Agony of the Leaves: Part One

A few days ago, I had that kind of weird realization that seems embarrassingly obvious afterward but in the moment, it washes over the consciousness with a distinct profundity; I simply realized that I’m ALWAYS doing something.

Even when I’m sleeping, my psyche is picking through an intricate tangle of emotions, the details of my life and other strange artifacts. The moment I am roused from the depths of slumber, my monkey mind is busy tinkering with the thinking of conscious things–recalling and analyzing dreams, having random memories, reviewing tasks that need doing. Thoughts crop up like invasive weeds at increasing speed in what could be the wonder-meadow of my ideal morning. Such a morning would start with stillness, gently progress into alert focus and the blossoming out of bedcovers. I would have time and space for the satisfactory completion of an assortment of important tasks, dappled with natural bouts of lightness and play. I’d be free from both chaos and restraint and I’d be leisurely effective. I wish that this metaphorical meadow was my state of eternal return but that’s not how I’ve designed my life or my mind’s default setting–I need to build more thorough organization and confidence into the structure.

Angela + Sven by Travis Blue; travisblue.com

Angela + Sven by Travis Blue; travisblue.com

I am lucky and grateful to live this life of my own design and I prostrate myself before whatever deity is responsible for my good fortune. Unfortunately, my perception of the pressures that this life entails usually inches in from the future and robs me of much enjoyment. We all have the power to refine our perception and change habits but it must be consciously invoked. It’s a challenge to remember to do so consistently enough to make a change. Most days, when my feet hit the floor, I suddenly become a wound-up matryoshka on a litanical parade of multi-tasking: chores and texts and emails and schoolwork and “work” work and body maintenance, preparation of meals and, and…my hands are mostly doing stuff. Or my eyes are. Or my brain is. It seems each hour of the day is shorter than the one before it. But I am neither toy nor machine, so when do I get to levitate and frolic in the sweet beams and airs of my meadow? Sighhh.

Magical Meadow by Chris Eaves; countryfile.com

Magical Meadow by Chris Eaves; countryfile.com

In the din and fray of our modern times and especially as a denizen of our extraordinary, industrially developed cities, there is so, so much to do. We’re busy. It is a feat just to slow down and remember to live in the present of our lives. We can ask ourselves if we’re participating in a design that serves and satisfies us, even including the general activities that apparently must be done. It’s just that there are galomphorously wonderful opportunities in the world, so much so that when I’m not meeting the demands of subsistence, I want to be out riding bikes, tromping the parks, perusing flea markets, tasting new stuff, meeting strangers and dancing with friends til the wee hours. These are blessings to take pleasure in and yet, being super busy–even with things we want to do–can be…well, stressful. The stress of such ameliorating activities falls within the category of “good stress” by psychological standards, right along with big decision making and its subsequent changes. Eustress vs. distress. The good stuff still causes effect, albeit potentially beneficial ones if we perceive it properly.

Tea plants covered in mesh; hojotea.com

Tea plants covered in mesh; hojotea.com

When the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is exposed to stressors, such as low light conditions or ravaging, salt spray winds, the plant responds by shifting its suite of chemicals this way and that, sometimes producing new ones altogether. These chemicals can actually end up benefitting the flavor immensely. Unless such factors hinder the plant to its detriment, they tend to cultivate more complex aromas, unique flavor profiles and an increase in both chlorophyll (makes for a deeper green leaf) and the compounds that  bestow upon our minds that beloved sense of energized calm. In Japan, producers of a highly regarded tea called Gyokuro actually fascimilate filtered light conditions with the timely addition of a tent-like covering, usually made of straw or mesh, thereby reducing the sun’s rays to between five and twenty percent, respectively.

Paoli leafhopper by Bettaman; flickr.com

Paoli leafhopper by Bettaman; flickr.com

A special wulong tea called Gui Fei (translation: imperial concubine) is the product of an insect’s bite; paoli leafhoppers (Jacobiasca formosana) nibble the tea leaves, inciting the plant to change its chemical composition and therefore, its aromas and flavors. Gui Fei is renowned for its gustatory and olfactory pleasures, often boasting spiced fruit and wood notes. The area around the Beipu village in Hsuchin county, Taiwan has allegedly foresworn insecticides in order to preserve both the leafhoppers and the profitability of this infestation. Humans have devised their own tricky responses to take advantage of these natural phenomena–we can be quite clever when we’re not being dummy blubberheads.

A parallell realization is that humans are affected by the conditions of our environment–i.e. the way we live our lives and what we are exposed to–and,  like most other organisms, we also respond chemically. When we are stimulated by stressors, our cortisol levels leap up and sometimes we experience surges of epinephrine (adrenaline) to help us defeat or remove ourselves from the stressor. I know this feeling as that ever-nagging, uninvited guest Anxiety, who falls under the “distress” category. At the same time, if we’re not at least a little challenged we get bored by the stasis and our lives may even start to lose their lustre.

madewithmolecules.com

madewithmolecules.com

Other ways in which we experience stress are a bit gooey: when we gaze into the eyes of our sweetheart, oxytocin and dopamine douse us with sensations very similar to that of an addict’s high or the pendulous moods of a schizophrenic. Being in love is very stressful, both physiologically and psychologically but it is an often pleasurable experience that may nudge (or shove) us toward growing stronger. When we are challenged by something and feel we can surmount it, we benefit from the stimulation of this positive stress in that the chemicals we produce can help us to become generally healthier; for example, they strengthen our immune system, keep our memory healthy and can even contribute to our overall satisfaction with life. Our perception of the stressor is the key.

Any of these elements can change the flavor of our experience and of who we become, so it’s important to acknowledge the characteristics of what we’re brewing in the context of our lives. What’s in yours? Is the flavor to your liking? Does it nourish you and replenish your energy? If not, perhaps it’s time to create some balance. What do you need to make your life more satisfying?

Wendy Paula; etsy.com

Wendy Paula; etsy.com

I return to the sanctity of my metaphorical meadow at tea time. I personally enjoy the preparation of tea itself as ceremonious, informal meditation; I try to execute each movement and step with exceptional attention, grace and precision. This shift in consciousness is a break from my more common smash-and-grab mode. I use beautiful implements to enhance the celebration of such Good Things–a practice I’m playing with which is similar to the concepts of Cha Xi.Taking the time to consciously step out of the rushing river of our day to make and savor tea (or anything, for that matter) is a shift that announces, “Self, I think this ‘slowing down and enjoying’ thing is a worthwhile priority!” It could help. Plus, then the tea itself can work its own special magic from inside of you.

Through millennia of subjective research, humans have found that some of the tea plant’s chemical arsenal are effective at heightening a sense of well-being and mitigating stress levels. Scientists have proven that C. sinensis contains L-theanine, a charming amino acid that is reputed to produce alpha waves in our brains, which are common in deep meditative states. When combined with caffeine, L-theanine offers a balance of calm and clarity to bolster our weary minds, effectively manufacturing the products of a meditative state. Indeed, Buddhist monks were the first champions of tea and they used it to help them stay awake through long sessions of meditation. They didn’t dedicate a huge branch of their spiritual practice just for its ability to keep them awake, though. Tea has revealed itself as a spiritual ally and there is much to be honored in our 5,000 year partnership with this plant.

Jasmine pearls unfurl, see here!

“Agony of the leaves” is a phrase addressing the unfurling of tea leaves as they steep. Anyone can dunk a teabag into a microwaved cup of water and drink it–that tea might might even taste good to someone. Everyone is allowed to like what they like. It is my duty to deliver the news that there’s so much more to enjoy than that. However, nothing is free–it comes at a price. You get what you put in. If you want to taste liquid gold…if you aspire to prepare exquisite teas of superior quality, you must honor the need for attention to detail. It is an art and a science that is more accessible than it sounds. I hope you’ll let me tell you all about it in the next post. Stay tuned!

Agony of the Leaves: Part Two

Chashitsu Tetsu by Terunobu Fujimori

Chashitsu Tetsu by Terunobu Fujimori

A cup of tea for you and me

and one more for the pot makes three

A cup of time, both yours and mine

makes well-loved pots reveal their shine

Tea preparation is the topic of the hour in my life. I just broke a lifetime record, having sipped my seventh cup of tea today. I’m drunk on tea because the teas I’m drinking are so very good that I just can’t get enough. It’s true that the teas I’ve picked are outstanding *and* it’s also true that after nine weeks of my all-out obsession, I’m improving in my craft of coaxing a fine cup of tea. You can too!

Brewing loose tea can be as simple as a pinch of leaves in a thermos of hot water, waiting indiscriminately and then eventually drinking the result. That description represents the most basic end of the spectrum, one in which legions of people employ daily; it contrasts immensely with the opposite end: an exquisite performance of spiritualized art where every detail of the process is attended to by the learned and intuitive hand of a connoisseur. Most people find themselves hovering near the simpler side but I’d like to share what I’ve learned from the middle, peering toward that alluringly elegant end.

My opinion is informed by an amalgamation of suggestions from a gaggle of tea specialists and from my own experience. I will elaborate with the idea that you’ll extract what is personally significant to use at your own discretion.

untitled; Seth Holton

untitled; Seth Holton

Number One: Water. The main ingredient in tea is water, after all. My proposition is that everyone will benefit from using the best water available to them. What is the very best water of all time? Mountain spring water from the same region in which your tea was produced, of course! What is the more accessible choice? Filtered water that is free of heavy metals, excessive minerals and chlorine and which has a neutral pH and neutral taste. We want to taste more of the tea itself, instead of the reaction of the tea to the excess of foreign particles in the water. Tap water isn’t very good for making tea especially because chlorine levels in typical municipal systems tend to adversely affect the flavor–a Brita-type filter works just fine for transforming tap effluence. Apparently, reverse osmosis removes the trace minerals that actually help the flavor of tea shine, so it’s recommended that we avoid this system, though I myself have found it a superior alternative to unfiltered tap water. Ideally, I’d either use wild artesian well water (I don’t yet know where they are in Texas) or a Berkey water filtration system–feel free to give this to me, any of you! Please and thanks in advance.

The dame holds 'The Empress'; Dylan O 'Connor

The dame holds ‘The Empress’; Dylan O ‘Connor

Number Two: Tea. Don’t be shy about splurging on the “fancy” teas because it still usually ends up being much less than a dollar per cup. Plus, you’re more likely to treat it as something to appreciate and savor if you perceive it as fancy. I use loose leaf teas almost exclusively because I enjoy the interactive experience of their preparation. I encourage you to try them out if you haven’t before. You can observe their unique qualities with all of your senses and, if properly stored,  they tend to retain their integrity and flavor better in this form because there’s less surface area exposed to oxygen, preserving the aromatic molecules for your express enjoyment.

Bagged tea often employs the broken pieces or the tea “dust” from the manufacturing process; this is considered inferior in quality but infuses more quickly in the cup because of its increased surface area. When teabags use “whole” leaf tea, the bags don’t tend to offer enough room for the leaves to properly unfurl and fully release their fragrant magic. That said, teabags have their place (whilst travelling, for instance) and there are more and more high quality teas available in this form. Try many types of tea to find out what you enjoy, because there is a vast and beautiful, ever-changing array of things to fall in love with. If you need more information about types of tea, please refer to my previous post about the basics, Elixir of Life. If you like to read reviews of specific teas, check out websites like steepster.com or tea companies’ websites.

Gong fu cha; The Dragon's Well

Gong fu cha; The Dragon’s Well

Number Three: Vessel. Choose the appropriate teaware for the tea you’ve selected. While any of these teas can be made with a strainer in a cup, there are other methods and tools that may be more suitable to the tea, to your aesthetic or the trajectory of your own special tea adventure. I’m going to tell you about a few of the vessels I was unfamiliar with before my tea obsession.

If you’ve chosen a delicate white, yellow, green or lighter oxidation wulong tea, it is best to use a smaller teapot, with which you can make numerous infusions of the same leaves. The small pot allows the fragrances to build up better and concentrates them, in addition to cooling a little quicker, which is beneficial to these tender teas, whose molecules continue reacting and processing when exposed to sustained heat.

vintage gaiwan; bonteavant.com

vintage gaiwan; bonteavant.com

A gaiwan (aka – guywan or zhong) is simply a covered bowl. These days, they are often daintily perched on a saucer for ease of use. They are good for preparing almost any tea, especially the lighter ones such as white, yellow, green, or wulong. They’re often porcelain or sometimes glass. Place the leaves and water in the gaiwan and steep according to the instructions or your own intuition. You may sip directly from the cup, using the lid to hold back tea leaves, or you can use the lid to strain and decant the liquor into another vessel for serving.

theteagallery.blogspot.com

theteagallery.blogspot.com

yellow yixing teapots thesteepingroom.blogspot.com

theteagallery.blogspot.com

yixing gongfu pot; theteagallery.blogspot.com

yixing gongfu pot; theteagallery.blogspot.com

Gongfu pots are part of the equipage for gongfu cha, a tea ceremony originating in China but which is also a tradition in Taiwan. Gongfu is also spelled kungfu, a phrase which you may associate with martial arts, though it applies more generally to the concept of achievement through effort. These tiny pots are often made of Yixing clay from China; the clay is porous and “remembers” the fragrances of previously brewed tea, so it is best to select one type of tea to consistently prepare in it, such as pu-erh. Wulong and pu-erh teas are especially suited to this style of preparation, which utilizes a large ratio of tea leaves to a small amount of hot water, steeped for a matter of seconds and then decanted into tiny cups for savoring. Multiple infusions reveal concentrated snapshots of the tea’s evolution through its special aromas and flavors. It should be noted that gaiwans may also be used for gongfu cha.

Tenmoku Cup; Miyoshi Photography: Kazuyoshi

Tenmoku Cup; Miyoshi Photography: Kazuyoshi

Tea bowls are a simple way to drink matcha, wulong and some puerh teas. While the preparation of matcha is often ritualized in chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony, it is also possible to make it more simply; Zhi Tea in Austin, TX uses a heat-safe bottle to shake the hot water and matcha powder together instead of whisking it. This method produces a small amount of the characteristic froth, which ends up topping your cup as you pour it from bottle to bowl. To use a tea bowl as a one-piece steep and drink method for other types of tea, place a small amount of tea leaves in the drinking bowl of your fancy, then pour the water on it. Continue adding water to it as you drink it down–a tip I’ve read suggests keeping the cup at least two-thirds full at all times. I haven’t tried this method because I like the complexity of the others so I can’t speak to its effectiveness yet.

Number Four: Brew. Know that if you are interested in developing the subtle complexity of your tea and relieving yourself of unwanted bitterness, you will take care to investigate the brewing instructions associated with the particular tea you’ve chosen. Many tea companies list the recommended quantity of leaf to water ratio, the temperature of the water and the brew time on their packaging, which I beseech you to heed, at least the first time–it can mean the difference between a well-balanced, shimmering cup of nectar-like tea and an otherwise bitter and nasty mess. I’ve ruined tea before by both over- and under-steeping, so I suggest timing your teas to find your favorite strength. Don’t mess with the temperature of the water. Just don’t. It takes a little work but this system is tantamount to the increased potential for enjoyment. Tip: if you bought your tea in bulk, note the company that produced it for they will often list brewing instructions on their website.

Boiling Kettle by Uri Tarasov

Boiling Kettle by Uri Tarasov

With a little practice, you can learn how to hear when the water is hot enough in the kettle by the frequency and ferocity of its rising bubbles. Try using a thermometer to test your hypothesis about the temperature. A useful habit is to pour a little hot tap water in your chosen steeping vessel to warm it up and then dump it into the cup to warm that as well. Pre-heating your pot means it won’t rob the tea water of its necessary high degrees in trying to warm itself up first, which would put you at risk of an under-brewed beverage. It also ensures that you have hot tea for a longer period of sipping. Hooray!

Number Five: Explore. When the tea leaves and water are in your pot, gaiwan or bowl, place your face at a safe distance and sniff the steam wafting up from the brew, and then do it again after a minute or two. Does it smell well-developed and like you want to drink it? What about now? Sniff in short, repeated puffs like a dog on a scent trail, since it helps get the aroma molecules up to your olfactory gland more effectively. If you can, use vessels with white interiors or made of borosilicate glass to observe the way the color of the water changes as it is infused with the tea. It may be darker, lighter or a very different color than you expected–color is not indicative of strength or doneness. Please be open minded.

tea liquor colors; tea-party-ideas.net

tea liquor colors; tea-party-ideas.net

If you are accustomed to putting cream or sweetener in your tea, try this cup on its own. Slurp it so that the liquor is aerated as it enters your mouth–this is proper tea etiquette! Taste it like you would a good wine, beer or coffee and pay close attention to what you are experiencing. Hold the infusion in your mouth while slowly exhaling through your nose–this helps you detect aromas better; are there any aromas or flavors that remind you of something else? Is it bitter, sweet, sour or umami? Try to describe it in words. Some categories of aromas that you might perceive include vegetal, marine, nutty, fruity, floral, honey-like, chocolatey or malty. Share your tea! Ask someone you like to describe what they taste in it because they might notice something you didn’t.

Try to see this is an opportunity to connect to your body, your senses and a slower, more focused way of being. In tea, you are presented with a gift from nature and from the hands of skilled artisans. The gift is to thoroughly enjoy the sensorial pleasures but also to remember how to be human outside of our modern, digital age. A whole world of steps were carried out and many people worked hard to bring this tea to your lips; feel gratitude for the beauty of what is in your cup. Be grateful for the privilege of tasting this tea and having the time to pause and appreciate, for if you have this, you are most certainly blessed.

Elixir of Life

Eadweard Muybridge

Eadweard Muybridge

It’s time again! The adventure gallops on, careening into yet another fascinating world; in my hands, I hold a sample of it–would you care to see? But ahh, oh! Patience, for it requires something of a grand introduction.

My current obsession is rich in history and cultural significance–extolling its virtues are stacks of scrolls, poems, treatises and paintings, towering centuries upon centuries high. Myths and legends abound about this precious material and its various forms, yet the truth often remains elusive. It was even touted as the Elixir of Life by Taoist alchemists. It’s not all splendor and glory, though. The memories of dark doings hang heavy in the mists of many south-facing slopes and subtropical valleys; they are knit several generations deep in the DNA of slave laborers; they tendril around the wicked hearts of many scoundrels, some of whom continue to benefit, even today, from an insidious cycle of greed and servitude.

Are you thoroughly perplexed yet? Any guesses?

The divine substance of which I speak–the exquisite commodity that powerful empires have mounted and crumbled upon…

It’s TEA.

Ann Lockley with Hawk and Spiny Lobster

Ann Lockley with Hawk and Spiny Lobster

Yes, the gentle cup of invigorating liquid that warms our bones and settles our spirits happens to possess a rather dramatic past, both brutal and beautiful. Who would suspect that such a ubiquitous, seemingly workaday beverage is actually at the crux of an ancient tale layered with mystery, religion, murder, narcotics trade and espionage? Like many things worth knowing, there’s much more to tea than what meets the palate.

Tea Party Animals; favim.com

Tea Party Animals; favim.com

If you are a guest in my home, I’ll offer you a cup of tea and you might (rightly) assume that I mean anything from a soothing herbal blend to a strong black brew that you could feasibly cream and sugar. Beleaguered by the contents of my tea cabinet, you will eventually report to me your selection, which I will set about to preparing–this is all about hospitality and not the lexicon of our culture but, well…it’s technically incorrect. Just so you know. You see, the term “tea” has essentially come to represent any plant-based, drinkable substance that’s not coffee or chocolate but in truth, it only technically refers to the liquor of the plant Camellia sinensis. Anything else is called a tisane, infusion or another name entirely. This may seem to be merely a stickler’s semantics but such differentiation is actually important for many reasons, especially because we put this inside our bodies! In the not-so-distant past, tea was frequently adulterated–sometimes with dangerous ingredients–in order to line the coffers of some crafty n’er-do-wells. I’m saying it’s important to be specific about these things in certain contexts.

The tree that produces tea is related to the camellias we find in many gardens here in the states, Camellia japonica–you know, these glamourous gussies:

Beneath the Camellia Blossoms by {thisisglamorous}

Beneath the Camellia Blossoms by {thisisglamorous}

Dreamy Camellias

Dreamy Camellias

La Dame aux Camelias by Alphonse Mucha

La Dame aux Camelias by Alphonse Mucha

They’re cousins. The species we use to make tea includes three varieties, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, which is native to China; the slightly larger var. assamica which is native to India; and var. cambodiensis which is native to Cambodia, being a hybrid of the first two and not used for drinking itself but rather in the creation of new cultivated varieties (cultivars). 

Camellia sinensis var. assamica (unknown)

Camellia sinensis (unknown)

Our “libation of the ages” has been known by a scad of names across most of the continents, the commonest being te (variations of this include tea, tee, tay, thé, etc.), ch’a, cha and chai. The sweet and spicy, creamy beverage Americans recognize as chai originates in India and parts of Africa, where this is the popular way to prepare the leaves, though chai is simply the word for the tea leaves themselves.

This one glorious species can yield everything from white to yellow to green to black tea–they’re just different versions of the same thing. It’s mind-boggling, no? In addition to their botanical differences, there are many other factors that contribute to the distinctive flavors in our cup–variables such as soil quality, microclimate, weather patterns and other stresses, like insect infestations. It’s very much like wine, actually.

Tea pluckers in Sri Lanka; postcard / unknown artist

Tea pluckers in Sri Lanka; postcard / unknown artist

Part of the alchemical wonder is in the way the leaves are manipulated. Here’s how the process goes: tea pluckers–as they are called in the industry–carefully pick the first two leaves and the bud on the tips of the twigs (usually) and take them to be processed according to what type of tea they’re meant to become.

Lapsang Souchong; chadotea.com

Lapsang Souchong; chadotea.com

If the leaves are destined for black tea, they will be withered (slightly dehydrated) and then rolled, which ruptures their cell walls, allowing the enzymes inside to react with the oxygen present in air–a process referred to as oxidation. Oxidation is something that is generally undesirable, for instance, when the flesh of your sliced apple is sullied by a brownish blush; when your wine tastes flat after you were silly and left it open on the counter all night; or when your bicycle sits in the rain too long and goes to rust. Conversely, in the production of certain types of tea, oxidation is positively transformative. Skilled hands can turn a leaf with minimal flavor and therefore, worth, into an exquisitely nuanced beverage commanding hundreds or even thousands of dollars a pound. It’s true! After the rolling and oxidation is complete, the leaves are then fired to halt the enzymatic action.

Sencha; tea-addiction.com

Sencha; tea-addiction.com

Green tea is not oxidized. The leaves are steamed or pan-fired after plucking to dehydrate them, which disables the enzyme responsible for oxidation and preserves their verdancy. The leaves are rolled into their intended shapes, which range from long, loose and leggy to balled up like a pearl. Matcha is a Japanese green tea that is powdered and prepared by whipping it into water, as opposed to being steeped and removed like most other teas.

Silver Needles; teavana.com

Silver Needles; teavana.com

White and yellow tea can be considered very delicate versions of green tea; they undergo even less processing, mostly just air withering. Their flavors are sometimes so slight as to be missed by the less discerning taster. Yellow teas are historically some of the most precious.

Ti Kuan Yin; zhitea.com

Ti Kuan Yin; zhitea.com

Wulong, aka “oolong” teas are slightly-to-moderately oxidized and fall somewhere between black and green tea on the flavor spectrum. Wulongs are extra special because one spoonful of these leaves can yield numerous steepings and an evolution of lovely flavors. They can be aged for many years.

Pu-erh cakes; amazon.com

Pu-erh cakes; amazon.com

Pu-erh is fermented and often aged–it’s very earthy, intense and may require an initiated palate. It can be purchased in loose leaves or in its traditional form–packed tightly and shaped into a tea “cake” for ease of transport on the backs of horses along trade routes. Portions of it would have been shaved off and boiled in water, sometimes along with other additives like salt or orange peel. Tibetans make a savory brew with pu-erh to this day, including salt, yak butter and sometimes barley flour (tsampa).

Tea was also used as currency at one point in China’s history, like cacao to Mesoamerica and coffee to the Middle East and Indonesia. Note the scoring on the brick below to facilitate the snapping off of a segment for making change.

Tea brick; silkroadteastore.com

Tea brick; silkroadteastore.com

As I investigate what life was like in previous eras and remember, even, what it was like to live in an insular, small Midwestern town, I’m developing an awareness and subsequent awe of the treats and treasures we have access to whilst living in this modern, affluent country. It’s a little outrageous! One generation ago, there weren’t mangoes or quinoa in all of the major grocery stores; even citrus was a special, seasonal delight. Now, a simple trip to Whole Foods presents us with a gigantic wonderland of off-season imports from thousands of miles away. These are luxuries that myself and others of modest income must work hard to afford but the fact that we have access to them at all is so strange and wonderful.

Exotic goods which once traveled for many months over land or sea for the exclusive enjoyment of royalty have now become regular household staples. Tea was among the shipments and caravans, as were chocolate, coffee, spices, sugar, incense, perfumes, silk and plenty of other beautiful things that now seem common and not terribly fancy. I’m so grateful that my good fortune landed me here in this particular time and for the ways these simple pleasures have enriched my life…why, I feel like a King!

unknown photographer; m.pinterest.com

unknown photographer; m.pinterest.com