Tea and Quiet
I'm immensley enjoying my winter vacation. No travels, no big scary dinners, and lots of catching up with sleep, the gym, my family and friends - all of which were sadly neglected in the past 2 months when I was practically hopping from one market to another with events at my local retailers thrown in for an extra measure of fun.
Now I am spending my days in quite, and my daughter insists that we do a "tea party" at least once a day (but preferably after every meal). We even made it to Shaktea twice within the past week. The name of the place alone is something to love - as a Hebrew speaker, it reminds me of the word "sheket" (quiet) and is so appropriate: this tea room is like a little tea temple.
Because it is not particularly close to where we live, so we don't get there very often. But when we do, it's a real treat on every level - the tea menu is fun reading material on its own, the desserts are spectacular, the savoury dishes are innovative and prepared to perfection. The ambience is quiet and serene and non-pretentious (as it often is in high-end tea rooms). Not to mention that the service is excellent, because it's privately owned by two fine ladies - Maria and Tanya. And they remember what you like or what your kids are not allowed to have too much of (sugar), and are equally passionate and knowledgeable about their teas.
Last week I stopped there in hopes of finding some tea bags to pack my excess amount of milky oolong and share it as Christmas gifts to all my tea-loving girlfriends, but ended up getting them new teas in little 50gr bags that Shaktea had just for the holidays (they usually sell loose leaf teas in bags of 100gr or 200gr). This enabled me to discover some interesting teas that I wouldn't have normally gotten for myself - such as a coffee-scented pu'er (!) with a very smooth aroma for my pu'er loving friend Tina; and a caramel-cream black tea for Monique, plus two minty concoctions (Moroccan mint, and another mint tisane) for two other friends.
Today I stopped by to say hi to the ladies before they take off on their annual buying trip to China and Taiwan, and also to bring Tanya some samples of light florals that I thought she'll enjoy while traveling. And I decided to use that opportunity to also take a sip of the teas that I was giving away (and see if I need to buy any for myself as well!). I ordered the Dream of Coffee Pu'er for myself, and it was so smooth you'd think there was milk and sugar in there. It had the richness of mocha (there is some cocoa essence in there as well), and the underlining rich earthiness of pu'er. Interesting way to enjoy the flavour of coffee and the benefits of tea (and probably a total sacrilege for pure pu'er lovers). I really enjoyed it and am curious to hear what Tina would have to say about it (she is so not a coffee person, so I was taking my chances with this one). I didn't get any more for home because I already have 2 different kinds of pu'er I rarely drink pu'er (only when Tina comes over, come to think of it).
My daughter wanted green tea, so I got her the Moroccan Mint, which is a gunpowder tea blended with Nana (aka spearmint). Ideally, one would use fresh sprigs of spearmint for this concoction. But this is an excellent alternative when my balcony's spearmint is on winter hybernation. She let me have a sip and so I decided to take a bag of this home with me, and we had more of that after dinner. It was delightful - on its own, as well as with a hint of sugar and a sprinkle of orange flower water (a trick I learned in the Moroccan restaurant in St. Germain quarter in Paris). And of course we dipped the jasmine-osmanthus shortbread cookies in there for an extra measure of decadence. I think that recipe is going to make it to my cookbook.
I also got to take home with me some other samples of tea - a very fresh osmanthus and the French Earl Gray that smells delightful and floral (and is used in some of the fruit preserves served on the Shaktea tea sandwiches and toasts, which are a must try if you are there - I think I like them even more than the pastries - which is quite unusual, especially since the pastries at Shaktea are exceptionally wonderful). Will tell you more about them after I steep and brew.
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