Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Boukakuan Japanese Tea House & Garden

Angelica and Nancy along with several other guests, were introduced to the Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Boukakuan Japanese Tea House and Garden. Our host, Drew Hanson, pictured above at the entrance to the garden, pointed out unique features, and paused at the koi pond where we crossed a small bridge. Each turn of the garden path offered a beautiful view of spring plants in bloom, and peaceful tranquility as we walked toward the Tea House.
Nestled among the trees and shrubbery is a four and a half tatami mat tea room with a small preparation room off to the side. It is air conditioned and heated, so it may be enjoyed throughout all the seasons. Dr. Hanson, our host, has been a student of the Urasenke tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony since 1995, and is also licensed as an instructor. He expertly guided us through the steps of the tea ceremony.

Located outside the tea house, this spot provides an opportunity to rinse your hands and mouth before you enter the tea house.

The scroll with the Japanese calligraphy and floral arrangement are both an important part of the tea house and will be found in any Japanese tea house. Here, the scroll expresses the thought that the heart is like a flower with the ability to open. The flowers are picked fresh from the gardens surrounding the tea house.
The service for the tea ceremony is meticulously arranged and everything is in its place.  Once we enter the tea room, the worries and concerns of the world are left behind, and we begin to enter into the experience of the tea ceremony. We are seated on the floor, and the fragrance of incense begins to permeate the room.

There is an informative page on the Boukakuan Tea House website that offers additional explanation about the tea ceremony. Be sure to read more about this cultural experience.

Before we begin, a homemade sweet is presented to each guest. Made from adzuki bean, it was sweet and delightful. The little wooden utensil is used to cut the sweet and eat. Host and first guest (Angelica) bow to each other after the presentation of the sweet.

Preparation begins, each movement done with purpose
Whisking the matcha

 Angelica, supporting the bowl in the palm of her left hand while holding it with her right hand, offers the bowl of matcha to the universe, and sips the ceremonial green tea in three sips and a final slurp to finish it all, admires the beauty of the bowl, wipes the rim with her forefinger, and returns the bowl to the host. We tasted Ujicha from the Horaido tea plantation, a family owned plantation outside of Kyoto, Japan. It was thin tea (usu-cha) but very smooth and creamy without any bitter taste.
The spirit of the tea ceremony is many fold. Peace and tranquility, harmony, respect, and purity are fundamental principles. There is an appreciation and understanding that this moment is special and unique, not to be repeated. This New Jersey gem is located in close proximity to Philadelphia, and approximately an hour from NYC. The tea house is open by appointment only where you may schedule a private demonstration or even take lessons in the Urasenke tradition of Japanese Tea Ceremony. Find them on Facebook, too!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Talking Teacup, Chalfont, PA

An adventure last weekend took us to The Talking Teacup in Chalfont, PA for Afternoon Tea. For reference, Chalfont is about an hour north of Philadelphia. This 250 year old restored farmhouse holds the tea room on the first floor and a fun gift shop crammed full of treasures. The decor outside was festive with spring flowers, a vintage bicycle, and tea pots tucked here and there.
Tea cups, tea pots, assorted books, including a cookbook from the tea room, could be found in the gift shop. Don't you love the use of the vintage kitchen pieces as display units?

We selected the option they call 'High Tea' which includes an individual pot of tea, selected from an extensive list of tea flavors. Angelica opted for the Snowflake tea, and Nancy enjoyed a pot of Formosa Oolong.

The first course featured two warm scones, plain and blueberry with cream and jelly, served on a pretty lacy pedestal plate.

Following the scone course, we enjoyed a thick cup of Tomato Soup. After the soup, another pedestal plate laden with a variety of tea sandwiches arrived.

The sandwiches included an assortment of seven different petite sandwiches that were pimiento cheese on pumpernickel bread, egg salad, cucumber on thin bread, a finger sandwich of artichoke and Parmesan, a creamy cranberry teapot shaped sandwich and chicken salad squares.

Following the sandwich course, individual plates for dessert included a petite sweet bread, sugar cookie teapot, and a miniature cream tartlet.

Several years ago (2007 to be exact), The Rosemary House hosted a traveling herb seminar that stopped here for Afternoon Tea during one of their adventures to visit gardens in the Philadelphia area. It was a treat to be able to return ten years later.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day - honoring the fallen

We remember the brave young men and women that fought 
so valiantly for our country and the freedoms we all enjoy today. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Herbs Make the Difference!

Flashback - 1988 - Colorado - did you spot the bumper sticker on the door?
"Herbs Make the Difference" from The Rosemary House.
Photo shared by longtime Rosemary House friend Ginny Reid. Thanks Gin!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Edward Hand Medical Heritage Foundation

As part of our recent Traveling Herb Seminar we visited the Edward Hand Medical Heritage Foundation. This important resource is dedicated to preserving the history of the healing arts in Lancaster County, PA.

There are over 10,000 artifacts including books, pictures and assorted items all which are cataloged and used to create exhibits and displays which are loaned out to hospitals or available to view online via their virtual museum as well. 

While the EHMHF focuses on the rich healing arts of  Lancaster County, our interest was related to the many herbs that were used for healing in the 18th and 19th Century.

Many in our group felt that they had actually sat in this dentist chair!

Our tour was enriched by the knowledge of these retired physicians. Dr. Barton Halpern (L) presented an informative presentation on herbs and  Dr. Nikitas Zervanos (R) was our escort and host during the tour. Both remained on hand to discuss the collection as did the administrative assistant, Hannah Lerew. It was a very informative stop and a lovely way to round out our 18th Century Immersion Tour.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rock Ford Plantation

The next stop on our 18th Century Immersion tour was Rock Ford Plantation.  This was a gentleman's farm and was the home of Edward Hand, an adjutant general to George Washington in the American Revolution. 

We were able to tour the four square vegetable and herb gardens, walk the grounds and enjoy a self-guided tour of the elegant Georgian-style mansion built circa 1794.
Rock Ford gave us an idea of refined country living pre-1800, with elegant rooms furnished with an amazing collection of period furniture.  

 After our stop at Rock Ford Plantation, it was a quick hop back on the bus, and a short sprint to the Garden of the Five Senses which is located in the same area, Lancaster County Central Park.

This garden featured running water, fragrant herbs and trees, plants you can touch and plants you shouldn't touch. They certainly had something for all 5 senses. This was a quick little stop for us en route to our next 18th Century stop.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Colonial Plantation, Ridley Creek State Park

Our recent Traveling Herb Seminar was an immersion into the 18th Century.  We began our day at The Colonial Plantation in Ridley Creek State Park. Maury and Barbara presented a talk on traditional farming techniques of the 18th Century.

This is a working farm so there were a variety of animals for us to visit with.

 We spent some time in the herb and vegetable garden. These hoop houses were made of paper.  The herb garden surrounded the vegetables in the beds that were raised up by a stone wall.  

We toured the grounds and the barns, learning about the life style of this working farm.

The original farm house was abandoned in the 1950's and became a Bicentennial Project to restore.  Fortunately, it was used by tenant farmers so for those many years it was never renovated inside.

 Our morning continued with a tour indoors in the Farmhouse, Springhouse learning about the daily living of the Quakers that built this beautiful farm.