Sunday, July 25, 2010

Free Your Mind

The Tea Drinker & I truly enjoyed our vacation to Japan. We needed a break from our routine, and craved taking an adventure together. This getaway got me thinking- the Wife of a Tea Drinker needs a break, too. Therefore, I plan to put up my feet, give my fingers a rest, let my mind run wild, and enjoy the rest of the lazy days of summer.

I will return to blogging on Sunday, September 12th. The hope is to resume with a new look and lots of fresh ideas. I am giddy just thinking about the prospect of taking this break (after nearly two and half years of sharing glimpses of our lives). I trust you will also welcome this break! Reading and living tea, wine, and food each week can take a toll on anyone's psyche and waistline.

In my absence, please remember to drink copious amounts of Drink the Leaf loose leaf teas...and spread the word. Or else, I will come back sooner.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Farmer's Market Bounty

Last Sunday, I blogged (complained) about the effects of jet lag, I had no idea what was in store for us! Five more sleepless nights pushed us to the brink of insanity. The Tea Drinker and the Wife on lack of sleep is not a pretty sight. Stay away. No amount of caffeinated loose leaf tea in the world could cure what ailed us, except a night of uninterrupted sleep! This weekend so far has been restful and we are back in the swing of things: laundry, cleaning, yard work, farmer’s market, grilling, and sorting through our pictures from Japan.

Yesterday's romp through the Napa Valley's Farmer’s Market was great. As the Tea Drinker was at his booth waxing on about Japan, genmaicha and the like, I was out spending his hard earned money. I picked up a variety of fresh veggies and fruit for the week ahead. In Japan, we enjoyed lots of vegetables, most were pickled or preserved. The Japanese term is Tsukemono, meaning “pickled things”. They are served as a side or a snack. Vegetables typically are pickled in any of the following: soy sauce, miso, vinegar, salt, or even sake! We had plenty of pickled things in Japan, ranging from Takuan(daikon), cucumber, cabbage to ginger. My favorite pickled vegetable was Japanese Ginger (Myoga Ginger). It looks like a spring onion, with a slight red hue (photo pictured right). We had it mostly with sashimi. First time we have ever seen it, and will be on the lookout for this treat at Sushi Ran or Morimoto restaurants. Very flavorful, and not as spicy or pungent as the ginger we are used to. A popular belief in Japanese culture is eating too much of Myoga Ginger can make one forgetful—not to worry because you will forget this concern before your next meal, anyways.

With loads of fresh Farmer Market vegetables on hand, we decided to not pickle them this time around (much to the Tea Drinker’s dismay). Obviously, my sense of sarcasm has not waned from eating too much raw fish and pickled things. So, I laid out my bounty before me and selected a variety of treats: yellow squash, zucchini, grape tomatoes, red onions, basil, fennel, orange, red, and green bell peppers. Its summer, so we lit the gas grill, tossed our bounty (minus the tomatoes and basil) in olive oil, sprinkled a bit of salt and pepper, and charred them slightly. My mind wandered to my Dad’s garden (many moons ago) and to summer months of chopping fresh vegetables(cucumbers, peppers, onions and tomatoes) tossing them in apple cider vinegar, with a bit of olive oil, lots of salt and pepper. Tearing off a big slice of Italian bread to dip, soak, and slurp up the juices. Your mouth waters just thinking about it. Bingo! Perfectly charred vegetables came off the grill, chopped into bite size pieces, tossed with red wine vinegar, olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Crumbled feta, sliced tomatoes, chopped basil were mixed in as a finishing touch. The freshly baked rosemary bread that I bought at the market came out of its bag and we settled into a lovely afternoon at home on our back patio. A tall glass of Drink the Leaf Citrus Rooibos Iced Tea was served. Simply blissful.

Farmer’s Market Salad
Variety of Organic Fresh Vegetables, Grilled or Raw, chopped into bite size pieces
Red Wine Vinegar
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt & Pepper
Favorite Crumbly Cheese
Crusty Bread
Drink the Leaf Iced Tea

Make it a blissful day, too!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jet Lag & Japanese Green Tea

We returned home to Napa yesterday after two glorious weeks of vacation in Japan. Our nine and half hour flight on ANA airlines went smoothly. Tokyo to San Francisco, non-stop. Unfortunately, we were not upgraded this time around, and subsequently wecwere squished into coach seats. We suffered through by watching movies (The Hurt Locker, and Invictus), playing a fierce game of Scrabble (I won), and eating Japanese rice snacks. We tried stretching our aching legs under the seats in front of us, to no avail. We both agreed that we got way more exercise then we expected on this trip. Let’s just say that the Tea Drinker has plenty of footage of me limping up and down the maze of stairs in every subway and train station in Japan.

We started to doze off as we descended to SFO airport. Just our luck! Upon arrival, we were able to whiz through immigration, and make it to our car in less than 30 minutes. The beauty of carry-on luggage! The immigration agent looked at us strangely after inquiring about our length of stay in Japan, and wondered if we indeed had all of our luggage. Yes, sir! We are efficient, and super travelers (see photo above). And, yes we are bit punchy from a combination of little sleep, a serious omega-3 overdose and lack of American junk food.

As soon as we hit Highway 101, we started planning our next American meal. Do not get me wrong- we absolutely loved the food in Japan. The fish is the freshest and most tastiest we have ever had. But, eating raw fish, miso soup and rice day in and day out, made us realize how much we love Mexican food, and cheese! The works, please. Sour cream and guacamole on top, too! We debated on whether or not we would need to make two stops: one for me at Villa Corona for the Taco Salad, and another for the Tea Drinker's favorite Tacos Laplayita's Pastor burrito. In the end, jet lag won, and we walked to the closest Mexican joint. It was delicious. First time we had ingested gooey cheese, salty tortilla chips, hot sauce, and refried beans in almost two weeks. That sets a record somewhere, I'm sure.

I must also admit that on our way home, I started plotting while the Tea Drinker snoozed in the passenger seat next to me. None other than The Wing Stop was on my list. You have heard me go on about this addiction of mine before; I just could not drive by without getting a combo chicken wing order (Original Hot and Parmesan Garlic). And, I wonder why the lovely people of Japan are all slim and trim?!

Jet lag is a strange thing. It's like altitude sickness- sometimes it renders you useless and another time you are left unscathed. We arrived home (5:00am Tokyo time), and felt like we could take on the day. We got right to work: played with the cat, started unpacking, put in a load of laundry, munched on chicken wings, called friends and family, and then hit the wall. We ran to our beds, and settled into a strange slumber for three hours where we dreamt of yen monies, sake, sushi, and subway schedules. I felt the sensation of being on a boat. A combination of a woozy and sinking feeling as I slipped deeper into some unknown bliss. Then, woke up craving Mexican food and a good bottle of wine. Mission accomplished. Then again, felt like I could take on the world only to crash a few hours later and sleep until nearly 1pm the next day.
Today, we are zoned out and fighting sleep at every turn. Trying our hardest not to look at our work inboxes as the email is mounting, and the schedule of next week is looming. Just one more day of rest, and then the sweet memories of Japan will reveal themselves as we settled back into our normal routine.

I am certain that drinking green tea can help minimize jet lag. I have read that of all the amino acids found in green tea (Genmaicha), the most prevalent is L-theanine, which induces relaxation. One should drink loads of green tea (Gyokuro)in the days leading up to flying across time zones, and avoid alcohol and sugary treats. Oops. And upon arrival, drinking green tea can help you stay awake, and focused, and at night can help you relax, and fall asleep. Again, avoid alcohol and fatty foods. Oops. L-theanine increases your serotonin levels, and can help you remain calm, and ease the jet lag jitters. Too bad, we are so darn tired that we can’t muster the energy to dig out our new Japanese green tea finds. It will have to wait until tomorrow or at least until after another nap.

Drink Drink the Leaf loose leaf green tea and reap the health benefits.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Reporting From The Beautiful, Lush Country of Japan

Today marks the half way point of our stay in Japan. We are looking forward to six more days in this beautiful country. There is much to digest: from our days in the bustling city of Tokyo, to a relaxing day in the countryside of Hakone, and then onto an unbelievable rewarding time spent with a Master Tea blender in Shizuoka ( a premier tea growing region). This morning, we awake excited with anticipation of embarking on another day in Kyoto, the home of  many world heritage sites.

Comments, musings, and experiences thus far:
~ Japan is a very clean country. The streets, subways, train stations, hotels, and restaurants are spotless. Someone is always wiping done one surface or another.
~ The Japanese people are extremely courteous, helpful, friendly, and QUIET.
~ Cha(tea) is served at every meal, and is complimentary in all restaurants. What a great concept!
~ Tea bushes line the valley and hillsides of Shizouka- it reminded us of the vineyards back home in Napa Valley. The community was busy with the second harvest. We were able to visit a tea factory, and experience the behind the scenes of production. We were giddy as we took in our surroundings. The smell of fresh picked tea leaves was intoxicating. 
~ If you love seafood, you will not be disappointed in this country. However, open your mind and palate to new delicacies. It's eel season, after all.
~ Udon noodles are delicious, and the process of preparing your own treasure bowl is enlightening. All the flavors really pop( Japanese ginger, radish, green onion, sesame seeds, snap peas, and etc). Be prepared to hear lots of loud slurping noises going on around- it's common and a sign of appreciation.
~ Sashimi, and sushi (not an avocado in sight). We have consumed the freshest fish possible. Melts in your mouth. Hamachi, fatty tuna, salmon roe, urchin, unagi, and our personal new discovery: horse mackerel. Stay away from raw octopus. Let's just leave it at that!   
~ Don't be afraid to navigate public transportation. Subways, trains, and buses are an adventure in themselves, and you will save money. 
- Visit shrines, temples, walk down  alleyways, and peer into nooks and crannies- Japan is a maze of culture and history at every turn.
- I love fried food, and Japanese tempura served with my second love(flavored salts) is the bomb.
- Try out the Japanese language.  You will be well received, despite a few giggles. Konnichiwa, arigato,  and sayonara will do just fine.
 - Sake,  sake, and sake. Refresh palate with beer. Repeat.

Upon our return, we will post photos, and give a more in- depth look into our experiences into this amazing country. Pour yourself a cup of Drink the Leaf tea- make it a sencha, gyokuro, or genmachia! 

** excuse typos- writing on Ipad.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lift Off! Japan


At this precise moment, the Tea Drinker and I are settled into our seats on ANA Airlines headed to Japan (at least, I hope we are). Last night, I forwarded a detailed itinerary to our parents confirming that I am indeed neurotic. I went overboard a bit with listing every street corner in Japan, and the closest 'something or other' to it. But, I am a believer that one should know where the closest ice cream shop, bar, restaurant, bathroom, ATM machine, tea shop, historic monument, and subway station is located at all times, in any city. So, I have listed every detail, and I mean every detail.

Here is an excerpt from our itinerary: "TOKYO: Breakfast Ice Cream Treat: Kinozen located in Kagaurazaka-one of the cities popular kanmidokoro. Located just next door to Fujiya, Kinozen. Often has a line out the front door. Their signature dish is a modern mattcha babaloa. The babaloa made from Uji mattcha is delicate with tsubuan (chunky azuki) and whipped cream is a nice ensemble of flavors and textures. The kakigori in the summer of shaved ice colored with flavored syrups are irresistible and offer a despite from the heat and humidity. There is also a selection of items to go, including the mattcha babaloa”.

Not convinced? KYOTO: “Kiyomizudera can be reached from Kyoto Station in about 15 minutes by bus. Take bus number 100 or 206 and get off at Kiyomizu-michi or Gojo-zaka, from where it is a 10-15 minute uphill walk to the temple. Start at Chawan-zaka(Tea pot lane), Kiyomizu-dera Temple(pg 338), then Tainai-meguri, and Sannen-zaka-(many tea houses/cafes), Ninen-zaka(pg 351), then Ishibei-koji( cobbled street) retrace steps continue north, passing Kodai-ji Temple(pg 351) on right up long flight stairs-to T intersection –turn right, keep left, descend into Maruyama-koen( park), see Giant Gion Tree, opposite tree, cross bridge(picnic?), head West(downhill) into Yasaka-jinja shrine to walk to Keihan-shijio station. Or head back to park. "

Certifiable! UJI : “To-kichi Nakamura cafe→Travel time:13:00 - 14:30. Established in 1859, this historic tea shop contains a cafe serving tea soba noodles and matcha sweets. Shop address: :10-1, Uji Uji-City. Access: 1-min walk from JR Uji Station. Tel: 0774-22-7800. Cost: around 1000 yen. Nearby a chicken shop that runs a sake cellar and offers a rich variety of foods that go well with sake. Stored near the entrance to the parking lot is the "Shirakusui" water which is used for sake, and visitors are welcome to try both the water and sake. Refreshing drinks to taste, if we have a have a few moments to spare.”

So, indulge me, and check back often for posts about Drink the Leaf's cultural and tea buying trip to Japan, or at least check in to see if I have finally gone bonkers. There are many highlights to look forward to:

  • Three days in Tokyo- a bustling city with many restaurants, shops, loads of people, a world-renowned sushi market, and the ever popular “cat” cafes(different building than sushi market).

  • A full day in the tea region of Shizuoka( producing 45% of Japan's tea) to visit a well known tea estate and meet with tea producers, farmers, and experience the wonderful lure of drinking Japanese green tea, such as Sencha and Genmaicha.

  • Five days in the mesmerizing Kyoto- a full itinerary of shrines, food markets, monkeys, tea, shrines, more tea, and even more shrines.

  • A side day trip to the Uji tea region to sip on Gyokuro.

  • Take the “bullet” to the city of Hiroshima to take in a sobering experience of our world's history. Recharge and rejuvenate with a visit to the neighboring majestic island, Miyajima for the night.

  • And, finally end our trip back in Tokyo for a day and evening of gastronomical delights.
Peak into the life of a Tea Drinker soon...


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reporting From High Altitude

Vegas is already a distant memory, as I swirl wine at this year's Aspen Food & Wine Classic. Not a tea leaf in sight; really a shame! The Tea Drinker and I used to live in this town of the rich and famous. We peddled wine by day, and lived for hiking, skiing, and biking on our days off. Then, wine won, healthy lifestyle took a backseat, and we moved to Napa to pursue our passion. Thank goodness, we have since introduced loose leaf tea into our life. Balance is so important in one's life.

The Tea Drinker is home recovering from the World Tea Expo (yes, I am being sarcastic-the altitude brings it out in me). Me, I am tripping down memory lane, and wishing I brought Drink The Leaf teas with me on this trip. This weekend in Aspen is all about wine,food,parties,sunshine,and fresh air. But, I do not feel complete without my tea (and Tea Drinker). Actually, I think I am just dehydrated from all the wine drinking, and goofy from lack of oxygen...

I have nothing more to report, as I have a party to go to-yes, I realize it's 10:00am. That's how we roll in Aspen. A perfect example of precisely why I should have brought tea (and the Tea Drinker) with me. Balance.

Drink tea today, and everyday

**I apologize for any typos-I am posting from my iPad!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Baby!

Tea by day, wine by night. This past weekend, the Tea Drinker and I attended the World Tea Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Tea and Vegas—a sordid combination. To balance out all this craziness, we added wine, dining and The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil to the mix. The World Tea Expo brings tea retailers, importers, distributors, specialists, and enthusiasts from as far away as India. Its a three day event packed with educational seminars, a vast trade show, and plenty of opportunities to taste tea from all over the world.

Each morning, we attended educational seminars ranging from exploring various tea regions, brand merchandising and packaging, obtaining organic certification, and tips on tea photography. Filled with knowledge, we headed into the trade show and tackled each row with a vengeance. This expo was our third, and we were much more prepared than in years past. With just over three years of experience as an on-line retailer, we were able to communicate more effectively with the distributors, and importers.

After a long day of slurping down too many teas to be counted, and live to talk about, I found myself with a caffeine buzz unlike any other. The Tea Drinker had to drag me away from some poor unassuming soul who listened patiently as I loudly compared tea tastings to wine tastings. Try drinking wine all day. Tea is a piece of cake. My victim looked at me unconvincingly as my voice was at a high pitch, my sentences were scrambled, and my eyes fluttered nervously back and forth. Like I said, tea and Vegas is a dangerous combination.

Drink the Leaf’s Top Five Highlights:

1) The History of Pu-er- After sitting through an early morning Pu'er seminar, I have a new found appreciation for this tea from the Yunnan province of China. The history behind this tea is rich with culture, folk lore, and tribute. There are two basic types of Pu’er tea: Sheng(raw) or Shou(cooked). Both unique in flavor and aroma. We sampled teas in both forms from a range of harvests dating back to 2004. Each year of aging brings on complexity and depth. Pu'er is also claimed to be loaded with medicinal value. In upcoming months, Drink the Leaf will add additional types of Pu’ers to the website. Have you ever had Pu’er that was wrapped in a tangerine shell or a bamboo stick? Simply amazing. Pu’er is pronounced POO- ARGH. It’s the Pirate’s tea.
2) Two Eggs in A Hole- As we sipped on chilled Sauvignon Blanc at Sage restaurant located in the Aria hotel at City Center, the Tea Drinker inquired out loud, “Did we really just spend $30 dollars on two eggs?”. The bartender overheard, and rushed over to assure us that they were really special eggs. And, they were. Slow poached organic eggs nestled on top of perfectly whipped mashed potatoes served with fried country bread. Two versions were offered: Shaved Black Truffle and Guanciale (Italian bacon). We had one of each. As egg yolk dripped off our chins, we proclaimed these the best damn eggs we ever had. If you go to Sage, and order this, be sure to drink down a Vegas-style glass of wine beforehand, it really does help your psyche when the bill arrives.
3) Learning Mandarin- We were delighted to take part in an impromptu teaching session during the trade show. We huddled around our brilliant instructor as he took us through the basic pronunciation of Mandarin. We learned various tea terms such as suan, tian, ku, la, zian, shou, dan, cun, yan, dao xiang, he xiang, shan cha, and you ji zheng ming shu. Any questions? Our instructor beamed as we bellowed out each word precisely. We mimicked him like good little parrots, feeling confident as spectators wandered by, envious of our knowledge. Then, the instructor pointed us in the direction of the Chinese tea farmers booths, and gave us homework. Go to them, converse with them. The Tea Drinker and I took one look at each other and ran the other way!
4) Dinner at Michael Mina- The first course set the tone: Caviar Parfait. Smoked salmon and Osetra caviar set on top of a potato cake. And, not just your ordinary potato cake. We were doomed, as course after course was brought to us. Check out the menu and the highlighted wine for the evening. Nothing short of spectacular. Work, work, work.
5) Shizuoka Tea Growing Region- We were able to meet the owners of two highly regarded Japanese tea estates, Maru Matu and Sugimoto. We scheduled tours of their farms for our upcoming trip to Japan. How exciting! We hope to bring you loose leaf tea from these two estates in the near future.

**If you head to Vegas, remember to hydrate with tea and water. Have fun, and be safe.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Have Tea, Will Travel

“Sundays be gone”. I banish you from my life. In taking a look at my schedule for the next month or so, I realized that I will be out of town every weekend until mid-July. Now, this really mucks up my Sunday blogging schedule, and not to mention my 4pm Hendricks Gin-n-tonic down time. I enjoy getting up early on Sunday mornings, bellowing “caffeine” at the top of my lungs, as the Tea Drinker happily brings me a steaming cup of Hong Tao Mao Feng or the like. Then, I jump right into to rapidly typing away on my laptop. Ah, the good life.

What is on my calendar that brings me away from home on summer weekends for the next 30 days or so? Inquiring minds want to know. The World Tea Expo in Vegas, Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, CO, and a two week Japan cultural and tea buying trip, including visits to Tokyo, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Uji, and Hiroshima. Well, as you can see, it’s a very tea focused month. Okay, maybe not the Aspen part, but a Wife of Tea Drinker needs to get out once in a while, and have some fun.

I look forward to bringing exciting stories to you from each of these diverse cities in the upcoming weeks. Guaranteed there will be many memorable meals consumed, loose leaf tea and wine libations slurped down in copious amounts, loads of educational moments, and plenty of Advil, on hand. But, this Sunday, I don’t have time to share stories. I am off to work for a day of “cooking and wine-ing”. I recommend that you start each day with loose leaf tea. It will take you to faraway places in mind, body, and spirit (airfare, not included).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Ultimate Craving for Peppermint Tea

Let’s just say, I am on another health kick. With my boot camp passion firmly in place, I am working on adding stretching and flexibility to my agenda. I can hardly touch my toes, unless there is a potato chip laid out before me or a slice of pizza from Oenotri. This morning, I headed out the door to attend a local Bikram Yoga class. You may remember my attempt at this a couple of years back, an amusing situation where my dear husband thought I was going to “burping yoga”.

This morning's sweat session lasted for ninety minutes and was filled with 26 traditional postures. I am happy to report that I survived(minus being a bit dehydrated and left feeling like a “salt lick”). Right after class, the strangest thing happened--I began craving peppermint tea. One would think that water, a nap, and carbohydrates would be first on my list. Thank goodness, I am married to the Tea Drinker and can have Peppermint loose leaf tea at will. This craving got me musing about how one’s body speaks to you about what its lacking. I decided to take this opportunity (while recovering on the couch) to research the health benefits of drinking peppermint tea. Lo and behold, I found out that this herb is one healthy treat.

First up, you have to like the flavor of peppermint. It’s very distinctive. I have to admit it was hard to focus as my mind kept wandering back to the holidays where I consumed my fair share of peppermint bark from the Vintage Sweet Shoppe. I digress; back to health. In my research, I discovered that peppermint(menthe piperata) is a natural hybrid of spearmint, and watermint. Peppermint is unique in that it contains a powerful therapeutic ingredient, called menthol. This natural ingredient brings loads of benefits through the volatile oil contained in the leaves.

Let’s get healthy!
Check out these great benefits of drinking peppermint tea.
• Treats irritable bowel syndrome.
• Helps ease nausea, and upset stomachs.
• Strengthens the immune system- fights cold and flu.
• Relieves stomach and menstrual cramps.
• Contains high amounts of calcium, Vitamin B, and potassium.
• Improves digestion, and reduces heartburn. Enjoy a cup right after you eat.
• Dissolves gallstones.
• Great as a natural breath freshener. Smooch. Smooch.
• Alleviates muscle aches, headaches and chronic pain.
• Clears congestion, helps with allergies, and colds.
• Combats stress. Sign me up!
• It’s caffeine free, refreshing, and hydrating!

Now, I completely understand why my body was screaming for peppermint tea! Drink the Leaf offers peppermint tea that is organically grown in Washington. You can serve this herbal beverage hot or cold. I actually prefer drinking it at room temperature.

Now I am so darn relaxed, that I need a pick me up. I better move onto Keemun Hao Ya A. I still have a lot to get done today!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Napa Valley's Pearl

Every town in America should have an eatery like Pearl Restaurant. A place where you can go, and they know you by name. They know your likes, dislikes (no red meat, please), and your favorite spot to sit (at the bar). The Tea Drinker and I are lucky enough to have this gem of a restaurant just blocks away from where we live in Napa. Last night, we strolled down to Pearl, and saddled up to the kitchen bar, and ordered up some of our most coveted dishes. We started with a bottle of our house Chardonnay and slurped down oysters roasted with salsa verde and feta cheese. Delicious. It was the perfect way to wrap up a busy day at the Farmer’s Market, followed by laundry, cleaning, laundry again, and Japan research.

Nickie and Peter Zeller, the lovely owners, are always welcoming, and knowledgeable about the latest news in the neighborhood. They are the hardest working couple we know (besides yours truly and the Tea Drinker). Head Chef Jose Guzman is an unassuming guy, who has a gentle smile, and twinkle in his eye. I admit I am enamored with the food that he puts out, and the Tea Drinker would love a job there just so that he can partake in the best employee meals that we have ever witnessed. On the walk down to the restaurant, I kept rambling on about whether or not it was soft shell crab season, yet. The pan-fried panko crusted soft shell crab sandwich topped with avocado, and chipotle aioli (applewood bacon optional) on a ABC bakery’s potato bun is the best around, It's worthy of pushing someone off a bar stool to get the last order, if needed. The Tea Drinker feels the same way about the Guerrero corn on the cob. The corn is grilled, then rolled in a cotija cheese and sour cream chili mixture, and finished with a slice of fresh lime. Jackpot! The soft shell crab was in, but it was too early for the corn. Thank god, June is just around the corner. Another favorite is Jose’s Chicken Verde served with a side of creamy polenta, and steamed vegetables. However, last night the Tea Drinker opted for the Apple Dijon Brined Pork Chop, double thick, bone-in served with mashers and steamed vegetables. It’s important to have your veggies every day...

We celebrate this treasure called Pearl, and Nickie and Peter who make it happen every day! Before you start writing in and demanding the corn recipe, I have provided it below. June is just weeks away- dig out the Iced Tea Pitcher, your favorite Drink the Leaf blend (recently received rave reviews), or the makings for a gin-n-tonic. Get ready, set, go! Grill on.

Guerrero Style Grilled Corn on the Cob
This is a great dish for the BBQ. Grill the corn around the edges of the grill, while cooking meat, chicken, fish or whatever in the middle.
• 12 ears of corn, shucked & cleaned of all silk & steams cut
• 1 cup sour cream (can be nonfat)
• 1 cup mayonnaise (can be nonfat)
• 1/2 tsp chili arbol molida (ground fine) if unavailable
ground buy whole dry chili arbol & grind in mortar or
coffee grinder*
• 1/2 tsp chili pequin molida (ground fine) same as above*
• 1/2 pound cotija cheese grated fine (like dry Italian cheese)*
• 4 limes cut in wedges
Prepare ahead:
• Make wood or charcoal fire. While fire is getting ready blanch corn in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove to
colander & set aside.
• Can be done 4 hours ahead: whip the mayonnaise, sour cream, chili pequin & chile arbol together until smooth.
Set aside.
• Brush blanched corn lightly w/ vegetable, canola or olive oil, place on grill & keep turning until brown all over. Remove from grill & brush with sour cream, mayonnaise, chili mixture & dust w/ grated cotija cheese.
• Put on skewers if you choose or use your hands.
• Serve w/ lime wedges.
*can be found in Mexican markets (in Napa at Morenita Market on Jefferson across from Napa High, very reasonable price on cotija cheese & dry chilis) or in the Mexican section
of most super markets.
Other notes:
-if you are not grilling outside you can brown the blanched corn on the burners of a gas stove or in a grill pan.
- grate the cheese 4 hours ahead and spread it on a sheet pan to dry. That makes it easier to dust it onto the corn.
** recipe provided by Pearl Restaurant

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cycle for Tea

My blog has a flat tire. Its run out of air, speed, and wind. Wait- that’s me. A short posting today, as I am headed to Auburn, CA to watch a portion of the first stage of Tour of California. This road race has become the largest cycling event in America. The ride is divided into eight challenging courses, that begins in Nevada City and ends in Southern California on the 23rd of May. Actually a portion of this race will ride right through Napa, and whiz by my “home away from home”, where I will be watching with other spectators. There is also a non-profit component to this race, which is a nice touch. The bio technology company, Amgen, is the primary sponsor. This company focuses on the development of innovative medicines that are made available to treat cancer. “Breakaway from Cancer” is another leg to the race sponsorship bringing awareness to the resources available to cancer patients.

Are you eager to know if I am an avid cyclist? Well, I'm not. I have tooled around a few times in my life, but never have been a cyclist. I have always admired and marveled at the likes of Lance and Levi, but never felt the urge to jump on a road bike. The thought of taking on the four wheels of this world(whose drivers have one ear to a cell phone ) sends chills down my spine. Instead, I recenlty purchased a town cruiser(see photo above) that takes me to the grocery store and back via less traveled roads.

However, I am sure after today’s experience, I will be bugging the Tea Drinker to join me in my new passion, road biking. I will wake up every day and do deep knee bends, wear lots of padding on my rear end, don a helmet, and bike to work. I will utter strange words, and rattle on about sprints, time trials, road rash, and wheelsuckers. I will have Iced Herbal Masala Chai in my water bottle and feel the wind at my back. Then, I will snap out of it, and remember that I am totally out of steam, and can’t take on another hobby. But, I could be convinced...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Flurry of Love on Mother's Day

Reporting from my hometown of Buffalo, NY where the wind is howling, snowflakes are in the air, and the temperature is a chilly 38 degrees. I presume Western New York did not receive the memo, “April showers, bring May flowers”. In any case, there is plenty of food, wine and Drink the Leaf loose leaf teas to keep us cozy. Today, of course, is Mother’s Day. I would like to take this moment to wish all the fabulous mothers out there, who are slaying dragons on a daily basis, a wonderful time with their families (or not). You are admired, loved, and revered. We salute you. Kick off your shoes, grab a book, and steep yourself a steaming cup of brew. Better yet, have someone else do it for you.

I am a big believer in worshipping your Mommy. Who else would put up with you your whole life-- the good, the bad and the ugly? Um, thanks again, Mom. So, what to do for your Mom on this momentous day? As my Mom put it, all she wants to do on her special day (which also happens to be her birthday) is to DO NOTHING. Actually, she made some off the wall comment about “applying Velcro to her backside and adhering herself to the couch”. Ah, the pleasure of nothingness for a day. It recharges the soul. Mom, I grant you this wish, and nothing but all my love! Oh, and, Mom, could you please move over on the couch? I am the proud mother of Little One, after all. Parents these days…

Love you oodles Mom, thanks for your unwavering support, love and friendship. On the menu today is Egg & Sausage Bread Pudding with a Spring Salad, and a nice chilled glass of one of your most coveted Chardonnays. Bon Appétit !

This is a delicious savory bread pudding that I have served on Christmas morning in the past. I thought it would be fitting for Mother’s Day in Buffalo.

Grocery List:
4 TBSP Butter, unsalted
1 cup chopped onions
¼ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
¼ cup finely chopped red bell peppers
¾ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 TBSP. chopped Italian Parsley
6oz Bacon
6oz Sausage(I used a combination of Smoked Chicken Andouille and Italian Turkey)
8 Eggs
3 cups of Milk
½ cup heavy cream
1 ¼ tsp Creole Seasoning (Essence!Bam!)
8 cups of Italian Bread, chopped in 1" cubes ( leave out the night before)
2 cups of Grated Cheese ( such as Gouda or Fontina)
½ cup dry bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 TBSP of melted butter

Get to Work:
1) Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish(9 x 13”) with 1 TBSP butter.
2) Melt 2 tsp of butter over med- heat in medium skillet. Add onions, bell peppers, pinch of salt and black pepper. Cook until soft.
3) Add garlic- cook until fragrant. Add parsley- stir and remove from heat.
4) In another skillet- Melt 1 tsp. butter, over medium heat. Add bacon, cook, drain on paper towels. Add sausage, cook until browned, remove and drain on paper towels. Let cool.
5) In large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, cream, 1 tsp of seasoning, ½ tsp of salt, and pinch of black pepper. Whisk to combine. Add bread cubes, and let sit for 5 minutes. Add bacon, sausage, onion and pepper mixtures, and cheese. Stir to combine. Pour entire mixture into baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 50 minutes.
6) Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, remaining 1/2 tsp of seasoning, and melted butter. Spread mixture evenly on pudding. Put back in oven, uncovered, for an additional 2o minutes, until down in the middle.
7) Enjoy, then have someone else clean up the kitchen, and put away the dishes.

** recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse/foodnetwork

Serve with a mixed greens spring salad tossed in a light dressing.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fava Bean Tragedy at Napa Farmer's Market

The Farmer’s market season has begun in Napa Valley. This means that from now until the end of October, you will find the Tea Drinker at Drink the Leaf’s booth each Tuesday and Saturday. Typically, in the beginning of the season, the market starts off slow both in foot traffic and vendors, and then ramps up(no pun, intended!) by mid-June. Yesterday, it was great to visit with the other vendors and our customers. We gabbed about the winter, complimented each other’s new hairstyles, and praised the good weather. At Drink the Leaf, we started this year’s market off by sampling our delightful Ceylon Black, and had fourteen teas available for sale. No surprise, the teas were a hit.

The Farmer’s Market this year is located in the parking lot of the now defunct Copia, which is next door to the Oxbow Public Market. We prefer this new location to last year, however, there is quite a bit of road construction going on nearby. Plan ahead, as you have to zigzag your way around the back streets to get to the market. The good news is that you will pass by GOTT’s Roadside 'Tray Gourmet', and if you are exhausted, cranky or famished you can always stop in for a mint chip milkshake, Ahi tuna burger, and an order of sweet potato fries, to quell your anxiety. It works for me every time.

While the Tea Drinker was chatting with customers and inquiring about their tea drinking habits, I was out and about sampling the goods. I tried an addictive garlic and Parmesan spread from the Glop. This new vendor at the market was very popular; the interesting name and cool packaging brought people over, and they hovered for samples, and plopped down money for purchases. Glop hit the mark, and I was off. I ambled over to Humble Beginnings and Annie the Baker(her real name is Annie Baker-no joshing). These two great vendors offer up tasty jams, jellies and homemade cookies. Last year, we were situated between them; I suspect we must have been too rowdy, since they split us up this time around. As always, Annie the Baker sold out of her delicious dough-like cookies. It’s not uncommon to walk by her booth, and hear someone pleading, “But, I need me some of those Toffee Milk Chocolate Chip cookies!!”. Oh, wait, that was me. But, seriously, do not be surprised when you find yourself pleading with her, too.

By the time I got to the produce section, it was slim pickings. Darn it, because I was craving fava beans, and they were sold out. The nice lady told me that they had a huge pile of them at opening, the crowd got unruly, people were grabbing and pushing, and the beans were gone within minutes. Fava beans tend to bring out crazy behavior in people, every time. I cruised back to check on the Tea Drinker and he was trading Jasmine Pearl and Blood Orange black for roasted garlic hummus dip and pita chips from, The Hummus Guy. That’s why I love my husband, always thinking about our next meal.

Speaking of food, my stomach was growling as the market came to a close. So, being the great wife that I am, I offered to run over to the Oxbow and pick us up lunch from Pica Pica Maize Kitchen. We packed up the truck and headed home and enjoyed our classic Venezuelan meal on the patio. While snacking on a sweet corn pancake filled with shredded chicken and cheddar cheese, I proceed to tell my husband my strategy for the next market. I will be damned if I let someone else snag those fava beans again. He nodded and listened patiently, and then reminded me that my duties as a wife of a tea drinker included not causing waves at the market. Yes, dear.

Stop by the farmer’s market this week, the Tea Drinker will be on hand with great gift ideas for Mother’s day. Check out our fancy new gift tins of loose leaf tea paired with Botanical Bakery “Ginger Squared” shortbread cookies. Treat your Mom right.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Drink the Leaf Iced Tea at Top Napa Restaurant

I am proud to announce that my husband, the Tea Drinker, has landed his first restaurant account in the Napa Valley. Recently the Rutherford Grill made the decision to offer Drink the Leaf’s iced tea blend to their customers. Hip, hip, hooray! This buzz of a restaurant is a staple in the valley for tourists and locals, alike. Its located on the corner of HWY 29 and Rutherford Cross Road in the town of Rutherford: population 525. The Grill serves up delicious comfort food, such as barbeque pork ribs, rotisserie chicken, and jalapeno corn bread, to loads of hungry people, and probably doubles the town's population on any given day.

The General Manager, Don, is a smart man, and he is my hero. By offering Drink the Leaf, he has helped narrow the gap between my two passions: tea and wine. Most Fridays at 11:45am(when I am not traveling) you can find me at the Rutherford Grill bar enjoying a veggie burger with coleslaw or the Sashimi Ahi tuna salad along with a big glass of my favorite wine. Thankfully, now I can add Iced Tea to my lunch diet! What a sigh of relief.

Drink tea.Drink wine. Eat well.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Loose Leaf Tea spotted in Wine Country

Wine, oysters, sausages, lamb chops, bacon, salumi, cheese, bread and loose leaf tea equals happiness. Yesterday, loads of cheerful hungry and thirsty people descended upon the small town of Forestville, CA. They were there to sample the delicious wines of Wind Gap winery accompanied by tasty treats from local purveyors, including yours truly, Drink the Leaf. Our dear friends, Pam and Pax Mahle, who own and operate Wind Gap, invited the Tea Drinker to participate in their Spring Awakening release event(Pam and Pax are also the cool cats that invited us to the Pat Benatar concert last summer). Their winery is located in a quaint building with lots of character, just one street off the main drag. Forestville is a storybook town – it has one gas station, a bar, a bakery, a post office, a couple of restaurants, a stream of bicyclists, and a winery. What more do you need in life?

The Spring Awakening was a huge success. Wind Gap hosted a “farmer’s market style” event bringing together like-minded folks offering high quality products. I personally thought it was a brilliant idea, taking a traditional wine tasting and turning it into something more interesting, and rewarding. It’s a win-win situation to invite your customers to learn more about other local businesses; it certainly adds extra value. As a consumer who enjoys buying and supporting local companies, I was thrilled that the Tea Drinker was invited to join the festivities. It was a wonderful sight to watch a hundred or so people swirling, sipping, snacking and mingling.

Fully charged with a cup of brew in my system , I was ready to tackle the day. Here are a few highlights:

• Oysters from Hog Island Farms paired with 2009 Trousseau Gris, Russian River Valley, a delightful bright white wine that is bone dry with loads of flavor. “Ripe peaches dipped in honey”, as described on their website, by winemaker, Pax. Slurp. Slurp. Trousseau Gris is a mutation of the red grape, Trousseau originated in the Jura region of France.

• The 2008 Chardonnay, “Yuen”, a lovely wine that is a blend of two touted central coast vineyards, James Berry and Brosseau. “Yuen” is the Chinese word meaning “a connection that was meant to be”. I definitely have some Yuen for this wine. Run, don’t walk. Don't forget to plan ahead and have the rich, buttery Fiscalini Farmstead Cheddar on hand. And, maybe you could beg Forestville's own Nightingale Breads to ship you one of their freshly baked loaves. Their multi-grain is the best I have ever had.

• Bacon and wine is a marriage made in heaven. That’s what I am told, anyways. My girlfriend definitely seemed to be enjoying the bacon from Black Pig Meat Company, while we sipped on the 2007 Syrah, Griffin's Lair, from Sonoma Coast.

All in all, it was a wonderful day spent with new and old friends. The Tea Drinker worked hard, but he was content pouring his favorite teas for the Wind Gap customers. Also, I kept him supplied him with lamb chops right off the grill. I ended my wine tasting day with a tall glass of refreshing (hydrating) Iced Citrus Rooibos. Just another day in the life of the Tea Drinker and his silly wine-drinking wife... tootles, ta-ta, until next time.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sweet Dreams Tokyo!

Most of my free time is spent planning our upcoming summer vacation to Japan. It’s the last thought in my head as I drift off to sleep, and the first thing I think about when I wake up. Just this week, I announced to the Tea Drinker, “You will never believe the dream I had last night!”. He yawned, “Let me guess, was it about Japan?" As I dragged myself to the shower I explained, "I know, I know, here I go again. But in last night’s dream we were at the finale of American Idol, in Tokyo! We had front row seats--how cool is that?" The Tea Drinker sighed (and I think he was rolling his eyes, but I was heading to the bathroom). “And," I continued with a touch of petulance, "Simon winked at me.” The Tea Drinker’s response: “How about we cut back on your caffeine and laptop intake?”

I love planning and I love to travel. This trip will bring all the best elements together: an exotic, faraway place; amazing cuisine; tasty libations; world-renowned tea regions; culture; and rich history. Each night I arm myself with The Lonely Planet, DK Eyewitness and my laptop. I am the ultimate hot date. I've learned so much about Japan by reading various travel blogs (beginning with how to navigate Narita Airport) and cruising my favorite travel portal:, which has provided me with a wealth of scintillating information (such as how to use the loo). I can’t imagine planning our itinerary without the use of these tools. I am officially my own travel agent. Two years ago, I spent hours and hours poring over Trip Advisor, planning our excursion to China. I found our oasis getaway in the Hangzhou tea region by reading someone else’s travel blog. There is so much information to be had, and I am ready to tap into it. Whether you are traveling to Los Angeles or Laos, you will not be disappointed if you utilize the Internet, and the power and vibrancy of someone else’s personal account.

In June we will be heading to Japan for twelve days. I have read over and over that that the early summer months mark the rainy season and that it will be hot and humid. Sounds like perfect traveling conditions to me. This is where Japanese beer will come into the picture. Rain or shine, we'll have loads of fun and a rich and rewarding experience. As of my last sign off from the Internet, our itinerary is as follows: Tokyo, Hakone, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Uji, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and then back to Tokyo before we head home. Many cultural sites are on the agenda; countless noodle and sushi restaurants are staked out; and we'll enjoy two separate field trips to Japan’s most well-known tea regions (featuring gyokuro and sencha). All will be accomplished with various train rides in between. If you have been to Japan or know someone who has, feel free to pipe in and leave a comment on this blog. We would love to hear your recommendations or suggestions on the “must see, must do, must eat, must drink” features of this fabulous and intriguing country.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

We wish you a fun-filled time with family and friends on this Easter holiday.

We are snuggled up by our fireplace enjoying this day of rest and new beginnings. The kettle is on as we eagerly anticipate slurping down copious amounts of loose leaf tea. Oh, and there may be a Vintage Sweet Shoppe chocolate bunny or two awaiting our introduction.

Peace, love and happiness…

Tea Drinker & Wife of Tea Drinker

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Breakie in Wine Country

Spring is in the air, and I am hungry. My gurgling and growling stomach woke me up bright and early this morning. I never used to wake up hungry, but lately it’s the first thing on my agenda, right after caffeine. Where to go in the beautiful Napa Valley? We decided to try Fremont Diner located on Highway 121 in the Carneros. As stated in previous posts, the Tea Drinker and I are fans of going out to breakfast. Okay, we admit it, we are fans of eating. Period. Our favorite local breakfast joint, Boon Fly Café (also located in Carneros), is where we usually go, and gobble down our stand-by orders of “eggs in a hole” and "Green Eggs & Ham”. Today, however, we decided to venture a bit further down the road, and give the Fremont Diner a try.

This diner used to be named Babe’s, a sort of run down place, where they served up up shakes, burgers, and fries. We went there a few times, and snuck home afraid we would be caught with grease dripping down our chins. The new owners of this diner have done wonders with the ambiance, and created a cozy, comfortable southern-style restaurant nestled in wine country(this blog has great photos). As you approach the Fremont Diner, you feel as though you stumbled upon a secret treasure; it fits in nicely amongst the vineyards and cow pastures.

A small building with a screen door welcomes you to step right up to the window counter(outlined with a chalkboard menu) to place your order. While you wait in line, there is plenty to look at- a lot of nice touches that make a statement about thought, care, and supporting local goodies. The counter is lined with homemade pastries, jellies, and preserves. We passed this time around, but plan to come back and sample them soon. Sit at the brushed steel counter( there are about four stools) and view the open kitchen. There are plenty of magazines and newspapers to read, or just enjoy your meal and watch the action. We opted for one of the antique tables, and watched the many hungry souls enjoying their morning. Looking around I assumed that almost everyone in the restaurant was on a getaway weekend to the wine country. They looked happy as they filled up on biscuits and gravy before heading out for another day of sampling wines or fighting the traffic back to San Francisco. Either way they looked content. The restaurant also has picnic tables out back, if you want to take in the fresh air.

The menu supports many local farmers and companies. It seems to be their motto. On the breakfast menu choices range from Shrimp & Grits, Black Pepper Brisket Hash, French Toast, Ricotta Pancakes, and an Egg breakfast. I attempted to order the Rancho Gordo yellow eyed beans, with sage and chili salt, and a fried egg on top. Alas, they were sold out. The man in charge suggested that I ordered the grits(stating, "they will be the best I will ever have"),with a fried egg and grilled asparagus stalks. Sold to the highest bidder! I thought the grits were pretty darn good, but then the Tea Drinker reminded me about the shrimp and grits that we had at brunch one year after the Atlanta High Museum Wine Auction. They were made by Chef Rathbun; I really should reach out for him and get that recipe. But, I will state that the fried egg in this dish was perfectly cooked, and probably the freshest tasting egg I have ever had. Absolutely delicious. Oh, and what did my lovely husband order? The Tea Drinker loves breakfast sandwiches. Eggs, Meat , Cheese, Bread. No need to elaborate here!

Now onto the rest of our day, where we will be tasting lots of loose leaf teas(Assams and Ceylons), and then heading out for a bike ride. Put a spring in your step with fresh ingredients at every meal, and support your local purveyors. Now what’s for lunch?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Run Tea Drinker, Run!

A picture is worth a thousand words. Check out the photo of me about ready to cross the finish line at this year’s Carneros Vineyard 10K Run, which benefits the Carneros Volunteer Fire Department -Station 10. At that precise moment, I was happy, proud, and feeling great. I was also extremely proud of my fellow runner friends(see below). The Tea Drinker was there to cheer us on and document our success. He is my number one cheerleader without the pom poms. My husband greeted me bright and early this morning with an energizing snack of peanut butter on whole wheat toast, and a tall cup of one of my all-time favorite teas, Red Peony. Then came the pep talk with words of encouragement, such as, “Think of that glass of wine you will be handed once you cross the finish line(we are in Napa Valley, after all), and the pancake breakfast prepared by fireman”. He was right, I believe I have run more than 6.2 miles before for a glass of wine.

Before the race, I stretched, foam rolled(a tortuous boot camp apparatus), sipped on loose leaf tea, and visualized crossing the finish line. And what a vision it was: a race set in the heart of Carneros (with a perfect running temperature of a cool 48 degrees) surrounded by rolling hills filled with mustard and grapevines. As you can see, I proudly wore my Napa Valley Adventure Boot Camp t-shirt. I would not have attempted this run without the support and encouragement of my workout mentors, and friends. They got me here today, and continue to help me accomplish my goals. Hooray for Boot Camp! Here I go again…gushing about Boot Camp.

I am now back home still wearing my race bib number while drinking Clouds & Mist. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate! Drink loose leaf tea and let your imagination run wild.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Tea Drinker!

It’s the Tea Drinker’s birthday week! This tradition of celebrating for a week was implemented by yours truly many years ago. The rules are simple. The "birthday person" chooses when their special week begins and it ends seven days later( it must include the actual birth date). Being your birthday you get to choose the lucky recipient to coordinate and organize your every whim. This person is usually a spouse, significant other, or a best friend (who else would put up with this type of behavior?). Sound fun? Well, it can be, if it is your birthday.

How does one officially kick off the birthday week? Believe me, you will know exactly when the festivities begin. For example, our week began with something like this: one early morning the Tea Drinker rolled over and proclaimed, “Honey, can you get me a cup of tea?” I replied, “I am in the middle of something-sleeping.”. The Tea Drinker's rebuttal, “Birthday week”. Simple, no arguments. I lose. He wins. Let the games begin.

The key to a successful birthday week is to mix it up. Keep your partner in suspense. Food, wine, tea, exercise, fun activities, and etc. all sound like a normal week for us. But, this is where you are wrong. Only one person is deciding this agenda. For example, are you always the one to take out the garbage? Clean the kitty litter box? Feed the fish? Not this week, it’s your birthday. Are you craving Mexican food one night and barbeque the other? No problem. What can I get you? I think you get the picture.

The Tea Drinker’s birthday week involved many things that we both enjoy: going out to eat, drinking great wine, planning our upcoming trip to Japan, and a plethora of tea tastings for Drink the Leaf . We accomplished all of this without any disagreements. Of course, what's to argue about when it's your birthday week! Give it a try. Your loved one will thank you. The key is to remember to be very careful in what you ask for during your week, because "birthday paybacks" can be hell. Since, this birthday week is not our first rodeo, things are going smoothly.

Well, I have to run. The Tea Drinker has an itch, and I have to scratch it.

Happy Birthday, Honey! Lots of Love. XOXO

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Gyokuro, Sencha, Genmaicha, Matcha, and Kukicha. Again. Gyokuro, Sencha, Genmaicha, Matcha, and Kukicha. The Tea Drinker repeatedly took me through these steps today. He urged me to study, memorize, steep, taste, and savor the flavors of Japanese green teas. He begged me to put down my habitual cup of caffeine-loaded black loose leaf tea, and open my eyes to the wonders of the world. I fretted. What would the toned down version of me look like? Calm and serene ? Impossible. I promised to drag myself out of this rut to drink more Oolongs, White tea, even the Herbal variety, but venture more into green tea? The Tea Drinker was putting his foot down, and told me, “Today, you begin a new adventure: Japanese Green Teas. Get your passport ready”.

Japanese Green Tea 101:
Tea drinking was brought to Japan from China around the 9th century, and was destined to be forever immersed in this culture. The highest quality Japanese green teas tend to come from the Yame region of Fukuoka Prefecture and the Uji region of Kyoto. Japanese teas, like all teas, are made from the lovely coveted camellia sinensis plant. Green teas are unique in that they are “un-oxidized” or undergo minimal oxidation. In Japan, tea leaves are steamed, as opposed to being tossed in a hot pan(the process in China). Steaming the leaves produces teas that are fresh and delicate. They tend to be bright green in color, complex in flavor with aromas of fresh cut grass and toasted nuts. Overall, green tea is low to moderate caffeine(sigh), very full of antioxidants, and receives the most recognition for its health benefits. I guess I could use the extra health boost.

Before steeping, be sure to have the water temperature just right, as you do not want to scald those poor little teas leaves. Yes, Master Tea Drinker.

Sencha- A common tea in Japan, and very popular worldwide. Made from leaves that are exposed to direct sunlight, harvested, steamed then rolled. The resulting tea has a natural sweetness, and is packed with fresh herbal flavors. Try the Kawane -it brews a beautiful dark forest green liqueur, has vibrant aromas of fresh cut grass, nuts, and Nori seaweed. It will bring spring right to your front door.

Asahina Gyokuro- A premium Sencha using only new shoots of the leaves that are cultivated in the shade before harvest. “Gyokuro” refers to the color of the infusion(“jewel dew”). This tea is of the highest quality. The leaves are almost aqua-green in color with intriguing aromas: a hint of citrus and fresh cut grass, with a mild flowery note. On the palate it's smooth with a natural sweetness. Flavors of toasted hazelnut or Nori seaweed comes to mind. I was so wrapped up in the sensory overload of this tea that my most cherished black tea almost became a distant memory.

Genmaicha- Enter: Sencha or Bancha green tea combined with popped corn and roasted rice. This tea was historically consumed by the less fortunate of Japan. However, today its enjoyed by all facets of society, and considered to be quite chic. “Popcorn” tea is just not for Friday night anymore. Treat yourself anytime of the day. It’s slightly grassy and nutty, like me.

Next week: Matcha, the powdered green tea essential in Japanese tea ceremonies and Kukicha, a tea made from twigs, stalks and stems. Hmm.. I may have to brew a strong cup of Keemun to get me through this next chapter.

Venture out in life. Do I see a trip to Japan in my near future? Hai!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

No Bones About- Tea Drinker Is In Love

No bones about it, hands down, the Tea Drinker was a happy camper yesterday after enjoying a half rack of dry rubbed brown sugar ribs. All this excitement took place at 12 Bones Smokehouse located in Asheville, NC. The Tea Drinker and I were in town for a new festival that is just getting off the ground(benefiting a great cause, The Frankie Lemmon Foundation). The city of Asheville is packed with plenty of good eats, including a plethora of barbeque joints. If you recall, my husband spent many Sundays this past summer perfecting the ultimate rib. Hours were whittled away on spice rubs, sauce concoctions, and achieving the perfect grill temperature. You can imagine what a tough decision it was to determine which restaurant to partake in amongst the many. Of course, I turned to Twitter, and posted an inquiry on @wifeteadrinker, and was welcomed with a flurry of responses. Viola! 12 Bones was on our radar.

12 Bones is privately owned, and the owners were on site. As someone put it to me yesterday, this restaurant has “banker’s hours”. Only open for lunch Monday through Friday, and Saturday’s at their Arden, NC location. We went to the Arden’s location which is situated in an old gas station. No wonder they keep these hours—I would too, if I had a line out the door day in and day out. The menu was easy to navigate: ribs, pulled pork and chicken, smoked turkey, with choices of sides: macaroni and cheese, jalapeno grits, baked beans, collard greens, slaw, mashed sweet potatoes, and etc. All served up on a tin platter. Customers can choose from a variety of sauces ranging from jalapeno, vinegar, mustard, and traditional barbeque tomato sauce. To heck with it, we brought all of them to the table.

I settled for the Smoked Turkey on Texas Toast with brie, and pesto mayonnaise. Let it be known right here and now-- I will be forever destined to think about and crave this tasty sandwich until I return. From the first bite, I knew I was doomed. It was that good. The turkey was very moist, and rubbed with a spice that was intoxicating. The pesto mayonnaise was the kicker, and the brie cheese was deliciously evil. It made me feel like I was getting away with something. I am new to Texas toast, but you can count me in as a believer. I chose the mac-n-cheese and sweet vinegar coleslaw as my sides. I was not disappointed. The Tea Drinker went with the rib plate accompanied by cornbread, grits, and baked beans. He had a permanent smile on his face for the rest of the day. Hours later I found him staring into space, repeating over and over, “Damn those ribs were good”…

We were so distracted and excited that we forgot to order Sweet Tea. Darn it, we will just have to make our way back there, soon.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Unleash the Power Within with Loose Leaf Tea

After three days packed with plenty of food, wine, and social interaction, I am spent. I am staring at my suitcase(headed to NC for another week of the same), a pile of dirty laundry, an inbox that is overflowing, and all I want to do is lie in bed, eat popcorn, sip on bubbly water, and stay in my pajamas. Don’t we all yearn for days where the only thing required of you is to flip to the next page in your book, or mute commercials during a mind-numbing TV movie? This is that day for me.

The Tea Drinker greeted me this morning with a steaming cup of Keemun Hao Ya A, a delightful robust tea. Today is not a day to tread lightly with my caffeine intake. I need the extra boost. The bigger, the bolder the tea, the better my outlook will be. Hey, I like the way that sounds, kinda catchy: the bigger, the bolder the tea, the better my outlook will be! Repeat. Bob your head to the left, and now to the right. Bounce up and down. Skip around. Wow, I am starting to feel better already. Tony Robbins move over --I have unleashed the power within-I just might have the motivation to get out of bed today, or even a take a shower. My possibilities are unlimited. The world is my oyster.

Embrace your inner strength. But, remember to have that kettle nearby…

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Always Sweet, Never Short: Tea & Chocolate

Today, are you finding yourself wondering what the secret is to a great marriage? The hype that surrounds this day can bring even the most capable man to his knees. The greeting card section of the grocery store is depleted and ransacked, florists are frazzled, candy shops are no longer sweet, and therapists take to the airways to weigh in on unlocking the key to someone’s heart. Valentine's Day can end up being an added stress to any relationship. Me? I woke up early just like any other day craving caffeine(in awe of my husband's amazing ability to steep an honest cup of tea).

The Tea Drinker and I have been together for almost nineteen years(thirteen married). I am pretty confident that we will be together right through to our golden years. Just this morning, he mentioned to me that I sleep so soundly that he checks to see if I am still breathing. What more could I ask for in a mate?

Many years ago, my husband’s Mom(Mops) gave me a handwritten note on a recipe card with the ingredients for a ‘beautiful and lasting friendship’. This advice has certainly worked for us; we only tweaked it slightly(see addendum below**). Thanks, Mops.

Respect- 1 full cup
Kindness- 1 full cup
Honesty- 1 full cup
Patience- 1 full cup
Wisdom- 1 full cup
Love- Infinity
Mix the above ingredients gently for a loving and enduring relationship.
**Supplement with ‘wine nights , pour in lots of humor, jet set and travel, and most importantly, take time to enjoy many delicious meals together.

Need to Spice it Up?!
Treat your honey to a loose leaf tea and chocolate pairing. No joke. The pairing of these two treats are good for your health; packed with plenty of anti-oxidants and benefits (including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease). You need a strong heart to stay in a healthy relationship.

Remember to stick with the following ground rules: always choose high quality and premium chocolates and loose leaf teas. Dark Chocolate has a higher cocoa butter content( 55% cacao or more) resulting in complex, full-bodied flavors that are less sweet and more bitter. Try a full bodied Keemun, or a lovely rich Pu-erh to pair with this type of chocolate. If you are a fan of Milk Chocolate (30% to 70%), these richer softer flavors pair nicely with Oolongs or even a bright green tea.

Currently my favorite chocolate producer is Vosges Haut Chocolate based in Chicago, IL. I adore this company and their philosophy about life, love and chocolate. Trust me, I have done a lot of market research. Vosges produces exotic chocolates made from the best ingredients offered from around the world. I could go on and on about the exquisite pairings that Owner/Chocolatier Katrina Markoff creates using unusual spices, intermingled with delightful flowers, and high quality artisan chocolate. And yes, she even experiments with integrating loose leaf tea into her repertoire.

Try any of the following pairings below and you will not be disappointed. Hey, when exotic, tea, and chocolate are all in the same sentence, you should not ignore the signs…

Matcha Exotic Candy Bar- Japanese matcha green tea with milk chocolate( 45% cacao). A perfect match with a grassy and complex Gyokuro.

Naga Exotic Candy Bar-Sweet Indian Curry, coconut and milk chocolate(41% cacao). Pair with the intriguing and seductive Mokalbari Single Estate Assam, and your heart will sing.

Calinda Exotic Candy Bar-Cardamon, organic walnuts, dried plums and dark chocolate( 65%). Spicy, and hot. Try with Organic Chic Chai or Herbal Masala Chai for a tamed down version.

Now, the above are just some of my favorites. But, if you are crazy about any of the following: walnuts, almonds, chili peppers, bacon, peanut butter, marshmallows, hibiscus, cinnamon, sea salt, goji berries, and macadamia nuts (just to name a few), then order now. Run to your kettle, don’t walk. Turn it on, kiss your honey, and count your blessings!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chips, Dip & Loose Leaf Tea

Are you ready for some FOOTBALLLLLL? I can only imagine the frenzy people are experiencing today. Friday (while in the Chicago Airport on my way home to Buffalo) I saw loads of people decked out in team gear with beer cozies in hand, ready to take on the weekend. Yesterday I ventured into Wegmans grocery store with my Mom; it took us an hour and half to battle the Chip Aisle. Quite the sight—Buffalonians are normally crazy for their Chip N Dip on any given day, but with Super Bowl XLIV looming, look out.

Okay, if you have read my posts before, you are well aware that I am not mesmerized by football. But I love nothing more than sitting on the couch reading a good book, sipping loose leaf tea or drinking wine (or in this case, spending time with my Dad at his home in Batavia, NY) while watching the game. We have a fun packed day planned: chips and Bison French Onion Dip, pretzels, Buffalo Chicken Wings with real bleu cheese, and Turkey & Pastrami Reuben sandwiches. We got it covered on the food front. I am armed with the final sappy book of the Twilight series (Breaking Dawn) and plenty of Organic Chic Chai to keep me warm and wide awake for the best entertainment of the day—Super Bowl commercials!

The Tea Drinker is at home in balmy Napa, CA, relishing in the thought of having the couch to himself. With his feline mascot stretched out behind him, he is stocked with plenty of good food & wine. Every Sunday during the past football season we have promptly called my Dad after each game to agonize over the lowlights and celebrate the highlights. (Remember, my husband is in charge of the post-game chit-chat—I’ve been reading a book.) This Sunday it will be fun to hang out with my Dad and Edward Cullen (Twilight) as we root for the…

Have fun, and be safe.

** Photo: Please do not try this at home. I think it’s illegal