Text and images © 2009-2015 A.C. Cargill. All Rights Reserved. No content may be reproduced without written permission.
As of 11 March 2014, the focus of this blog is changing and will be writing more general articles as opposed to those about tea, although tea will still figure prominently in them.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Reality of Tribute Tea

There is a lot of talk about things like fair trade and minimum wages for tea drinkers. Yet, only about 300 years ago a system of forced servitude for creating “tribute teas” ended. At one time about 3 million Chinese were indentured to cultivate, harvest, and process these teas for the Emperor and his court. The best teas in the land were mandated away from the tea garden owners and those who took time to produce the finished products. The system had endured for about 1,000 years, starting in 700 A.D. Thankfully, free trade with Europe helped end this horrible system but preserved those high-quality teas.

The practice of gongcha (the Chinese term for these teas) appears in the chronicle Hua Yang Guo Zhi, written by Chang Qu around 4th century which states that around 1,000 B.C. people in the ancient Bashu states offered tea as a tribute to the Emperor. However, at that time it was strictly voluntary, a sort of honorarium. Tea was an important crop during the Song Dynasty (between 960 and 1279 A.D.), the height of the mandated tribute tea era in China. Tea farms covered 242 counties. This included expensive tribute tea and tea from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.

So what ended this system that amounted to forced servitude? Free trade. (Yes, free trade, not “fair trade.”) It supposedly started around 1,000 years ago and was building up even more around China. Teas were going to Burma, India, and Tibet along the famous Ancient Tea Horse Road. In 1610 the Dutch arrived and heated up that trade by introducing tea to the Netherlands, France, and here in the Western Hemisphere. It was the beginning of the end of tribute teas, with wealthy customers willing to pay a premium price for these premium teas and the workers rebelling against what was regarded as a burdensome tax on their labor as well as propping up the feudal system in place there. The system petered out in the 1700s.

Personally, I would like to see the term “tribute tea” dropped in favor of just calling these “premium” teas as a way of removing that aspect of these teas’ history where workers plucked and hauled and spread leaves out to wither and all the other laborious steps needed to make these teas.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Need for Better Tea Knowledge

Making a bit of a change in my personal approach to writing about tea. Hubby and I are cutting back on doing tea reviews, with the very capable assistance of our buddy Little Yellow Teapot & the Tea Gang (they will be having their own tea adventures on the side). We’ll be finishing off reviewing samples on hand and then be very selective on any further samples we accept. There are just so many tea review sites out there (and a new one just starting) that we feel the need to address a very different side of things: tea knowledge.

A tea factory from their video.

One thing that got us rankled and spurred us on to make this change was a video from Bigelow Tea that I saw on LinkedIn by the merest chance. Here the vendor claims their teas are “hand-crafted” in Sri Lanka. “Hand-crafted” is another buzz term to get you, the tea drinker, to think “better,” “worth a higher price,” etc. Again, this is not an ethical approach to marketing (rather odd from a company stressing their “ethical partnerships” and support of “fair trade” with the tea growers/processors). My article about every tea vendor slapping “artisan” on their teas, which is an unethical approach to marketing that takes advantage of a lack of tea knowledge in their target market (basically, you), shows another such deception.

The intro text that Bigelow Tea posted on LinkedIn about the video: “Third generation CEO Cindi Bigelow of Bigelow Tea visits Sri Lanka which produces some of the world's finest teas. Join Cindi as she visits some of the factories that have been producing hand-crafted fine teas for her family business for nearly 70 years.” [Watch the video.]

There is no way that the teas coming out of a tea factory like the ones shown can be classified as “hand-crafted.” Anyone who has visited various tea processing locations in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, and India will certainly know what I mean here. Even I, who have learned of these things from afar, know the difference. The goal for me, therefore, on this blog and on my Little Yellow Teapot & the Tea Gang blog will be transitioning from reviewing teas and writing more light articles about tea enjoyment to some real useful information for you, the tea drinker, to get the really good deal.

As for “hand-crafted,” that will be another article, and I’m not picking on Bigelow Tea or Cindi Bigelow here. I want to be sure to get all the facts straight and consult with some of the more knowledgeable tea processors out there. Meanwhile, beware of any tea vendor who makes such claims, especially when most of their teas are sold as dust in bags.

A note about tea reviewing: hubby and I have discovered that few of the teas we have been sent are truly exceptional (most tend to be versions of the same thing that are a little better or worse than another version); what has been truly educational is seeing the different approaches to selling tea, the various claims being made (a lot of it just hype), the marketing tricks employed, how open they are with their customers about themselves and their products, and how they react when such things are pointed out.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Friday, January 24, 2014

Another Skewed Tea Vendor?

Re: Chash Tea, Owner is Dan Rook.
 
A new tea vendor has popped up online (at least new to me). The name is Chash, a company based in London, UK, and owned by Dan Rook. The company has been around 6 years and has adopted an attitude of infallibility, it seems. Always eager to greet those new to selling tea and help out by sampling their teas, I am equally disappointed when a vendor turns out to be off-base and worse yet when they will not acknowledge this. His reaction to my correction of his misstatement about caffeine (he became very defensive and started attacking me personally) got me wondering, so I thought a bit of investigation was needed.

First, a bit of explaining of the situation: Being the helpful sort, I speak up when asked for input or when I see a need. I helped a new tea vendor with information for her web site and was pleased that she was open to some very well-intentioned suggestions. The same has been true of others along the way, too, including a vendor I have come to regard as the source in the U.S. for fine Chinese teas – JAS-eTea.com. But Dan has turned out to be some guy who doesn’t like anyone issuing him a correction. He calls it “not playing nice,” as if he were still in elementary school. A recent tweet series I had with him showed this mindset. I had noticed an exchange on Twitter where he told someone that white tea has the most caffeine. I had pointed him to this report from Nigel Melican of Teacraft which clearly states that caffeine levels vary according to several factors. Melican shows that while white teas that are composed mainly of tips are generally among the highest, others are high, too, and no one type is necessarily stated as being highest. The issue of caffeine (more correctly, theanine) is an important one. Such misinformation does a disservice. I pointed out the error and was promptly pounced on as a big meanie. Yeah, that’s me, a big meanie, someone who isn’t “playing nice” in the Twitter sandbox. Bwahahahahahahaha!

This reaction got me curious about who this person was. What was more worrying is the journey it took me to find out. Something to hide here? Anyway, obviously I did find out after a bit of searching as follows:
  • The “About Us” page on the store site doesn’t have a name on it (always a warning sign). (What is stated on the “About Us” page is a claim that they have been in business for 6 years. It makes their misstatement about caffeine (that white tea is highest) all the more puzzling.)
  • One of his Twitter pals called him “Dan”.
  • The company Facebook page shows an email address for “Dan”.
  • On Google+, the owner is listed as “Dan, Leaf Executive.”
  • Another site that tracks their business traffic shows virtually none outside the UK.
  • A business info site has a “planted” review about the company (that’s when someone gets a buddy to post a good review about them to counter the bad stuff being posted). I know because once again “Dan’s” last name is left off.
  • A couple of sites posting reviews of their teas also lists the owner simply as “Dan.” Why he doesn’t use his last name is another puzzle. (Previously, I had heard that another vendor who did not put his name on the company site or elsewhere was dodging the tax collector. Not saying that’s the case here, though. Maybe he’s like Cher or Madonna. Just uses one name.)
  • There is even an article about the company that was obviously written by some PR person (possibly one they hired), has no author name, and again does not say who owns Chash. The article states: “Chash work on the principle that like a good wine, the taste of tea can be influenced by the plant, the farming, the climate and the production.” (Gee, I think they got that statement off of some other tea vendors’ sites. And if they are sourcing such high-quality tea, why smother that wonderful flavor? They might as well buy the leftovers from the tea auctions and be done with it.)
  • Finally found an article that gave the owner’s full name but read again like a PR announcement.
For a company that’s supposed to have been around for 6 years and have such a glowing reputation, they are fairly closed about who they are, unlike Lochan Tea, The Devotea, Thunderbolt Tea, Yunomi.us, and a host of others I could name who carry truly great teas.

Despite their company motto (“If ‘Tea Makes Everything Better’ shouldn't we be drinking better tea?”), they don’t necessarily offer better tea. They do offer 26 herbals (the majority of their product line it seems), 19 teas that they claim are “rare & prized”, 3 pu-erhs where they don’t specify raw or ripe nor the factory (I’m spoiled by the folks at JAS-eTea.com), and a miscellany of other teas presented in a fancy manner. Their store site seems more surface than substance (focus on visual impact versus real info for you).

On a final note, I got a big laugh out of them listing a tea as a “white oolong”!! Their listings of an Aged Assam and a Darjeeling Oolong were also amusing. Small wonder that tea experts like Phil Mumby are flustered at tea vendors out there, and I have to agree with him.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

There Are Tea Clubs and Then There Are Tea Clubs

Some tea clubs want to make you feel like you are in some kind of exclusive, elitist enclave. Others truly want to help you broaden your tea horizons by jolting you out of your comfort zone to get you to try some teas you might not otherwise try. I’m not sure yet which The Devotea’s Tea Club is, since the teas we recently received are doing both. We have that Tea Elite Vibe going big time and at the same time these aren’t snooty teas presented in some pretentious fashion but are simply tasty teas presented in a cheerful manner and that are just coaxing us to put that little teapot of our to work!


The Tea Maven behind these teas is Nicole Schwartz, working on the U.S. side of the company. She states her goals in selecting the teas for each month are, “I am hoping to have one special blend each month, feature one fabulous Lochan tea, and the rest will depend on the season, but since my mother subscribes each box needs to be amazing” — sounds like the pressure is on here!

It also sounds like this will be one of the funner tea clubs around.

© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Good and Bad of Pre-Mixed Masala Chai

Recently, I tried one of the very best pre-mixed masala chais I have yet to taste. Considering that I have been drinking this style of flavored tea for about 20 years, that statement seems even more impressive than it otherwise might. You can read the full review here. Sadly, a lot of folks in the U.S. think that "chai" means "spiced tea" and that it should be loaded with cinnamon. That's okay, I used to think so, too, mainly because I would have that "chai latté from the local Starbucks (made with that syrupy type of instant chai that Tazo produces by the vat-full).

My experience with this much more authentic-tasting masala chai, from the folks at Lochan Tea who are proving their years of experience with tea, brought me back to the true masala chai taste I had first experienced all those years ago in a restaurant in the Washington, DC, area. It also prompted me to write an article about it for their blog, which you can see here. Good things should be heralded whenever we find them!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Final Tea Room Experience

This Tea Princess has had her last visit to one of those fancy tea rooms. Absolutely, positively the last. And the reason? They all disappoint. This last one most of all. Time to tell my tale of Tea Princess woe.


The tea room in question was Chantilly Tea Room in Tucson, Arizona, but this really isn’t directed at them. In fact, it’s more about me and my journey of tea discovery over the past several years. There was a time when the service there and other such places would have been very satisfying. That whole “ignorance is bliss” thing. Now, though, they just won’t do.

Issues:
  • Oversteeped tea — The tea leaves were loose in teapot but no empty teapot was provided to strain the tea into once it was ready, so it got oversteeped; the waitress made things worse by adding more hot water. Small wonder that many people don’t like teas. The steeping process need to be stopped at a certain point so the tea does not get bitter or worse. This was a big learning point for me and why hubby and I now use the 2-teapot method when steeping tea.
  • Choices not premium — Most of their “teas” were highly flavored concoctions, including herbals. We ordered Irish Breakfast and their version of Masala Chai, which was heavily cinnamoned and got bitter since we had no way to strain the liquid. Once upon a time my favorite tea was Earl Grey (still very popular) and a close second was anything fruity flavored or even a bit spicy. Now I just see the flavorings as getting in the way of the tea and so stick with straight teas with a few exceptions.
  • Fancy menu not worth the price — The food was very overpriced but not bad. I had a small quiche made with mushrooms and bleu cheese accompanied by a pile of raw lettuce and other items that they called a salad. Hardly worth the almost $12 price. Over the years I’ve just gotten away from that salad stuff and like to get more for my money that little tidbits.
  • Strange eating utensils — One thing for me that really made the meal troublesome and annoying was the flatware provided. I had a small salad fork and a butter knife instead of a dinner fork and a dinner knife. It made cutting and eating my food quite awkward. In all fairness, I began eating my meals in a more European style about 20 years ago. That’s where you hold the fork in your non-dominant hand (the left in my case) and cut with a knife in the other hand. This requires the proper utensils.
The good points:
  • A nice albeit somewhat overly pink décor. Color is a very personal issue. All a tea room manager can hope for is something that will appeal to a broad enough spectrum of people to maintain enough customer traffic.
  • A well-stocked gift area, including the teas shown above and lots of teawares ranging from cute and kitschy to elegant. The only drawback is our lack of space to store anymore teawares, at least until we get some things better organized around here.
  • Adequate parking. Very important! If you overindulge, nothing is worse than a long hike to where your car is parked.
My increased knowledge of tea and higher standards for the value I want to get from the money I work so many hours to earn have made me less accepting of the experience at places like this. Since many tea rooms are set up like this one, I have pretty much decided to forego and further such forays. It’s a personal decision and one that you may disagree with. That’s the beauty of personal choice.

The rest of our visit to Tucson, though, was a fabulous experience. Nevertheless, this Tea Princess was glad to be back in her “tea home.”

© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Monday, November 18, 2013

Simplex Kettles — An Example of How NOT to Respond to a Customer Complaint

Recently, I won a tea kettle from Simplex Kettles in the UK and was quite excited — until the problems arose. I should say “problem” — singular — because as it turned out there was really only one problem. His name was Graham Tweed, CEO of Simplex Kettles. Someone that I’m sure is in person a really nice guy but who came across very differently in our email exchange regarding my “prize” kettle. So much so that hubby and I are now quite pissed off with him and the company.


First, let me say that the kettle, despite some minor dents, is gorgeous. And we missed on their site that it is not tarnish-proof so have only ourselves to blame there. Trying to be very fair here. On the other hand, we did make sure to select a tea kettle that would work on our hotplates (we don’t have a stove — a trend that is growing here in the U.S. and elsewhere). We took this screenshot from their site on 11 Nov 2013 9:59:39 AM my time showing that it was supposed to work (click on image to enlarge).


A kettle is no good if it’s just pretty, so we had to test it out, following the Simplex instructions very carefully. Sadly, the test didn’t go well (details here) and so we contacted Simplex through Facebook. Imagine my surprise when the CEO, Graham Tweed, responded! The company isn’t huge, but they’re not a one-man operation either, so I had expected them to have a social media or PR person who would address customer concerns. A lot of times these people are more diplomatic and are much better at paying attention to what the customer is saying. In this case, it would have been a good idea. You see, this isn’t about the quality of the kettle but rather about the how this company responded to us.

It’s kind of tough to write this. We were so happy to win their contest and even more happy when the prize kettle arrived. We had hoped this item would be all that the company site said it was. It wasn’t and the CEO didn’t like hearing that. First, he blamed the hotplate, sending reviews he found somewhere online saying how bad it worked (we had to point out that it worked fine with our other kettle). Then it seems WE were the problem, using their kettle wrong. At my age I’ve used lots of kettles. Again, I think the real problem was Tweed answering my Facebook message. It was Sunday but he could have waited and let that more diplomatic person handle things. Just a thought. And answering via his cell phone meant he probably didn’t read my messages thoroughly (some of his responses were non-sequitor) and the brevity of his responses made them seem terse.

Oh well, our tried and true tea kettle will serve us just fine until we found a truly usable replacement.

One final note: Online shopping, especially from companies based in another country, are a bit risky with the biggest issue being customer complaints. Avenues of recourse available to us here when buying from a U.S.-based company do not apply to these other offshore firms.

© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tea Time Musings — The Bollywood Movie Experience

Hubby and I got to see our first full-length (3 hours) Bollywood movie recently, thanks to Dr. Brian Cowlishaw, a professor at the local university. It was called Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and starred an actor quite famous in India: Shahrukh Khan. His co-star was the beautiful Anushka Sharma in her first starring role. While plot elements were well known to us from other movies, the overall effect was rather unique and fresh. The acting was much better than expected, the dance numbers and music were full of great rhythms, and the boy-girl conflicts, while a bit cliché, were still entertaining. Khan’s performance was very moving in several scenes and purposefully annoying in other scenes. When his co-star’s character Taani shows annoyance, the audience is in total agreement and understanding with her.

One criticism: making Shahrukh Khan look nerdy never really quite worked, but that also goes for many Hollywood movies: handsome men are cast in roles where they should look unhandsome or at least ordinary (see my article Tea Kettle Philosophy — The Too Handsome Actor) and beautiful women are cast in roles where they are meant to look plain (Joan Fontaine, a much acknowledged Hollywood beauty, cast as Jane Eyre, for example).

Bollywood movies are a phenomenon in the film world that are very cultural and very specific to India. The genre began in Bombay, which is now called Mumbai, having thrown off it colonial name, but now the movies are filmed elsewhere, too. In fact, a scene or two in this movie were filmed in the Alps. (The majority was filmed on location in Amritsar, which is the city used in another Bollywood movie Bride and Prejudice, a delightful twist on the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice, and in studios.) Therefore, you get to see a very real view of the city and some of the countryside, not a moviedom version. That in itself is a refreshing treat.

The musical in Hollywood died with such films as Star! and Darling Lili (both Julie Andrews tour-de-forces and ones I personally enjoyed immensely due to her tremendous talent and almost unbelievable vocal range) but lives on in Bollywood!

See my article related to this on The English Tea Store Blog: http://englishtea.us/2013/10/07/tea-and-the-bollywood-movie/

© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tea and a Book: “The Map of Time” by Felix J. Palma

I’m rarely surprised anymore when reading a book or watching a movie. It’s not that I’m jaded. It’s that they have become formulaic. Expected. Commonplace. This novel appeared to be the same. However, the author at one point managed to surprise — in fact, more than once in the first half of the novel — while entertaining. I had some “aw geez, don’t go there” moments when things started getting a bit cliché, though. Then, it seemed to get better, then near the end…well, getting a bit ahead of myself here.

The good points of the novel: 1) the use of a literary device of omniscience and the rather cute way he has of informing his audience he is doing this; 2) the use of language (I have to point out, though, that this is as much due to the translator as the author, since the novel was written originally in Spanish); and 3) the historical references being tied together in an artful way. Considering that the novel takes place in England but was written by someone born and raised in Spain, the novel has a very authentic British feel to it.

The bad points of the novel: 1) overly graphic in some places; 2) just plain silly in others; and 3) rather disappointing overall, sort of like sitting down to a meal that smells good and initially tastes good but that ends up being rather mediocre.

Some reviewers have “ooh”ed and “aah”ed over this book. I cannot join their chorus. After leading readers through an almost tortuous labyrinth about the myth of time travel, and after making sure his readers know that time travel is not possible, he twists around and proposes the opposite. Rubbish! And very disappointing. This is presented as a murder mystery, not fantasy fiction. When I reached that point in the novel, I kept hoping that Senor Palma was once again going to reveal the hoax, as he had done twice previously. Sadly, those hopes were dashed. Worse yet was the fizzling nature of the last chapter or so. After all that winding back and forth previously and involving such historical figures as H.G. Wells in his journey, the nature of the ending was a huge let down.

One final note: there was one good thing about the novel, and that was the wonderful tea I enjoyed while reading it.

© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New Product from The Devotea U.S. — Spiced Tea Meat Rubs!

Once upon a time a guy, his wife, his hat, and a little yellow rubber ducky from Australia made tea history with their videos on tea. (Actually, his wife was not in the videos too much but her influence was there, especially in that fine set of dishes on display behind him.) Then, they progressed to being a tea vendor, sending forth samples to folks like us to be tested, always a brave and somewhat scary thing for any tea vendor to do. And the teas were good, and the reviewers were pleased. And so the guy, his wife, his hat, and the little yellow rubber ducky extended their operations to the U.S. and built a tea-bridge of sorts from that “land down under” to “the new world,” as the Europeans called it. And their conquest of the tea market had barely begun when they brought forth a new product line called “meat rubs.” And the world ate happily ever after! (Their idea guide.)


Well, that’s the fairy tale version. We don’t know yet how the real story will end since we just got the samples. Hubby and I will need to do a bit of shopping. Each meat rub is intended to go with certain meats (don’t worry, a guide sheet comes with the rubs) or you can use them in vegetable dishes as a spice. They are mixes of tea, spices, and other stuff. You rub them on the meat (thus the name “meat rub”) before cooking. It should be very interesting to see how everything turns out.

The big package on the left side of the photo is Aussie Ginger Chai. “Chai” means “tea” but in the U.S. is usually used to mean a spiced tea. This tea is an Aussie grown black tea with ginger, cinnamon, and other spices. Little Yellow Teapot shown here did a steeping. See the results here: http://lyt-tea-reviews.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-tea-gang-explores-aussie-ginger.html

© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Monday, September 30, 2013

Name That Pumpkin!

It’s pumpkin time! We love just about anything pumpkin flavored including — you guessed it! — pumpkins. We get a bit attached to them to the point of naming them, but can’t think of a suitable one for this little guy. We need your help! We can’t offer a prize beyond posting the winning name here and the person who came up with it. I’m pretty sure this is a ‘he’ pumpkin, but you never know, so names of either gender are welcome.

As you can see, the pumpkin is only a little bigger than our fave little teapot,
which has a capacity of 16 ounces.
For the past few years, hubby and I have bought a pie pumpkin or two, ostensibly to make into…well, pumpkin pies, of course. Last year, however, the pumpkin just kinda sat there looking at us as if to say, “I dare ya…go ahead…try to make a pie out of me!” We just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Not to mention that we were trying to sell our house at the time, which meant that before the pie could get baked we might have had to rush out of the house so prospective buyers could tramp through it and turn their collective noses up at what to us had been a wonderful home (they did that a lot).

This year, though, we are determined to proceed with pie-making, and somehow naming the pumpkin will make us even more determined. It just sort of seems good to say, “We ate George” than it is to say, “We ate that pumpkin.” Odd? Maybe. But we’re in our new home now and setting up new traditions…such as naming our pumpkins before making pies out of them.

Submit your entry as a comment here. All comments are moderated, but I will post them as long as they are free of any profanity, etc., and don’t have a URL (such as a link to your store site) in them. Deadline is October 15, 2013. The winner will be acknowledged here and on Twitter and Facebook. Our decision is final.

© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tea Time Musings — The “Summer Stock” Feeling Movie

Summer stock are those plays that are put on in Summer as a way for all those theater folks to keep their chops up. As if an actor will suddenly forget how to emote if he isn't constantly portraying some character (other than himself). Makes sense. As they say, practice makes perfect. The more my hubby practices at the piano, the better he plays.

A movie I saw not long ago with Frank Langella and Tom Hulce was a double Summer stock whammy. First, it was about an actual Summer stock theater group. Second, the movie itself seemed to be merely an acting exercise to keep the actors’ chops up in-between better roles.

Langella had portrayed Count Dracula the year before and played Sherlock Holmes in a TV series the next year. So playing “Harry Crystal” in this one where he’s a rather desperate actor trying to hold on to his career is quite a change but not at all true of his real-life career.

Hulce was in Animal House two years earlier, had a recurring role on the TV series St. Elsewhere three years later, and had the title role in Amadeus the next year. So, this Summer stock experience served him in good stead.

As usual, I try to relate just about anything and everything to tea. So, yes, I think there are things such as “Summer stock teas.” Here’s how it works:

You have some wonderful premium teas. Perhaps some Ti Kuan Yin, some raw pu-erh, or even some lovely Fujian red tea. It’s rather pricey, so you don’t have a large supply. It runs out. More is on order, but you’ve gotten a notice from the vendor that it’s backordered. You are one of those gongfu-style steepers and want to keep up your “steeping chops.” Time for a “Summer stock tea.” That is, a tea you can still infuse gongfu style but that is inexpensive enough to have on hand for when you run out of that better stuff.

A few suggestions:

  • Gunpowder Tea — a fairly well-known green tea, with versions available from a variety of vendors. Avoid the Kusmi version since it’s totally overpriced. You should be able to get 3 or 4 infusions from the same leaves.

Well, enough musings over the teacup. More to come in future, and exclusive to this blog. I write so much for other blogs that it’s been hard to find time to do things like this. But now that we’re settled in our new home, I will be making a real effort. Other writing projects in the offing, too.

© 2013 A.C. Cargill photos and text