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As a child, my grade school English class always had an assignment due the first week of school. I wonder how many of you had to write an essay entitled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation?” Well, for old-times sake, here goes:
My husband and I recently spent a wonderful week “staycationing” in our country home. I’ve spent so much time on planes in the last few years that it was lovely not to rack up more frequent-flier miles. Even though we’re still not completely moved in to our new-to-us home, no pictures hanging as yet, (but the big red “Barn Sale” arrow points the way to the laundry room) it was delightful not to have to scout for a friendly B&B.
City friends, who joined us for the weekend, reported that the temperature had soared to an appalling 114 degrees in NYC. It was 100 degrees in the Catskills for several days in a row. Because our property is shaded by shaggy-bark hickory trees, we’re usually comfortable just throwing open the windows and cranking up the ceiling fans. But not this week. We ended up sleeping in the basement. The kitties were so delighted that Moggie delivered a dead vole to the foot of the bed.
We're only a mile from the Delaware River so we spent several happy hours there daily after setting-up-house chores. Roger mounted kitchen cupboards salvaged from our previous home, a hunter's cabin, to hang in his "situation room." There’s an invisible sign on the door reading "NO Girls Allowed!" I re-organized the tool, bee keeping supplies, boot and outdoor gear closet, twice. We also un-packed the baby-blue bedroom to make an office for me. I can’t possibly write in a room that color, expect maybe a note that reads, “HELP!” Think I’ll paint it parakeet green or cinnamon brown and hang my bird house collection on the walls.
Listening to a wild-life program on the local hydro-powered NPR radio station, I discovered that I've been listening to wrens, blue jays and cat birds. The latter has a nest in the thorn bush next to the zucchini patch. Tomatoes are starting to come in. We also have basil, chives, lemon balm, mint, sage, and parsley. For the first time in my life, I have a flower garden. Lots of orange and yellow zinnias and Gloroisia daisies. Next year hollyhocks, more dahlias and foxgloves.
Bad news on the bee front. A bear pushed his way through the electric fence rigged around the bee yard and wrecked a hive. Wax moths ruined another so we’re down to just one hive with a jittery queen. We’ll have some wildflower honey to extract come fall, but not likely as much as last year’s 70 pounds. Did you know that honey, like tea, is high in anti-oxidants? Also good for soothing kitchen scrapes and burns.
We made two dozen jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam to slather on lemon-poppy seed tea bread. Was too hot to make myself make the blueberry peach, but fruit is in the freezer, so another time. My other big adventures were a trip to the dump to dispose of a rusty grill we inherited and a yard sale which netted a Mexican wire bread basket (75 cents), 3 forged metal candle-stands ($3.25) and 7 vintage footed-glass goblets ($10) with red, yellow and black stripes to go with my crayon-colored china.
On Friday night we supported the volunteer fire station fund-raiser by attending an “old time fiddlers concert.” There were 9 of them. The youngest was 4; the oldest 88. He sang his signature song, a hilarious “I just don’t look good naked any more.” There were also 2 guitarists and a banjo picker. Great fun and hot popcorn!
Speaking of looking good, I’ve discovered a great new product that doesn’t look good, but makes tired tootsies feel wonderful. Those of you who attended the World Tea Expo in Vegas three years ago know that I broke my foot very badly. Standing for several hours, especially on a marble floor, now hurts. My yoga instructor told me about “Yoga Toes” a rubber “toe-shaper” designed to exercise muscles and re-align bones. Looks really weird, but feels like a foot massage. No connection to this company, or anyone who works for it, but think this is a great product for everyone, most especially tea room owners and speakers who spend a lot of time on their feet. Check it out on www.yogapro.com.
Summer, alas, will soon be over, but I’ve planned a busy fall signing my new book, “Tea In The City New York - a tea lover’s guide to sipping and shopping in the city.” Autographed copies are available on my website. Un-signed books available from Benjamin Press, www.benjaminpress.com and www.amazon.com. After Labor Day, I’ll be introducing my Tea in the City tours and seminars. The details will be posted on my re-designed web site, www.teawithfriends.com, but there’s a sneak peek below.
TEA IN THE CITY TOURS AND SEMINARS
Leave Your Passport At Home!
New York Is The World In A Teacup.
• Love tea?
• New to New York?
• Looking for something new to do?
• Planning a Mother-Daughter Day out; a weekend with old friends?
• Need to entertain a client?
• Celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or hosting a special event?
• Want to know where buy to quality tea, fine and vintage tea wares?
• Want to learn about the multi-cultural history of tea in New York?
Manhattan might have a cocktail named after it, but tea was the city’s first fashionable tipple. Tea In The City tours are a fun, fresh way for locals and tourists to explore New York. Tea aficionados will relish the opportunity to learn more about their favorite beverage while sipping and shopping.
Although an English-style afternoon tea is among the oldest of the city’s tea traditions, it is but one way to enjoy a fragrant cup. Today in the East Village neighborhood once home to Peter Stuyvesant’s farm, it is possible to sip Japanese matcha, Moroccan mint, Tibetan bocha, and Taiwanese bubble tea. Leave your passport at home; New York is the world in a teacup!
Join author and tea sommelier Elizabeth Knight for private seminars and guided walking tours of New York’s unique places to sip and shop. Learn about multi-cultural tea traditions, shop one-of-a-kind stores for tea wares, and sample bubble tea, chai, and green tea ice cream.
Fun and fascinating, entertaining and educational, all tours and seminars are personally hosted by Elizabeth who has known and loved New York for over 20 years. A certified English tea master, Knight serves as the tea sommelier at the city’s historic St. Regis Hotel. Her book, "Tea In The City: New York – A tea-lover’s guide to sipping and shopping in the city" was published by Benjamin Press, www.BenjaminPress.com, in Spring 2006.
AFTERNOON TEA WITH FRIENDS SEMINARS
For years, Elizabeth Knight, an author, speaker and tea sommelier, has given talks on a variety of topics to large groups at conferences or in classrooms. Now, for the first time, you and your guests will have the opportunity to learn more about tea in a more relaxed and personal setting. Join Elizabeth at her own table for a sumptuous afternoon tea in the St. Regis Hotel's Astor Court and learn more about tea, the drink and the meal. There will be time to answer your questions and chat over a friendly cuppa. You may choose from among the entertaining and educational programs described below, or call us (Toll Free 866-616-1154 or 201-222-1154) to create a program tailored just for you.
English tea time traditions include at least six different ways—and times—to take tea, the beverage and the meal. Just what is the difference between high tea, low tea, cream tea and afternoon tea? What's on the menu? Are scones eaten with a fork? Does the milk go in the cup before the tea or after? Pinkies up?!
The A-Z of Tea
Ditch that soggy tea bag! Today's teas are gourmet beverages as complex and interesting as wine. Taste the differences between white, green, black and oolong teas and learn how to select, brew, and store fine tea.
The Astors and the Gilded Age
Everyone knows that John Jacob Astor was America’s first multi-millionaire, but few know that part of his fortune was built on the lucrative tea trade. His great-grandson, Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, built the St. Regis, a Beaux Arts hotel which set a new standard for opulence. Learn about this fascinating family and their influence on the Gilded Age when tea time was born.
Steeped in Tea: New York before the Manhattan
Manhattan might have a cocktail named after it, but did you know that the city’s first fashionable beverage was tea? Americans drank tea before the British and New Yorkers drank it first. Learn about the history of tea in New York and why the city is truly, "the world in a tea cup."
MEET: Inside The Astor Court At The St. Regis Hotel
2 East 55th St. btwn. Madison and Fifth Aves.
Subway: E train to 5 Ave. at 53rd St., 4/5/6 trains to 51 St.
Hours: Available Daily 2:30 P.M. OR 4:00 P.M.
Reservations required. Toll Free 866-616-1154 or 201-222-1154, www.stregis.com
COST: The cost per person, minimum 3 people, maximum 8 people, is $225. Fee minimums apply for smaller groups or private tours. The fee includes a full afternoon tea at The St. Regis, a private tea with Elizabeth and a "Tea With Friends" brochure to help you plan your own tea party.
CHINESE TEA TRADITIONS
Chinese immigrants founded New York’s Chinatown, the largest in the United States, in the late 1870s. Today, sights and sounds on these bustling streets make it easy to imagine that you’re in the land where tea was born nearly 5,000 years ago.
I spent a month in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong visiting tea plantations last spring. This tour begins with an authentic Dim Sum breakfast served, Hong-Kong style, by servers pushing heated metal carts. Don’t worry if you can’t speak Cantonese, Elizabeth will show you how to order tea using sign language while entertaining you with Chinese tea tales and traditions. Walk off your meal with a visit to a Buddhist temple, where you can have your fortune told and other historic sites including Chinatown’s oldest tea parlor. An expert will present a Gong Fu tea-brewing demonstration, the traditional way of "tasting tea" in the Fujian and Guangdong provinces of southeastern China, while you’re comfortably seated. You’ll also have an opportunity to shop for tea wares, sample Taiwanese bubble tea and green-tea ice cream.
MEET: The tour begins at 10:00 A.M. and meets inside the Mandarin Court restaurant located at 61 Mott St., btwn. Bayard and Canal Sts. Subway: J/N/R/Q/W/Z/6 trains to Canal St., Chinatown. Tel. 212-608-3838
COST: The cost per person, minimum 4 people, maximum 11 people, is $155. Private tours can be arranged for a weekday or weekend. Fee minimums apply for smaller groups or private tours. The fee includes a dim sum meal, tastings, Gong-Fu demo, and an autographed copy of Elizabeth’s book, "Tea In The City New York," an $18.95 value.
This tour lasts approx. 3 1/2- 4 hours depending up the size of the group and its interests, and covers approx. 1-2 miles. We will be walking at a moderate pace, on busy, sometimes crowded streets, with stops at various locations along the way.
ENGLISH AND FRENCH TEA TRADITIONS
Who doesn’t long for a return to romance and civility, and an age when time seemed to move more slowly? Tea time became a national obsession during the 19th century when Queen Victoria was introduced to the charming custom by Anna Maria, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. By the end of Victoria’s long reign, tea had trickled down to all levels of society and ladies enjoyed setting tables with their laciest linens, cut-glass accessories, fine bone china and gleaming silver serveware.
Across the Channel, French aristocrats and the wealthy elite had gathered in salons to sip tea since the 17th century, but the fashion really caught when Auguste Fauchon opened his elegant Grand Salon de Thé in 1898. Le five o’clock was traditionally served with a variety of patisseries, rather than scones and finger sandwiches, and sometimes a cup of sinfully rich hot chocolate. Belle Époque English tourists were shocked, but today Paris boasts more tea rooms than London.
New York is home to both English and French tea treats located within short walking distance of each other. This tour begins with a visit to Fauchon, the shop and tea room, which sells its signature pastries and beautifully packaged confections as well as one hundred forty teas - original varieties and exclusive blends. Next, you’ll visit the shop of a world-champion chef and chocolatier (Earl-Grey truffles) who stocks his own line of exotic tea blends, on the way to the porcelain company store which still produces Marie Antoinette’s china pattern.
Antique lovers will thrill to the rare finds and mini-museum on display at one of the city’s premier sources for English and European tableware. Other stops include places to shop for vintage tea linens, silver toast racks and fanciful handcrafted ceramics, enamelware, and decorative accessories. Shopping is thirsty work, but you’ll end your tour enjoying a full afternoon tea in the Astor Court at the St. Regis. New York Magazine awarded the hotel four stars for "best sandwiches on the after-tea circuit." http://www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis.
MEET: inside Fauchon, 442 Park Avenue, at 56th Street
Subway: 4/5/6 trains to 59th St.; N/R/W 5 Ave. at 59th St.
COST: The cost per person, minimum 3 people, maximum 14 people, is $300
Private tours can be arranged for a weekday or weekend. Fee minimums apply for smaller groups or private tours. The fee includes a full afternoon tea at The St. Regis, chocolate tastings, Elizabeth’s explanations of English and French tea traditions as well as an autographed copy of "Tea In The City New York," an $18.95 value. This tour lasts approx. 3 1/2- 4 hours depending up the size of the group and its interests, and covers approx. 1-2 miles. We will be walking at a moderate pace, on busy, sometimes crowded streets, with stops at various locations along the way.
Because tea and food will be served, the organizations with whom we work request reservations. When you phone or email to book your tour, please provide your name, the number of people in your party, and a phone number so that we may call you back. To guarantee your reservation, credit card payment, via Paypal or a check, is required a week in advance. Call Toll Free 866-616-1154, Local 201-222-1154 to book your tour. Or email email@example.com for more information. To ensure that we make your tour special, please tell us more about your needs and interests.
TEA SOMMELIER ST. REGIS HOTEL, NY,NY
For those of you who are visiting New York or live in the tri-state area, I’m appearing at the Astor Court at the historic St. Regis Hotel on many weekends. There are two afternoon tea seatings daily: 2:30 PM - 4:00 P.M. Reservations Recommended. Telephone 212-753-4500. www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis.