Three Things That Bring Me Happiness:
1.) Shiny tea kettles
…It’s that lovely sound…first the low, quiet rumbling of a boil followed quickly by a faint, happy whistle…followed by a glorious shriek (if you do not lift the kettle in time).
In an age of the microwave and electric tea kettle, I still prefer boiling my water in a stove top tea kettle with a wooden handle (a hand-me-down gift from my sister). If I decide to “nuke” a cup of water for tea (for lack of time) I feel I have cheated myself out of the full experience of the ritual of tea-making.
The Japanese have an established tea ritual (called Chanoyu, Sado or Ocha) during which the focus is primarily on its aesthetics – including the traditional movements that are performed and the particular placement of utensils – which can take years to learn and perfect and quite some time to execute.
As much as I would love to learn these techniques (including the deep, profound silence and the serenity of the host or Teishu), I remain temporarily pleased with my own quiet and simple (by comparison) tea ritual:
- I use only filtered water for my tea. Having worked for many coffee houses, I developed a level of snobbery in regards to any hot beverage’s preparation – where a drink’s flavor is dependent on the water’s purity.
- I heat the water “the old-fashioned way” – on a stove top, on medium-high heat, to create a slow, steady boil.
- The temperature of the water depends on the type of tea you are drinking. If you are drinking a black tea, the water can be piping hot and at a rapid boil (around 200 degrees). I guess the British have resilient lips! 😉
More delicate tea leaves – like green or white – should be steeped in a slightly cooler temperature (between 180 and 190 degrees). If you do not have a thermometer, no worries 🙂 Adjust temperatures by bringing water to a full boil and, if brewing a delicate tea, remove the kettle from the stove for a minute so that it can cool off a bit.
- The wait. Patience must be practiced while a tea steeps. Each type of tea should be steeped for different lengths of time (see link above for suggestions). If you steep a tea for too long, your drink will be bitter and too strong…and that is definitely NOT relaxing. So…although we Westerners do not embrace the same formal tea rituals found in other parts of the world, we still must yield to the laws of physics (waiting for water to boil) and chemistry (waiting for tea to steep into the water). Often, I will reflect on the little quotes Yogi Tea prints on each tea bag’s label: “A relaxed mind is a creative mind.” “You will feel fulfilled when you do the impossible for someone else.”
- Delight in a soothing cup of hot tea.
A sleepy whistle…a warm, clay cup filled with cardamom, anise and cinnamon tea…a content sip…and then to bed.
2.) Knowing that I am past the time in my life during which getting into a club that has a “list” is earth-shatteringly exciting.
3.) Speakeasy drinks
This past weekend, Markus and I visited his friend’s lovely home in Bel-Air (one of those majestic, open, very white, very chic pads nestled discreetly at the top of a giant, stone-paved driveway) for an afternoon barbecue. Those who know me know that my spirit of choice is a good scotch. I brought with me a bottle of select The Balvenie 15 year single-malt scotch with the intention of sipping on a glass on the rocks while enjoying the splendid view. The host saw the bottle and immediately suggested a delicious drink: Scotch + Fresh-citrus juice + warm raw honey.
Although this particular scotch is probably best enjoyed by itself, I was game as all of the ingredients for the drink could be found on the premises (they have two bee hives on their property, as well as a tiny tangerine tree). With his sleepy two year-old in his arms, we ventured out to harvest a heaping bowl of tangerines – which popped right off the branches. This was something I found strangely gratifying.
In his kitchen, he heated a couple of tablespoons of raw honey while I juiced over a dozen, tiny tangerines. The resulting mixture was nothing short of amazing: Fresh, sweet and strong. A perfect Sunday afternoon aperitif.
Perhaps my friend, Ben, could help me figure out what this drink is called? 😉