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An Afternoon with Julie

This past weekend I had a fabulous tea weekend with my friend Julie Carlin.  Julie and I met about 8 years ago at Magnolia and Ivy’s Tea School in Florida.  She actually lives in San Diego, but we met in Florida because we both wanted to open tea rooms. She has been a dear friend ever since.  Many of you might have met her. She always flew up for my special events at the tea room. She was there in the beginning helping me paint and set up and she was there at the end for the final sale.  Currently Julie owns 2 tea companies-Fleur De Tea and The Tea Cart.

Anyway, this past weekend she came to visit and talk tea.  She arrived on Friday.  After a great lunch we headed over to the Antique Trove where I showed her my tea booth.  On Saturday went to San Francisco.  I took her to Samovar Tea Lounge at Yerba Buena for lunch where I had a Wuyi Dark Roast and she the Yunnan along with a delicious turkey sandwich. Then we headed to China Town for an afternoon of tea tasting.  We started with Vital Tea Leaf which is one of their tea shops on Grant St. (they actually have 3 shops on Grant St.)! As we walked in, Uncle Gee (as they call him), invited us to sit down and join a tasting.  He entertained us for well over an hour and we tasted about 4 teas. I wanted to show Julie the shop, not for the tea, but for the experience.  It’s so fun to listen to him talk and entice others to join the tasting. You can’t believe exactly what he says,  it’s definitely a tourist attraction, but fun nevertheless.

After our tourist experience, we headed over to Red Blossom.  This is the Crème de la Crème of tea shops.  They sell limited premium and rare teas from Asia and around the world. I was after an oolong called Ancient Tree Shui Xian. I had bought an ounce of it back last fall when my son Jacob and I had visited.  When we walked in we had asked if we could do a tasting of the Scarlet Robe teas they had.  The owner Alice, whom I had met once before, said, “Why don’t you join us over here? We’re just getting ready to do a tasting on those teas”.  I was thrilled to death to join the others- as usually you are not invited to join a group already in process.

The Heritage Grand Scarlet Robe was delicious. There is a famous story which has many versions but the one I like best tells of a scholar who made tea from this tea plant before taking his examinations.  He was the only scholar to pass the exams.  In gratitude, he wrapped the tea plant with his scarlet robes.  The tea is also called Da Hong Pao.  This plant is the “holy grail” of Wuyi Oolongs.  This tea is charcoal roasted which causes the intense toffee and caramel notes.  It’s rich, fruity, floral and sweet all at the same time. I had bought a Wuyi Grand Scarlet Robe from them a few months earlier but I was anxious to see how this one differed.  As it turned out, they are completely different. I liked them both but nothing could compare to the one I had come for-my Ancient Tree.

When I couldn’t find it,   I asked Alice.  She said she only had a very small amount of it left but that I would be able to buy it.  She explained that the famous restaurant owner, Charlie Trotter, purchased the bulk of it for his restaurants.  He had high end customers who requested superb tea after dinner and this was the one he wanted.  Later when I returned home, I looked up this tea and found out that they only make about 30 pounds of it per year.  I felt so honored to have purchase her last little bit! The tea leaves are hand-bruised and roasted over fruitwood charcoal.  It’s absolutely divine! It’s $450 per pound which is high compared to the other teas I purchase, but so worth it.  Because you can get multiple infusions, it actually isn’t as expensive as it sounds.

Now back to the tasting-After the Heritage Grand Scarlet Robe, we tasted a Song Zhong which is a varietal of the Phoenix Oolong.  I can’t even give words to describe the tea.  It’s best described from their website:  “The dry leaves carry a hint of cantaloupe and honeydew, lychee and brown sugar. Initial mouth feel is smooth and elegant, with a clarity that sets the stage for a heady mid-palate release of flowers, lychee fruit , honey and Eiswein. A remarkably long finish soon follows, anchoring these flavors long after the tea is gone.” Wonderful!

The next tea we tried as called Aged Phoenix.  It was crafted in 1996 and then stored until 2001 where it was roasted again and allowed to further age.  It’s sweet, smooth and roasty and tastes like black walnuts.  I have never tasted a tea quite like this.

Last but not least came the crowning experience of our day. The people with whom we had joined the tasting were friends of Alice’s.  One in particular, Shea, was a wine connoisseur and had worked out a trade for his wine with Alice for one of her own personal Pu-Erhs.  This tea was in brick form and was brought back from China by her family in the 1980’s.  It was carefully wrapped in paper. You could see how the oil of the tea had over the years seeped through to the outside of the paper. By the way she handled the tea, I knew this was something special.  She carefully unwrapped the paper and laid the tea in a special silk-lined cardboard box.  Then she took her pick and delicately cut off a tiny portion of the tea.  She then placed it in her Yixing pot and rinsed it with hot water quickly.  After making the tea she carefully poured out a tiny cup to each person. The timing was a bit unfortunate because right at the point where she began serving the tea, the conversation became a bit lively over another subject. By this time you see,  we had gotten to know each other a bit and right at this moment a few people were engrossed in conversation. For me though,  I felt very fortunate I was able to share this experience with her alone.  I knew what it meant to share this tea and I felt extremely honored. Eventually the others focused on the tea, but I was happy to have had my special moment with Alice.

After our ecstatic experience at Red Blossom, everything else paled in comparison.  We stopped at a linen shop where Julie purchased beautiful handkerchiefs and linen bags. Then we hurried over to the Ferry Building as we had planned on making the Imperial Tea Court our last stop of the day.  We arrived there at 6:00 thinking we would have 30 minutes before they closed, but as we walked in we discovered they were no longer serving tea for the day.  We could get something to go if we wanted.  I was very disappointed as I had wanted to end the day by having them do a Gongfu demonstration for Julie.  Sadly we settled for a Yunnan to go. It was then that Julie said, we should have ended with Red Blossom. I agreed.  The evening did revive however, as we happily talked tea all the way home while eating our left-over turkey sandwiches from Samovar and drinking our “to go” tea. Despite our experience (or lack thereof,) at Imperial Tea Court, it was the perfect tea day!

A New Year! Did You Create Your Celebratory List Yet?

I just realize that it’s been a while since I’ve blogged.   I’ll try to be better this year :) Today I’m inspired! I read over my celebratory list today and that got me moving.  For those of you who don’t know what a celebratory list is, I’ll explain.

Last year I read a unique idea from Masha Malka for looking back on the previous year.  Instead of writing New Year’s resolutions and focusing on, “Did I reach my goals? What didn’t I do? What do I need to do, etc.,” focus on all that is wonderful in your life and all of the amazing things you achieved in 2009.  Make a list of at least 20 happy memories and achievements of 2009.

After you create your own list, you’ll be amazed at all the things you did in 2009. Because I am definitely a goal setter, after I created my list, I then wrote out a few goals for the coming year. I find that by doing my celebratory list first, it encourages me to set even bigger goals for the next year.

Here are a few from my Celebratory List:

-reconnected with my family by only working part-time

-published – Master Tea Room Recipes

-taught a class at the World Tea Expo

-was a judge for the World Tea Expo

-took a class with Roy Fong

-met Louise Hay, Cheryl Richardson

-ended the major stress in my life by taking a big step and closed the tea room

-put my life back in order, created balance for myself

-lost 19 pounds

Here are a few of my goals for this year:

-write and publish a new cookbook called, “Amy’s Favorite Recipes.” It will be a collection of my favorite recipes that I use at home.  Some are for more special occasions, some are for every day cooking and then there are a few from the tea room that were not in any previous cookbook-such as that wonderful pea salad recipe.

-write a book for tea room owners called, ” Fifty Special Event Ideas to Use In Your Tea Room.”

-lose 20 more pounds

I’m on my way to creating my new list for next year. Today was a great day I worked on all 3 goals and still had time to be home with my kids when they came home from school. Create your list and see how inspired you are!

Tea 101 and Health Benefits of Tea Class

Join me at the Antique Trove on January 23rd at 11:00 and 1:00 for 2 special tea classes.

Do you know that different teas require different steeping times and temperatures? Have you ever had green tea and absolutely hated it and wondered why?

11:00 Tea 101 with Tea Tasting

I’ll explain the basic types of tea and the difference between pure teas and herbal teas. I’ll also teach you how to properly prepare the different types of tea. It’s easy! My son who is 9 makes tea for himself every day. In addition, you’ll also learn the proper techniques, the different equipment and more! We’ll be tasting 5 types of tea and I’ll bring in a real tea plant for you to see. It’s just now getting ready to bloom!

1:00 The Health Benefits of Tea with Green Tea/Rooibos Tea Tasting

I’ll be talking about the health benefits of tea. We’ll be tasting Tai Ping, Houjicha and one of my favorite green teas, called Genmaicha also known as the “Popcorn Tea.” We’ll also taste flavored green teas such as Plum Green, Peach Green, and Pear Green. After that we’ll move into the Rooibos herbal teas which are very high in antioxidants and do not contain any caffeine. We’ll taste Orange Blossom Rooibos and a new Peach Rooibos. If you’ve been wanting to get healthy, now is your chance! Start your new year out right!

All classes are free and are held at the Antique Trove. I hope to see you there!

Julie and Julia

I finally watched the Julie and Julia movie tonight.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I know so many of you are sad that the tea room closed and in some ways I am too.  But I just love being home again.  I have forgotten what joy cooking brings to me.  This movie reminded me of it again. It also reminded me that I haven’t blogged in ages!

Before I opened the tea room, I cooked for my family all of the time.  But as time went on, my poor husband had to learn to cook as I was too busy cooking for everyone else.  I thought that might change when I hired my first cook at the tea room, but it seemed the tea room became busier and busier and took up more of my time.  My cooking resorted to easy dishes I could prepare in 20 minutes or less. We became a big fan of grilled cheese and soup :)

Now that I’m home again, I have rekindled my passion for cooking.  Today I spent 2 hours making enchiladas and had a ball researching and combining recipes and adding my own touches.  That’s what I really love to do, be creative in the kitchen.

Tonight after watching the movie, I decided that I will write one more cookbook.  I really didn’t think I had enough tea room recipes to fill a book, but I decided that many of you might enjoy my own dishes that I prepare for my family.  So that’s my new goal for 2010, a cookbook full of family recipes plus a few from the last months of the tea room. Yeah, a new project!  Stay tuned for more!

Amy

Thanks!

Thanks to all my favorite customers who came to the Peddler’s Market this past Saturday.  It was great to see all of you there! It seemed like old times.  I really do appreciate all of the kind words and support. You’re the best!

Today I’m recuperating from the weekend and drinking a nice cup of Masala Chai.  It just seemed like the perfect thing today even though I normally prefer the “pure, unflavored” teas.  Have a wonderful day!

Amy

Peddler’s Market October 17th and 18th!

Visit the Antique Trove on October 17th and 18th for their Peddler’s Market.  I’ll be there on Saturday for 3 special presentations at 11:00, 1:00 and 3:00.  The first one-Ways to Do Tea will be presented by Babette Donaldson.  At 1:00 I’ll be teaching how to make Cinnamon Pumpkin Scones and at 3:00 join us for a tasting of fall teas, a few new ones and also some fall favorites.  The Antique Trove is located at 236 Harding Blvd. in Roseville.

It’s about time! Finally practicing what I preach..

Hi all,

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged.  It’s hard to keep up in this techie world with blogging, tweeting, texting and the ancient form of communication these days-e-mail!  I feel a bit behind.

I’m finally practicing what I preach. I’m slowing down, enjoying life and a cup of tea.  It’s amazing, when I make myself a small pot of tea, I actually have time to enjoy it hot and finish the entire pot.

In the days of the hectic tea room world, I would make myself a big pot in the morning, drink 2 sips and then rush around to get things done.  By the time I remembered about my tea, it was cold-which was no problem, I just poured it over ice. This tastes great, but  I really enjoy a good cup of hot tea-yes, even in the summer!

These days my schedule has changed radically.  I make myself a pot in the early morning, sit outside on my patio, listen to the birds and enjoy my tea.  It makes such a difference, I can’t believe it.  So for those of you who are skeptical, take 10 minutes to yourself and drink a cup of tea. It’s a great way to start your day.

It’s Almost Expo Time

Hi all,

I’m so excited about the World Tea Expo this year. I feel like a kid going to Disneyland in 3 days. Today is my day off and for once I am not doing tea things today. I have a million things to do to get ready to leave-mow the yard, laundry, etc. So I’m not doing tea things today. Yeah-right! What am I doing now? Anyway,  I decided to make a cup of tea and write my blog.  But when I went to make my tea this morning, I discovered I was out of almost everything-except Zhen Qu.  I thought, no that’s for special occasions.  Then I realized, I don’t have anything else so this must be the special occasion.  I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t refilled my stock of tea at home. So Zhen Qu it is!  I love this tea. It’s a black Yunnan tea but a very special one.  My tea broker, Devan Shaw has it specially made. He pays a special group of tea makers money to drive to a certain area in China a few hundred miles away to process the tea in their style.  The result is fantastic!  It’s a Yunnan but has interesting floral notes. It’s such a pretty tea as well. It’s very fluffy and almost fuzzy with golden tips.  I discovered it right before the expo last year.

I can’t wait to see all of his teas this year.  His booth is one of my favorites. I always make a point to sit and listen to James Norwood Pratt conduct his tea tasting and talk at Devan’s booth. Last year I also met Rajah Banerjee at his booth who owns the oldest tea estate in Darjeeling. He was fascinating!

So who knows what the Expo holds for me this year!  I know I will be super busy with 2 booths, teaching and judging but I definitely plan on learning more about tea!

Stay tuned for more tea talk!

I just love my customers!

Hi all,

I just looked on the KCRA A-List as the winners will be announced this week.  I’m so amazed that we have 239 reviews from loyal customers.  Even if we don’t win Best Tea House, we’ve won in my mind!  Thanks so much for all of your sweet comments.  If I’m ever having a down day, all I have to do is read those and my spirits will be lifted. You all are the best! Thanks so much for supporting and believing in us!

Amy

The tea plants have arrived!

I’m so excited! My tea plants finally arrived!  They were ordered from North Carolina and sent out on April 3rd. They were supposed to be here for the big Tea Sipper event last Friday.  I received a letter from California agriculture saying they were denied entry to California and sent back.  Then today for some reason, they arrived on my door step!  I really thought they were dead as it’s so hot and they have been in a box since April 3rd.  But, they were green with new sprouts on the ends and they look fine.  I immediately planted them in pots and set them out on my patio out of direct sunlight.  Hopefully they won’t go into shock.  But they are here!  As soon as I give them a chance to recover I’ll bring them in for a special tea class. What a wonderful day!!!