I’ve been romping around in oversized pajama pants, a sweatshirt and soft wool socks holding a mug of tea every day since I arrived.
I’ve wanted to stay at Addy Sea for years but there was never an open opportunity until now. It was random, as many things are, and yet it arrived right on time when I clicked their website to see about winter rates and discovered a writing retreat listed for the first week of March. It didn’t take much convincing after that to find out more and book it along with my room.
A mere 2.5 hour drive from Washington DC on a late Sunday afternoon had me arriving at the Inn when it was dusk. I had the prearranged code to get into the main parlor and the code to unlock my room was waiting for me on the welcome piece of paper at the arrival desk. That little handwritten note with check-in information ended with this: “There are cupcakes in the fridge.”
Up I went… two flights of wonderful creaky stairs to the 3rd floor and room #10. I opened the door and the view of 3 large windows facing the ocean and the sound of crashing waves started a chemical reaction that I’m vaguely familiar with. I think it’s called relaxation. I dropped my bag, opened the window and stared for a very, very long time.
That word popped into my head like an order rather than a suggestion. I rummaged through my tea travel bag – always filled with Pearl Fine Teasalong with my Bodum travel water kettle, or as I call it: Little Green Giant (LGG). Certainly the best investment any tea lover can make. There is nothing worse then staying somewhere that may filter its hot water through a Keurig or coffee maker. One can never know. So one must always be prepared. If ever there was a way to kill a cuppa, it’s like that, and frankly, I’d rather drink nothing than expose my tastebuds to that chaos. I call it “Tea-PTSD” and because of that, my LGG always comes along for the ride. And isn’t also nice to have a kettle in the room to boil water on demand? Common in most Asian countries – but not here in the US.
With LGG heating up, the “make-your-own-teabag” is on deck with our Ginger LemonTisane. The power in this concoction seems to wipe away sore throats quickly which has been lingering for a few days now. So now its time to sit. With hot cuppa tea. In semi-darkness listening to crashing waves and looking for stars.
The next morning I’m up at 7am thanks to the eastern sunrise shining into the room, LGG is plugged in, rolling a boil and Assam is on deck awaiting to take a dip. I sip and stare at the horizon for a time and then make way down those creaky old steps to breakfast which is held in what looks like a dining room out of aJane Austen novel. In fact, that’s what I referred to it as the entire time I was there: The Jane Austen Dining and Tea Room.
It is only then as I’m enjoying breakfast that I realize: I am the only guest in the entire Inn. Just me. I texted this phenomenon to a friend, and her text back was: “Writing. Alone in an inn? It sounds like the Shining.” My reply? “Naaaaa.” Though there are stories floating around on different websites where people have heard noises, it is a house built in 1901 out of wood and located directly on the beach. What house wouldn’t creak? And what malevolent spirit would reside in a house with this much warmth, beauty, and direct view of the sea that serves cakes and tea at 3? I’d like to think Jane herself pops in now and then to oversee the tea room and make sure the Royal Albert Country Roses china is in place, as she grabs a pen to sit and write by the fire.
The small buffet held warm eggs and bacon, freshly baked muffins, fruit, greek yogurt and a selection of cereals. As you can guess, what I was most interested in was the tea collection which was presented in a lovely classic wooden box with selections from Lipton and Twinings. Sadly, no can do. But also, not a problem.
As I’m digging through my canvas tea travel bag to pull out a gorgeous Darjeeling 2nd flush, I meet Sarah who works at the Inn part time and is also the owner of Swell Cakery nearby. Sarah bakes many of the tea time treats at Addy Sea. Sarah also loves tea. So I reach into my bag of tea tricks and pull out a tea for her to enjoy the rest of her day.
A lot has happened already and it’s only 1030am. The other writers have arrived, we all gather around a table closer to the fireplace in the Jane Austen dining room, and I learn that all of them are tea drinkers. I obviously offer to be the Tea Facilitator and share my personal stash with them each day. With our own hot water urn on the table for endless re-steeps, this makes it even easier to be creative and to sip tea without having to get up for a refill. Brilliant!
And this became the routine for the next 3 days: writing and tea, writing and tea, cheese and crackers, chocolate dipped macaroons, another round of tea and a walk along the ocean. As one might say in the time of Jane Austen’s: “How heavenly.”
I have only good things to say about Addy Sea : from the rooms that felt like home with soft eco-friendly coverlets and fluffy pillows, the oversized bath towels and eco-friendly bath products, the courtesy hairdryer, the bottle of wine by the fire, the extremely friendly and respectful staff, the change of flowers on the tables every single day. Cinde’s wealth of information, humor and willingness to try a a new tea; Steve’s lightening quickness to fix a rather lazy shade in my room; Sarah’s tasty gluten-free tea treats; Tiffany’s cheery personality and gift of chocolate covered strawberries; Jason’s one-on-one chef demonstration on poaching the perfect egg… And their willingness to accommodate and treat this Chief Leaflike she was a long lost friend, as she did research and drank tea by the sea for 4 days.
And why I was in Scotland sipping my way through 4 days of tea in gorgeous Edinburgh. The goal: ingest as much Scottish Breakfast Blend teas as humanly possible. (And find the best Gluten Free Scone.)
It was a short trip packed with a lot of nothing but tea, and I started every single morning sitting at the glass dining table in a lovely little Airbnb Castle Apartment in the Grassmarket overlooking the Edinburgh Castle. Each morning started perfectly gloomy and rainy but then turned into blue skies later in the day, or wafting clouds, or a drop in temp, or a rise in temp, or a sprinkle of rain or a dust of snow. As my taxi driver to the airport said to me: “We have 4 seasons in one day here.” Absolutely true.
The only “plan” I had was to do at least 1 afternoon tea a day.
Day 1: Arrival in Edinburgh
After dropping my bag off at the apartment, I set out on foot to find my first cuppa. I had no agenda and no map. I just turned right outside the black gate and started walking. I eventually decided to head over the National Museum of Scotland. There are 3 places to have tea inside the museum: A Brasserie on the main floor, a small cafe on the 2nd floor and the Tower Restaurant on the top floor. I sat at the small cafe with a small pot of tea as I made an online reservation for afternoon tea at the Tower Restaurant. I walked the museum until my 2pm seating which was at a table by the window with a gorgeous view of the city roof tops and architecture. They offered a gluten-free option which I ordered, a pot of Breakfast Blend and a glass of bubbles. The GF Scones were expected and nothing to write home about, but the clotted cream? So thick! So creamy! Best I ever had.
With a belly full of caffeine and carbs, I headed out to wander (again) to see where it would lead. Which to my surprise and delight it was The Elephant House – made famous by J.K. Rowling because it’s where she wrote Harry Potter. I asked for a table in the backroom, a pot of Breakfast tea and waited for the magic to find its way into my bones. Many writers have visited here and I can see why J.K. spent many days at the table in the back by the window writing and sipping. This would be the first of 4 visits I’d make during my time in the city.
Fully tea-logged I set out on foot again and stumbled upon a wee tea shop called Cuttea Sark. I walked in to this postage stamp sized adorable and authentic treasure and met John Bowman the proprietor who’s had the shop for 21 years. This was his “after retirement project.” We had quite a long chat talking about teas and specifically Scottish Breakfast Blends. He was sure to explain the marketing gimmick of blends like Scottish, Irish and English Breakfast. I purchased his blend and after his recommendations on where to find some old antique bookshops, I continued on my way finally making it back to the Castle Apartment for yet another pot of tea to unwind from a very long day of my walking tea adventure. This time just an herbal concoction of peppermint and spearmint I brought along from my own garden.
Day 2: Tuesday
Waking to a dust of snow on the castle, I sat at the little table writing and sipping a pot of Cuttea Sark’s Breakfast Blend which was quite good! Had earthy malty notes I was looking for, but the Ceylon really came through. Very brisk and surprisingly smooth.
As I’m prone to do, I had no plan. On this day I turned left outside the black gate. First stop was Armchair Books, then another bookshop and another and yet another until I found my way to Loudon’s at the recommendation of my Airbnb Host. It was now time for lunch and I opted for the GF quiche, a GF Scone (to compare) and a pot of orange Oolong. I’m not one to typically enjoy a flavored oolong since the natural taste is so gorgeous on its own, but since it was on the menu I gave it a chance. Decent cuppa tea, but not one that would change my mind about wanting flavored Oolongs. The GF scone was actually a bit more flavorful then the Towers, but still had that dry crumbly quality we all must endure.
With my full belly (again) I headed out walking to Princes Street and along the gardens below the Castle eventually making my way to the famous Sir Walter Scott Memorial to pay a visit to (one of) my ancestors. I lost count at how many steps to the top. The climb up the stone circular steps are not for the faint of heart, those who feel claustrophobic or get dizzy easily. The higher you go the narrower the steps become until you must turn a bit sideways to make it up to the top and then… you are gifted with a spectacular view of the entire city in all directions!
After my climb down, I headed over to Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill also known as the “disgrace of Scotland” because it was only a partial build of Greek columns since they ran out of money and couldn’t complete it. All that walking awakened my need for tea and luckily a small outpost (food truck of sorts) called Milk was ready and waiting to serve up a surprisingly good cup of Milk Oolong. A few sips and off I went again until daylight faded and I realized I had logged 8.89 miles on my FitBit. I headed back to the flat but not before stopping at I.J. Mellisfor local cheese infused with truffles and local GF crackers to have with an evening herbal infusion of mint, and watch British TV. It was that night that I was introduced to England’s most famous gardner: Monty Don.
Day 3: Wednesday
Now into my morning routine of tea, toast, writing and staring at the Castle, I contemplated the days tea-adventure. I had heard of an independent tea shop called Pekoe Teaon Levin Street and decided that would be my first destination. It was a small shop that’s been around for about 7 years and slightly more contemporary in style, selection… and price. There seemed to be a good representation of single origin teas among the many blends they offered. What I loved was the small intimate feel of the shop and how you could sit at the tiny bar in the window and people watch. Which is what I did until it was time to pop into an acupuncturist for a treatment just across the street, and then meet up with a friend for (no surprise)… Afternoon Tea.
Travel. The best invention. It not only opens your mind, expands your point of view, challenges your comfort zone and delights the tastebuds – it can even bring new friends into you life. In this case, it was Vanessa (originally from Edinburgh) who I first met in Reykjavik, Iceland two years prior. And now here we were meeting again to enjoy afternoon tea at Eteaket. We both opted for black teas: Darjeeling 2nd Flush for me and Breakfast Blend for her. Talking and sipping and talking and sipping and snacking and sipping made the time fly and before we knew it… the sun was setting. The afternoon tea service was lovely, as was the atmosphere and company, and the GF scone was really quite good and not too dry.
I admitted to Vanessa that I have been on the hunt for a toast rack. After watching Ladies in Lavender, I’ve been on a mad search to own one. Not common in the US as we just put our toast on a plate. But the idea of toast, standing upright… in a rack? By God I must have one! She humored me and took me to John Lewis (love!) and low and behold: A ceramic toast rack! Made even better by the fact that it was on sale!
After a my toast rack adventure and a mini tour of the coast, I was back at the flat. I decided to step outside for some air and a brisk walk finding my way yet again back to the Elephant House. A nice chat with Jane from Ireland over the virtues of Scottish teas and her finally admitting her love and loyalty to Barry’s Tea. And then, in the blink of an eye, she was handing me slice of GF carrot cake to take home. Best I’ve ever had and not just because it was free. Elephant House magic…
Day 4: Last Day
The plan was to spend another full day wandering and find one last place for Afternoon Tea. I turned left out of the black gate and headed to Edinburgh Castle and walked up that fabulously steep hill to tour this ancient beauty which dates back to the Iron Age. I was too early for the tearoom to be open, but the mere fact that you could also have tea in a Castle delighted me. I did however enjoy my first ever Whiskey tasting. (I’ll be sticking to tea.)
My walk along the Royal Mile had me stopping at the recommended Gladstones which is one of the oldest buildings on that road. I had strict instructions by Meredith (one of my tea customers) to pick up Crystal’s Shortbread because, “it is the best and not sold outside of Scotland.” As I continued along making my way, I had a chance to stop into the Writers’ Museumwhich is tucked away just off the Royal Mile. A nice look around reading up on Sir Walter Scott and other noteworthy Scottish writers.
Back on the Royal Mile and I’m not making much headway with all these tempting tiny shops to duck into. Finally, I’ve made it to the Queens’ residence when she stays in Scotland: Holyrood Palace. No photos are allowed inside – only the outside and gardens are permitted. I decided to take a tour but in retrospect I’d have been ok passing this up and saving the 17 pounds. I will say the gardens are the real show stopper and the gift shop had absolutely stunning replicas of royal tea ware and patterns. Very tempting indeed.
I realized that time was flying and I hadn’t had Afternoon tea yet. Since I was on this side of town I decided to walk over toThe Dome and enjoy my last formal tea of the trip. The Dome is gorgeous. It was a former bank turned into a bar/restaurant with a Georgian Tearoom on the 2nd level. It was just as spectacular. The menu and selection was limited but covered what anyone might want. My choice was the China Green with Jasmine. Highly floral just the way I like it. Whole leaf teas in a silver teapot and a tower of treat arrived. The verdict: Best. GF. Scone. Ever. The light hint of vanilla was surprising and noteworthy. Not too dry and the apricots and raisins made it perfect. My tastebuds were singing.
My day was nearing to a close, but there was still more to do. I powered up and continued to walk back towards the Grassmarket to have a last look in Cabaret and Curiosities and her eclectic collection of antique jewelry – specifically the antique brooches. As I walked through the Princes Street Gardens and on the Mound, I saw the Scottish National Gallery and decided to go in for a look around. In one of the rooms was an older gentleman sketching a section of a painting. You can see the photo below. So much gorgeous work… don’t miss out on this one.
From there I headed back to the Diagon House / Museum of Context also known Harry Potter Shop on Victoria Street – to see if I could find a book. I did in fact find a 1997 UK Special Edition of the first book with the original title before American publishers forced J.K. to change the name from the Philosophers Stone to the Sorcerer’s Stone. With new (old) book in hand there was only one place I was going to sit for my very last night to read:The Elephant House.I took the back room table in the corner by the window. Ordered some herbal tea, a bowl of vegetable soup and read Chapter 1. I made sure to buy a tin of their Royal Blend of black tea and say goodbye to lovely Jane from Ireland who yet again, gifted me with a slice of GF Carrot cake to take away. Off I went back to the Castle Apartment to pack and relax for the journey home on Friday.
There were many other places to have tea but some of them didn’t make the cut because there either wasn’t a Gluten-free option or I ran out of time. I have heard good things about the following (and plan to do a Part 2 trip in the near future):
It’s the last tea kindness of the year! And what better way to end then with the revered Green tea:Jasmine Pearls!
We offered this as part of our 25 Days of Tealast Christmas. You can read about it here and learn a bit about its flavor profile. There is a lot of research around the healing and wellness properties of green tea and here are just 3 of them for you to ponder:
1. Bioactive compounds and loaded with polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins which work as a powerful antioxidant and help reduce free radicals in the body. Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), which has been studied to treat various diseases and may be one of the main reasons green tea has such powerful medicinal properties.
2. May improve brain functions due to its caffeine content which is a stimulant. Caffeine works in the brain to block inhibitory neurotransmitters called Adenosine – which helps increase the firing of neurons and the concentration of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. It also contains a powerful amino acid called: L-theanine, which has anti-anxiety effects.
3. May lower risk of certain cancers which are caused by uncontrolled growth of cells. “It is well known that oxidative damage contributes to the development of cancer and that antioxidants can have a protective effect.” Green tea is an excellent source of powerful antioxidants, which may help with:
Breast cancer: A meta-analysis of observational studies found that women who drank the most green tea had a 22% lower risk of developing breast cancer, the most common cancer in women.
Prostate cancer: One study found that men drinking green tea had a 48% lower risk of developing prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer in men.
Colorectal cancer: A study of 69,710 Chinese women found that green tea drinkers had a 57% lower risk of colorectal cancer.
Now that you have some information onJasmine Dragon PearlsandGreen Tea,what better way to end the year then with a wonderful TeaCocktailrecipe to ring in 2018! I first tried this delight at a bar in Harvard Square in Cambridge MA and was hooked! I hope you like it too:
Green Tea Martini:
Ingredients: 1/4 cup loose leaf jasmine green tea
3 or 4 ice cubes
1 liter vodka (or gin)
1/8 cup simple syrup
Add the loose leaf jasmine tea to the bottle of alcohol and shake well. Steep the tea for two hours, before straining the leaves from the infused vodka or gin Meanwhile, chill your martini glasses in the freezer for at least half an hour. Put the ice cubes in a cocktail shaker until two-thirds full, then pour in the infusion and simple syrup (1:1 ratio sugar to water). Shake for about 15 seconds, then strain into the cold martini glasses rimmed with sugar and enjoy!
For our last Random Act of (Tea) Kindness, please enjoy 20% Off our Jasmine Dragon Pearls! This sale ends at 11:59pm on Dec 31st! Please use code: RATKJAS at check out!
This is the last post for 2017! Thank you all for following along!
In honor of this last Friday before Christmas, and our 4 installment of Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness, we bring to you the mother of all spices: CINNAMON!
Cinnamon is quite frankly: magic. Aside from the immense healing properties (and there are many) its ability to curb a raging sweet tooth is legendary. But did you know about its rich and interesting history?
Cinnamon dates back to Chinese writings as early as 2,800 B.C and is still known as kwai in Cantonese
Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon during the embalming process
The Old Testament references it as an ingredient in anointing oil
In the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote off 350 grams of cinnamon as being equal in value to over five kilograms of silver, about fifteen times the value of silver per weight
The West has the Ancient world of Arab traders for bringing it with them when they traveled to Europe
Cinnamon was the Arab merchants’ best-kept secret until the early 16th century and to maintain a monopoly and justify its high price, the traders told stories and tales for buyers about how the spice was obtained:
“One such story, related by the 5th-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, said that enormous birds carried the cinnamon sticks to their nests perched high atop mountains that were insurmountable by any human. According to the story, people would leave large pieces of ox meat below these nests for the birds to collect. When the birds brought the meat into the nest, its weight would cause the nests to fall to the ground, allowing the cinnamon sticks stored within to be collected.”
Stories like that remind me of the tales told about certain teas like Monkey Picked Oolong and how Monks sent trained monkeys out to the tallest tea bushes to pick leaves. This clearly did not happen, but the idea was to show how difficult it was to obtain this product and that it was a luxury item. (That’s early ancient branding and marketing strategy at its finest.)
In 1518, Portuguese traders discovered cinnamon bark in Ceylon which is known today as Sri Lanka. They took over the kingdom of Kotto and took control of the cinnamon trade for about 100 years. It wasn’t until the Ceylon kingdom of Kandy allied with the Dutch in 1638 to overthrow the Portuguese occupiers. The Dutch ended up defeating the Portuguese, took control of Ceylon and the cinnamon monopoly for the next 150 years. Enter the British in 1784 and their victory in the 4th Anglo-Dutch War, and by 1800, cinnamon was sort of downgraded and no longer a rare commodity.
That’s a lot of fighting and history – over the bark of a tree.
Cinnamon trees are small evergreens that can grow to a height of 66 feet and contain aromatic bark and leaves. The tree bark is often peeled, dried, ground into powder, or rolled into strips. It is used in both sweet and savory foods.
There are typically 2 types of commercial cinnamon on the market today: Ceylon (Sri Lankan), Cassia (Indonesian and Vietnamese.) Cassia is the the cheaper variety and what is usually sold in grocery stores to use in cooking, baking etc… The more expensive cinnamon from Sri Lanka is more milder and sweeter and very, very, very good in tea.
The health and healing properties of cinnamon are long, but here are 5 important benefits:
High in antioxidants called polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids – compounds which work to fight oxidative stress in the body especially as we age.
Anti-inflammatory properties which may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, brain function decline, lowers swelling and inflammation, beneficial for pain management, soreness, and PMS.
Heart Health protection by reducing several common risks to heart disease like high cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure. Cinnamon also increases blood circulation and advances bodily tissue’s ability to repair itself after it’s been damaged. This includes heart tissue which is in need of regeneration in order to fight heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke.
Diabetes management. Helps lower blood sugar levels and also can improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin. It has been shown to decrease the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a high-sugar meal, which is especially important for those with type 2 diabetes.
Fights viruses and infections by defending the body from illnesses since its naturally anti-microbial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral.
Superfood? Probably! Super tasty? Without a doubt!
And it’s the feature of our 4th week of our Random Act of (Tea) Kindness initiative this month. Just in time for the Christmas holiday which is only (3 days away) please enjoy 22% OFF both our Cinnamon Orange Spice Black Tea and our Cinnamon Rooibos (Caffeine-Free).No discount code is required. Discount is automatically applied in your cart and is good from Dec 22nd thought Dec 27th!
Both teas have 3 types of cinnamon blended with orange peel and some sweet clove. You won’t need a drop of sugar in either of these teas. They are naturally sweet and 100% sugar free. Pairs perfectly with christmas cookies, desserts and general snuggling by the fireplace. We’ve also “heard” that a shot of brandy in either cuppa takes this to a whole new level.
This is our last post before Dec 25th so for those of you that celebrate…
Welcome to the best day of the year:
WINTER SOLSTICE or YULE!
Love this day because it means quite simply that… We made it! Starting tomorrow we are seconds closer to longer days and the light. (Be sure to check out our 4th week of RATK tomorrow as well.) But before we get into how we celebrate the darkest day of the year, here is a bit of information for those of you who may not be aware of the history of Winter Solstice and Yule, and how its related to modern day Christmas traditions.
The word ‘solstice’ comes from two Latin words: sol which means SUN and sistere means “to stand still.” To the ancients standing on Earth and looking up at the sky, it appeared that the sun stood still at this time of year. This is longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and is celebrated for the renewal of the sun – which is promised.
Yule, pronounced EWE-elle, is when the darkness of this part of the year finally recedes and gives way to the light. Literally, the very next morning at sunrise we are seconds closer to longer days. It’s a rebirth, and also gorgeous reminder that we are all connected to a larger network, nature, renewal and the cycle of change.
Some ancient customs and rituals around Yule/Winter Solstice include:
Ancient Ireland: Celts celebrated Meán Geimhridh during the Winter Solstice each day from Dec 19 -23rd by creating a sacred room or hallway at proper angles to catch the light.
Slavic countries (Russia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine etc): Believed in evil spirits and that they were at their apex on the shortest, darkest day of the year. “Darkness and the Black God defeated the sun on the Winter Solstice, after which a New Sun was born. The Old Sun, named Hors, was commemorated with a ritual dance.”
Asia: Chinese and other East Asians celebrate the Winter Solstice as well with the Donghi Festival– a time for rejoicing at the longer light hours to come, symbolizing an increase in positive energy (chi).
Nordic countries: Celebrates with a Yule Goat also known as Julbok. Thankfully, it isn’t a real animal and is typically made of straw. Its origins are rooted in mythology, but still adopted as part of modern Christian tradition. Most Christmas traditions are rooted deep in ancient Yule rituals, many coming from the Vikings. “Even the Christmas tree goes back to pre-Christian times. The Vikings decorated evergreen trees with pieces of food and clothes, small statues of the Gods, carved runes, etc., to entice the tree spirits to come back in the spring.”
Ancient Romans: The Saturnalia was the most popular holiday of the Roman year, was designated a holy day, or holiday, on which religious rites were performed, and described as one of “the best of days” (Poems, XIV). A time when a “whole mob has let itself go in pleasures” (Epistles, XVIII.3). It was an occasion for celebration, visits to friends, and the presentation of gifts, particularly wax candles (cerei), perhaps to signify the returning light after the solstice, and sigillaria.
England: We can’t talk about Winter Solstice without mentioning one of the most famous celebrations on the planet which takes place at Stonehenge. The ancient ruins of the Druids and Pagans who would gather there to chant, dance and sing through the night waiting for the sun to rise through the monolithic stones. Many people still travel there today to experience and take part in this magical tradition.
Germany: Evidently it was devout Christians from 16th century Germans who get all the credit for starting the tradition of having a decorated Christmas tree brought into their homes. Some say it was Martin Luther, who added lighted candles to a tree because he was in awe of the bright light from the stars above twinkling amidst evergreens. He wanted to recreate what he saw, so he put up tree in this main living area with lighted candles attached to branches by wires.
“The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings.
Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans. [And] After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. Also around this time, English author Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The story’s message-the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind-struck a powerful chord in the United States and England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday. The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s. Christmas provided families with a day when they could lavish attention-and gifts-on their children without appearing to “spoil” them.
As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.”
It’s widely known that the early years of Christianity designated Easter as the main holiday and the birth of Jesus wasn’t celebrated at all. It wasn’t until around the 4th century that Pope Julius I decided to create a holiday for his birth and chose December 25. It was called the Feast of the Nativity, and that custom made its way and spread to Egypt in 432, on to England by the 6th century and all the way to Scandinavia by the 8th century.
Fascinating to learn how these ancient rituals influenced modern day Winter Solstice, Yule and Christmas and that we are left with one thing that connects them all: food and drink. Sharing food is particularly meaningful during solstice as it represents faith in the return of the sun and the harvest. It’s also the a beloved part of the Christmas tradition.
Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb’s wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples) are a few of the foods associated with Yule. With the prevailing constant being some version of mulled wine. Natural Living listed some traditional beverages for Winter Solstice, Yule Christmas and even New Years:
Gluhwein: This drink originated in German-speaking countries. It is a red wine heated with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. Romainians call it vin fiert, in Moldova it is izvar, Italy it is vin brule, and in Latvia it is karstvins.
Glogg: This drink originated in the Nordic countries and was also called glug. It is red wine mixed with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, bitter orange and sugar and sometimes with vodka, akvavit or brandy. It is usually served with raisins, blanched almonds and gingerbread.
Navegado: This is a mulled wine from Chile. It is heated with cinnamon sticks, orange slices, cloves, sugar with raisins and almonds added.
Wassail: This drink is a mulled cider from Germanic countries. The word wassail comes from waes haeil, which means “be healthy”. The historical wassail drinks were more of a mulled beer or mead. They made it by mixing sugar, ale, nutmeg and cinnamon in a bowl which was then heated. They topped it with slices of toast which they called sops. The wassail bowl looked like a goblet and was made out of wood. Later the drink became associated with apples and the song was sung around the apple tree for the next year’s harvest. A-wassailing was going door to door, singing and asking (demanding?) the drink from the household, usually the rich in the town.
Hypocras: Another mulled wine heated with spices such as cinnamon, ginger, grains of paradise and long pepper. This drink was named after Hippocrates. Hypocras became more popular after the crusades until its popularity waned during the 18th century.
Eggnog: This drink was developed backed in the 1700’s in Europe. It was mixed with eggs and warm milk and served in a wooden mug called a noggin. Traditionally it was mixed with Sherry or Brandy. George Washington loved eggnog and he crafted his own recipes!
So today Dec 21, 2017 at 11:28am, we welcome Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere – the darkest day of the year. Though it made be the official start of Winter, it’s also the end of darkness and the dawn of light! How can that be bad?
For those of you interested in connecting with nature today and and preparing for the closure of the year, there are some rituals you can preform that are simple and easy to do:
• Try to stay away from electronics today. (yikes!)
• Try a meditation at sunrise and sunset. Ideally outside if the weather supports it.
• Smudge yourself and your home to purify, or to clean out negative thoughts. You can light dried rosemary, sage and lavender and walk around your home allowing the smoke to waft and purify the space.
• Leave a gift for nature such as sliced fruit such as sliced apples and seed for the birds, and other creatures.
• Try making and sipping a Winter-Solstice-Yule-Christmas Decoction (Tea):
3-4 cups filtered water (depending on desired strength)
½ an (organic) apple, peeled
2 whole cinnamon sticks (Sri Lankan)
½ inch chunk of fresh organic ginger, peeled
½ tsp (organic) orange zest
Optional: cloves or star anise or caraway seeds
A few (organic) raisins
Local honey if sweetness is desired
Place all ingredients into a pot and simmer slowly for about 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for another 10 minutes or so. Strain into a cup or mug. Add a few raisins and honey if desired. If you prefer to make this into a Glogg, spike it with dash of brandy then sip by candlelight, relax and direct your thoughts to gratitude for having a roof over your head, people to love, for being loved, and for knowing that the darkness is over and tomorrow we are given the gift of more light.
Good morning and welcome English Breakfast Tea. Grab your cuppa and settle in…
Some take this tea for granted. Writing it off as plain or even boring. Others revere its simplicity and classic black tea taste and will not entertain the idea of drinking anything else. Some enjoy this elixir straight, while others prefer to embellish with cream and sugar. In either scenario, English Breakfast drinkers are loyal to their brew.
What appears to be just a simple black tea, is anything but. Many are unaware that unless it’s a Single Origin black tea, it’s actually a black tea blend – which in general means that different lots of black teas are combined to make what has typically become known as English Breakfast. (Or Irish or Scottish.)
Black tea is purchased at auctions and then blended to fit a specific desired flavor profile. An example of this would be Twinings which tastes the way it does because different teas are blended together to match their brand taste/profile. There is no Twinings tea bush growing somewhere that they pluck from and process. It takes a highly seasoned and experienced tea master to blend and make it taste the exact same way year after year. Tea is a crop after all and subject to environmental changes which affect its flavor.
So what exactly is English Breakfast tea and where did it come from?
Evidently, it all started with Catherine of Braganza – the Portuguese wife of Charles II. (The English have a foreigner to thank for introducing tea and helping it become a staple in the English lifestyle.) Catherine had grown up drinking tea and brought it with her when she made her way to England in 1662. Because of her, it became fashionable for the upper class and royal court to drink tea. Over time tea gradually made its way through class structure “turning it into the class-boundary-busting drink it is today.”
Though it’s not entirely known how tea became the preferred morning drink at breakfast, there are some theories that King Charles successor, Queen Anne (1665-1714), chose to drink tea over ale (aka: beer) with her breakfast. Others soon followed and it became well established as the morning drink of choice by the 18th Century.
What many might find surprising is that English Breakfast Tea wasn’t even “invented” in England. It was first developed by the Scottish Tea Master Drysdale in Edinburg. The original blend was a combination of fine black teas from India and China and included some Keemun which is a full bodied black Chinese tea that is often toasty. He simply called it “Breakfast Tea” – and because Queen Victoria loved “all things Scottish” it immediately became popular. Tea merchants in London used the power of branding and marketing and changed the name to what is now known as ENGLISH Breakfast Tea which is how its most commonly known today.
Most tea companies have a version of English Breakfast which can greatly vary in aroma and taste. Some use heavy China black teas, others a combination of Indian black teas. Ours is a blend of Indian black teas. It’s smooth, classic and is missing the heaviness and “smoke” in the aftertaste common in other blends. We drink it in its natural state without cream and sugar, but it does stand up well to both.
This week we delight in offering our Breakfast Blend for the 3rd week of our Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness Holiday Sale, enter code: RATKBB at Checkout on our website to enjoy 25% OFF our Breakfast Blend.Discount ends on Thursday Dec 21th at 11:59pm.
For our second week of our Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness, we’re featuring Black Vanilla Bean. That old cliche about vanilla being boring is simply, not true.
• Did you know that Vanilla is actually a member of the orchid family? • That it’s origins are native to the Caribbean, and South and Central America? • And that it’s only second to saffron as most expensive spice in the world?
Check out this fabulous and fascinating article written by Nat Geo about the History of Vanilla.
For those of you who lean towards the vanilla/dessert on the tea spectrum, this is your cup of tea. The base is a black tea from Vietnam that is balance, smooth and without smoke. The vanilla bean flavor is rich, real, and righteous. The aroma reminds me of a homemade vanilla cake without the sugary sweetness. Brewed correctly it requires no sugar. Should you desire sugar, a literal dot is the right amount.
Flavored black tea blends can be tricky to balance. Not this one. You won’t find a nicer Vanilla Bean Black Tea anywhere.
To take advantage of our Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness Holiday Sale, enter code: RATKVAN at Checkout on our website to enjoy 20% OFF Black Vanilla Bean Tea!