Does Your Teacup Matter?

In matters of your teacup, COLOR matters.

If color didn’t matter, marketers wouldn’t be investing research dollars to optimize the color of that kid’s cereal box or the upscale restaurant menu.

Mug by Delores Fortuna (photo used with the artist’s permission)

We are easily swayed by our own perceptions, with a 2014 study showing that a cup’s color influences how people rate the flavor of coffee and hot chocolate.

This is nothing new, however!

Already in the 8th century, Chinese scholar and tea expert Lu Yu had definite opinions about the color of his teacup.

A white vessel? It made green tea appear an undesirable red. Yellow or brown? Made the tea look purple, even worse.

green-gunpwd-webGreen, however, was considered by Yu to be the best option, with its hue “enhanc[ing] the color of the tea in just the way required” (Faulkner 2003).

Color of the vessel is not the only parameter, however. Lighting obviously plays a role, as does the size of the cup.

Using Temple of Heaven China Gunpowder (a green tea), a few different cups, and identical lighting (on my counter next to a window on a cloudy day), the difference is easy to see.

I brewed in a glass beaker, in which the tea color changes slightly depending on if you view the beaker from the side or the top:


Tea hue changed according to the size and depth, as well as color, of the teacup:


So just what color IS my tea?

And more importantly, what expectations do I bring to the cup—before I even taste it—based on what I perceive?

–Faulkner, R. Tea: East and West, V&A Publications, London, 2003.
–Van Doorn, G. H., D. Wuillemin, and C. Spence. “Does the colour of the mug influence the taste of the coffee?” Flavour 3:10, 2014.

Temple of Heaven China Gunpowder is available at


A Teapot to Counteract Gray Skies

When you wake up to this:

it’s like, seriously?-I’m-so-done-with-winter! I mean really, it’s mid-April.

Even the snowdrops—which are supposed to be blooming in the snow—seem to have given up all hope.


Perhaps a cheery cup of tea to brighten the gray, gray, endlessly and persistently gray skies. . . .


Dreaming of sunny tulips and blue skies perhaps?

This vintage Dutch Girl teapot was from Lefton, a porcelain import company that was founded in the U.S. by George Zoltan Lefton in 1941, three years after fleeing Nazi Hungary. The company eventually employed over 400 people and had eighteen showrooms. According to his obituary, George was

known as “The China King” for his work in porcelain imports. . . . [and] developed current practices in the porcelain giftware industry.

A few years after George’s death in 1996, the company was sold.

How my grandmother came to have this teapot I have no clue. She was neither Dutch nor, to my knowledge, a tea drinker.

However, she—like Lefton, an immigrant to the U.S.—may have found this kitschy teapot beguiling with the girl’s slightly wistful, slightly sad, faraway expression.

And perhaps dreaming of something more profound, more significant. That which remains hidden. . . .


Source: Chicago Tribune, “George Zoltan Lefton,” June 2, 1996.

So What Do YOU See Out Your Window When You’re Making Tea?

When I make a cup of tea, usually this happens:


And my usual view out my office window is:


Yeah, lots of excitement out there.

Although I do have to say that the other day, on the other side of our building, there was this view of a hawk enjoying lunch on the side of the road . . . but then again my husband says this is a common view, even in the city:


It was much more interesting for a couple of guys in the UK, however.

While James Hill was brewing tea, his dad found a shark in James’ back garden. And no, James does not have waterfront property!

He evidently found a small-spotted catshark that perhaps had been dropped by a passing cormorant. (Click here to read about this incident!)


As James put it,

It’s just the silliest thing to try and explain to someone: “Oh yeah, I was making a cup of tea and a shark fell from the sky into my garden.”

Luckily it’s only a smaller species.

And certainly not who I’d be expecting to drop in for tea!

Source: Shipman, Alex. “Man ‘perplexed’ after finding SHARK in son’s back garden as he made cup of tea,” Daily Record, February 18, 2018.

Love-ly Teas for Valentine’s Day

Chili Chocolate tea, a TeaHaus blend
Poem Launches a New Holiday

Cupids, roses, and chocolate—surprisingly, they have long been associated with Valentine’s Day. Chaucer evidently first linked romance and St. Valentine’s Day—in, fittingly, a poem—back in 1382.

every bird cometh to choose his mate. . . . on seynt Voantynes day

Centuries of romantic words followed, with the Victorians sending gifts and cards adorned with cupids.

chili-brew_1_0366-webChocolate Arrives on the Scene!

Chocolate as a luxury item reached Spain in the 1500s. The Industrial Revolution heralded the way for mass production, finally making chocolate affordable—and encouraging innovators such as Lindt, Nestlé, and Cadbury.

Along with Hearts and Kisses

Cadbury not only came up with “eating chocolates,” but in 1861, inspiration struck and he adorned heart-shaped boxes with cupids and rosebud motifs.

Valentine’s Day as we know it had begun!

Here in the States, Hershey started mass producing his immensely popular chocolate kisses in 1907, and soon afterward the Stovers began marketing chocolates in heart-shaped boxes.


And Dessert Teas!
o'connor-brew_0382-webToday is the day to indulge in rich chocolate and sweet strawberries—so savor a decadent dessert tea.

After all, what can be better than chocolate and strawberries and tea? (Maybe more chocolate?)

A perfect ending to a meal or for sipping on a chilly winter’s evening, lovely with a friend

Teas pictured, available at TeaHaus:
top, Chili Chocolate, a TeaHaus blend of black tea, cocoa beans and powder, and chili pepper pieces
Smooth Strawberry Dream, a blend of honeybush, caramel pieces, and strawberry pieces and leaves
O’Connor’s Cream, a blend of black tea and cocoa pieces

The 12 Teas of Christmas: Drumming up some winter magic

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me

drum-webtwelve drummers drumming—and perhaps some holiday fatigue.

According to PNC’s Christmas Price Index, that true love had to cough up a whopping $34,558.65 for all twelve gifts this year ($157,558.00 if you count all the repetitions).

This is a 0.6% increase from last year due to “the cost increases for the Pear Tree, the increased demand for Golden Rings and wage increases for the Lords-a-Leaping” (PNC 2017).

Those drummers alone cost $2,934.10, but they did play a key role during the Twelve Nights’ celebrations:

The drum was used to announce the serving of the next course of the feast. (Nugent 2013)

Well, twelve drummers would certainly ensure that no one missed a single course!

Nor do you want to miss our last Twelve Days’ tea.

In the spirit of festivity, our drummer is heralding in some Winter Magic.

This rooibos blend highlights seasonal favorites:  cinnamon, almonds, and cardamom.

The tiny rooibos and cinnamon slivers—ranging from orange-red to rust to brown in color—are dotted with cardamom husks and seeds along with bits of almond.


The cup is a deep orange with brownish hue, with an aroma that is sweet and cinnamon-spicy. The flavor matches the aroma, with both cardamom and cinnamon contributing.


Rooibos is naturally caffeine free, so this creamy brew can be enjoyed late into the night.

And by the way, keep in mind that the festivities didn’t really end on the Twelfth Night!

As Nugent (2013) explains, the days were still too short and cold to do much work so

the party season continued, . . . through the season of Mardi Gras up until Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

Since Ash Wednesday falls on February 14 in 2018, that’s over seven more weeks of partying!

Time to drum in the new year—and new opportunities—with some Winter Magic!

Winter Magic rooibos blend is available at TeaHaus.

Read more:
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Twelve drummers drumming
Eleven pipers piping
Ten lords a-leaping
Nine ladies dancing

Eight maids a-milking
Seven swans a-swimming
Six geese a-laying
Five golden rings
Four calling birds
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree

Nugent, Chuck. “On the twelfth day of Christmas,” Hub Pages, December 26, 2013.
PNC. “The PNC Christmas price index,” PNC Financial Services Group, 2017.

The 12 Teas of Christmas: Piping up a smoky brew

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me

leb-seller-webeleven pipers piping—but smokers or musicians?

Definitely the latter.

Music and dancing—by guests (those 9 ladies) and by performers (those 10 leaping lords)—were part of the Twelve Days’ festivities.

Bagpipes and musettes (smaller, bellows-blown bagpipes) commonly provided music for listening and for dancing. These instruments were popular in France and upper-class England as well as Scotland (Nugent 2010).

Bagpipes were a good choice for dance music in a castle or large manor. Their sound carries well.

In fact,

The bagpipes measure in at about 100 dB [decibels]. . . . , which puts them above the level at which sustained listening will cause hearing damage. (Ryan 2011)

Luckily there were only twelve days of merriment. . . .

But anyway, for a fitting tea, I’m going to go with the smoker definition and pull out a smoky black tea, Lapsang Souchong.


The tea leaf pieces range from burnt umber to charcoal black in color.

When brewed, the aroma is intensely smoky. The flavor is reminiscent of a campfire—with an intense and almost overpowering smokiness—yet this tea remains smooth, without bitterness.


This smoky tea has great culinary possibilities. The leaves make a great rub for meat. Add brewed tea to soups, stews, and sauces to give a bit of smokiness. Infuse any liquid with lapsang and then strain out the leaves, perhaps for a smoky cocktail.

Why Is This Tea So Smoky?

fireShort Answer: Lapsang Souchong gets its smokiness from being dried over a pinewood fire.

However, there are actually a number of factors that make this tea unique:

  • It’s produced from leaves of the Bohea variety of Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, which is native to China’s Wuyi Mountains. Every tea variety has aroma constituents that are specific to it, and, as with wine, the terroir contributes to that. Plus, this variety absorbs more of the elements of pine smoke than do the leaves of tea grown outside this region.
  • Pinewood that is native to the Wuyi Mountains is used to dry and smoke the tea. The oil of this particular pine contains more longifolene than do other types of pine tree; it also contains alpha-terpineol.
  • Lapsang Souchong tea contains a lot of longifolene and alpha-terpineol, which give the tea its particular flavor.

In the end, this tea is due to the tea variety, the pine tree variety, the growing environment, and the production process.

So put on some music—bagpipe or otherwise—and sip a smoky brew tonight.

Lapsang Souchong tea is available at TeaHaus.

Read more:
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Eleven pipers piping
Ten lords a-leaping
Nine ladies dancing

Eight maids a-milking
Seven swans a-swimming
Six geese a-laying
Five golden rings
Four calling birds
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree

Nugent, Chuck. “On the eleventh day of Christmas,” Hub Pages, December 27, 2010.
[NA], Ryan. “Eleven pipers piping—twelve facts of Christmas,” LSNED, January 4, 2011.

The 12 Teas of Christmas: A lordly tea

On the Tenth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me

father-chr-webten lords a-leaping—which is unlikely to occur if you’re thinking of lord as in man of high rank.

So how about Santa Claus, jumping into the chimney to deliver presents?

Well, not so much in times past, when Santa was still more the Father Christmas figure, here looking rather lordly. . . .

It’s safe to conclude that these lords a-leaping weren’t men (of any rank) just jumping around unlordly like. Rather, they were probably morris dancers, men who entertained at feasts, performing a type of dancing (perhaps derived from war and/or fertility practices) that entailed a lot of leaping (Nugent 2016).

Morris dancing was very popular in the 1400–1500s. In addition to professional troupes that performed at the banquets of the wealthy (lordly), there were also amateur groups.

Many parish church records . . . show both expenses for the purchase of costumes and the bells that the dancers wore while performing as well as income from the rental of the costumes to neighboring parishes. (Nugent 2016)

So in honor of those lordly leapers, what better tea than Earl Grey? Indeed, any lord may very well leap when he tastes TeaHaus’ take on his Earl Grey tea: Victorian Earl Grey.


Vivid magenta rose petals along with lavender blossoms and rosemary twigs are sprinkled in the black tea leaves. Bergamot oil, extracted from bergamot oranges, completes the blend.


The aroma from the coppery red brew is spicy-floral-orange, with a hint of savory from the rosemary. As you would expect from any Earl Grey, the bergamot flavor is foremost, but in this blend, a light floral, colored by savory, also comes through.

So leap into the rank of Lady or Lord when you sip Earl Grey’s tea!

Victorian Earl Grey tea is available at TeaHaus.

Read more:
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .
Ten lords a-leaping
Nine ladies dancing

Eight maids a-milking
Seven swans a-swimming
Six geese a-laying
Five golden rings
Four calling birds
Three French hens
Two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree

Source: Nugent, C. “On the tenth day of Christmas,” Hub Pages, December 22, 2016.