Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

It's always so difficult to believe that another year has flown by. We just got through the Christmas rush, and here, only a week later, it's already the new year (well, soon!). But today was a great way to end 2008. We had a delightful day in the shop. Kind-of quiet for the first few hours, then, several groups of ladies came in for tea, and the place was suddenly alive with chatter and laughter. One of the ladies was a former restaurateur of one of Toledo's most well known restaurants. She and her whole group had a wonderful time and were most complimentary about their experience at the shop. When someone knows the food business so well, compliments always mean a little bit more. I know they totally understand how challenging it can be at times.

The other group had never been in before, and were fairly newbies to tea. They loved our tea so much, they each took some home, and I know they'll be back. I just love it when I can turn someone new on to tea. I was able to share some of the finer nuances of tea and preparation with them. They asked many questions, and with our huge selection of teas, they each found several to start off their new years with. And I got to talk about my favorite subject for about a half hour--always a treat for me!

One lady, somewhere along the long line of the day's conversations, mentioned that she'd heard a report from one of Toledo's noted astrologers who predicts an economic upswing and a very positive 2009 for area businesses. Well, I have a few things to say about that:
Thank the Lord!
Happy New Year!
I lift my cup!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Change of Seasons

Autumn is fully in the air! I love this time of year when things begin to slow down from summer's load of activities. Oh, there are plenty of things to do, such as attending the Apple Butter Festival, visiting local orchards, and just going for car rides to be once again awestruck by the beautiful colors of nature we see in this part of the country. The other night, my hubby and I had the last ice cream cone of the year. He gets out his lawn tractor and attaches the leaf collector contraption on the back, and becomes leaf farmer until first snow. We're losing interest in things cold and refreshing, and gaining interest in things warm, comforting and cozy. I'm anziously awaiting snuggling up to the first fire in the fireplace.
I'm in the mood for the spicy and heavier teas at this time of year. Chai and Warm Winter Blend with it's fruity, spicy goodness. And, this change of season also brings changes for the shop. While we suspended most of our food service for the dreadfully slow summer, things always pick up for us in the fall. And this year, we are able to bring back our luncheon food service. We hope to have everything up and running by November 1st, so watch for more details in future blogs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gratuity with Heart

I'd been in full throes of the summer doldrums on the day that Julia came in to the shop for tea with her daughter. It gets downright lonely in July and August, when customer flow slows to a crawl while everyone is getting in that last summer vacation and going through all the preparations for "back to school". This summer's been the worst I've seen in seven years, and I was fretting about even being able to pay the rent . So, I was delighted when they came in, and especially so when Julia invited me to have a cup of tea with them since I wasn't particularly busy.
We had a lovely chat about this and that, how slow business is all over and how many business in the area have closed. She shared how this economic downturn has impacted her family, and we got to know each other just a little bit better on that otherwise dull afternoon. I always feel so privileged when someone shares a part of their life with me.
They left the shop, and when I went over to clear off the table, I found one dollar of her gratuity folded into a heart! That just made my day! It was like she was saying, "Take heart, it'll get better." What a lovely gesture--one which I will not forget for a very long time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tea Cure for the Summer Doldrums...
It's been dreadfully slow now that we're into the heat of summer and everything seems at a lazy, hazy pace... including business. So, I take this time to play around with new tea blends and flavor combinations.
The newest one was actually suggested by one of my regulars, Diane, who's become a friend. She's particularly fond of Rooibos, or South African Red Bush tea. This new blend is called Orange Cream Rooibos and is highly reminiscent of those orange and cream ice cream bars or the creamy orange frozen drink at Olga's Kitchens.
It's delicious hot, but especially refreshing iced. I think all the fruity flavored teas make great iced teas. And I find them much more refreshing than any sugary sweet drink which only seems to make me thirstier.
So, if you're stuck in the summer doldrums if for no other reason than gas prices are too high to go anywhere, have some fun by playing around with tea flavors to create your own favorite summer soother.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Like this teabag, I've been tagged--by Marilyn, aka Marmalady, to answer a few questions on my blog. I'm to tag 4 others, but honestly, don't know 4 other bloggers other than the ones who have already been tagged. Too new to the blog-o-sphere, I guess. So, I'll just answer here.

10 years ago: I was working for Read For Literacy as the Employment Skills Coordinator. It was an interim job, after having gone through a nasty corporate downsizing (I'd been in laboratory science for the previous 20 years). I'd decided I never wanted to work for a large corporation again, and hadn't yet stumbled upon the idea to open my own business.

5 things on my listo for today: As it is very late, I'll answer for tomorrow. I am taking one of those rare, and I mean rare, days off from the shop. I first shall sleep in until my body tells me that it just can't take it anymore, then relax in a lavender bath. I will then breakfast on tea with toast and jam (Marmalady's, of course!) on our newly remodeled enclosed breezeway or the deck if it's not too humid. I'll read from a new mystery novel for awhile and then meet with a friend for lunch. More reading and at mid-afternoon, I'll meet another friend to do some serious antiquing. My kind-a day!

Snacks I enjoy: Anything chocolate, wholegrain crackers with white cheese and hot pepper jelly, honey roasted peanuts, and apples peeled and sliced.
Things I would do if I were a millionaire: Set up a charity for the homeless in our city, give a large sum as a surprise to each of my siblings, visit the small town in Hungary where my grandmother was born, pay off all my debts and run my tea shop just for fun, and visit the major tea lands.

Places I have lived: Toledo, Ohio and numerous places in the surrounding area. I love it here except that the mid-west is kinda slow about picking up on current trends that the coasts always get first. I love being near the great lakes and Michigan is a vacation land! There are lots of places to vacation near here, and with gas prices as they are, we're sticking close to home.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mediocre Minds

I have a poster over my desk that has a huge photo of Einstein. The caption reads: "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds...." I keep this in front of me to help me deal with some of the small minded folk who happen into the shop from time to time.
Today has been one of those all-too-slow days where I wonder if I will be able to pay the rent this month, not to mention all the other expenses of a brick and mortar business. This afternoon, a woman came in inquiring about matcha, the green tea used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony. "We have it!", I declared, "A very nice quality matcha, too." I showed her the small gold tin.
Now, I pride myself in the well rounded-ness and high quality of our tea collection. Not all teas are created equal. Not all vendors carry good tea. I taste hundreds of teas from various vendors. I'm one of those picky people I'm sure would be classified as OCD (obcessive compulsive disorder) by any competent psychologist. "OCD and proud of it!", I'll jokingly say to my friends.
The woman looked at the tin and said, "Don't you have any in the black tin?" I explained that this is our own brand of tea, and about my concern for quality. She said that she really wanted the one in the black tin and she was going to see if she could find that first, and if she couldn't find it, she'd be back to get this one.
I thought, If she waits too long, I might not be here. Which is only my own fear rearing its ugly head, but I'm sure I'm the only shop within hundreds of miles that carries this quality (if any) matcha. And if people don't support their local businesses, they will disappear. And this world will be a much more boring place, in this tealady's oppinion.
Stepping off my soap box now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness

Yesterday I had a customer who came in for a quiet afternoon break. She sat down and had a relaxing glass of lavender lemonade and scones. While she was here, another regular customer, a young college student named Angela came in for one of her own quiet afternoon tea brakes. The two sat at tables across the tea room from each other, each quietly enjoying their goodies and respite from the hectic outside world.

The first customer had finished and came to the register to pay with a sort of pleading look on her face. After she'd paid her bill, she handed me a piece of paper upon which she had written, "Random Acts of Kindness--I have $20. Please use that to pay for your other customer's bill." I smiled and rang up the 2nd bill, and she indicated for me to keep the change. She smiled and thanked me for providing such a wonderfully relaxing place and said she'd be back again another day.

After she'd left, I took the paper over to Angela and handed it to her. She read it and smiled broadly. She looked up at me and asked who the other lady was. I said I didn't know her name, I think this was the first time she'd been to the tea room. Angela expressed disappointment that she didn't have a chance to thank the woman for her kindness. I explained that the whole idea behind random acts of kindness was that one just did them for the pure sake of being kind to another--that thanks were neither expected nor needed.

Many times the world seems hectic, harried, and even cruel. But sometimes it is kind and gentle as on this particular summer afternoon. When I have long forgotten the regular stresses of daily life, I will still remember this gentle day and the sweet surprises it revealed.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Honorable Aaron Fisher

I recently stumbled upon a new tea magazine--The Leaf--which is the first on-line magazine on tea (and perhaps anything else). It is free, environmentally friendly, and reader interactive. Wow! It doesn't get any better than that!

The Honorable Aaron Fisher is the editor-in-chief of this beautiful magazine. He lives in Taiwan now, after travelling the globe for 10 years, and has made it his life's work to "live" tea. That is abundantly apparent in his writing, and it was unmistakably clear to me when I met him.

He and his father wandered into the shop one sunny day last summer when he was visiting his parents. He happens to have grown up in Sylvania where we are located. He was thrilled to find real tea as a focus served in a real tea shop in his home town, not just the afterthought it usually is in most restaurants and coffee shops. I was pleased to have him join me for tea that afternoon.

Actually, it was I who joined him and his father, at least in the beginning. As any true tea man, he travels with his paraphernalia, and readily went to his car to bring in his well used Gong Fu tea so that he could share some of the fine pu-ehr and oolong teas he had in his stash. The reverence with which he prepared his tea (the essence of the true Gong Fu tea method) was a joy to behold. We sipped and talked, talked and sipped. So many wonderful cups of tea! I have no idea how much time passed. It was like a meditation, where one is fully present in the moment, and oblivious to all else. It reminded me of the flow one reaches when doing Tai Chi, where you are somehow not bound by, nor concerned with time and all of the stress and "stuff" of daily life just falls away.

We'd had quite a lot of tea, but I proceeded to pull out some of my better teas to share with them. I was so grateful for this moment of perfection, and I wanted to give something back, although I could tell he was one of those souls who gives in the true spirit of passion for this amazing leaf, neither expecting nor needing anything in return. But, I needed to give back. So we drank and talked some more. It was a truly memorable afternoon. I was honored to meet and take tea with this truly honorable man.

If you would like to learn more about the reverence of tea, the history of tea, the wonder of this ancient elixir, please visit his new magazine, The Leaf. You can find it at the following link.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A TEArful Farewell

Today we held a memorial for my dear teacher, mentor, friend, Joe Ann Cousino (Jody). By we, I mean the 6 of us who took sculpture class from her for many, many years. I think it's been about 17 years for me, and one of her students has been with her for almost 30 years. A few other students came and went over the years, but the 6 of us have shared a comfortable camaraderie for the longest.

Jody had been grevely ill and in much pain for some months, and we all took any time we could spare to visit, bring her flowers, massage her, read to her, and comfort her in any way we could. Oddly enough, it was she who comforted us in our greiving her impending parting, and our impending loss. She would tell one of her many travel stories invariably filled with some tidbit that would have everyone laughing. The thing that was so wonderful about that horrible time of waiting was the love that just poured out from every quantum dot of space and being.

After she passed, just before this past Christmas, her son had decided to put off her memorial until this coming June. This would afford him time to put together a slide show of all her work, and more appropriately gather the many people who would no doubt want to share in the celebration of this great lady's life. I look forward to that celebration, but that left me and the other 5 students in an odd sort of limbo. We just had to somehow mark her passing sooner than June.

So, we decided to meet on New Year's Day under one of her most loved sculptures, the "Woman with the Birds". She stands comfortably, comfortingly on a high platform surrounded by the greenery of Toledo Botanical Gardens (aka, Crosby Gardens). She's stout and wears a big brimmed hat and it's the serenity that she emits that attracts the birds (sculpted or real) and anyone who passes by. We couldn't think of a more fitting place to hold our ceremony.

I had prepared a poem by Kahlil Gibran, which so beautifully talks of death and dancing. I thought it so appropriate as Jody loved to dance, and I can remember on many occasions during class where the music which was always playing in the background would move her to dance around the studio while we sculpted. Since it was a very cold and snowy day, I had also taken an insulated pot of my Wild Blackberry Hot Chocolattea, a comforting blend of Wild Blackberry Tea and hot chocolate. We read and cried, told stories and cried: funny stories of things that happened in the studio; stories of how she touched our lives; stories of her body of work; and we each told the story of how it was that we came to be in the sculpture class and how grateful we were to have been chosen.

We lit a candle and toasted our cups of tea to this wonderful lady under her comforting sculpture with snowflakes gently falling all around us. It was so cold we all shivered and sipped, trying to keep warm, losing feeling in our fingers and feet by the time we were ready to leave, but I would not have missed this celebration of life for all the tea in China.