totally tea

Today’s episode Sesame Street is brought to you by the number 4 and the letter T…wait, nope. This is Totally Tell Me Everything and we’re talking about tea. The kind you drink, silly.

We couldn’t record a show about tea without having some of it while we talked. right? What were we drinking? Sarah made herself a glass of iced green tea with honey, and Bryn had hot peach tisane.

Question 1: What is it about tea that you are into?

Bryn starts us off by talking about the appeal of the ritual of tea, informed by her daily tea-drinking husband’s deep thoughts about this caffeinated beverage: “Tea is MOMENT. Tea is a respite in your day. It’s a moment of quiet and mindfulness and contemplation or just resting and not doing. It’s a moment for just being.”

Herbal teas/tisanes are Bryn’s jam these days, as she tries to avoid caffeine. She likes iced tea with flavored simple syrups that she makes herself.

Sarah first became interested in tea thanks to everyone’s favorite bald Starfleet hottie, Captain Picard, thanks to his iconic order: Tea, Earl Grey, Hot, even though Sarah likes to drink Lady Grey better than the Captain’s fave. 

But her big tea love is British High Tea!

  • She got into this in when she was just out of college. She and her girlfriends would go about once a month and try out different tea rooms around LA, from the Valley to Orange County. 
  • While in London on their honeymoon, Richard and Sarah went to have High Tea at Harrods of London. It did not live up to her expectations. 🙁
  • A better tea experience, however, was at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood in 2004, when Sarah and her mom enjoyed a special tea-movie special event. The movie was Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. The theater rented out a dining space in the upper levels of Hollywood and Highland, for an Afternoon Tea Seating. After the film (which she loved), they were escorted across the street, up stairs and into this ballroom space with round tables all set with the traditional tea service 3-tiered tray. On walls and columns were costumes, photos and paintings from the movie. And seven Disney princesses walked around and visited your table, and you could go visit Ariel in her grotto. It was the BEST. Check out pics from Mouseplanet! (Side note: Stan Lee did not limit his cameos to just Marvel films. He has a rather disturbing cameo in this film!)
  • Education Corner: Low Tea vs. High Tea

Question 2: What we want to learn about/deep dive on tea?

Sarah was determined to find out where tea comes from and why there are different types. Her research came from a book

Some highlights:

  • All tea comes from ONE PLANT, no matter the type. A single species of plant Camellia sinensis.  An evergreen shrub that has small white aromatic flowers. The leaves of this plant create tea when processed correctly! 
  • Processing is what creates the different types. If you pluck the leaves off the plant and throw them in boiling water, you get a bitter beverage. The process has 5 stages:
    • Step 1: Withering – the leaves and buds are softened on large racks in a heated room or air-dry in the sun. Starch in leaf begins to convert to sugar, moisture content drops. WHITE TEA uses mostly the white buds, and maybe a leaf.
    • Step 2: Rolling – leaves are now soft and pliant and can be rolled – this twists and crushes the leaves and releases sap and stimulates fermentation. (GREEN TEA is immediately heated and dried, and does not go under the next Oxidation step)
    • Step 3: Oxidation – VIP b/c here is where the flavor and value are determined. Rolled leaves are placed on trays at a 1-2” thickness, then left in a cool damp place for 1-3 hours to oxidize. This causes a chemical reaction which heats the leaves. If the temp gets too high, the leaves taste burned. Too low and you have a metallic aftertaste. Oxidation makes leaves turn from green to copper. (OOLONG tea is partially oxidized (about 60%, then goes to next 2 stages.) 
    • Step 4: Drying – Oxidizes leaves are dried with hot air on a conveyer belt, which stops the fermentation process and turns the leaves the characteristic dark brown or black. 
    • Step 5: Grading/Sorting – Sorted into leaf grades based on size. Whole leaf produces the finest quality tea, dust size are used for the quick-brewing tea bags. 
  • Herbal Teas, Rooibos and Yerba Mate do NOT come from this Camellia Sinensis, and we should be calling them “tisanes” (rhymes with “inane” and “brynane”), a medicinal drink or infusion.

Sarah also wanted more info on the origin of British Afternoon Tea. It’s fascinating!

Bryn’s deep dive this month was shallow, as she sought the answer to the question: Is sun tea actually dangerous?

Question 3: What are you excited about regarding tea?

Sarah and Bryn are both all about the vessels!

  • Sarah shared a new-found story behind her mom’s tea set: a vintage 1960s Japanese Somayaki Green Double Wall Tea Pot with 4 cups, a creamer and sugar bowl from Matsunaga Ceramics Shop.
    • The heart shape cut outs represent plovers (Chidori) – a species of wading bird. Notice the wavy brush pattern below? That represents waves. This combination of plovers and waves is called Nami-Chidori in Japanese, and is a common motif in Japanese arts.  
  • She’s just so tickled that this tea set she grew up with turns out to have such history! 

Final Thoughts on Tea

Sarah says tea is a moment, but it also creates a memory, whether it calls you back to an amusingly disappointing Harrods experience or a precious time with family from long ago. 

For Bryn, tea is another way to perform self care in a time when life seems to move too quickly. 

And perhaps the best final thought came from Eleanor Roosevelt (Or did it?):

A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong it is until it is in hot water. 

Eleanor Roosevelt

We hope you’ll come sit by us next month when we tackle another topic on Totally Tell Me Everything. Ta-ta!

About Totally Tell Me Everything

Two friends, one fun topic, three burning questions = lots of fun conversation! Each month we pick a topic and ask each other three questions about it – we learn about the subject, our past and each other. So come sit by us and we’ll totally tell you everything!

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