Tea Giving: Day 15 (Jasmine Pearls)

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“Come, give us a taste of your quality.” – Shakespeare

Jasmine Dragon Pearls are one of the most famous scented tea in China.

I’ve read conflicting stories about how Jasmine found its way to China. One suggests it originated from Iran and traveled along the Silk Road to China during the Tang Dynasty. And, that scenting green tea with jasmine flowers starting around the Song and Ming Dynasties which is around c. 1240 – 1368. Still another says it arrived in China via India during the Han Dynasty which is c. 206 BC to 220 AD, but did not really catch on until the Qing Dynasty c. 1644 – 1912.

Thats a huge span of time. Regardless of when Jasmine actually found its way to China and they started scenting green tea with doesn’t really matter, does it? The important point is that it exists and that we get to enjoy it.

The best is grown and produced in the Fujian Region but Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Guangdong and Zhejiang also produce high qualities versions. (Vietnam also has a rather fantastic version of Jasmine Pearls!)

Tea leaves are typically harvested in early spring, hand rolled into little balls or pearls and then stored until late summer when jasmine flowers bloom. Flowers are picked very early in the morning when the air is still cool and the buds are closed. In the evening the buds open and the flowers release their amazing aroma which scents the green tea. The jasmine flowers are placed in layers with the green tea alternating between tea and flower and stored over night. It takes roughly 4 hours or so for the fragrance and flavor to be absorbed into the green tea leaves. This process is often repeated many times to get the right amount of fragrance and flavor into the tea.

You don’t need too many Pearls to make a fine cup of this tea. And brewing it in glass is highly recommended so that the visual part of watching the leaves unfold adds to the tea drinking experience.

This tea is beloved by many people because it’s simply fantastic. It can be enjoyed hot or as a divine iced tea as well. 

Day 15 of our 25 Days of Tea Giving features Jasmine Dragon Pearls and you can enjoy 25% OFF today. Just use code TEAGIVING15 at checkout on the website!

If you haven’t experienced the flavor of Jasmine Dragon Pearls, today is a good day to give it a try. 

Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

 

 

 

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Tea Giving: Day 15 (Jasmine Pearls)

Tea Giving: Day 10 (Bao Zhong)

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Gong Fu Style of serving tea

Welcome to Taiwan.

Home to some our most favorite Oolong teas which most definitely includes Baozhong.

Pouchong or Baozhong in Mandarin, means “wrapped in paper” referring to an original older and unique processing style from the past when the tea was literally wrapped in paper during the drying process.

For Oolong lovers and TeaNerds reading this: Our Baozhong is oxidized at around 12% which is considered light oxidation and creates an end tea product that falls somewhere between green and oolong. It lacks the sharpness of some greens and is much more mild than other oolongs. It’s sweet, fresh, fruity, floral and buttery. It requires no sweeteners. In fact, adding any sugars would be almost down right sacrilegious and would ruin the complexity this tea has to offer.

Tea grown within Pinglin county in Northern Taiwan and processed in a specific style is considered the best quality of Pouchong – which is where ours is from.

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Wen Shan Bao Zhong

The leaves of Baozhong are large, twisty and dark green. For brewing, its similar to other greener oolongs in terms of water temperature (175°F) and time. This tea can handle multiple infusions. I’ve gotten up to seven!

High in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals it has wonderful health benefits. There is research that suggests the following:

Increased Heart Health

  • May improve your cardiovascular health and lower risk of heart disease
  • May help lower cholesterol and reduce risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Rich in Quercetin which may help dilate the blood vessels

Dual Effect: Relaxing / Stimulating

  • Contains the amino acid L-theanine known to calm and relax the nervous system
  • Combined with caffeine it increases alertness without the jitters

Skin, Bones, Teeth

  • May keep your skin looking youthful and prevent signs of aging from antioxidants
  • Fluorine and calcium in tea may strengthen bones and prevent tooth decay

That makes for a pretty strong case for drinking tea daily and trying Baozhong specifically. If you are a lover of Oolongs or are intrigued to try it for the first time, please enjoy 25% OFF our Baozhong at checkout by using code TEAGIVING10 on the website. You won’t regret welcoming this tea into your life.

Happy Sipping! (Kuàilè de chuài yǐn)
~The Chief Leaf

Tea Giving: Day 10 (Bao Zhong)

Tea Giving: Day 5 (Black Currant)

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Outlaw berry saves entire country.

Did you know that in the early 1900’s black currants were banned in the U.S? Evidently the shrub created white pine blister rust which is a fungus that moves quickly going back and forth between black currant and white pine. This fungus or rust could in some cases kill the entire pine tree. The U.S. considered this fruit a threat to the logging industry so it was banned. Once they realized that blister rust could come from other plants (like gooseberries) they eventually lifted the Federal ban on black currants in some states in the 1960s but its still very rare to find them growing here. Currently they are allowed to grow in New York, Connecticut, Oregon, and Vermont. Yet, the majority of Americans can only enjoy processed or dried berries.

Can you imagine if the ban stuck and were’t able to enjoy black currant tea?  What a dark, dark world that would be.

Lucky for us, black currants abound and when dried, they are the most glorious fruit to blend with black tea. It’s a classic offering at afternoon teas across the U.K. and even here in the U.S. This blend holds a special place in my tea infused heart as it was the first caffeinated flavored tea I ever tried as a teenager. Its often one I will often choose on a gloomy day in DC. It’s also makes one of the finest iced teas. We sell a lot of this at our local markets and whenever black currant is on the menu… we know its going to be a busy day.

Black currant has some nice wellness benefits, like being high in vitamin E and C. In fact, it beats all other citrus fruits combined for levels of vitamin C. If it wasn’t for this little berry, more lives might have been lost during WWII because currants were the only food source for Vitamin C due to limited transport of fruits to the island. Could this be in part why so many British people love black currant tea?

If you haven’t tasted this classic: Black Currant – here’s your chance to try this previously outlawed fruit and boost your vitamin C levels with 25% OFF today. Just use CODE: TEAGIVING5 at checkout.

Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

Tea Giving: Day 5 (Black Currant)

25 Days of Tea Giving – Day 1: Francis!


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Cue Justin Timberlake music… “We’re bringing Tea Giving back…”

Ok a little off-key, but what matters is that we are bringing back and kicking off our 25 Days of Tea Giving today – on Giving Tuesday!

If you are a regular TeaLove / Pearl Fine Teas follower, then you may remember the original version of this from 2016 called 25 Days of Tea where we spotlighted and discounted a different tea each day leaving up to Christmas Day.  In 2017, we called it Tea Kindness and gave a discount weekly.  In 2018, we’re back to tea giving daily with discounts from today until Dec 21st – the last Friday before Christmas.

We hope you will watch us here on the TeaLove Blog, as well as on Social Media (Instagram,Facebook and even Twitter) and keep an eye out on the Pearl Fine Teas Website as well for each day of tea.  So without further adieu….

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Francis!

DAY 1: FRANCIS!

Kicking off Day 1 with one of our most recent and beloved tea blending endeavor: The Francis! Tea Blend. Francis caught our attention on Instagram in early summer and we’ve been smitten ever since. The backstory on this micro kitten is heart warming and you can read about it here on the latest feature on The Dodo. He’s also all over our Instagram page.

We created this blend to help raise money for the NoVA Cat Clinic’s Chris Griffey Memorial Feline Foundation which helps special needs and neo-natal kittens. 10% of sales from the Francis! Blend is being donated to their foundation.

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Francis! Tea Blend

About The Francis! Blend: Long whiskery green tea leaves, tiny flowers that open slowly, small bits of crystalized ginger, dried ginger and granulated honey, with a micro-hint of orange citrus created in honor of our favorite micro-kitten! Fresh and bright with a touch of sweetness – with a slight zing from the ginger linger on the palate for a long while… A healthy green tea blend that brings about spontaneous happiness.

• Aroma: Earthy, sweet, floral, ginger

• Liquor (liquid): Light pale yellow

• Flavor profile: Easy, gingery, hints of citrus and honey

• Brewing recommendation: 175° Fº  / 1-3 minutes

• Caffeine: Yes.

If you are interested in giving the Francis! Blend a try and supporting a wonderful cause, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas teashop and use code: GIVETEA1 at checkout and enjoy 20% Off  this Blend – Today only.

We’re already donating 10% but are upping it to 20% today on Giving Tuesday! Thank you for supporting us so we may support others!

Watch here tomorrow for Tea Giving Day 2!

Happy Giving! Happy Sipping!
– The Chief Leaf

 

 

 

25 Days of Tea Giving – Day 1: Francis!

Parisian Tea Adventure (Part 1)

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Jetlag Shmetlag.

I didn’t care that I had to fly from DC to Toronto to finally land in Paris only to make my way to the Airbnb I booked that presented itself as “Close to the Le Marais.” 

(Side bar: It’s never a good sign when the word “close” is used in an Airbnb listing. I should have known better.)

Upon arrival at the door of this “Le Marais” flat, the host took my bags and stored them so I could begin the day. When I asked how far we were from Le Marais he said, “At least 26 minutes on foot. But it’s better to take the Metro.”

I immediately heard a voice in my head says, “Oh hell no. You didn’t come to Paris to Metro. You only have 2 days.”  The voice in my head was right. I came to walk and wander New York City Style. So, while standing on the side of a busy road I called my old standby hotel which had originally been booked online (and why I booked an Airbnb) with the hope that “par chance” a room would be available.  When I heard the voice on the other end say: “Oui” – I hung up, got my bags and tried to find a taxi. Not so easy as you may know if you have ever tried to find a taxi in Paris. There are rules.

Rolling my bag along the bumpy sidewalk, I walked up to a waiter at one of the cafes and asked him if he knew where the closest taxi stop was. He was only too happy to help me and literally ran out into the busy road looking for one to make stop. He then made a joke and said, “Just stand here looking beautiful and they will stop.” Ah Paris. Whomever said the French weren’t friendly must have been a mighty miserable curmudgeon.

My drive to the Latin Quarter was narrated ever so perfectly by an older French driver with his gorgeous old school thick accent. He pointed out all the different buildings telling me a story of each one. It was brilliant and full of passion. I didn’t have the heart to tell him this wasn’t my first time in Paris, so I listened and savored each moment until we rolled up to my favorite, quaint little hotel – and pretty much the only one I’ve ever stayed at in Paris: Hotel Claude Bernard. Three stars, nothing fancy or over the top, slightly old Paris in feel and my favorite.

The man at the front desk was someone I recognized from my last stay many, many, many years ago. While he checked me in I told him how when I used to stay I always got the room on the top floor facing the street.

He said, “Ah yes, I remember! #62! I am going to make some re-arrangements and you will have your old room again. Plus a nice breakfast in the morning. D’accord?” D’accord! 

He handed me my key and as I turned to make my way to my room I faced my old friend:  the funniest, littlest elevator maybe ever created, and only large enough to fit 1 suitcase and a person. A memory came flooding back of the time when a friend and I tried to fit in it together and it got stuck between floors well after midnight. The evening desk clerk came running to our aid to try to pry open the metal doors. When I asked him if this had ever happened before, his reply was, “Uh, basically never.” Basically. Never.  The sound of spontaneous roaring laughter from all three of us echoed through the hotel as he braced himself with his feet against the metal door and pulled me by the arms to get me out of the elevator. Both of us laying on the carpet laughing for a good long while.

But this time it was just me and my cute suitcase rolling into the lift to the 5th floor, then climbing the rounded staircase to the 6th floor to my beloved room #62 with its tiny balcony, deep long tub and wrought iron bed frame. I felt that kind of joy one feels when you can relax into something that feels safe and familiar, like home. With sun shining, cars honking below and a deep blue sky, I trotted down all 6 flights and set out on foot to the first reason I was in Paris: Research/Tea at Mariage Freres.

Leaving my hotel and wandering the winding streets of the touristy Latin Quarter making my way across the river with a quick stop at Notres Dames, I paused. Just to take in the beauty of the day that had started out so many hours ago with a long flight on Air Canada that delivered me exactly where I wanted to be. Living. Felt. Good.

The winding continued into the Marais until I arrived at 35 Rue du Bourg Tibourg – the original location of Mariage Freres, and perhaps my favorite. Located on sleepy old road, you enter the teahouse and are greeted with its old weathered dark wood, tea tins placed perfectly on shelves and an intoxicating aroma. The dark lighting from small strands of light that find its way in adds an air of Harry Potter-like magic… and like you just stepped through a worm hole and went back in time. It’s simply delightful.

It wasn’t crowded so I was able to linger and review the tea menu, smelling different selections generously presented by the gentleman behind the counter. Christian was dressed in an impeccable blue suit, his English was impressive and his knowledge of tea even better. I started with Yunnan black teas which are some of my absolute favorites and ended up selecting Yunnan D’Or (Gold).  Then on to Oolongs, and Puers and the best Dragonwell I’ve had this year… it went on and on and on… with questions and comments and stories and opinions. Tea Happiness Level: 100.

I had another moment similar to the one just an hour or so earlier that made me pause once again: Along with good health, the luxury of time and travel is like winning the lottery. And I made sure to savor every minute I spent researching, smelling and talking tea in this foreign city.

At the end or our tea exploration,  I asked Christian for his recommendation on a tea he thought I should not leave without having. He brought me a black tea from Colombia. Totally unexpected and currently on deck for me to try in the coming days.

With my giant bag of “research” in hand, I was then handed off and escorted to a perfect table situated under a skylight. The juxtaposition of the dark romantic teashop next to the light white tearoom looking up at a blue sky was a gorgeous jolt to my senses. White linens, actual silver ware and the most beautiful bowl of sugar I had ever seen sat on the table. The menu itself was beautifully designed, and the finely curated cuisine seemed to go on for forever. I wanted it all.

After a review of the 600 teas on the tea menu, my decision was to take the waiters suggestion and try their popular Opera Blue Tea. “Why blue? What is it made of?” I had questions.

When the perfect porcelain pot of tea nestled inside a silver pot landed on the table, I poured its liquid into the fine bone china teacup.  The liquid was blue – just like he said. I had to allow it to open up and then cool a bit before the first sip. Interesting. I took another sip trying to figure out what this unusual tea tasted like. Another few sips were required. Ah ha.

Waffles. That’s exactly what it reminded me of: slightly nutty, almost bread-y with notes of grain and a very, very slight hint of sweetness.  I had heard that the longer you let it brew the more complex and flavorful it becomes. So I allowed it to steep longer as I sat and read the book on the table, stared up at the blue sky and slowly but purposefully began to eat the most interesting green tea guacamole I have ever had. (And I’ve had a lot.) Here is how Opera Blue tea is described on their website:

 

“The charm and pure emotions of the opera are intensely echoed in OPÉRA BLUE, an irresistible velvety and caressing blue tea. In the seductive indigo blue-coloured cup are singing notes of vanilla and red berries highlighted by the milky gourmandise of a blue tea in a perfectly balanced symphony. A tea as fascinating and sensual as an opera aria.”

Blue tea paired with Matcha guacamole was a truly interesting cacophony of flavors that crashed into each other. The grain-like flavor of the tea against the fresh vegetal creaminess of the guac was worth the experiment. I did my best to eat slowly and as humanly as possible, but it was not easy given the level of deliciousness in that green glob of goodness. In the end, while there is no denying how interesting the Opera Blue tea was, it turned out not to be my preferred cup. So I moved on.

Hello Darjeeling D’or. I’ve been waiting for you.

Part of their Darjeeling Haute Couture Collection, this tea is brilliant elegance. It might send a Darjeeling lover into full orbit. Here is how they describe the leaf and infusion on the the website:

Dried leaves : The buds with ardent golden nuances exhale delicious notes of tamarind and ylang-ylang honey. 

Infused leaves : Shimmering umber. Tender and flavourful on the palate, the buds are just as delightful to the nose. Syrupy notes of hawthorn dance amongst the aroma of roasted tea tree nut. 

Liquor : Pastel gold. Soft like cotton flower, and as fragrant as a magnolia bouquet, the liquor is seductive. Carnation and pink lavender compose an aroma punctuated by hints of suave lemon balm. 

A jewel of a tea. 

I do not disagree. One of the most delightful Darjeeling teas I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. The complexity of floral notes is exactly how its described and it was a wise choice on my part to pair with the second gastronomic creation I chose: Matcha Creme Brulee.

Assuming you take any of this advice and try what I have suggested, you must know in advance that Matcha Creme Brulee, dusted with a single line of powdered sugar and topped with 3 perfect berries is a perfect way to end a long day of travel to Paris. The thick, slightly tinted green cream against the burnt sugar top layer? All I can say is this: If you are a Creme Brulee lover, you must order this if you are ever in Paris at Mariage Freres. You can send me a thank you e-mail afterwards!

Sadly, my research ended there. And what a truly flavorful conclusion it was. I made sure to sit a little longer before leaving, knowing that this would be my only opportunity during this short trip to enjoy the salon. Mariage Freres is always a destination for me when I stop in Paris. I hope every tea lover has the opportunity to enjoy a truly French Tea experience like this. Perhaps add it to your Tea Bucket List?

Happy Sipping! (Bonne fête!)

~The Chief Leaf (La feuille en chef)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parisian Tea Adventure (Part 1)

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)

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)