Monday, November 18, 2013

Shakespeare's Tea Caddy, If Shakespeare Drank Tea, Which He Did Not.

{ Tea Caddy from Shakespeare's Very Own Mulberry Tree. }

Shakespeare did not drink tea.

No, no, I kid you not. Unless you believe conspiracy theories that make the writers of his plays into Roger Bacon, or Francis Bacon, or Kevin Bacon, we know a man named William Shakespeare died in 1616. The United Kingdom never saw tea until 1658, and it wasn't until 1665 that the East India Company started importing it to the UK.

NEVERTHELESS, once upon a time, a certain Shakespeare fellow planted a mulberry tree. A century or so later, the Most Reverend Francis Gastrell purchased New Place at Stratford-Upon-Avon and was so overwhelmed by annoying fanboys wanting to see the tree that he decided to chop it down and burn the corpse. Of the tree, that is. (On a side note, in a fit of pique, Gastrell destroyed Shakespeare's home because he didn't like the taxes on it. Quite a piece of work, eh?)

But wait! Brilliant entrepreneurs instead got hold of the mulberry's remains, chopped it into craft-sized pieces, and they started making tchotchkes out of the wood, which they began selling to tourists. To this day, Stratford-Upon-Avon maintains is mercantile charm.

{ Paraphernalia, Just Like Mom Used To Make }

According to The Daily Mail,

A tea caddy carved from a mulberry tree may have been planted by Shakespeare himself has gone under the hammer for £13,000 at auction. The antique - which features a tiny carved bust of the Bard - was whittled out of wood recovered from the famous tree planted outside the playwright's home.

Apparently, Shakespeare planted the tree because landowners were getting in on UK silk production--yet another replacement for import from China that the Emperor was not happy about.

So if you like your Shakespeare, you like your tea, and you like your history: well, too bad you didn't get there first and buy the caddy to add to your collection!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Brothers K and the ingenuiTEA gadget

{ "ingenuiTEA, with Russian novel and office window,"
media mixed with afternoon sunlight, 2013 } 

As many of you have surmised from my last post several weeks ago, I am now a teacher of English literature. And I have an office that is not embedded in my home, which is a giant plus for me, forcing me out of my cave and into the wide world. I find it a bit exhausting, because PEOPLE. You've perhaps noticed that I avoid taking pictures, because I don't have some cool macro lens, and my knowledge of photography is limited to . . . well, the above. But it's a moment I caught, with sunlight, tea, and Russian literature combining pleasingly.

Because I'm in an office, I've been casting about for a way to make tea that isn't completely hopeless.

I'll tell you about the tea later. Today I'll focus on the ingenuiTEA, which is available through my friends at Adagio Teas.

Happily, there are many tea gadgets out there, ranging from amusing tea balls, to mini French presses, to cast-iron tetsubin with mesh baskets for the tea to float about in. This is a testimony to the growing tea culture in the US and elsewhere, and it behooves us to take advantage of these fun accouterments to our tea-drinking experience.

The ingenuiTEA is one of several similar devices, sold by a number of online tea marketers, which are a boon to the office-working tea drinker. The device above is made of clear plastic, and it has a removable mesh strainer for easy cleaning. It invariably makes the students and staff ooh and ahh over how cute it is. The ladies, that is. The young guys do not ooh and ahh over anything, but they do try to ask me questions about tea so that they don't have to discuss 19th-century Russian literature.

I brought the ingenuiTEA and a Darjeeling oolong to class recently, and I gave the students a point on their test if they could guess where it came from. Several of them got it right, just by sheer luck.

Adagio's device is an open container into which I can pour my boiling water, and the tea leaves have plenty of open space to steep. Once they're ready, I place it on top of a cup, and a cleverly hidden lever inside opens a sluice through which the tea pours into the cup below. I've discovered how much my cup will take, so I don't overflow as much anymore and endanger my computer hardware.

I like gongfu cha, and I also like convenience when I'm at work. This thing sits at that sweet spot, where I don't have to bring in a complex set of teaware to get a decent cup of tea, and it takes what seems like a rather complex system I have at home and simplifies it for the workplace, where mucking about with six or seven different implements just isn't practical.

It won't replace my precious purple-clay teapots or my gaiwan and tea table, but it's just right for making a cup of tea that honestly tastes almost the same (particularly because I use good water that I've purified using Japanese white charcoal, as well as decent tea), and it makes my afternoons much better.

If you haven't experimented with such a device, please drop by their website and try one out.