Fri, Dec 13 2013 12:03 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
For those who have never sat at an English-style tea, the first thing you need to learn is that there is a difference between a tea kettle and a teapot.
A tea kettle (usually metal) heats the water on a stove; a teapot (usually ceramic) is used to serve the tea once it is mixed with the hot water.
Janet Goff, owner of My Cup of Tea and Unique Gifts in downtown Chula Vista, can fill in all the details about a proper English tea as well as offer fascinating stories relating to the history of how teas became a part of mainstream Western culture after their discovery in the Orient about 3,000 ago.
The English usually sit down for tea between 3 and 4 p.m., but Goff said a tea can be served really at any time of the day.
We had a chance to sit down for a tea recently in her shop. Goff served green-pomegranate tea (infused with lots of antioxidants), a cup of butternut squash soup, scones with lemon curd and Devon cream butter, assorted sandwich bites (trimmed of crust) and miniature desserts.
The butternut squash soup has a very autumn holiday flavor while the scones (we were served raspberry white chocolate and pumpkin) were very, very soft and a delight to eat with both the lemon curd and Devon cream.
Goff said she imports both the lemon curd and Devon cream to make her English-style tea “as authentic as possible.”
The next thing to learn about an English tea is that it’s polite to eat with your fingers, so don’t be bashful about picking up the sandwich bites. We had a chance to sample the ham and cheddar cheese on wheat, cucumber salad with cream cheese and croissants with chicken salad.
Don’t be bashful about sampling them all; it’s also permissible in tea etiquette.
“If you go away hungry from a tea, then you haven’t had a proper tea,” Goff said, smiling.
Goff has operated the shop for eight years. She sells tea both in the loose-leaf form as well as in tea bags. She carries more than 100 varieties of loose-leaf teas, including organic teas.
Loose-leaf teas are sold by the ounce, up to one pound. One ounce of tea will produce about eight to 10 cups.
Prices range from $1.75 to $7 per ounce, depending on the tea.
Goff said tea is grown in the United States only in South Carolina and Oregon. “Teas must be hand-picked, it’s very labor involved,” she said.
Goff said distributors also have to be careful how tea is stored. Many companies keep it in cellars.
“You have to keep it stored in a dry place. The two things that hurt tea are sunshine and moisture,” she said.
Among the customer favorites are the Aussie Sunset, a blend of eucalyptus, chamomile and mint, and Paris from Harney & Sons, a fruity black tea with vanilla and caramel flavors.
Fruit-blended teas provide a unique, satisfying flavor.
“I’m very fortunate that my teas move,” Goff said.
Goff offers private tea experiences in her shop. A full tea is $25 per person while a mini-tea is $12 (tea with soup, scone and two desserts).
Reservations are required for the full tea and are appreciated for a mini-tea but are not necessary.
Tea and scones are available for $5 and served any time.
A tea experience makes a great gift for the holiday season and other special days. Thinking of giving the favorite woman in your life something unique? How about a Mother’s Day tea?
My Cup of Tea and Unique Gifts is located at 242 Third Ave., Chula Vista.
Business hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday/evenings by appointment. Call 691-1347.
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