Tippy Interviews Asya, the Turkish Tea Cup

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Dearies, I’ve decided it’s time to add a new series to the blog. As you know, I’m a traveling tea cup, and have been all over the world. I meet so many interesting pieces of tea ware, and it’s time that you started to learn their stories. Today, I’m interviewing Asya, a tea cup from Turkey that now lives in the US with one of Kat’s friends. I hope you enjoy!

Tippy: Please introduce yourself to my readers. Asya: my name is Asya, I am a glass lotus-shaped tea cup from Turkey. I was created in Turkey but now reside in a kitchen in the US I am a very busy tea cup, I get used all day long. I don’t have a particular saucer to call my own, my owner will pair me with whatever saucer she feels like using that day. She has quite a few colorful options. I love spending time with people, giving them lots of delicious tea to sip.

When are you used most? well, as I mentioned, I’m really busy all day long. Turks take their tea very seriously! I am used during breakfast, when company comes, for mid-afternoon work breaks, and after-dinner relaxation.

What kind of tea do you usually hold? In Turkey, lotus tea cups hold mainly bold, black tea. We refer to tea as çay. We brew our tea very strong, and then dilute it in the glass with hot water. Sugar is available as Turkish tea loves like tea sweet. We even have special tea kettles to prepare the tea.

Can you tell us a little more about the special tea kettle? Yes, we use a special double tea kettle, which is similar to the Russian samovar. It basically looks like one teapot stacked on top of a second one. Black tea is brewed in the top pot, and water is boiled in the bottom. The water is used to dilute the tea for each individual glass, so everyone can drink the tea as strong or as weak as they like.

Where do the tea leaves come from? The tea we prefer to use is grown and processed in Turkey on the coast of the Black Sea. Not many people realize that we grow tea in Turkey! We are actually the world’s sixth largest producer of tea.

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Everyone has heard of Turkish coffee, but is tea really that popular in Turkey? Yes, tea is really quite popular in Turkey. It is always offered to guests and visitors as a sign of hospitality. As I mentioned I am used multiple times a day at home, and people also consume tea in cafes.

Is the custom to drink the tea by itself, or add any milk, sugar, or anything else? We usually drink our tea without milk. As I mentioned you can add sugar, often two lumps will be sitting on my saucer ready for use. You may add the sugar to your tea, or people in some areas like to put a sugar cube between their tongue and cheek, and let it slowly dissolve with each sip. The only other thing that may be added is a slice of lemon.

Can you tell us one of your most memorable tea experiences? Well, when my owner Natalie was visiting her family in Turkey, she was taught how to brew tea using our special kettles. One afternoon she was alone in the house when a family friend dropped by. After greeting the friend, Natalie offered her something to eat, but not any tea! After a little while I was able to get her attention and explained that she must offer her guest tea. When her parents came home, she was reprimanded for not immediately offering her guest tea. It’s considered very rude not to have tea ready for guests! Everyone was laughing at Natalie’s mistake, but she was quite embarrassed. I am actually fond of this memory, because it’s the first time I was able to help Natalie out with tea time.

Thank you so much Asya for the interview! See Dearies, I’m not the only chatty teacup! I hope you enjoyed the first interview in our series. If you have any questions for Asya, let me know in the comments!

Presidential Tea Drinking

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Presidents’ Day is coming up soon, and it had me wondering about our nation’s great leaders and their tea drinking habits. Char was a big history buff and used to read endless books on our founding fathers. I remember her telling me that George Washington was a quite the tea fan. I was curious to learn more, and also see if other Presidents enjoyed our favorite beverage.

After a bit of research it appears that George Washington was definitely the biggest Presidential tea drinker. He drank 3 cups of tea every morning. George and Martha had many lovely tea sets and drank a range of teas. His first recorded presidential tea order was for six pounds of hyson tea, and six pounds of green tea. Other teas they are recorded to have during their time at Mount Vernon was: bohea, congou, green, gunpowder, and imperial. Many of these have old fashioned names we don’t use anymore. Here is an article that explains them a bit.

Tea events became popular with the First Ladies. Abigail Adams often held afternoon tea functions for her acquaintances, and Dolly Madison often took tea with every meal. At a local used bookshop Kat found a wonderful book called Tea With Presidential Families by Beulah Munshower Sommer & Pearl Dexter. In it she learned that Mrs. Madison had a tea room adjacent to her bedchamber! That’s my kind of house! The book has photos of teaware throughout our presidential history. It’s a hard book to find so if you ever see it in a shop, be sure to pick it up.

Did you know that President Theodore Roosevelt liked to add mint and lemon to his sweet black tea? Mrs. Roosevelt also frequently entertained with weekly social tea functions that were a coveted invitation.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt were also frequent tea drinkers. They were both raised taking afternoon tea, and Eleanor had so many tea events that she often had more than one in a day! Oh to be a teacup on that tea table!

President Lyndon B. Johnson loved his beverages so much he had four buttons installed in the oval office so he could order them when the mood struck. One of those buttons was of course for tea! He drank tea so frequently that the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson once wrote ‘How many things are launched under the name of a tea!’.

Our current Commander In Chief is also a known tea drinker! If you look at photos from interviews, he’ll often have a cup of tea in hand, or close by. President Obama is a huge fan of two bottled teas- a green tea and flavored black tea. There has been mention of his bottled tea habit in a few different newspaper articles. I often read the newspaper when Kat leaves us together on the kitchen table.

As a teacup, I feel so important knowing that tea and teaware are a significant part of our nation’s Presidential history! All you history buffs out there, do you know of any other interesting Presidential tea tidbits? Have you ever had tea with a President? I’d love to hear your stories!

Behind The Brew: Jasmine Tea

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Dearies, I’m sure many of you have heard of jasmine tea, but do you know the story behind it? It is the world’s first known scented tea, and continues to be extremely popular. The flowers were first brought to China from Persia during the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220AD) and were soon added to tea for the wonderful flavor. However, it started to become popular in the Qing Dinasty (1644 to 1912) when the tea was exported to the West.

Jasmine tea is typically made with green or white tea. It tea can be found as traditional leaves, or wrapped into little ‘pearls’. The irresistible floral aroma is a perfect complement to these vegetal, nutty teas. Traditionally, to create a jasmine scented tea the blooms are picked during the day, and layered over the processed tea leaves in the evening. Jasmine flowers are extremely fragrant, and bloom at night (isn’t that romantic?). The fresh blooms scent the tea they’ve been incorporated with. Freshly processed tea leaves are very absorbent, and soak up the beautiful scent. The flowers are left with the tea for many hours to develop a complex floral flavor. The tea is then fired to dry it out after absorbing the moisture from the fresh flowers. Jasmine oils may also be used to flavor the tea.

Kat first tried Jasmine tea at a Chinese restaurant as a child. Now that she has a home of her own, she keeps a box of this Fresh & Easy Jasmine Green Tea in the house at all times. She was happily surprised to find this tea in her local grocery store, and it has been on her shopping list ever since. It is the perfect lift for a quiet lazy afternoon. It is also wonderful to relax with after a hectic morning. As soon as you open the individually wrapped tea bag, the luscious jasmine aroma hits your nose.  The steeped tea is a perfect combination of mellow, vegetal and sweet. The green tea flavor is clean and simple. Calming and gentle, instantly relaxing. The jasmine flavor is floral, beautiful, but not too strong. The flavors all work in harmony.

Kat enjoys this tea both hot and iced. The floral flavor holds up well to both preparations.  Have you tried jasmine tea? How do you usually prepare it?

Tea and Taxes – An American History

Tax day approaches in the United States, and with it I hear the discussions and rumblings of pros and cons on the subject amongst Kat and her friends. It can’t be denied that the American people have always had a lot to say about taxes.

Boston Harbor

One of the most blatant showings of emotion occurred during what we now call The Boston Tea Party. During this act of rebellion in December of 1773, nearly 200 men, all disguised as native Americans, boarded 3 ships owned by the East India Company. These ships had just arrived in the harbor and were waiting to have their cargo of tea unloaded. Over the course of 3 hours, more than 45 tons of tea were dumped into the Boston Harbor! By today’s standards, that’s more than $1 million! Good heavens!

What you might not know about the Boston Tea Party is:

  • The colonists were not protesting the tax on tea. In fact, the Tea Act reduced the taxes on tea significantly,  meaning that Americans would be paying less for tea than the British!
  • What pushed them past the boiling point was that not only did this legislation pass through Parliament without any input or consent of the colonists themselves, it was essentially a bail out for the East India Company that allowed them to essentially control all tea imports.
    • Problem: With tea imports being controlled by a British tea importer, colonist merchants (such as the famous John Hancock) would lose business.
  • The destruction of tea was widely criticized by the colonists, including George Washington himself, who held a deep respect for personal property. This was seen as a senseless act of vandalism.
    • Only one person was injured during the dumping of the tea into the harbor. John Crane was knocked unconscious, poor chap, by a falling tea chest, but awoke hours later. (Thank goodness!) The ship crews confirmed that no other injuries or damage occurred on board. Tea was the sole target.
  • While the colonists were not of one mind regarding this rebellious act, it was Britain’s response to the vandalism that united the colonists. Britain closed the Boston Harbor to all commerce until the damages were paid and took away self rule in Massachusetts, among other sanctions. These were collectively named the “Intolerable Acts” and ultimately led to the First Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence.

Americans want their voices to be heard. They have opinions. Strong ones, at that! And I have my opinions, as well, dearies. I feel adamantly that it’s time for a friendly cup of tea!

The Lovely Secrets of Chai

It is said that spices were used  in India for thousands of years for those seeking medicinal benefits. The variety of spices and preparation methods was intended as a remedy for some of the more minor complaints and was used as such for centuries. In the early 1800’s, as the British began developing their tea plantations throughout the Assam region of India, the resulting black tea began being incorporated into the local chai recipes. Unfortunately, black tea was too expensive for the greater population and it wasn’t until the 1960’s that black tea became more widely available at a lower price.

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This is when the chai that we are familiar with today began to be incorporated into daily life and the widespread appearance of the “chai wallah,” who is the street or train vendor of chai. I remember being transported through the streets of Calcutta in Char’s travel case. She loved nothing better than chatting with chai wallahs and trying their wares.

Traditional chai in India is made with freshly ground spices, with cardamom being the dominant ingredient but accented by cinnamon, ginger and peppercorn. This is sweetened with a unrefined cane sugar and whole milk.   However, with the growing popularity around the world, you’ll find a variety of sweeteners, milk preferences and ratios of spices. And while freshly ground spices are part of the magic of the drink, you’ll find more and more concentrated syrups that add that spiced characteristic.

Kat has recently been introducing her coffee-loving friends to chai, and they’re being pleasantly surprised. The creamy richness of chai warms the belly as well as the soul that they find very appealing. One or two of them have even replaced their morning coffee with a morning chai. I love it when we win over new friends!

Start your day with a little exotic adventure. Awaken your senses with the heady aromas of spices in your cup. You may be delighted with the result!