ashley english by 40

small measures with ashley: time for tea

images above, clockwise from top left: skinny laminx, tea brewery, gayane teapot, green teas chatter, trip advisor, repro depot,

I grew up largely in the southeastern United States. Accordingly, I’ve been known to harbor certain “southern” traits-the use of the word “y’all”; a profound and enduring love of the film Steel Magnolias, not to mention an ability to quote it when the situation merits (I have used Clairee’s line to Ouiser “You know I worship the quicksand you walk on” many, many times on a widely varied body of individuals); and a penchant for black tea. No meal was complete without a pitcher of mom’s super sweet iced tea growing up. It didn’t matter if we were sitting down to Tuesday night’s dinner or the Thanksgiving meal. If we were eating, we were also drinking sweet tea. We downed it with thirsty devotion, as though it was the only beverage available; on many occasions, it was.

I don’t remember when the shift to hot black tea occurred (an ex-boyfriend and his British mom might have had something to do with it), but I do recall moving away from cloyingly sweet tea when I started becoming interested in health and nutrition (and became aware of the fact that heart disease and Type 2 diabetes run in my family). While I left the heavy sugar behind, I retained an appreciation for Orange Pekoe, embracing all of its kin along the way. Most mornings now find me with a mug of hot tea in hand. As January is “National Tea Month”, today’s “Small Measures” acknowledges the importance of tea, tea time, and all of its attendant pleasures.

Tea has multitudinous benefits. We’ll begin with the obvious, health. Research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital , along with Harvard University, indicates that the amino acid L-theanine found naturally in tea bolsters the body’s immune system. Drinking five 20 ounce cups of black tea daily for 2-4 weeks showed an increase in both immune system defenses and resistance to disease, the research revealed. Specifically, consumption of tea showed a significant increase in the presence of gamma delta T cells, the body’s first line of defense against disease and infection. As if that weren’t enough to fire up the kettle, this link provides more clinical research on the multifaceted benefits of tea. I’ll drink to that!

CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s “Time for Tea” post after the jump! *Click here for the D*S Teapot roundup to go with your tea*

Aside from its salubrious effects, tea also offers countless opportunities for aesthetic appreciation. From tea gardens to tea pots (I’m a huge fan of Japan-made Bee House tea pots, mugs, cups, and tea-based accoutrements; find them here in colored offerings or here in black and white), tea strainers to tea ceremonies, the culture of tea invites contemplation, reflection, attention to detail, and, of course, savoring. Teaspoon and Petals maintains a gorgeous blog of all things tea, from artfully designed tea packaging to her own line of Etsy original haiku tea cups .

Tea gardens across the United States are resplendent locales for having a quiet conversation, reading a book, or simply watching clouds. My first tea garden experience was at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Later, on my honeymoon, I had the exquisite pleasure of visiting the Monte Carlo, Monaco Japanese garden, complete with its own tea ceremony house. Up next on my wish list is Portland, Oregon’s Japanese Tea Garden. I’ve heard nothing but glorious praise about it.

It’s also possible to be conscientious of the environment while enjoying tea. If you’re using an electric or gas range to heat your kettle, try filling it up with only as much water as you will actually need. Otherwise, a great deal of energy is wasted heating water you’ll only most likely end up pouring down the drain. If you’ve got a wood stove and it’s already blazing, simply place your kettle atop it. You’ll have a boiling kettle in short order! Alternatively, there are an increasing number of energy-efficient single-cup electric kettles available. The Tefal Quick Cup Kettle produces a cup of boiling water in 3 seconds (!!!).
Furthermore, many tea companies are now promoting fair-trade and organic growing practices. Some of my favorites include Numi , Choice , Rishi , and Mighty Leaf . If I have the time, I also like to make my own custom teas. You can find a recipe for my homemade chai here .

The differences between varying types of tea is based largely on the manner in which it was processed. Black, green, and oolong teas all come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Differences are accounted for by whether or not the leaves were fermented after harvesting. Black teas are fermented, then left in a cool, dark and damp location for a bit; they’re then heated to halt the fermentation process before packaging. Oolong teas are partially fermented, while green teas are heated right after harvest, with no fermentation occurring whatsoever. Herbal teas are not technically “tea”, in that they aren’t sourced from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Instead, they are a mixture of herbs, spices, flowers, and peels, containing no caffeine. If you’re more of the “cocktail hour” type of tea imbiber, then two tea-based liquors might suit your fancy. Zen Liqueur is the only Japanese green tea liqueur, while Firefly Vodka , made on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, includes tea grown on the only domestic U.S. tea plantation.

If pressed, I’d have to say my favorite tea is smokey, earthy Lapsang Souchang , also known as “Russian Caravan Tea”. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a blazing wood stove on cold winter mornings. What about you? Do you take time for tea?

[*click here for the d*s roundup of our favorite teapots*]

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ashley english / small measures



I, too, am very fond of the Lapsang Souchang. In my area, we have a tea shop called TeaLuxe,
that has an amazing selection of teas. My favorite of theirs is a flavored green tea called “Royal Coconut”.
For evening sips I have been enjoying Mighty Leaf’s Chocolate Mint Truffle, and Tazo’s Organic Apple Red. This is a fine post you’ve done… thanks for sharing!!!


LOVE tea, especially a great chai tea mix (away with the chai latte syrup!!!) Who knows a great tea shop in NYC that has the best spice chai in the land?

ginny branch

hahaha. i like georgia’ peach’s correction ; )

but seriously i am obsessed with the small measures column. love it!


I love tea! I probably wouldn’t survive a day without a few cups. It is refreshing, warming, soothing and stimulating all at once – the perfect beverage :-)
((Not that it is important in any way, but it is Camellia sinensis))
PS: I’m always looking forward to the “Small Measures” since I got back to follow d*s regularly some time ago – a geat idea and so well done!

ashley english

eva and georgia peach-thanks for the typo corrections! sometimes, when i’m writing early the morning, my tea hasn’t yet fully kicked in :^) !


I too live in the southeast and was born and raised here in NC and the way you described your families love for sweet tea also describes my childhood perfectly. And although I don’t drink as much now as I used to, I will say that I will always have a soft spot for a pitcher of sweet tea. Delich!


whenever i go home to virginia my parents have a pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge. i don’t think i’ve ever known our house not to have sweet tea available. my dad has diabetes so they eventually moved to splenda sweet tea, but it’s still something i so strongly associate with comfort, family and love.



Steel Magnolias… “What size do you wear?” “Well I wear a 6, but a 7 feels so good I can squeeze into an 8.” Ha Ha

I’m not sure how you ever got away from sweet tea. Any kind of tea without two packets of sugar tastes like bitter water to me. I’ve tried all kinds


I’m also a home grown sweet tea lovin southerner who’s found an interest in ‘healthier’ teas over the years. I agree, Lapsang Souchong is really good!

By the way my favorite way to drink sweet iced tea is during the summer with fresh mint leaves in silver cups.

Loved this article.

krista - urbanite jewelry

oh my word, how much do i l-o-v-e loose leaf tea? we have so many varieties in our apartment that we’ve had to add a whole shelving unit to our kitchen to hold them all! i’m so glad a bit of a tea renaissance seems to be brewing in the u.s. !

Southern Belle

I am from South Georgia, and tea was/is definitely a staple in my diet. Down here, it’s practically its own food group!


I never liked tea of any kind until living in Japan for a semester, when I had no choice but to start liking it ^^ Part of it is the bottles of tea you can get there are mostly unsweetened, whereas those are only slowly catching on here.

Dunno if there’s a DS Tour for Boulder, but it has the incredible Dushanbe Tea House, you should give it a go if you haven’t :D


Thank you for this post! I’m from San Diego, and within the last 2 years have come to love the tea culture. There are a few great tea houses here, including Tea-Upon-Chatsworth. My girlfriends and I went to the Shakespeare Corner Shoppe and Afternoon last weekend, so if anyone is ever in the area, those places are definitely worth a try.

Michelle LeBlanc

mmm – iced tea…whenn I moved to MN from TX they looked at me like I was crazy when I tries to order some in the middle of winter…
I loooove Mariage Freres Wedding Imperial – lovely!!


Tea time is all the time. I drink loose Mariage Frères tea at home, and Lipton green tea at work because it’s more convenient and I have less time to enjoy each cup.
Since I suffer from migraines, I’ve stopped drinking black tea unless it’s decaf.
My favorite green teas are Thé à l’Opéra, Sakura 2000, Bouddha Bleu, Sweet Shangai, Vert Provence, and Thé Vert Marco Polo (all by Mariage Frères)
In the morning, I only drink decaf Earl Grey, also by Mariage Frères.


great article! as a lifetime tea-ddict, i must recommend The Ô Dor teas: Their flavored black teas, especially Sans Complexe and Thé Du Loup, are just amazing! i had them at Jin Pattisserie in LA for the first time.


This column is always so great! But just for the record, the name of the tea plant is Camellia sinensis. Take it from a botanist!


Happy Tea Month! I too am a southern girl who grew up on sweet tea, especially in the hot summers. When I married an Irish man I was converted to hot Irish Breakfast tea every morning with milk and sugar. In our house tea is an important ritual that we really enjoy. Thanks for your article.


Have you been to the new Spice & Tea Exchange on Haywood? I don’t know anything about it, but saw it when I left Malaprop’s the other day.

ashley english

kelly-i saw it a few weeks ago, but haven’t checked it out yet…i’ll be sure to!
cathy-yeah, i realized i’d spelled camellia sinensis wrong, but only, unfortunately, after the fact. my morning tea wasn’t quite fully realized when i was writing! thanks for keeping me on my toes!


It may not technically be a tea, but rooibos with real maple syrup and real cream is my favorite.


In the Netherlands are a few places where you can taste good teas. The Tea Bar in Amsterdam and Lapsan in The Hague, soo American people…if you’re in know where to go !



I miss Gold Hill downtown. I don’t know if the place that is there now has as wonderful of an offering of teas, or about the Spice and Tea place – they seem to have alot of flavored salts.

I have alwasy been a fan of Earl Grey, especially with a strong Bergamot flavor. My sister in law just told me about Lady Grey by Twinnings. Can’t way to Twy it!


Some of my most vivid “smell” memories are of the tea room at Mariage Freres in Paris. It is amazing to walk in there and feel your senses overwhelmed by the beautiful aromas and the towering racks of tea in black tins with scrolly cream-colored script. Afternoon tea there was such a treat ( I was even able to indulge in freshly made iced tea while there. Not usually readily available in France (at least then…) Unsweetened for me, please.

One thing I also love, is high tea at the best tea room I’ve ever been to: The Saint James tea room in Albuquerque. Yes, folks, Albuquerque. The tea is brewed to perfection (three different pots, over the course of the sitting), and the tiered plate of savory & savory treats and house-recipe scones accompanied by clotted cream and the curd of the day is a true delight. Check it out if you ever find yourself there:


Some of my most vivid “smell” memories are of the tea room at Mariage Freres in Paris. It is amazing to walk in there and feel your senses overwhelmed by the beautiful aromas and the towering racks of tea in black tins with scrolly cream-colored script. Afternoon tea there was such a treat ( I was even able to indulge in freshly made iced tea while there. It was a treat not readily available in France (then, at least) Unsweetened for me, please.

One thing I also love is high tea at the best tea room I’ve ever been to: The Saint James tea room in Albuquerque. Yes, folks, Albuquerque. The tea is brewed to perfection (three different pots, over the course of the sitting), and the tiered plate of savory & sweet treats and house-recipe scones accompanied by clotted cream and the curd of the day is a true delight. Check it out if you ever find yourself there:


what a fabulous article. I’m so thrilled that you mentioned teaspoons & petals’ blog and haiku teacups. thanks!


I can’t remember a morning of my life since I was 10 years old that didn’t start with tea. Almost always with honey and milk. Is there any crisis that isn’t more easily dealt with after you’ve had a cup of tea? It’s my ultimate comfort food.

Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, Prince of Wales, smoky gunpowder. And wonder of wonders, I can now buy Lipton’s, the tea of my childhood, boxed up as loose tea in my local grocery store.

@Kelly Malaprops! Oh, to be in Asheville! :-)


This is great! I just posted on my blog about how to make a great breakfast in bed tray for just this thing – tea! My aunt’s pen name for artwork has always been LauraTeaLeaf


Rishi tea is seriously some of the best loose-leaf tea I’ve ever had. I drink their earl grey in the morning, while in the afternoon/evening I’m more partial to their white peony and green teas. They’re organic, fair-trade, and absolutely delicious.

Great post!


In addition to Firefly Vodka, the Charleston Tea Plantation is also located on Wadmalaw Island in South Carolina. I got married in Charleston in July, and we used their teas as our wedding favors.

Their American Classic Tea is my favorite, but they also make five other flavors. And their tea is the only tea grown and produced in America. You can check them out online and purchase tea here:

Also, if you’re in the Charleston area, they offer great tours year round.


Design Sponge is one of my favorite websites and one of the few I check daily so needless to say, I was thrilled to see that the company I work for, Rishi Tea, was mentioned in a wonderful post on tea!

To those interested in tea – ditch the tea bag and go loose leaf for more health benefits, fresher tea and a better value – you can resteep loose tea multiple times!


My favorite black tea is buckingham palace, or “devine temptation” which has hazelnuts in it. I am also very partial towards rooibos teas (tisane, not “tea”, I know).

Just so you know, Orange Pekoe is actually a low-grade tea (not a generic black tea). This is a common misconception.


I’m always delighted to see an article about the pleasures of a good cup of tea AND to see such a good response to it. Black tea is my favorite food group!

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