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Christmas is almost here and that means fun and festive times with friends and family! Delicious food, the smell of the Christmas tree, decorations, the holiday specials on TV, and the arrival of loved ones. After the festivities comes everyone’s favorite activity: presents. Now, I love to receive gifts as much as the next person does, but I discovered as I got older that I love to give more than I love to receive. The exciting feeling of deciding what to give someone. If money is tight, I like to bake gifts. The best part, though, is seeing their faces light up when they unwrap the gifts.

Pat MugSo if you’re shopping for a tea lover (or even a coffee lover), mugs are some of the best gifts you can give. This past August, my oldest sister and I were shopping in a department store when we spotted the cutest mug for our stepmother. She isn’t much of a tea person but a huge coffee drinker and mugs are also her thing. She has a collection herself that I am not allowed to use (except for one mug that I love to use, hee hee). I knew I immediately had to purchase that mug for her (especially while I had some extra money. Never too early to start). It’s a cat that says, “I have an attitude and I know how to use it!” So I got this along with a bag of Minnie Mouse (she is a fan of her) jelly beans and that was the gift. I know she won’t eat the jelly beans but she will definitely use the mug.

I was lucky and picked this up in the summer when the holidays were 4 months away, but if you’re in a pinch for time this holiday season, just find a clever mug (Doctor Who, clever sayings, or whichever. There’s a mug for pretty much anyone) and fill it with some tea and honey sticks. A few envelopes of the Twinings Christmas Spice to warm up their holiday or the Twinings Winter Spice to soothe them into a crisp apple joy. Better yet, you could mix them both up and put a little ribbon or two. If tea is a little short, hot cocoa or sweets are always the best, especially chocolate!

Paperchase2Paperchase1One of the benefits of becoming older and wiser is that I am appreciating the simple things like tea and mugs and how big of a gift they are to me. I don’t need any fancy gifts as as long as I have tea and the comfort that comes from it along with my loved ones. The past two Christmases I received a mug each year. The first mug I received, I spotted it at Target while shopping with my oldest sister. That year I had become a self-proclaimed mug collector, so I told my my sister that I fancied that cup. It had some cute Japanese anime-like drawings of adorable little ladies on it from Paperchase Kishi Kishi (which was actually from the UK, as I read on the box) that was briefly sold at the big box store but sadly is no longer there. It was only about $5 so it didn’t cost very much but I didn’t think about buying it. I unwrapped it come Christmas and it was immediately one of my favorite gifts. The next year, my second older sister gave me a sock monkey mug with two handles on it that was also stuffed with hot cocoa mix and candy canes. It was another one of my favorite gifts of all time since I love sock monkeys and mugs and this was all in one!

Sock Monkey MugThat is one of my favorite things about mugs. It’s a pleasing feeling to learn your friends and family know you when they get you a mug with something you love on it (or in it. You might love giant mugs that are like soup bowls)! You get to express yourself and your loves/interests with them. Collecting mugs is a good hobby to take up. There’s a wide variety of mugs everywhere, so you can do a theme or mix and match. Just be careful because the collection does add up fast!

~CD

 

Green Tea

Wouldn’t it be great to find a great tasting beverage that has the potential to improve your health? There is such a beverage – tea. Research has indicated that tea is healthier than water. This definitely a positive point since tea has more flavor. So, what are the potential health benefits?

Research has found that tea is healthier for your body than water. Surprising, since popular consensus states water is the healthiest beverage for your body. Findings have been reported that tea rehydrates the body as well as provides disease-fighting antioxidants. Tea may offer protection against stroke, heart disease, and several types of cancers.

Do you want more reasons to drink tea? Drinking tea has potential benefits such as boost the immune system as well as strengthen teeth and bones. Tea may also improve artery function by aiding in blocking LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol).

How about drinking green tea? Research has found that senior citizens in Japan who consumed one or more cups of green tea per day were less likely to present cognitive and memory problems. Green tea contains EGCG, which appears to reduce the production of a toxic protein that clogs the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease.

All these healthy reasons make me want to get my infuser and brew a cup of tea. Health benefits and delicious taste make this an excellent beverage of choice. If only everything that tasted good proved to be healthy for us.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A classic OLS/ETS blog entry originally published 01.23.2009

For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the heart of Winter is upon us. In the U.S., that can range from freezing cold with 12-inch snowfalls and high winds to desert highs in the 70s (the poor darlings have to wear sweaters!) and the vague threat that something moist will actually fall from the skies. Hee! Whatever the weather is like where you are, there is a perfect Winter tea for you to enjoy.

The Perfect Tea Indoors When There’s a Blizzard Outdoors

A crackling fire, warm fuzzy slippers, a few layers of pullovers, a fresh batch of scones hot from the oven… hmmm… something’s missing here. Oh, yes… tea!! But it needs to be the right tea. Here is my tea of choice:

  • Blackcurrant Black Tea — A naturally flavored Ceylon black tea from estates at more than 5,500 feet above sea level. Wonderful very berry deep blackcurrant aroma and flavor with no chemical aftertaste. (my review)
Blackcurrant Black Tea (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Blackcurrant Black Tea (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A Grey Day Tea That Will Turn the Skies to Blue

Monk’s Blend (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Monk’s Blend (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Winter and grey skies go together like — you guessed it — scones and tea! And those grey skies can convey a feeling of anything from bleakness to coziness. For hubby and I it’s usually the latter. Grey skies are perfect background for a wonderful teatime, and that teatime can make those grey skies as cheerful as blue skies. A tea that is particularly effective at achieving this:

  • Monk’s Blend — A tea that delivers an incredible cup with the sweetness of pomegranate and the scent of vanilla. The liquid has light and fruity notes of grenadine and caramel that create a unique, heavenly flavor. (my review)

Tea You Can Drink While Wearing a Parka (But Not Necessarily While Skiing)

Snow being one of those precipitous Winter events, people tend to associate activities like skiing with Winter, too. Even if you don’t ski, you could find yourself part of a “ski party,” that is, a group of folks spending time at a ski resort, with some of them schussing through that powder of icy crystals. Since the outside temperatures are usually at freezing or below, warm attire such as parkas are worn. I remember one such ski trip where I was the only non-skier in the lot. Bundled in a parka, I relished a nice pot of hot tea all to myself. Ah! Can’t remember what tea that was, but here’s a tea that would be good to try:

Nine Bend Black Dragon (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Nine Bend Black Dragon (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

So, is there any one perfect Winter tea? I doubt it. There are many, for each of us has that perfect one all our own. Enjoy and stay warm and cozy!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

brit flagI fell in love with Britain at a young age, even going as far as wanting to live there when I grew up. When I did grow up, my life took different turns and I ended up staying in the United States. I figured the closest things to Great Britain would be to immerse myself into the food and culture. I became an English major at my college since I love to read and write. While my school offers a program to study abroad in Oxford, I am unable to go due to my current obligations. I hope to save up to go Britain for a visit so I can find the Globe Theatre, Big Ben, and ride a red double decker bus.

PG MonkeyHowever, Britain isn’t complete without a nice cuppa tea! I started my tea drinking journey with PG Tips after I watched one of their funny advertisements on their website featuring their mascot, a wooly monkey and his human companion, Al (played by English comedian Jonny Vegas). The tea bags are in pyramid form so the loose-leaf tea can unfurl and steep more freely than the standard, round, and flat teabags. The taste is smooth, crisp, and robust. The tea itself is strong when black but it can be mellowed out with the addition of milk.

digestiveFrom what I learned in my research, tea is an important part of life in Great Britain. My best friend and I went to an afternoon tea and I can see why the British love it so much! It’s very calming and relaxing to take some time to enjoy tea along with some sandwiches and tasty scones. Tea is considered a meal and there are a lot of places where you can stop have a nice cup of tea. When I have my tea at home, I enjoy it with some digestive biscuit dipped into my cup. But do be careful, they soak up rather quickly and can break apart and get lost in the bottom of the cup!

~CD

 

Well, most of us in the U.S. have set our clocks back for one hour. It’s that seasonal time change we undergo twice a year. If you’re like me, it can take a few days to adjust so that you don’t automatically wake up an hour earlier than you should (your internal clock will say it’s 7 a.m. while your clock now reads 6 a.m.) or get sleepy an hour earlier than your usual bedtime (the clock will say 10 p.m., but your body will say it’s 11 p.m.). Plus, those of you used to having your Elevenses Tea Time and your Afternoon Tea (at 4 p.m.) will find yourselves wanting tea at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. respectively. Tea can definitely help you make this adjustment to the seasonal time change. Here’s how.

Egyptian Chamomile Caffeine Free Herbal Tea - Loose Leaf Pouches (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Egyptian Chamomile Caffeine Free Herbal Tea – Loose Leaf Pouches (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Staying Awake Longer

This is a little tricky. You can have a nice strong cuppa tea such as matcha or a breakfast blend in mid-evening to keep you alert a bit longer. Then, switch to a nice cuppa chamomile infusion about a half hour before bedtime (the new one, that is) to help calm you and get you ready for sleep. Timing is critical. But so is avoiding taking in too much fluids shortly before going to bed. Your common sense will have to be the real judge here.

Staying Asleep Longer

If you follow the advice above but also don’t drink too much of the chamomile, you will be very likely to sleep until your alarm goes off. (Nothing is worse than waking up ahead of that alarm and then trying to get back to sleep just to be awaked by the alarm just as you have managed to doze off.) Another option is a cuppa tea with warm milk in it at bedtime. It will help you sleep deeper which will assure you don’t wake too early.

Adjusting Your Tea Times

This is going to take some willpower on your part. Or you can apply a little trick I’ve learned. Have an extra cuppa at breakfast. If this doesn’t work, though, you might try having your Elevenses tea time early – about 10:30 a.m. – and your Afternoon Tea also early by about a half hour. A couple of days of this will help you last until the new normal time.

Yes, resetting our clocks can lead to periods of adjustment. But with a bit of help from tea, you can cope!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Flowering Tea - 3 Flower Burst - Green Tea (ETS image)

Flowering Tea – 3 Flower Burst – Green Tea (ETS image)

Tea is being cultivated in more and more countries around the world. China and India remain top producers with Sri Lanka and Kenya being close contenders. It makes me and others interested in the culture of these countries, and that includes some of their holidays. So, I have been looking them up and thought I’d start sharing some of them with you as a way of enhancing your experience of enjoying their teas.

Guy Fawkes Day – United Kingdom

Always on November 5th and also known as Gunpowder Day. It dates back to when King James I, an avid Protestant, was crowned king and began persecuting Catholics (unlike “bloody” Queen Mary who did the opposite). Well, as can be expected, a group of Catholics didn’t like this very much and sought to send a bit of a message by blowing up the British Houses of Parliament when the king and his supporter were in the buildings. Their leader was – tick… tick… tick! – Guy Fawkes! He led the infamous Gunpowder Conspiracy of 1605. He was stopped as he was about to light the fuse for all the gunpowder that was set in place for the big bang. And appropriately the day is celebrated with fireworks and bonfires – and effigies of Fawkes. The UK is quite a bunch of tea drinkers, although their tastes are getting more varied. And they have a bonafide tea garden there called Tregothnan. A great tea to celebrate with is Gunpowder (hee! couldn’t resist).

Veteran’s Day – United States

Always on November 11th, this date was called Armistice Day and first celebrated in 1921, but was changed to Verteran’s Day in 1954. It honors those members of the Armed Forces who served and died in any wars or military service. The date was selected since it was the day marking the official end of World War I in 1918. It’s a time for pausing and having a moment of silence – and then a nice hot pot of tea! More and more tea gardens are growing tea here in the U.S., from the garden in Charleston, South Carolina, to the ones in Hawaii. Time to celebrate with a nice blooming/flowering tea.

Labor Thanksgiving Day – Japan

November 23rd is the annual celebration of Labor Thanksgiving Day (勤労感謝の日 Kinrō Kansha no Hi) where thanks is giving to those who perform manual labor in fields and factories. Various festivals are held throughout the country, and school children give drawings of thanks as gifts to local kōbans (police stations). This holiday is the modern incarnation of a harvest festival known as Niiname-sai (新嘗祭?, also read as Shinjō-sai) that possibly dates back as far as the reign of the legendary Emperor Jimmu (660–585 BC). The modern version came about after World War II in 1948. You have several Japanese teas to choose from, so just pick one for your celebration.

While you dedicated tea drinkers certainly need no such reasons for drinking a great cuppa, these will help you get a better feel for the source of those teas and may inspire you to a special toast to them all.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Anyone for another cuppa?” (From Yahoo! Images)

“Anyone for another cuppa?” (From Yahoo! Images)

What in the world could Christopher Columbus have to do with tea? During the time he was out sailing around on those dangerous oceans and trying to find India, tea had not yet made its way to Europe, where he was from. And tea growing in India was confined to parts of the state of Assam at the northern tip of that country. He was seeking spices and other treasures, not to plunder but to trade other goods for. To get there from Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc., meant sailing around Africa, and getting around the southern tip was especially treacherous, subject to unpredictable and wild storms that regularly sank ships. So he sought an alternate route.

Now, remember that this was a time when folks weren’t quite yet sure that the world was a sphere. Many still thought it was flat, and even those convinced that it was a sphere weren’t quite sure about traveling westward across uncharted oceans. The idea of sea monsters and edges of the world dropping off into a void still persisted. Getting together a crew was a bit problematic. And then when he had managed that and those three ships (the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria) had sailed farther west than others before them from that part of Europe (the Vikings are another matter), what happens? He runs into land. The wrong land. It wasn’t even this continent. It was some islands. Sheesh!

Here’s where the tea part comes in:

If tea had come to Europe, there would have been lots of tea parties. And we all know how tea not only stimulates but calms, so they would have had tea and then said, “Heck with the spices. I’m taking a nap.” And those islands would have been discovered by somebody else. Maybe even Vikings. And it’s anybody’s guess how history would have gone from there. Especially considering how those Vikings took over Dublin and then a chunk of the rest of Ireland. And let’s not forget their settling Iceland.

So, raise your teacup in a toast to Christopher Columbus and his inability to get to India by sailing west from Italy. Poor misguided sailor. We could have all been speaking Scandinavian right now. Skol!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A “leaf peeping” map so you can find the best “shows”! (via Yahoo! Images)

A “leaf peeping” map so you can find the best “shows”! (via Yahoo! Images)

It’s that time of year when the leaves on those deciduous trees start to lose their chlorophyll and go from green to various hues of yellow, orange, red, and brown. Lots of maps appear across the Internet to guide you to the best spots for a bit of “leaf peeping.” A wonderful pastime. But here we are talking about a different kind of leaf peeping – taking a good gander at those tea leaves after they’ve steeped. It can be quite an eyeful and avoids all those extra miles on your car’s odometer.

While the appearance of tea leaves does not always indicate the value and flavor quality of the tea, it can certainly help you feel connected to where the teas come from. Tea growers in an increasing number of countries, including here in the U.S., work hard to bring those leaves to market. So a moment of your time to ogle and drool over those leaves is a small thing to do by way of saying, “Thanks!”

Top to bottom: black tea, Dragon Pearl green tea, and Spring Pouchong oolong tea. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Top to bottom: black tea, Dragon Pearl green tea, and Spring Pouchong oolong tea. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

One thing you will note is that the colors of the tea leaves shown here are rather Autumn-like in their hues. The top one is a tippy black tea with coppery color to the leaves. The middle is Dragon Pearls Green Tea showing those “pearls” fully opened after two or three infusions and sporting a bright yellowish green hue. The bottom one is Spring Pouchong Tea, a lightly oxidized oolong (although some consider it a green tea) with a mix of those small tip leaves and larger ones from further down the stem (but not too far) and displaying a bright green (kind of like a tree that is resisting the call of that time of change).

One thing is for sure: you don’t get to leaf-peep with a bagged tea, especially one filled with tea dust. So every now and then go for some loose leaf tea and an infuser or strainer, like one of these. It’s a bit more effort, but will put forth a bounty of tea time pleasure that the bagged teas can’t. Or is that just the artist in me talking?

Enjoy the leaf peeping at your next tea time!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tea and a big sneeze is a bad combo. But it happens. You feel it coming on. You try to hold it in. For awhile it seems as if you will succeed and have time to swallow that big mouthful of tea you just swigged from the teacup. Then, just when you are mentally giving a sigh of relief and about to swallow that tea, the sneeze bursts forth…along with that mouthful of tea. Murphy’s law at work here.

(From Yahoo! Images)

(From Yahoo! Images)

Well, the other day, without warning or any opportunity to try to hold it back, the big sneeze totally wasted a mouthful of superb English Breakfast No. 1 (with some milk and sweetener, of course). But just as you shouldn’t cry over spilt milk, crying over sneezed tea is equally futile. Thankfully, it wasn’t the last drop of tea in the house, or I must confess that an air of panic would have gripped me quite strongly at that moment. As it was, the biggest issue was clean-up. The next issue was getting the tea that went up my nose back out again (trying to be delicate here). It takes awhile. And a lot of facial tissues.

Tea is said to have a lot of health benefits (some backed up by real scientific studies and others…well…). Their effect on your nasal membranes can be less than beneficial, however. And things added into the tea, such as flower petals, fruits, lemon juice, sugar, and honey, will have their own effects, good or bad. Tea with milk in it is better, though, and can lessen the effects somewhat. That’s been my experience, at least, but definitely is not scientific. In fact, I searched and searched and cannot find a study done on people sneezing while drinking tea and having some or all of it go up their nose. Maybe some bright doctoral student will take this on as his/her thesis. Or not.

My personal tips:

  • Blow your nose well until you get out as much tea as you can.
  • Use a mild nasal spray, preferably one that is just a saline solution, spray up both sides of the nose per manufacturer’s directions.
  • Take smaller gulps of tea.
  • Avoid black pepper and other sneeze-inducing substances when drinking tea.
  • Keep plenty of extra tea on hand so wasting a little won’t be too disastrous.

These days, we tend not to carry cloth handkerchiefs, but you might consider it. Not those delicate and virtually useless lace ones. Have handy those nice white cotton cloth square ones. You may have to grab it at a moment’s notice to save your tea time guests from an unexpected incident.

Above all, don’t worry about it and enjoy your tea!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The general consensus these days is that tea is not bad for you – and there is a fair amount of evidence that it might even be quite good for you. There are exceptions, of course. Like the woman who drank excessive amounts of iced black tea over many years and suffered some unpleasant side effects. But if consumed in moderation – or even moderate excess (guilty) – you could do a lot worse than tea.

But the idea that tea was a healthy drink was not always thus. From the time that tea came to Europe in the early seventeenth century there were those who praised it, but there were also those who cautioned against the ill effects that would surely result from consuming it. This sort of thing was still going on in 1833, when a certain John Cole, of London, penned a paper called On The Deleterious Effects Produced By Drinking Tea And Coffee In Excessive Quantities.

He goes on at length – nearly five pages – and, for obvious reasons, we’ll focus on his thoughts regarding the perceived evils of tea. Early on, Cole, a medical man who read and debated the pros and cons of his paper in front of the London Medical Society that year, sums things up by noting that tea seems “to have the power of reducing the constitution.” He does note that this is the result of “excessive” consumption, but doesn’t define what that means. I personally don’t consider my 6-8 cups per day to be excessive but some might.

Cole goes on to describe some of the supposed ill effects of tea, such as a gnawing in the stomach, a feeling of fullness in the neck and a flushed face and sparkling eyes. And that’s not the end of it. Next up are a number of case studies. Several of these look at women aged 25-40, who were experiencing mostly stomach problems, supposedly from drinking tea, and one unfortunate woman who “suffered sudden attacks of Insensibility” after drinking tea.

Which sounds like grim enough stuff. But over the years I’ve been writing about tea I’ve come to learn that the tea of yesteryear was frequently adulterated, sometimes with mostly innocuous substances and other times with more scary ingredients. Which leads one to wonder if tea was really the culprit in these cases or not.

In any event, if you’d like to read Cole’s letter in its entirety, go here.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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