Sunday, January 27, 2008

travelling with tea

i have to show off my wonderful (but poorly photographed) new tea cups. i had them specially made by a potter on etsy, mepottery, who has loads of other wonderful things. i wanted a stoneware or ceramic cup that would fit in my cupholder in my car and i couldn't find any without a handle or that were slim enough on the bottom to fit. it's terribly inconvenient to have to hold a mug of hot tea on the entire drive to work in the morning.

fern, the oh-so-curious cat who loves to be photographed. she was "helping" with the photo shoot of the mugs. perhaps that is why i couldn't seem to focus correctly.....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

my first block print

i went to a short but fun lino-block printing workshop this weekend and i am definitely addicted. we really only had time to cut out one simple design, mine is a 5"x7" block, and make a couple prints. i have never done any kind of printing like this before, involving printing inks and brayers etc... it's really fun thinking backwards about the image, it prints out the reverse of what you carve and unlike drawing or painting, the lines you make by taking away the surface are what does not print.
this is the actual linoleum block that i carved. it has been colored with a red permanent marker and a print was made on it before i took the picture.

anyone can go to an art supply store and get a linoleum block, some black printing ink, a basic carving set and some paper and do this at home. it's really pretty self explanatory although i like to be able to watch someone do it and ask questions etc... i will share a couple of unexpected things i learned to make the whole process a little easier. first, the instructor had us cover the linoleum block with a red permanent marker so that as you are carving away material from the surface of the block it is easier to see the contrast between the red and the color of the block. you can still tell what you are cutting away without coloring the surface but it's alot harder to see. the trick is that you have to use a truly permanent marker so that the color does not mingle with the ink you will roll on later. a second tip was to take a regular clothes iron and use it to heat up the surface of the block so that it is softer and easier to cut. you need to put a piece of cloth on top of the block to iron on or else you can melt the linoleum. the iron can be set on a medium temperature and you just iron until the fabric on top of your block is very warm to the touch. you can go back and keep doing this as it cools off. i'm not going to go thru the whole process but these were a couple things i woudn't have known to do by myself.
here are just a couple close-ups of the block after i had made an initial black print and then washed the block off. you can see the black stains in the crevices.
and here was my first print--this has a name and i forgot what it is called. basically you do a testing print to see if your lines are coming out like you thought they would, then you can go back in a carve anything out more if you need to.

this is my second print which was fun using a "rainbow roll" (that reminds me of sushi), where you put down a couple colors on your "pallette" and they mingle together giving that nice gradation. this one was made with red, orange and yellow. i didn't do a great job burnishing it though-there are alot of white blotches where the paper is showing through.

Monday, January 14, 2008

my tea accessories

my everyday teapot i could not live without. and a little teacup belonging to a set i got from my mom, so pretty.

i have been asked where i store all my teas. well, for now, until our kitchen is remodeled i have this baker's rack in my dining room with my "tea nook". my electric kettle is there, tea pot, cups, and all the tea. the teas are pretty much confined to the woven basket and the asian looking wood box next to it. a little tea goes a long way. today i enjoyed "mate latte" by republic of tea, chocolate/blood orange and ginger peach green tea also by republic of tea.

this is my favorite clay teapot. i don't use it regularly as i now have my metal teapot which is not as prone to breaking. i did use this one today though because a friend was over and my metal teapot is a single serving size.

this is another clay teapot, an unusual leaf shaped pot. the lid is broken and the pieces are still around waiting to be glued back together.

this is not exactly a tea related item but i use these little bowls to photograph some of the prettier teas in. my mother-in-law got me a set of 6 of these with different aquatic life forms in them. they are wonderful, thin, raku little soy sauces dishes, or whatever you want to put in them. i love them.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

a trip to whole foods: tea installment #3

well, the tea series could go on for quite some time.... just a warning.
yesterday i went to one of my favorite stores, whole foods. i haven't been there in quite some time so there was lots of great new stuff to see and smell. they have installed a small bulk tea section since i was there last--very exciting. i came home with a total of 6 different teas, 5 new and one an old favorite. Probably the most exciting find was a Republic of Tea variety that i had never seen before, Bing Cherry Vanilla. i am constantly on the lookout for a great cherry flavored tea and so far have only found one i really like, Republic of Tea Spring Cherry which, i believe, is a green tea. the bing cherry vanilla is good but the black tea in it is really strong. i had to add sugar to bring out the cherry and vanilla flavors, i haven't made up my mind about this one yet but i do love the canister and it is the first tea i have seen by the republic of tea that has an announcement that they have partnered with whole foods market "by offering the first Whole Trade full-leaf organic and fair trade certified teas. The Whole Trade Guarantee is a commitment to ethical trade, the environment and quality of products. One percent of Whole Trade product sales is donated to Whole Planet Foundation to help end poverty." it's nice to know that drinking tea is helping end poverty. bonus.

one of my alltime favorite teas that i could drink every day is a Celestial Seasonings white tea Perfectly Pear. it is so creamy, naturally sweet and delicious and is on the lighter side because it is a white tea. it has a nice, clean flavor which i do not always find with white tea and it also has my favorite tea character on the box, the painting siamese cat!! kudos to the artist who created this cat--is it a self portrait? while i am on the subject of artwork and packaging i also have to mention this delicious looking, wonderfully packaged, and affordable cereal i found at whole foods. the brand is dorset cereals and there were several different flavors all in wonderful packaging that did not include a huge box that is half empty like the usual cereal box--i know they put that air in there to keep the flakes from getting crushed but come on.... here is a close-up of the box and the goodies within.

lastly, here are the four loose teas i got from the bulk section. i have tried two of them so far. i was most excited about the orange dulce tea by mighty leaf. i am still on the fence about that brand in general and was slightly disappointed in the tea. it has a wonderful, tart, really strong orange flavor but the taste is very mellow and sweet so your nose is telling you "watch out for a great, strong citrus taste" but your mouth is getting a subtle caramel/soft orange flavor. it is unsettling to me when nose and mouth get different messages, a nice tasting tea is almost ruined because each time you take a sip you are expecting something different. kind of like when you think you have been handed a glass of water but it is really lemonade, even though you love lemonade you are shocked and don't know what you are tasting at first because your taste buds are expecting water.

well, that was a long-winded explanation. secondly i tried the tangerine ginger by rishi. i will probably blend this tea with the orange dulce and see what happens. it has a nice flavor but is an herbal tea with no dominant herbal flavor thus ends up tasting like hot, unsweetened fruit juice to me. not a fan of fruity herbal teas, they just don't have that magical zing that the tea leaf adds to a "tea" tea.

i'll save the other two for the next tea installment. thanks! go drink a cup of tea!!

Monday, January 7, 2008

lotus pond : a waterscape

title: lotus pond : a waterscape
medium: watercolor
size: 10"x 22"

details from the painting

Sunday, January 6, 2008

the square tin, second tea installment

i was pleasantly surprised by the world market brand of tea, a nice quality loose tea. the desert sunrise is a very nice blend of black and green tea with a pleasant but unusual fruity scent and flavor. the other ingredients are sunflower petals, cactus blossoms and other natural flavors. the white ginger citrus i don't like as much, there is not a strong enough citrus presence for my taste, the overall flavor is a little muddy to me. even though i was not crazy about that one i would definitely buy more of this brand.

the harney and sons teas have popped up in barnes and noble/starbucks cafes around here, replacing the tazo brand that starbucks normally carries. the tea is in silky, triangle shaped bags inside the tin. the peppermint herbal was good, very strong and zippy peppermint flavor but nothing extraordinary as far as a peppermint herbal goes.

the bangkok, however, is really one of the most unusual tasting teas i have ever had. the coconut is probably the dominant flavor but is offset by the lemongrass and ginger so it's not too sweet. maybe my friend jennifer at rosydelights will give her opinion if she remembers what this one tastes like. i really liked this flavor and will probably buy another canister. as much as i liked it my good tea drinking friend was completely repulsed by it. she is a huge fan of thai food so the flavors were very appealing to her but she did not like the actual flavor upon tasting it. it just goes to show that personal likes and dislikes are just that, personal. my favorite thing may be another person's least favorite, but it's fun to compare and contrast.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

tea drinking season

by far, my favorite thing about winter is drinking tea, inside of a nice toasty house. ooh, i hate being cold and my birthday is in january! oh well.

i have promised that i would write about my collection of different teas. as i am writing this i am drinking ginger peach green tea by the republic of tea. they definitely are one of my favorite tea makers, i love their flavors and the packaging is beautiful.

first off, i have to say that the most important part of a successful cup of tea is the steeping time. i always put the timer on when i make a cup of tea to make sure it steeps for the correct amount of time. in general, black teas should be steeped for 3-5 minutes and green teas for about 2 minutes. white teas are usually about 5 minutes but i always check the recommended time and then adjust accordingly. if a tea is steeped too long it gets bitter and if it's a flavored tea, which are my favorites, the delicate flavor is usually overpowered by the tea leaf.

overall, my favorite teas are flavored black and green teas. i do not like plain green tea, that grassy flavor is too strong for me so i am glad that there are so many flavored ones to choose from. i am not really a fan of rooibos either, although i did enjoy the numi brand of red tea while we were at my in-law's house over christmas. usually the rooibos smells like olives or play-dough to me. yuck.

one of my favorite flavors, especially in winter, is chocolate--in tea. here are my favorites so far.
i was absolutely thrilled when i came across this very unusual tea in boulder, co. just the name and label alone were more than enough to make me buy it but the flavor is amazing! it's a ceylon black tea with flavors of chocolate and blood orange. i had never seen a chocolate-orange tea before and it really is in my top 5. unfortunately, it was a limited edition flavor so if anyone out there knows of a tea with these flavors please let me know what it is.

this is also one of my favorite teas and an exception to my dislike of rooibos. if you like a rich, chocolatey flavor you really have to try this tea. i would recommend getting the loose tea, it is beautiful and of a higher quality than the tea bags. i believe they have changed the name to yerba mate latte but it is the same flavor.

this is a simple but delicious tea i found at "the leaf store" in boulder, colorado. it is chocolate peppermint, a black tea with pieces of chocolate and chopped mint. you can order online with them at but it was nice to be at the store where they let me buy small quantity samples of several different flavors. there is nothing worse than getting home with a whole bag of tea that you don't like.

the tea in the foreground, spicy chocolate mint, by the republic of tea was a real disappointment. i was so excited to see a new flavor and it really sounded delicious but it really has no distinct taste, just kind of blah. i would love to know if anyone else has tried this and what they think. maybe i have not found the right steeping time to bring out it's best flavor....
well, that's all for the chocolate tea. there actually is one more that i love but i am out of it right now and don't remember the exact name. i think i can find it at whole foods so i will have to check there just so i can have a complete record for the tea story!! any excuse to buy new tea is good enough for me!
more to come...