Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane: Lisa See back in Detroit talking Chinese family history and tea!

Barb G. and Lisa See at Troy Community Center last Tuesday.  

Last Tuesday, Lisa See was once again visiting Detroit to discuss one of her historical novels. Although we're a fan of all her works, her most recent, "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" struck a particular chord with Barb's Tea Service. As with many of her novels, See draws from her own personal ancestry and rigorous research, but her latest book also focuses on Chinese tea, in particular pu'er.  Immersing herself in the subject, she not only learned more about the Akha culture, (one of the ethnic minorities in China), but also about pu'er, the only tea that improves with age.  With her focus  on the latter , See became a self-proclaimed "tea snob" and, we here at BTS know, there's nothing wrong with that!

Meeting Lisa See in 2016
Lisa See speaks in Troy 

We first met Lisa See two year's ago when she came to the DIA as part of her book tour for "Shanghai Girls". As captivating a speaker as she is a writer, she talked about growing up as part of a large Chinese-American family (on her father's side) whose history intrigued her and influenced much of her writing. 

Lisa See spoke at the DIA about Shanghai Girls

As part of See's 2016 book tour, Detroit-area local libraries chose "Shanghai Girls" as their book of choice for that year's "Everyone's Reading" program. BTS was delighted to partner with two libraries, Birmingham's Baldwin Library and Canton Public Library, to present  a "Tea from China" talk along with a tea tasting of, you guessed it, teas from China.  

BTS at Canton Library Chinese tea tasting
BTS presents Tea from China at Baldwin Library

Lisa See presented to a standing-room only crowd last Tuesday at the Troy Community Center, an event hosted by the Troy Public Library.  After the formal program, she graciously stayed after to answer many questions, one of which was, "what is your favorite tea?"  She paused for a moment, and then said while she was always a tea drinker (enjoying jasmine tea especially), after digging into the world of pu'er it has become her favorite. In fact, she admitted, she has become a "tea snob".  We already admired her for her fascinating writing - that she's an unapologetic tea enthusiast endears us to her even more.

Watch for an upcoming "Tuesday Tea and Tomes" to feature "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane".  

Signing off, just "another tea snob", Barbara.   :) 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Royal Eagle: Russian afternoon tea in The D

The Royal Eagle tea room is located in Harper Woods, bordering Detroit and the Grosse Pointes

A Russian-themed tea and an afternoon of serenity can be found just outside of Detroit and as the "Barbs-at-Tea" discovered, what a find it is!

The Royal Eagle is part of a monastic campus of Easter Orthodox influence

In a quiet neighborhood in Harper Woods, The Royal Eagle delights visitors with a Russian afternoon tea, but that's not the only surprise that awaits guests. On a residential street, in city that borders Detroit and the Grosse Pointes, there's not only a restaurant, but a monastery, both housed in Eastern Orthodox-style buildings. Although, it looks as though this sanctuary has been there for centuries, it was formed only nineteen years ago in  1999.

The Royal Eagle is filled with antiques, including a collection of samovars, and a painting of Tsar Nicholas II

Great tea friend, Barb Tabb, suggested we visit The Royal Eagle last month, since it is a destination  that has been on both of our tea-places-to-try lists for quite some time.

Barbs-at-Tea, enjoying Russian tea fare, with main course of paprika chicken and fresh greens salad

There's a feeling of tranquility as you enter the tea room and that's by design. Cell phones are not allowed (except for picture-taking) and a modest dress code is required.

Tea cups with gold handles await guests 

But there's a regal-ness to the interior design as well. Chairs and drapes are a deep red hue, bordering tables, with crisp white tablecloths, where gold trimmed tea cups rest, awaiting guests.  Along with an impressive collection of antiques that are showcased around the tea room, including an amazing variety of samovars, there's a large picture of Tsar Nicholas II to remind visitors where The Royal Eagle derives its inspiration. The tea room was built to honor the memory of this last Tsar of Russia who was also a great patron of the Orthodox church.

One of the samovars on display

The Russian afternoon tea is a seven course meal which starts with tasty borscht soup and ends with a special pastry of the day.

The afternoon tea begins with tasty borscht soup.

Tea sandwiches are served on a silver, three-tiered tray. Along with the traditional cucumber savories, there's also salmon salad and brie-cranberry-chutney canapes, the latter being one of my favorites.

Three-tiered tray filled with savories

The main course was paprika-infused chicken served with a fresh green salad tossed in a raspberry vinaigrette. The chicken was off-the-bone tender and packed with flavor and the tangy dressing on the baby greens provided just the right balance to the meal.

Scrumptious lemon tart for dessert.

The grand finale - dessert - was an absolutely scrumptious lemon tart. It was a divine creation of  lemon curd in a flaky crust.

Waiting for tea to steep. 

Of course all of this is accompanied by a fine selection of tea. I had the lavender earl grey, which I liked a lot, once I let it steep long enough (patience is a virtue - and what better place to practice but on the grounds of a monastery). Each guest is given their own pot of tea to enjoy with the meal.

Gazebo on the grounds of St. Sabbas Monestary

The total cost of the entire Russian afternoon tea is $22.00 -  an incredible price for all the delicious food served up in such an attractive and unique environment.

Be sure to make reservations in advance, however, as tea is only served on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Guests can enjoy patio dining and pond viewing when temps get warmer

Although we were there on typical Michigan spring day - rain, wind, snow, sun -  I plan to be back when the weather warms up. When the flurries subside,  guests can enjoy meals outside. There are  ponds and gazebos and a small winding path to walk the grounds.

 The Royal Eagle is literally in the neighborhood. Enjoy Russian flavor without the passport,

If you're in the tri-county area and  want to experience a bit of Russian flavor and tea without updating your passport, you only need to embark on an expressway or two to reach The Royal Eagle.  It's a Russian tea room in the neighborhood and that just adds to its charm.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with tea from the Emerald Isle to the Florida Keys

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Key Lime GREEN tea

Although green beer and Irish whiskey may be the  traditional  libations for St. Patrick's Day, there's certainly room for celebrating with tea considering Ireland is rated as the third highest tea-drinking country in the world according to the World Atlas.

Our visit to Ireland in 2012, every day there was a rainbow and a great cup of tea

While it's true that I never a bad cup of tea in Ireland when I visited in 2012, one does not  have to cross the entire ocean to get a tasty brew. In fact, you can find a delightful Key Lime green tea in Key West. the southernmost city of Florida.

Key Lime tea from Oliver Pluff tea company

My daughter. Rachel, recently returned  from a western Caribbean cruise where one of the day excursions was a stop at Key West.  Good person that she is, wherever she travels, Rachel  always brings her Mom back tea from her visits.

The packaging of the Key Lime tea looked familiar and upon further inspection, I could see that this tea came from the Oliver Pluff tea company of South Carolina. I had purchased  several of their delightful teas when we were visiting that beatiful state two years ago.

Oliver Pluff teas were among my South Carolina tea booty in 2015

The Key Lime tea is really, really good, even though it may not taste very key-limey.  It's a loose tea and made from green Pekoe tea, cornflowers and key lime flavoring. It smells divine and the aroma is where you pick up more of the citrus notes. Drinking it, I found it to be a flavorful cup of smooth green tea with hints of vanilla, giving it a light creamy taste.  I give it five out of five shamrocks!

Stopped in for Irish Breakfast Tea at Bewley's in Dublin

So, whether you celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a cup of Irish Breakfast tea at Bewley's Coffee and Tea Shop in Dublin or Key Lime green tea in your kitchen, raise your tea cup to the day we're all Irish - and not much blarney required to convince us all of that!

Kissing the blarney stone
Blarney Castle

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Barb's O'Tea Shoppe!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

After a train show, where do you have tea? Visit No.VI in Novi, train stop or not

Hogwarts Express  "9 3/4" , not the only fabled train stop

My husband is a model train enthusiast, so last month, when a train show came to town, he was eager to attend. Taking place at the Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi, Chris asked if I would be at all interested in joining him.  Knowing No.VI, a coffee and tea shop I had been wanting to visit was nearby, I was on board.  Why not combine to two special interests of one household into a fun afternoon excursion? And, from local legend, I'd heard that the city Novi got its name from being the sixth stop (No. VI) along the stretch of railroad that ran through the western side of the state. What a great tie-in!

We'll be back at No.VI Coffee & Tea to try those scrumptious looking baked goods

Although the derivation of the city's name is a fun story, I have since found out, it's more folklore than fact.  According to the City of Novi's history page, there are nine theories of how Novi got it's name, from the reasonable, (it was the sixth township in Oakland County), to the ridiculous, (a well-known blacksmith/preacher who continually denied his wife Vivian's "spending suggestions", thus the oft heard, "No, Vi").

Nevertheless, after the train show -  which was pretty amazing, filled with a variety of elaborately set train tracks criss-crossing detailed tiny towns and rural settings, including a scaled model of Hogwarts Express and, like No.Vi,  the  other  fabled train station stop, 9 3/4 - we headed out for coffee and tea, just down the road.

Train stop or not, No.VI Coffee and Tea is a great place to visit

On a busy Sunday afternoon at No.VI Coffee and Tea, there was not a seat to be found. It's a good-sized tea room with a cozy vibe, featuring two fireplaces and lots of comfy chairs. Chris had a coffee and I, had an Earl Grey. They serve Harney teas, however, the courteous barista told me that that is going to change soon. So, stay tuned!

I'm planning to go back, perhaps on a weekday, when it's not quite so busy, and try some of the baked goods  that looked so scrumptious  and see what new tea they will be serving.

All aboard for the next adventure, and that's no myth!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Pot hole ice cream: Take the rocky road to Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream!

Pair a cup of warm tea with your frozen pot hole treat

 'Tis the season in Michigan for massive snow melts and caution on the road.  The warmer temperatures bring out not only sunglass-wearing natives in droves, but an expanse of newly created dips and ditches along the Detroit Metro highways. While most pot holes are hazardous and to be avoided at all costs, there's one that is sinfully delicious and happily served up at Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream in Franklin.

Enjoying a cup of pot hole on the main level of the Farmhouse

After reading about this marvel in Tuesday's Free Press (Pot holes got you down?), I knew it was time for another visit to the Farmhouse for tea and treats.

A delicious pot hole you can sink your teeth into!

The label for Michigan Pot Hole boasts that this confection is comprised of  "thick black tar fudge, in chocolate ice cream, with chunky chocolate cookie asphalt pieces".

Ambiance is warm and cozy, main level, upstairs or outside

This is seriously good ice cream.  While it may hit your diet as hard as its namesake will wallop your tire rim, it is worth every rich and decadent calorie and a lot less expensive. In fact, the Farmhouse currently has a promotion running through the end of this month that will bring the price down even further. If you bring in a receipt of any car damage caused by a pot hole from February 1st of this year through March 25th, the Farmhouse will give you a scoop of Michigan Pot Hole for free.

Pot holes and tea (and there's no wrong way to do so, that's only for queuing up_ 

We paired our Pot Hole ice cream with a cup of Harney's Earl Grey. 

Farmhouse ambiance and service is warm and cheery

Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream is located in downtown Franklin, on Franklin Road, just south of the Cider Mill. The ambiance and service is as warm and cheery as a cup of freshly brewed tea.  It's a cozy venue with comfy seating available on the first floor, the upstairs loft, or - on a 60 plus degree day in February - the outside deck.

Whether you experience a real pot hole or are lucky enough to survive the rocky roads of metro Detroit, treat yourself to a heaping serving of  Michigan Pot Hole ice cream at Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream.

'Tis the season for warmer temps and pot holes on Michigan roads

For more information on Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream, visit their website or check them out on Facebook:  Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Tea Time Magazine's French-themed issue: A celebration of all things past (and repast)

Tea Time Magazine's March/April issue focuses on all things French, including tea rooms, china and tea!

French tea rooms, French tea and French china - the March/April issue of Tea Time Magazine is devoted to thé a la francais and nous l'aimons beaucoup! While learning about tea places in Nantes, it also brought back many wonderful memories of our visit to several favorite Paris salons du thés in the fall of 2008.

Afternoon tea at Angelina's

Bruce Richardson's article in this issue of Tea Time, "An Introduction to French Tea", highlights some of the top tea rooms in Paris including Angelina's anMariage Frères, two of my all-time favorite tea venues. The former is across the street from the Louvre and the century-old tea room creates its own delicious works of art in the form of French pastries which go so well with Angelina's Earl Grey. Bruce Richardson also notes Angelina's hosted many of the rich and famous, including Marcel Proust. So appropriate, while we're remembering all things past! 

And, while we couldn't bring back the scrumptious desserts, we did stock up on Angelina's tea and lined our travel bags with a number of the signature tea tins.

One of the Mariage Frere locations in Paris

And to this day, I still say Mariage Frères is where I had the best cup of tea ever. There are so many varieties to choose from, but it's not just the selection that makes this tea room so remarkable. The servers are schooled in expert brewing and each cup is a delight to sip. 

To this day, still the best cup of tea I ever tasted!

Bruce R. also talks about great day-trips from Paris, such as Giverny and Versaille. We were fortunate to experience both and take in some tea at each city, bien sur!

Giverny, the ponds and gardens where Monet painted and drank tea

Giverny is the home of Monet, where he painted all those beautiful lilies in ponds. We learned the artist enjoyed not only painting his his cultivated gardens, but having a cup of tea there as well.

Outside Versailles Palace, once home to Marie Antoinette

In contrast to Giverny's natural beauty, Versailles, the great French palace, and once home to Marie Antoinette, is over-the-top excess, but impressive down to every gold and crystal detail   We saw where Marie Antoinette slept and dined and the table where her custom-designed china resided.

Tea Time Magazine's French-themed issue also spotlights the country's exquisite china manufacturers, including Limoges and Bernardaud's. And, oui, I do have a tea cup from the Bernardaud's Marie Antoinette tea service collection (shown on page 53 of Tea Time's latest issue). It is a replica of the china used by the ill-fated Queen. It incorporated a few of her favorite things: pearls and cornflowers. (I purchased my tea cup back in 2007 at Bernardaud's on Park Avenue while on a New York tea tour with Elizabeth Knight.)

My Marie Antoinette china tea cup from Bernardaud's

The March/April issue of Tea Time Magazine, c'est merveilleux! It is full of fascinating details of the French way of tea and also a lot of great French-themed tea party recipes. A great read of new experiences, and, for some of us, of times past as well.

For the full, Proust-length blog of our trip to Paris, see Tea Tour in Paris, September, 2008

Monday, February 19, 2018

Babycakes, it's warm inside! Marquette muffin company serves tea and scones

Babycakes in downtown Marquette serves tea and scones

This past weekend, we headed over the Mighty Mac to Marquette to see the dog sled races, better known as the UP 200. With our extended family, aka the LP 9, we joined the crowds on Washington Street to witness the mushers and their eager pups start the upper peninsula's version of the Iditarod.  

But, that was not the only exciting thing we experienced on Marquette's main street. A cup of hot tea and fresh baked scones were waiting for us at Babycakes Muffin Company

The start of the UP 200 dog races on Washington Street

Babycakes serves up coffee and tea with a variety of muffins, scones and light lunch fare. Friday night the venue extended their hours and offered guests a place to warm up and refresh while remaining in the center of the action.

Rachel and Sean, part of the LP 9, enjoying tea-to-go at Babycakes

We sampled a few teas (Earl Grey and an herbal mango) and both were tasty. They offer sweet and savory scones and we chose the former, a delicious raspberry treat served up in a generous portion.

The atmosphere is casual and friendly at Babycakes

The atmosphere is casual and friendly and a great place to hang with friends, study, or watch a team of eager dogs pull their musher on a sled.

Generous servings! Raspberry scone was the day's sweet choice.

Although the UP 200 comes only once a year, Babycakes is open all four seasons. When in the Marquette area, a stop at Babycakes will refresh any time of year.

Seven of the LP 9 on Washington Street watching the dog races