The world keeps spinning and for many of us the seasons keep changing, making for great tea party times. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the chemistry of the flora around us, especially trees, is cycling back to that autumn procedure of beginning to shut down and prep for winter dormancy. In other words, the leaves are changing colors.
I remember as a child walking to elementary school at this time of year. The sidewalks would blend into the lawns they cut a path through as the leaves of oaks, catalpas, maples, walnuts, and many other tree species first lost their chlorophyll, then shown bright in the fading sun their colorful array, then finally fell in deep piles. Those piles crunched underfoot when dry and were slippery and sometimes slimy after a rain. Sometimes I had to collect the better specimens for a class assignment. Oak leaves were usually all brown by the time they fell, but the shape was still interesting. Maples were better. Some were bright yellow while others sported a range from bright red to blazing orange.
Growing up in an area that experienced this change, unlike places like Florida, southern Texas, New Mexico, or Arizona, I was used to seeing people driving slowly along the streets “oohing” and “aahing” at the colors. Years later, I heard the term “leaf peeping” to describe this activity. These days “leaf peeping” is a big tourism business, so much so that local, state, and federal governments spend thousands of tax dollars on fancy Website displays so that you can know where the best colors are.
As one who lives the “tea life,” I see this as a perfect opportunity for a tea party! Peeping at brightly colored leaves while sipping tasty tea.
This is where you need teas that travel well, not to mention something in which to carry them. I like to steep up a potful at home, fill my thermos, and head out. That way, I can steep the tea loose and use a strainer to keep the leaf pieces out of the thermos. If I’m having a tea to which I usually add milk and sweetener (CTC Assams, Keemun, Kenyans, etc.), it’s easier to do this, too, at home. However, for those of you who want to steep “on the road” as it were, bring along your loose teas and some T-sacs or some teas in nylon sachets (such as Mighty Leaf).
Some Websites that map leaf colors, so you can know before you go:
- Wisconsin — TravelWisconsin.com — Great map and table showing percentage turned in various locations. Links to various sites.
- Minnesota — Minnesota DNR — Great map and table showing percentage turned in various locations, links to details.
- Virginia — Dept of Forestry — General map of state. Info, reports.
- N. Carolina — Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, NC area — Beautiful photos of past years’ color. List of events in area. Best places to visit.
- Maine — Official Fall Foliage Website — Map, info. Updated periodically.
- New Hampshire — Foliage Report 2010 — Fab Flash setup with calendar on right. Mouseover a date to see the color prediction for that date on the state map on the left. Cool! Just remember that this is a prediction, not actual data.
- Vermont — Foliage Forecaster — Cool animation that you can stop any time.
- Canada — Fall Colours (colors) in Canada — Links to best peeping locations.
- Great Lakes Region — Fall Colors in the Great Lakes Region — Links to various update sites.
- Indiana — Indiana Leaf Cams — See before you go.
- Michigan — Michigan Fall Color Tours.
- Ohio — Fall Color Begins to Reveal Itself as Season Changes — Report on current conditions.
- Acadia Park — Leaf Peeping — Photos and info.
Don’t forget to bring along your “travel tea.” Of course, you could always just stay home and peep at the tea leaves as they steep in your pot, gaiwan, kyusu (Japanese teapots that generally have a built-in net to allow the leaves the most room possible), etc. Whichever way you decide to celebrate the season, have fun!
Make sure to stop by A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!