Did you know?

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Did you know, O Readers, that we are currently running a faboo Kickstarter campaign to gather funds for printing GREETING CARDS with the TRIXIEPIX logo on them? Yes, indeed we are — and it is going very well. In two-point-five weeks we are at 58% of the campaign goal. If you haven’t seen our links and prompts on Facebook or Pinterest yet, please let us guide you from this very post to VIEW, COMMENT, and VOTE ON images — you don’t even have to sponsor the project to do this! Your input will help us to select the twelve grooviest TEA images and 12 to 18 stupendous flower images to print in the first run. CAMPAIGN RUNS THROUGH EASTER SUNDAY, 05 April 2015, 11:55 PT.

To see the Kickstarter page… https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1401500222/trixiepix-greeting-cards-with-logo

To see the images on Facebook:
TEA —> https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152716783226398.1073741827.61373046397&type=3

and FLOWERS —> https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152716772191398.1073741826.61373046397&type=3

Pinterest —> https://www.pinterest.com/trixieteamaiden/trixiepix-greeting-card-kickstarter-project-floral/

THANK YOU for taking a look and posting comments in FB or Pinterest or here!
~ Trixie

Book Review: MODERN TEA

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The cover of MODERN TEA – book photo by Trixie; original tea image by Jenifer Altman.

MODERN TEA by Lisa Boalt Richardson, with photographs by Jenifer Altman
Chronicle Books, 2014  ISBN 978-1-4521-1229-9  $19.95 US
available here

A new tea book — how exciting! It is always enjoyable to look inside a new tea book, especially a handsome new tea book written by a person we know Knows Tea… and Lisa Knows Tea, doesn’t she? Lisa Boalt Richardson is the force behind the Alpharetta, Georgia business Lisa Knows Tea, which by its very name lets you know that this woman is serious about our beloved beverage. In MODERN TEA she turns her attention, palate, and descriptive prowess to a range of tea-tinged topics intended to enlighten and entertain journeyman and veteran tea enthusiasts — for who but an enthusiast reads a tea book, pray tell?

There is indeed plenty of information to delight even those of us who already have shelves full of tea books — descriptions of new developments in the realms of tea horticulture and manufacture (for example, the information about Yellow Tea on page 35 was new and wonderful to us); and there is a helpful inforgraphic (one of those beautiful things we used to call charts) called “How to Determine Water Temperature by Sight” on page 65 which I plan to post near our kitchen kettle for Trixie’s edification. As tea cultivation spreads throughout the world, abetted by climate change as well as by the horticultural prowess of people such as Nigel Melican, the information starting on page 15, “Where is tea grown?,” is timely and important.

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Table of contents, MODERN TEA. Book photo by Trixie; original tea image by Jenifer Altman.

As a tea maven who travels quite a bit, sharing tea with people in many lands, I was particularly pleased to find several cultures’ tea-ways described in the book’s third chapter, “Tea Ceremonies and Rituals” — for how better can we mix and mingle with people everywhere than through the sharing of tea? — though, in my heart of hearts I do wish that Lisa’s editors had allowed her space to include Korean and African tea-making — and a description of the simple and oh-so-MODERN Japanese sencha ceremony — in addition to the included Chinese, Japanese (a formal cha-no-yu protocol with matcha is described), Taiwanese, English, Moroccan, French, Russian, and Iranian tea-serving styles. Come to think of it, the inclusion of German and Czech tea-drinking styles would also have been welcome, as those countries certainly enjoy vibrant tea cultures nowadays.

Trixie and I are always overjoyed to see cold-infusion methods described, and Lisa gives such a one on pages 67-68. Cold-infusion is not only excellent for making “iced” tea, it is an alternative way to prepare some teas for sampling, as it brings out full flavors without much tannic influence, so you can discover layers of flavor in a tea that you might not have found by hot-infusion alone… I will expound on this another time, but let me now praise Lisa and her team for including cold-infusion in this book.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the quote from Bill Waddington (owner of TeaSource in Minnesota and a teacher of note) on page 62 — I shan’t quote the whole thing here, because I want you to buy the book and read it for yourselves, but Mr. Waddington strongly encourages us to find our own way into tea, to develop our own preferences and joys, through tasting and experimentation. Yes! It feels intimidating to put any strange food into our mouths, but how else can we learn about it? Try unfamiliar teas, preferably in the company of one or more friends, and you can see right away how one person will love what you might not like at all, and vice versa — this is the thrill of exploring tea.

As for the design of this handsome book, well, it is a beautiful square shape, easy to hold in one hand while grasping a teacup or mug in t’other; text is large enough even for older eyes (that would be Trixie, ahem); the generally aquatic color scheme is peaceful and alluring; and the photographs by Jenifer Altman are simple, clear, and appropriately placed. One does, however, bemoan the lack of photo captions, especially in the images throughout Chapter One in which several teas are shown but not identified — how shall a newbie learn? Even a seasoned tea person has a bit of a guessing game to match teas to text in that first chapter — and gorgeous teas they are, too, provided by the aforementioned Mr. Waddington of TeaSource.

One final quibble — emphasizing that this and my other rants speak to editorial and design decisions not likely in the control of our dear Lisa, so we blame her not — there are many wonderful sidebars (short sections of related text) throughout the book which are separated from the main text in a quirky and not-wholly-successful way: pale “splashes” of color appear over the sidebar text to indicate a separation, and the font is changed but the size appears the same — on several occasions I (a careful reader) was confused because my eyes followed along from column to column, not “hopping over” those sidebars as the designer thought I automatically would. Again, these are NOT complaints aimed at Ms. Richardson at all, for we, as book designers ourselves, know the rigors of book-making and can only wish that the designers on this project were as keen to read about tea as we are (for when your first priority is to absorb a text, you welcome a book design that enables rapid absorption and does not hinder you in any way).

Oops! I fibbed — there is one further point: the index at the end of the book is maddeningly incomplete, for it omits every human being mentioned in the text EXCEPT a few tea sommeliers whose quotes appear in Chapter Four… what about the historical tea growers? Or the important people mentioned in the text who are developing a vital tea future on our climate-challenged planet? I certainly needed to be able to find their names for later reference — I have marked my copy with sticky notes to find them again.

Let none of my nit-picky point-outs deter you from this book, for it is a great addition to the library of a tea lover, especially a tea lover who is newer to this obsession. Well-timed for the 2014 holiday gift season, I encourage you to add this to your list of tea lovers’ gift options.
Blowing you all tea-stained kisses,
xo, Dustin

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An interior page spread, MODERN TEA. Book photo by Trixie; original tea image by Jenifer Altman.

The Details:
Richardson, Lisa Boalt. Modern Tea: a fresh look at an ancient beverage. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014. Photographs by Jenifer Altman. Hardbound; printed paper over boards. Color photographs throughout. Approximately 145 pages of text and images plus appendices including resource list, bibliography, and index.
ISBN 978-1-4521-1229-9
$19.95 US

Chapters:
1. What is Tea?
2. The Art of Tea
3. Tea Ceremonies and Rituals
4. Beyond the Cup
5. The Buzz About Tea
Resources
Select Bibliography
Index
Acknowledgments

This review was powered by Harney & Sons English Breakfast tea ~ Dustin

Tea in a Quandary

Tea at home, for two

Tea at home, for two {photo by Trixie}

Getting to the far side of a quandary is something each of us needs to do from time to time. It seems that Life tosses sticky challenges our way no matter how carefully we plan, no matter how much we propitiate the Gods. Stuff Happens, so one of the sayings goes — and indeed it does Happen, with maddening regularity.

What do you do when you are in a quandary? Do you scale steep hills, or knit a sock, or race cars, or weed your garden, or lose yourself in a book for a few hours? Dustin admits to a desire for weightlifting when he is in a mental pickle — chewing on a philosophical conundrum — I should mention that we have no weights, so he usually goes antiquing instead. The search for a beautiful teacup can often clear the mind marvelously, he assures me (and our growing collection attests to this, for he returns from these sojourns in good humor, nearly always, and with a handsome teacup or three). And then, without fail, we share tea.

If our well-chosen exertions cannot dislodge discontent, pausing for tea with an empathetic friend, at least, brightens the moment and gives us a chance to Talk Things Through. Tea & Empathy, yes…

My frequent source of quandaries is a fear of Letting People Down. I hem and haw, moan and wail, until my insides are knotted and my mouth feels like a dry cotton ball when I believe that I have disappointed, or am about to disappoint, another person. I once fell into a Letting People Down quandary and stayed there for a week… this, of course, was during one of Dustin’s travels abroad when he was still a full-time Tea Maven, in the years before WiFi and Skype and text messaging; there wasn’t even a phone to call him on. So, no reassurance, no quandary-busting teatime friend. I cannot recommend this as a lifestyle choice. Fortunately at the end of that particular week, Dustin returned, we had a bang-up tea feast, I talked, he listened, and Things Got Better in a jiffy.

It’s not just the talking, though talking through a problem is essential — sometimes just saying your fears aloud can shrink them to a manageable size (the verbal equivalent of shining a light under the bed when, as a young’un, you feared there were creatures hiding there) — it’s also the tea itself, whether true Camellia sinensis tea or an herbal tisane, that sends signals to the brain that say Be of good cheer, All will soon be better, We can get through this you’ll see. Often after a few cups (or glasses, if we are drinking a chilled bevvie) we are ready to eat something, too — this is a sign that the good effect has begun, that we are, indeed, on the way out of the quandary. Marvelous, is tea.

I hope that each of you has one, or (better!) more than one, tea friend who appreciates the benefits of sitting quietly with cups or glasses between you, talking, listening, drinking a little, eating a little… so very much good appears, so many problems can be solved, in that magical space between people of compatible minds who drink tea.

If you would like to share any of your quandary-busting remedies, I will be grateful if you share them in a Comment below.
Thank you.
Wishing you a week lacking in quandaries but filled with good tea,
xo, Trix

Season’s Turning

Trixie & Dustin's tea table {photo by Trixie}

Trixie & Dustin’s tea table {photo by Trixie}

Can you feel it? The weather is sending clear signals of change — Indian Summer in California; snow in Alberta, Canada; floods in Arizona; everything in between everywhere else… Summer is waning, Autumn approaches — in the Southern Hemisphere, of course, it is t’other way ’round as Winter morphs into Spring. Seasons change, and thank Providence for tea.

Tea is so magnificent, so wholly obliging and accommodating, that no matter the weather you can make a refreshing vessel of tea that will cool, warm, settle, or energize you (unless every manner of tea-making has been obliterated by the weather itself, in which case… we are so very sorry). Every hour of every day, you can have tea in a different way, a different vessel, with different companions, in different surroundings (internal or external surroundings — even if bed-bound one can travel inside the mind, huzzah). We have not found an end, nor even a diminution, to the ways in which we can enjoy tea. What a cheering thought!

Dustin and I never tire of Solo Tea — we spend so much time together these days that the occasional solitary teatime remains novel and intriguing — but something magical happens when we drink tea together… even Dustin’s sizable vocab doesn’t contain a word that accurately describes the wonderful feeling that inevitably envelops Tea Together. I can almost see it, almost touch it; but no, it ultimately eludes my grasp and vision. No matter! We are sharing tea and the world with its woes can disappear, we wouldn’t notice for a while. Do you know this feeling?

A full meal shared with a friend is like this, too, of course, but somehow when we sit together in the closer circle of our tea table, rubbing elbows while reaching for a piece of cake or when filling each other’s cups, the feeling of camaraderie is magnified, almost in inverse proportion to the size of our setup. After a cup or two, when the vital life force in tea courses through our veins, the Camaraderie Quotient can get so high that gleeful mayhem sometimes ensues — all good fun, nothing untoward… in those moments we often long for a neighbor to stroll by so that we can pour another cup and hand a plate full of Yums to someone we love. Do you know this feeling?

When in the full cocoon of the vital life force of tea, conversations of depth and magnitude begin as if on cue, as if by stage direction. The high Camaraderie Quotient ensures that we can discuss even distinctly differing viewpoints with equanimity and bonhomie. We often comment that tea needs to be shared by diplomats and negotiators, to better smooth the world’s wrinkles and woes. Do you know this feeling?

I bet that you do. Wishing you some fabulous, warming, cooling, calming, invigorating Together Teas in the weeks ahead,
xo, Trixie

Learning Curve {as with tea, so with weblogs}

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Na Liko Tea, Summer 2014 {photo by Trixie}

Shall I ever retrieve the first two posts, which now seem to have vanished into thin (or thick) air? Time will tell. In the meanwhile, there is Tea. Thank goodness for tea — soother of spirits, slaker of thirsts, and impetus for the creation of teaware. I love a good cup of tea, no matter the vessel (unless of course the vessel leaks, in which case fuggeddaboudit because the tea will leak out before I can taste it), but a lovely vessel, well… that just makes everything more lovely.

In the picture here you can see my first tasting experiment of a beautiful über-micro-processed tea from Hawai’i. At the time I took this picture I was, admittedly, a little tea-drunk {official term!}, filled to the exquisite brim with the Vital Life Force that is found in lovingly-made fresh tea. This particular lovingly-made tea is from Na Liko Tea of Kawai, Hawai’i, whose founder, farmer, and finished-tea-crafter Liam Ball puts every bit of Aloha and soul into his young enterprise. In future posts I shall show & tell you more about Liam and his teas; for today, as I untangle the interweb I have just made, let it suffice to say that this fellow is one of our brightest hopes for the future of US-grown tea.

Liam says he is only now learning how to do things, yet from my first tastings of two of his teas it seems to me he is quite assuredly in the groove already. I mention this because today I feel as if I am a mere babe in the cyberwoods, but hopefully soon we will all think that I know what I am doing. Evidently we are all, as the Poet may have said at some time, on the path together.

It is an honor to be path-ing here with you. Please stay tuned…
With tea-stained love,
xo Trixie 

postscript: I found the August posts!! yay. Time for tea! ~ t.

Love’s Labours {Day} {Not Exactly} Lost

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Lomonosov “Golden Bird” tea set {photo by Trixie}

It is Labor Day Weekend in the USA, starting, hmm, right now. It seems odd to me to call a weekend by a single day’s name, but this is America, where such Stuff is normal. So we have arrived at the official, if not the seasonal, End of Summer. Has your Summer gone as you hoped? We certainly hope so. If not, put the kettle on and we’ll all have tea — whether or not your name is Polly — because Tea Helps.

Yes! Tea does help — if you feel blue, or perhaps green, even if you are in the pink, tea can wash your insides with deliciousness and bring unto you a sense of harmony. Leaves in water! Endless possibility! It never ceases to amaze.

Have a beautiful weekend!
xo, Dustin {and Trixie,waving from the next room}

A New Beginning

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Spode “india Tree” tea set in red {photo by Trixie}

It is time for a new beginning, say we, and this is it: welcome to the new home of The Tea Drinker Magazine online, where Trixie and Dustin will once again pour forth their proprietary blend of words and images for your pleasure and amusement {insert sounds of engines and wheels churning, speed increasing, momentum rising}.

Why move from the lovely and amazing (and free!) Blogger to the lovely and amazing (and free!) WordPress? Our incessant informal inquiry indicated that this was a Good Idea. More of you, our dearly beloved readers, prefer this platform, so here we are at last to greet you were you want to be. Cheers! Ciao! Aloha!

Dustin is back after a very long set of travels in tea lands near and far, and he will, in due course, start Spouting Off as he used to do. We both have been taking a tremendous amount of tea-stained photographs, which we hope you will enjoy seeing as we post them here for you.

Every change brings exhilaration as well as adjustment… here we are, adjusting exhilaratingly as we infuse enthusiastically, and we are thrilled to be doing this with YOU.

With so much love and gratitude,
xo, Trixie