Monday, September 4, 2017

Divine Tea Finds: Downton Abbey Bears and Antique Depot

Lord Grantham, Lady Mary and Mrs. Patmore 

In our second installment of our new blog feature, "BTS' Divine Tea Finds", we found "everything old is new again".

The Downton Abbey television series may be over, but there's much hinted on social media that there will be a new movie in 2018. We do so hope that is true. In the meantime, we're still hanging on to all things Downton. So, when the Downton Abbey teddy bears went on sale, we just had to snap up  a few.

Last month, the ShopPBS online store had an incredible sale on these furry personifications of the Crawley family and their downstairs staff.  These bears come from North American Bear Company, the same folks who make the adorable Muffy VanderBear family, which my daughter Rachel collected when she was young.

Lady Mary next to English Rose tea which "bears" her  likeness

Standing 12" inches tall, these bears are 4" taller than the tiny Muffy collection, giving us that much more to love.

The retail price for each Downton Abbey bear is $74.99. However, last month, ShopPBS offered up some of the  fuzzy cast members at $29.99.  At that price, the hardest decision was which to buy and how many.

Mrs. Patmore comes with her own spoon. She, too,  has her own tea.

In the end, I chose, Lord Grantham, Lady Mary and Mrs. Patmore, which provided the essentials of an aristocratic ensemble:  a Lord, a Lady and a cook.

(The other price I paid was promising Lord Gulley of Glencoe that I would take two boxes of "stuff" out of the house and donate, which I did.)

Lord Grantham with a cup of  Breakfast Blend
The other purpose for my purchase was to have the cuddly characters displayed next to the Republic of Tea's tea tins "bearing" their likeness for all our Downton Abbey afternoon teas. We prepare and serve the teas in the Republic of Tea's Downton Abbey series, specifically Grantham Breakfast Blend, English Rose and Mrs. Patmore's Pudding. These are fun teas in name and packaging and well-received by guests.

At last check, the only bear still available on ShopPBS at this great price is Lord Grantham.

Our other "old" new find, was at one of our favorite antique stores in the whole world. Lucky for us, Antique Depot in Lewiston, Michigan, is just a hop, skip and a jump from our northern retreat in nearby Greenwood Township.

Rachel stands outside Antique Depot in Lewiston, Michigan

Antique Depot is owned and run by Deb K., who manages to make the store look brand new every time we visit. She has a keen eye for design and her displays of vintage china, crystal and assorted bric-a-brac are amazing. Sometimes arranged by color, sometimes by holiday, it's always pristine and appealing.

A "new" Paragon tea cup
Not the usual, but so pretty & perfect for the tea garden

Deb also offers outstanding customer service. You know your visiting an old friend each time you step through the door and she keeps an eye out for what you collect. I'm partial to Paragon tea cups and she'll let me know if she's secured some new ones and where they are in the store.

However, when we stopped in last month, she showed me a teacup that she really liked and thought I would, too, even though it wasn't Paragon. I LOVED it! It's still fine bone china, but it's not my usual Aynsley cup with the gold line around the middle. This one is white cup with delicate blue morning glories bordering the edge of both the cup and the saucer. It is perfect for afternoon tea in my up north tea garden.

If anyone is traveling north and then a bit east of I-75 (Mio/Gaylord vicinity) and wants to experience a wonderful afternoon of browsing beautifully displayed vintage collections, you must pay a visit to Antique Depot. Tell them BTS sent you. Better yet, text me and let's go together!

Bear in mind, everything old becomes new again! These were the BTS Divine Tea Finds for August. We'll be back in a month for more!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Northern Michigan Afternoon Tea is still an elegant affair

Afternoon tea at Pemberly Pines tea garden. with crasher, Glenn.

Rewind without crasher. Enjoying tea time with Rachel and sisters-in-law, Sandy and Cara

Two years ago today,  we were having afternoon tea at Claridge's in London.  Just last week, we were having a similar experience in the woods of northern Michigan.

Two years ago we were having tea at Claridge's. Where's Glenn?

For the past few years, we've been hosting a family reunion at our up north retreat. We're fortunate to have both sides of our families together (Gulleys and Engmans) under one roof for an extended weekend.

Family reunion - Gulleys and Engmans gather for paintball and afternoon tea

We gather together for paintball and, eventually, afternoon tea. In between, there's boating, archery, disc golf, tractor racing and outdoor movie night.

Paintball in the fields of Pemberly.

This year also marked an anniversary:  ten years of Pemberly Pines (we even had a sign made to commemorate the occasion!).

Cousins at the pond, sign commemorating 10 years of Pemberly Pines

To prepare for the afternoon tea, there's more than just steeping the brew and securing scones. First the tea garden must be improved. We groomed the beds and planted flowers and herbs earlier in the summer.


By reunion time, the tea garden had blossomed into a lovely outdoor venue, reminiscent of Claridge's (if Claridge's was "across the pond",  outdoors, in the heart of twenty acres of pine trees and without the trappings of luxurious furnishings and impeccable service).

Pemberly Pines tea garden on the other side of the PPines pond

Although we don't share the fancy linens or crystal chandeliers of Claridge's, we do bring delicious home-brewed tea and fine china. We chose Earl Grey from Palais des Thes (we purchased a few packages of this loose tea at La Boheme, the French cafe in Detroit, when we were there in July).

Brewing the Earl Grey and setting up the tea tray

We brewed the loose tea in Adagio's IngenuiTEA Teapots.  These are amazing and convenient lidded cups that allow you to steep the tea and then release the brew from the bottom.

Adding "roses" to the tea garden with Royal Albert tea set

The china we chose was our Royal Albert  Rose Confetti tea set. It added more flowers to the tea garden!

This year, Rachel and I were accompanied by my two sister-in-laws, Cara and Sandy, and for a brief moment, my brother, Glenn.

It was a most delightful way to wrap up the reunion. The long weekend was not long enough. We're looking forward to next year!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Solar eclipse 2017: Keep calm and drink (sun) tea

Best to be prepared for tomorrow's solar eclipse.  While special glasses or hand-crafted viewing equipment, (see below) are important, don't forget about your choice of tea.  Keep calm and drink sun-themed tea.

Tomorrow, August 21, the first solar eclipse in the continental US since 1979 will take place. While Michigan isn't in the "path of totality" that crosses several states from Oregon to North Carolina, we'll get about an 80% view of the eclipse, per The Detroit Free Press.

From 1:00 PM to almost 4:00 PM, the moon will cover a portion of the sun. At approximately, 2:27 in Detroit, the moon be directly in front of the sun, turning afternoon light into night time. I know what you're thinking - that's just in line with afternoon tea time. And, you are right!

Black tea is an excellent choice, considering the outlook of the afternoon sky at 2:30.  Here's what we picked out:

Hot Cinnamon SUNset from Harney & Sons. This is a spunky black tea blend with cinnamon, orange peel and sweet cloves. This will keep you going when nature lulls you into a premature evening atmosphere.

Another black tea choice for the eclipse is Tiger Tea from Yumchaa.  It is a refreshing Assam black tea with orange, blackberry, apricot and SUNflower.  We bought this in London at a Sunday Market when last in England, and find it to be a lovely alternative to Earl Grey in the afternoon.  Hearty, but fruity, it will lean you in the direction of the eclipse.

While black tea is a great pick-me-up in the afternoon, some of us rely on herbal tea to reduce the caffeine intake after noon. Light of Day's SUN in Winter is a fruit salad blend of ingredients with blackberries, cherries, blueberries, grapes, and currents along with lemon myrtle and lemon balm. A tisane that is prepared to "make you feel sunny in dark winter months".  If it can sustain us during the months of November through February, it should be more than sufficient for two minutes on an August afternoon.

Now for the other necessary equipment, aside from your teacup and kettle, for eclipse viewing - a pinhole projection box. The one we have here was put together at the home of BTS partner, Pam B., using an empty Cheerios box.

Put a piece of white paper at the bottom of the inside of the cereal box. Cut out the box top and place aluminum foil over the opening. Insert a pinhole in the aluminum foil. This pinhole allows the sun to reflect on the white paper at the bottom. You just look inside to see the eclipse in reflection.

My son, Rob, is the only one in our family who is actually traveling to another state for a better experience. He'll be in Kentucky tomorrow afternoon and I'll be anxious to hear about the eclipse festivities in the blue grass state.

As for me, I'll be at home with my pinhole projection device and a cup of tea. Keep calm and enjoy this rare occurrence. As noted in Time, we'll have to wait seven more years for the next one.  

Monday, July 31, 2017

BTS' Monthly Divine Tea Finds!

We hope you are having a brew-tea-ful day! 

At BTS, we are introducing a new monthly feature: Divine Tea Finds.  Along with our "BTS Featured Artist" and "Tuesday Tea and Tomes", we are adding a new spotlight on tea finds we uncover every month. July was a particularly spectacular month for amazing tea products. We have four that we'd like to share!


So many treasures are uncovered serendipitously. On a recent trip to our local Pier 1 to purchase patio chair cushions, I took a quick turn about the tableware displays and found this delightful tea canister. It's cheery greeting, with it's play on words and glass knob top, had me at "it's a brew-tea . . ."  It's cute, practical and will be a classy addition to any kitchen countertop. 

We purchased it for $24.95. See Pier 1, Coffee or Tea Holder.

This month, we not only spruced up our patio seating, but took a few road trips to distant lands: Petoskey, Michigan and Louisville, Kentucky and both locales had some divine tea finds!

Last week, we did a quick tour of the southern upper peninsula and the northern lower peninsula, ending up in Petoskey, where we visited Grandpa Shorter's gift store. It is here that we found not one, but two awesome tea finds.

 My sister-in-law gets credit for uncovering Tea forte Single Steeps at the Petoskey gift store. I was an immediate fan and couldn't wait to uncover all the teas in this treasure chest. Five teas are packaged in a tantalizing hinged box, and each tea has three single-serving packages ready to go. Easy to brew up with the aid of your favorite steeper, these single steeps provide the luxury of loose tea in convenient packaging and little waste.

You just brew and go right to the patio.

If you can't make it up to Grandpa Shorter's, the single steeps are available for $16.00 at the Republic of Tea's website, single steeps.


Another fabulous find at Grandpa Shorter's was Booklover's Cup of Tea, complete with a tiny tome steeper and accompanying tea book guide. The steeper cover title is, "A Tale of Two Ci-Teas". But, wait, there's more!


The informative companion book comes with instructions on brewing the "perfect cup",  hosting a tea party, and, lastly,  suggestions for novel tea pairing. The latter offers up tasty tea fare, complete with recipes, and tea pairings with three classics novels. How about, "The Picture of Dorian Earl Grey"?  Brilliant! Of course, our favorite is "Sencha Sensibility" for those of us who are Jane Austen enthusiasts.

Running Press has their Book Lover's Cup of Tea available on their website for $9.95.

And, speaking of Jane Austen, earlier this month we were in Louisville for the Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove. We met up with Julia Matson of Bingley's Teas.  A wonderful new product from this amazing tea company are tasty syrups made from their extraordinary tea. They can be added to a variety of drinks from lemonade to prosecco, equally at home on the bar or tea tray. I have to admit, the packaging is so beautiful, I have yet to disrupt the wax top. I will report back once we have uncorked the laveder syrup, but for now, it's on display in my new kitchen.

Four divine tea finds for July.

We hope you will partake in these fun and pretty tea products and have a brew-ti-ful August where more tea treasures await!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Football, cheese and. . . tea! With Q-Tea tea room, Green Bay has it all!

Trying the Royal Milk Tea at Q-Tea in Green Bay

When in Green Bay, do as the Wisconsiners do: see the Packers play football at Lambeau Field, snack on the state's signature food, cheese (eventually putting it on your head) and, with Q-Tea in town,  sit down in a lovely tea room and enjoy a delicious cup of tea.

This week, we took the ferry ride on Lake Michigan from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin and headed north to visit the sites in Green Bay. We stopped at the legendary football stadium, put cheese on our heads and made sure we stopped for tea at Q-Tea. We were delighted with them all!

Husband, Chris with my brother, Ed, in front of Lambeau Field
Cheeseheads:  Barb and Sandy

Q-Tea is just a short distance from Lambeau Field - about a 3 minute drive - but you have to look for it as it is set back a bit in an unassuming strip mall. But, once inside, you enter a tea room with a sleek, modern decor, where students, tourists and Packer fans can all feel comfortable.

Q-Tea has a sleek, modern decor where all will feel comfortable

With only a little time to make the most of our Q-Tea visit, I opted to try the monthly drink special, "Royal Milk Tea". This special brew is made of Earl Grey tea, milk and honey boba and can be served hot or cold. I chose the former and thoroughly enjoyed it. The first sampling tells you its creamy and sweet, but not cloying or saccharin-y.  I actually liked it better with each subsequent sip. It was the perfect afternoon treat after a day of Midwest traveling.

Q-Tea offers a large selection of boba (bubble) and loose teas

We had excellent customer service from Maddie. She was quick to answer our questions and brew us up a few monthly specials. My only regret is that we didn't have more time to sample the variety of teas on the menu and sit a spell in the welcoming environs of the Q-Tea tea room.

Next time you're in Green Bay for a football game or cheese tasting/donning, take a short trip down Oneida Street for a delicious cup of tea - hot or cold - at Q-Tea. Green Bay has something for every taste!

(As a die-hard Detroit Lions fan, I may have had to check my cheese-hat before entering Escanaba, but the teas can stay with me all through football season, where I often need a calming cuppa on a Sunday afternoon.)

Excellent customer service from Maddie, answering our questions & brewing tea!

Q-Tea is located at 2321 Oneida, Street in Green Bay. For more information, see visit them on Facebook at Q-Tea.

Q-Tea of Green Bay, less than a three minute drive from Lambeau Field

Saturday, July 22, 2017

La Bohème, from Paris to Detroit, tea, breakfast and lunch: C'est magnifique!

La Bohème's menu: from Paris to Detroit

On the corner of Kercheval and Parker in the West Village, a delicious taste of Paris comes to Detroit at La Bohème. Along with quiches, croques, pain au chocolate and macarons, there's also an added bonus to tea enthusiasts: a large selection of wonderful Paris-brand loose tea.


We stopped in this weekend for lunch and for a party of five, I found it wasn't a bad idea to call ahead for reservations. It was quite busy this Saturday afternoon. And, although the dining area is not large, we had plenty of space and found the ambiance casual and comfortable. Our tables were waiting for us when we arrived a little early and the staff was warm, friendly and accommodating.

My husband, Chris, and I got there before the rest of the family, so decided to have a little "appetizer" of pain au chocolate, a light and flaky croissant filled with chocolate.  It was simply scrumptious!

When the rest of our gang arrived, we ordered lunch.  I had a maurice sandwich - layers of ham and cheese housed in a baguette slice - served up with a light mix of greens and a garnish of grapes.

Others in our party ordered different croques, a type of grilled sandwich. All gave two thumb's up to their selection. These are generous-sized sandwiches, so some of us reserved a little to take home in order to save room for the pastries.

We ordered a few of the many tempting delights that are displayed in a glass case in easy view of all dining tables.  The pastries are as beautiful to look at as they are tasty to eat. We loved the Marie Antoinette, a pistachio macaron with raspberries and creamy filling.

We also ordered the chocolate lava cake. Truly decadent and delightful, it's a sweet, dense cake with a lush chocolate center.


But the figurative icing on the cake is the tea! All tea is from  Palais des Thes, a Paris brand tea. All the tea is loose and brewed in individual pots. Perfectly brewed and steeped, the tiny pots are brought to your table and all you need to do is pour.

We sampled some blacks and herbals and I found the Earl Grey to be particularly delicious. It was a smooth blend with a well-balanced citrus-y note, not overbearing as some can be.

Sugar and milk are served in an eclectic mix of china and silver pieces as are the tea and variety of comestibles.  (There's also a fine selection of coffee for those who wish to partake in the "other" hot beverage).

The decor is simple, yet artful and distinctively French. It reminded of us of the informal elegance of many of the Paris cafes we visited when in France a few years' back.

We met with co-owner and Paris native,  Jean-Yves Jeannot, who opened La Bohème this past February. There are more exciting plans for this lovely cafe in the very near future. Crepes will be on the menu and hours of service may be extended a few nights a week for dinner. We'll keep a close watch on that.

In that spirit, there are two clocks that hang on one of the cafe walls which are set to Paris time and Detroit time. We say, anytime is a great time to visit La Bohème.  C'est magnifique!!