05 December 2013

The Doctor Likes His Tea

It's been well over a week since the first screening of The Day of the Doctor, so these pictures shouldn't prove to be spoilers to anyone by now.  If ever - all we have here is all three Doctors and Clara stopping for some tea together.
This is not an episode review; like I said before, I tend to leave that to other people while I concentrate on occasionally posting book or tea reviews here.  I just thought I'd share one of my favorite parts of the episode.  Actually, it kind of sums up what I love about the Doctor: save the day, then stop for a cuppa.
It's what I would do!
I mean, I'm a sucker for a scene in any show or film, or even book, where the characters share teatime together.  It's relatable, although I suppose taking tea with my selves would be kind of odd. But this stuck out even more, because once again, the Doctor is the hero of the day using brains as the best weapon in his (their) arsenal, and then, without feeling girly or ironic at all, having tea in little pretty teacups.
I've probably said this here in the past, but it kind of irks me that guys don't like to be seen doing what they think are frilly feminine things, particularly when it comes to the realm of tea.  How is it unmanly to have tea in little china cups?  Personally, I respect a man who can handle delicate items as well as screwdrivers.  Sure, china tea cups are easily shattered, but they also present tea in probably the best way.  I assert to the end that tea of all kinds taste better in china, just as wine is better from a glass.  Breakfast teas are nice in mugs with milk, of course.  Ice cream's good in everything, but that's another discussion.
Perhaps I'm straying into metaphorical territory here, but let's just round it down to this.  I have no problem going to a 'guy' spots, like, I don't know, a sports bar, for instance:  I certainly don't think it makes me less feminine.  What's so unmanly about taking tea?
Is this just a problem in America?
I don't like to talk about gender politics; it's not in my nature.  I just like seeing a balance, and perhaps a curbing of the insecurity associated with 'being seen' doing things that males have done for centuries.  I suppose, literally centuries for The Doctor.
In the end, taking tea with someone, to me, means sharing life together, and being comfortable with your company.  Hopefully that says it all.

11 November 2013

Tea Gallery: Teatotalism by Edward Bird

Proving once again that tea and cats are eternally linked.  Possibly because of the spinster implications?   Well, the lady (?) in this painting looks like she's abstained from more than just liquor.  And she probably won't have anyone showing her a night out on the town, not with that freaky kitty warning any suitors away.  At least she's got milk in her tea, and a slight flush on her cheeks - perhaps she's just warming up after a bit of fun in the snow?  I have almost no information behind this painting, so the story behind it is anyone's guess.  

28 October 2013

What Do You Call It?

I've succumbed again to subscribing to real-paper magazines.  I still get Victoria on my Nook, but I have to admit, it's not an enjoyable reading experience.  Someday I'll get to the whole comparison between e- vs. paper reading post, but now's not that time.  The magazines I get in my actual mailbox are Tea Magazine and Tea Time.  This shouldn't surprise anyone.  Though I tend to skip many of the articles in the holiday-heavy issues, there's always something that attracts my interest.

 I noticed that in each of the recent issues of these magazines, there was at least one article that covered herbal tea.  Of course, they qualify the expression 'tea' by letting you choose between herbal tea, tisanes, or infusions.  And I agree: tea, as a word that really means the drink derived from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant.  Technically, infused peppermint leaves should not be called 'tea'.

When I bring up the subject of tea (and you know I do at least once a week), I often hear people say they love tea, and then list a bunch of not-actually-tea teas.  Then I feel the tea geek in me want to point out the error in their expression.  But you know what?  Maybe I'm a little off there.

Think about it.  Have you ever asked an English person what they'll be having for tea?  They may mention a full meal that doesn't include a hot drink at all.  In some parts of that country (I think mostly in the North) 'tea' just means dinner.  They aren't wrong or right.  It's the nature of the language.   Let's not forgot what we learned on Seinfeld: sometimes coffee doesn't mean coffee, either.

....I know High Tea is what people call Afternoon Tea sometimes, and that's technically incorrect too.  I'm still a little peeved on that score, but I won't bit your head off.....

So I've decided to ease up a bit on the technicalities. Or should I say techicaliteas?  People say 'Chai tea', which is a tautology, and if you have rooibos chai is it really chai?  You could really run around in circles debating these things.  And I've tired of being on edge about things.  Maybe it's because I've lowered my actual tea intake, and am now quite the herbal/fruit tea drinker.  If the word is good enough for most people, maybe it's just the way the English language itself changes almost organically.  Like I said, the nature of the language.  So, in this case, let's go with the flow!

So what kinds of "teas" do I like? Well, let's go back to the basics.  I had a cold this week, a bad one, and I couldn't miss work so I had to do whatever it took to get going.  In the afternoon I'd have Lemon Zinger tea from Celestial Seasonings.  Its scent takes me right back to afternoons in college, particularly when I was taking Oral Communications.  In autumn I also go for the apple cinnamon-y blends - and that happens to be one of the few non-rooibos that could stand adding milk.  It doesn't need it, though.

I've got famously bad digestive issues, so chamomile is a part of my life.  Chamomile-lavender is wonderful, and so soothing.  Peppermint is good too, but with all the Altoids I eat I'm pretty covered there.

I have tons of herbs in my tea cabinet. What - doesn't everyone have a tea cabinet?  Though sometimes I'll buy blends - Simpson and Vail has some wonderful blends - I'll also try my hand at blending my own concoctions.  I get good use out of my teapots, especially in the winter!  Having good fruit teas around helps, too, because you can sneak in some of the less tasty herbs and it'll still be a pleasant drink.  I particularly recommend this method with Valerian.  It's relaxing, but terribly bitter on its own, and its smell could clear a subway car.

Herbal articles always come with a warning, so I will too: if you're taking medications, make sure they don't clash with the herbs.  Ask your doctor and all that.  Also, for my gluten-free friends, look out: some herbal teas have barley or other ingredients that might make you sick.  Always do your homework!

So curl up and sip: winter is coming!

Bought this one last year in London...really helped me through the inconvenient 'stomach' troubles in the early part of my trip.  It still helps me on my off days.  Tastes good too!

03 October 2013

Not Taking Coffee with Catherine

I don't get stalked by people too often (thankfully), but I feel as if objects, or ideas, follow closely at my heels whether I want them to or not.  One example of this is scaffolding.  Everywhere I go, it seems, there's construction or maintenance work to be done, from the area around my workplace to my own apartment building.  Sometimes I think I can walk out on a rainy day without needing an umbrella! 

Math stalked me forever.  I'm obsessively literate, and can be buried in words quite happily for hours.  Math is a means to an end.  I'm okay at arithmetic and a little light algebra, but am not thrilled by formulas and a chalkboard full of x's and y's.  The powers that be, however, decided to push me for decades towards the maths, and wouldn't let me go until I shoved the F's in their faces.  Even then, I still find the shadows of math and scientific calculators along my path. 

Now the one I find hardest to let go of, because frankly it's something I like, is coffee.  Mainly I grew up with tea, and was content with a taste of coffee here and there, and to this day I'm (glaringly) a tea girl.  Nevertheless, I've gone through periods of time, ever since I started working in offices actually, where coffee was my morning pick-me-up.  Eventually my digestive illnesses and wracked nerves would force me to give up coffee, or at least cut down.  I mean, never mind, right?  At least I can have tea!  But somehow, I'd always pick up the coffee habit.  Sometimes this came as a result of either being away from good tea, like if I'm travelling.  As I've said too many times, you can usually find a halfway decent cup of coffee out of town, but it's rare you can find even a tolerable cup of tea.  Then there's the times where I suddenly had access to interesting coffee, like when my office first got K-cups in all kinds of flavors.  Sadly, the coffee taste comes through the machine even when you're making tea, so it made sense to reach for the coffee instead.

These cycles went on, but I think at this part of my life I have to abstain from coffee entirely.  Besides the acid reflux and other 'stomach' problems, the caffeine seems to affect me even more than it used to.  I always thought I might build up a tolerance, but nope, I'm hyper-sensitive.  To be honest, I can't even drink much tea - one cup of black tea is usually the most I can take now.  If I'm really tired I might pull off a cup of green tea in the afternoon. On a daily basis, though, my second cup is an herbal infusion.

So why does coffee keep asserting itself into my life?  I entered a contest (long story), and last week I won the consolation prize - you guessed it - coffee!!!  I hear it's good, but I can't try it for myself.  Oh, and this is not the first time I'd won coffee.  Then there was the National Coffee Day a few days ago, which didn't matter too much, but it just made me aware that this drink is never far away.  I can't help seeing ads for all the autumn flavors at Starbucks - oh I used to love the pumpkin lattes.  Plus, the area of Midtown where I work is surrounded, seriously, surrounded! - by coffee places - branches of Italian, Pacific Northwest, even Australian specialty coffee stores wherever I walk.  Some of them offer tea, but only as an afterthought.  There are areas of the City that have a good amount of tea shops, but not near me, sadly.

It's been good to whine a bit about problems that don't really keep me up at night (unless I gave in....)

08 September 2013

Moofer, 2001-2013

This one is difficult. I had to bring Moofer to be put down on Thursday.  The choice was a horrible one, but my final decision was based on the fact that he wasn't going to get better.  I saw one of my cats waste away with kidney disease (Duforth, nine years ago), and didn't want Moofer to get any further down that road.  I fought to keep him going, but he was finally through with the treatments two weeks ago.

I miss him more than I can express.  I don't want to make light of anyone's death in the past seven years, but this has been the biggest grief for me since losing my Dad.  Moofer was my cat for five years.  He was my sister's cat for seven years - at the time he was the middle child of three cats and one dog.  I love all of my sisters' pets, but Moofer was The One. He was also well liked by everyone that met him.  He greeted everyone he encountered as a friend - something I haven't quite pulled off, and displayed both a cuddly and a playful personality.  His favorite sport was chasing light beams, and his worst habit was begging for human food - something he did til the very end.

I'm not going to go into what his last moments were like, because I can't relive them myself at this point, but they were peaceful, and I'm thankful for that.

Here's a few images of the life of Moof:

With the Boys, and Sheba
The Selfie.
As a purring lap cat, with my Aunt Anita
Being part of the action at one of my tea parties
With Zenobia, just the right distance apart...sweet dreams, my lovely.

You don't find many like him. 
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01 September 2013

Tea Pressing

Tea places are constantly popping up in New York.  The West Village gets the bulk of them, which makes it slightly difficult for me.  You see, when I want tea in that area, my go-to place is Tea and Sympathy.  I've been there three times this summer already - might be going for a record there!  Still, I like to keep up with other places, and I've done pretty well with this over the years.  I tend to lose track of spots that close down - only recently I found out The Tea Set is gone.  It's a shame, of course, but it makes sense - I mean it was just up the block from Tea and Sympathy - take a page from Bosie Tea Parlor if you're going to be an Afternoon Tea spot with a French flair and put a tiny bit of distance in there!  Maybe it was another case of the Groupon curse - many of those restaurants that started giving online coupons were doomed to deal with the fallout when people actually tried to cash in on them.

I'm going off on a Tea Tangent...

I'd heard of Press Tea, and knew I'd have to see it for myself.  There's a big to-do about their New Way of making tea, and it sparked my curiosity.

Now this is mainly a positive review, because I did not give them a fair chance: in fact, the odds were out of their favor on the day I picked to visit.  It was one of the hotter days in early summer, which means I was only in the mood for iced tea.  Unless that's the specialty, I prefer to try hot tea first, as it's what I generally drink, but it just wasn't happening.  Also, my visit came right after I'd sworn off coffee, as well as any drink that's caffeinated beyond English Breakfast tea.  My system is so sensitive - anyone who's seen me overdose on caffeine (which in my case consists of popping one Excedrin) knows that you don't want to take me past a certain level.  Just ask Bonnie, or Cathy B.  So there's me going to Press Tea, which boasts the ability to make a really strong brew out of the innocent Camellia Sinensis, and I pick late afternoon to go. The menu shrunk to a microscopic level for me...iced Rooibos it is!

I like Rooibos, but I tend to prefer it with a touch of flavoring, and hot.  Looking at the ordering instructions, I suppose I could have had a flavoring, but the outside heat had made me ornery so I just took it straight   I had this with a baby cupcake which tasted just fine, but was over in such a flash I neglected to remember what kind it was.  I believe it tasted autumnal.

Clear instructions

The only available seating was at the window.  I tend to like window views - who doesn't love people watching? - but the sun was glaring right through the a/c.

Lovely, though, isn't it?  Kind of looks like cappuccino (miss you!)  It was good, and refreshing, but it did not blow me away.  Like I said, I'm not a straight Rooibos drinker, so making it even stronger was not exactly going to help it for me.

I did like the interior.  If I'd had one of the cozier spaces to sit I'd have stayed longer.  Also, I could have done with a bigger piece of cake or something.

So, I'm not about to be thoroughly up or down about Press Tea.  I want to visit again and give a more educated review, but here's what I'll say for now.  The staff was absolutely friendly, and you can't say that about everywhere so...points for that.  It's pretty, and everything tasted as it should.  However, I'm not yet convinced that there's a point to their Special Method of brewing tea.  They make it sound mysterious and patented, but it seemed to me like it was a combination of making tea like cappuccino (miss you!), and brewing a lot of strong tea with a coffee press.  I don't think it's reinventing the wheel.   But, I'm all for tea businesses making it, and though super-strong tea doesn't float my boat, it might help to convert coffee people to tea lovers.  That's always good.    So I do hope that Press Tea stays around, and I want to go back in less balmy weather, order real tea, and make the best of it.

24 August 2013

Garibaldi v. Fruit Shortcake aka What Diet?

In which I pretend to be getting my recommended fruit servings for the day...

and continue to review British/Irish products...

I found Garibaldi biscuits in Myers of Keswick, but the Fruit Shortcake was in a nearby Astoria Key Food.  Score one point for Fruit Shortcake!

Still, Garibaldi is less crumby.  One for Garibaldi!

Hold up.  I hate competitions.  It's bad enough I've been choosing favorite books of the month; why should I subject my biscuits to such scrutiny?

Anyway, it's not really a matter of comparison.  Some items are better on a given day, depending on mood or craving.  These two types of biscuits are similar enough: they've both both curranty middles that are slightly sticky but not really messy.  The main difference is the Fruit Shortcake seems little more buttery in taste and Garibaldi is more oatey and crispy.  The Garibaldi gets nicknames like 'squashed fly biscuits', obviously because of its look, so if you're squeamish about that sort of thing, I'd go for the Fruit Shortcake instead.  But Garibaldi has an excellent dunkability, particularly in tea.  Not everyone goes in for dunking, I know.  I get grossed out when bits of biscuit break off and make a soggy mess at the bottom of a mug - blorging just thinking about it - but I love the dunked taste once in a while.  So, architecturally I know which to choose when I'm hankerin' for a dunkin'.

Either one will only be good if you like raisins.  If you don't I'd go with Jammie Dodgers.

23 August 2013

An Update is in Order...

So it's been a month since my last post, and in the past year or so my posts have been erratic. I thought I'd explain why, and maybe do a brief rundown of what I've been up to.

Don't worry, it won't get too personal!!!

In fact, the biggest problem has been technical.  I had a poor excuse for a laptop - actually it was a netbook - which became a test of patience to work with.  It was so slow!  At first I thought I just had a bad Internet connection at home, then I thought I needed to clean up my computer, but any steps I took in these directions did little or nothing to improve the speed.  It was just a bad computer to work with, plain and simple.  There were few alternatives, though.  My tablet, and my phone, are not ideal for writing more than a paragraph.  So I kept the posting to a minimum, or when I knew I could do little things around the house while pictures were loading.  Finally, the netbook got to a point where it took twenty minutes simply to open a document, and I knew it was beyond time for a replacement.  Having taken care of that, I hope to make a better showing from now on.

Then there's the organizational bit.  When I first started this blog - waaaaay back in 2005 - it was more of a mixed bag.  Then a few years ago I thought I'd narrow it down, mainly to a tea blog.  I started to compartmentalize, started other blogs, relegated certain things to other social media, and so on.  This was, and is, fine up to a point.  But then I started to over-think, I think.  When I wanted to write about something, I'd stress over whether it was appropriate to put it here, especially if it had nothing to do with tea.  Then I thought, well, when I have tea with friends do I spend the entire hour or so talking about tea?  Of course not!  So why can't Taking Tea With Catherine be about other things, once in a while?  After all, there's nobody paying me to write Only About Tea.  So maybe I'll lighten up a little.

Speaking of money - ugh - when you're paid to write, you tend to have deadlines.  Well, I don't have that problem, do I?  Consequently, sometimes I need to push myself.  I write for pleasure, and even if I did get paid, I hope I'd enjoy doing so, but as I'm my own boss on this site it's easy to procrastinate.  I have drafts that go back months, and someday I'll get to all of them.  (hopefully before they're completely out of date!)

So there's my reasons and excuses.  Now, the brief update.

There's not much happening worth remarking on.  I've been on Staycation this week, and had a scare when an upstairs apartment had a fire.  Thankfully my place wasn't damaged, but I feel for the neighbors, and it made the threat of fire real to me.  I still have the two cats, though Moofer is sick with kidney disease and I have to give him subcutaneous fluids on a daily basis.  That's a needle in his skin, by the way.  At first, he didn't seem to notice the needle, only the inconvenience of me holding him down for a few minutes.  Now he seems to feel it, so it's more of a struggle, but it's worth it if it keeps him alive and relatively healthy.  I don't have any travel plans, as I'm broke between a root canal, Moofer bills and the laptop.  Though I get the travel bug from time to time, I remind myself that some people never get to go away, and this is only a temporary setback.  Plus, and for me this is a big plus, I always have my books to take me away!

Now I'll leave you with some shots of the adventures of Moofer, Zenobia and the Bookshelves:

/Can I join you?

No. Go Away.
Who asked you?
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19 July 2013

Teatime Treats (aka What Diet?) Part One: Mr. Kipling

Like most people who go in for the whole tea experience, particularly the British kind, I have an incurable sweet tooth.  When I am drinking tea with an especially sugary accompaniment, I try, for the sake of my teeth, to keep my tea unsweetened.  Seriously, two root canals in the space of one decade!  Even with dental insurance the costs of both could have gone to the next visit across the pond.  Don't feel sorry for me - it's been less than a year since I was in London. And here's one of the sweetest memories of that week.

I'm a huge fan of grocery stores in other countries.  It's the closest you can get to actually going into people's homes - unless you're actually staying with them, and this time I was at a hotel.  Even though I live in Queens, New York, where you can find groceries of nearly every ethnicity, there's always going to be something you don't remember seeing in Key Food.  This time around, I saw these boxes of Mr Kipling in Sainsbury's and thought, well that's new. New to me, anyway.  The stomach being as it was, I opted for only one box of little treats: the Apple and Blackcurrant pies.  It sounded different enough, but not bizarre or too sugary.  There is a limit.  These little pies ended up being my sort-of breakfast in my hotel room, my telly-watching day-planning morning tea ritual.  Some days it was the only thing I'd have for hours.  And they were good.  Not a-MAZ-ing, but what I needed to start the day.  Plus, you don't see much blackcurrant in American treats, so it's a novelty.  

I was aware of the variety of Mr. Kipling at Sainsbury's and Tesco - there was a huge Tesco in Earl's Court, which was great for the locals but not at all charming to me - but I didn't want to overdo it.  I know I'm going in for the 'charming' London rather than its Shard-new reality, but I like little shops better than super-suburbian-market.  I had had plenty of sweet things after two afternoon teas, and miscellaneous cakes things I'd rather not admit to.  But once I was home for a number of months, the thought of all the possibilities kept occurring to me.  Fortunately, though you can't find Mr. Kipling just anywhere, Carry On Tea and Sympathy did not disappoint.  I bought the three boxes shown above, among other things.  This has inspired me to get moving on this new feature.  Now I can have an excuse/mission to try all the lovely cakes, cookies, whatever and treat it (pun) like a science.  Sort of.  Here's my thoughts on these items:

The jam tarts were my favorite.  Like Jammie Dodgers (which I will discuss in the near future), the jam portion is just sweet enough, and so English you can't help but sit down for a brief tea break.  I think for this reason the jam-filled items will be my preference.  The crust was just right too.

I'd heard of Battenberg cakes before, and can't say I've tried the genuine article so I won't compare these minis to them.  Honestly, the first one I tried was not entirely pleasant.  It was cloyingly sweet.  The icing has an almondy flavor, which actually improved after it was refrigerated.  I can't see buying this one again anytime soon.

Good dipped in tea, though - hi Freddie!

I can say the same for the French Fancies.  They just hurt my teeth.  The icing was not just sweet, it was too hard.  The little bit of cake inside was not worth it, and neither was the poor excuse for cream filling. 

Now, this brand tends to not be as processed as some I've come across in the U.S., but there's no reason to go into denial.  These are all better as small treats, almost candy.  I've decided to enjoy these in moderation, but it helps to be able to narrow them down to the ones I know I'll like.  And I can't do that unless I try them! 

28 June 2013

Favorite Book + Pairing: June 2013

It seems I've skipped a few months.  I thought about backtracking, but no, let's just start up here.

This was a difficult pick. I've only completed three books this month, and I loved all of them. So I'm going to do an honorable mention to the runners-up:

Shakespeare's Pub: A Barstool History of…
Shakespeare's Pub: A Barstool History of London As Seen Through the Windows of Its Oldest Pub - The George Inn by Pete Brown
Its title is a grab, even though it's a trick: nobody knows for sure if Shakespeare visited The George.  He could have, and so could Dickens.  Most of the pubs, or coaching inns as they were in Southwark have closed down, but even though it's been burned down and faced troubles, The George still stands.  Brown traces its origins, and how it has managed to survive, while including a history of inns and Southwark that I appreciate even more after wandering around the area in December.  You can't really pair tea with this book, so if you like ale, I guess I'd recommend that.  I don't like beer, period, but I have grown fond of pubs (and pub food.)

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
How have I never heard of this writer?  Then again, as the protagonist notes early in the story, there's tons of books being published every day.  You can't know all of them.

It's a detective story, with most of the work done from a hospital bed.  Alan Grant, an Inspector from Scotland Yard is laid up and extremely bored following some injuries on the job.  When an actress friend brings him pictures of faces from history (he's good at reading faces), he focuses on one that's supposed to be of Richard III.  The picture just doesn't seem to reflect one of a murderer of nephews.  So, with the help of a young American researcher, he tries to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Princes of the Tower.  Loved it!  I'd pair either with a milky black tea (perhaps with some Lapsang Souchong, which seems to fit with any male detective-centered story for me,) or Harney & Sons' lovely Tower of London tea.  The author's last name is a pairing in itself....

and the winner is....

The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter 
The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter 
I've entered the realm of Whovians who read Doctor Who novels.  It was inevitable, I guess.  This is especially true now that I'm all caught up with the newest episodes (what's up with John Hurt?), and have to wait till November for the next chapter.  I'm sure it's worth the wait; still, I was surprisingly pleased with The Wheel of Ice.  You see, I'm not entirely familiar with the Second Doctor.  A good deal of his television episodes are lost, and frankly I don't like Doctor Who as much in black and white.  I've seen a few of his stories, but only one from the 60s - the rest were multiple Doctor stories.  Patrick Troughton was good, but not in my top five, but I did like Jamie, his companion, because, well, he runs around in a kilt and that's enough for me.  In the Wheel of Ice they spell out his Scottish accent, which can get annoying, but I went with it.  The other companion, Zoe, I knew nothing about before, and though I won't go to great efforts, I'm curious to see her as she was originally portrayed.  As it is, The Wheel of Ice was written recently, so the reader can see the characters portrayed in a better light technologically speaking.  Using the imagination to visualize a futuristic human colony on Saturn is a lot less shaky than what the BBC was working with nearly half a century ago. 

I'm not sure if I could recommend this book to non-Whovians, but it's my favorite of the month.  As for tea pairings, well, there's 'Blue People', so how about an iced blueberry green tea? 

Happy reading everyone! 

20 June 2013

Tea Gallery: Madame Ranson au Chat, Maurice Denis

This has all the makings of a Tea Gallery favorite: its very coloring is tea-like (black tea, no milk), and there's an affectionate kitty cat that bears a slight resemblance to Moofer giving his or her human a little nudge.  Madame's hair borders on O'Brien from Downton Abbey, though the sleeves of her dress make her seem like she might enjoy appearing on posters for Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.  I'm sure I'm stepping on all kinds of toes on that, but the styles do blend somewhat to the only slightly trained eye.

I am trying to increase my knowledge of Art History, beyond the Pre-Raphaelites, Impressionists and Dutch Masters.  I wouldn't put myself in the category of Expert for these either.  Anyway, I read up on these things and visit museums for my own pleasure, so I can move at my own pace.  It's the most serene type of learning.

Why yes, Madame, I will have another.

07 June 2013


Here is another discovery found at a routine visit to a nearby grocery store.  I guess the makers of this brand needed us to know it's a tea product.  Well, they saw me coming.  There were 4 or 5 different flavors available, but I stayed true to form and picked the one that had 'London' in it.  

Now it's not like I've never had tea-flavored ice cream before.  Green tea ice cream, something that in the past I could only find in Asian shops (and Thai Pavilion), is now part of the Haagen
Dazs line, as well as the Chai varieties that are popping up everywhere.  But who can resist the adorable teabag logo - certainly not this failed dieter!  Yeah, I promised myself I'd lay off ice cream for a while.  The problem is, though, there's just so many things I can avoid.  At this point I have to stay off coffee, as its effects are truly unhealthy to my nerves (I'm not being a melodramatic Mrs. Bennett, I promise you.)  So asking me to lay off ice cream as well is just unfair. 

It might have been kinder to my wallet: this pint came in at a whopping $5.99.  That's madness.  Talenti Gelato, which is unbelievable and my go-to for what to bring to gatherings, is at least a dollar less in the same store.  Tea-rrific(!) had better live up to its name!

So, it did but it didn't.  It was good, of course it was.  Still, it wasn't as Earl Grey-ish as it could have been.  I've had Earl Grey ice cream before, so I do have something to measure it up to.  Also, for all its calories, it wasn't nearly as creamy as it should have been.  Again, it wasn't horrible, but I'd lop off at least 2 bucks before making the promise of its name.  I managed to polish off half a pint before I came to this conclusion.  What bathing suit weather? 

It is my duty as Tea Queen of Astoria to try each flavor, but I'll take my time.  Six dollars doesn't grow on trees, and it's summer movie season.  Also, I should not try this tea in the evening.  My stomach was okay but the caffeine kept me up.  Oh the perils of living the Tea Life!

08 May 2013

Newish Places all Around

at Tapioca Story

 I'm starting to see more tea-worthy places in my neighborhoods (home and work), and that should be a happy thing. Yes, it is - my 'Wish You Were Here' posts testify to that.  In Astoria, it's a double-edged sword, though, because usually when I start to like a place, it gets trendy...which brings on the hipster types.  Yes, business is good, but now it's crowded and pretentious.  I'm fine with that when it comes to places that focus on coffee.  I am not the hugest coffee drinker - certainly not an aficionado, and it seems, sometimes, that the hipster element enhances that particular beverage.   Gregory's Coffee (46th between 5th and Madison) is an example of this.  The bespectacled logo was enough to keep me away for a while, but when I finally caved one day with Bonnie, her enthusiasm gave it merits, and I've been back a number of times since with her (it doesn't hurt that their donuts are worth walking off.) 

When it comes to tea, I'm a little reluctant to share my thoughts on recent additions.  Leli's Bakery opened in the winter on 30th Avenue in Astoria, and though their tea is served in bags, they're the better bags - and you can have it in a teapot.  Their baked items, both sweet and savory, are wonderful accompaniments, and in my opinion superior to Martha's Bakery.  I mean, come on Martha - first you have to be seated by a host, and next you must pay gobs of cash for a mediocre cookie and drink?  That's the thing, though.  When a place is popular, I'm glad to see it's gonna stick around, but then what? 

Next, there's Tapioca Story.  A bona fide bubble tea shop is not common in my part of Queens, so I'm enthusiastic, even if it's not as close to home as Leli's.  The tea I tried - a rose black with the tapioca pearls, was just what it should be, though hopefully they'll get a/c during the summer months.  There's not a lot of seating, but what can you do with a small space?

The other recent opening surprised me - how did I never hear there would be a second Radiance?  I know I was less than happy with my last visit, but I was still pleased to see the location by 50th and 3rd.  After all, I may not have the constant funds to lunch here (never say never), but a cup to go in the middle of the day is not out of the question. 

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25 April 2013

Eight years!

I used to have a remarkable date memory, but it seems to have dwindled a bit.  I'm hoping it just means I have things of significance filling my head, but maybe that's not worth exploring.  Anyway, last week this blog hit its eight year anniversary, and though it's gone through many changes, it is still essentially the same.  I can't really narrow it down to a Tea Blog or a Book Blog, a Cat Person blog, and certainly not a Fashion Blog, but that's fine with me.  As I've said many times before, it's closest to a Tea Blog in that it's what I talk about most here, but it's more of a Tea Time Blog.  If it were a physical entity, it would be my living room, where I invite people in, offer them tea and cakes, and talk about books, news, pens, music, whatever.  My cats come wandering in, sniffing around or jumping onto an available lap.  Sometimes I gripe about whatever's been annoying me lately, and my guests might respond in kind.  Then I'll whip out my albums, and everyone will be subjected to my latest snaps from London or wherever I've been wandering.  Eventually our time together ends, and it's 'til next time! 

I hope you've all enjoyed yourselves.  Come back soon!

23 April 2013

Tea Gallery: Tea House, Hu Yongkai

Through the magic of Pinterest, I am discovering new artists almost daily.  And I keep finding 'tea artists' like Hu Yongkai.  This particular work, 'Tea House', is one I can truly identify with.  Do I even need to say why? 

25 March 2013

Tea Gallery: Fred Calleri

What's got her riveted?  Or is she pouring tea for an imaginary friend?  Maybe her cold meds are throwing off her aim (reddish nose.) I'm not sure, but from the little I've seen, I'd like to get to know more of Fred Calleri's work.

01 March 2013

Favorite Book + Pairing: February 2013

A week at home with the throat had only one silver lining for me:  I was able to finish four books, making my total books read in 2013: 13!  Usually it's hard for me to concentrate on reading when I'm sick, but, though there was the painful swallowing, and lack of sleep, I didn't feel exhausted.  I didn't even lose my appetite, which is both a shame and a good thing.  So I snacked, drank loads of tea and gulped down book after book.

It was, as usual, difficult to pick a favorite.  I'm going to go with the one that fed into an early-year obsession for me: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon.  Characters come and go on Downton Abbey, but the backdrop, that big museum of a home, keeps standing.  Of course, it's not just the setting of the wildly popular drama, but the inspiration for some of the storylines.  There's big differences as well, though only those who have seen the second season of Downton might know what I'm talking about.  Lady Almina, wife of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (the one behind the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb), was the driving force behind the conversion of Highclere into a hospital for WWI soldiers.  That, to me, was her selling point.  Otherwise, the money she brought into the family certainly helped, but that's just par for the course in that time period. 

This was a quick read for me, mostly because I was already familiar with the time period.  Still, it helped to pull the fiction and the reality together for me.  Descriptions of the lifestyle and work of the staff was probably my favorite section of the book. The only thing I would have added was more of what happened to Lady Almina after the Earl died, as well as how the rest of the family fared afterwards.  But I'd say if you like the show and you also like to read, then read this one.

Now for tea pairings:  I'm going to draw completely from Season 3 of Downton Abbey with two picks:
First, an herbal: Raspberry Leaf Infusion: Why?  It supposedly aids in pregnancy, though I doubt it'd have helped Lady Sybil.
Next, Irish Breakfast Tea: The Branson storyline (we can call him Branson again, thanks Dowager) was an important one for the past two seasons, and now even more so since he's a widower with new responsibilities.  In line with this, the tea must be sipped in good china, reflecting the juxtaposition of his life as former staff turned Family.

Have a nice weekend!

15 February 2013

Crazy Long Walk: All Over London!

I've made all kinds of references to that day I really really walked in London, aka The Day I Kept Falling Down.  This was on the Thursday, though technically I did the most walking on Saturday.  How do I know this?  I've been wearing a tracker on my shoes since November (it's work-related), and it reported 24,027 steps for Saturday and only (!) 20,996 for Thursday.  It felt like more on Thursday, I think, since I covered a lot of territory, and got a little lost more times that I can count.  In the early part of the day, though, I knew exactly where I was going. 

In the morning, I got off at the Embankment tube station, which is one of my favorites, as it's got all kinds of views to welcome you.  I covered the Strand, another beloved street of mine, and then I found myself on Fleet Street.  It was only a matter of time before I was standing in front of St. Paul's Cathedral.  From there I crossed the Millennium Bridge.  This might be the first time I'd done that, though my memory is not perfect with respect to bridges. 

The bridge itself isn't gorgeous, but it has enough postcard-worthy views to make this London fanatic swoon!

The Cannon Street Railway Bridge. 

The new Globe Theatre.  Someday I'd like to see a play here.  I think it would also be fun to walk on that little 'beach', but it was too cold in December.

Looking back at St Paul's.
This big mirror is outside the Tate Modern.  I did go into the museum, but what I saw there didn't float my boat.  

When I stayed near Woolwich in 1998, we'd take the train in to Charing Cross Station and we'd always see this building with its 'Take Courage' sign.  This is the first time I actually stood right near it.

It was a treat to wander around Borough Market - I don't know why I'd never come here before.  What a foodie paradise!  And there's 'The Shard' asserting itself already.

Southwark Cathedral.  I only took this picture because it was on an episode of Doctor Who.

Taxidermied birds watch over the bustling street.
Later, as I got lost trying to find the British Museum, I found this lovely bookshop, with a most bookish name.

What I took from this day:  Just caffeinate, wear comfortable shoes and keep walking.  You're bound to see plenty of excellent old and new London.  It never really gets old to me!

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06 February 2013

I Haven't Left London Yet!

It's been two months since I was actually in London - it really does go fast!  I think I have a few posts left in me, though.

There was an exhibit at the British Museum about, well, what the above sign says.  I made it to the museum on my Really Crazy Long Walk day, and I have to admit I didn't really take it in the way I'd have liked to.  There's just so much one can pack in, so this was more of a token visit than anything.  It's kind of a shame, too, since it was not crowded at all when I was there.  It was worth it, anyway, to see all the lovely teapots and corresponding pieces.  Of course, the exhibit also had vessels for sake drinking, and water receptacles, but it will come as no surprise that here I will share the tea things.
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