Healing Heart Tonic

rose tea

Say Hello to District Blend #02: Brookland!

Welcome to the little hamlet where Pearl Fine Teas was born almost 11 years ago. To honor this lovely part of Washington DC, I’m finally introducing the newest member to the Pearl Fine Teas family: Healing Heart Tonic.


But first, a little about Brookland:

“Brookland evolved in the early 1870s, when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad ran its western branch line through this area. The rail line was situated alongside a fine 1840 Greek Revival farmhouse known as the Brooks Mansion, home of Colonel Jehiel Brooks. In the late 1880s, Catholic University was established just north of Colonel Brooks’ farm. Developers quickly responded, creating a new Washington neighborhood beyond the central city and taking its name from Colonel Brooks. The university provided a centerpiece for a large number of Catholic institutions.

In the early days, Brookland, with its single-family, wood-frame houses in styles ranging from Queen Anne to Craftsman – attracted government workers, Smithsonian Institution scientists, and people of many ethnic backgrounds who shared the Catholic faith. In the 1930s, Brookland attracted affluent African Americans looking for an area that was not restricted to whites only. Of particular note are 13 International style houses designed by Hilyard Robinson and Howard H. Mackey, two of Washington’s most prominent African American architects of the era. Robinson was responsible for the Ralph Bunche house, 1510 Jackson Street, NE, built for the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Many other prominent black Washingtonians made their home here, including the entertainer Pearl Bailey, the poet Sterling Brown, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Robert Weaver, Senator Edward Brooke, and historian Rayford Logan. Brookland enjoys an interesting history of civic activism. Most recently it rescued the Brooks Mansion, which still stands near the Brookland Metro station, a symbol of this community and its heritage.”


This neighborhood is located in the Northeast section of DC and is known informally as “Little Rome” due to the influence of the Catholic Church and home to Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

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Rose garden at the Franciscan Monestery

I first discovered this little enclave back in 2003 – a hidden gem, devoid of trend and pretension. I loved the diversity of people, the loving warm-hearted neighbors, the chirping birds, the stunning green spaces with gardens galore – and the gorgeous refuge of the Franciscan Monastery where you often see a Monk or Nun strolling in deep contemplation and reflection. A quiet walk through the rose garden instantly infuses a sense of peace and puts all things in perfect perspective. As a member of the Franciscan Garden Guild, I’ve spent time in the greenhouse, helping with the famous yearly Plant Sale and even learned how to extract honey from the bees they keep.

My neighborhood has inspired me in so many ways – mostly notably with the profound friendships I’ve made living here that have touched and warmed my heart – specifically my good friend Bill. He is no longer with us, but I had the privilege of being his next door neighbor for 14 years.  We had a lot of fun during those years and he taught me a thing or 10 about everything from how to install a light fixture to how to navigate some of life’s steeper slopes. It was a joyful friendship and one I deeply cherish. It’s also why I wanted to create a blend that reflected and honored that special friendship – which was born right here in Brookland.

Bill was a Deacon in his Church; He loved roses, and chewing on lemon grass and good ole’ fashioned ginger root. The Brookland Healing Heart Tonic is a blend of  those 3 ingredients and is totally caffeine free, healing, and heart warming. Besides the emotional healing benefits of this tisane, there are also many actual health benefits to this wellness tonic:


herbal rose tea.

Rose: 
• Naturally uplifting (especially for those prone to feeling down or depressed)
• Regulates hormone levels (how the neurotransmitters in our brain are regulated)
• Can help to improve liver function and increase urination (natural diuretic)
• Releases toxins from the body
• Good source of Vitamin C (improves immunity)
• May also help treat arthritis, menstrual cramps, cold/flu, digestive issues, and insomnia


Lemon Grass. Cymbopogon citratus. Capim Limao, Santo.Lemon grass:
• Traditionally used to help control and normalize heart rate and for high blood pressure.
• Used for the treatment of depression and anxiety
• Anti-bacterial and Anti-fungal
• Loaded with Vitamin C (improves immunity)
• Citral is the active constituent and lemon grass has the highest concentration of it compared to any other plant in the world. Citral has antioxidant and anti-tumor properties that both benefit the brain.


Isolated gingerGinger:
• Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Fungal
• Boots Immunity
• Aids digestion and relief from nausea
• Improves heart disease risk factors
• May lower Cholesterol
• May have powerful anti-diabetic properties
• Can lead to significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and blood triglyceride level (similar extent as the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin)
• Studies show its effective at reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis
• Can protect against age-related damage to the brain (Alzheimers) and can also improve brain function in elderly women



Healing Heart Tonic (District Blend #02: Brookland)
will debut at markets on:

• Saturday, May 5th: Falls Church Farmers Market, VA  (8am – Noon)
• Saturday, May 5th:  Monroe Street Farmers Market, Brookland DC  (9am – 1:00 pm)
• Sunday, May 6th:  Central Farm Market in Bethesda, MD (9am – 1:30pm)
• You can also purchase online in the Tea Shop here.

“There is a wisdom of the head, and a wisdom of the heart.” ~ Charles Dickens
“Happy Sipping!” ~The Chief Leaf

 

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Healing Heart Tonic

Energy Medicine (in a bowl)

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The Chinese tea bowl.
A perfectly crafted cylinder made to hold the worlds most perfect liquid and affect the chemicals in the body and brain to promote healing and relaxation.
Ceramic tea bowls are mentioned in the first major text on tea, The Classic of Tea. Compiled between 758-60CE by Lu Yu (733–804) of the Tang dynasty.

Tibetian singing bowl isolatedThe Tibetan signing bowl.
A perfectly crafted cylinder made to emit vibration and frequencies to affect the chemicals in the body and brain to promote healing and relaxation.
Dates back to the time of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni between 560 – 480 B.C. when the Tibetan Singing Bowl is said to have originated.

 


Liquid energy in a bowl. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We all know about how the chemical properties in tea leaves like flavonoid anti-oxidants and catechins, but have you heard of the powerful affect of the amino acid L-Theanine?

It’s a water soluble amino acid that’s found in tea leaves and when you drink tea,  it passes through the blood-brain barrier and affects the brain directly. It shares similar chemical structures to neurotransmitter glutamate – which is a transmitter involved in learning and memory, and, it increases the production of GABA and dopamine. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety and induces what is called alert/relaxed states of thinking and reduces the fight-or-flight response during high stress situations. In case you’re thinking that this is all a bunch of hooey, according to clinical studies by NIH:

Evidence from human electroencephalograph (EEG) studies show that it has a direct effect on the brain. L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness.”

So basically, tea is liquid energy medicine (healing) in a bowl. We tea drinkers already knew that. But what about the Tibetan Singing bowl and its magical healing abilities?

Sound energy from a bowl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The tradition of using a singing bowl was brought from India to Tibet, along with the teachings of the Buddha, by the great tantric master Padmasambhava in the 8th century A.D. It is said that the sounds generated by Tibetan Singing Bowls are a type of energy medicine” that promote healing many forms of dis-ease.

“If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.” – Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine, the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in New York.

Duke University and the University of North Carolina have realized the power of alternative healing and have taken big steps to add new body, mind and spirit programs specifically sound therapy– to cancer treatments. In fact the medical director at the Chopra Institute, Dr. David Simon, found that by chanting and using a Tibetan Singing bowl, it activates chemicals in the brain that act as internal painkillers and aid in healing.

How it works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
It’s all about vibration. And since illness is said to be a manifestation of dis-ease, dis-harmony and imbalance in cell matter, and all matter is vibrating energy, than altering a vibration should change the structure of cellular matter. Sound vibrations directly affect our nervous system, and often sets off a relaxation reflex which may lower stress and pain. Similar to acupuncture where needles allow energy (chi) to flow and assist the body in healing and rebalancing; so does sound vibration and sound frequencies–which enables the flow of energy to reach different parts of the body. The pulsating tone immediately feels good and kick-starts relaxation along with the following:

• Reduction in stress, anxiety + anger
• Lower blood pressure
• Improved circulation + increased blood flow
• Deep relaxation + pain relief
• Increased mental + emotional clarity
• Stillness, happiness + well being.
• Stimulated immune system
• Balanced left/right brain

When you are in the presence of someone (or yourself) playing a signing bowl you not only hear the pure sonic waves,you actually feel the sound enter the body. You can listen and watch a short Tibetan Singing Bowl video here on YouTube and see if you feel any different after listening. Or you can buy one and try it at home yourself. It’s really easy and you will be amazed at how good you feel afterwards.

The connection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ritual. Aside from the actual chemical properties in tea, and the actual sound waves emitted from a singing bowl (both proven to aid in healing and wellness) there is the ritual of making tea or drinking tea out of a special cup or bowl. The ritual of sitting at the same time to play a singing bowl, or the ritual using a sound to evoke a sense of calm. And before you head down that “this is hooey” road again, there is scientific research around the benefits of rituals and its affect on overall wellness which can be extremely effective in reducing anxiety, increasing confidence and having an impact on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Rituals help bring a sense of structure and order to an otherwise chaotic world. They are in fact a type of shield that helps protect us from uncertainty.

“The very act of engaging in a scripted sequence of ritualistic movements tricks the brain into thinking that it’s experiencing the pleasant state of predictability and stability. The crux of the argument says that in times when uncertainty is beyond our control, the brain will subconsciously lead us to engage in ritualized movements as a compensatory mechanism to bring about a sense of personal control. This, the argument goes, is the starting point for all of life’s little (and big) rituals.” – Psychology Today

The every day stresses of today surely didn’t exist during ancient times (and vice versa) but in the end, regardless of what causes stress and dis-ease, we’re all seeking the same exact thing: a way to stay healthy, survive and enjoy life.

Just a simple ceramic bowl for sipping.
Just a simple metal bowl for listening.
Two simple rituals for healing.

 
Happy Relaxation…
Happy Sipping…
~The Chief Leaf

 

Energy Medicine (in a bowl)

Tea by the Sea

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The Little Green Giant Tea Kettle and a cuppa tea by the sea

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.

“Tea!”

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 Teas along 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 Lemon Tisane. 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 a Jane 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 Leaf like she was a long lost friend, as she did research and drank tea by the sea for 4 days.

Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

 

Tea by the Sea

4 Days of Afternoon Tea (in Edinburgh)

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Morning tea looking at the Castle

It’s called TR&D (Tea Research and Development).

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. Mellis for 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 Tea on 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’ Museum which 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 to The 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):

I can not say enough good things about Edinburgh. It’s topped my personal list of favorite cities and if there was a way to live there and drink tea all day long, I’d do it.

So after 4 days and logging 8+ miles of walking a day:

The work now begins as I take my “research” and create a new member to add to the Pearl Fine Teas family: a Scottish heritage blend. It’s debut is TBD.

Hope you enjoyed this post, the photos and find it helpful should decide to spend 4 days drinking tea in Edinburgh!

Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

 

4 Days of Afternoon Tea (in Edinburgh)

Tea Kindness #05: Jasmine Pearls

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Jasmine Dragon Pearls

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 Tea last 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.

 

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Green Tea Martini. Shaken. Not stirred.

Now that you have some information on Jasmine Dragon Pearls and Green Tea, what better way to end the year then with a wonderful TeaCocktail recipe 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
Rimming sugar

Directions:
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!

Happy New Year!
Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

Tea Kindness #05: Jasmine Pearls

Tea Kindness #04: Cinnamon Orange

Cinnamon
Cinnamon: Ground and Sticks

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:

  1. High in antioxidants called polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids – compounds which work to fight oxidative stress in the body especially as we age.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Fights viruses and infections by defending the body from illnesses since its naturally anti-microbial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral.

 

 

xmas time and mug on desk
Happy Christmas! Happy Sipping!

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… 

Happy Christmas!
Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

Tea Kindness #04: Cinnamon Orange

Welcome Yule! (Winter Solstice)

AdobeStock_143301654-Yule-CHart
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.

According to history.com:

“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.

 

Orange and spices
Fruits and spices

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:

  1. Gluhwein: This drink originated in German-speaking countries. It is a red wine heated with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, clovescitrus and sugar. Romainians call it vin fiert, in Moldova it is izvar, Italy it is vin brule, and in Latvia it is karstvins.
  2. 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.
  3. Navegado: This is a mulled wine from Chile. It is heated with cinnamon sticks, orange slices, cloves, sugar with raisins and almonds added.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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):

  • 2 tsp black tea (Kenya black)
  • 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.

Happy Solstice!
Happy Yule!
Happy Christmas!
Happy Sipping!
~ The Chief Leaf

 

 

Welcome Yule! (Winter Solstice)