Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tea Festival Prep

So . . . with our 2nd Annual San Francisco International Tea Festival looming large - just two weeks away, our little teapot has been helping tremendously. In addition to providing those respite moments of calm, she joined Colleen and me for one of our volunteer meetings.

The challenge to attract 1000 tea lovers and then to care for them and make sure they have a satisfying and memorable experience is very much dependent on a team of people who share the same commitment to sharing the love of the leaf. At events like this, the tea has an opportunity to speak for itself. A kind of community forms, the exhibitors offer tastings, the speakers "wow" with amazing information and we find ourselves in the midst of our non-virtual social network. Real people. Really great tea.

Here we are in the Ferry Building location of Imperial Tea Court (with Roy's Moon Gate in the background). It's after hours so the tearoom is all ours as we review the schedule of events, the specific jobs for more than fifty different people and the way in which we will help the crowd "flow" throughout the wonderfully historic and beautiful Ferry Building.

We originally thought that we would have the festival in February which is the reason I signed up for this month. The best-laid-plan was that I would have Prissy at our information booth as an honored guest. But maybe she's enjoying her peek behind the scenes. With most of our schedule completely posted now, you can see almost everything on the front page of the site. There are photos from last year as well.

1st Annual San Francisco Tea Festival, February 25, 2012

I do ramble on about this. I love these events. I'm hooked!

The first one I went to was in Victoria B.C. sponsored by Camosun College as a fundraiser for their daycare and young children's education program. After that came Seattle's Northwest Tea Festival in the shadow of the Space Needle. Then Devan Shah hosted one of the L.A. Tea Festivals. Kulov hosts another one in L.A. but I've yet to make that one.

Wish you could all join us on March 10th.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Almost A Tea Farm

One of the places I most wanted to take Prissy during our month was to the tea farm project I've been involved in. Roy Fong, owner of Imperial Tea Court, has been testing different varitals to see which is best suited to our climate and soils.

We had a great surprise when a batch of new seedlings arrived.

We met in the greenhouse to sort and plant them as quickly as possible.

Hopefully this batch will survive the remaining winter. I brought some home with me (higher elevation and more acid soil) to see how they grow here.

A farmer friend of mine just returned from a convention where their keynote speaker named tea as one of the up-and-coming plants in the near future. The demand for it as an ingredient in assorted health products is huge. But growing a plant that can produce a flavorful oolong is a completely different thing.

Roy's dream is that this farm becomes an educational destination for tea people. It's a few years down the road, to be sure. But every step right now seems like a milestone.

Welcome to The Sierra Nevada Foothills

I should begin by explaining that my chosen month to enjoy our shared guest, The Traveling Teapot, changed significantly from the original intention. A year ago I though that February would be the month of our San Francisco Tea Festival. Alas! It is the month before and Teapot came to me during the busiest month of my entire year. Instead of sharing the info booth with me, she is keeping me a little more grounded during the stressful moments.

I created her "room" joined by one of my favorite teapots and a couple of teacups. She enjoys the morning sun and we share afternoon quiet.

And, we occasionally venture out for some California Foothill winter.

One of my favorite pieces of yard sculpture sits in the middle of my annual and bulb bed. The lovely lady came from the San Francisco World's Fair and usually holds a planter or bowl of bird treats. Can you see Prissy? Fortunately, she's cozy in the cozy Marilyn provided. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day With The Teapot

Happy Valentine's Day To All.

Just to let you know that the teapot arrived safely in Nevada City, CA!!!

Today's post is a little out of order since there are two other posts I working on but we wanted to celebrate Valentine's Day with everyone in a very chocolate way. I stopped in to buy special hand-dipped treats from one of my local friends. Debe Petersen and her husband Bob have been supplying our community with chocolate and homemade, hand-dipped ice cream bars for about twenty years. They recently retired the ice cream cart you see in the background. (Refurbished by Bob.) It now sits in the front display window. Quite an attraction for locals and tourists.

So, our little traveler helped me pick out splurges for everyone. Hand-dipped, milk chocolate covered cherries in a chocolate "eat the box" heart for hubby. Another chocolate heart shaped box for my son filled with "Death By Dark Chocolate" truffles.

Teapot and I were good girls and splurged on a Winter Harvest Oolong - San Lin Xi.

One note about Debe and Bob Peterson - the candy business is called "Lazy Dog" and they've devoted their lives to rescuing large dogs with special needs. There have been times that they've cared for as many as twelve dogs needing almost constant care. Amazing people. Always smiling.

More soon!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I bid a fond farewell to the traveling teapot last evening.  I brewed one last pot of tea for Babette and I- Darjeeling second Flush from Glenburn Estates.  It was nearly the last of the tea I brought home from India over one year ago and it was still bright and sweet in the mouth.  Babette and I drank, ate and talked about the upcoming SF International Tea Festival, and alas, forgot to take any pictures!

Afternoon Tea at Last!


So tomorrow I turn over the lovely Traveling Teapot to Babette Donaldson.  I decided to celebrate the last day with the big-little plum pot going to Afternoon Tea with a dear friend at one of my favorite tearooms, The Camellia Tea Room, in Benecia, CA, a small Main Street of America town nearby.  I know- I chose a quiet Afternoon Tea rather than watching our local team (Yah Niners! even if you didn’t win) in the Super Bowl, but what can I say?

 Jayne and I shared a pot of Ceylon tea with our tiered tray of goodies, which included a slice of red velvet cake named Forty Niners cake.  Afterwards we visited a couple of antique shops before Main Street closed down early to watch the game!

I found I had a purse that was the perfect fit for carrying the Teapot around!  If it wasn't one of my favorites I may think about passing it along with the Teapot.

Babette is driving to the SF Bay Area on business tomorrow, so we will meet up and I will transfer the Teapot with all its toys and documents, as well as a few goodies for Babette, into her hands.  I know she has many adventures planned for the Traveling Teapot, which is great since it had a fairly quiet month sharing my everyday life.  I had had lots of grand adventures planned, but it just turned into a month of taking care of business at home and work, and lots of visiting with friends.  I really enjoyed sharing time with the big-little plum pot and I will be forever grateful to it for helping me learn to blog!

Meeting a friend for breakfast


Met my oldest friend, Gordon, for a light breakfast this morning at a local restaurant in the Temescal area of Oakland- old Italian neighborhood on Telegraph Ave that had gone downhill since the 1960s, but has had great resurgence in last ten years.  I love when old neighborhoods revive to former glory in new and vibrant ways. 

Gordon and I know each other from high school and came together to Berkeley for college from a small town in the dry desert at southern most California, 10 miles from Mexican border.  Unlike most of our college friends here, we chose to stay in the area after college.  It’s been over forty years now and I still love the bay area for its vitality, beauty, politics, diversity, food and even its wild and crazy people.

I brought the traveling teapot and had them use it to brew tea for two.  They only have 4 teas to choose from but I know the teas are from a local shop, Far Leaves, so it is quality loose-leaf tea.  Gordon and I have shared many a pot of tea over the years so I was very surprised when he arrived that he wanted a cup of espresso!  Oh well…I drank the entire pot over the next two hours of conversation and enjoyed every drop. 

Tea and Breastfeeding?


Today I brought the Traveling Teapot to one of my classes I teach through Kaiser Health Education.  I retired few years ago from direct nursing care, but have continued my practice through teaching, which I love.  I teach new parents and young kids; the classes range from Newborn Care and Breastfeeding to Feeding your Baby, Toddler Support, and even Puberty classes.  I’m stepping up the classes I teach this year.

I thought the Teapot would be an excellent prop in the Breastfeeding class.  Here it is on the display table with books, hand pumps, bottles and Mother’s Milk tea, a blend of herbs for promoting breastmilk production.  (Sorry the picture is dark)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Specialty Tea Institute

Specialty Tea Institute

Specialty Tea Institute (STI) always comes to San Francisco in January to tag onto the Fancy Foods Show.  It is the education arm of the Tea Association of the US. 
I have been a member and taken classes over last few years and indeed completed the courses (and tests!) to be a Certified Tea Specialist.  The instructors are people well known ‘in the tea world’ who all have a wealth of knowledge, such as Bill Waddington, Donna Fellman, Suzette Hammond, Yoon Hee Kim; they have volunteered their time and energy to share that knowledge with newbies to tea. I have learned so much in these classes over the years- not to mention tasted some fabulous teas from companies around the country.

Tonight, I attended the STI reception with the Traveling Teapot in tow.  The reception is always set to honor new graduates of the program, now Certified Tea Specialists, and also is a time to visit with STI folk and other tea friends, especially from the west coast.  I find it very energizing to visit with these people and talk tea!

I brought my manager, Kyle Stewart, tonight to introduce him to the wider tea world and some of its leaders.  He first learned to appreciate tea while working at Peet’s and is now learning from Imperial Tea Room’s Roy Fong.  I especially wanted to introduce him to the other Kyle Stewart, STI instructor and co-owner of the Cultured Cup in Austin, TX, one of my most favorite instructors and a wonderful mentor.  He is here in SF, teaching STI classes with Phil Parda, co-owner of Zhong Guo Cha Teas and Savvy Tea Gourmet of Madison, CT, my other favorite mentor in tea.  

The two Kyle Stewarts, getting acquainted over the Traveling Teapot.

Here is Kyle Stewart of The Cultured Cup again- celebrating with James Norwood Pratt with  the Traveling Teapot AND a glass of champagne.  


Fancy Foods Show

Fancy Foods Show San Francisco

Today we went to Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco.  I was looking at products I might use in a small tea business, especially products and packaging made locally.  But of course I also wanted to check out teas and tea-related products!  I thought this was a great opportunity to introduce the Traveling Teapot around.

The morning started with breakfast of cooked oats (hardy and long-lasting) and tea, Yunnan Gold from Dan Robertson of The Tea House in Napiersville, IL.  A good friend, Babette, was visiting, and you can see she was working away on the computer bright and early, preparing for her workday at the Fancy Foods!  I was thrilled that I could again share the plum Teapot.

There were a number of tea businesses at the show- big and small.  I tried to get photos of the Traveling Teapot with many of them.  The Republic of Tea does not allow photos of their displays, hence the lovely fountain with the Teapot!  I really wanted to get a photo with John Harney, but the Harney and Sons’ booth was 3-4 people deep and I was too shy to push forward. 

This was a mother-daughter team at Revolution Tea from Phoenix, AZ- very nice tea in sachet bags.

 I really enjoy teas from Art of Tea in Southern California, and here is owner Steve Schwartz with Thomas Shu, Tea Specialist, of ABC Teas also in Southern California. 

 I LOVE Sencha Naturals mints, so I excitedly shared them with the Traveling Teapot.  I also really like the little glass teapot dispensers.
And here the Teapot is checking out Numi Gardens' new line of Savory Teas- vegetables, herbs and spices mixed with decaf tea.  Interesting, but not to my liking.

The Traveling Teapot was definitely a hit.  People loved the teapot and its story, as well as the opportunity to share in a picture.  At the Sencha Naturals booth, as I was setting up for a picture, a woman stopped and reached out for the Teapot, saying “Oh, how beautiful!  Are you selling this too!”  She wanted to know where could she get a cozy like that- I of course told her to search online for Marmalady.

After a day wandering the concrete halls, carrying the Teapot and, as the day progressed, more and more brochures and giveaways- I left with aching feet and absolutely exhausted.  Was it the concrete floors, the all-day stimulation, or just age sneaking up?  Whatever- I came home, fixed a simple dinner and rested, with my feet up, sipping a cup of Imperial Tea Court Spearmint tea.   

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Gourmet Ghetto of Berkeley

More about the Gourmet Ghetto of Berkeley

The Gourmet Ghetto of north Berkeley got its name because, at its center, is a block-long area where food establishments opened in the late 1960s- early1970s and revolutionized the food scene in America.  Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse, offering fresh, seasonal foods only. Alfred Peet opened Peet’s Coffee, making small batches of freshly roasted coffee.  There was a French Charcuterie, a small chocolatier shop, a small wine shop stocked with  wines the owner tasted and purchased in Europe, and the CheeseBoard, a shop of fresh cheeses and artisan breads, owned and run as a collective. This kind of food is widely available now, but it was new and exciting back in the early days. 

I came to Berkeley in 1970 to attend university.  Everyone in the dorm rooms would sit up late into the night, talking and drinking coffee.  If they had enough money they were thrilled to be able to buy a pound of Peet’s coffee!  Since I didn’t like coffee, I drank Lipton’s tea- until one of the guys treated me to a bag of Peet’s loose-leaf Earl Grey… and I never looked back!  That was the beginning of my tea journey.
This is the original Peet's store- corner of Vine and Walnut.  (Not the best picture, but have to show this bit of our local history!)

While the entire area has exploded with food stores, trucks and restaurants, the only remaining places of those early days are Chez Panisse, Peet’s Coffee and Teas, and the Cheeseboard.  Chez Panisse and the Cheeseboard have defied the expansion idea and continue to thrive as single businesses of the utmost quality. 


Friday, February 1, 2013

Imperial Tea Court

To Work with Me at Imperial Tea Court

I’ve been working for several months at the Imperial Tea Court, owned by Roy Fong.  (At 62 years old, I have been working as a server of tea and food!  For the first couple of months I'd go home aching all over and think to myself "I don't remember waiting tables to be so exhausting".  Then I realized I last worked in a restaurant at 25 years old!)  
There are two locations- at the Ferry Building in San Francisco and in the Gourmet Ghetto of downtown Berkeley.  (More about the Gourmet Ghetto later.)  I work at the Berkeley Tea Court, which is also a restaurant.  The setting is lovely and is reminiscent of teahouses I saw in China.  Outside the big round entry door is a beautiful little patio and garden- it's a hidden jewel from the street. 

This is my last week of work, so today I brought the Traveling Teapot with me to work.  We serve tea in gaiwans, but I think the teapot looks at home on the table.  We do use teapots for herbal tisanes, especially the very fine-leaf ones.

Here the Traveling Teapot and I are sharing Bai Ye Phoenix Oolong tea, gaiwan-style, with a co-worker, Terry Chi, before my shift starts.  Also on the table is a Sampler Plate of Dim Sum for my early dinner!  Terry is wanting a career in food- baking or writing about food.  She's thinking about applying to journalism school, but she also bakes the best cheesecake ever- with a sprinkling of matcha tea! Below is the manager, Kyle Stewart, with Terry.  I'll write more about Kyle in another post, but let me say now that he is a lover of all tea and is beginning the lifelong journey of learning about tea.  It has been a delight to work with these young adults- very fun and exciting to be around their energy and enthusiasm for life.

The food menu is a limited menu of noodle or rice dishes and dim sum- all made at the Berkeley tearoom.  A specialty of the house is hand-pulled noodles, made to order.  The customers can hear the slap of the noodles against the tabletop in the kitchen as they are being stretched out!  The food is organic, locally sourced (as much as possible) and mostly Beijing style, and is very different than most Chinese restaurants.  I love this food, and I'm not a big fan of Chinese food in general.    

These are two of our cooks, Zhang and Xia, preparing the pork steam buns.  You can also see one of the hot water boilers for tea on the back counter.

The tea menu is well over one hundred teas- mostly Chinese but with a few Indian and Japanese teas.  The best part for me is there are all these teas and very few are flavored teas!  I've loved learning more about each of the teas and practicing and comparing different infusions. My favorite part of the job has been the ability to talk to customers about the teas- both teaching them and learning from them in the discourse.   This is my copy (sorry about my name scribbled across the front!) of Roy's book.  He is such a great storyteller and a fountain of knowledge about teas and teawares.  It has been an honor to work for the Imperial Tea Court and for Roy- and to glean a sliver of his knowledge about tea.