Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chocolate and Tea Pairing

Members of the Mid-Atlantic Tea Business Association gathered at Tea by Two in Bel Air, MD for the fall quarterly meeting earlier this month. A portion of the meeting was set aside for a tea and chocolate pairing under the guidance of Lisa Boalt Richardson. She explained that pairing is an art and a science, that there must be a conscious effort and a deliberate process that involves being totally engrossed in the moment. You must learn how to taste. Having said that, it's important to know that there is no right or wrong answer.

We had a variety of chocolate in front of each of us. We were instructed to take a small bite of the chocolate and let it soften and melt from the warmth of the mouth. Then, take a sip of the tea. After noting the flavors, a sip of water was offered before repeating the process with the second tea. The Lindt white chocolate was paired with Sencha and also with Gunpowder, both green teas. Our group noted that the white chocolate overpowered the sencha.
The Cadbury milk chocolate with the highest fat content, thus coating the mouth, was paired with two teas that are opposites in astringency levels. Paired with a Ti Kuan Yin Oolong and a Glenburn single estate Darjeeling we noted that the chocolate sweetened the tea and made it smooth. The semi sweet was paired with Ceylon Kenilworth and also a hearty Glenburn Estate Assam golden tip. The Assam and the semi sweet created a balanced flavor combination, almost becoming one. And finally, the Lindt bitter chocolate with 70% or more cacao was paired with the Assam and a puerh. The puerh balanced well with the bitter chocolate.
This was definitely an enjoyable and entertaining afternoon, not to mention quite tasty, too!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Modern Tea - Lisa Boalt Richardson

We recently had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Boalt Richardson during the Mid-Atlantic Tea Business Association meeting held at Tea By Two in Bel Air, MD. Lisa, a certified tea specialist and well known author on the subject of tea hails from Atlanta, GA. This was a special book launch for her newest publication, Modern Tea. Lisa has also authored Tea With a Twist and The World in Your Teacup.
Modern Tea: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage is a comprehensive book that includes a variety of pertinent information for both the newbie recently introduced to the world of tea and the devoted tea enthusiast looking to enhance their education. She offers tips for purchasing tea, storing it properly, and brewing techniques. Moving beyond the cup, she shares about cooking with tea including pairing tea with chocolate. At the book launch, we had a tea and chocolate pairing guided by Lisa. We'll share that tomorrow. You can find Lisa on Facebook here: Lisa Knows Tea.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Haunted Gardens

Since we have three Halloween Teas scheduled this month, Streets of Treats this coming Saturday where local children visit area businesses for Trick or Treats, our Garlic Dinner with the 'Witchy Woman' later in the month and herb gardens that are open to the public, dawn to dusk, we decorate the gardens in the spirit of the season for the month of October.
Haunted, but not overly scary, we enjoy it when others visit the gardens and snap photos or point out surprises tucked here and there. For those of you that can't visit the gardens this October, here are a few quick shots of the décor.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Happy Birthday, Angelica!

Happy 15th Birthday to a very special, smart and beautiful young lady! You bring us such joy in everything you do. Your love of reading, your affection for family, your enthusiasm for horses, your disdain for cows - it all brings us great joy! May love, laughter and happiness abound with each passing day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Herbal Dinner - Sinking Spring Herb Farm

Our final dinner together as a group was at Sinking Spring Herb Farm.  Owner Ann Stubbs prepared a great farmhouse kitchen buffet meal for us.  Red Beets flavored and garnished beautifully.
Apple Salad,  Chicken Pot pie, Beans and Sausage, Mashed Sweet Potatoes,  Fresh Watermelon and Pound Cake were all part of the meal.
Nasturtiums were offered as a peppery little nibble as well.
This old country farmhouse had little nooks and crannies filled with treasures and little touches.

Ann is  a dried flower arranger so the house was adorned  with wreaths, mantle pieces and door pieces.
Seating was set up in the main dining area, and her living room.  Ann came through and shared a history of the farm with the group.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sinking Spring Herb Farm

Sinking Spring Herb Farm in Elkton, MD is a 44 year old business run by Ann Stubbs.   This 130 acre herb farm features restful herb gardens, a cottage bed and breakfast and is a venue for farm weddings.  
http://www.sinkingsprings.com/index.htmlEnergetic 72 year old Ann greeted us with a branch of sweet annie as we stepped off the bus.  We were then instructed on how to make that into a wreath.  Later we were able to add dried flowers and raffia bows to the wreath. 

We were there for an evening dinner on the last day of our bus trip.  The evening lighting enhanced the loveliness of the herb gardens. We loved all the arch ways and gazebos all in white for those special wedding photos and moments.

The large barn was her gift shop, dried flower studio and the upstairs was an indoor wedding venue.
Energetic Ann Stubbs and Susanna showing off some of the wreath creations.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Soothing Herbs - Guest Post

Susanna Reppert and Guest Post author Lorraine Kiefer at  her business Triple Oaks Nursery.  Lorraine wrote today's guest post on:



Soothing Herbs

As the holidays approach, people find added stress in their lives and hope to eliminate the adverse feelings that go with it. Lavender, Peppermint, and many other plants can help! Many are learning that aromatherapy, the therapeutic use of pure essential oils extracted from plants, can definitely have an effect on emotions. According to the aromatherapy literature, lemon stimulates one's sense of humor and sense of well being, Lavender eases nervousness and insomnia, and Jasmine and Peppermint soothes a headache.

Many of the same plants that feed us, make clean air, beautify our lives, enhance our health and can even soothe us! Besides eating them, drinking teas made from them, bathing in them and enjoying their fragrance, we can use them as a form of aromatherapy.

Ever since the first early man touched a fragrant leaf or bloom and enjoyed its scent, plants have soothe and healed those who used them. Lavender was a favorite in the baths of the early Greeks and Romans, and they carried it wherever their troops went. Even then they knew the value of this plant to soothe and relax a weary, stress-filled person.

Today people are again realizing that plants can help with one of the worst problems of modern man, stress. I have always found gardening to be the most relaxing form of activity I know. In the winter a garden is in the window with the fragrance of the herbs and blooming plants that grow there.Lavender Blossoms

In winter, plants such as Sweet Olive, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, and scented Geraniums take up on the window sill where the frost left off outside. Tending these plants is half the reward, with their beauty and aroma being the rest.

Essential oils, made with extracts of the fragrant plants can be used in baths, teas, or as a rub to soothe or stimulate one's personality. Many good aromatherapy tools are available. Little clay "dip sticks" that can be hung in cars and homes can be saturated with the oils that will then permeate the air surrounding them. I have found that little clay pots can also be saturated with oil and then even filled with dried herbs or potpourri for an attractive source of fragrance. Dabs of oil can also be placed on light bulbs, heater vents, neat wood stoves of fireplaces on pine cones, and in little simmer pots. Heat releases the oil into the air.

A small pot filled with dry Lavender blossoms (pictured) and saturated with the oil can be placed near the bed for a relaxing sleep aid. This technique can also be used with other herbal fragrances. Although there is more interest in Europe about aromatherapy, it is also starting to become known and used here.

So I guess when we were told to "take time and smell the flowers" there was something in that old word of wisdom! Take time to smell the evergreens!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Soft Herb Butter

This herb butter recipe stays nice and soft and is easily spreadable on rolls or bread.  It also readily accepts the flavor of fresh herbs from your garden and is quite easy to make.

Incredible Butter
2/3 C oil, light
1 1b margarine (softened)
2/3 C Buttermilk
3 T dried herbs or 6 T fresh herbs,  your choice

Whip the oil, margarine and buttermilk with a heavy-duty mixer until very light and fluffy. Add the herbs. Chill.  This butter remains soft and spreadable.

Thyme, Basil, Parsley, Chives, Onion or Garlic powder are all good choices of herbs to use in this recipe. Mix them together in any combination, or simply use one herb. It's also fun to divide the mixed butter into three portions and then flavor each portion with a different combination of herbs. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Herbal Luncheon - Triple Oaks

One of the highlights of our recent Traveling Herb Seminar to Cape May was the herbal luncheon at Triple Oaks Herb Shop and Nursery in Franklinville, NJ.   They squeezed our large group into their workshop/crafting room. We loved the pretty dried flowers hanging over head and the perfect herbal tablecloths and herb dishes that were used.

Already on the table were fresh flowers from the garden and a soft herb flavored butter.

This bountiful feast began with a variety of fresh greens and homemade salad dressing.  We were also offered some sangria and a fresh mint tea.

It was a cozy and relaxed setting that everyone enjoyed.

A rich mushroom soup was served next.  This had a 8 different mushrooms in the soup and was very flavorful.
After being served the salad and soup we rose table by table to go to the bountiful buffet. Scalloped potatos, Red Beets with orange rind, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli, Rosemary Green Beans, Pulled Pork, Chicken and much more was offered to us.

Everyone could choose what appealed to them.  Many on our Traveling Herb Seminar felt this was the best meal of the trip. 
 Dessert was also offered and included a wide selection to choose from:  cakes, pies, tarts, and cookies all made with fresh herbs or spices. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Triple Oaks Nursery & Herb Garden, NJ


www.tripleoaks.comTriple Oaks Nursery in Franklinville, NJ is owned by Lorraine Kiefer and her husband.

Lorraine is a fabulous herb grower and has had this nursery since 1976. She has lots of gardens, herb gardens, wetland gardens and more.  She also has a full scale florist shop and gift shop and seasonal workshops.

Lorraine's son, Joe is also active in the business and gave one of our garden tours through the property.  Fall color, garden sculpture and unique and unusual plants were part of the highlights here!  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hidden Treasures in Private Gardens, Cape May

Part of our recent Traveling Herb Seminar in Cape May, NJ included a morning tour of some of the environmentally friendly local gardens.  Cape May is a stopping point for many of the Monarch Butterflies as they travel up and down the east coast to Mexico. Therefore, many residents have gardens with butterfly friendly host plants (host plants are for the caterpillars to feed) and nectar plants (for the butterflies to feed on).   
We loved all the cheerful, beachy garden art.
The environmentally friendly gardens give the birds a colorful place to live as well.
This vertical garden was made from a repurposed wooden skid.

This little layered sedum garden (R) on the corner of the brick wall added a section for additional plantings, but doesn't block the driver's view while repurposed pans (L) provide the perfect container for plants.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Carriage House Cafe & Tea Room

Located on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate is the Carriage House built in 1876. The Carriage House now houses the gift shop, changing exhibits, and a Café and Tea Room that offers Lunch and Afternoon Tea. Just FYI, this tea room was originally called the Twinings Tea Room, and is still listed under that name on Tea Map. After making our purchases in the gift shop, we headed outside for our scheduled tea.

On a beautiful September day, our group gathered under a large patio tent where we enjoyed dining al fresco. We were offered an iced Raspberry tea, said to be sourced from Harney & Sons. Teapots with hot water and an assortment of Harney tea bags were provided to each table.

A fresh salad was served quickly and efficiently.
Individual sandwich plates included a Cucumber Sandwich with seasoned cream cheese, Roasted Vegetables with savory hummus, and Chicken Salad on Raisin Bread. The sandwich plate also held a slice of Red Velvet tea bread and a Cranberry Scone. The scone was flavorful, but no cream or jelly was offered.
And dessert was an individual serving of a Chocolate Fudge cupcake with a chocolate drizzle, cream and berry garnish. Yummy!
The trolley took the group back to the pedestrian walkway in central Cape May where everyone had the remainder of the day to explore Cape May on their own. Many went shopping, others strolled the beach, some walked briskly to the lighthouse, a few relaxed back at the hotel, and even others visited with friends that have summer homes in Cape May.