The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fun local things to do this weekend!

image from the Halloween Cavern of Clipart.
Well, Halloween has come around again, can you believe it? Lots of kids will be trick-or-treating tonight, but adults don't have to feel left out of the fun. Even if you don't like traditional Halloween parties, you can throw a Halloween (or Autumn, if you don't care to celebrate Halloween) tea party for yourself and some friends! The menu can include cookies, sandwiches, and scones cut with Halloween or autumn-themed cookie cutters, or decorated according to theme, for fun.

Then, there are the seasonal activities. In San Jose, a few options exist:

Haunted History: Saturday, October 31, from 1 to 4 p.m. History Park, 1650 Senter Rd., San Jose, CA 95118. Admission: $2 per person or $5 for four people. Please bring non-perishable food donations for the Second Harvest Food Bank. "Join us for an old fashioned, scare-free Halloween party -- a fun, safe, and family-friendly experience for all. Trick or treat at the historic houses in the park. Costume parade and contest. Trolley rides. Wrap-a-mummy contest. Jack-o-lantern contest. Halloween Story Time."

San Jose Women’s Club Holiday Bazaar: Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1, 2009. 9:00 am–4:00pm. Location: 75 South 11th Street, San Jose, CA 95112. (408) 294-6919 • On Sunday, from Noon–2:00 pm, $5 per item, Steve Yvaska,“The Antiques Advisor” for the San Jose Mercury News and author of the Seasoned Collector, will appraise items.* *Some antique categories may not be appraised. Admission: $1.00 or 1 can of food for Second Harvest Food Bank. Free street parking or paid parking at the S. 10th St. and E. San Fernando St. Garage.

Whatever you do, stay safe and have fun!

"How to give a Halloween tea party"
"Slightly spooky savory black olive scones."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2010 Tea in London Tour

One of my tea world friends from an e-mail discussion list, Denise LeCroy, writer of the Uniquely Tea blog, is advertising her next tea tour. Because some of the readers of this blog are located in the U.K., I thought you all might be interested in reading about Denise's tours in England.

"Do you have a passion for something, or perhaps a passion for several “somethings”? Hello! My name is Denise LeCroy and I have several passions – tea, travel and London.
Several years ago, I married a man from London and left the United States to live with him in that most glorious of cities. I had visited London before with friends, but living there was a dream of a lifetime. I think I dragged my poor husband to every tearoom, tea shop and tea event in London during those years!

When we returned to the states, I settled into married life on this side of the pond and the days and weeks proceeded smoothly until a routine mammogram showed an abnormality that turned out to be breast cancer. Early detection saves lives. Surgery and radiation followed immediately, all went well, and today I celebrate being four years cancer free.

Throughout those soul-searching months of recovery my illness forced upon me a new perspective on many things…life, relationships, what matters and what doesn’t matter. I was given a second chance and was reminded that it was time to dust off my dreams and goals and aspirations that had been neglected for far too long.

I thought about my passions and how I wanted to further pursue them. I already had been a local tea educator for quite some time and although I was also a seasoned traveler, I studied to become a London Destination Specialist. I realized that London’s rich tea history was being virtually neglected by the travel industry, and so I started Tea in London tours - the perfect combination of my love for tea, travel and London.

English Afternoon Tea at traditional and non-traditional venues is a daily event on our tours, together with a combination of other unique activities that include guided walks through areas in London where the tea trade once ruled England’s commerce; visits to museums and galleries to discover old and new tea treasures; journeys to gardens and ancestral homes of early English tea drinkers; and much more. (I can assure you that if one digs deep enough - and I have - one can find a tea-connection to almost anything in London!)

We use a charming hotel in Bloomsbury as our base. It’s a great, quiet location. All of our transport is on a private, comfortable air-conditioned coach and my favorite London Blue Badge Guide, Sarah, accompanies us every day. She loves tea, and you will love her. But Tea in London is not strictly for tea lovers as we encounter many of London’s famous places and landmarks. Opportunities for shopping are built-in, as well as a free day to privately experience London.

The next Tea in London tour is scheduled for September 13-18, 2010 and I am happy to announce that it will include an optional full-day Tea Masterclass with tea expert Jane Pettigrew. I invite you to visit our website http://www.TeaInLondon for more information about the Masterclass and about the tour. I hope 2010 will be the year that you have Tea in London!
If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Denise LeCroy, ring 843.901.0642 or send an email to"

I can't afford to travel these days, but if you are in the London area, or you have enough spare cash to join this tour, I hope you have a wonderful time!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How about some homemade orange spice tea?

So many people associate the scent and flavor of spiced oranges with the fall and winter season. Making old-fashioned clove oranges is a lovely pastime that results in a natural and decorative air freshener for the home, but also a delicious garnish for punches, hot beverages, and teas like the blend below. Orange spice tea is one of the most popular blends for cold weather, at least in the United States, but most people purchase theirs, and are unaware that it is a fairly simple recipe to make at home. With all due respect to Bigelow tea company and their classic Constant Comment blend, here is a homemade version:

Homemade orange spice tea (by the pot):
4 cups water
1 tablespoon black tea
1 tablespoon orange marmalade, plus extra
5 whole cloves, plus extra
1 whole cinnamon stick

Bring the water to a rolling boil. Place a tablespoon of loose black tea in the bottom of a warmed teapot, with one cinnamon stick and 5 whole cloves which have been bruised or cracked. Add one tablespoon of orange marmalade. Fill the teapot with boiling water, cover, and allow to steep for up to 5 minutes. Strain into cups and enjoy. Using the same tea leaves and spices, but adding up to 1 tablespoon orange marmalade each time, you can get up to 4 teapots of orange spice tea.

Not only will you have a delicious and popular hot beverage, you can adjust the amount of orange and spice to suit your own taste! Serve with a thin slice or wedge of fresh orange, with 2 or 3 whole cloves pushed into the peel.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hot tea for cool weather.

tea house at Japanese Friendship Garden, San Jose CA.
It seems that this month has been cooler, temperature-wise, than past Octobers, although I remember one Halloween where the kids were complaining that it was too hot to wear their costumes when they were trick-or-treating, and I thought it was warmer than normal. Maybe it's just now getting back to normal October temperatures! Whatever the reason, the cool weather always makes me want to bake and enjoy cup after cup of hot tea, and I recently bought some really nice loose-leaf jasmine green tea. I have been a long-time fan of savory Japanese soy crackers and green tea cookies, so I'll be pulling a few of these items together, with some sushi from Kazoo Sushi in Japantown, for the South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild's Japanese Tea Garden Picnic. Let's hope for warm, sunny weather this weekend!

Japanese Tea Garden Picnic: let’s enjoy the cool shade in San Jose’s Japanese Friendship Garden, with a picnic in the grove by the koi pond. Gentlemen and older children welcome!
Date: Saturday, October 24, 2009, 2 p.m.
Location: Japanese Friendship Garden, Kelley Park, Alma and Senter Rd., San Jose.
Cost: $20 (members)/ $25 (non-members)
Suggested Costume: Japanese-inspired.

As always, please R.S.V.P. and buy your ticket at least 48 hours in advance (by Thursday, October 22) so I know how much sushi to get. I don't eat raw meat, so I'll be getting vegetarian sushi, and maybe some Spam sushi. E-mail for the address to send your check, or if you prefer PayPal, I have an account at

I would have loved to be able to use the tea house in the garden, but unfortunately, it's not open to the public. The city of San Jose uses it for a meeting and conference center and they don't rent it out to anyone -- although I have heard of non-profit groups being allowed to have events there. The person I talked to wouldn't let the Tea Guild in, so we'll have our tea and picnic outdoors. I'll bring the few Japanese decorative items that I have, given to me years ago by Rie Hanu, who was a Japanese exchange student who stayed with my family one summer when I was 8 years old. I have a few dolls and a kid-size kimono and obi that I will bring for display. Hopefully we'll have some beautiful California weather for our picnic!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day Italian tea party!

Italian tea plate with figs, Stella d'Oro cookies, Sicilian Orange marmalade, Blood Orange soda, and Earl Gray tea.
Most Italian-Americans don’t see Columbus Day as a celebration of the subjugation of native peoples, as many others do, because Italians have experienced their own share of subjugation at the hands of foreigners, over the yeas, and they know that's nothing to celebrate. For them, Columbus Day is a memorial to Cristofero Colombo, one of the “little people” (i.e. common Italian, not foreign aristocrat) who had big ideas, and who braved ridicule, danger, poverty and complete ruin to bring his idea to life. The day is also a memorial to, and celebration of, the other Italians who have done the very same thing, repudiating the easy life of crime, and making a better life for themselves and their families through hard work, faith and dedication.

While Italy is better known as a coffee-drinking country, tea has a long-standing, although small, presence in the hearts of many Italians, both in Italy and in the wider world. Italian-Americans comprise 6% of the U.S. population (as of 2006), the 4th largest European ethnic community in the United States, as passionate in their love of food, family, culture, and community as they ever have been. These are values that all cultures can share and celebrate, so what better way to do that, than with an Italian-inspired tea party on Columbus Day?

Italian Tea Party menu:
Antipasto plate -- green & black olives, pickles, salami slices, prosciutto slices, peperoncini, sweet yellow peppers, pickled baby corn, marinated artichoke hearts.

Earl Grey tea (bergamot is grown in Sicily)
Italian mineral water
Orange or Pomegranite Juice with sparkling water

Foccacia topped with melted mozzarella, sauteed portobello mushroom and onion
Open-faced tuna salad sandwiches on ciabatta bread, with sliced fresh tomato and basil
Roast beef and roasted red pepper tea sandwiches with Parmesan cheese
Zucchini bread
Mushroom Bruschetta
Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Panini

Grapes, figs, blood oranges and melon balls in sugar syrup flavored with rose water
Dates stuffed with Mascarpone cheese or Stilton
Biscotti, amaretti, cuccidati, or Stella d'Oro cookies
Sliced Strawberries marinated in Balsamic Vinegar, Sugar, and Pepper
Jordan almonds

“Belguardo for refined relaxation Italian-style: Afternoon tea and Italian delights”
“Tea in Tuscany” by Mary Caliendo
“Tea’s popularity grows in Italy” by Jane Pettigrew, Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
"Columbus: fact vs. fiction"
"Columbus: a biography"
"Columbus and the Indians: friend or foe?"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

_Gourmet_ magazine to close down!

homemade Meyer lemon curd.
This just in: Gourmet magazine will be discontinued as of the November 2009 issue, after a continuous run of 69 years! This magazine has been almost a cooking bible of sorts to many people, and although I never subscribed to it, I bought my fair share of issues from the grocery store magazine racks. One of my favorite recipes, indeed the only one I use to make lemon curd from local San Jose Meyer lemons, comes from Gourmet magazine, courtesy of the recipe web site. Here is my adaptation of the original:

Meyer Lemon Curd:
½ cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
zest from 2 to 3 Meyer lemons (or, to taste)
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 to 6 pieces

Choose bright yellow Meyer lemons, since they’re sweeter than the lighter ones. Juice and zest them yourself right before you make the lemon curd for the best flavor. Put a few inches of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Combine the zest, juice, sugar and eggs in a non-reactive metal bowl, and set over simmering water. Stir continually with a whisk until the mixture is warm to the touch, and then add the butter. Cook, whisking, until thickened and smooth and all the butter is melted and mixed in, and then continue to stir and whisk for 5 minutes more. Force curd through a fine sieve set into another bowl, if desired. Seal in sterilized jars, serve warm or cover surface of curd with wax paper and cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for about a week, or freeze, sealed from the air, for up to a few months. Makes 1 ½ to 2 cups.
-- adapted from Gourmet magazine, December 1999.

Meyer lemons, which are sweeter than regular lemons, do not work well in traditional lemon curd recipes because they contain more sugar, to compensate for the standard lemon tartness. This recipe makes a wonderful, silky lemon curd that doesn’t overshadow the delicate floral flavor of the Meyers. It is one of my favorite recipes, and a favorite one with the Ladies' Tea Guild members, as well as my colleagues at work, who each got a jar of it last spring as a thank-you gift when they did me a favor!

“Conde Nast boots Ruth Reichl, closes Gourmet magazine”
“Gourmet: RIP”
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)