Thursday, October 30, 2014

About That Tea ...

Golden Tips Tea Company: "Giddapahar Muscatel"
What I'm drinking this morning ~
Because it was picked in summer, it will yield a darker, richer tea.
I'm favorably impressed with Golden Tips. What nice people! They left a kind comment on my last post about the package they sent me full of lovely tea samples. Now I'll give you the low-down on how these teas actually taste. The company has been around since 1933. They have a beautiful website too.

Speaking of their website, if you're a tea-drinker, and you go look at the cups of tea on their site, you'll notice their tea is a beautiful light reddish-brown color. You can see through it! It's not black. And our tea should look like theirs, my friends. We brew our tea too long! Do you do this? 1) Make a pot of nice tea. 2) Pour one cup. 3) Get distracted. 4) Zap that cup again in the microwave. 5) Drink it. 6) Two hours later remember the pot of tea. 7) Pour another cup, now very black and bitter, and zap it too. 8) Add loads of sugar and milk to hide all that bitterness.

Aren't we bad tea-drinkers? If you want to know why tea gets bitter, here's a good page to read about it. But basically tea in bags is more bitter. It's really "tea dust" and has more surface area from which to release tannin into the water. And we leave our tea, whether loose or in a bag, in the water too long. This releases more tannin also.

First, the leaves. Compare these two teas:
This size difference is important for tea.
See how the tea on the left is much larger leaves? That's Golden Tips tea that I'm drinking this morning. See the much smaller, dusty-looking leaves on the right? That's Lipton loose tea, the only loose tea I could find to purchase in the entire New Bern area. How sad is that?! The difference between drinking larger leaves and drinking tea dust ("fannings") is significant -- the flavor, the bitterness!
Golden Tips leaves 
Lipton leaves
My cup of Darjeeling Muscatel this morning is smooth, gentle, a little nutty, faintly spicy. I'm drinking it without sugar or cream, so I can discern the true flavor of the tea. I made a pot that's similar in size to the "cup" I'm using. My friend Robin gave me this cup, and it allows me to get all the tea I want to drink out of the pot before it steeps too long. It maintains its color and flavor.
beautiful color
slightly darker, two minutes later
the cup and the pot :)
If you want to enjoy tea, use loose leaf tea. Avoid tea bags, which use the poorest quality teas, both in actual quality and in cutting quality. Don't oversteep. If your tea cools, drink it cool rather than zapping it. A good tea that's been brewed properly will taste delicious without sugar, without cream, without zapping. It will please you with its flavor alone. I say this to myself as much as anyone else out there; I've been drinking tea badly for too many years.

Golden Tips will ship for free if you order $49 or more. (Tea makes a good gift for the holidays.) Free shipping from India! And believe-you-me, the packaging alone is pretty thrilling :)  If $49 is too hefty for you, they have a $15 offer -- for that price you'll receive a generous sampling of their teas, without paying shipping. I think their sampler packages are pretty and would make nice little gifts or stocking stuffers this holiday season. What do you think? And no ... Golden Tips isn't paying me for this post. In a way, I want to repay their kindness to me, even though I was suspicious of their initial offer. But more importantly, I think they make really beautiful teas! This tea is superior to what you'll find in your grocery store -- better than Twinings. And it's superior to what I bought at the Indian grocery in Greenville too. Those teas were all CTC ("cut, tear, curl"), again a smaller cut, giving a bolder, more bitter taste. I love the larger leaves with their luscious, mellow flavor.

Besides, wouldn't you love to receive a package like this in the mail?
One teaspoon of leaves is enough for one cup of tea. Use a strainer when you pour it out.
 Enjoy your tea with a delicious breakfast.
More tea assessments in later posts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Guilty with a Capital G

Sometime this past summer I received a strange email from a man with a foreign-sounding name. He claimed to be associated with an Indian tea company, Golden Tips Teas. Apparently my blog, and my post about the tea extravaganza at the Indian tea grocery in Greenville, SC, brought me up on his radar, and they sent me an offer. They would send me some tea samples for free, in the mail. All they needed was my mailing address.

Now that I consider it, that blog post can't have possibly elicited his email. I visited Greenville in mid-September, and this email exchange occurred at least a couple of months ago -- long ago enough that I'd forgotten about it.

I did send him a mailing address -- not my own street address, but the address for the church, to be safe. Because we live in a scary world. And promptly the next day I received another email stating that he could not process my free tea offer until I had sent him my phone number also. Hmm. I asked Adam if he thought this was probably an email scam (even though the man did provide a link to the tea company's site, but that means nothing. Anyone can provide a link.), and Adam said it was probably a scam. So I didn't write him back. I put the emails into my spam folder.

And ... I reported it to Google Mail too. Because I want to be a good citizen. And I then forgot the whole thing.

Until today.

Adam came into the house carrying a cool package. From India:
 The box is wrapped in muslin (ha! I mistyped 'muslim' first! Freudian slip!) cloth. Is that cool or WHAT?
And the edges are all hand stitched. Guys ... I needed a seam ripper to open my mail!
 And it had multiple wax seals, with writing in the wax!!!! Squeeee!
 I was trying not to hyperventilate. It's not quite as fabulous as Mr. Darcy knocking at your door. But it's close.
 And a nifty postage label from India too :)

 Inside the box? Yes, a fabulous assortment of beautiful Indian teas. Bestillmyheart.
 How did they know I adore Darjeeling and Assam?
 Each label looks like this. This is serious tea. They tell you which estate it's grown on, when it was picked, that it is the first tips in the spring season. Oh. My. Word.
And I feel insanely, massively, overwhelmingly guilty. I know, I know ... it was perfectly normal to suspect them of something sinister when they wanted my phone number (I guess). But still -- look at how kind they were to me, when I was only suspicious of them? It is rather humbling. The tea names are elegant and beautiful on the tongue. I did make a pot from one of the little black packets:  "Giddapahar Muscatel" from the Darjeeling region, the Giddapahar estate, picked on June 8th of this year, the second flush of the summer season. It is beautiful in color and luscious in taste.

If you're a tea lover, and you don't mind buying online, please do support this wonderful, kind company that treated me better than I treated them. May this blog post be a small apology for any damage I may have done to them with my complaint to Google. I have tried to find the email exchange in my Gmail, and cannot find anything. I wish I could rectify my mistake. I have no idea how to contact Gmail and tell them, "No! I was wrong! These are not bad guys!"

Thank you, Golden Tips Tea Company! You are wonderful!

One Hundred Miles on Water

Today -- all day -- Adam and I enjoyed a leisurely boat ride from Oriental to Morehaead City, on this adorable motorboat with her owners, Tom and Liz.
She's called The Liz. Tom designed and built the boat himself. You know you're in the presence of a true master of boatcraft when you can say that.
Here's Tom. He's 83, and still amazingly agile and active. I think he called this characteristic "nimbility." He hasn't lost his sense of humor yet either!
And Skipper their dog came along for the day as well.
Here's Liz with Skipper. He was a bit nervous and required her TLC. Liz is an avid professional birder, a real expert. She teaches classes on birding and leads a group of enthusiasts here in our county.
Before heading onto the river we cruised around the town dock and I got a good photo of the "business end" of the OYC -- Oriental Yacht Club. It's the oldest sailing institution in Oriental. It was well established in 1985, when Tom and Liz first decided to move to the village.
I spent many hours today enjoying the calm-inducing, trance-producing loveliness of this view:
Several shrimp trawlers were coming in from their night's work.
The pellucid sky, the placid river, the brilliant sun, all combined for a perfect blend of pale blue peace.
This, I must share with you. The sky and water were so at one that the horizon was barely discernible.
Adam spent most of his time in the console/cabin with Tom, chatting and comparing GPS readings, but he came out into the cockpit with me for a bit too.
Photo-bombed by a flag pole!
Going to Morehead, we took the long, scenic route up the Neuse, through Turnagain Bay, along the Old Canal, and then into Core Sound. It was deserted (except for a few hardy fishermen in little boats), eerily so, but quietly majestic and wild.
On the left along the Old Canal is a bombing range used by the local marine base. Signs like this dotted the grassy verge. Someone took a few pot shots at this sign.
Such beautiful spots for a picnic, and nobody anywhere around to use them!  For a couple of hours we saw not a single house nor evidence of human presence on the landscape at all.
Enormous pieces of driftwood were nature's litter along the side of our watery road.
And then, the hwy. 70 bridge. We crossed this bridge recently, on our trip to Ocracoke.
And the multitude of birds! We saw lots of gulls, pelicans, and cormorants. This gargantuan nest belongs to an osprey, Liz told me.

At last we came to the end of the Old Canal where it opens into Core Sound, a long, large body of water littered with shallow shoals perfect for capturing even a powerboat that only draws 28".
During this stretch I spent some time in the cabin, learning how to read a nautical chart. I LOVE maps, so this was fun. I spent hours reading maps and helping my daddy navigate on long road trips during high school. This chart, however, was more tricky. We grounded out once and churned up quite a lot of sand with the prop, but persevered and made it back into safer waters.
We passed along Taylor's Creek right in front of Beaufort.
Huge yachts were tied up there.
And houseboats ~
And in the anchorage where many boats bobbed away, even a tiny pirate boat!
Here's the nautical boat-building/restoration center in Beaufort. Adam volunteered there for a few months.
As we entered Morehead, this massive piece of equipment soared overhead.
Next to it sat this equally large naval vessel. I would tell you what it is, but I have no idea.

Our destination for the day was the Ruddy Duck, a restaurant in Morehead with slips along the water where hungry boaters may tie up for free, walk onto the dock and into the restaurant, and satisfy their hunger.
My satisfying burrito ~
As we left from our late lunch (at about 3:30 -- it took us much longer to get through Core Sound than we anticipated), Adam helped Tom untie the boat. Can you see where Adam is?
He's actually standing in the main berth, upright through the hatch in the front of the boat. In this way, a person can remain inside the security of the cabin, while tending to the front lines. I don't know if this a unique feature of Tom's boat, but it's an excellent one. Because Tom never needs to clamber on the deck to the bow of the boat, he could make his cabin very wide -- across the entire width of the boat. This makes for a spacious cabin on a modest-sized boat. I think it's only about 25 feet long. But the proportion of berth space, to cabin space, to outdoor cockpit is perfect.
Running a bit late, we opted for the quick route home along the ICW -- the IntraCoastal Waterway, a peaceful, safe way for boats to traverse the distance of the Eastern U.S. seaboard, and around Florida and across the Gulf of Mexico too. Many homes along the "ditch" (as it's affectionately called) are large with nice docks and boat lifts. It's rather like a boater's garage.

The ICW is also flanked by miles of deep-green pine forest, slipping darkly into the water.
The sun lowered toward the water as we neared the Neuse at last.
Our vista broadened suddenly to include nearly endless water.
Tom got us back home in time for church tonight. We had a fabulous day -- a truly glorious day of travel and rest for me. I'm sure it was exhausting for Tom, but I'm so thankful they asked us.
This derelict boat, the Mildred, has been sinking into the mire near their home for many years. Tom says he once walked her decks. No more! She is a useful reminder to us all to make use of our short lives.
We are so privileged to live in a spectacularly beautiful place on God's earth, and to have friends who think of us when they opt for a day on the water. Thank you, Tom and Liz! I will never forget my day of 100 miles on water. The warm sun, the cool blowing wind on my face, the many birds and boats and river banks -- of all earthly things, I think these bring me the most peace. Today, they did!
If you like maps as I do, and want to trace our voyage, we left Oriental, went out the Neuse River, turned south into Turnagain Bay, took the canal into Long Bay, made our way through the Wildlife Refuge, under the hwy. 70 bridge, and into Core Sound. We passed the towns of Atlantic, Davis, Marshallberg, under the bridge to Harker's Island, along the thin slip of water in front of Beaufort, and into the Harbor Channel in Morehead. The Ruddy Duck is next door to the Sanitary Fish Market Restaurant. You should be able to zoom in and drag with this map and see these locations and their labels.