When I was a young newly wed, smitten and starry eyed, I’d fashion anything I made into the shape of hearts. This included foods such as pizza crusts, hamburgers, even chocolate chip cookies were patted into the iconic symbol for love. As the years past and our family grow, this habit fell to only one day a year, when, on St. Valentine’s Day, I’d make heart-shaped pizzas for the whole family.
Having just celebrated 32 years of wedded bliss, I wanted to re-institute the heart-habit and since I love tea almost as much as my husband, I came up with this idea to share with my family and friends any day of the year but especially on St. Valentine’s Day. Best of all, it can utilizes any homegrown herbs, berries or wild foraged ingredients you might have.
• loose leaf tea or dried herbs of choice
• coffee filters
• embroidery floss
• blunt needle
• card stock
• felt-tip markers
• small spoon
• tape or glue
Many of us dry herbs, edible flowers, and berries that can be used in these teabags. You may even grow real tea plants. However, if you don't, you can use purchased tea and herbs just as well.
•Fold coffee filter in half
•Draw desired shape smooth, center portion of filter
•Draw out shape on folder coffee filter
•Using a bold red embroidery floss, start in center of heart and stitch 2/3 of the way around shape using a basic running stitch.
•Fill the bag with about one teaspoon of tea leaves or two teaspoons of herbs using a small spoon.
•Finish stitching bag until closed, leaving a tail of floss, about two inches long.
A few of these special teabags make a lovely gift for your valentine. Of course, you can make them in any shape you like but why not choose hearts and spread a little love around?
You can purchase loose leaf tea at any tea shop, even some grocery stores now carry it, or order online. For St. Valentine's Day teabags, we like to use a black tea mixed with pink rose petals because it looks extra-special and it tastes delightful. Perhaps you would like an herbal blend for your heart-shaped teabag, try one of the recipes below using commonly found herbs:
• 1 part* dried mint
• 1/2 part dried tulsi
• 1/8 part unsprayed, dried rose petals
• 1 part dried chamomile
• 1 part dried mint
• pinch of dried lavender buds
• 1 part rooibos
• 1/8 part dried lemon rind
• 1/8 part dried rose hips
*A “part” can be as large or small as you would like. Adjust the fractions accordingly.
There is a season for everything and for us, this season has been about change. We ushered in year 80 for Mum and prepare to move her “down south” while the Sisters are ready to fledge the nest, my nest, the nest I have created for my family over many years. Bittersweet is this season….feelings of joy tinged with a touch of sadness. I am in need of a cup of tea.
Seasons in life should cause us to pause and take stock, milestones are designed to be observed, rights of passage, commemorated. Through all the celebrations we’ve had recently, one constant companion has been present - tea. We toasted Mum’s birthday with a delightful hibiscus/blueberry tisane (she loves purple in case you hadn’t noticed!) and my Dancing Girl and I have vowed to share a pot of Assam each afternoon at 3:30 to count down the days until she leaves for college. Well, not really counting them down in order to see them past, but more to count them as precious last moments together with her still under my wings. Tea is sustaining us through this season.
But tea is not reserved just for the changeable times. It perfectly accompanies the quotidian moments in life. It is for sharing joy and accomplishments with others and for bracing us up when we falter. Tea brings back happy memories, and it helps us forget the sorrows we’ve seen. It is the first thing the Sisters seek when returning home after a long day out, because tea soothes and revivifies all at the same time. It feels like home, like a hug, like family. This humble beverage, ubiquitous yet reverent, truly is for every season in life. Whatever season you find yourself in right now, remember tea and drink abundantly!
I’ve always kept a tin of breath mints in my purse but recently, when a friend gave me a tin of green tea mints, I began to wonder…can I combine the ubiquitous breath mint with my beloved green tea? I had to give it a try and now I have to share with fellow tea lovers the wonderful news that yes, you can combine the two very easily!
Gum paste is the key ingredient to this recipe and is found in the cake decorating section of a grocery stores or hobby store. Gum paste is used for making elaborate flowers on festive cakes. Once it is shaped and left to dry, the paste turns very hard which is just what you want for the mints. When considering the tea component I wanted to use matcha because it is so good for us and studies have shown it has oral health benefits. According to a 2011 Harvard health study, green tea fights tooth decay, reduces gum disease, minimizes bad breath, supports detoxification, may reverse thrush and may reduce risk of oral cancer. *1 Additionally, for a bit of sweetness, in place of powdered sugar I thought of birch xylitol because of its oral health benefits. For many years xylitol has been known to reduce harmful mouth bacteria which in turn reduces plaque buildup and tooth decay. This can help prevent cavities and gum diseases.*2 Of course for the flavor, a nice organic pure peppermint extract was needed. You could use a lemon or vanilla extract in place of, or in addition to, the mint. A few drops of any will only add to the the yummy flavor.
1. The recipe is basic and forgiving and a small amount of gum paste will make a great deal of tiny mints so start off with a small ball about the size of a radish. Work it in your hands until it is warm and pliable.
2. Create a small depression in the center and add about 3-4 tsp of good quality matcha and continue to kneed until matcha is well-incorporated.
3. Flatten and place on a cutting board. Add a few drops of your choice of pure extract flavorings and fold in half. With a rolling pin, flatten and fold the paste several times to continue mixing ingredients together.
4. When you feel all is thoroughly mixed, roll out paste 1/4 “ thick and cut into mints. You can use mini cutters, which often come in darling little shapes or we found a bubble tea straw was just the right size!
5. Drop the shaped matcha mints into a small bowl of xylitol, toss to coat, and let them sit there until dry, several hours or better yet, overnight.
6. Store in a small tin in your purse and indulge often. After all these mints are good for you!
*1. Narotzki, B., Reznick, A. Z., Aizenbud, D., & Levy, Y. (2012). Green tea: a promising natural product in oral health. Archives of oral biology, 57(5), 429-435. Kushiyama, M., Shimazaki, Y., Murakami, M., & Yamashita, Y. (2009). Relationship between intake of green tea and periodontal disease. Journal of periodontology, 80(3), 372-377.
*2 . American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Policy on the use of xylitol in caries prevention. Pediatr Dent. 2010;32(Special issue):36–38.
As seen in T CHING
Tea ware has a long and at times amusing history; and tucked in amongst the tea accoutrements are a few oddities worth mentioning. Such items are sure to make you chuckle.
This cute little cup is delicate, colorful, and very feminine; but wait…It has TWO handles! Have you ever seen a teacup like that? Chances are no, because it’s not a teacup. This is a bouillon cup, and the two handles are held when sipping consommé or other clear broth soups. So, not a teacup at all. Looks can be deceiving.
How about this one? Still looks like a teacup, it has one handle—just as it should—but what’s the bat wing doing in there? This is a mustache cup. Yes, you read that right. During Victorian times and into the Edwardian era, these were offered to men with facial hair in an attempt to keep the mustache dry and their mustache wax from melting. As improvements in razors were made and beards fell out of fashion, so too did the mustache cup. It is amusing to note the overly floral and pastel motifs often found on such cups. Not at all what one might expect a man to use per today’s sensibilities and gender norms.
Next – coasters, perhaps? That would be an excellent guess. These are called cup plates and were used for a short period of time by hot tea drinkers in early 19th-century America. When tea was too hot to drink directly from the cup, a small amount was poured into the saucer, given a moment to cool, then drunk. But the teacup could not be replaced back into the saucer or it would get all wet and it was unthinkably poor manners to set a cup directly on a table! So the cup plate was created. The cup was placed on the cup plate while one sipped from the saucer. Made in early American glass factories, these plates are quite collectable today and often feature some kind of local historic or commemorative motif.
This next one is easy. A circa 1950-60s luncheon plate with matching punch/teacup, right? Well yes, but… What’s that small, square compartment next to the saucer space all about? It looks like an… Ashtray! Yep, your very own, personal, built-into-your-luncheon-plate ashtray. Now that truly is an oddity!
As seen in T Ching
For a short time, about a hundred years ago, tea dances were quite a craze in both the UK and the US. Three Sisters Tearoom has even hosted a few during the long winter months and found them splendid.
But it's summer...in the south...still Dancing Girl wants to dance - and so do all the young folks out here. So how about an Iced Tea Dance held outside as the sun goes down and the stars begin to sparkle? Brilliant!
The dance board was filled in and the music started. Gallons of sweet tea freely flowed as the dancers twirled into the twilight.
By 9 pm it was all over. The exhausted, exuberant, ecstatic guests were heading home but they promised to come back in August for our second Mid Summer's Iced Tea Dance!
Time is elusive and now six years have scuttled by since we first opened our doors.
Seems Three Sisters Tearoom had always been a part of our lives and in our hearts, but...
...we had to wait for the third cherub to appear before pursuing a genuine tearoom right here on the farm.
But, like all good things, it was worth the wait. During those years we learned all we could about tea. Read books and took classes to learn even more. Planted tea seeds and sampled every varietea we could find. We traveled, with teapot and scones in hand, making deliveries to those who were in need of a tea moment. We baked and tasted countless tea cakes, shortbread, and cress sandwiches before establishing a menu of our own: farm-fresh and (we believe) nonpareil.
Those Three Sisters have grown and the tearoom is a-buzz. Our guests are now our closest friends, much more like family, really. We have learned a great deal along the way, more then just how to make tea. Mainly we've found that people need love, hugs, a kindred spirit, a smile. Add a cup of tea to that mix and honestly, you can face the world! Many blessings to you all and thank you for a splendid six years.
...and a purpose for every matter under heaven. While we may not know what that purpose is right now, we do know God is in control. During this time of tumult we've decided to suspend our tearoom gatherings throughout March and use that time to beautify our humble space for a refreshed environment upon our reopening.
Dancing Girl is planting a burst of blossoms in our flower beds and pots....
Butterfly Girl is cleaning the doors and washing windows...
Barefoot Girl has swept up the crumbs and cobwebs...
and we have fresh spring menus planned and a plethora of imaginative teas prepared for the upcoming months. So until the time to laugh and dance and embrace returns...
...we are praying and wishing for you to be well and look forward to our sweet reunion once this season of refraining is behind us.
Tea Faeries, that is.
On Tuesday it seems one visited us by way of the afternoon post which contained...
...this charming collection of goodies including a cheerful greeting card with a fabulously sassy quote, warm wishes from a stellar tea comrade hailing from Texas (by way of the U.K.), and two exquisite tea bags.
Exquisite...really? YES! First of all just look at the tea bag. How often do you come across hand-sewn, organic cotton bags in your tea box? If you are like us, not too often. However, what was really exquisite was the tea inside the bag. This fragrant, full-leaf tea is graded as, Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. Note the SFTGFOP on the packaging. In the tea world those letters are jokingly said to mean, So Far Too Good For Ordinary People. It's rare, expensive, and very limited and we've always wanted to try just a cup of it. Are you starting to believe us now? This tea was exquisite and enjoyed to the last drop.
The unassuming blue envelope came as such a beguiling surprise to us, we now unanimously agree... we believe in Faeries! Thank you, Lindsey!
December 16, 1773 the historic Boston Tea Party took place when a heroic band of brave men raided an English cargo ship and tossed 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. They were protesting British tyranny that day and today we celebrate the 246th anniversary of that event.
Every year, the Boston Tea Party Museum re-enacts this historic moment when Americans again toss tea into the Boston Harbor.
We decided to salute the Sons of Liberty by having a tea toss of our own right here at Three Sisters Tearoom. We found this little Indian getting the job done!
Happy Boston Tea Party Day, America!
Enjoy a cup of tea and celebrate your freedom.
*No tea was injured in this re-enactment.*
I've been married to this Sailor for years now... 30 years to be exact, so it was time to celebrate and what better way to celebrate than with my favorite guy and TEA!
We journeyed north to West Baden Springs Hotel in French Lick, IN. This place was built in the early 20th century way out in the country and had an authentic "Old World" feel to it. I was smitten the moment I saw the red dome peak through the tree tops.
First stop was tea and what a tea it was! Delicious and elegant and so deeply enjoyed by both of us.
The harpist was lovely and had a beautiful smile and we could have lingered all day just to listen to her play but there was more to do on this celebratory get-away...
Next day, next stop was in Danville, KY, home of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas. I had placed an order for the tearoom before our trip and so I thought maybe, just maybe we could stop by and pick it up in person.
We got to sample a few teas I'd been interested in and had time to visit with my first tea mentor, Mr. Bruce Richardson and his lovely wife, Shelley. I was thrilled and could have stayed awhile longer but it was time to head home.
After all, after 30 years of marriage we had this beautiful bunch to get back to. My, it's been a spectacular 3 decades!
At Three Sisters Tearoom we often feature edible flowers on our menu and as a garnish on our tea trays.
Such floral embelishments only add to the enchantment tea time brings.
Sometimes the edible flowers are used as centerpieces....
...but it wasn't until this little sweetie graced our tea table that we actually had a guest EAT the flowers from the vase in the center of the table!
Yep, it was our Birthday Tea and the day lilies really did look good enough to eat. After being told the flowers were edible, our pretty guest in pink plucked one from the vase, plopped it onto her plate, slathered it full of lemon curd, then, like a floral sushi roll, consumed it stamen, pistol, pedals and all!
If not for the smackerel of curd on her lips to give the secret away, one would never have known.
Barefoot Girl and I were ready for the challenge as we tossed our overnight cases into the trunk of the car and headed due east to Asheville, NC early last Wednesday morning.
Five hours (and NO stops) later we arrived in front of the Smith-McDowell House in Asheville. This historic house is hosting a tea exhibit highlighting the many ways in which tea was enjoyed in a 19th century home. That would have been draw enough for us to visit, but we had also written two of the tea information panels on display in the house and we wanted to see the tearoom's name in print!
It was a thrilling moment and best of all, the tour ended with a delightful cup of tea lovingly prepared for us by the house docent. This capped off the event is a most perfect way! Visit wnchistory.org for more information on this exhibit which runs until September 28, 2019.
But it was only 4 o'clock and hours 'till sunset so what's a mom and her girl to do?
Tour the Biltmore of course! We found it was only 4 miles away so we reached the gate house fairly fast and spent the next 3 1/2 hours touring the mammoth gardens, green houses and hiking trails located on the grounds.
We stopped to smell the roses, actually Barefoot Girl smelled ALL the roses...
stood in awe of the beauty found in the green houses...
and walked barefoot around the wading pools.
We left the Biltmore as the sun was setting and went back the next morning for 3 additional hours, touring the house this time. Although there was no true tea happening there that day, we saw so many lovely tea services set up and ready for use in countless beautiful rooms and we did dream of having a cuppa on the open-air loggia.
Heading westward (home-bound) now we needed refreshment and after consulting destinationtea.com we found what turned out to be the perfect tea stop for us.
Nettie's Bakery is located in Waynesville, NC just west of Asheville off of I 40. What a treasure!
Our High Tea was ready when we arrived and included freshly prepared tomato soup, quiche, sandwiches, dodashes, (cheese straws in the round) baked goods, and really good loose leaf tea.
Tea friends are forever friends and this mother/daughter team own, serve, and bake for Nettie's Bakery, so named after a beloved grandmother. This place is worth a drive, a day trip or overnight adventure. Don't miss it!
We arrived home as the sun was setting and marveled over where those 24 hours had taken us. It was a wonderful tea-infused get-away with my VBF! Luv you, Barefoot Girl...
Our chickens lay beautiful eggs that need no embellishment but...
Easter is fast approaching and we had an idea.
Dancing Girl blew out the contents of several eggs and we made extra strong brews of matcha, lapsang and hibiscus teas. We dropped the empty eggs into the teas and waited.
After 12 hours the results were subtle but lovely and will look perfect on our Easter brunch table.
Spring is here and that means time to clean out the tearoom, reorganize, breathe a bit of fresh air into the place.
After having a look around with a critical eye, these mismatched tea trays screamed, MAKEOVER! After watching Jennifer Sullivan of Southern Royal Tea in North Carolina, give an instructional demonstration featuring ways to up-cycle items using chalk paint, we had a plan.
On a lovely sunny day, The Three Sisters got busy. Using chalk paint in off white, all the tea trays are now the same color giving our tea tables a unified look.
Fresh and clean...just like a breath of spring!
Well, the ball has dropped and the new year has begun. It's time for that beautiful tea-themed calendar your friend sent you last Christmas to make its way into the trash can, but wait! Here's the best idea ever for recycling lovely outdated calendars.
Unfold an envelope and trace it onto your calendar page, cut out, fold together and glue up the sides. In no time at all you have created a unique and interesting envelope sure to get attention each step along its mail journey.
Here are some made with a charming Susan Branch calendar. Just hated to throw that one away. Each envelope contains a poem or recipe for the recipient to enjoy at no extra charge. And with the increase in the price of postage stamps, that's a nice thing!
A sampling of our morning's work. Now go gather those 2018 calendars and get folding!
Today, December 16, 2018, marks the 245th anniversary of the most famous tea party in all history. A group of 60 men, dresses in Indian garb, stormed British ships in Boston Harbor which carried chests of tea from the East India Company. As large groups of cheering Bostonians encourage the men to toss 342 chests of tea overboard, the act was one of rebellion, protesting the duties imposed on many imported British items, of which tea was one.
In part, this event changed the beverage of choice for Americans for centuries to come. Slowly though, over time, we have returned to our first love and Tea is enjoying a renaissance in the US unlike any seen before in history.
This year, Three Sisters' Tearoom is pleased to be a part of the historic reenactment. Some of our tea will be amongst that pitched overboard into the Boston Harbor in the wee hours of the night. We even have a certificate to prove it!
Though each December 16th we commemorate the rebellious act of our Colonial forefathers, take comfort in knowing that tea is gaining popularity once again and we can boldly enjoy our beloved beverage!
July is National Iced Tea Month and, until I met my southern husband, I never understood why folks chilled a perfectly good cup of hot tea. After nearly 30 years of marriage, I've learned a thing or two about this beverage and I share it now with you.
In the South, many a native would naturally assume iced tea was born right here in the heart of Dixie, but they’d be wrong. Although a few old cookbooks from the late 1880s and 90s have been found to include instructions for this chilled amber elixir, it wasn’t until the dawn of the 20th century that iced tea truly arrived on the scene in this country.
In 1904 at the World’s Fair held in St Louis, MO, the beverage was truly born. A young Englishman, Richard Blechynden, employed by the East India Company, had a plan to bring robust Indian black tea to America. Up until this time much of the tea coming into the US was green and from China. Mr. Blechynden brought a few well- trained Indian servants dressed in traditional clothing, complete with turbans, with him to serve this hot tea with true Indian flair. Sadly, opening day at the fair reached more than 90ºF and no one could bear to try the hot black tea, no matter how delicious it might have been.
Now Mr. Blechynden was a business man and quickly altered his plan to push his product on the public despite the heat. The hot tea was poured over ice and suddenly his stand was very popular. The public loved the bold black tea from Indian and they loved it cold. The beverage was taken home by fair-goers and shared with family and friends and soon Iced Tea was enjoyed from coast to coast. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, iced tea remains a very popular beverage in the U.S. with up to 80% of all tea consumed cold.
Here’s my personal favorite iced tea recipe: 4 tsp strong black Assam loose-leaf tea in one quart of spring water. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, strain out tea leaves and enjoy! For a far more celebratory beverage, add cream or better still, a bit of sweetened condensed milk. Yum!
This method is called cold brew for obvious reasons and is quite popular right now. So popular, in fact, that tea companies are making all kinds of special brewing vessels just for this type of tea. My favorite pitcher and strainer all-in-one is shown in this photo and if you would like one, please contact The Three Sisters!
Each April, when the violets begin to bloom, it's time!
Butterfly Girl gathers cups and cups of tiny violet blossoms in her basket and then the fun begins.
Inside, we steep 4 cups of flowers in 1 3/4 cups boiling water for an hour or so, then strain out the beautiful azure water into a large clear glass and add 1/4 cup lemon juice. Don't look away or you'll miss the magic! (Actually the violet "tea" is just a ph indicator but to think of it as magic is so much more fun!)
Next, bring the liquids to a boil in a large pot then add 1 oz of pectin and 2 cups of sugar to liquids, return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for one minute and remove from heat, pour into 1/2 pint hot canning jars, place on sterilized lids and rims and water bath 5 minutes. Makes about 3 half pints. Just enough to enjoy but not too much...it's rather sweet, but, oh my, how pretty it looks on classic cream scones! Enjoy this spring treat with a cup of English Breakfast tea with milk or perhaps a small spoonful of...violet jelly!
Butterfly Girl and I share a birthday. She turned ten today and I, well, I turned ten... plus a few decades. Ten years ago she was a marvelous birthday gift to me and I've loved sharing my day with her ever since.
This year, there seemed to be a theme to our gifts. Did you notice? Tea quote, tea pot, tea books and tea. All our favorites!
Barefoot Girl is a Master Herbalist and a master at blending teas. This mix is our special Birthday Blend and it tastes even better than it looks!
Another gift was this little cutie. We have a lot to say about this tea pot. Watch for a full review!
Well, it's been another beautiful birthday. Here we are, the Birthday Buddies, today!
For years, this idea has danced around in our minds. We'd read little snippets about tea dances here and there but did not really understand what they were until picking up yet another tea book. We found just enough information to generate a germ of an idea which grew into a truly enjoyable afternoon.
Seems in the late 1930s and 40s a dance craze swept our country and young people everywhere were looking for any opportunity to get together and dance. Times were hard, though. World War II was in full swing and people seemed focused on more serious things. Enter The Tea Dance! Communities began hosting late afternoon get-togethers for the young people in their towns. From 4 pm to 6 pm, the hours after work but before supper, for 35 cents you could enter a church hall, community center, even a school gym, get a sandwich, a piece of cake and a cup of tea, then spend the rest of the time dancing with all the other youngsters present. This was fun, it was energetic and Dancing Girl just had to host one of her own!
So invitations were sent out, the hall reserved and the menu planned - sandwiches, cakes and tea!
Then, just as in the 1930s and 40s, the youngsters danced the late afternoon away! Oh, and they didn't even have to pay the 35 cents!
Here are a couple of my favorite teacups. Very pretty and feminine and they came from Mum so they have special meaning to me.
Sadly, through the years and constant use, these little beauties have gotten rather dingy inside. So what's a tea drinking girl to do?
With just a bit of baking soda and wet finger tips, thoroughly rub the inside of the cup, hitting all affected areas. Rinse well with warm water and voila!
Just as pretty on the inside as on the out! Mum would be very pleased!