Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Afternoon Tea - MATBA Seminar

Although our annual Mid-Atlantic Tea Business Association (MATBA) seminar was held in a church this year, we still enjoyed the special aspects associated with afternoon tea. Since our members travel from the tri-state area (Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and newest Delaware member) a casual morning reception is held while the attendees arrive. A simple buffet set up included a selection of teas (green, white and black) for your morning cuppa, and an individual portion of  Yogurt with fresh fruit and garnished with pistachios and mint leaves and a Pepper and Egg Frittata. It was a tasty beginning to our day.

Afternoon Tea was served following the presentations on tea blending. Typically we have our meetings at tea rooms that are owned by members of the Association. This year, although not in a tea room, the Afternoon Tea was catered by Association members Mike and Debbie Raab of Tea for All.
A salad with crisp green kale and mango cubes started the tea luncheon. This beautiful platter of tea sandwiches was placed on each table in anticipation of the next course.

 The individual sandwiches included a Yummy Pepper filled with rice and topped with roasted tomatoes, an Asparagus and Mozzarella wrap, a Minted Cucumber Crescent, Salmon & Dill on Whole Wheat, and a Florette with a Cheese Spread. Each sandwich was unique in flavor and creative in presentation. There was an abundance of sandwiches and the opportunity to select a few additional sandwiches was nice.

 Scones were served next with plenty of cream and jelly available on the table.

The dessert course featured a pineapple-tea sorbet, a macaron, and a crisp lady finger.
Following the tea, the group concluded the day with the business meeting. The next meeting for the Association will take place in the summer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tea Blending - MATBA Seminar

The Mid-Atlantic Tea Business Association (MATBA) recently held their annual April Seminar in Trenton, NJ. At the seminar this year, the topic was tea blending and was presented by two speakers. Susanna Reppert of The Rosemary House covered a sampling of Herb Teas used for blending. Categorized by use, she spoke about Citrus Flavored Herbs such as Rose Hips, Hibiscus, Lemon Balm, Lemon Grass, and Lemon Geranium. She included Sweet Flavored Herbs such as Stevia, Licorice, Fennel, and Anise. She mentioned spices that might be used in blending such as Candied ginger, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns. On the topic of flowers, she discussed lavender, rose, chamomile, jasmine, calendula, safflower, blue corn flowers, and black malva flowers offering a cautious hand when using the strong florals scents as you don't want on overly perfumed blend. A small amount of lavender adds flavor and color and is a sweet addition to a blend whereas, too much will create a perfumed blend. Most flowers and petals are added for the color and visual addition to a tea blend. The medicinal herbs that might appear in blended mixtures include passion flower, valerian (particularly found in a calming tea), sage, elder berries, nettles, and red raspberry. Susanna shared an abundance of information regarding these herbs and flowers. Her background information was vital in understanding how these herbs would add to and enhance a tea blend. Of personal note, sitting in this class and listening to Susanna speak on herbs with such ease and eloquence was tantamount to listening to a program presented by our mother. She would be so proud of her baby girl. 

Base Teas
Susanna's program was followed by a presentation by Linda Villano of SerendipiTea from Manhasset, NY. Linda provided the hands on portion of the program. She shared information on the actual method of tea blending, the tools needed (bowls, scale, measuring spoon, notebook, time, creativity, and patience), and the how-to of tea blending. She stressed the importance of keeping accurate notes so that you could repeat the same blend a second time. And, she noted that you must let your blend rest and taste it again several days later to see how the flavors mingled. Linda admits to having a 'Frankenstein File' of blends she has tested that were not successful. It is a time consuming process until you hit that signature blend, but so exciting once you have achieved it.

Janet Young of Over the Tea Cup, Barb Will of Sugargrove Herbs, and Susanna testing their blending knowledge, attempting to find that perfect combination of herbs and tea.
Shown here, fellow members of the Tea Association craft their own mix of teas and herbs.
It was an interesting and informative series of programs that offered basic information and a great introduction into the world of blending tea.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Carrot Pecan Tea Sandwich

This Carrot Pecan Tea Sandwich has been enjoyed by many in the tea room. Several guests have requested the recipe, so we share it here.
Carrot Pecan Tea Sandwich
l lb. carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 c. celery, finely chopped
1 c. pecans, finely chopped
1/2 c. India relish
1 c. mayonnaise (or less)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients, and let blend overnight. Spread on lightly buttered wheat bread that has been cut into rounds. Garnish with a black olive slice and a touch of parsley, if desired.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Downton Abbey Tea - April

Service for the Downton Abbey Tea began with properly brewed tea, served in silver teapots. The offerings include three selections of tea. Lord Grantham's Favorite Assam, a nice hearty bold black tea, Lady Grantham's Summer Dreams, a black tea flavored with peach and vanilla highlights with a touch of rose petals, and Isobel's Berry Patch, a caffeine free herbal blend of apples, hibiscus, elderberry, raspberry, and rose hips.

The first course featured a Pear & Walnut Salad with Parmesan Balsamic Dressing, a recipe from Darren McGrady's book, Eating Royally.

Preparing to serve the Savory Tea Sandwiches to the guests is Parlor Maid Angelica.

The sandwiches included Artichoke & Spinach Swirls, Apricot Chicken Salad Triangles, Cucumber with Herbed Cream Cheese, Asparagus Sandwich with Egg Yolk Butter, and Carrot Tea Sandwich.
Would you care for some more tea, my lady?

The scones included Traditional English Cream Scone served with Sweet Cream and Strawberry preserves. A slice of Triple Lemon Tea Bread accompanied the scones. And Sugared Grapes completed this course. A mixture of spiced nuts was on each table when the guests arrived.
The desserts included Lady Mary's Chocolate Biscuit Cake, Daisy's Rose Water Sugar Cookie and Mrs. Patmore's Lemon Coconut Cake.
We had such fun at these special teas!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Downton Abbey Celebrations

The silver was polished, the tables set, and three very special Downton Abbey tea parties took place in the tea room earlier this month.

Aprons were starched and put back into service for these events along with the antique pressed glass goblets. Nancy's pattern - Diamond Medallion, Susanna's pattern - Rexford (a very heavy cut pattern of the late 1880's), and Marjorie's pattern - Oval Thumbprint graced the tables.

It was our honour to welcome Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. She regaled us with stories of life during her era, including her own special interpretation on the upstairs-downstairs lives of Edwardian England.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Spice & Tea Exchange

Springtime in DC - it was a fabulous day - even in the rain!

Our final destination was a quick stop at The Spice & Tea Exchange in Georgetown where we could purchase a nice assortment of spices and teas. This spice shop is a franchise business with approx. 25 shops located throughout the United States. We had the opportunity to visit one of these shops in Mystic, CT last summer and again during this trip to DC. At both locations we managed to find a few spice blends and flavorful salts and rice mixtures to bring home to spice up our life and add a few new culinary flavors to our well stocked kitchen spices. This is a fun stop for any foodie.

There were a few dips to sample, and they had some teas brewed to try. This was a pleasant stop before we headed home, pushing through the DC rush hour traffic in the capable hands of our skilled bus driver, happy to leave the driving to someone else!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Afternoon Tea - Willard Intercontinental - Washington, DC

The stately elegance of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel located within walking distance of the White House was the destination for a bus trip organized by the Royal Tea Club, a group of tea enthusiasts established in 2005. The membership has grown exponentially over the years, with the majority of members from southern PA, MD, and VA. They schedule special events at tea rooms and also organize bus trips and overnight trips, including journeys to England. This one day trip took us to the nation's capital.
Our group was ushered to a private dining area where we were served our tea as soon as we were seated. The theme for this tea was the Cherry Blossom Tea, and although we were there on a rainy day, the cherry blossoms were just about at their peak. It was a beautiful spring day in the city. The tea offerings included Organic English Breakfast or Organic African Amber, both from Mighty Leaf Teas.

The African Amber is a flavored rooibos tea with hints of mango, vanilla and hibiscus. The English Breakfast tea a robust black tea.

The sandwich plate included Tarragon Chicken Salad with dried cherries on whole wheat, Cherrywood Smoked Salmon with dill cream cheese and micro greens on pumpernickel, Goat Cheese Roulade with sour cherry and arugula, Egg Salad with cherry tomato on sourdough, and Cucumber & Cherry with cream cheese on Seven Grain bread. The plate shown here is the vegetarian option that featured asparagus and hummus square and roasted vegetables instead of the chicken salad and smoked salmon options. We enjoyed the nice assortment and variety of sandwiches.

The scone course included Cherry & Ginger Bean Scones served with lemon Curd and Devonshire Cream, Cherry Jam and Apricot Marmalade. The wait staff presented each scone individually from their large serving platter.

The Tea Pastries featured a Red Bean Éclair, Lemon Rice Tart, Green Tea Shortbread, Brandied Cherry Shortcake, and Japanese Moon Cake.

We enjoyed our tea in a private dining room. However, if you attend tea at the Willard with a few guests, they serve the tea in Peacock Alley on low tables using tiered trays, and with beautiful background music.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Greetings!

For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new born.
~Alice Freeman Palmer

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Teaism, Washington, DC

Another quick stop, just to peek inside, was a visit to Teaism, a Tea House, also located in Dupont Circle, although there are 3 locations in DC and one in VA. It is a casual Asian inspired tea house and restaurant offering properly brewed tea, accoutrements, and quick fare.

These colorful boxes of tea were behind the counter, the tea protected from the light. As we had reservations for Afternoon Tea elsewhere, we didn't partake of the menu, but since it was Monday, their special for the day was a 'Meatless Monday' option.

Years ago (2001 to be exact) our family visited the Teaism at 800 Connecticut Avenue. My journal notes that it was 'definitely an Asian tearoom, although there was Latin music in the background'. We sampled Golden Needle, a White Mutan, Qingxiang Oolong and a herbal, Sweet leaf Hibiscus. There were no tasting notes in my journal - but what a fun assortment we tried! It's good to see that Teaism has withstood the test of time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Capital Teas, Washington, DC

An early spring visit to Washington, DC included a stop at the trendy Capital Teas located in Dupont Circle. Billed as Fifth Generation Fine Tea Merchants, they have 6 different locations (MD, VA, DC) and promise 2 new boutiques will open soon.
They offer over 200 types of teas and infusions and encourage you to smell the teas. This wall full of their tea offerings lines one side of the long narrow boutique.

Additional tea wares and accoutrements can be found artfully displayed in the shop.

Susanna found a tropical herbal tisane to purchase - the fragrance immediately transported her to a faraway island. The teas are packaged in a very informative black tin that includes all the necessary information to properly brew whatever tea you have selected.
The staff is happy to offer any assistance or answer any questions you might have. This was a fun stop on our adventure to DC.