Monday, December 08, 2008

A Time For Tea

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? - how did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.


Life at our house has been very full. Full of activity, full of stress and typical of holiday time everyone is a bit cross. But then everyone in the U.S. is a bit cross right now. When Anderson Cooper reports to you that this could be the worst economic crisis since the 1930's its a bit hard not to get upset. Beth and I have given our gifts to Heifer International again this year despite economic setbacks. And, while I'm still partial to the knitting basket myself, (for obvious reasons), this year I chose a share of a goat, share of a sheep, a flock of chicks and a gift of bees. Beth chose trees and a share of a water buffalo. It feels good to know somewhere someone will receive a crate full of fluffy yellow chicks, a bee hive buzzing with bees to pollinate crops, or maybe with the help of people like you, a water buffalo to provide a family with milk and cheese.

There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea. ~Bernard-Paul Heroux

Winter's cold is creeping in and the holidays brings thoughts of auld land syne. What better time to think about the comforts of home than now? And in times like these that try the soul, what comfort is drawn from a hot cup of liquid! No, I'm not talking about coffee, I'm talking about that stuff we once threw into the Boston harbor. TEA.

When the news reporter said "Shopkeepers are opening their doors bringing out blankets and cups of tea" I just smiled. It's like yes. That's Britain for you. Tea solves everything. You're a bit cold? Tea. Your boyfriend has just left you? Tea. You've just been told you've got cancer? Tea. Coordinated terrorist attack on the transport network bringing the city to a grinding halt? Tea dammit! And if it's really serious, they may bring out the coffee. The Americans have their alert raised to red, we break out the coffee. That's for situations more serious than this of course. Like another England penalty shoot-out. ~Jslayeruk, as posted on Metaquotes Livejournal, in response to the July 2005 London subway bombings

I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o'clock. Oscar Wilde, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

In the more than sixty years of Queen Victoria's reign, the afternoon tea had become a national pastime in Great Britain. When the clock struck four, every kettle in the empire began to whistle and every tea table was set with all manner of delectable's to appease the appetite and restore the flagging spirit. The observance has become a treasured custom, a moment best described by Charles Dickens as one "in which we were perfectly contented with ourselves and one another."

The first cup moistens my lips and throat. The second cup breaks my loneliness. The third cup searches my barren entrail but to find therein some thousand volumes of odd ideographs. The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration - all the wrongs of life pass out through my pores. At the fifth cup I am purified. The sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals. The seventh cup - ah, but I could take no more! I only feel the breath of the cool wind that raises in my sleeves. Where is Elysium? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither. ~Lu Tung, "Tea-Drinking"

We love tea at our house. We love coffee too, but hot cups of tea throughout the day have become standard around here ever since we tasted our first cup of P.G.Tips. And now with snowstorms becoming a regular occurrence, and Castle Moscow back open for business, those hot cups of creamy tea will sustain us in our darkest hour. And with all that tea comes tea pots, and with the collecting of all those tea pots, the need for tea cozies goes without saying. I've lately become obsessed with knitting tea cozies. You may remember the orange cozy pictured above. I've now knitted a silly pineapple cozy to befriend it.

Four layers of thickly gathered ruffles wrap around the pot, their edges dotted with brightly colored beads. This cozy reminds me of Carmen Miranda's ruffled skirts. All it needs are a bunch of grapes and some bananas to sit atop its spikes.

Those darn spikes were tricky, and even knitted double took some ingenuity to get to stand up. My layers were too wide and so thick after gathering that any water put in this pot will probably stay hot for an eternity. I left gaps in the skirt to allow the spout and handle to peek through.

I'm not sure when I became obsessed with tea. I think it goes back to all those books I read in my childhood. I've always loved everything to do with Britain. To love Britain is to love tea, or at least the idea of tea, and who can resist terms like jam pennies and Victoria Sponge? Cucumber sandwiches with real butter, bangers and mash, beef pasties and fish -n- chips. Battenburg Cake, sticky toffee pudding, treacle tarts. My desire to try Paddington's sticky buns has been an life long obsession.

Tea! thou soft, thou sober, sage, and venerable liquid,... thou female tongue-running, smile-smoothing, heart-opening, wind-tippling cordial, to whose glorious insipidity I owe the happiest moment of my life, let me fall prostrate.
~ Colley Cibber, LADY'S LAST STAKE

Battenburg Cake

“A cake distinctive for the two-by-two check pattern alternately coloured pink and yellow. The cake is covered in marzipan and, when sliced, the characteristic checks are exposed to view. These coloured sections are made by dying half of the cake mixture pink, and half yellow, then cutting each resultant sponge into two long, uniform cuboids, and joining them together with a little cream, jam, or icing, to form one cake. The origin of the name is not clear, but one theory claims that the cake was created in honour of the marriage in 1884 of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg. The four squares of the cake are said to represent the four Battenberg princes.”

The Battenburg Cake Cozy

Inspiration for the Battenburg Cake cozy came from The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket. Her inspiration was the actually edible Battenburg Cake, traditionally eaten in Britain. You’ll need 2 skiens of each color. The beads are optional. This is the same pattern I used for my orange tea cozy and comes from Rowen.

My own attempt at making a Battenburg cake has had to wait while I search out a source for marzipan...

Of course the most important part of having tea isn't the cake, but the tea. English Breakfast, Darjeerling, Earl Grey, Yorkshire Gold, Murroughs Welsh tea, Taylors of Harrogate... Hot and steaming from the pot with sugar and milk. It soothes the rumpled spirit and warms the cockles of the heart. We have become tea snobs at our house. We've had the real deal from Britain, and now not just any tea will do. Our tea of choice is P.G. Tips, or Red Rose (which has the added advantage of coming with a tiny china animal in every box.)

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. ~Henry James, PORTRAIT OF A LADY

Did you know that the world is suffering a crisis with honey bees? Its called Colony Collapse Disorder. Without bees we won't have food. You can help by attracting bees to your yard with the right plants that provide food for bees. Diverse plants attract different types of bees. You can even start your own hive. This is my bee hive or bee skep cozy. I have some issues with the way this one turned out, so I'm reworking the pattern. The little brass bee buttons are buzzing their way around the outside looking for a way in. I don't think this pathetic hive is going to do much for the bee problem...

The Bee Skep Tea Cozy

Stands the church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?
Rupert Brooke, HEAVEN

It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon it says, "Work!" After beefsteak and porter, it says, "Sleep!" After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don't let it stand for more than three minutes), it says to the brain, "Now rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature, and into life: spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!"

~Jerome K. Jerome, THREE MEN IN A BOAT

The last cozy is one for Beth, to remind her of all the great tea and scone she had throughout Britain. She mentioned wouldn't it be funny to have a tea cozy that looked like a Scottish thistle? I stumbled on the pattern for the lumpy bumpy tea cozy below and thought it just might work...

Scottish Thistle Tea Cozy

"Never trust a man who, when left alone with a tea cosy, doesn't try it on!"
~Billy Connelly

A real honest to goodness Scottish thistle.
And the resemblance is uncanny!

Meanwhile, let us have a cup of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.
Kazuko Okakura THE BOOK OF TEA


Elisabeth said...

We really need to go have a proper tea this winter as a Christmas prezzie.

Sanguiknity said...

Oooo... so many pretty tea cozies! I love that you put up images of your inspirations :) Hehe, I have never seen anyone so obsessed with tea and tea-related things. Makes me want to sip a cup right now!


NorseArcher said...

love the bee skep tea cozy! can you share the pattern? where did you find those delightful bee buttons? i am a beekeeper and would love to add this to our bee collection.

Nelly said...

I would love to know where you got the Scottish Thistle Tea Cozy. Did you make it and if so where did you get the pattern?

Tigerlily said...

For everyone who's asked, all the tea cozy's were knitted by me, and I would be happy to give you the pattern information if you just email me and ask. Thank you so much for all your comments.