The Evolution of the (Souvenir) Teaspoon, Part 3
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
1w ago
In my last post, we had reached the mid-1800s, entering into the advent of leisure travel in Europe, a period when souvenir collecting evolved into spoon collecting, both in Europe and the United States. By displaying a collection that advertised where you had been, you demonstrated your interest in the world, your ability to travel, and, of course, your disposable income and accompanying status. On May 10, 1892, the Omaha Daily Bee of Nebraska remarked on the “spoon fad,” explaining that American cities as well as those in Europe were producing their own souvenir spoons for tourists, commemo ..read more
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The Evolution of the Teaspoon, Part 2
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
3w ago
Here I continue to look at how utilitarian teaspoons turned into souvenirs that we hang on a wall! As mentioned in my previous post, both teaspoons and tablespoons existed by 1704. Still, because tea was a precious commodity in the West, both teacup and teaspoon were very small. However, around 1710, the East India Company began their tea trade with China and the cost of tea started to decline. As tea grew more affordable, teaspoon size increased and by the 1730s, a teaspoon was 1/3 of a tablespoon. (Incidentally, that size has persisted in the U.S. as a unit of culinary measure.) Now that te ..read more
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The Evolution of the Teaspoon, Part 1
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
1M ago
Way before the pandemic disrupted, well, pretty much everything, TeaHaus was gifted a set of decorative teaspoons—which I’m finally getting to, and thank you! (What I did not get to was polishing the silver-plated spoons.) At first glance, these diminutive spoons are definitely in souvenir territory—but inspection proves that some are very detailed. And some are mini works of art, like this ship with the wave motifs down the handle. But really, why was cutlery ever turned into souvenir? And why, why, why do we hang non-functional cutlery on a wall? The story begins, unsurprisingly, with spo ..read more
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Keemun Black Tea
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
1M ago
Having looked at two Chinese black teas from Yunnan Province in my last post, I turn now to keemun. Like the Yunnan black teas, keemun teas hail from China and are highly valued. Therefore, tea producers want to protect the reputation of these unique teas and ensure that cheaper teas aren’t being passed off as the acclaimed keemun. So, what is this tea and how is science helping the efforts of tea growers? Keemun is produced in Anhui Province, located in eastern China and celebrated for the Huangshan Mountains (Yellow Mountain), which, incidentally, lend their name to the green tea Huangshan ..read more
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Golden Yunnan Black Teas
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
1M ago
Yunnan Province in southwest China is considered the birthplace of tea, and the mountainous region remains one of the world’s top tea producers. Interestingly, demand for tea in this area has fluctuated at times, which allowed the native large-leaf, assamica-variety Camellia sinensis tea plants to spread and become part of the natural vegetation. In their book The Story of Tea, Mary Lou and Robert Heiss rather rapturously describe the black teas from this province: Yunnan black teas are lush, thirst-quenching treats that are worth the search. You may see these black teas as dianhong teas, w ..read more
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Uranium Glass: Lovely & Just a Bit Radioactive
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
5M ago
Walking around your house with a black light can be hugely illuminating. For instance: I discovered that my handmade ceramic steamer for food contains a disconcerting number of fluorescent green spots (radioactive?) I sadly beheld the full extent of pet accidents on our wool rug I found that I own four pieces of vintage uranium glass (unequivocally radioactive) Uranium in Glass It turns out that uranium gives glass a lovely yellow, yellow-green, or green color. The precise hue depends on the oxidation level. But under ultraviolet or black light (a type of ultraviolet light), such glass fluo ..read more
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Japanese Green Tea: Genmaicha and Matcha Genmaicha
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
5M ago
Autumn is officially here. Yet, the Great Lakes region always approaches this seasonal change with some trepidation, unsure whether to stay rooted in summer warmth or commit to autumn’s chill.  Loath to embrace the cold, I cling to the last precious days that speak of summer. Others might enthusiastically pull out autumn flavors, but I prefer to linger a bit, brew up another iced tea, pretend it’s July. To that end, matcha genmaicha is ideal. With its stunning color and wonderful starch-vegetal balance, it reminds of spring and summer when iced—but can quickly pivot to a cold-weather tea ..read more
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Milk Oolong Tea Confusion
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
5M ago
Have you ever posted what you thought was an innocuous comment on some social media platform only to be slammed? Even in the tea world? Yep, it occasionally happens. But sometimes those denigrating comments can draw attention to misunderstandings or confusion about what exactly is being discussed. The Problem For example, when someone asks about favorite teas, I’ve answered China Milky Jade, a milky oolong (shown below) carried at TeaHaus—and definitely a tea that I love to drink. But that’s not really milk oolong, I’ve been told. It’s adulterated, artificially flavored, second-rate. Ah, but ..read more
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Omi/Shiga Teas and Why They’re Rare in the U.S.
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
6M ago
When Governor Mikazuki of Japan’s Shiga Prefecture presided over a tea tasting at TeaHaus, Ann Arbor (see previous post), the teas were exquisite—and rare, at least for us here in the United States. Although Shiga is the birthplace of tea in Japan, with tea plants cultivated since the year 805, its teas haven’t been readily available to western consumers. A few years ago, pre-pandemic, the Japanese government invited TeaHaus owner Lisa McDonald to visit various gardens in Shiga and advise tea growers on developing ways to make tea more accessible to U.S. tea drinkers. At that time, the tea wa ..read more
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An Auspicious Chinese Porcelain Tea Set
It's More Than Tea
by Jill
7M ago
If you’ve ever bought an iPhone, or even an Apple mouse, you’ll understand this: Opening the box is part of the experience. The ultimate in sophisticated design, the box itself is fashioned so that it opens slowly, requiring a bit of effort, which heightens the anticipation. Many Chinese tea set producers also understand the delight of presentation. Take, for instance, this set, loaned to me by a TeaHaus friend: This elegant gray box with spare artwork is appealing. Lifting the box cover reveals an equally striking protective layer, with red and gray flipped: And the tea set itself—a Shang S ..read more
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