28 December 2012

Twinings: A Visit

This was not my first time at Twinings shop on the Strand.  It won't be my last, if I can help it.

Most of the time, when I encounter Twinings tea, it's in the grocery store, with rare exception in bagged form, and with a small variety on offer.  In my early tea buying days, this was the 'fancy' tea, since it looked kind of royal and was inevitably better than the Lipton or store brands.  Since then, I've discovered so many different and amazing brands and blends that I only once in a while buy Twinings, and that's usually one of those black tea variety packs for the office.  In my London visit, I also bought a bagged tea, but it was in a pretty tin and was Lavender Earl Grey, which I don't think I'd tried before.  It is nice, I'm glad to report.

The only loose tea I'd seen previously in Twinings was the occasional tin that surprised me in Trade Fair or even Key Food, but it is never a constant.  I'm glad to see that London's shop has a decent variety of loose teas, and a tasting table!

The Lavender and Rose teas blends are proudly displayed to your right as you enter...you can also pick up individual tea bags to make your own little sampler.

The shop is also a museum of sorts.  Twinings is rightly proud of their history.  Oh the many types of tins and teapots!  I'm gorgeous-ed out.
Cats and tea..forever together.
This teapot is kind of funny: early gift captioning I guess.  It kind of reminds me of when Dwight from the Office gives Michael a Jersey with 'From Dwight' on the back. 
Stuff I could use in my tea lovers' collection.
Try some First Flush Darjeeling!  Mark was knowledgeable, and helpful.  He suggested I visit the Museum of London: yet another destination for my 'Next-Time' list!
Til next time!
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18 December 2012

Camellia's Tea House


At the end of every London trip, I find out about a spot, usually a tea spot, that sounds wonderful.  Of course at that point there's no time to get to said spot, so I sigh and file it away for next time.

This happened to me in 2010, when Bonnie and I went to Carnaby Street and found this little multi-level shopping level right off the street, in Kingly Court.  Tucked away on the top floor was a full-on tea room that I'd known nothing about.  Oh no!  But I knew, of course, that I'd do my best to get back to London, and on Day 2 of this most recent trip, I took afternoon tea at Camellia's Tea House - great name, by the way.  Puts you right in the mood for tea.

It was 17.50 (that's British currency) for the full service, which is extremely reasonable for London.  When I say service I mean you do order at the counter, pub-like, but they bring everything to your table.  That's a mercy, and not just to me: their china is quite pretty.  I ordered the 'Pain Free Monthly Tea', which the girl behind the counter was dubious about.  She didn't think it tasted very good.  I insisted, for sadly obvious reasons, and then I was asked to pick my cake  I couldn't help but go for the gold, so I picked the Victoria Sponge.  

It was reasonably busy, as it was lunchtime, but not crowded.  My table was next to an unfortunate painting of some colonial maharajan situation, but my view as you can see was of the other tea-takers.   I was pleased to see that my sandwiches were devoid of tomatoes, and there were three different types.  The scones were perfectly British, and generous with cream and jam.  The tea, or really herbal infusion, was pleasant, not bad by any means.  I don't know if it did the trick, though, as I started to feel ill again before I was able to get to the cake, and had to exit much quicker than I'd have liked.  I did try the cake later on, and it was good, so I'm sure it was amazing when it was fresh. 

It was a real pity that my health wasn't what I'd have liked it to be, because I feel like I couldn't take in the tea room as well as I should have.  Photography was discouraged for the shopping area, but it was mostly bit old canisters of tea that needed to be smelled to be appreciated anyway.  They did look promising.   I'll be sure to try to make it back again - next time!

When I was feeling a tiny bit better, I was able to walk off the calories via Regent Street.  I particularly liked this shop, full of tartan goodness.
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14 December 2012

How Old Am I?

After over a month's absence from blogging, I'm back with pictures from my very recent trip to London!  I went by myself this time, which was both good, since I could wander madly without censure, and bad, since it tends to get lonely at the end of the day. It was a good trip all in all, though, even if I took fewer pictures than I thought (about 350, which I think is even less than last time...shame!)  I thought I'd kick off by showing the snaps I took of shop names and other things that made me laugh like an eight-year-old.

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09 November 2012

There You Are!

I'd been disappointed when The Tea and Honey Store vanished from its Grand Central Terminal spot.  It had always been a welcome site for me when I emerged from my obnoxious morning commute, in a way that perhaps only Lush would compete with (what with its olfactory appeal and all.)  But then my office moved locations, and since I rarely find myself in Grand Central it didn't matter as much to me.

This Sunday, I paid a visit to the City to go to the Frick Collection to see the drawings from the Cortauld Gallery, and van Gogh's Portrait of a Peasant (Patience Escalier).  It was a bit crowded, but worth it.  After I'd had enough headed back a roundabout way to the F train, which is not my normal station, but the trains were still a little off-schedule after the storm.  I won't complain about this, since as I mentioned before, my area was hardly affected by 'Sandy', and therefore I'm in Thankful Mode.  Anyway, I passed DAVID's Tea on Third Avenue, then Alice's Tea Cup on 64th Street, and lo and behold, on the same street as the 'F' train's 63rd Street Station was The Tea and Honey Store!  Well, that was a pleasant surprise.  I didn't actually shop there since I really need to save for London and my upcoming root canal of doom, but I was happy to see it nevertheless. 

It's also further proof that we're developing another 'Tea Strip' in Manhattan.  The West Village has a whole section that keeps it the top tea-lover's destination, but the east 60s is giving it a run for its money.  And I have no problem with that.
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01 November 2012

Not TOO Shabby

After coming out on the unscathed side of 'Hurricane Sandy', I almost feel bad about having a First World Problems whine-fest. With all the time I had off this week, I should be writing about all the books I was able to finish recently, but that's not quite ready yet.  I've had this post on the back burner since last week, however, so here it is:

As you all know, one of my favorite activities is drinking tea.  I find the taste is enhanced when it's served in a pretty teacup.  Is the taste actually better?  I mean, does the shape affect the heat distribution or the pathway to the taste buds, making it a better experience, or it is just aesthetically pleasing? I'm inclined to believe the former, since there's a specific design of glass for nearly every type of wine and liquor.  The principal must apply to tea. 

I'm generally satisfied having my tea at home, but it's always a treat when I get to go out to a tea shop, especially when it's specifically tea-related and not an oh-by-the-way-here's-some-tea-if-you-don't-want-coffee joint.  One of the reasons I love this is the chance to try, not just different kinds of tea and cakes, but different teacups as well.  To me, it's one of those non-necessities of life that just make life a tiny bit more tolerable.  And, if you're paying royally, you might as well feel like a princess. 

A non-tea comparison would be going for a manicure.  If you have two decent-working hands, you can easily give yourself a mani/pedi.  You go out to a salon so that you can sit back and get the full treatment.  In my case the little massage makes it worth forking over those hard-earned dollars from time to time. 

Generally, when I go out to tea, I do feel like I'm treated well.  When there's an exception, I'll rant about it here.  If it's really excellent service, I will try to be effusive in my praise - I want to be a positive person.  So what terrible experience have I had recently?  None, thankfully.  I've just noticed something in my more frequented places that's slowly been getting on my nerves, and that's The Inferiority of the Teacups.  Why am I given cups that are chipped if I didn't order the Disney's Beauty and the Beast special?  Then there's the fadey cups - one too many lips have sipped from these guys.  And, probably the worst, are the Just Plain Boring cups that I could find in any diner. 

What gives?  I don't mind the cups not matching the saucer, as long as it's done in a mildly charming way, and I don't need pristine Royal Doulton for heaven's sake, but a little effort would go miles toward improvement. 

I like shabby chic.  I do.  I have to: my apartment is the poster child for shabby, with the occasional chic thrown in.  Zenobia makes sure no furniture is fresh and scratch-free.  My teacups, though, tend to be in lovely shape.  This is despite the fact that I use them often.  The ones that fade to blahness either get replaced, reused, or kept out of the way when I have company.  Why?  Because hospitality calls for this.  You give whatever your best is - unless said company is too clumsy for comfort, or a child who can't help himself.   Either way, my apartment is not a business - nobody receives a bill at the end of a visit to my home.  When I go out to tea, though, I tend to have to shell out a lot.  The least that can be done is a pretty teacup!

16 October 2012

Tea Gallery: Let's Have Tea

Bronze sculptures of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.  By Pepsy M. Kettavong.  It's in Rochester, New York.  I didn't see it when I was there, but it seems these two weren't taking tea in this square yet.  I could have done with a cup myself when I visited Rochester.  

10 October 2012

Adventures in Grouponing: Kings' Carriage House

These days in New York, there is no shortage of tea rooms.  We're utterly spoiled, so if one place doesn't float your boat you can just go to another.  But I remember a time, not too long ago, when you had to make a bit of an effort to find a decent place for a nice cuppa, not to mention a good afternoon tea.  (Picture the rest of this paragraph told by me on a rocking chair, even if I'm only referring to the 90s.)  There were limited sources of information, for one thing.  It was mostly word of mouth, and not enough mouths had a taste for tea.  There was the Internet, but it wasn't exactly brimming with guides and blogs yet.  The City had hotels with afternoon tea, and that was about it.  I was pleasantly surprised with Tea and Sympathy, and I'd heard of Lady Mendl's - still haven't been there!  The only other place I'd heard about was Kings' Carriage House. I meant to go there, but I never managed to - having a small daily time window for tea doesn't help when you normally have a full-time work schedule.  Also, when I didn't have a full-time job, I was usually too broke for a place like this.  

Enter the world of online coupons.  It's been hit and miss for me, so in the long run I can't say I"m a big advocate of them.  Still, if it's tea-related, I'm probably going to fall for it.  You'd think they'd target me even more aggressively (do you hear me Lady Mendl?), but I should be glad I've only had a few opportunities.  When I found a 2-for-1 for Kings': well, I was sold.

Thankfully, my experience was generally a positive one.  The service, both in making reservations and while in the restaurant, was as friendly as I like - not gushy but not snooty.  As usual, I waited till the last minute, so weekends were out, but they were accommodating and I got a reservation for 5:30 PM on a weekday.  

'Carriage House' sounds old-fashioned from the get-go, and it was charmingly so.  It's located in a brownstone, which is one of my favorite kinds of building.  In the entrance room, there's an old secretary's table, and it just felt like home.  I never went upstairs (lazy) but my tea companion Cindy looked up there and was suitably impressed. We were seated downstairs, near the 'garden' - I call it that because it reminds me of the little garden area in the homes in Bath where Jane Austen lived.  I don't think she had deer heads decorating her dining room, but who knows?  I tend to be squeamish about animal bits as decoration, but as I used to work in an office that had a massive moose head above the filing cabinets, it doesn't take away my appetite.

So, the food: elegant finger foods, lovely scones (with butter, not clotted cream, but that's okay,) and a tasty variety of little cakes and tarts.  They even served chocolate-covered strawberries on the side - oh yes!  The tea was bagged, which I don't usually approve of, but I had mint tea since it was the evening.  It was served in teapots - mostly Sadler like Tea and Sympathy.  Definitely good food.  Of course, the price was right - if I'd have paid full price I'd probably say the portions weren't quite filling enough.  It wasn't tiny like Radiance, but kind of like its neighbor just west of them - the Met's afternoon tea.  

So it's a favorable review, though I'm not sure I'll be running back there anytime soon.  It's also a restaurant, which I'd be curious to try as well.  And I wouldn't be afraid to take men there, which I can't say for every tea spot.

Here's the snaps:

28 September 2012

Tea Gallery: The Cup of Tea


More Cassatt, more Met.  I love this one because it's such a cozy, relaxed pose, especially for the Victorian era.  And the tea-taker looks happy.  That's what tea's all about!
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27 September 2012

New Feature: Tea Gallery

Tea and the customs associated with it has inspires countless artists.  So I've decided to start yet another recurring feature, combining the arts and tea.  Today we have Mary Cassatt's Lady at Tea, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I'll probably get a large portion of this feature.
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26 September 2012


I apologize for this rather blurry picture - I'm still struggling with evening mode.
Pineapples are a traditional sign of hospitality.

About a year ago, I had one of the worst restaurant experiences of my life.  Teany was going down the drain, and I didn't think I"d ever return.  In fact, I thought the place would close down for good.  Really, for good, because it was bad, so bad.

Still, I couldn't help being curious as to Teany's fate, so from time to time I'd check reviews on Yelp or other blogs.  For a while the negativity centered around those carrying online coupons.  Teany had new management, and they didn't see fit to honor these coupons.  But as time wore on, the negativity faded and I'd even read the occasional glowing review.  Wow, I thought.  Could Teany be on the mend? 

Then I got sick in July and switched to a mainly vegetarian diet.  Nowadays restaurants are pretty sensitive to people with dietary issues, so I could still visit most of my usual favorite places.  Teany kept popping into my mind, though, since I knew they were altogether meat-free, and quite a few items on their menu were vegan.  So one evening after work I thought, hey, let's give it one more try.

Well, I'm glad I did.  When I first got to Teany I noticed the new sign, which calls the place 'Teanyssimo'.  I was a little wary, since I don't equate tea with Italian food, but it's an exuberant expression and wouldn't deter me from pressing onward.  There were a number of patrons sitting outside, and when I got there I had the pick of seats inside, since nobody else was there.    I felt like I was at home - seriously, I did, because there's a bit of upholstery issues with some of the furniture, though not cat-related, and not enough to be a turnoff.   So I settled in. The girl working there was perfectly friendly and helpful, without being fussy.  That was already an improvement.

I gave Teany my ultimate test: I ordered Afternoon Tea.  Last time I'd tried that I was disappointed (they'd stopped serving it for the day although it was supposed to be an all-day thing.)  Now, however, not only did they have it, but at least two other patrons ordered it as well - including a party of about four who came inside.

Afternoon Tea was served thus: first I got the tea (iced rooibos, which was re-iced later on,) and a coconut almond scone.  The scone was warm and delicious, and served with cream that was close to butter and marmalade.  Already we're on the right track.  The sandwiches were next, presented in a three tiered tray with greens in the middle tier.  I had 'turkey' apple brie on a roll-type bread (not too hard) and a 'ham' and melted cheese that was superb.  They weren't dainty, but not awkward either.  The dessert was amazing - it was a vegan chocolate peanut butter cake.  I couldn't finish it, but that's only because I can't seem to finish anything rich these days.  And then the best part: the bill: it's still one of the lowest prices afternoon teas in New York! 
As for ambiance, the inside was cooled by fan which was fine for the weather.  The music was just okay - it sounded like they were playing 'elevator music' on Pandora.  I prefer this to loud and obnoxious, though.

It was all in all a good experience, so I think I shall return.  One more time should seal the deal.  If it's just as good or better I'll give it my full blessing.  If this time was nice but a fluke I'll forget about it.  I think that's fair.
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12 September 2012

Head in the Clouds

There's certain places that for me take on a shorthand of sorts.  When I say I'm going to The Park, it's Central Park.  The Brats are my kitties, The Afternoon Tea is Tea and Sympathy, and The Doctor is a Time Lord.  You can substitute "My" for "The", I suppose.  Well, "The" "My" Museum is the Met, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It's my first museum and it's the one I've been to the most.  I believe I've covered every square inch of the place, with the exception of Staff-only rooms and Men's rooms.  Yet in all the years since my very first visit (almost 30, which is scary) I'd never been to the roof.  This had to be rectified.

On a recent Friday I got out of work early and took a walk through The Park, ending up at the Met around 4:30 I guess.  To get to the roof, I went through the Greek and Roman section, then right through the creepy 'Americas' area, to the designated elevator.  It was my third try: one week they were closing up, the next time it was a rainy day; but this time it was nice out. 

Though not everyone was dressed up, I felt like I was entering a party.  Drinks are served on the roof, at ridiculous cost of course, and people gather to relax over excellent views of the Park and the City (another 'The': referring to Manhattan).  There's a special interactive exhibit called 'Cloud City' that's on til' November.  It's free, but tickets are limited, so mine were for entrance in another two hours.  I didn't mind waiting: I got to see the new American Wing, which was worth it, and then I had a cup of tea in the cafeteria to pass the time.  It was Tazo Calm, in case you were wondering.

When it was my time to go inside the exhibit, I had to put my things away in provided lockers, so I didn't have my camera.  It was okay, certainly more good views, but I was a bit nervous because once you climb up to the top, the floors are see-through and I was wearing a skirt.  Yipes!

If you feel like waiting, it's not bad, but you're fine just going to the rooftop itself.

Looks kind of like bug-eyes.  See what I mean about wearing a skirt?
That's me on the far right with a purple top, taking a pic while I still could.
The Park

04 September 2012

The Cats are All Right

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Just thought I'd update you on my little guys, since I haven't done so in a while.  Can't believe they're both "mature" cats:  Zenobia is 7 and Moofer is 11.  Crazy how time flies, isn't it? I'm glad to say they are still quite active; neither have yet to lose their playfulness.  Zenobia should get another haircut, if only so that I can post ridiculous shaved pictures of her. 

I've been dragging a bit on my posting.  I feel like I've been dragging my feet in every avenue of my life right now, but I'm prepared to blame the summer.  With the bracing breezes of autumn fast approaching, I hope to get back on track.  There's a number of reviews in the works: museums, tea spots, books, etc.  I also just saw the newest episode of Doctor Who: "Asylum of the Daleks", but I'll leave that to someone else.  For some reason it's not in my nature to review television shows.  I just post nerdy pics of The Doctor on Pinterest and have done with it.  Also, I have a trip to London booked, and I'm beyond excited about that.  I'm also beyond broke, but when am I not?  I won't say exactly when I'm going, but you'll know when shots of Pre-Raphaelite paintings litter this site..(there's a big exhibition in the Tate)

In the meantime, here's one from the Met:
Burne-Jones, Le Chant d'Amour (excuse my French)

no tan for me!!

16 August 2012

Crazy Long Walk: Philadelphia

 I recently had a chance to overnight in Philadelphia.  It was work-related, and though I've been away for work before - I was a travel agent a long time ago - it had been a really long time since I'd travelled for training purposes.  The last time had also been travel agent-related, and it was for a longer period of time.  Though my evenings were mine to do as I pleased, I had been staying in an area that was not pedestrian friendly.  In fact, when I tried to take a walk I was met with stares that seemed to indicate I was doing something slightly mad. 

In Philly, I only had one night to do my thing, but I stayed in an area that was extremely hospitable to foot traffic.  So I did what anyone of my temperament would do, and took a two hour walk around the city.   I had a wonderful time wandering around (not all who wander are lost and all that), and seeing one of the closest cities to New York on my own for the first time.  It wasn't a tea-related expedition, but not everything is.  The museums were by and large closed at that point, but I was able to take in art in different forms: architecture, design, and music.  There was music everywhere, coming loudly but not obnoxiously from various spots on nearly every block.  I heard a lot of jazz, which I don't equate with Philadelphia, but then again I'm not yet an expert on every aspect of the city's culture.  Anyway, I covered a lot of ground, worked up a good appetite, slept well, and reinforced my travel-fervor.  That's my kind of walk!

If I had to be a statue, I'd like to be her.  (Rittenhouse Square)

Cooling off after a hot day...(Logan Square)

The perfect name for a library.

Fountain, with City Hall looking on
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