When most Americans think of tea, their first thought is iced tea. Depending on where they live, their second thought is usually either sweet, or unsweet. Of course, there is a little more to it than that.
There are several types of tea, and also several steeped beverages that are called "tea", but really aren't tea at all.
White, yellow, green, oolong and black tea all come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Properly speaking, tea is an infusion of the leaves of Camellia sinensis. An infusion of leaves (or stems, roots, flowers) from any other plant such as Rooibos, herbals, yerba mate etc. is a tisane.
Type: Theoretically, you could produce any of the types of tea from the same tea plant. The final product is determined by the cultivating practices, harvest method, oxidation and drying methods. All of the variables result in subtle, and not-so-subtle differences in the flavor, aroma and appearance of the tea.
Cultivar: There are two basic varieties of Camellia sinensis and they are: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, and Camellia sinensis var. assamica. Very basically, the former is the tea plant native to China, which has smaller leaves, and the latter is the tea plant native to India, which has larger leaves, and is the variety from which we get Assam tea. There are many cultivars within those two varieties that have been selected for traits desirable to the region they are grown in, or that produce a finished product with desirable qualities. Think of it like the practice of selective breeding that has produced the wide variance in dog breeds, or the rainbow array of heirloom tomatoes.
Origin: Terms such as Ceylon, Darjeeling, Kenya, and Formosa, refer to where the tea was grown. Climate and soil can have a big impact on the flavor of the teas grown in a region.
Process: There are two basic types of harvesting, Orthodox and CTC (cut, torn, curled). Orthodox is harvested by hand, and CTC is harvested by machine. If your loose tea looks like dried, twisted leaves, it is probably an Orthodox tea. If your tea could visually pass for instant coffee (Yorkshire Harrogate and Irish Breakfast for example), it is probably CTC.
Blends: "Breakfast" "Afternoon" and "Evening" teas, as well as many iced teas and teas with British-sounding names, are usually tea blends. Often, the tea from one estate might have some particularly good flavor traits, but be lacking in another area(s). This could be due to a stressful growing season, or may simply be a characteristic of the soil and climate in that region. This tea might be blended with tea from other estates or other parts of the world to create a more balanced flavor. This is how some brands of tea achieve a consistent flavor from year to year.
Many tea connoisseurs choose to drink single-source teas, evaluating each tea on its' own merits. After much practice, they develop their palates to the point that they can detect subtle variances in flavor, and can even tell where a tea originated. You don't have to be a connoisseur to appreciate and enjoy drinking good tea. I'm certainly not.
There are some general rules of thumb for preparing the different teas and tisanes, but they are just a starting point. You get to decide what a good cup of tea is to you. There is no one right way, so don't let anybody try to convince you differently.
Some people will be eternally happy with their favorite brand of tea bags, and others will be equally happy exploring the varied world of tea. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
I'm sharing this one because it's an old family favorite, NOT because it has any redeeming health benefits. If wanton use of sugar and dairy products offends you, look away now.
A few weeks ago, I found canned pumpkin on sale at the grocery store, and since my family loves pumpkin pie (I can live very well without it, thanks) I stocked up.
But then I got to thinking about muffins. First thing in the morning, when my blood sugar is low, I am crabby and I just want something to shove into my mouth to make my stomach stop growling. I don't make good food decisions in that state of mind. I hate breakfast cereal, and most fruits served raw, and the traditional bacon and eggs is too much hassle before 10am. I would totally eat brownies for breakfast if that was the easiest food-like substance at my disposal.
The kitchen photos in the real estate listing almost prevented us from even looking at the house. Not so much because it was ugly and full of brown paneling, (which it was) but because there were doorways everywhere. I had a lot of trouble envisioning how we would ever arrange cabinets and countertops in a functional way.
The cabinets were obviously built in place, many moons ago. The only 2 cupboard doors showed evidence of at least 4 different paint colors, and they didn't close completely. That's one of the curses of a humid climate.
We knew the paneling, ceiling tiles and rusty light fixture had to go, but we didn't know this kitchen was hiding a secret.
Once the cupboards came out and the paneling came down, we were left with the interesting wallpaper. And a lot of old, cracked plaster.
The next step was removing the ceiling tiles, and then the plaster. That was a really no-fun job. Lots of work with a hammer and pry bars, lots of plaster dust and lots of rubble. Getting down to the lath revealed some voids in the insulation, the old chimney, and also a small pantry that had been covered up before the kitchen cabinets were installed. It also made wiring so much easier.
Have I mentioned most of the house still had knob and tube wiring? We were delighted to be rid of that old wiring.
The laundry room had several large soft spots in the subfloor due to water leaks, so those had to be replaced before we could install the flooring. But first, we had to pull up the old hardwood in there. Also not a fun job.
It was a very happy day when we were able to begin installing the new kitchen walls. We decided to use beadboard plywood paneling. It's sturdy, and it looks like something that a house this old might have once had. It didn't go up particularly fast or easy, because nothing in this old house is plumb or square, but it did go up.
We made the decision to close up the doorway just to the left of the paneling. We gained wall space in the kitchen, and a whole lot more floor space in the bathroom. There are still 2 other doors leading in to the kitchen.
Once the paneling was finally up, we painted it a bright glossy white so the walls would be easy to clean, and it wouldn't feel like a cave in there. We put up crown molding throughout the house, mostly because it was the most attractive way to deal with all of the gaps between the walls and ceilings. We still went through a loooot of caulk to make everything nice and smooth.
We originally planned to buy some cheap cabinets and create a built-in cupboard on this wall, inspired by Sarah of Thrifty Decor Chick. But then, we found this cabinet at the ReStore. With only a slight modification, it fit the space perfectly, and it cost a whole lot less time and money than if we'd built it ourselves. A piece of beadboard on the end, and a fresh coat of Behr "In The Moment" and now it's like it was always there.
John completely bowed out of the cabinet and countertop installation. He finds that kind of work extremely frustrating, and that is one of the few areas where we don't work well together. So my Dad came over to help. He's mellowed a bit in his old age, so even though this was a very frustrating process (and I saw red more than once), we got through it and are still speaking to each other.
Later this week, I hope to show you some "all done" photos of the kitchen.