Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Personal Side of Tea Part 3

As I shared in my last blog post, tea is not just a beverage or a business to me.  Tea is personal, but sometimes your personal life and your professional life intersect.  If you would like to go back, here is Part 1 and Part 2 for your convenience. This is how the inspiration to my second book, The World in Your Teacup came about.  It was my son's eighth surgery.

"My son was in the hospital recovering from mouth surgery. When we moved him from the intensive care unit to a regular hospital room, we met the night nurse who was assigned to his room. Her name was Shirley. After talking to her about the various concerns I had, I asked about her accent and where she was from. When Shirley told me she was from Kenya, I asked if she had lived near the area where the tea plantations were. Then my son piped up and tried to explain to the nurse, as best he could with his very swollen tongue, that I was—as he likes to call me—a “tea lady.” When I asked Shirley if she liked tea, her eyes immediately lit up. She told me that my questions reminded her of her home and the wonderful memories of family and friends drinking tea. She smiled and said that because of her and a few others the hospital started serving tea in the cafeteria.

As Shirley tended to my son’s medical needs, we talked for more than 45 minutes about our love of tea and the traditions of her native country. She left us for a time and then came back to introduce me to another nurse from Malawi whose father grew tea in that country. We chatted more about tea, and they reminisced about their homelands, tea, and the families they left behind.

It then dawned on me that here are three women, all from different countries, who have been united because of their love of tea. We might not have had anything else in common, but we experienced a bond by sharing our thoughts on that single beverage. 

With that as my inspiration, I began to research the bond tea has created between the people of many nations, including my own. I found it fascinating to learn about how the very same beverage became so important to each country and how the practices and ceremonies surrounding that one beverage differed from one culture to another."

We just went through our ninth surgery with our son who is now 20. As we walked into the hospital, our trusty tea thermos accompanied us to the waiting room. We took our respective places and sipped our tea as we waited for it to be over.  We love to hear the words from the doctor that everything is fine and the surgery went well!

Tea is for all occasions in my opnion.  I sometimes get a text from my daughter who is now almost 15 that she is having a bad day at school or a text that says she just got a 100% on a test.  It is on those days, that I have a pot of tea waiting for her when she gets off the bus. Sometimes I just make tea for her because its raining, or its cold, or just because.  When she gets home,  I stop working and we chat about the day over tea.

Tea is more than a business or a beverage-that's what I love about it.  It is a way to spend time together, a way to connect, and a way of life.  My faith, my family, and my tea have been through a lot!  I can't imagine life without any of those three.  I would love to hear how tea is personal to you!

Happy Sipping and Fourth of July, Lisa

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Personal Side of Tea Part 2

In the last blog, I shared that although I'm a tea expert and tea book author, tea is also very personal to me.  So today I want to continue with why I thought the movie Soul Surfer had such an impact on our family.  If you need to be brought up to speed, you might want to read The Personal Side of Tea Part 1

Although there wasn't any tragic accident, our family also has an amputee. My oldest child, Zach was born with several birth defects-one of which is missing his left foot and ankle. This is one of the reasons I chose a business that was flexible due to all the doctor visits that were needed. As you can see from the picture below, his disabilities haven't slowed him down.  There were times when he was little that I caught myself saying, "Isn't he supposed to be handicapped?" as I would try to keep up with his constant running and climbing!

Just before his 5th grade year ended, he needed a revision to his limb to help his prosthesis fit better. He knew and we knew that it was going to be a long recovery. My husband and I weren't rookies at surgeries. We have learned how "to do" surgery as this was his fifth surgery and not his last. We have developed a routine for waiting for the outcome of the surgeries.  One of them is bringing our tea with us. 

 As we began "our routine" of waiting while the surgery was going on, our trusted tea-stained thermos full of tea was there with us. As we settled in for the long wait to hear the outcome, it was comforting to sip our familiar brew and pray our son was going to be okay.  Our tea time in the waiting room is reflective with quiet prayers being whispered.

He came home with badges just like the girl in the movie and his recovery was difficult. He spent a lot of time in his bed for almost three weeks because it hurt too bad to move. I had to carry him piggyback down the stairs when he wanted to come down. Then after that, it was a wheelchair for most of the summer. Some of our tea times were spent weeping together because it was so hard to see your child in so much pain! 

Zach in his wheelchair with Kate by his side at his end-of-soccer-season party
A difficulty just doesn't happen to one person in the family, everyone is affected by it. What was so amazing to my husband and me, was our daughter Kate's actions who was just 5 years old at the time of the surgery. She sat by his side and played games with him in his bed. She even declared she wasn't going to swim that summer-even though she LOVED to swim-since Zach couldn't. She kept her word and didn't swim all summer long! Some of our tea times were spent marveling at how sweet and sacrificing our daughter was and is.

She is a different person having watched her older brother go through all of his difficulties and so are we. I watched my son's determination to get back to school and soccer in the fall.  He had one week to rehab in his new prosthesis before heading to his first day of middle school and just two weeks before soccer started back up again.  He would come home from both in pain and sometimes bleeding from his newly formed scars.  We would ice his leg and then he would get right back up and do it again.  Our tea time then was full of celebration because our son is a fighter and so is his family!

 I love that tea can represent so many different things.  It can be a pick-me-up when I need to get going in the morning. It can be a social event when I want to share time with friends and family.  It can be a comfort for when things are grim.  It can be a wonderful companion when I seek solitude or need some time alone.  It can also be a celebration for a special occasion such as a bridal shower, baby shower, or a child accomplishing great things!  What do you love about tea? 

My love of tea goes beyond my business and is deeply personal at times. I wanted my readers to have a peek into my personal side of tea. Be sure to join me next time for the conclusion of the personal side of tea as I share more. It is interesting how business and personal connect when your business is tea! 
Happy Sipping and Reflecting, Lisa

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Personal Side of Tea Part 1 and Happy Father's Day

So yes, I'm a tea expert, author of 2 tea books, and have had a tea business for almost 11 years. I am an official tea geek and love to talk withering, oxidation, and recipes with the best of them, but tea is also very personal to me.  It represents more than just a beverage or a business.  It has a deep connection to my everyday life personally as well as with my family.

Our second family tea together!
My intial business concept started while I was pregnant with my daughter.  I had an interest in tea and had bought some books, but never got a chance to read them since I was working.  While I was pregnant with my daughter, I had to go onto bed rest twice.  It is amazing what you have time to read when you are forced to lay in bed! After reading the tea books, I began to plan my tea business and as Kate grew so did my business plan.  It took four years to investigate and figure out what kind of business I wanted to have.

My husband and I have tea time every weekend. It is the time we catch up on schedules, life, and us. We also use tea time for business stradegy and planning. It is a time we connect with each other. When we miss it for some reason, the week just doesn't go right. Some of our tea times we spend sharing about life's hardships and we have faced a few in our almost 21 years together.

My husband and business partner Joe and I having tea.
I was reminded of that several weeks ago when for Mother's Day, my husband, kids and I went to go see the movie Soul Surfer. For those of you who aren't familiar with the movie, it is based on the true life story of a young surfer who was bitten by a shark and lost her arm. Here's the trailer that explains a little more if you aren't familiar with the story. 

So for Father's Day, I thought it would be good to share "our story", the personal side of tea for me, and how I couldn't have gotten through it all without my husband Joe's support.

Watching the movie as a family, we could relate so much to the struggles incurred when one them suddenly became an amputee. Watching the characters in the movie struggle with the tradegy after the shark bite hit very close to home with us. We all seemed to fight to hold back the tears through the movie as they tried to cope with a "new normal."  From removing the bandages, to people's stares, I related to so much of it.  

Be sure to join me next time as I explain why our family struggled through the movie as I share more of the personal side of tea.  As I recount our struggles, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have a husband who is not only a great husband and business partner, but a Wonderful Daddy to our two children!  Happy Father's Day  Joe and all the other wonderful involved dads out there!

Do you have a personal side or story to tell about tea?  Why don't you share it with everyone in the comments section!
Happy Sipping and Father's Day, Lisa

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Celebrating National Iced Tea Month with my Mom's Beach Iced Tea Recipe

June is National Iced Tea Month!  My first love for tea was in the form of iced tea.  Growing up in South Florida, it was the perfect thirst quenching beverage after a day at the beach or outside.  My mom's now famous beach iced tea included fresh squeezed orange juice. 

I have included an except from the Tropical Tea by the Sea chapter in my first book, Tea with a Twist. It gives a little background into my mom's beach iced tea.

"To escape the heat and keep four kids entertained, my parents would load the family in our car and head for the beach just five miles from our home. We would always go to Spanish River Park, which was adjacent to the ocean via a tunnel that went under Highway A1A. The park had playgrounds, grills, picnic tables, and huge shade trees that were great for climbing. It was easy to go back and forth from the park to the ocean and we would play for hours on end.

There is just something about the salt air and the cool ocean breezes to work up an appetite. My mom would always pack a picnic lunch for the family and make her special “beach iced tea”. After playing in the ocean waves and building sand castles fit for a king, I could hardly wait to sit down for our picnic and drink Mom’s refreshing brew that she only made for our special beach outings. It was filled with fresh squeezed orange juice from the oranges that grew right in our backyard. It was sure to quench your thirst after a hard day of playing in the water."

There is a complete tea party menu to go with the Beach Iced Tea such as Citrus Chicken Salad, Orange Tarragon Savory Scones, and Key Lime Coconut Bars.  If interested check out my book, Tea with a Twist to get all of the recipes.  Also included are some great entertaining ideas for a Tropical Tea by the Sea including what to do with the used orange rinds leftover from squeezing the oranges yourself! If you haven't ever seen orange groves, below is a quick video from my most recent trip to Florida and then the recipe for Beach Iced Tea.

Here's the Beach Iced Tea Recipe:
1. Use spring water or fresh, cold water from the tap. Do not reuse water you have already boiled because the oxygen will have evaporated and this affects the taste of the tea.

2. Measure 1/3 cup black Ceylon tea leaves into an infuser.  For this large quantity, use a large infuser so the leaves have room to expand and steep properly. You can also put the leaves directly in the teapot and strain the tea when you pour it into the gallon container.

3. Heat the water until it reaches a full boil for black teas. A six-cup teapot is a good size to use. Pour the hot water over the tea leaves immediately and cover your teapot.

4. Steep the tea for the time instructed on the tea package or 3 to 5 minutes for black tea, over steeping can also cause the tea to taste bitter.

5. After the steeping, remove the leaves.

6.  Squeeze enough oranges to get 4 cups of juice.  Save empty orange rinds for later use.  You may substitute refrigerated fresh squeezed orange juice not-from-concentrate, but it is not as good as the real thing Add orange juice to steeped tea and sweeten to taste.  Add water to top off the pitcher. 

In my next blog, we are going to the personal side of tea.  Beyond being a tea expert and having a tea business, there is a personal side to tea that deeply connects me to the beverage.  You will read all about that shortly.  For now, I would love to hear about  your favorite summer iced tea recipes!

Happy Summer and Sipping Iced Tea, Lisa