Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Cheer!

The shop is a-bustle
with shoppers galore.
Looking for teapots
and teacups and more.

So many quite lovely
varities of teas.
And even some ornaments
for decorating trees.

But most important of all,
Friendship and Good Cheer.
We're wishing to all
the very best of New Year!

Wishing you the warmest Christmas or whatever holiday you might celebrate.  Savor the gatherings and goodies of the season, and enjoy your favorite cup of Christmas Cheer too!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Golden Hour of Tea

The Golden Hour by Kellie Hill

Here's another painting by one of my favorite contemporary artists, Kellie Hill.  Her work is often evocative of much more than the simple subject depicted.  This one is more than a cup of tea on a lace tablecloth covered table.  I sip tea all day long, but this painting evokes something more. That special tea time where one might prepare their best tea in a treasured tea cup, when no one else is around and you can relax with just your own thoughts in restful, restorative tranquility. The Golden Hour. Perfect title. Elegant simplicity, peaceful serenity, Zen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Subtle Charm of Tea

There is a subtle charm in the taste of tea
which makes it irresistible
and capable of idealization.
It has not the arrogance of wine, the self-consciousness of coffee, nor the simpering innocence of cocoa.

~Okaura Kakuzo, Tea Master, Author, Poet

People don't send note cards often anymore. Now, they barely e-mail. Tweet in 140 characters or less is more the aptitude these days.  This quote would be too long even to tweet, but the sentiment expresses how I feel about tea.  So, I've put it on a note card and send it out whenever I get the chance. 

There is a subtle charm in tea.  Perhaps that is why it is missed by so many who must be bombarded with intensity before they "get" a thing.  Tea is subtle.  Tea is balanced.  While it has caffeine which provides alertness; it has L-theanine which lends calm.  No major jolt, just a pleasant relaxed focus.  Yet, within the subtle charms of tea exist a mighty power.  When life has us frazzled, it's tea that we reach for to comfort and calm, give us clarity, and bring us back to center again. 

While there are over 10,000 (or more?--I read varying numbers on this) varieties of tea to be enjoyed, there is a simplicity to tea that invites all, from peasants to kings and queens. Yet, there is a deep complexity in tea's subtle flavors, and one could spend a lifetime exploring.  There are less fruitful ways to spend one's time, and I can think of no better pursuit than to look forward to that next cup of tea.  

Friday, August 26, 2011


This is the friendly greeting you receive everywhere in Sri Lanka.  Lalith Guy Paranavitana, owner of Empire Tea Services is offering his wonderful Tea Tour of Sri Lanka again this coming January.
If you are even remotely thinking about going, don't hesitate a minute longer.
It was the trip of a lifetime, will be long remembered for its tropical beauty, kind and gentle people, and of course, all that wonderful fresh tea!
Here are a few photos of our memorable trip.
This official greeter at the Galle Face Hotel has been at his post for something like 70 years!
Beautiful Hotels 
Ladies Plucking Tea -- only two leaves and bud for all tea from Sri Lanka!!!

We even plucked some ourselves!
 We visited 4 factories and saw how tea is made from start to finish!  First it is withered in large bins shown here, then rolled to crush the leaf and open the cells so that oxidation can begin.  Then leaves are put on tables to oxidize.  Then dried and sorted by leaf size.  Then, lots of tea tasting.
We asked one of the experienced tea tasters how long it took to become proficient at tasting.  He said, "Well, I've been tasting tea every day now, 7 days a week, for 10 years, and I think I am just now getting good at it!" 
The tea tasting at each estate was so much fun. I have never, and may never again, tasted such fresh tea--some that had just finished that day!  That fresh tea aroma in the factories is something I will never forget. 
We got up close to the elephants!

And visited many temples and famous Buddhist sites.

Who knew Cocoa bean pods were this big?

I had to be drug out of this batik store! Beautiful wares!

Majestic waterfalls

The Jeep Safari was so much fun.

We waded in the Indian Ocean.
Wove through narrow, winding mountain roads.

And saw beautiful vistas in every direction!  It's easy to see why Sri Lanka is now one of the top tourist destinations in the world!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NYC & Tea

Just got back from a quick trip to NYC to celebrate one of those milestone birthdays with 3 other gradeschool/high school friends.  One of them lives in SoHo, so we were a few short blocks from Harney's new digs and of course we had to stop in for tea one day.  It was great, and John's grandson, Emeric, was most gracious and gave us a complimentary tea tasting.  My friends mostly like the flavored teas, and we thoroughly enjoyed them all.  I can't remember exactly which ones we tried, but I do remember that they were perfectly prepared.  That's always such a treat for me--a rarity to find well prepared tea anywhere outside my own shop.  But, I expected as much from Harney and Sons and was delighted with our tea and the melt-in-your-mouth scones. 

Afterward I took a stab at reading my friends' tea leaves.  I only found out a couple of years ago that my paternal grandmother read tea leaves.  I wish I'd known that when she was with us, but somehow it never came up.  So, I've decided I must carry on the tradition.  It was great fun, and something significant seemed to show itself in each cup!

Another quite new shop we had lunch at was the "Bosie Tea Parlor" at 10 Morton Street.  Again, the tea there was supurb.  I was very impressed with their extensive selection, and I felt right at home when the waiter had to interrupt taking our lunch order to answer the tea timer from another customer's pot of tea.  You know you're in serious tea territory when the tea pot takes priority over everything else! 

Their food was quite good.  The variety was excellent for a tea shop, the service and presentation elegant.  I do wish the scones had been warmed just a bit as they were served cold.  But, all in all, another lovely tea experience and I would highly recommend Bosie's to anyone passing through lower Manhattan. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The World's Largest Teabag

Customers are always commenting on one of my sculptures I have near the front door.  It's possibly the world's largest tea bag--made out of clay.  I have it there with a sign that says: "This is the only teabag you will see in Elaine's Tea Shoppe.  We only carry fine quality loose leaf tea.  Please do not touch."
Well, of course, everyone does end up touching it.  It looks quite real, and they can't believe it is solid.  They also often think it is a purse at first glance.  So, I have lots of fun with it when they discover its true identity and composition. This type of art, called trompe l'oeil, is made to "fool the eye".  I love it when customers are fooled and think it is a real teabag. 
I miss having my hands in clay.  When my sculpture teacher passed a couple of years ago, the group that met regularly disbanded.  It's just not the same trying to work on my own in my own home.  I miss the group.  We laughed a lot. Ate lots of chocolate together. Drank a lot of tea together. And expressed ourselves with our clay creations.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Bite of Tea

A delightful gentleman came in the shop yesterday and, as people often do, started telling me Tea Tales from his childhood.  The one that made me laugh was this.  He often spent time with his grandfather, an avid and daily tea drinker. His grandfather didn't like anything too hot, so he would always take the first sips of tea by scooping out a teaspoonful and blow on it, then take it like one would take a bite of food from a spoon.  The child, wanting to mimic and enjoy tea like his grandfather had, finally asked, "Can I please have a bite of tea?"
To this day, every time he takes a sip of tea, he is taking a bite of tea with his grandfather.
This lovely teacup and spoon is from: One Painting a Day
Small Studies by Kellie Marian Hill