Fusions of the Heart: Tea Blending 101

Greetings!  I guess its only fitting that I start this post off by giving a hearty shout out to all the lovebirds out there!  I hope you all enjoyed your Valentine’s Day celebrations with your loved ones.  My Valentine’s Day festivities included going to work and treating it like any other day since I’m single.

It was unusually busy at work this afternoon, so I grabbed something quick from the company cafeteria a few floors up instead of going outside. I noticed a lovely gift basket for raffle by the cashier, so I entered.  To my pleasant surprise, I received a phone call several hours later from the cafeteria manager notifying me that I’d won the prize.  Not only did it include the gift basket (love-themed/heart-shaped treats), but it also included a dozen red roses, and two red velvet cupcakes.

My Valentine's Prize!
My Valentine’s Prize

I finished my work day and decided to splurge on myself a bit.  I had plans to visit NY Adorned to purchase a new white gold and diamond nose ring. It’s incredibly tiny and dainty, what do you think?

New Nose Ring Alert.  I'm in LOVE!
***New Nose Ring Alert*** Although I don’t look too happy on the left (serious face) I am.  I am utterly in LOVE with my new diamond stud

I digress.  Today’s post is dedicated to one my personal loves, tea.

If you open the oak-colored cupboard above my kitchen sink on any given day, you’re bound to find an abundant variety of teas to tickle your fancy.  I guess you can say that I have a thing for a nice brew. Upset stomach? Peppermint is my go to.  Stressed out? Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut relaxes me in a heartbeat.  Headache? Chamomile releases my tension.  Breakfast time?  Earl Grey with milk or Vanilla Chai!  I love tea.  Smelling it.  Steeping it.  Sipping it.  It’s an experience that I thoroughly enjoy from the first taste to the last drop.

#UnicorninBrooklyn Circa December 2013.  Sipping on a new brew, African Autumn in Crown Height's own Cafe Rue Dix (really #DOPE French/Senegalese bistro): http://www.caferuedix.com/
Circa December 2013 – Sipping on a new brew, African Autumn in Crown Height’s own Cafe Rue Dix (DOPE French/Senegalese bistro): http://www.caferuedix.com/

My love for tea was ingrained in me from a young age.  My mother has always been a tea zealot; quick to offer a cup as a cure for an ailment or to simply warm me up.  I recall my mom coming up with the smart idea to host a tea party several years ago in my childhood home (in Queens).   The concept was simple: female camaraderie, an assortment of teas, and decadent sweets.   This must have been more than fifteen years ago, but I remember it like it were yesterday.  It was an enjoyable afternoon for all in attendance.

Fast forward to present day, I was recently hit with an epiphany.  There I was sitting on my cranberry colored microfiber loveseat sipping a cup of Lipton’s Island Peach Mango when it hit me – a rather elusive concept.  I decided that I wanted to learn how to blend teas, my own teas.  Why not concoct my own creations for private consumption and to share with other tea enthusiasts?  I scoured the Internet with hopes of finding a local tea making class in my borough and found success a few minutes later.  I stumbled across Brooklyn ARTery (BA) (http://www.brooklynartery.net/), a quaint shop located in the Kensington section of Brooklyn, that prides itself on creating a community art space that offers a range of classes (some of which include: jewelry making, knitting, crocheting, cooking, and sewing).

To my pleasant surprise, they were slated to host a tea blending course in February, to be specific, Thursday, February 13th from 6:00 – 8:00 pm (a few weeks after my “ah-ha” moment occurred).  I immediately signed up for the class and paid $20 via pay pal to secure my seat.  Talk about instant gratification, I was stoked!

A week prior class, I received an e-mail informing me that there was a change of date.  The instructor decided to move the class up to Sunday, February 9th (3:00 – 5:00 pm) due to scheduling conflicts.  It worked out for the best because last Sunday was a gorgeous day, chilly, but very sunny and vibrant.  

The commute from Bed Stuy to Kensington is roughly one hour (via public transportation), so I left my apartment 1.5 hours before the class started to ensure an early arrival.  I decided that I wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous weather by dressing fashionable, yet warm.  I wore my charcoal & slate gray striped 3/4 arm length coat, a fitted long-sleeved black sweater, dirty denim skinny jeans, slate gray leather & suede boots, with a black felt floppy hat, and  black gloves.  I planned to travel light so I grabbed my phone, headphones, keys, a pen, and a small spiral notebook (to take notes) – then hit the street.  I opted to take the local Q38 bus (one block from my apartment) and transferred to the Q train when I reached downtown Brooklyn.

Check out this nostalgic train station that I exited once I reached Beverly Road:

#Kensington #BeverlyRoad #Q/BTrainStation

#Kensington #BeverlyRoad #Q/BTrainStation

The walk to BA was approximately ten minutes from the train station and filled with sights along Cortelyou Road.  A farmer’s market, a gourmet supermarket, various restaurants, and small boutiques. Before I knew it, I’d arrived.

 

#BrooklynARTery #CortelyouRoad
#BrooklynARTery #CortelyouRoad
20140209_144224

I took a few shots of the shop then made my way in.  I was greeted by the calming scent of jasmine and sandalwood. One of the BA employees showed me to the stairs, as the class took place in the lower level of the establishment.  I walked into the room and was content as it was intimate in size and very comfortable.  The energy was very relaxing and the class participants (seven, excluding myself) all exhibited a warm and free-spirited demeanor.  There were several small wooden bowls atop the rectangular table around we all sat.  They were filled with different ingredients for the class: Hawthorn Flowers, Lavender, Chamomile, Linden, Sassafras, Oat Tops, Nettle Leaf, Raspberry Leaf, Goji Berries, Gingko Leaves, Rose Petals, Rosehips, Vanilla Beans, Cardamom, Anise Seeds, Ginger Root, and Cinnamon Sticks.   Can you imagine the smell in the room?  Delicious was an understatement.

Here are a few of the ingredients
A few of the ingredients used

I took a seat opposite the instructor –  Herbalist, Pastry Chef, and Chef, Emily Cavelier.  I found her to be incredibly mild mannered, earthy, and peaceful.  She started the class off by introducing herself and sharing her credentials.  She then asked all participants to introduce themselves and briefly discuss why they’d decided to sign up for the class.  It was refreshing to be in a room with other “budding” tea aficionados.  Once complete, Emily proceeded to discuss the characteristics of each ingredients in a very soft-spoken manner while displaying a gentle smile the entire time.

I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did with regards to benefits of their consumption. Here are a few tidbits:

Chamomile – Relaxes the digestive system

Linden – Is good for depression and is also relaxing; it is often used in place of chamomile.  It creates moisture and is great for digestion.

Oat Tops – Men respond well to this; very strengthening.  This blends well with Nettle Leaf (which is very rich in chlorophyll – a blood cleanser, blood builder, and oxygen booster.  Nettle is also good for the nervous system, as it calms anxiety and boosts the adrenal glands).

Raspberry Leaf – Mineral rich and great for female reproduction.

Goji Berries – These were delicious! I nibbled on them as Emily touched on their health benefits.  These berries are iron rich and work great for men (they promote sperm mobility).  I found it comedic that when this particular benefit was mentioned the two male participants quickly added extra berries to their tea blends.

Ginkgo Leaf – This is a meditative leaf, typically associated with men and male energy (this leaf increases blood flow in the lower abdomen for them).

Rose Petals – Promotes love (#SpreadLoveItsTheBrooklynWay).

Rosehips – These are the berries of the rose.  They are high in vitamins A & C, calcium, and iron.  They are also used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Hawthorn Flowers – This was by far my favorite!  Hawthorn Flower awakens vitality by “sparkling” inside of you.  It ignites exuberance in an individual and is a great flower to consume when looking for a partner (I made sure I grabbed a HEFTY amount of this – ha)!

After learning the basics, the fun began.  Emily passed around teas that she brewed earlier in the day so we could all indulge.  We discussed the different flavors and sipped heartily on the samples.

The class wrapped up with the blending of Emily’s recipes: Heart Opening Blend (hawthorn, rose petals, and rosehips),  Relaxing Heart Blend (lavender and chamomile flowers), Circulatory Heart Blend  (goji berries, cinnamon sticks, and dried ginger root), and Aphrodisiac Spicy Heart Blend (vanilla bean, cardamom pods, and anise seeds).  In addition to these recipes we were allowed to freestyle and make our own blends.  We bagged everything in small Ziploc baggies, sipped more tea, asked questions, shared jokes, then bid each other adieu.

That class exceeded my expectations.  I left the class feeling exhilarated and inspired.  I haven’t steeped any of my creations yet, but plan to very soon.

Should you care to learn more about the instructor feel free to follow her on her blog: http://www.nourishingroot.com/ and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NourishingRoot?ref=hl

Until next time friends!

PenniePenz

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2 thoughts on “Fusions of the Heart: Tea Blending 101

  1. Awesome blog!Informative with fantastic writing. You left me wanting more, felt like I was right there with you sipping on some tea!

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