Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Guest Blogger: Molly Reese, Tea Maven

My high school reunion is this fall (and we're not going to mention how many years it's been) and a lot of us from Concord High School in Concord, North Carolina have reconnected on Facebook. When I found Molly and learned she owned a tea shop in our hometown, I was fascinated. I've always drunk iced tea. What Southern Belle doesn't? But one summer in college, while reading Miss Marple mysteries, I decided to try hot tea with sugar and milk. Oh yum!!!!! And I've been a hot tea drinker ever since. But there's more to tea than tea bags and here's Molly to fill us in.

Thanks for asking me to do a guest blog on tea! Where to start?!?! Although I am a life long tea drinker, I began to discover the connoisseur's world of tea about 10 years ago when a friend of mine, Denise LeCroy, introduced me to estate teas. Denise is the "First Lady of Tea" in South Carolina and a tea maven. From her knowledge of teas I developed a real "thirst" for more information about teas and a curiosity about the brew.

Tea is grown in almost every country in the world. It is the second most consumed beverage on the planet, with water holding first place. All tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. Where it is grown will affect its flavor and how it is processed after harvesting determines whether it will be green, black, oolong or white. There are thousands of varieties of teas.

Black tea is the predominant tea in America. Black tea is fully oxidized, which means after it's harvested, the leaves are bruised and it's left to ferment, or oxidize, for about 24 hours. It is then pan fired to stop the oxidation process and dried. Any flavoring is usually added at this time. Then the tea is graded and packaged. Black tea is where my drinking habit started! Some of my favorites are estate teas, which are grown in a particular area of a country. One such example is Sylvakandy, which is produced by the Sylva estate in the Kandy district of Sri Lanka. It is a Ceylon tea (Sri Lanka used to be Ceylon). Ceylon teas are often used as the base tea for flavored teas such as Earl Gray. They are medium bodied. I also like the Assam teas, which are produced in the Assam district of India. These teas are full bodied and malty. I love a bracing cup of Assam on a cold morning with a little sugar and a splash of milk.

India also produces two other varieties of tea, Nilgiri and Darjeeling. Darjeeling tea is often referred to as the champagne of tea because of its light muscatel flavor.

Green tea is the most consumed tea in China and Japan. Green tea is very high in antioxidants, which fight free radicals. There have been hundreds of studies on green tea's disease fighting properties, particularly cancer, and general health benefits. It was green tea that was thrown into the Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party. Green tea is picked, then steamed, dried, and packaged.

Oolong teas are between greens and blacks. It is partially oxidized, which makes this tea milder than most black teas, but without the vegetal taste of most green teas. Oolong teas are good for allergies and skin problems such as eczema. My favorite Oolong is Quanzhou Milk Oolong. It has a sweet flavor somewhat reminiscent of fresh milk.

White teas are fairly new to the American market. White teas are picked before the cillia falls off the leaves, then the leaves are dried. Because of their rarity, white teas are more expensive than the other varieties. White teas are very delicate, and most can be infused several times before the flavor is gone. At one time, only the royal family was allowed to drink white tea. One of my favorite white teas is Tangiers Lemon. It is delicious iced or hot.

What to drink?? After Denise introduced me to the world of tea, I would periodically go a little nuts with the tea catalogs and order several different varieties. When the packaged arrived, I'd often brew three cups at one time because I couldn't decide what to try first. This habit led to more and more purchases of tea, expanding my collection from a small basket on the kitchen counter to opening a tea shop to make room for it all!

I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to try something new in the world of tea. It's good for you, helps hydrate the body, and the experience of brewing and drinking a cup of tea can be a most rewarding experience. When it seems that the world is at my door with too many problems and not enough solutions, fixing a cup of tea and taking five minutes (or more!) just for me helps put everything back into perspective. Bottoms up with your cups!!

You can learn more about Molly's Two Leaves and a Bud Tea Shop here. I love their slogan: We Encourage Heavy Drinking. Also, one lucky commenter will win a tea sampler that includes her mentioned favorites plus one of her house blends and a couple of her best selling green teas . She sent me a sampler pack and I can vouch for how great her teas are. Yep, it's a lot more than tea bags.

So tell us. Coffee, tea or something else? What do you drink?

P.S. Our very own Blaze Babe, Kira Sinclair, is on the Blaze authors' blog today. Hop over and join in to find out about what happens in Vegas.


Bronwyn Jameson said...

Black tea with a dash of skim milk, no sugar.

Must say I was completely baffled by the cold sweetened tea thing when I first visited America. Who knew? And when I wrote an American character drinking English tea, I was scolded by a reader who insisted that Americans NEVER drink hot tea.

Aideen said...

Ah, the joys of tea.

Not an hour goes by on any given day when the words, 'boil the kettle' won't be heard in my home. Or my mother's for that matter, or any of my sister's, friends, get the picture. Here in Ireland I believe it is almost part of our religion to offer a dying man a cup of tea! Because I'll be honest here, we LOVE our tea. With full fat milk, a bit of suicra, and perhaps a nice cream bun to go with it. Tea ails everything and can turn a silver moment into something much more precious; Turn the moment Gold with Barry's tea. It's a slogan that sells well in Ireland and I for one, buy into it every time.
Although a cup doesn't work for me, I need a big mug.

A very different and enjoyable post, I'm glad I logged on here this morning.

All the best from Cork,

Aideen said...

Oops, serious error there. I meant to say that tea cures all ails, not teal ails everything. Must have been to early for me this morning, clearly I hadn't had enough of the brew myself.


Smarty Pants said...

I hate coffee. I guess that makes me weird, but I just can't stomach it. I'd always choose hot chocolate or apple cider if I went to a bookstore or coffee house. I started drinking tea when I got on Weight Watchers and didn't want to use points for my drinks anymore and wanted to cut back on my Diet Coke intake.

Since then, I've developed a fondness for hot blueberry green tea. I drink two mugs of it every morning with no sweetner. I also really like different kinds of fruit tea. Peach, berry, orange... yum!

I do have to say tea is better with a scone and clotted cream, though. :)

Instigator said...

I think everything is better with a scone and clotted cream :-).

I will admit that until I met my husband I didn't even enjoy the traditional sweet iced tea (although I quickly learned to love it). And the Playfriends have introduced me to the wonders of hot tea just in the last couple of years.


Problem Child said...

I'm finishing up my third cup of tea this morning, so I'm finally feeling awake.

I don't drink coffee -- so I'm always a bit bitter that everywhere you go there's a pot of coffee, yet tea seems to be an alien concept.

Bronwyn and I seem to take our tea the same way. I'm just not a fan of the fruity teas, but when I'm sick a nice minty tea is nice.

~grumbles she's not eligible for the prize~

Smarty Pants said...

PC - I feel the same way about sweet tea. I don't know how many luncheons I've gone to where all they serve is sweet tea to drink. That stuff will send you into a diabetic coma. I don't think I'll ever be able to pass for a real southern woman. I don't like iced tea - sweet or otherwise, I don't eat grits, and I'm far too mean. Oh well. I'll just drink my hot tea like a Yankee.

*off my make my second cup of green tea*

M.V.Freeman said...

I love hot tea, and Coffee. Coffee is my wake up drink, but it's tea that comforts me. My father introduced it to me as a child...

So, when I've had a very bad day I will brew Irish Breakfast or Rose Tea with a bit of milk and sugar...makes me centered. (Sometimes no sugar, but usually if that's the case I have a short bread cookie on hand!)I like to invite friends...especially when things are not going well for them and have tea. :)

Of course there is the Russian blend tea, that I love..I like to drink it plain while I write.

I am still developing a taste for green and white tea. *sigh* :) But I'm working on it. I'll drink iced tea....but truly, a pot of tea is the best. :)

As you can see, this is also a very favorite subject of mine!

PM's Mother said...

Hello Molly,

It is so nice to read about someone from my home town!

I think it is great that you have a tea room in "downtown" Concord. It should give the town some "pizzazz". For ever so long all you could purchase to eat in downtown Concord was a grilled cheese sandwich and a coke at Belk's lunch counter. (Just kidding -- you could get a grilled chicken salad sandwich if you chose.)

I love to drink hot tea. I developed the taste for hot tea with milk and sugar while on a trip to Cornwall, England. Of course I developed a liking for scones and clotted cream to go with it also.

Several years ago a friend and I visited the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island (near Charleston) in South Carolina. It was an interesting tour -- to see how the tiny tea leaves were harvested, then dried and packaged. It is worth one's time if anyone is in Charleston to take the side trip to the tea plantation.

Since I live on St. Simons Island in south Georgia I cannot visit your shop soon, but I surely would like to. The next time I'm in Concord I will be certain to visit you and have a cup of tea.

By the way --I'm Playground Monitor's mother.

Rhonda Nelson said...

Count me as another coffee hater. I love the smell of it, but not the taste. Weird, yes?

But I love hot tea. Like SP, I like the fruiy varieties. I've got a tea for one set that I use every morning. I love that little thing. Makes me feel special. :-)

traveler said...

I enjoyed your lovely and unique post today. I am a tea drinker from way back and love all flavors of herbal tea with lemon. I find tea soothing, uplifting and the most delicate drink imaginable. I have never been able to drink coffee nor have been enticed by its flavor. Too heavy and hard on the stomach. Tea on the other hand is a perfect drink, especially for winter but even so I drink it all year round. Tea with a scone lifts my spirits.

housemouse88 said...

I love coffee and tea. Tea being the best though. I've always been a sweet iced tea drinker. Never really thought about drinking it hot even though my grandmother did quit often. Would love to have a sample of different teas. Have a great day.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I like coffee and tea, and I tend to go through phases. Right now, it's a coffee phase. But I'll switch back to tea soon enough. Of course I love sweet tea. I think I had hot tea as a child, though I am a Southerner and no doubt had cold tea first.

I've been to a couple of high teas, and those are amazing. One was in an English country estate in Germany (yes, sounds odd, but it belonged to a German queen who was one of Victoria's daughters and had it built like the houses of her childhood).

By far the oddest tea I've drank, to me, is Lapsong Souchong. It has a smoky flavor that is kind of strange. It's good, but I have to be in the mood!

Thanks for the tea blog! Fascinating!

Sherry Werth said...

A true Southern girl here...guilty as charged. I grew up on coffee and sweet tea. But I love this post Molly, and I will be trying a cup of hot tea. Besides, having a pretty tea pot and matching cup would make me feel special! :)

Angel said...

I've been a sweet cold tea drinker all my life. In the past few years I've switched to Splenda as opposed to sugar, but still... Rhonda, I also love the smell of coffee, but don't care to drink it. It doesn't taste the way it smells.

The Playfriends have tried to switch me to hot tea. I now even own a tea pot, which I've never had before. I just can't remember to use it. Sigh...


Caroline said...

Tea. Tea. Tea and Tea. Did I mention tea? Tea it is then! And if it comes with choccie biccies all the better... Caroline xx

Anonymous said...

Yep, I'm a Southern Belle, bring on a glass of wonderful iced, sweet tea with lemon, lime or an orange slice - delicious!!!! And I usually have decaf tea and can make it good enough to drink that you can't tell that it's decaf.

anne said...

Sweet, lovely amazing tea. I just love tea in all its glory. I indulge my tea addiction daily throughout all the seasons. It has been a particularly special treat for me when I have citrus flavored tea with an English Muffin. That cures all that ails me and gives me energy and creativity.

catslady said...

I am a freshly ground, black coffee drinker mostly. The only time I got tea was when I was sick as a child so I think I associated it for the longest time. Now I make myself a cup with honey when I think I may be coming down with something and always with a sore throat lol.

Playground Monitor said...

I just heard from Molly and she's snowed under today and can't get to the computer. But she'll answer questions tomorrow and tomorrow's commenters will be included in the draw for the tea sampler.

I for one want to know if there's a difference between using milk, cream or half-and-half in tea.

And since she sells tea by the ounce, how many cups can you brew with an ounce of tea?

Anonymous said...

Hello Molly, Marilyn and fellow tea lovers!

Molly, great to "see your name in lights"! (And thanks for the kudos in your article.) I really have got to make a roadtrip up that way.

For those of you wishing to make a roadtrip down this way to Charleston to see North America's only commerical tea plantation, you may want to plan your trip for the week-end of May 16 for the Charleston Tea Plantation's 3rd annual FIRST FLUSH FESTIVAL. You can read more about it here:

Maureen said...

I drink two cups of tea every morning with milk and raw honey. Although I have been drinking tea for over twenty years it is tea from a teabag. These teas sound like a whole new level of tea drinking

ruth said...

The drink that I appreciate deeply is hot tea. A sliver of lemon, sweetener and I am happy. So perfect every single day and with a cucumber sandwich. What more could I want. Tea has always been my panacea for all my ills and it seems to work well. No ice tea nor coffee thought. Perish the thought.

PM's Mother said...


The British use milk -- and they pour it into the cup first -- then pour the tea.

(Source: My second generation Anglican friend and also from observation when I've visited England.)

diane said...

Tea, wonderful tea. This is the one and only drink for me and I have been a faithful and true tea devotee. Growing up in a cold clime has influenced this greatly, but I could never drink coffee. Tea had such an allure. Not strong though, meek and mild with a little sweet such as biscotti and I was in heaven.