Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Make Metaphysical Mood Tea: Add in Some Flower Essence!

Since it is Spring I’m celebrating the magical energies of plants.  Everything blossoms and transforms in Spring.  It‘s a time of great growth and beauty.  My new book, ‘The Book of Sacred Baths: 52 Bathing Rituals to Revitalize Your Spirit,’ is being published by Llewellyn Worldwide and is due out in just two short months.  I am filled with joy about that.  The sun is shining and people are already stopping to enjoy life more.

I’ve been studying some things related to plants that enhance wellness.  My family and I learned about the Japanese tea ceremony together and I’ve taken many courses in essential oils and flower essences.  So, today for this tea blog I thought it would be fun to write about how you can enhance your average cup of tea by adding flower essences!

Let’s begin with a distinction between flower essences and essential oils.  Essential oils are derived from the actual plant material and are highly concentrated.  I do not suggest drinking them and in some cases this could have a dangerous reaction.  I use essential oils in my sacred baths (mixed with Epsom salts and dispersed in water) and in a diffuser but I do not ingest them. 

In contrast, Flower essence is created by infusing the energy of the plant into pure spring water preserved with brandy or an organic vegetable glycerin via sun or moon light. It is a vibrational imprint of a flower and practitioners say that flower essences affect our consciousness and that we begin to resonate in harmony with the qualities of that flower.  Flower essences can be drunk, under the tongue or in water.  Also, essential oils smell like the plant but flower essences don’t.  They both come in these tiny jars and can look alike, so please be careful to only add flower essences to your tea!

You can also make your own flower essences.  I did this with my kids, but since this is beyond the scope of this blog, you can research it if you want to do so.  For now I’d suggest purchasing Bach Flower essences for your tea. ~ Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman

Monday, May 30, 2016

My favorite mug...

This is my favorite mug.  I was drinking Red Rose Tea from it when I wrote my last entry.  Afterwords, I started thinking about the remarkable history of this mug.

It is 5 inches tall and holds 12 ounces.  I like the size for its capacity and depth.  Because it is not a wide mouth large mug, the tea stays hot longer.  The handle is long enough that all of my fingers fit through.  Sometimes when the weather is cold or I am cold, I love to wrap both hands around it and sip.

This mug is more than 40 years old.  I know I had it when I moved out of the home where I grew up, and my first move was at the age of 21.  It was purchased at a big box type store - I don't remember which one and was made in Japan.  Nothing is written on the bottom, but I remember the sticker.  That was when "Made in Japan" was as common as "Made in China" is now.  It has been through the dishwasher thousands of times.  Every few months I give it a bit of extra cleaning with boiling water and baking soda to really get out all the tea stains.  There are no chips, and the inside is as shiny as the outside.  I doubt it cost more than $2.99; although, I have no recollection of what I paid for it.

I remember seeing it and loving the design, the colors, and the feel in my hands. It is not totally smooth; the leaves are not quite as shiny, and the texture shows in the photo.  The brown spots almost appear to be pin pricks.  There were probably several on the shelf, but buying more than one would have been an extravagance.  

I marvel at how long I have had it.  Many mugs have come and gone over the years.  I have never glued a mug after it broke; there are so many in my collection that I periodically go through them and give some away.  I call it my bamboo mug or the Japanese mug.  I say  to myself sometimes when putting the water on to boil,  "Where's the bamboo mug?"  It has survived many years, many bumps, five moves, and thousands of uses.  It has survived longer than many friendships.  It has seen me through the death of many people I love.  It is more a part of me than I care to admit.

Over forty years of history...


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review - Brewla's The Lifeguard

This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend in the United States. It's a time we remember those who have given their lives for our country while serving in the military. It's also the semi-official start of summer. Here in Western New York we're looking at very high temperatures and high humidity, with a chance of scattered thundershowers. In order to try to beat the heat I picked up a new treat, made with tea!

I was browsing in my local health food store when a package caught my eye - Brewla! I stopped, captivated by the name and the gorgeous photo of a red popsicle on the box. But this was not just any red popsicle. It was a Strawberry and Hibiscus Tea specialty brewed bar! I also saw a Cherry Pomegranate and Red Tea option, but I bought the strawberry, which had fewer calories, plus I love strawberries.

OK, anyone who has been reading my posts for a while knows that this tea is not actually a tea, but rather a hibiscus tisane.  When I opened my wrapper I noticed the lovely color as well as a lovely strawberry aroma. I quickly took a few pictures, but couldn't help myself and had a lick part way through. It was absolutely delicious!!!!

The main flavor is strawberry. Not a fake strawberry either, but more like a wild one, or the ones that grow here in WNY during our short strawberry season. I was concerned that it might be too floral for my taste-it is a hibiscus tisane, after all, but that was not the case at all. It had only slight floral notes and it wasn't sweet at all. I do recommend licking it, instead of biting, however. When you bite it the frozen bar becomes more icy and you lose the delightful flavors.

The Brewla Strawberry and Hibiscus Tea, also known as "The Lifeguard", has only 20 calories and is boosted with Vitamin C and zinc. It is caffeine free and there is no added sugar (they do have stevia leaf extract). This particular bar is also gluten free, vegan, and kosher!

I am absolutely delighted by this impulse buy. I'll be trying the other varieties as well. I didn't see all of them offered at my store-but I'll be looking for them. I'd really like to try The Lullaby: Peach Ginger with White Tea boosted with Chamomile and L-Theanine. You can check out more about this brother and sister company at their website, Brewlabars.com. If you can't find them near you, never fear, you can order the bars online!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Yard Sale Finds And A Review Of Capilano Warm Grey, A Black Tea From A Local Canadian Tea Company

Karen here, today I am sharing some of my recent tea themed fun finds from yard sales in my area over the last month as well as a tea review from The Capilano Tea House, a local tea company that started in my own neighborhood!

 I love a good treasure hunt and I have a few good partners, my sister in law Janeen and my son Oli, both love the hunt as much as I do and we help each other find the things we are interested in, Oli loves his vintage video games, my sister in law china and tea cups and me all things tea related. We are up early Saturday mornings for some fun finds and most weekend we do well and then there are weekends that are a total bust. The good weather has encouraged people to have yard sales that have netted some truly great finds recently. Though my own tea cabinet is currently over flowing with cups and saucers that I use regularly, my tea themed book shelves are now stuffed with what I liked to call research books. All about tea, tea parties and self care.  I love to find books that have so much relevant information about the history of tea and ones that are now out of print. The 4 shown in the first photo above cost me a total of $4 at three different sales and I have loved going through them this last week.
Above two of my recent fun finds, I do love books with great quotes and this lovely 1940's hand painted German teacup and saucer. I can not help but think of the stories it could tell.
This beauty filled with a lovely Warm Grey a  Lavender Earl Grey, from the Capilano Tea House, cost me $5 and is now one of my most favorite cups to use.

It is stunning empty and beautiful full.

I admit I own mostly English sets so I know almost nothing about German tea sets but I thought it was important to share the stamp on the bottom with you.  Some people collect tea cups and saucers for their worth, I choose tea cups I love and use them. I think that is the secret to really enjoying them. Each cup of tea is a journey and the set used an important vessel.
I look forward to spring and the start of yard sale season here. I am already looking forward to Saturday morning.

Last year I discovered Warm Grey from The Capilano Tea House, a local company that was started just a few streets away from where I currently live.  This company combines the most wonderful teas with locally grown ingredients.  Warm Grey is a black bergamot tea with lavender that I have enjoyed this entire week, I have now actually run out!

A West Coast, post-colonial twist on an absolute favorite, lavender warms this fine Assam and turns up the bergamot tones. Lean in and be free.
I look forward to sharing more fun tea themed finds as well as more tea reviews with you next week, until then....
I would love to have you for tea daily over at www.acupofteaandacozymystery.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

They say every cup of tea is an imaginary voyage. I hope this montage of images from my trip to Jun Chiyabari tea estate, Nepal last fall that I put together for you will help you fire your imagination. Jun is an Organic tea estate that produces some of best Nepali teas. It is very well regarded in the European tea houses, and has been making its mark among US tea drinkers in last few years. If you ever see a tea from Jun Chiyabari grab it without hesitation.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Plain Old Red Rose...

It's time for me to write my weekly contribution, and no inspiration is influencing the thought process.  I read over what the other tea lovers have shared and wish I could call in sick.

With my faithful cup of Red Rose within reach, a thought jumps out.  Is it wrong to pay homage to my beloved Red Rose Black Tea?  The humble Red Rose Tea, 100 bags to a box, one tiny porcelain trinket, and hours of pleasurable sipping for me.  It starts out piping hot, but if I get distracted, sometimes it is cold by the time I finish it off.  Doesn't bother me one little bit.  I love it hot, cold and inbetween.  I love it iced.  When hot I prefer a splash of non fat milk.  Aside from water, it is the most satisfying drink anyone can offer to me.  Yes, I drink coffee and love it.  But Red Rose is my drink of choice.  I usually make it in a 10-12 ounce mug.  Tea pots and cups are a waste of time for me.  On a typical day at home, I probably drink 8-10 mugs of tea.

I will continue to play along and try new teas.  Occasionally I find one that I enjoy.  Lately I have been trying to stick with an herbal tea past 11:00 PM.  But tonight it is closer to midnight, and when that electric kettle clicks off, I'll be having another delicious mug of Red Rose Tea.  I will still fall asleep without a problem.

Signing off until next Monday.
Red Rose loving Kate.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tea Talk: an Interview with Brian Pfieffer of Design a Tea

A few years ago I was at an outdoor festival when I saw a couple manning a booth called Design a Tea. Imagine my delight when I saw that not only were they selling teas, but they were allowing you to create your own flavor combinations! I was hooked and have enjoyed their teas ever since. I'm delighted to welcome Brian Pfieffer, owner of this local (to me) company to the blog today.

Kathy: What led you to the world of tea? Have you always been a tea drinker?

BP: It was a crazy dream about 9 years ago that pointed me in the tea world direction and adventure. Instead of taking up tons of your time here- we actually made it a "Topic" in the About Us Tab on our website www.Designatea.com

Always been a tea drinker?  That's is a question that people look at me in dismay when I answer. Not at all; well maybe when under the weather growing up. I wasn't even a steadfast coffee drinker. But I will say I've tasted so much tea early on in the R&D phase of Design a Tea... I have no doubt I've made up for it!

Kathy: What gave you the idea to give customers the ability to create their own teas?

BP: It was the quest to figure out that dream that made the realization super clear... at least regarding tea. Choice! We all love the ability to make decisions and having choices to do so is what it's all about. Why let a focus group decide what tea you'll like or not like or for how long to offer it at the stores. 

I did about a year or so of research on the concept and learning about tea... will never learn enough. There were and are companies out there that offered the ability to design tea blends- but it still didn't (to me) seem there were enough "choices" they were offering. Some would only let you mix and match their blends. What fun is that?

Another major component of the mission was we had to be an e-commerce company. Only seemed to make sense to offer this to as many people around the world that might want choice with custom tea designing. Even today we don't have a brick and mortar place open to the public. Which for me is a negative at times, I love people and love goofing around with them. So the good thing about our present operation is I actually get work done. 

Kathy: How did your business start? 

BP: After the concept was figured out and the vision started to become clearer, it started in a spare room in the basement. We are and will remain by choice, a small artisan tea company- we small batch blend to order. We work with other small companies with their signature blends and our wholesale has grown in leaps and bounds. We partner with all sorts of people on the wholesale side from authors to small private label tea shops, even a company in the Caribbean.  With growth we've obviously had to upgrade from that humble basement "pad". By definition, we are still home-based, we had to build another "pad" on the property to accommodate stock and production area and make room for a couple of people... they take up so much room!

There was another aspect of starting our tea business. We found that the world of tea could be very intimidating and even snobby (no offense meant at all to the high-noon tea lovers out there) to the lay person. Like going to a wine tasting with a sommelier. We wanted to break out of that perception. That's in part I think why we started offering the ability to create from such a wide base of flavorings and not focus on the higher end base teas. I guess in a nutshell we are not purists. It's not that we don't want people to enjoy a simple (or complex) cup of high quality Darjeeling or note the subtle differences between green teas and the regions they came from. We want people to have fun with tea, throw the perception of complexity aside and design a crazy mango almond coconut blend- chill it and drink it at the beach. We had a customer a few years back say we are like the Ben and Jerry of tea companies. I wouldn't say that exactly (I don't know Ben and Jerry other than they make great crazy designed ice cream), but it is sort of cute and we do have a good time. 

Kathy: Have you ever looked at someone's mixes and wondered what on earth they were thinking?  

BP: HA, I used to early on. But now, I love it when people think out of the box. That's what it's all about. When people order, say a green tea with honey lemon... I roll my eyes and think, "Come on! You can get that anywhere. Yes, ours will be the best honey/lemon green tea you have ever had (well, I hope), but really, why not honey spice green tea!"

I'm sure many combos don't work. As you all know- tea is like wine- what is one persons elixir of the gods is another persons "find me a plant where I can dump this stuff..." experience! On the up side of customer's concoctions, we have been inspired by a few blends over the years that actually became signature blends for us. Our Backwoods Blend ("Man Tea") is a cranberry/juniper berry black tea. We called it "Man Tea"... because we felt we needed something more manly named than a Ms. Earl Grey or Butterfly blend.

Kathy: Do you have any tips on creating blends?  

BP: Have fun with it. We do have a sample program for the folks that just aren't sure on their crazy combo. We like when people think out of the box and design a blend that they know they can't find in a store or tea shop. We do like to stress though- if you are Libra or an indecisive person... Design a Tea is NOT the place for you to be.

I do have another tip. When it comes to adding herbs to your custom blend. Keep in mind "most" root based herbs can be bitter or stinky (yes I used the word stinky). So keep that in mind when adding them and that certain herbs can mess with certain medications. We never offer any advice or suggest medicinal benefits of teas and/or herbs. We expect folks will do their own research on them before peppering them in. We ALWAYS know when some article or Dr. Oz style show has talked about this herb or that herb... because we get a spike in requests.

A quick example story. This customer orders 3 large canisters of loose white tea with Valerian (no flavors). For those folks that aren't familiar with Valerian; it's used in most of the "sleep aid" blends, it's supposed to be a pretty potent sleep aid. The downside to Valerian is it is one of the most smelly herb I've ever smelled. Reminds me of an elephant house... 2 hours after feeding. So I email her just to make sure she was indeed looking for a post feeding elephant smelling tea. She replies back saying she saw something about it on television and she has had a difficult time sleeping, etc. And she added that with all the health benefits of white tea... what the heck, lets give it a try. It all made sense I couldn't argue the logic. I asked her if she had ever tasted or smelled Valerian? She obviously said no. It ended up she received a tropical themed passion fruit/pineapple flavored rooibos with Valerian ~ so she could think of that warm deserted island in her dreams. Besides on a selfish note- I would have done anything not to have had to blend 3 canisters up with no flavors and that forsaken herb.   

Kathy: How do you decide what flavors to offer?  

BP: Some of the flavors we carry are along the thought avenue of craziness. Rum flavoring or chocolate- for some that would be a nose snubbing almost sacrilegious thing to do to tea. In some circles I would agree. But this is Design a Tea where the concept is choice. So along with the unique rum chocolates we do have many of the standard base flavors like Almond/Pear/Lemon/Honey...With all the flavors we offer currently AND the herbs, there are literally tens of thousands of combinations as it is. Every time we add another flavor or herb- that number goes up. If we start getting requests for a flavor, we'll try and create that profile. We don't just add flavoring, we use various components to get that profile or enhance a base flavor.

Kathy: Do you have a personal favorite blend?

BP: It really all depends on the mood. I tend to hang around the nuttier flavor profiles. No jokes please.

Kathy: What's your favorite tea accessory?

BP: I have this "Tea Nest" that sits on top of my mug where I toss in my loose leaves. They are beautifully designed and made of cherry wood from Pennsylvania (that sounded like an HSN pitch). As you know there is nothing like loose leaf tea.

Kathy: What does tea mean to you?  

BP: Wow, that's a deep question! So I'm going to make it a simply complex answer... Tea is an experience. The process of making a simple cup of tea isn't simple. You don't just press a button or turn a cap- it's a process. So one has to want it to go through that process. So maybe it's the most "desired" beverage in the world. Get it (desired - want)?

I encourage you to check out the Design a Tea website and try out your own flavor combinations! One of my favorite combinations is chestnut caramel black tea! I've also enjoyed a passion fruit pineapple green tea. I've created several concoctions and plan on creating many more. I may try an apricot ginger oolong next! I look forward to hearing what you make!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Because UR Priceless Tea Sampler An Etsy Tea Shop Review

Karen here and I recently ordered a sampler pack of tea from an Etsy shop in Lake Orion, Michigan called Because UR Priceless. This Etsy shop jumped out at me when I was actually looking for something else and I am so thrilled I found it.
This tea arrived beautifully packaged and in about a week, as I live in Canada this is not a bad turn around. I was delighted to see the different teas and loved the labels!
As I was taste testing I made only one cup of the Raspberry Lemonade, which is an  all organic green tea base with raspberry, hibiscus, lemon peel, spearmint and licorice root. The color was amazing, take a look at the first photo in the post, it was a deep rich red! This green tea was very fresh tasting, with grassy notes and the scent of late August. I do believe this would make a lovely iced tea, and enhancing it's flavor by adding Lemonade would make it even better.
I was very impress with the Timey Whimey... Tea
It was everything I hoped for, as a black Earl Grey tea it truly hit the spot and the scent from the organic orange peel enhanced the experience.
A beautiful amber color was produced and I got to use my special Doctor Who Inspired Fine China Tea Cup and Saucer I had made! It was a truly delightful experience. (I ordered my tea cup from LithiasCreations Etsy shop)
The  third tea I wish to share a review with you today is a herbal Lavender and Mint Tisane,
This one is an organic Peppermint and Organic Lavender Flower Tea.
This particular Lavender and Mint tisane is divine! It is exactly the taste I was looking for, it is both refreshing and relaxing. Would be as amazing iced as it is hot and one I highly recommend. When I place my next order I will order the large tin of this one and the Timey Whimey! If you would like to learn more about BecauseURpricless teas and tisane's please visit their Etsy shop by clicking here and let them I know I sent you! 
I really appreciate it when tea shops have sample sized selections of their teas for tea lovers to try, these make great gifts, shower presents and individual tea time treats for yourself.

Thank you for joining me today! I would love to have you for tea daily over at www.acupofteaandacozymystery.com 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

In the South, Porches and Iced Tea Go Hand in Hand

Patricia is here to share with us today more Southern Tea Time wisdom...
Spring and Summer mean major porch sitting time in the South .
Almost everyone in the south has a front porch ...or wants one.
The front porch is hospitality headquarters for meeting, greeting and entertaining guests.
Southern girls are taught from an early age all of the rules to being a proper hostess.
Everyone knows to properly entertain a guest, you must offer them some refreshments.
It would be too rude not to...and we don't do rude in the south !
Of course, iced tea is at the top of the list of beverages.
And, more likely than not, that tea will be sweet .
We love our sweet tea in the south.
It would not be out of the ordinary to find a pitcher of sweet tea  always ready waiting in the refrigerator of a southern home.
In the South we invite you to our front porch !
Come sit a spell !

 In contrast to many other American architectural traditions, the roots of  porches don't appear to be found in Europe, but rather in the architectural heritage of colonial trading partners. Traders en route from the Caribbean to the British, French, and Spanish colonies were influenced by island architecture, rich with large open porches to accommodate the humid climate.

Little by little, colonists (primarily in the South) began to incorporate porches in their homes, mixing this tropical influence with European classicism.
In Virginia, porches often took on the look of their Palladian predecessors—two symmetrical stories flanked with columns. The classical porch also was popular in Charleston, blended with the climate sensitivity of the Caribbean building tradition to create regal, double-story piazzas. Perhaps the most famous early American classical porch is George Washington's Mt. Vernon, which set a standard for the porch-building tradition in the American South.

Thank you Patricia for this beautiful post and for inspiring me to take tea outside!

Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia-A Life in Poems 
" a celebration of the south and things southern"
"Meet Mississippi Through Poetry, Prose and The Written Word"

Monday, May 16, 2016

Rooibos or Red Tea...

Looking for antioxidants?  Rooibos or Red Tea is from South Africa.  This has become my last cup of tea every evening.  I used to drink Red Rose Black Tea before turning in for the evening, but since trying this lovely caffeine-free tea with certified organic ginger, cardamom, cloves, orange peel, nutmeg, and black pepper, Zhena's Gypsy Tea  - Fire Light Chai has become the night time treat.  A splash of milk makes it complete.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tea Talk: an Interview and Giveaway with H.Y. Hanna

I'm so happy to welcome H.Y. Hanna to the blog today. H.Y. Hanna is an award winning mystery and suspense writer and the author of the Oxford Tearoom Mystery series.

Kathy: Although my interest to dig deeper into the world of tea is relatively new, I've always been a tea drinker. How about you?  Have you always enjoyed tea?

HYH: Oh yes, I don’t drink coffee – tea is my poison! ;-) Well, as a Chinese person, tea is something we practically grow up drinking from the bottle. We drink it with meals, instead of wine or cold drinks (the Chinese believe that it’s bad for your health to have cold drinks with hot meals), and we drink it after meals, to help the digestion. We also drink it at other times to help calm, soothe, refresh, warm, invigorate, heal, nurture… you name it!

Kathy: You're more apt to find me drinking iced tea, even in winter, but I also drink hot tea. I drink in the more Asian style, drinking my tea neat, never adding cream or sugar, or anything else (aside from ice for my iced tea). How do you like your tea?

HYH: It depends on the type of tea I’m drinking. If I’m drinking Chinese or Japanese green tea, then definitely, yes, no milk or sugar. You just don’t with Asian teas. It would be like adding sugar and milk to beer or wine! ;-) The only time you might sweeten an Asian tea is if you’re having cold barley tea in summer – that is very nice slightly sweetened.

If I’m having English-style tea though (my favourite is Earl Grey), then I like to have it black but with sugar. I used to take TONS of sugar in my tea – a relic from growing up in the Middle East where they have their teas VERY sweet – but I’ve gradually weaned myself off now so that I only have half a teaspoon.

I also enjoy certain herbal and fruit teas. I like a peppermint or mint tea after dinner and occasionally a berry-flavoured fruit tea or a lemon tea – but the fruit tea I love most of all is Turkish apple tea. But I wouldn’t add anything to these “special” teas – I think you’d ruin their natural, distinctive flavour if you did.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite type of tea? Any you don't particularly care for?

HYH: I think I just answered your question above – haha! My favourite English tea is Earl Grey – love the fragrance. My favourite Asian tea is probably jasmine or chrysanthemum green tea (again, love the perfumes) as well as “gen-mai” tea – which is a type of Japanese green tea with roasted rice kernels – very light and fragrant. And as I said, I have a weakness for Turkish apple tea.

Kathy: In addition to drinking tea many people collect tea cups, tea pots, and other tea things. Do you collect any tea accouterments?

HYH: I don’t know if I actively collect them but I do have a terrible weakness for mugs! I seem to keep buying them wherever I am – if I go travelling, the most likely souvenir that I will bring back is a mug. ;-) We don’t have any matching ones or a nice set, either – it is a complete hotch potch of an eclectic collection!

Kathy: Do you consider yourself a tea connoisseur, a tea neophyte, or simply a person who enjoys tea?

HYH: Oh no, nothing that grand! Just someone who enjoys tea – and drinks gallons of it on a daily basis! But ask any Asian person and tea is a huge part of their life.

Kathy: How does tea play a part in your writing?

HYH: Well, I drink copious amounts of it when I’m working on a new book – or any other time really! It’s the first thing I have in the morning – I’m not a morning person and usually can’t utter anything more than grunts before I have my first cup of Earl Grey in the mornings. ;-)

Kathy: You write a cozy mystery series featuring a tearoom. Would you tell us about your series?

HYH: Sure! The Oxford Tearoom Mysteries are a fun, humorous mystery series featuring a spunky heroine named Gemma who has given up an international corporate career to come back to England and open a quaint little tearoom in the Cotswolds.

Together with her cheeky little tabby cat, Muesli, and a host of quirky characters, including four meddling old ladies from the local village, Gemma becomes embroiled in solving various mysteries, set against the fascinating backdrop of the historic university city of Oxford. She also struggles to make her fledging business a success, deal with her exasperating, match-making mother and choose between the two dashing men in her life: the sexy CID detective, Devlin O’Connor and the handsome doctor, Lincoln Green.

The books give readers a glimpse not only into village life in one of the most beautiful corners of England but also the secret world behind the college cloisters and dreaming spires of the world’s oldest university. They’re the perfect read for cat lovers, British mystery fans and fans of culinary mysteries (with a yummy recipe included in each book!) – and have been described of being “worthy of Agatha Christie” with plots which leave you guessing until the last page. My books are also known as “page turners” so beware if you decide to start one late at night – readers are always saying they stayed up half the night, reading “just one more chapter”!

You can find out more about the series on my website: http://www.hyhanna.com/books/oxford-tearoom-mysteries/  - or pick up a copy from Amazon: http://www.hyhanna.com/oxford-tearoom-amazon-seriespage

Kathy: Why choose a tea focus for your mystery series?

HYH: Well, since my series is set in England and features a lot of British culture, it’s inevitable that tea would come into the equation! :-) Tea is more than just a practical activity to quench thirst or even provide a quaint afternoon ritual – for the British, it seems to be the cornerstone to their social lives. No matter what happens – from the wonderful to the terrible, the thrilling to the devastating, the response is invariably an offer of a cup of tea! ;-) An invitation to tea seems to bridge all social occasions – less formal than an invitation to lunch or dinner but also less “significant” and without the romantic overtones of an invitation for a drink. It can be all things to all people and suit any situation.

Kathy: Is Little Stables Tearoom, based on a real tearoom or is it purely a product of your imagination?

HYH: It is partly inspired by some real tearooms I have been in while living in England (see below) – but it is very much a product of my imagination.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite tearoom, or place to enjoy tea?

HYH: When I lived in Oxford, there was a beautiful old-fashioned tearoom in the nearby Cotswolds village of Burford. It was wonderful to go for a long country walk, especially in autumn or winter, and then to arrive, cheeks flushed, fingers tingling with cold, at this tearoom and sit down in the cosy interior for a cup of tea and a traditional British cake or scone, whilst looking out of the window at village life going by. I didn’t go that many times but the few times I went made a huge impression!

For more information about  H.Y. Hanna, please check out the following links!

Amazon Author Page: http://www.hyhanna.com/amazon-authorpage
Website: http://www.hyhanna.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hyhanna.books
Email: contact@hyhanna.com


H.Y. Hanna has graciously offered an e-book copy of A Scone to Die For, the first Oxford Tearoom Mystery, to one lucky reader.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Watermelon Lime Zinger Iced Tea My Absolute Summer Favorite

Karen here, do your tea drinking habits change in the spring and summer? For me I still drink my hot tea in the morning and afternoon however through out the day in the summer my thoughts turn to iced teas, black, green, herbal etc really top my list of summer beverages. One in particular I brought back from Boulder Colorado last year. I had been on the Celestial Seasoning Tour in August. It was so hot and the tea tasting room had anything you could possibly want to try from their line of teas, My most favorite was the Watermelon Lime Zinger Tea. I was amazed that the iced tea I was drinking was herbal and I liked it! Normally I prefer a black tea for an iced tea but this one opened my eyes to a whole new world of well rounded sweetened iced teas.

I brought back 6 boxes and wished I had brought back at least twice that, my own stores here in Canada do not sell it and I am going to need to make a run for the border to restock soon!
To make one jug of the tea, I simply boil the hot water, and in a Pyrex liquid measuring cup place 4 bags of the tea, I pour 2 cups of  the boiling water over the bags and let them steep and cool. Next I measure out the sugar, I only put 1/4 cup in my jug then I add water until the jug is half full. I stir the sugar in making a very simple un-cooked syrup. Once the tea is cool I add it to the jug, top with more water and then stir and chill.

It is truly a delight to have in the fridge and is very inexpensive to make. My youngest son and I love it, it is full flavored, slightly sweet and a beautiful red color. Learn more about this tea and where to find it on the Celestial Seasonings Website by clicking here.
I would love to have you join me for tea daily at www.acupofteaandacozymystery.com 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I Confess, I Spent the Weekend Drinking Coffee

O great and powerful tea gods, I come before you a humble supplicant. I have been unfaithful to your extraordinary powers of taste and refreshment.

I was at the Malice Domestic conference for mystery writers and fans last week. It’s super fun and super busy. We’re running around from 7 in the morning until past 11 at night. The Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, MD serves Starbucks coffee. Sometimes there’s not enough coffee in the world to keep a writer awake and perky (no pun intended). 

Coffee in our room. Coffee in the hospitality suite, where people relax and check out bookmarks and swag from the writers. Coffee at the bar. No, really! The bar serves coffee all day, even in the evening when they also serve booze. 

They offered real cream too! My first few cups need to be strong enough to stand up a spoon in it, but if I can get real cream (not milk, not half and half)—gimme!

However, my body lets me know when it’s had enough. 

Guess what else they serve? Tazo tea. Because not everyone (no, really) likes coffee. The hotel set out six different kinds of Tazo: Zen, Awake English Breakfast, Chamomile, Passion, Earl Grey, and Refresh Mint.

A lovely china dish with lemon slices and a wooden box with packets of every possible kind of sugar, sugar substitute, and plant-based sweeteners were set before the Tazo display as offerings to the tea gods. It was a worthy altar.

The coffee and tea in the hospitality suite were paid for by various publishers. We were so grateful!

Now all y’all will recoil from me in horror, but I don’t like Earl Grey tea. *stares through computer screen and sees a wave of readers recoiling* I know. But Earl Grey to me is like trying to drink perfume. Don’t ask me about rooibos tea, either. I tried three different kids. Not for me.

But Tazo Zen tea? More, please! I especially like how it doesn’t get bitter when I let it steep a long time. The mint and lemongrass combination is relaxation in a cup. Any moment of relaxation in a conference is a moment to treasure.

I love jasmine tea, but if I let it steep longer than three minutes—BITTER! The same with white tea. When I try to let it steep long enough to have enough taste for my palate—BITTER. 

Something in Tazo’s formulations differ from other brands of herbal tea. They’ve removed the bitter. So smooth. I can drink cup after cup. Which I did when my body OD’d on coffee.

Thus, O great and powerful tea gods, I beg your forgiveness for turning away from you for the conference weekend. 

(Nobody look at the travel cup of Starbucks French Roast at my elbow, okay?)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Traditional Scottish Scones

This is my favorite scone recipe given to me by a friend whose mom is from Scotland.  It was the family recipe dating back generations.  What I love about this recipe is it is not sickly sweet as many of the scones are I try from various bakeries and coffee shops.  There is no glaze or frosting.  These are scones as they are meant to be.  Unfortunately, I do not have photos today but promise to post some in a future entry with links to this recipe:

Buttermilk Scones

1 3/4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
5 tablespoons of butter
3/4 cup of buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Cut in the butter (Tip: cut the butter up in small pieces).  Add the buttermilk and stir to form dough.  Do not over mix - just enough to moisten the dry ingredients.

** See note below for variations

Lightly flour the working space and pat down mixture in a circle until about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut in 8 pie shaped wedges.  Place scones on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 450 for 10 minutes.

**VARIATIONS: These scones may be made plain as the basic recipe states or you may add one of the following after the dough is ready to form:

1/4 cup of raisins, blueberries, raspberries, grated cheddar cheese, or chocolate chips.  

I have made all of these variations, and there are probably other viable possibilities.  1/4 cup of any addition is perfect for this recipe.

My friend would serve these at her B&B for breakfast.  It is so easy to mix up the dry ingredients the night before, leave the butter out overnight to soften, and mix them up in the morning.  This recipe can be ready to go in the oven in 15 minutes. 

This is a go to recipe for me.  I love making them for breakfast, but I like them even more the next day - if there are any left.  This recipe is easy to make and making two separate batches is no problem.  I do not recommend doubling the recipe.  It is easier to manipulate this size. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Black, Green, White, & Red

Black, green, white, and red. They're all types of tea, but what makes them different? And how are they the same.? As I started my study of tea, I was amazed to learn that black tea, green tea, and white tea all start the same! One tea bush can create all types of those teas!  All true teas come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The leaf is the same, how it's processed makes the differences.

 Tea Bushes at the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden

So what makes a tea black, green, or white? It's the oxidation of the leaf. Oxidation is the chemical reaction in a plant when exposed to oxygen. For example, when you cut an apple and it browns, that browning is evidence of oxidation! Oxidation begins in tea leaves when the leaves are "damaged", in other words after they are picked and are rolled and withered.

Black teas have the most processing done to them and are the most oxidized. Some will say that black tea is "fully oxidized", but that's not quite true. Black tea has reached the optimum oxidation, if it was fully oxidized it would be stale!

Pictured: Lapsang Souchong Black Tea

Green teas have no oxidation. The process is prevented by pan frying or steaming.

Pictured: Jade Mountain Green Tea

White teas are the least processed but have minimal oxidation.

Pictured: Himalayan White Tea.


What about red teas? Red tea is what they call Black tea in China! So red and black teas are the same thing!

 So, what do you think about oxidation? Do you have a preference for black, green, or white teas?


I'd like to thank my friend, Niraj Lama, for verifying some of my information and also for the use of his pictures! I also used the following websites as references:


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tea Leaf Reading Resourses For Your Tea Time Pleasure!

Karen here and today I wanted to share a few books I purchased in the last year on Tea Leaf reading from The Book Depository. A friend of mine who has since passed away encouraged me to learn about Tea Leaf Reading. She was right adding this skill to my tea time repertoire would be fun and informitive. Tea Leaf reading has a rich history and is something that is still intriguing today.

Growing up I ways fascinated with Witches (thanks to the tv show Bewitched) and Tea Leaf readings are often associated with Witchcraft. Witcheslore.com has a wonderful page devoted to tea leaf history and meanings behind the patterns left behind in your tea cup. Click here to see that page. 

I bought Tea Leaf Reading for Beginners by Caroline Dow and it is a very good resource book. Caroline offers the readers a course in reading and understanding the history as well as the messages that await you in each cup.  The Book Depository is one I use because there is never any shipping fees no matter the cost of your books! This one is currently offered on sale at $13.01 US, click here to learn more about Tea Leaf Reading For Beginners

At 144 tiny but packed pages of tea leaf reading information this pint sized guide makes for an excellent study and read.
If you are looking to do a little research of your own or share with your friends and wow them at your next tea party these are two books I can highly recommend.  
I would love to have you join me for tea daily over at www.acupofteaandacozymystery.com