Dear Tea Friends,
One of the wonderful things about working in New York is that it feels like the world in a teacup. It all started on April 4, 1609, when English navigator Henry Hudson, employed by the Dutch East India Company, sailed from Amsterdam to search for the fabled Northwest Passage to Asia. Hudson didn’t find the shortcut, and the Half Moon’s crew reportedly received a mixed reception from the Native Americans, but it’s possible that he might have consoled himself with a cup of tea. Dutch mariners had introduced the “excellent China drink” to Amsterdam in 1606 and Orange-Pekoe tea, named for the Dutch Royal House of Orange, remains well known.
Dutch thee became English tee when New Amsterdam was forced to surrender to the British. The colony was re-christened New York to honor James, the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II. Queens, the city’s largest borough, was named for the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, who introduced tea to England when she married the king. There’s more about NYC’s tea history in “Tea In The City,” http://teawithfriends.com/teacity_nybk.php.
In addition to New York’s 400th birthday, the city celebrated National Tartan Day, www.tartanday.org, on April sixth. The day is significant for all Americans, but most especially those of Scottish descent, because this was the day, in 1320, when the Scottish Declaration of Independence was signed. The American Declaration of Independence was modeled on that document, and did you know that that almost half of the signers of the Declaration of independence were of Scottish descent, and that thirteen US presidents claim Scottish ancestors?
Scots played an important role in the tea trade, too. Queen Catherine’s sister-in-law, Mary of Modena, Duchess of York, is credited with introducing tea to Scotland in 1681. Scots Hugh Falconer, Robert Fortune, and William Jamieson pioneered tea plantations in India, and the Cranston family opened Glasgow’s first tearoom 17 years before one opened in London. More about that in “Celtic Teas With Friends,” http://teawithfriends.com/celticteaswfriends_bk.php.
Part of this year’s Tartan Week festivities included an evening with the Really Terrible Orchestra, http://thereallyterribleorchestra.com/2009newyork.html, and Scotsman Alexander McCall Smith. The beloved author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series explained that orchestra members were united by their “desire to play music, even if we are not very good, and to find a way of performing in public which is fun for us and for you, the audience.” In anticipation of the concert, the orchestra reportedly held back from practicing, so that the audience could share the “players’ electrifying sense of discovery” as they fumbled for notes. They were pretty awful, but it was great fun, especially when the audience was invited to participate in the final jubilation of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture. We eagerly imitated the cannon salute by inflating brown paper bags and popping them when directed by the conductor.
At intermission, McCall Smith talked about the latest installment of his best-selling series titled, “Tea Time for the Traditionally Built.” I love the books because “There are few mysteries that can’t be solved and fewer problems that can’t be fixed when the irrepressible Precious Ramotswe puts her mind to them. A good cup of red bush tea might be the best solution of all.”
Speaking of books, I can’t imagine a room to be properly furnished without them, but I’ve spent the last several weeks debating which titles I could stand to live without. We’re moving. After working in New York for over twenty-five years and living in Hoboken for twenty, we’re decamping to the country. A country house, a city apartment and a life on the road, from Peru to India, to Tibet, China and Japan, http://www.teawithfriends.com/gallery.php, was great fun for a long time, but now we yearn to call one place home.
We’re only moving two hours north of the city, there’s even a bus, but it might as well be the moon. Moaning to my friend Regina, a fellow service brat, about how overwhelming this seems, she reminded me that we grew up on military bases. When the Mayflower van drove up, the moving crew marched through the door to pack the household up and out in one day. As a child, I was helped to pack one suitcase for seasonal clothes, and permitted to take one box of toys, books or other personal belongings. Now, I have to decide what will continue to be part of my life and what must be left behind.
My friend Nili reminded me that one of the basic spiritual principles, in many philosophies, is the practice of opening one’s heart to “what is and what will be,” rather than clinging to what was. On a recent Sunday, our pastor described a cartoon of two caterpillars eyeing a fluttering butterfly with suspicion. “You’d never catch me up in one of those things,” one creature whispers to the other. I know just how those caterpillars feel, but spring’s here and the moving van is on its way.
I don’t yet know exactly what I’ll be doing, but I will continue to offer NYC tea tours, see http://www.teawithfriends.com/tours.php. However, because of the extended commute, the minimum number will now need to be seven people. I will continue to write and consult about tea. Yesterday, I received a very interesting offer, from a surprising source. More about that later.
I’ll continue to post scheduled appearances on my web site and you may contact me at the same email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may order autographed books, as a gift for yourself or a friend, until 3:00 PM on Thursday, May 21st. I expect the office to be back in business by Thursday, June 4th.
PS: One of the books I must pack is “The Perfect Hostess” by Rose Henniker Heaton, first published 26th March 1931 by Methuen & Co., Ltd., UK. In the section “We Move House,” the author suggests that the reader “Stay at a comfortable hotel or rooms while the move is in progress (Hah!) and always have tea on tap as the movers and anyone working in the house … appreciate it, and work all the better for it.” Any suggestions for a comforting mover’s cup?
Wish I felt this relaxed.