Let's talk tea! My relationship with tea started when I was about seven years old. Our Mom would come into the bedroom my older sister and I shared early on Sunday mornings with tea for the three of us. She was a 'sunrise mom' so we used to think she used the tea as an excuse to wake us. That was the beginning of this passion that has grown beyond beyond. Granted, back in the day, it was Lipton Tea. The world of teabags. That was our only choice out in the hills of Nevada, but now our world has expanded and our choices are over the top wonderful.
I've spent a lifetime in hospitality. I've learned a lot about foods, people and teas. The one thing that sticks to me like glue is the horrible tea experiences I still get in many restaurants throughout this country. Those damn little silver water pots and tea bags, disguised as high-end in fancy boxes, or a little tray. Yes, poor tea service is definitely one of my pet peeves.
My last hospitality experience was a ten-year stint managing a guest ranch in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. It was there that I began to blend teas. We were a destination property and too far from anywhere for our guests to go down the road for a cup of tea. So, I took it upon myself to give them a fabulous tea experience. At first, I ordered teas in from the main suppliers, but as time went on, I started bringing in some better ones. Many families came, and while the parents would sit on the deck or 'bird' close around, the little kids would come into the dining room to see if they could help me. So, with their parent's permission, I would have them all gather around the big, center table in the dining room, and we would play with teas. I gave them many ingredients and they would blend up their teas for their parents to enjoy. We had a grand time. Other times, my staff and I would so thoroughly enjoy the little ones as they sat down on the floor in the 'tea station' (under our watchful eye) smelling the teas, deciding which ones they wanted. After picking their tea, they would then go sit in the dining room and wait, very impatiently, for us to prepare them and bring them out.
I was once a very traditional tea drinker, but now I, too, have widened my tea horizons. There are still the traditional teas, but even with those, each of us who blend our own come up with some great variations. For instance, there's Earl Grey. I never did like it and it seemed the Bergamot was just too much for me and gave me heartburn. So, I decided if I was going to do these blends I wanted an Earl Grey I could drink, too. With that in mind, Simply Ms. Grey was born. I added more orange peel and some calendula to the original recipe and lo and behold, a delicious tea that I can drink, as well. And, it is hugely popular.
I play with blends daily, and I have some awesome ones. The holidays allowed me to play with some wonderful ingredients, but now that they have passed, I will continue blends for the rest of this winter, before moving us towards spring. One of the winter teas includes my Guns and Roses. Yes, I made a tea with Red Chiles and Rose Petals. It is warming and delicious. I'm even working on one for my son, a Cowboy's Tea. I can't wait for the final recipe for this one. What a joy it is playing with these teas.
As you peruse these pages, you will also see I am changing out my labels. I have started drawing them by hand, and water coloring them. These hand-drawn labels have become hugely popular. It may get to the point that I can't keep up, but for now, this is what I'm doing. I sold several Tea Baskets (Gift Baskets) for the holidays, and will put one up for all to see for Valentines here in a few days. I think Tea would be a fabulous Valentine's Day gift. The Valentine's basket can be filled with an assortment, or two or three of your favorites. So, stay tuned. Things are changing rapidly around here.
Take a moment before it passes, find some quiet and enjoy a delightful cup of tea. It makes all the difference in your day. Susan