I keep a small flowerbed of hard-to-kill species that are pretty to look at in spring and summer. However, I am interested in finally taking the plunge and planting herbs and potatoes. Stay tuned.

I also like to cook. It’s not that cooking relaxes me or that I cook every free second of my day, but I enjoy creating something that my husband likes to eat and I can be proud of. My nephew’s 1st birthday party is coming up and I’m planning on bringing Baby Strawberry and Honey Pies as a treat (a Giada De Laurentiis recipeGiada is also my hero).

That about catches the reader up to speed with my little corner of the world. Check this category again if this post didn’t bore you to tears.

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Pre-Spring Peach

Midsummer’s Peach
by Harney & Sons
(Find it on their Web site.)

I was saving this post for Valentine’s Day, but, alas, the romance of February has come and gone. But with Spring around the corner, maybe March isn’t such a bad time for some peach flavored black tea. Actually, drink it any time and you won’t be disappointed. Perhaps midsummer, if you can wait that long to try this amazing blend.

It’s definitely a romantic tea. The tin is a pretty pink, with colorful floralish design and copper trim. The entire inside of the tin is lined with copper color, giving it a unique flair.  The silk sachets feel elegant and allow the tea leaves to open and give you a full flavor. I’ve tasted a lot of great tea that comes in plain, old cardboard boxes, but it’s the extra touches in this packaging that sends you over the moon. It’s the little things in life…or I’m terribly easy to please.

But enough about the packaging (I could go on all day). The classic peach flavored black tea is accented by that Harney & Sons punch; that bite from the fine black tea that leaves you satisfied with a full-bodied warmth after every sip. The peach is not subtle, but not overpowering. It’s not like drinking peach juice, a la Celestial Seasonings’ Country Peach Passion (a good herbal, if you haven’t tried it). You can taste the tea.

I don’t usually run across Harney & Sons in the grocery store (but maybe I shop in the wrong part of town). Their prices online are very reasonable, and the quality for the price is worth the short wait for shipping. It’s fancier than the price lets on. You might find it at a restaurant or hotel breakfast (thank you, Marriott, for introducing me a few years back). They are a well-known company, and, even better, they are 1% for the Planet. I may have a partial bias, because they support Ocean Conservancy, Nature Conservancy, and other organizations, but you’ll know when you taste it that it doesn’t matter who they support. Their fine tea is a delightful experience.

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Parisian Holiday

by Harney & Sons
(Get your slice of Paris here.)

A little sidewalk café, a little breeze across your face, and a hint of vanilla. You don’t have to go to France to experience Paris. This black tea with a touch of vanilla is light and soothing. It’s black tea flavor is strong, but the vanilla brings a calming element to the concoction and warms it. I’ve never even been to Paris…

When people think of Paris, they think of sidewalk cafés, which I’m sure is a nice experience, but I also think of shops full of books and old men piling the volumes high on tables (because, of course, they’ve run out of room on the shelves—there’s a lot of history in Europe). So I chose a cozy, musty backdrop for the tea you see in the photograph. (Others might think of the French Revolution when they think of Paris, but I resisted the urge to include my copy of A Tale of Two Cities to the photo.)

The “W” on the mug probably shatters the illusion. I can’t think of a French surname that would start with W. Perhaps a visiting German professor has brought his own mug to the library, where he’s pouring over musty tomes of Parisian history. (Yes, those are all British editions in the photo—I have a shocking lack of French influence in my life).

No matter your level of French exposure, Paris tea will work its magic on you. After all, we’ll always have Paris…

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Supremely Grey

Earl Grey Supreme
by Harney & Sons

(Available at harney.com.)

I found myself enjoying Harney & Sons tea a few weekends ago at a hotel in town. I was attending a conference for our church and exploring the breakfast spread.  I thoroughly enjoyed their Orange Pekoe, so I made a mental note to look up the teamakers when I got home. Turns out, their site is very well organized and informative. That’s when I spotted it: Earl Grey Supreme. You’re kidding, I thought, No way these guys are trying to perfect a classic like Earl Grey.

I ended up ordering the a box of the Supreme, Orange Pekoe, and Paris. All of them are excellent, but this blog is about the Earl.

This tea assaults your tongue with bergamot and leaves you (no pun intended) warm and satisfied. Have you ever sipped regular Earl Grey and just felt like it lacked something? If you’re a fan of rich, black tea with full-bodied flavor with nothing left to your imagination, this is the tea for you. Bergamot, of course, is a fruit that acts as the key ingredient in Earl Grey tea. It’s a citrus fruit grown mainly in Italy, and the essential oil from the peel is extracted for flavoring.

The Earl, for those of you who may not be familiar with this tea’s history (but neither was I until I did some research), is more formally known as Earl Charles Grey (1764-1845). He supposedly received black tea with bergamot oil from a friend, and the drink was named for him. Apparently Grey was also Prime Minister who made a bunch of politically progressive decisions for the Whig party, but his legacy is overshadowed by his gift of tea. I don’t know if we should feel sorry for him or not. Either way, we have Earl Grey tea, and what a delight it is.

This particular tea comes in loose-leaf, bags, and sachets, all in a variety of sizes and very reasonably priced. Check it out.


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