Tea and Milk – or, whichever way you do it is wrong (for everyone else)

By Dame Ursula

Nothing manages to be quite so polarizing as the addition of milk or cream to one's tea.

Are you of the opinion that the milk must be added first?

Or should the milk be the final addition to your cup?

 

I frequently relax by indulging in the Regency and Georgian Romance novels of Julia Quinn and Eloisa James – which ALWAYS feature at least one scene over a pot of tea – and Eloisa James' latest novel "My American Duchess" featured an excellent discourse on why each side of the Atlantic handles milk the way they do (and why the other side thinks they're wrong!)

In the novel, the American Heiress Merry is informed by the proper British Duke Trent that Americans clearly add their milk first so that the hot water "will scald the milk, rendering it drinkable despite its being less than fresh."  Merry corrects him (her aunt would never serve milk that was less than fresh) and informs him that putting the milk in first is correct because " it tastes better" and notes that the British pour their tea in first NOT because of taste, but because it demonstrates that they can afford higher quality porcelain for their tea cups, as lower quality cups would shatter from the temperature of the beverage!

 (All paraphrasing is mine, the story and situation are the property of "My American Duchess" by Eloisa James – which is wonderful and you should read it)

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So which side do you fall on?

I tend to put my milk in last, so I can judge how much I need based on how strongly my tea has brewed.

I also tend to only put milk into a heavy black tea like Awaken.  Lighter blacks like Count Cisco and Dame Ursula just don't need it in my opinion.

Tea for the beginner - and new tips for the Tea Enthusiast

Dame Ursula here - chatting with you lovely fairy friends about getting started with tea that doesn’t come in a bag from the nice people at Liptons.

 

One of the things you hear when you tell people about loose-leaf tea, is “that sounds great, but I have no idea how to make it!”  

I thought I would share some of my favorite methods for brewing tea, beyond dumping the leaves into hot water and hoping!

Most people start their loose-leaf tea journey with a tea ball.  It’s simple, elegant and easy to acquire, BUT not all tea balls are created equal.   Old school tea balls have large holes or very loose mesh that can dump a more delicately leafed tea into your cup rather than keep it in the ball where it belongs!  Rubiee's OCD helps those of us who don’t want to buy a bunch of tea balls - she’s discovered one of the best on the market that has a tightly woven mesh that, when closed properly, keeps the tea where it belongs.  Tea balls are best (in my opinion) for making a single decent size cup or a small (2 cup) pot (16-18 oz max).

 

Tip 1: you can make a second cup of tea from the same leaves if you actually take the tea ball out of the water after an appropriate brewing period (approximately 3 minutes for green and herbal teas, 4-5 minutes for black teas)  This is why cell phone timers are your friend.

 

Tip 2: Don’t over pack the tea ball, or you’ll end up with a cuppa MUCH stronger than you were planning on.  If you have a Dryad “perfect tea spoon” this much tea does in fact make a perfect 8-10 oz cup of tea.  I admit, I don’t tend to drink from anything that small.  My favorite cups are more accurately described as tea vats.  Which is why...

 

For larger cups of tea, or pots of tea, consider using a brew basket - these are usually the size of a small cup and fit inside the cup or pot, allowing the tea to float freely in the water, but inside the containment of the basket. I tend to aim for a slightly heaping tablespoon of tea for my vats, depending on the tea.  Same deal - you can make more than one cup/pot, and don’t over-fill it, unless you’re planning to make several cups of tea in a day from the same leaves...

The one small problem with tea balls and brew baskets is that they can make a mess when you empty them, especially in an office or at school.  And this is why they make disposable tea bags!

You can find them at fancier grocery stores, kitchen specialty stores and the like, or order a bunch off of Amazon.com.  Fill’em, use’em and toss’em. They tend to come in larger sizes than a tea ball or brew basket and thus are my brewing method of choice when I need to make a large pot of tea.


Much like the pirates’ code, the stated measurements above are merely guidelines, and my opinions on cups, pots etc. are my own thoughts.  One of my favorite things about tea is that everyone’s opinion is right, because it’s YOUR cup of tea - experiment with how strong you like your tea, how light, how bitter - its all up to you!  

Cheers, darlings! - Ursula




Changing of the Seasons

Here at Dryad Tea we love our seasons and follow them accordingly, in fact we've made a sort of schedule for our seasonal Court teas as well. 

March 20th marks the Spring Equinox, it also marks the day that Fall and Winter Court teas will no longer be available for purchase online. (We will have limited amounts available at AnomalyCon though!) Spring and Summer Court will once again go live for your drinking pleasure. 

When the Fall Equinox rolls around again, the blends will switch. So make sure to stock up on your Fall and Winter Court teas before March 20th!

Wicked Faire 2015

Every year I find myself looking more and more forward to Jeff Mach's Wicked Faire. It's an indoor winter Renaissance Festival, and it feeds my soul. This year the event was at a new hotel, but that didn't make it any less amazing. The people were so welcoming and friendly and happy. The energy of the space was magical and energizing. 
I had an amazing booth space for Dryad Tea, and Pandora Celtica was also there singing so I got to do double work all weekend. Even though I was working two "jobs" I had so much fun and met so many new friends! I even got to sing the very first song I've ever written for the band, for the very first time at Wicked! 

I also got to meet some amazing artists.

Michelle over at Greenwood Creations is beyond words. She's super nice and so skilled at her art that inspires a feeling of awe in those that look upon it. I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a tiny pyrography (woodburned) acorn and bat. They are going to join my wall of inspiration in my studio, so I can look at them always! Find her shop here.

Thanks to a dear friend of mine I also got to spend some time with The Mad Etcha who makes the most shockingly detailed glass etchings BY HAND with a dremmel. I am not even kidding you here. I took three of them home with me, and will be stalking her etsy for more in the future. 

I really do love conventions, the art, the music, the people. Wicked is different for me though, it's sort of a working vacation. I get to play and work all at once, and can I just tell you all again how amazing everyone is? Dryad Tea has never been so spoiled by people stopping by to drop off food and drinks. We are beyond grateful for every single person that stopped by to say hello or to buy our tea or give hugs! 

I can happily say that I look forward to going back next year. We will be applying the minute vendor apps open up!

Hey Etsy, what about us?

Hello TeaLovers!  Let's set the WayBack machine two years, shall we?

A couple of years ago, when we started selling a handful of tea blends over on our Etsy shop, we were enjoying the bounty of a Craft Market.  Etsy only allowed things that fell into the hand-made category.  This actually hurt us a little bit, because we couldn't sell ONLY tea infusers or spoons (because someone else makes them, so selling them as exclusive, on-their-own items was out) but we managed nonetheless.

This company was founded and built on Etsy sales, and the idea of the Craft Market.

The people who shopped on Etsy were OUR kind of people!  A little kooky, with a dash of crunchy, and sometimes more patchouli than a reasonable person should own, but our kind of people nonetheless.  We love 'em.

And then something happened.

We have started to see our Etsy sales taper off.  Not hugely, but as someone who watches trends in sales, and looks fo ways to keep them up I noticed the decline.  And the decline has been steady.  Overall our sales have been increasing, but when looking at JUST the etsy orders, we are even seeing reduced traffic and engagement from our Etsy ad's that we place.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

So I did some digging.  Turns out that Etsy has stopped being a craft marketplace.  Shannon Whitehead has a good writeup on the full detail of it, but it comes down to the fact that Etsy isn't in it for the craft culture anymore.  We are competing now with manufacturers (NOT Crafters) overseas who are making similar products at a fraction of our costs, and flooding the market with low-quality, low-price products.

While searching for Loose Leaf Tea, our La Sirene blend comes up as the second item, but if I search for "Tea Infuser with Charm" I get a page filled with tea balls that have cheap trinkets attached to them, some of them shipping directly from China, and at nearly HALF of our listed price.

When we list a Tea Infuser with a charm, we purchase the infuser (after having tested dozens of different styles), we have hand picked each charm that goes on them, purchased from small vendors, we then hand wrap every wire in the charm so that we are sure that it is secure and won't fall off, We personally attach each charm and check it and the infuser for defects, put it in a nice little bag, and package it up with a little bit of Dryad flair.  All of this, because we want you to have a QUALITY product, that you will love and enjoy.

Etsy used to be about supporting the little guy.  Sure, things bought on Etsy might cost a little bit more than something you could buy from a Big-Box store, but by the same token, you knew that your dollars were going DIRECTLY to the creator, and you were supporting a PERSON behind the shop.

With this shift in Etsy policy, and the massive influx of shops, you are more likely to be supporting a Big-Box company wearing a fancy hat, rather than a little guy trying to make a good product.

Today, everyone is aware of every dollar that they spend, sure.  I am not going to tell you that you shouldn't count your pennies.  But I am going to say that if you WANT a craft product, if you are looking for that UNIQUE and SPECIAL something, keep an eye on the shop that you buy from, and be sure that you really are buying from a crafter rather than a retailer trying to edge out the little guy.