The christening photos of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge are out, and they are adorable mementos of a happy day of tradition and faith, followed, appropriately, by a tea reception. The little princess was christened on Sunday, July 5th, and officially named Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge, at St. Mary Magdalene Church at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, where the baby’s parents, William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have their family residence, Anmer Hall. While the path through the estate’s woodland to the church from Anmer Hall was lined with well-wishers, inside the church only family was allowed, including Charlotte’s great-grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, her grandparents Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Mr. and Mrs. Middleton, her aunt and uncle, Pippa and James Middleton, and her five godparents and their spouses. Her uncle Prince Harry was in Africa and unable to attend.
Now that summer is here and those delicious summer fruits are in season, it’s time to stock up on homemade jam for the tea party pantry! San Jose’s history as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight” is no longer visible in the orchards that once covered the Santa Clara Valley, but plenty of local people still have fruit trees in their front and back yards, full of ripe fruit this time of year. Wild plums and berries can also be found along the banks of rivers, creeks and streams in the Santa Cruz mountains and local foothills, if you know where to look. For those that don’t have edible landscaping at home, and even for those that do, the local farmers’ markets are a wonderful source of fresh, ripe fruit for tea-table jams and preserves. What better treat to serve your tea guests, give as gifts, or enjoy by yourself than homemade jam? It’s not as hard as it seems. Plus, once you’ve washed the fruit, you can freeze it in freezer bags, and make jam or pie with it later in the year (or when the weather has cooled down a bit).
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the current Secretary of State, was in the Bay Area last week conducting fundraisers, and stopped off in San Francisco to meet Mayor Ed Lee at Red Blossom Tea Co. in Chinatown. They enjoyed a tea tasting with tea shop owner Alice Luong, and Secretary Clinton purchased a cup of tea to take with her, and some loose tea as well. According to Luong, Clinton “asked quite a lot of questions” about technical aspects of tea brewing, like proper water temperature, and seemed to be a regular tea drinker who prefers “stronger, darker tea.”
Red Blossom Tea Company is one of several tea shops in San Francisco’s Chinatown along Grant Avenue, which offer informal tea tastings for free, as well as more formal tastings, like the one Clinton and Lee enjoyed, for a fee. The shop is a traditional Chinese tea shop, with lots of wood tones, red and black in the decor. The company specializes in fine oolongs and other rare teas; I tasted a few teas when I was there several years ago with friends, and purchased their Orange Blossom Phoenix Oolong. Continue reading
Today is the last “Downton Day” of the year – the final episode of Downton Abbey Season 5 airs tonight on KQED/PBS at 9 p.m. Pacific time. This season’s plot has brought the Crawleys and their servants into the mid-1920s, and nobody’s lives are settled and secure, as usual. What better way to catch up on the doings and happenings in this fictional world than with a cup of tea and some treats at the ready? Look in the tea party pantry for some English tea-time favorites, like scones (you can use a mix or buy them ready-made), cream, jam, and cakes. You can make an elaborate spread suitable for the Dowager Countess, or a simple tea table that would make Mrs. Patmore and Mrs. Hughes, or Lady Rose’s Russian refugees comfortable.
The BBC’s popular serial drama, _Downton Abbey_, has returned to PBS for a 5th season! Full of beautiful costumes, sets, and English countryside, this historical drama also includes tea as a regular part of life, as it was in Edwardian, and now “Roaring Twenties” era – English society. The program has inspired a variety of products, from high fashion designs, to furniture and jewelry, to china and other housewares, to tea blends. The Republic of Tea is the best-known company to have come out with a whole line of tea blends inspired by Downton Abbey. The teas are available at Cost Plus World Market, and at some independent tea shops like Thyme for Tea in Niles. I purchased this tin of tea for about $12 at the Cost Plus on Coleman Ave. in San Jose.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair at the Cow Palace in Daly City closes this weekend, and tea at Dickens is still as popular as ever! The Dickens Fair runs weekends only, between the Friday after Thanksgiving and the Sunday before Christmas; it’s open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday, December 21). General Admission is $30 at the gate, but you can get disounted tickets if you know one of the workers or performers. Take a look at these other articles for more information about having tea at the Dickens Fair:
“How to have afternoon tea at the Dickens Fair in San Francisco”
“Review: Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair”
“Take tea with Charles Dickens for two more weekends at the Dickens Fair”
The 3rd Annual San Francisco International Tea Festival is scheduled for Sunday, November 16 at 10 a.m. Held at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, the festival is a gathering of tea vendors other related business owners, along with tea scholars and tea drinkers from all over California. The festival website reads: “Discover teas straight from local and global producers, Free swag bag includes your very own teacup to savor tea market offerings, Taste hundreds of different types of tea, Connect with five of the biggest names in tea, Learn how each cup of tea can be a different experience, Enjoy a meal and shopping in the Historic Ferry Building Marketplace, Live music by local artists.”
The event features an exhibit hall where the industry participants offer free samples of some of their tea products, along with tea, tea books, and tea equipment for sale. There are formal tea tastings and educational lectures from tea experts like the Imperial Tea Court’s Roy Fong, and popular tea and food author and speaker James Norwood Pratt. Well-known local tea brands are represented among the vendors, including Harney & Sons, Ito En, and The Republic of Tea. The teas that are featured are high-quality, almost all loose-leaf, with a focus on unflavored teas, and tea as a beverage, rather than “Tea” as a social event.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the 16th; admission is $25 per person, which gets you into the main exhibit hall, and perhaps into the lectures, although the formal tea tastings are first-come-first-served and cost $5 each. Tickets can be purchased from the festival website, and may also be available at the door on the day of the festival. Each attendee also receives a gift bag with more tea samples from the vendors, a special tea tasting cup to use at the festival, and contact information for all the vendors at the festival.
Bruce Cost Fresh Ginger Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale is a tasty variation on traditional ginger ale, not only because it has lots of ginger flavor – unlike more familiar ginger ales – but also because it is infused with jasmine green tea! Bruce Cost is one of the vendors who attend the San Francisco International Tea Festival every year, and I first tasted their Jasmine Tea Ginger Ale there a few years ago.
The ginger ale comes in 12-oz. glass bottles with a sepia-tinged ivory paper label and black lettering, which reads: “Whole leaf tea, floral and earthy with tannins”, “Separation is natural. Shake gently.” “Bruce Cost Ginger Ale Unfiltered”, “Made with 100% fresh ginger (no extracts) & pure cane sugar”, “Jasmine Tea”, “Proud descendent of the original soft drink, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale is delicious, sparkling and rich with whole ginger, long enjoyed for digestive comfort”. It contains 160 calories per serving (bottle), and the ingredients are: carbonated water, pure cane sugar, 100% fresh ginger, premium brewed jasmine green tea with filtered water, and citric acid. Some vendors also sell the Original Ginger Ale in cans, as well. It sells for about $2 per bottle.