Tea Together Tuesday: A Perfect Cup for Spring

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Today on Tea Together Tuesday, a delightful community tea prompt hosted by Tea with Jann and Tea is a Wish, the prompt is to share a cup of tea that is perfect for spring. When I saw that prompt, a month ago, I knew exactly what tea I wanted to share: Sakura Sencha.

Perhaps you’ve had cherry blossom or “sakura” scented teas from companies that specialize in scented teas. I know I had one years ago from Capital Teas that blended cherry and rose flavorings and called it “Cherry Blossom.” But true sakura sencha is neither fruity nor rosy. It doesn’t smell or taste like a perfumed or scented tea. This tea uses the leaves of the sakura tree, along with a few dried petals, to add a deep warmth and sweet florality to an already-lovely cup of bright and umami sencha.

Part of why I love this tea is the contrast between the deeply green sencha leaves and the pale pink dried sakura petals that dot the dry leaf. It reminds me of the grass under my rosebushes when the roses have bloomed and are starting to fall, littering the green grass with pink petals. It just feels like the full glory of spring.

In fact, when I was in high school, I used to walk home from school, and in the spring, the cherry and apple trees would bloom. Eventually, the blossoms would run their course and start to fall, particularly on windy days. One afternoon, I was walking home with my first boyfriend and just as the wind picked up for a moment, we stopped for a kiss, and had a lovely, movie-perfect kiss under a blanket of falling pink petals. This fragrant tea is almost like a drinkable embodiment of that moment.

I usually purchase my sakura sencha from Yunomi, but this year, my shipment was unfortunately waylaid by coronivirus-related shipping disruptions. So I was delighted to find that Path of Cha offers a similar tea. In fact, it tastes identical to the sakura sencha I had last year from Yunomi. This year is was particularly bittersweet, as I was unable to enjoy the cherry blossoms in downtown DC due to stay-at-home orders and remote work, but sipping this tea brings back the delight of early spring with the sakura blossoms drifting through the air and scenting the world around them. A perfect spring scene.

So that is my perfect tea for spring. I hope you’ll share your own spring teas and how you’re celebrating this springtime in light of the perhaps different shapes our lives might be taking. Happy sipping!

NB: Nothing to disclose. If you’re interested in collaborating with me, please read my contact and collaboration information.

Floral Spring Cocktails, featuring Royal Rose Syrups

Who needs a drink? I know I’ve been enjoying indulging in a little alcohol more often than usual (which is to say, I’ve been having a drink maybe four nights a week instead of rarely), and the weather is saying spring, so I thought I’d share some cocktails (and a mocktail) that I’ve whipped up using the syrups that Royal Rose Syrups* so kindly sent me. They sent me eight of their flavors and I’m focusing on the floral flavors for now because, well, spring. Stay tuned for later on when I share some gorgeous summer cocktails using more of their flavors.

(And note that their spring 20% off sale*, with the code SPRING20, ends today!)

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The Dearest Old Fashioned

This is a riff on an Old Fashioned, using saffron syrup and rosewater. The name is a play on words, both referring to my friend Nazanin of Tea Thoughts, who loves all these flavors, and whose name means dearest in Farsi, and also a reference to the fact that saffron has long been the “dearest” or most expensive spice in the world.

2 oz. bourbon

1 Tbsp. saffron syrup*

1/2-1 tsp. rosewater

Stir with ice and garnish with some dried rosebuds if desired. It’s also lovely topped with some sparkling water to make a less potent beverage. Sip slowly, perhaps while enjoying one of Nazanin’s coloring books.

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The Tudor Rose

This cocktail uses brandy, which always feels old-fashioned to me, and is based on a previous cocktail from a bar I used to frequent named “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition.” Because I’m not using port or a brandy named after a Spanish cardinal, I’ve decided to name this for the Tudor rose, as it combines the flavors of rose with sparkling wine, orange peel, and brandy, for a luxurious and historical feeling.

1 oz. brandy

1 Tbsp. rose syrup*

Sparkling wine

Strip of orange peel

Stir together the brandy and rose syrup with a little ice until combined and then strain into a cocktail or champagne glass. Top with champagne and twist the orange peel over the top before dropping it in. Sip while contemplating the fragility of your royal dynasty (or perhaps keeping up your official correspondence).

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Milady’s Boudoir

Lavender evokes my vanity, perhaps because it is one of my favorite fragrances, so I’ve named this drink both for the sanctuary of beauty where Milady might perform her toilette, and also for the ladies’ publication from P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories.

1 Tbsp. lavender lemon syrup*

glass of sparkling wine

lemon peel

Pour the syrup into a champagne flute or coupe and top with champagne. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the top and drop in. Sip as part of a luxurious evening routine.

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The Amiable Friend

This is another inspired by a friend. Rie of Tea Curious has created tea cocktails in the past, but does not drink herself, so I thought I would make my non-alcoholic offering in her honor, featuring some ice-brewed white tea, in honor of her unique brewing experiments, along with jasmine syrup. I only wish I had a fancier glass in which to serve it. This is called “amiable” after the Language of Flowers, which interprets jasmine’s meaning as “amiability.”

4 oz. ice-brewed Silver Needle white tea

1 Tbsp. jasmine syrup*

Sparkling water

Brew your Silver Needle by placing 5g of leaves over 120g of ice in a vessel and allowing it to infuse as the ice melts, over about X hours. Once it has infused, add it to a tall glass with ice, stir in 1 Tbsp. of jasmine syrup, and top with 4 oz. of sparkling water. Enjoy in the afternoons, perhaps while watching one of Rie’s live tea practices on Instagram.

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I hope you enjoyed this foray into floral flavored cocktails for the season, inspired by my friends and historical loves. I’m sure we could all use a nice drink these days, so let me know if you try one!

NB: I am an affiliate of Royal Rose Syrups and purchasing their syrups through my affiliate links provide income to my blog. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk. For more information about my affiliate links, click here.

Tea and a Story: Goddesses and Groundhogs

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This weekend is the Celtic feast of Imbolc, the kind of traditional start of spring in the Celtic and pagan calendar. As someone with a strong affinity to pagan traditions, I like this idea. I first realized that I was keeping pagan customs when I was a runner in graduate school and found myself counting down to the winter solstice, which is when the days started getting longer, so I was that much closer to being able to run first thing in the morning without being in the dark. One thing I remember from those days was that the end of January and the beginning of February felt like the deepest depths of winter, when it felt like I might never be warm again.

But I like the idea of spring starting at the beginning of February. Traditionally, it seems that the seasons started at the cross-quarter days (the days halfway between the solstices and equinoxes), which is why our first day of summer is also called “midsummer” and our first day of winter is called “midwinter.” Supposedly, Imbolc was the time when ewes would give birth, and start producing milk, so milk, dairy products, and lamb are all traditional foods. I like to make a big meal, perhaps with a cheesecake, or some pancakes. While eggs are more commonly associated with the spring equinox festivals, the beginning of spring would mean the birds would start laying again (traditionally, eggs are a seasonal food, same as strawberries or pomegranates). So pancakes at Imbolc (which was celebrated in the Christian world as Candlemas) are traditional as well.

Imbolc is also associated with the Celtic goddess Brigid (later believed to have become the Christian St. Brigid), a goddess of inspiration, creativity, midwifery, healing, and fire. In one of the stories associated with her, she is kidnapped by the hag-goddess Cailleach and held captive in a cave underground through the winter, and then escapes to bring spring to the world. This is surprisingly reminiscent of the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades, although in that story, the chthtonic goddess Hecate is her rescuer, not her captor. In some version of the story, Brigid and Cailleach are the same goddess, with the winter crone transforming into the spring maiden at Imbolc. This traditional view of the cyclical nature of the world mapping onto the life cycle of a person is one of the things that gave rise to traditional death customs that favored reincarnation as the explanation for what happens after you die.

But perhaps my favorite story of Imbolc has to do with the Cailleach, not Brigid. In some parts of the British isles, the Cailleach is a weather deity and has the power to control local weather conditions. So on the first day of spring, it’s believed that the Cailleach decides if she wants to extend the cold weather or not for another six weeks. If she decides that it will be a long winter, she makes Imbolc bright and sunny so she has nice weather to gather firewood for the rest of winter. But if she’s not going to make it a long winter, she sleeps in and doesn’t bother making the weather nice. So if the weather is bad on Imbolc, it’s a sign that winter will end soon.

Perhaps this sounds familiar, although with another creature in the place of a crone gathering wood. In the States, we celebrate Groundhog Day, where we wait and see if a certain groundhog sees his shadow when he comes out of his burrow. Now, the modern tradition says that the groundhog is afraid of his shadow and if he sees it, he runs back into his burrow to weather six more weeks of winter. But perhaps, he just sees that the Cailleach has made the weather sunny and is dashing back in to get cozy for the rest of the winter weather.

Blessed Imbolc to all my readers!

Blossom Viewing

Last week, I bemoaned the creeping entrance of spring and lack of flowering trees. This week, the local flora decided to prove that they were not entirely beaten. Sunday, our local cherry trees reached official “peak bloom” and Monday, after a gloomy morning gave way to a gloriously sunny afternoon, I decided to take a little walk and view the blossoms.

I made my way down to the sidewalk that winds around the Tidal Basin and watched as a relatively scant group of tourists took photos and just generally enjoyed the beautiful setting. All around me, trees had burst into bloom, with only subtle reminders of the departed early brethren who were lost in our late snowstorm. The remaining blossoms still made a lovely picture, and so I took a few.

The cherry blossoms against the blue-green of the water and the azure blue of the sky reminded me of old paintings. Gnarled branches punctuated with pink and white stood against their backdrop like impressionist almond blossoms .

Of course, I gave in to the temptation to take selfies in the blossoms, but the bright sunlight meant that few of them turned out well. I tended to have that little worried crinkle between my eyebrows as I tried to withstand the brightness of the day.

But all in all, the day left me warmed, relaxed, and with a renewed sense of peace after seeing the beautiful reminders that no matter how long the winter, spring will come eventually. And it has left me in the mood for cherry blossoms in everything. Perhaps I shall go on a quest later for some sakura sweets.

Signs of Spring

It has been a strange season this year. Winter was, for the most part, mild and uneventful, other than one or two exciting days. But we managed to have quite a few weeks of unseasonably mild temperature. Followed by a snowstorm the week that we thought we would be gearing up for springtime.

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In my city, we celebrate the cherry blossoms, and so the beginning of spring is always marked with glee by local merchants, and by the tourists who come every year to see the blossoms. But our teasing warm spell and subsequent snowstorm brought the blossoms out early, only to freeze them on the branch. So we lack the profusion of pink and white flowers to mark the celebration and need to make do with the cherry blossom decals that pop up all over town. It’s a bit of a forced cheery sight, but reminds one of spring.

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This year’s spring is going to be a bit more subtle, a bit of a slow crawl out of grey, chilly days and towards brighter, warmer ones. A hint of green as the leaves bud on the trees. A flash of pink or violet as small flowers that resisted the early warmth crawl out of garden beds and lawns. And it is looking for these tiny creeping steps towards spring that keeps my spirits up through grey days, freak snowstorms, and chilly evenings. I yearn to wear short, floral dresses, no stockings, and sandals, but I have to cover over everything to keep warm still.

You see, technically, spring came on Monday. But it still doesn’t feel like spring, either meteorologically or emotionally to me yet. I’ve found myself mired in the quagmire of winter thoughts, bundling myself up in blankets and resorting to comforting food whenever I have the chance. Piling on down at night, and even sleeping in socks when necessary. I need a warm day and some sunshine to pull me out of this funk. I need some real springtime.

And now, the signs are there. We just need the rest of spring to join them.

Lips in Bloom: Pink and Coral Lip Colors for Spring

As I mentioned before, springtime has me eschewing my usual red lipsticks for lighter, sheerer shades to match the lightening of the days and warming of the weather. While sheer pinks and corals are a bit less fraught with the need to find just the perfect shade, there is still a joy in finding something that fits you well. Here are a few of the shades I’ve been enjoying lately. Unfortunately, adhering to my recent lack of time to invest in blogging, I haven’t had a chance to photograph swatches of these products, but look for swatches on Instagram this weekend!

Pinks are a shade that I’ve been wearing since I started wearing lipstick. Most of my pinks are of the “My Lips But Better” variety. I tend to get sheer shades that let my own color peek through. One of my earliest go-to shades was Gabriel’s Sheer Rose. It’s a very warm pink, and almost borders on coral. But lately, my absolute favorite pink is Urban Decay’s Sheer Revolution Lipstick in Ladyflower. It’s a lovely rose pink, gives a subtle blush to lips without being either too unnoticeable nor too bold, and the lilac-colored metal tube just fits the whole aesthetic of a spring lipstick. Plus, the formula has a somewhat sticky emollience that stays on my lips and doesn’t leave me reaching for lip balm after a few minutes.

Coral is a color I’m trying to like. I like the shade in and of itself. The set of the play I was in last year was painted a rather garish salmon-coral-pink shade that I mocked along with the rest of the cast, but secretly loved. But I’ve had trouble finding a shade I like on my own lips. My first foray into the shade was Nyx Cosmetics’ Life’s a Beach, which is fabulous and bright, and people say looks lovely on me, but I feel like it makes the rest of my face look washed out. It’s veering into Malibu-Barbie territory, which is not bad, but not me. I feel not-tan enough to carry the shade off, and that is a situation which is unlikely to change. In order to ease myself into the idea of coral on my lips, I’ve also found Wet ‘n Wild’s Balm Stain in Coral of the Story. It’s nice and sheer, but provides a lovely pop of coral and really helps get me used to seeing orange on my face.

While I don’t reach for full-on red lipstick as often, I do still like my cherry lips during spring. And what a perfect time to try out a Korean lip stain! I’ve recently tried Etude House’s Fresh Cherry Tint in RD301, a somewhat warm-pink, softened shade. It looks red at first, but stains the lips a popsicle-red-pink shade that looks healthy and lush. It will cling to the center of my lips and wear off unevenly if I’m not careful, but it has a lovely feel and color for casual weekend days in spring. I especially like it for Sunday morning coffee dates because it does not transfer much, if at all.

(Please not that all products were purchased by me and none of the links are affiliate links)

Five Things I’ve Been Enjoying Recently

I still have a backlog of photo-editing and post-writing to deal with since I’ve been busy and stressed, so here’s another quick, unplanned post. Spring has definitely sprung in the city! Trees are fluffy and pink and white and yellow and purple. There are hyacinths and daffodils out on my walk from the train station to my office. And it’s even getting a bit warmer. So I thought I’d share some of the things that I’ve been particularly enjoying the last couple of weeks as we move into spring.

  1. Magnolia Oolong tea from Simple Loose Leaf: I’ve talked about this before, but this really is a lovely tea. It’s the same Jade Oolong I reviewed a while ago, but with a very light magnolia floral scent and flavor added. I love it as a daily cup when the weather is warm, but not hot, and the sights and scents of spring are everywhere. It’s very seasonally-appropriate and helps remind me that the rich, warming black teas of winter are no longer needed.
  2. Hada Labo UV Perfect Gel: Sunscreen, guys! Since it is now fully light for both my morning and evening walks to and from work, it’s the perfect time to mention my new favorite sunscreen. It’s Japanese and unfragranced and sinks in beautifully. It does leave a bit of shine initially, but I give it 20-30 minutes before applying makeup and it settles right down. It’s a lovely gel texture and I think the hydrating ingredients offset the alcohol that gives it its lovely texture and ability to absorb weightlessly into skin.
  3. Pink and coral lip products: I love a red lip. But lately, I’ve been reach for spring-y lip colors, which means pinks and corals. Coral has been tricky for me, as I’m not generally a fan of orange, but I’ve found some products to help ease me into the look. I’ve also been loving sheerer lip colors for the spring, as it’s a much fresher look. Plus, my lip color matches the azalea bush that’s already started sprouting buds: Coral Bells.
  4. Pink clothing: I own a lot of black and dark-colored clothing. It’s rather a go-to color for me. But the warm weather has me feeling light and youthful, and to me, this means pink and pastels. I wore a pink chiffon dress from Mod Cloth the other day to work and got so many compliments, I wore it again a couple weeks later!
  5. Veggie noodles: One of our most unexpected holiday gifts was a Veggetti from Boyfriend’s parents. I’d looked at spiralizers before, but never decided to actually buy one. So when we got this, it seemed like a neat way to try spiralized veggies without shelling out for an expensive machine. But who wants to eat a lot of raw veggies in the dead of winter? Plus, a lot of the good veggies for spiralizing aren’t available until spring. Well, the zucchini and cucumbers are here and I’ve started spiralizing. We had a spiralized cucumber salad with sushi on Saturday and spiralized zucchini and carrots as a base for grilled chicken yesterday after a heavy Easter lunch called for a light dinner. It’s a lovely way to eat raw veggies, especially now that the warmer weather has me craving fresher food.

What is everyone else loving for spring?

On Burnout and the Rest Cure

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in two weeks. Well, I’ve had a phenomenally busy couple of weeks. I’ve also felt less-than-inspired. That’s not to say I’ve had nothing to write about. I’m still gleefully trying out new skin care products from Korea and Japan, as well as some handmade things. I’ve started tweaking my hair routine. And just after my birthday a couple weeks ago, Boyfriend took me on a lovely outing, during which I took many, many beautiful pictures that I have yet to download from the memory card of my camera.

It’s daunting to tackle, to say the least. And I’ve been tired, mentally and physically. Rehearsals have started running later, and I’ve gone and gotten myself cast in another show already, so I have the looming prospect of double rehearsals again that preemptively paralyzes me.

And so I decided to just step back. I know that posting regularly is good to keep an audience, but I’m sure readers prefer quality posts to harried ones. Even this post was a gamble, as I have nothing really new to share with you. Just my musings on “self-care” and forgiving yourself for not meeting arbitrary goals.

And maybe a few tantalizing hints at things to come. So here’s a future attractions:

  1. I will finally get my birthday outing photos processed and do a big post about that. Probably picture-heavy, and they will be lovely pictures. Spoiler: it involves flowers.
  2. A possible theater update. I’m currently rehearsing a show set in the 20s, and just got cast in a late-Victorian-era piece, so it fits in well with my preferred vintage aesthetics.
  3. A skin care update, though this will be a long time coming. I’m still testing and hope to have a routine finalized (at least for now) by the end of April.
  4. A hair care update. Again, this is a work in progress, but I have a more concrete regime in place right now, despite the potential changing of exact products.
  5. Of course, I will be musing about springtime. The cherry blossoms and tulip magnolias are blossoming and soon I hope the wisteria will be out as well.

So that is where I’ve been lately. I hope to be back soon with more updates!

Florals for Spring

As I sit at my desk at work sipping a mug of jasmine green tea, I inhale the heady floral scent of it. I love florals. I wear floral prints, I love the scent of floral perfume, of floral tea, I decorate with flowers where I can. And now that we’re in the full throes of spring, nature has responded with her own florals.

Floral tea is one of my favorite flavors. I don’t go in very often for flavored tea, save the classic Earl Grey blend, but floral flavored teas will make me forget my preference for unadulterated teas. Green tea with jasmine. Oolong tea with the sweet scent of magnolias. Black tea with roses. The perfume of the flowers mingles with the perfume of the tea itself. My favorite blend is Earl Grey tea with red roses and a splash of rosewater, to supplement the fragrance of the roses. It’s lovely with just a touch of honey or sugar.

I’ve baked flowers into my cookies, cakes, and scones. Rose petals, lavender, and rosewater come together with butter and sugar for a fragrant treat. I received a madeleine pan for my birthday several months ago, and it might be time to bake a floral-scented batch of tiny French cakes.

And of course, it’s the time of year for flowers. I shared the photo above of a rose I got after my matinee this weekend. The theatre company had decided to have roses for all the mothers and far fewer mothers showed up than expected, so I got a rose of my own. It now sits on my breakfast table, brightening up the place, and bringing it’s soft floral beauty into my morning routine. It makes me want to have flowers more often, although there isn’t a very good source of them nearby. Some of the farmer’s markets, though, have great buckets of flowers on occasion, so perhaps I will start haunting the stalls waiting for them to have another lovely addition to my table.

Happy spring, all!

Wisteria and Sunshine 

This weekend, my show opened, so the weekend was busy, to say the least. But I still got a moment to sit and relax and enjoy the lovely weather on the deck. The view reminded me of the ad from Enchanted April, which I also watched this weekend. And I do enjoy wisteria and sunshine.

Sunday was the first really warm day we’ve had since spring began. I had risen early to set my hair for a matinee performance, and had watched the film with my breakfast. The local bakery has chocolate-cherry bread for sale on the first Saturday of each month, so I had special bread, tea, and melon. Then, as the weather warmed up, I found myself with an hour to spare while baking a strawberry-rhubarb crisp for the post-matinee party. So I made another pot of Earl Grey, grabbed a book of short stories, and found a shaded spot on the deck to sit and read and sip tea. You see, Boyfriend and I plan to move at the beginning of the summer, and I thought I ought to enjoy it while I can.

I took a little turn around the yard at one point. It’s not a long walk, but you can see there is some interest. There at the back, there’s what looks a bit like the foundations of an old stone house or shed. I examined it a bit, although I’d looked at it before, and went over to check out the jungle of flora growing around the decorative basin to one side. Quite a lovely little garden. So lovely, in fact, that I decided I didn’t want to leave after all. But that is a story for another day.