Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan

Archive for December, 2009

Strawberry for Christmas, Apparently

December 30, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

All of a sudden strawberry black tea has leapt into my life. They say things come in threes, and three different black teas with strawberry have all come along at once.

The first was on Christmas day, at the house of some friends, where we do the annual gift-exchanging and stocking unstuffing. One member of the household there has a truly prodigious variety of teas, probably 100-200 if I had to guess just from looking at the shelves that are visible. (There may well be more stashed away out of sight.) I picked a tea more or less at random and ended up with a black tea from South America that had strawberry in it. I had never had a tea from South America, so was curious about that, but most of what I tasted was the strawberry. Given that we were eating Christmas candy and the like, a sweet-tasting tea blended with it perfectly well. I didn’t write down the name or the seller of the tea, unfortunately. Little did I know that two more strawberry teas were about to land in my lap within the next few days.

Then I traveled on the 26th to Florida to see my parents for the holidays. This meant a layover of a few hours at the new JetBlue terminal at JFK airport in New York, which has espresso bars in the gate waiting areas. At one point I was feeling chilly and inquired whether they served tea. The young barista showed me their selection, which was of a brand name I didn’t recognize (Dammann) but which I gathered was the tea brand carried by Illy coffee affiliates. There were a few of the usual suspects (earl grey, chai, etc…) but she urged me to try the “strawberry tea (more…)


December 19, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings

When I was eleven years old, my family took a month-long trip to the Philippines to visit our many relatives there on my father’s side of the family. One of the revelations of that trip was how incredibly good the fruit was there. At the Silahis Hotel in Manila my father ordered a half of a papaya for breakfast one day, and it was easily the size of a large watermelon, longer than his forearm! (For my part, I discovered the hot rice, ginger, and chicken porridge known as arroz caldo, traditionally served for breakfast, and insisted on having it every day.)

Better even than the papaya was the mango. After spending some time in Manila, we traveled to Cebu City (on the island of Cebu) and in ‘the provinces’ could buy perfectly ripe, huge yellow mangoes every day in the market. We ate them every day for breakfast or for ‘siesta’–the light afternoon meal or snack that came right before naptime. My mother loved them so much that after we came home, one day we were walking down the street in midtown Manhattan when we were stopped by a TV news crew polling people about what they thought the sexiest food was. Nearly everyone else said pizza, but my mother immediately said the mango. They aired her comment and we were all thrilled to see her on TV!

By now you are wondering what this has to do with tea, since this is a tea blog. I’m getting to that. Let it steep. I promise I’ll eventually make some point about food and drink being a cultural connection between people and their families and society at large. Or something. (more…)

Tea Witness

December 15, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Books, Tea Musings

You meet all sorts of people on the Internet. Having a tea blog is a little like running an online tea shop. People stop by from all over, and sometimes you get into interesting conversations with them.

One recent visitor to TeaWritings was Jason Witt, the author of the recently published book Spirituality of Tea. Right now the Kindle edition of the book is only a dollar, so I bought it. Jason is something of a tea monk. He eats a low-calorie diet, doesn’t drink or do drugs, doesn’t own a car or house and tries not to clutter up his life with possessions, and finds his ecstatic pleasure in tea and communing with God daily through tea. He doesn’t live on a mountaintop in Tibet, though, but in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Jason’s book reminded me in some ways of the books of Earl Grollman, who although he is a rabbi, focuses his books on a wider audience through the belief that all human beings, not just those of a particular religious sect, could benefit from his message. Grollman’s subject is grief and bereavement, and he writes in a very direct and almost simplified manner, soothingly repeating the messages distraught survivors need to hear. Jason’s subject is overcoming the stresses of modern life and the get-ahead mentality that distances us from our true needs, both physical and spiritual. Like Grollman, he invokes God and Heaven without specifying a specific church or doctrine and sends a powerful, direct message about the peace and happiness one can find.

Despite rampant commercialism and battles over its meaning, the holiday season still means something spiritual to me, making now a good time to talk with Jason about God, tea, religion, and other such subjects. I chatted with Jason, of course, through the Internet.

CT: The basic message of your book is that people can find God within themselves through drinking tea. Can I ask which one you came to first, God or tea? (more…)