Thursday, December 30, 2010

What's In, What's Out for 2011

Hello TEA Friends!

After all the shopping, decorating, baking, planning, eating and gifting of the holiday season, it's time to ring in the new year and focus on all that's ahead for the next twelve months. This is a great time to start fresh or renew unfinished projects. It's also the time that I look forward to some of the best reading material of the year: the highly anticipated "In/Out" lists of prescribed trends and fashions for the next 365 days. I cull newspapers, magazines and on-line sources to see if my toile pillows are still in style and if clutter remains an "out" (I'm forever optimistic that it will one day be "in").

This year, Barb's TEA Shop, has traveled to Las Vegas for the World Tea Expo, Louisville for the Jane Austen festival, and both upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan to uncover what's fashionable in tea for 2011. Here's our In/Out List for the new year.

Barb's TEA Shop's What's In/What's Out List in the World of Tea for 2011

IN ................................................................ OUT

Specialty loose teas................................................... Generic grocery store tea bags

Tea carts with room for wine.................................... No tea cart at all

Russell Hobbs tea brewing system ............................Tea made from hot tap water

Tea party attire: vintage jewelery, smart casual.........White gloves, mink stoles

Tea Whiskey ............................................................ An Old Fashion (because it's, well, old fashioned)

Pu-erh tea (old, but not old fashioned) .....................Other than Pu-erh, old tea

Honey spoons .......................................................... Three-year old honey in the bottom of the jar

Chamilia/Pandora bracelets with tea charms ............ Robin's-egg-blue-boxed chunky bracelet with heart

Chinese tea ceremony ......................................... Too ritualized tea (we're here to drink tea, after all)

Tea cozies ............................................................ Cold tea

Kim Wilson's Jane Austen's tea/garden books......... Any "Real Housewives of . . ." TV, even if they drink tea or garden

JASNA ................................................................... LOL, ROFL, BRB

Beautiful tea room in upper peninsula .................... Tea party moose hunting in Alaska

Blueberry tea from Blueberry Capital ......................Cherry flavored coffee from Cherry Capital

Tea Forte tea cocktails ............................................An Old Fashion (see above)

In-home tea tastings ..............................................Purse, cooking and Tupperware parties

Talbott Teas Cocoa cardamom seduction ................Drive-through peppermint mocha lattes (seductive, too, but at 400 calories per cup, they're out - at least until next December)

And finally:

Oprah's Favorite Things & Barb's TEA Shop's Wish List

(room for both of us, always "IN" and always IN good taste!)

Whether you're staying in to celebrate or heading out to party, we wish you a safe and happy New Year's Eve and a fantastic 2011!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Barb's TEA Shop Wish List

Hello TEA Friends,

During the year, I keep notes on things I find in my travels via plane, car or the worldwide internet that I think would make great gifts. And, you know that old adage that people give gifts that they would like to receive themselves? Well, my list is comprised of pretty much that - merchandise and excursions that I would be happy to receive.

So, dear friends, I offer the items on my list as suggestions and inspiration for the tea enthusiast on your list (or, if you are in a quandary as to what to put in Barb's TEA Shop's stocking).

Tea and tea related gifts wish list:

Mrs. Crumpet's tea cart from Victorian Trading company. At $399.95, this is on the high end of the list, but again, it is a wish list. This remarkable cart is elegant yet utilitarian with room for not only your tea service, but for a few bottles of wine as well. A must-have for the ultimate tea party.

Another big ticket item on the list is an overnight stay at Paula Deen's Y'ALL Come Inn on Tybee Island in Georgia. Although not a tea-specific item, ever since I received a Paula Deen tea kettle for Christmas last year I have yearned to head down to Savannah and stay a spell. I would bring my teapot down and use it to fix a delicious pot of tea for my favorite Food Network celebrity - even if it was only with her cardboard cutout clone.

Rates for one night's stay near my birthday (April) approximately $500.

In the more moderate range, but unquestionably luxurious, are Talbott Teas - selected as one of Oprah's Favorite Things of 2010. As some readers may already know, Talbott Teas has offered a limited time 15% discount on their gift sets (just use the promo code "COUTURE"). Tea lovers would love any one of these fine sets, but as long as we're wishing, clearly who could not want the aptly named "Ultimate Collection" for only $150. This gift set (see photo, upper left hand corner) includes a variety of both loose and sachet teas, a teapot, two cups, filters, honey sticks and a tray. (Everything that could fit on your Mrs. Crumpets tea cart.)

Our wish list also includes something for the tea geek in the family. We were introduced to the Zojirushi Water Heater at the World Tea Expo this June. Zojirushi is the "Apple" of the tea world and their water heaters are the IPad equivalent. The 4-litre model, on sale at Elmwood Inn Teas, will heat water to the correct temperature for green, white or black tea and keep it warm for hours. Is this essential? Does one need an IPad? I rest my case.

(Speaking of Elmwood Inn, we sampled their blueberry herbal infusion at the Expo and it was delicious. They have packaged it with their Christmas in a Cup custom tea blend for a Christmas Tea for Two.)

Another World Tea Expo find that's both festive and economical comes from Meville Candy Company. Tea and coffee spoons add a variety of flavors including honey, french vanilla and peppermint to your favorite hot beverage. These make great stocking stuffers or hostess gifts (and won't they look fantastic on your Mrs. Crumpets tea cart?).

While in the party spirit, consider Tea Forte's cocktail infusions. We purchased the Collection this year and enjoyed the teaming of tea and spirits. We are ready for reinforcements. (That tea cart is becoming very well stocked, don't you think?)

Of course, there a number of Michigan items on the wish list too. From local tea rooms, here are some of our favorites:

Chazzano Coffee in Ferndale has a fantastic Puerh tea - my latest indulgence. While there, you may also want to pick up the Ethiopia Harrar for your friends on the Dark Side.

Goldfish Tea Room has an outstanding Keemun black tea. A package of this - or any of their Chinese teas - will satisfy tea fans. Also, check out their pear wood tea boats, they're essential for an intimate tea ceremony with friends.

And, if you want to experience an authentic Chinese tea ceremony by a Chinese tea master, treat yourself and a friend to Master Ma at The Wanderer's Tea House in East Lansing. We went earlier this month and were exposed to an exquisite tea and a wealth of information. For the outrageously low price of $10.00 a person, you will want to make the trip more than once.

Continuing north, Light of Days of Traverse City offers delicious organic, free trade teas. We would be delighted to find Creamy Earl Grey, Coffee Convert or Cacao Mint tea under our tree Christmas morning.

Finally, no list would be complete without a nod to our own hand-crafted tea cozies available on Barb's Tea Shop e-store. There are styles and sizes that will match a wide range of tastes and teapots. (We'll keep adding more great tea related products in 2011, so continue to check back regularly!)

Before we put on our nightcaps and settle in for a long winter nap, with visions of tea carts and hot water ready, but not from the tap - our list would not be complete without wishing you the happiest of holidays.

With all the best the season brings, yours in TEA and friendship,


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Heartwarming Light of Day Tea featured in USA Weekend

BTS is happy to report more good news on tea friends in the news. The latest issue of USA Weekend Magazine featured Light of Day teas in their topical "Season's Eatings" article. The Sunday magazine highlighted the Traverse City tea company's "Heartwarming Cinnamon" tea. A favorite here at BTS, you'll get in the holiday spirit instantly by simply opening the lid of this tea tin's container and taking in its hearty sweet and spicy aroma.

A year ago this month, BTS participated in Light of Day's marathon tea tasting at the Dennos Museum in northern Michigan. Here, owner of LOD teas, Angela Macke, a registered nurse and horticulturist, set a record that day for the number of teas brewed and served to delighted guests. We sampled a variety of LOD's black, green and white tea blends as well as delicious gluten-free chocolate mint cupcakes (made, of course, with Cacao Mint tea). It was this event where Angela displayed her homegrown Camellia sinensis plant which became the inspiration for our own tea garden at Pemberly Pines this past summer.

The last time we met up with Angela this year, she was out riding on the tractor of the working tea farm. We took the opportunity to stock up on our favorite Light of Day teas in the newly constructed tea room on the grounds . We're looking forward to our next visit, but in the meantime, we're excited to start the holidays with family, friends and lots of freshly brewed teas.

Wishing all our Tea Friends a "heartwarming" and happy Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tea Friend Elizabeth Knight on CBS News

Hello Tea Friends,

This past weekend, CBS Morning Show, aired a segment on tea, Timeless Traditions of Tea Time, featuring Elizabeth Knight, tea educator, author, and subject of Barb's TEA Shop very first blog story back in 2007. In June of that year, I went to New York City to take a one-on-one tea tour with the former tea sommelier at the St. Regis Hotel.

As I recounted in that very first blog article, "Celebri-Teas Spring 2007", we spent an intense day of shopping, sipping, and tasting throughout Manhattan: from sampling tea-infused chocolates at a Pierre Marcolini (now Borne Confections) to visiting New York's premier sources for antique and museum-quality reproductions of European tableware. Our tea tour culminated in a relaxing and delightful afternoon tea at Cafe Opaline, a wonderful tea room above the Dahesh museum overlooking Madison Avenue. (My review of the experience can still be viewed on Elizabeth Knight's Tea with Friends Tour page.)

With all the tea we sampled and the tea artifacts we examined, the most important lesson I learned from Elizabeth Knight was echoed in her piece on the CBS Morning Show last Sunday: that tea is about taking a "time out". It's an opportunity for us to slow down, take a break and treat ourselves to the comforts of tea with friends.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Third Annual Jane Austen Festival in Louisville was too good

The Third Annual Jane Austen festival in Louisville, Kentucky, was too good, but, to borrow from Jane's own words in Mansfield Park, "nobody minds having what is too good for them" and indeed, my daughter Rachel, and I did not mind at all.

Held July 10th and 11th at the Historic Locust Grove, and sponsored by the Jane Austen Society of North American, Greater Louisville Region, it exceeded all our expectations as attendees of last year's festival.

We took part in many of the activities we enjoyed last year including shopping in Meryton, the Regency fashion show and, of course, Afternoon tea. This year, however, we took in a few new presentations. From the sidelines, we caught Ed Maeder's discussion on period hats. (Maeder is the creator of bonnets for the PBS documentary on Dolly Madison.)

And, if that weren't enough to satisfy all hardcore Janeites, the other presenter, Kim Wilson, author of "Tea with Jane Austen" and "In the Garden with Jane Austen" was, by any standard, much, much too good. As a longtime devotee of "Tea with Jane Austen", it was a real treat to be sitting front row center to hear Kim Wilson discuss the importance of tea in Jane's life and literature. Among her many insightful and amusing observations was Ms. Wilson's commentary on a passage from Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Darcy's preference for coffee over tea had nothing to do with the beverage, but who was serving it. At a large party held at Longbourn, when Darcy returns to the parlor after the requisite separation of the sexes after dinner, he chooses to be served the inferior tasting coffee, instead of a more flavorful cup of tea, because Elizabeth Bennett had been assigned the charge of the less desirable hot drink. This sacrifice only proved how unquestionably fond he had to be of her.

We also met up with the superb hostess and organizer, Bonnie Weiss, and many familiar faces from last year's event. At Afternoon tea, we had a great time with new friends: another mother and daughter team from Mississippi. At the Jane Austen Festival, there are no strangers, just friends yet to be introduced.

The only change Rachel requested for next year's festival is that I do not schedule our Afternoon tea at the same time as the "Dressing Mr. Darcy" event, which I have done for the past two years. Yes, I do agree, next year, we will try to work in every event, including being in the audience for the donning of attire on the most popular of Jane Austen's Prince Charmings. Can it get any better than that? Well, we already know it will be too good, and surely, there's no one who will mind that at all.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wanderer's Teahouse from Guest Blogger Rachel Gulley

Amid head shops, burritos joints, and chain coffee places, lies the Wanderer's Teahouse in downtown East Lansing. Tucked right in on the edge of America’s eighth largest campus by enrollment, on the prime location of Grand River Ave, literally right across the street from campus, is the new home of an actual Mom and Pop teahouse; one where that Mom and Pop really know their stuff. Michigan State University alumni-run, the husband and wife team of Elizabeth Marazita and Michael Spano have lived in China and both have degrees in Chinese medicine.

All tea served at the Wanderer's is organically grown, and the coffee is all Fair Trade. Spano also mixes his own blends for particular maladies such as allergies or a hangover (perhaps catering to their college-town demographic a bit?). After years of travel, Marazita, a Lansing native, decided along with Spano, to put down roots in a town they knew and where their daughter could have some stability.

The tea house atmosphere is cozy and adventurous. Pictures of famous “wanderers” line the walls, as well as road signs pointing you to different countries with mile calculations, and an international book exchange make one feel as though they could run off to wherever their heart desires… as soon as they finish their tea and sandwich.

Just a couple weeks after opening, the Wanderer's is frequented by studying students and I, myself, have run into MSU professors there. It’s a wonderful place to meet a friend for lunch and catch up over a couple pots of hot tea, or to tune out all distractions and hit the books.

The owners are never too busy to introduce themselves, or help you decide on your tea for the day. (I personally recommend the English breakfast, as it is earthy and not a bit bitter.) Their friendly staff takes care of you and is also knowledgeable on tea, so don’t feel overwhelmed when you see the many, many available choices. You can smell a sample of each and read a description, or just ask away!

So wander into The Wanderer’s today, since as their slogan professes, “...all who wander are not lost.”

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Afternoon Tea Talk for your next Bridal Shower. . . or other special event

If you are planning a bridal shower and looking for a fresh alternative to the lets-get-it-over-with-shower-games, consider a Tea Etiquette Talk* from Barb's TEA Shop. Treat your guests to an informative and entertaining tea talk and avoid those tired wedding-themed brain teasers and quizzes.

Make your bridal shower an elegant afternoon tea affair that needn't exceed your budget. Barb's TEA Shop will create a program based on your needs. We can provide everything from tea consultation to full-service tea brewing and pouring for your guests.

Let Barb's TEA Shop take the guesswork out of which tea to serve and how to prepare. Based on your menu, we can offer a variety of teas, at a range of prices, and brew and serve to your guests on-site. With Barb's TEA Shop, afternoon tea with freshly brewed tea is easier than setting tea bags on the table, but, so much more elegant.

When planning your next shower, contact Barb's TEA Shop and let's talk about what would work best for your special bride, guests and venue. You can select from the full package or any individual component:

Full Package: Tea Etiquette Talk, 2 varieties of loose tea, teapots and teapot warmers, tea preparation and wait staff.

But, don't feel you need to wait for someone to get married. The same afternoon tea package is available for your next group event: book club, girls night out, couples evening or church group.

Contact us today: 248-840-4356

*Barb Gulley is a Tea Etiquette Consultant, with training from the Protocol School of Washington. She is an authorized tea etiquette consultant from PSOW.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tranquil Teas for the Holiday Season at Faith Lutheran in Troy

The first of four Tranquil Teas for the 2010 – 2011 season was held last Thursday and Barb’s TEA Shop was invited to present its “Afternoon Tea Etiquette” program to a sold-out group of 50 guests. The tea events are hosted by Faith Lutheran Church on selected Thursday afternoons and each has a seasonal theme presentation accompanied by tea and tasty sweets.

Guests will enjoy the detail in décor as a meeting room is converted into a tea room with tablecloths, three-tiered trays, and silver tea pots. October’s event brought the beauty of a Michigan fall day indoors with tablescapes accented in vibrant yellows, oranges and gold. Attendees were served freshly brewed loose tea by friendly hostesses, and, if all the tea is wonderful as the Darjeeling sampled last week, future guests are in for a real treat. Candle lit tables and tea garden displays added to the tea room ambiance, and, like the Drake Hotel in Chicago, you will even remember the lovely accents in the powder room.

We had a wonderful time and met so many great women. Thanks for inviting BTS to be part of the Tranquil Teas at Faith Lutheran.

Upcoming Teas (times for all teas are 1:00 – 3:00 pm)

December 9, 2010 Christmas Reflections Tea
Featuring: Sue Czischke

February 10, 2011 Valentine Tea

April 7, 2011 Daffodil Tea

Featuring: Master Gardner, Suzanne Huening

Teas are $7.00 per ticket in Room 10/11/12 at Faith Lutheran Church, 37 635 Dequindre, Troy, Michigan. Deadline for purchasing tickets is the Sunday before scheduled tea, but please note, tickets are selling quickly. Bring your own teacup or a disposable one will be provided.

For more information contact Kathy Briscoe at

Barb G. in the center, between Kathy B. and Sue C. along with all the other beautiful women of Faith Lutheran.

Monday, October 11, 2010

How to Make a Mint: Show me the Monet

Hello Tea Friends,

Now that it is officially Fall in Michigan, it's time to clean up the garden, bring the tea plant indoors and store away summer memories for another year. Our mint and chamomile plants thrived in our newly cultivated tea garden/vineyard up north, as did my prized Camellia sinensis. Another bonus to our improved grounds this summer was the Pemberly Pines pond, which, only in its second year of existence, showed signs of approaching our source of inspiration, Monet's amazing water lily pond in Giverny.

A little over two years ago, my husband and I went to Paris and took a day trip to Monet's home in Giverny. It's here we learned how the artist spent much of his time creating a real life masterpiece of rows upon rows of brightly colored flowers around his estate and manipulating a local water source to benefit his own personal pond. (The latter was made famous by Monet's water lily paintings.) We were also told on our tour that Monet enjoyed not only painting in the landscape of his own design, but taking tea there as well.

So, this summer, we picked homegrown mint, brewed fresh herbal tea, and sat back in Adirondack chairs near the pond to watch our one water lily in bloom sur le jardin de
thé, just like our favorite French impressionist artist. C'est magnifique!

Herbal Mint tea (derived from various google searches and our own personal tastes):

6 mint tea leaves per cup

Add boiling water to mint leaves and steep for 3 - 5 minutes

The refreshing lift of fresh mint tea will soon be replaced by warming chai lattes and the pond will soon look more like Monet's La Pie, Effet de Neige than a free flowing pool of water lilies. We're packing it in for the summer, but looking forward to the Fall pallet of vibrant colors from nature's brush; another masterpiece to take in with a hot cup of hearty tea.

Monet's water lily pond, France ******************* Pemberly Pines pond, Michigan

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A History of Social Tea Time with Jane Pettigrew

Hello TEA Friends,

I first met Jane Pettigrew, tea historian, writer, and former tea room owner, back in 2004 at the World Tea Expo (then called "Take Me 2 Tea") in Rhode Island (see picture below). She was captivating to watch and listen to: a petite, pretty woman with close-cropped cut blond hair and a charming English accent, her enthusiasm for tea was truly inspirational.

At that time, Barb's TEA Shop was only several pages of notes and outlines in a three-ring binder. After meeting and talking with Jane, her knowledge and encouragement sent me home with plans to go from paper to real world in a few short months.

Jane Pettigrew has written 13 books - most of which I own, including my personally autographed copy of " A Social History of Tea" and my well-worn, "Tea in the City, Paris", which was given a real work out when we visited the City of Lights two years ago this month.

This year, I again, along with my daughter and BTS Creative Director, Rachel, met Jane in June at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. She was just as pretty and engaging as when we first met her in Providence and as she spoke about tea rooms in England, we were reminded what fun it is just to hear her recount stories with her enchanting style and humor.

Any tea time with Jane Pettigrew is always historic and we at BTS are great fans. We're sure you'll find any of Jane's book's, including her most recent "Tea Classified" which was voted best new publication 2009 at the World Tea Expo, tea time well spent.

Jane Pettigrew also conducts Tea Masterclasses every month in London, England. For more information on her classes and a full list of all her books, check out her webpage at

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Camellia Sinensis: Tea Garden Takes Off in Michigan

Hello TEA Friends,

This May, we planted a tea garden at our up-north retreat, Pemberly Pines (see photo bottom right). Knowing it would be a challenge to cultivate our own Camellia sinensis in a growing zone several levels north of the tropics, we nonetheless took it on as a total curiosity, if not a learning experience. In its cedar planter, the tiny tea plant sprig thrived in a clearing in the middle of our property, along with several herbs that have already provided us with some delicious tisanes.

According to the American Camellia Society, and coffee/tea the tea plant grows best in zones 7, 8 and 9 and in sandy, well-drained, acidic soil with full sun to partial shade. So we do have a few things against us: we're in zone 4 and slightly below the US average for sunny days in the summer months (remember, we're growing inside in November!). We've got a few positives to encourage us, however, our soil is sandy and acidic and the clearing is in the sunniest part of all of Pemberly In addition, the tea plant can be grown very successfully in planters with seasonal indoor sheltering. I need only look to our friends at Light of Day in Traverse City, who now have an impressive tea plant the size of a small tree after only five years of growing.

In the fall we can expect our plant to flower and in the spring, it will dispense seed pods. In approximately three years, we can begin to harvest our plant for tea leaves and begin making our very own black - or green - tea.

With just another few weeks of August left, we'll be looking to bring the Camellia sinensis in soon. We'll keep you posted on its progress throughout the year.

In the meantime, we're enjoying the teas we've been brewing with the herbs from our garden. Refreshing and delicious, we've found the mint makes a wonderful cup of tea on its own or as an accompaniment to other brews, such as tea mojitos (more to follow on that).

If a tree can grow in Brooklyn, a tea plant has a chance in northern Michigan.

Yours in tea and friendship,


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hot Tea Travels Make for a Great Summer

Hello TEA Friends,

This summer, Barb's TEA Shop has been on the road and, along the way, we've tasted mint tea, corn tea, Sense and Sensibili-tea, sweet tea, Keweenaw tea, and mojito tea avec liquer. From Las Vegas to Louisville to Michigan's upper peninsula and all places in between, one constant held true - all the tea we drank may not have been hot, but we were hot wherever we drank it.

Naturally, when visiting Las Vegas in June one expects heat and it's not a stretch to anticipate sultry afternoons in Kentucky in July, but hot, humid days in northern Michigan as we approached August only proved that as interesting and fun as our travels were, we were never going to have a good hair day.

But, that was a small price to pay for some the most enjoyable tea trips we have had. In our journeys we met many entrepreneurs, craftsman, educators and folks passionate about tea. We learned so much and have so many stories to share, I just can't wait for you to get acquainted with them all (not to mention the update on the Pemberly Pines tea garden).

We caught up on the latest with Shelly Richardson and Jane Pettigrew at the World Tea Expo and were introduced to new products such as corn tea and teaspoons made of honey. In Louisville, we met Kim Wilson, author of "Tea with Jane Austen" at the third annual Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove.

From Kentucky, we headed north again, but this time, went past the Mackinac Bridge to be guests at the only tea room in the Upper Peninsula, The Four Seasons, owned and operated by a delightful mother/daughter team. Driving along the Lake Superior coastline, we made another stop at Enerlei, a unique, northern Michigan gift shop with beautiful tea accessories.

Then, from one Great Lake to another, we took the long way home from Pemberly and visited the town of Lexington on the shores of Lake Huron. Here we met twin brothers who are making their career in pottery. Their one-of-kind teapots with driftwood handles are amazing. (I had to purchase one for Pemberly - and some matching cups, too!).

This resort town is also home to the Lexington General Store which has a great selection of tea, tea cups and a charming old fashioned candy counter and the nearby "Off the Beaten Path" gift store, with a nice selection of fine home accessories, coffees and even some Chai Tea.

So, with the suitcases packed away, at least for a little while, I'll be at my desk - or weekends at Pemberly by the pond with the laptop - with a cup of freshly brewed tea, my hair being held against its will with barrettes, hairspray or hat, and begin posting pictures and stories from this hot but eventful summer.

Yours in TEA and friendship,


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

American Pickers (& Antiques Diva) Picked Barb's TEA Shop

Hello TEA Friends!

American Pickers and Antiques Diva picked Barb's TEA Shop to win!

If you are witnessing a thrilling cross-country road hunt for antiques and collectibles at incredible bargains under a bit of dust and dirt, you've landed at History Channel's American Pickers. This series shows the (literally) gritty side of treasure hunting as self-described "modern archaeologists", Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, scour old barns, hoarders' dwellings and neighborhoods on garbage pick-up days for neglected relics that can be turned to profits. It's the "other side" of Antiques Roadshow and the search, the digging, and the haggling are as entertaining and educational as the "find" itself.

Barb's TEA Shop found it was the lucky recipient this week of the DVD of American Pickers First Season. A fan of antique-ing and devoted treasure hunter, BTS was excited to win the American Picker's contest hosted by Antiques Diva. The Antiques Diva blog and website, if you haven't yet visited, is the high end of "picking" and one cannot only live vicariously through AD's European adventures, one can actually purchase some one-of-a-kind treasures from this site. From Paris flea markets to high end shops in Germany, you'll feel like you're with your bff shopping and dining in some of the most interesting places across the ocean. (The recent entry about discount designer dresses in Paris made me much less excited about my prized 30% Kohl's discount sticker).

So, how did we get such a cool prize? Well, on July 4th weekend, I did all the usual holiday fun stuff: went to the annual (always best-ever) family/friends cookout at my brother's, watched the fireworks, played croquet and made a big pot of tea while hitting all my favorite blogspots. The Antiques Diva was sponsoring the American Pickers contest and one only needed to submit a patriotic post. When you combine bargains, antiques, history, the Fourth of July and a free prize - by gosh, it's as American as corn-on-the cob and as diverse as corn-in-the-teacup!

Along with the DVD, BTS also recently picked up a few new treasures of our own at our favorite haunt, The Antiques Depot in Lewiston, Michigan. My husband surprised me with his own "junk-et" there two week's ago with new wrought iron chairs for our wildflower garden, and my mother-in-law and I found some beautiful Limoges tea cups. Granted, we didn't have to dig too far or dust too much, but we follow in the spirit of the American Pickers.

Thanks American Pickers and Antiques Diva for picking us!

Yours in tea and friendship and treasure hunting - be it Paris, Iowa, northern Michigan or your neighborhood Kohl's,


Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Tea Expo 2010 - James Norwood Pratt

Hello TEA Friends,

Two week's ago, Barb's TEA Shop attended The World Tea Expo, the international tea trade show held in Las Vegas every June since 2003. Some years have also included an east coast show. The 2004 expo in Rhode Island, then called "Take Me 2 Tea" and re-branded in 2005, was the last trade show we were able to attend, so this was especially exciting.

We met up with many familiar faces in the tea community, The Richardsons of Elmwood Inn Teas, fellow members of the Association of Tea Bloggers, and tea specialist and historian, Jane Pettigrew as well as a number of new acquaintances and introductions to fascinating teas and innovative products. But, certainly, one of the highlights was meeting author and tea guru, James Norwood Pratt, who is often credited with the meteoric rise in popularity of tea in the US back in the early 1980's.

James Norwood Pratt's "The Tea Lover's Treasury" (and subsequently republished as the "New Tea Lover's Treasury" with additional material) is the quintessential reference book for those who embrace tea, not only as a hot beverage, but as a lifestyle as well. I have worn the pages of my own autographed copy from many visits throughout the years.

As serendipitous as many of our tea adventures are, we quite literally bumped into James Norwood Pratt near the escalators of the convention center. Charming and gracious, he invited us to visit him inside the trade show to meet with other authors and tea enthusiasts. It's here we found this year's top pick for our holiday wish list: James Norwood Pratt's Tea Dictionary. Its purpose is to be "an indispensable tool for tea lovers of every description"and has been named 2010’s Best New Publication by World Tea Expo.

Although Las Vegas may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of tea, we found the Tea Expo to be as warm and exhilarating as a walk down "the strip". When you get to meet James Norwood Pratt on the first morning of the tea expo, you have certainly hit the jackpot. Tea-va Las Vegas!

Yours in tea and friendship,


Post Script: Upcoming blogs will cover other tea industry specialists, authors and tea products we encountered at the Las Vegas Tea Convention. It was an amazing event, and attendance set another record from previous years.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tea Travels: The Tea Emporium in Toronto

Hello TEA Friends,

The Tea Emporium in Toronto has long been on my "tea room visit wish list" and, finally, this past April, we made it there. We stopped at the Eglinton location which not only has a tea boutique and a tea lounge, but is home to Canada's only "Tea School".

Like those impassioned shoppers waiting at Best Buy at 5:00 am on "Black Friday", we were at The Tea Emporium's door when it opened on a Sunday afternoon. Once in, I couldn't get to the counter fast enough. Large black tins of tea line the shelves on the back wall and, though somewhat daunting, our enthusiastic salesperson navigated us through the greens, the blacks and the oolongs with detailed information about the teas' locale, history and preparation. He offered suggestions as we sniffed our way through a variety of samples and provided answers to our numerous questions.

For relaxing in the tea lounge, I wanted to try their Lapsang Souchong, and my husband, Chris, order the Brasil Yerba Mate. Chris found the Yerba Mate hearty, flavorful and refreshing and I savored the earthy taste of black tea from China's Fujian province in my cup. The lapsang souchong is like drinking in a campfire - but in a good way. It's a good drink to sip slowly and savor.

Although we had missed the bi-weekly Tea School class (held on Saturdays), we did get to peek in at the classroom. Attending one of their afternoon classes or the tea specialist course is also on my wish list. For the month of June, "Oolong and Pu-erh" and "The Fascinating World of Tea" are scheduled. For more information check out the Tea Emporium's School of Tea.

The Tea Emporium is a joy to visit for any tea enthusiast. We brought back a shopping bag's worth of tea and we plan to cross the border again very soon.

And, now, it seems like we just unpacked from Toronto and we're bringing out the suitcase for this week's out of town excursion: The World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. We'll be there with some of our fellow tea bloggers, too. Let us know if you will be there as well!

In the meantime, here's to all tea adventures whether international, across state borders or on your backyard deck.

Yours in TEA and friendship,