Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Girl Scouts and Tea - A Perfect Match!

I had the wonderful pleasure of being with Girl Scouts of Western Washington this weekend.  My friend Roberta (shown above, she owns Experience Tea) has put together an amazing program that shines a light on world cultures through the lens of tea.  This program is an outreach of the NW Tea Fest. I was privileged to be a helper.  

The program explains what tea is, and then takes the girls on a journey through four tea cultures: China, Japan, England and India.  It's an experiential class.  Girls taste a variety of teas and practice brewing skills. We held two programs, grades 2 - 5 and also grades 6 - 12, and each group delighted me.  The best part, all of the grownups agreed, was watching the girls come alive throughout their learning journey.

(This photo doesn't show much because I am respecting the girls' privacy)

My role was to explain how tea made it from China to Japan, how it's consumed in Japan today (loose green tea, sencha) and to demonstrate making a bowl of matcha (above).  Both groups tasted the matcha, and I was proud of their spirit of adventure! 

My good friend AM talked about how tea made its way to England, and how the concept of Afternoon Tea was popularized, in addition to other things.  Above, she's showing a photo of Anna, the Duchess of Bedford. She also demonstrated brewing loose tea in a pot.

And we wrapped up the journey by visiting India.  Here, the girls learned about how tea is grown there and how chai is an important part of daily life.  They also go to taste chai and traditional Indian snacks.

Aren't these cool?  I want one!  

I am very excited to have been part of this program, and I hope to see this Tea and Culture program become something offered widely.  These things take time. And yet, I can't think of a better way to encourage an expansion of one's cultural awareness than through tea!  Thank you to everyone who worked to make this happen!  I am happy to support the mission of Girl Scouts, "Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place."   

And here's a poem written by Mimi Murray, National Operational Volunteer, GSUSA

Because the Girl

Because the girl
     has a need,
We have an obligation.
Because the girl
     has a choice,
We must be her better choice.
Because the girl
     has high expectations,
We must excel.
Because the girl
     wants to explore,
We must be her guide.
Because the girl
     wants to belong,
We must open our arms.
Because the girl
     is searching for direction,
We must be her compass.
Because the girl
     encounters times of turmoil,
We must be her safe haven.
Because the girl
     is tomorrow's woman,
We must care today.
Because of the girl…
We exist.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Finding Poetry Everywhere

When I'm operating at my best, I find poetry everywhere.
Including on napkins.  
Thank you MJ!

Bottom right quote:
"To slow down and 
take a little leisure
is the happiest
method of living."

Friday, April 03, 2015

ShanLinXi Oolong (Taiwan) and Poetry

April is National Poetry Month. I love poetry! I'm regularly moved deeply when reading or writing poems. I think truth is often best known through a poem, and it takes a brave person to write the truth. And so, I will strive to sprinkle poems liberally throughout my postings this month. Also, plan now for National Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 30th!  It's a fun day that I get giddy about each year.  

This spring finds me busy with work, home and tea life and in addition, planning for a service trip to Rwanda.  I look for frequent ways to bring calm into my life. Tea is always a remedy, as this poem explains:  

"Though I cannot flee
From the world of corruption,
I can prepare tea
With water from a mountain stream
And put my heart to rest."

~Ueda Akinari, 1734 - 1809, Japanese author and waka poet

I recently  had a few hours on a sunny afternoon to drink Winter 2014 ShanLiinXi tea from  Floating Leaves. It's a tea that's very balanced and I appreciate the fruity aftertaste.

I had the good fortune to drink this tea with Shiuwen Tai (of Floating Leaves), and she is helping our tea group appreciate the nuances of teas like this.  In addition to the aroma and taste, we spent time paying attention to the tea broth and how it feels in the mouth.  This tea was described as "creamy" for the way one experiences the feeling of the tea (not the flavor).  

The next time you're drinking an oolong tea, spend some time with the mouth feel.  Is it thick or thin? Does it coat your mouth? Does it leave your mouth feeling dry? Try not to judge, but rather experience and notice.

This burlap fabric, above, is from my China-adventures roomie.  I LOVE it!

This cute little guy was my tea companion.

Notice how much the leaves have expanded.  I used a layer of the dry, balled tea to cover the bottom of the pot and when done brewing, it filled the pot up.

OK, your turn!  Share with me your thoughts on poetry or this poem, on how to appreciate tea, on mouth feel, or on whatever you feel moved to share.

Monday, March 30, 2015

You Never Know What You'll See on a Portland Street...

 This incredible bubble art...

Or maybe two women dressed in Victorian-style clothes, out for a stroll...
To my fellow chanoyu students: Ms. M and I got a big kick out of this photo. Notice our tea hands!

The truth is my friend Ms. M (in blue) is much more practiced at costuming than I.  I was a little nervous to walk around in public, but I am SO glad that we did!  Truly, I have never seen so many people look up from their phones or other occupations and smile genuinely.  I felt like the smile fairy.

All manner of people engaged with us, from children to elderly, across ethnic and socioeconomic groups.  It was fun and made me realize how much this human connection of smiling feels good. 

After our stroll, Ms. M and I visited the Heathman Hotel for Afternoon Tea.  It's a grand old hotel with a beautiful lobby. (You may have heard of the hotel from a certain super popular book/movie. Hint: There's a color in the title.)

Ms. M is wearing a riding hat and a bustle skirt.  I am wearing a top hat with feathers and a walking skirt.

The setting at the Heathman is beautiful.

 The tea menu...  Everything was delicious!

Here's my invitation to us all... take a chance and smile at a stranger, including the ones dressed differently.  It's amazing!

"If you smile at me I will understand
'Cause that is something
Everybody everywhere does in the same language."

~Crosby, Stills & Nash, Wooden Ships

Friday, March 27, 2015

It's a Small Tea World and Steven Smith

Steven Smith, at a cheese and tea pairing 
in August, 2013

"The man breathed in deeply - of rosebuds and mint, of sunny meadows and salty cliffs, of streams in no hurry and the sound of bagpipes."~Ethel Pochocki, Wildflower Tea, 1993

This quote reminds me of Steven Smith, who got his business start with "tea" by selling herbal blends along the West Coast.  He was a major player in the birth of both Stash and Tazo, and most recently Steven Smith, Teamaker.  Smith died this week and obituaries have been run far and wide, including this one in the New York Times and another from Oregon Live.

I am grateful for the small, connected and caring tea community around the world. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mitsuwa: Japanese Marketplace (San Jose, CA)

I recently spent a sunny day n San Jose, CA (looking out the window of a conference room). As I was heading to the airport, I welcomed the gift of a bit of spare time.  I stopped at the Mitsuwa Japanese Marketplace and wanted to share with you some of the visuals and experience.  It feels like visiting Japan for an hour.

When I walked in, I was delighted to see that tea had such a prominent presence!  Ito En's Matcha Love shop was the first shop to the left, and just next to it was Lupicia.

The main reason for this detour was to visit the Japanese sweets shop.  Japanese confections are presented in such a lovely way! Below, rows of mochi (a stretchy rice dough).  These are filled with bean paste and whipped cream.

Ito En's shop had a small but attractive assortment of tea wares.  I looked long at hard at some of the side-handled pots (sitting on the green box).  I resisted, but they had some very nice ones.

I brought home Celebration sencha tea, an organic variety.  Spring is here and my desire for green teas is growing!

And I also had to try the sakura mochi (below).  These are a special seasonal sweet.  The sticky rice is filled with bean paste and wrapped in a cherry leaf. On top is a preserved cherry blossom.  I'm enjoying with a cup of tea from Ito En.

When in San Jose, Mitsuwa would make a fun and delicious adventure.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Birthday Cake

I made my own birthday cake this year, and I say that with JOY!  I like to make cakes, but I didn't want to have an entire cake around for just the DH and me.  (The pan of Rice Krispy treats he just made for me, I'm willing to keep those all to myself!) 

Recently, I had some friends over to share a Wu-Wo ceremony, and it was the perfect excuse to make this cake.  The fancy bundt cake pan in the swirl shape came from my library.  Love that concept!

The confection is called Day of Wine and Roses Cake.  It's super moist as it should be, with both pudding mix and sour cream added to the batter. It includes both chocolate chips and melted bittersweet chocolate.  It's perfect for the bundt pan and needs no icing. I don't recall where I got the recipe and I can't find it online, so it's a bit of a mystery.  If you've heard of it, let me know!  

Happy Spring!  Happy Equinox!