Saturday, April 30, 2011

The quintessential pot of tea

We are family of tea lovers.  It's not so much the tea itself (although we do enjoy a good cuppa), rather our love affair with tea has a lot more to do with the indefinable aspects - the routine, the relaxation, the relationship.

When Maid Elizabeth was a little girl, we would have Mad Hatter tea parties.  We all wore hats (even Sir Knight) and when the mood struck, we would randomly exchange our hat with another.  It was a sight to see Sir Knight in a pink straw hat with yellow lilies, but he bore his burden well and our days of Mad Hatter tea parties evoke fits of laughter still.

As our family grew, our Mad Hatter tea parties gave way to "tea time", when Sir Knight and I would shew all of the children out of the house or to their rooms, and we would spend a half an hour reconnecting after our days work.  The parties grew calmer, but the relationships grew deeper.

Tea time still exists in our home, but has evolved once again.  The older children - Maid Elizabeth, Master Hand Grenade and occasionally Miss Calamity now share our tea table.  While Princess Dragon Snack and Master Calvin play, color or read in the other room, Sir Knight, the older kids and I share our lives with one another.  We talk about what is most important to each of us.  Problems come to light and victories are shared, hearts are mended and characters are shaped.  As our teacups are emptied our lives our filled.

Over the years, we have perfected our tea time.  Although our tea selection may vary, our routine never does.  We start our tea time with a heated tea pot.  Heating the pot is the difference between a tepid, mediocre brew and a pipping hot cup.  I then put on fresh water (always use fresh water - never water that has been boiling away on the stove - previously boiled water loses it oxygen and provides a very inadequate cup of tea) and prepare my tea table.  The tea pot I prefer is a Chatsford pot.  It has an infuser basket for the tea, allowing the tea to fully expand, producing a much better flavor.  There are other option for loose tea, however, the most common, a tea ball, is a very poor substitute.  If I don't have my Chatsford pot with me (when we travel), I always make sure that I have a tea sock.  A tea sock will fit in any pot and allow the tea to expand properly.

Chatsford pot with Infuser basket
Pre-heat with boiling water
Putting the basket into the pot
Tea filter or tea "sock"
When the water has been freshly boiled, I pour my water into the infuser basket that is placed in the teapot.  Teas steep (sit) for various times, depending upon the type of tea.  Generally, I make Bond Street English Breakfast (from Upton Tea), and it steeps for 5 minutes.  In the evenings, especially in the summer, we will indulge in a gunpowder green tea, which steeps for only 2 minutes.  After the tea has steeped, I remove the infuser basket (so the tea does not continue to get stronger), put the lid on the pot and start pouring tea.

Pouring water into the infuser
Taking the tea filled infuser out
of the pot after the tea has steeped
Every once in a while, I run out of the good tea that we love and have to make do with bagged tea.  Really, it is not a terrible substitute, as long as you cut open the bags and use the tea like a loose leaf tea.  A good rule of thumb is to use 1 tea bag per cup (how many tea cups your pot holds) and 1 bag "for the pot".  My tea pot is a 10 "cupper" so if I have to use tea bags, I cut open 11 bags.  When using loose leaf tea, you use 1 teaspoon of tea per cup and 1 for the pot.

Tea time aftermath
Although the wisdom of the day goes back and forth on the healthfulness of tea our family never wavers.  For us, it has little to do with health and everything to do with drawing our family together.  Tea makes each of us a part of something bigger.  It provides stability, routine and a platform for sharing our lives.  When our lives get difficult, our first response is to pray and our second is to put on the kettle.

White Wedding Cookies/Russian Tea Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In large mixing bowl, cream together butter, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Beat until light and fluffy.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually stir flour into butter mixture.  Add pecans, stirring until the nuts are evenly distributed.

If dough is too sticky to handle, refrigerate until firm. Break off 1 inch pieces of dough; roll into balls.

Place on ungreased baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until set but still pale in color.

Cool slightly, then roll in confectioners' sugar.  When cookies are completely cooled, roll in confectioners' sugar again.

White wedding cookies


  1. You always have the best recipes. simple, but elegant. Thank you.

  2. Those cookies look delicious...I've got the recipe and I'll be trying it...I'm also going to make some of your chicken chow mein...=) I'll let you know how that comes out.

    Thanks for the recipes...

  3. Oh,I'm wishing I were fortunate enough to sit at your tea table Enola.
    Thank you for sharing this special family tradition with us.


  4. Great post! I'd like to offer one more crucial step. If you pour boiling water over the tea it scoarches the leaves and makes the tea bitter, so let the water cool for one minute before brewing. The tea will be smoother and and sweeter.

  5. Do you drink coffee also? I love the idea of tea/teapots etc but tea is never strong enough tasting for me.

  6. I was wondering the same thing Rachel. I drink coffee, as tea upsets my stomach. :( I know my children have loved Coffee icecream since they were little, so maybe this ritual could use the flavored instant cappuccinos for the children while the adults have regular coffee. Just make the instant flavored coffee weaker so the kids don't get as much caffiene, though the instant ones aren't that strong to start with. Course, any of it can be home-made if you prefer. Bring on the perculator!

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