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Frosty's Winter Wonder Childrens Gift Baskets

Frosty's Winter Wonder Childrens Gift Baskets

Well here we are at the end of the year with the festive season firmly upon us. Even the despicable attempts of the shops who started stocking mince pies in September haven’t dampened my excitement! After a long search to find a Christmas brew that wasn’t an obvious and cynical attempt to use up the last of the years stale leaves and spices, I settled on a cup of hot chai to guide us through the final month of the year. I also dunked a sugar cookie shaped like a Christmas tree in it for extra mystical insight.

Starting at the top of the cup I found an arch, and owl and a trophy. An arch means a coming journey abroad, an owl is gossip and scandal and the trophy is for success. If you’re fleeing the country to escape an indiscretion then this is the month to do it. The press won’t follow you and everyone will have forgotten all about whatever it is you did by the time you get home.

Moving on I found a candle, a book and a clock. The candle means help from others and the pursuit of knowledge, the book is successful legal action and the clock is a warning to look to the future and not to delay. With you safely out of the country, whoever it is that’s been telling tales on you in the first place will feel even more comfortable spreading rumours. Get any friends who you haven’t alienated with your bad behaviour to keep tabs on them and be poised to sue for defamation of character.

Further around the cup there was a penguin, an angel and a bell. Birds and angels are both omens of good news and the bell is for unexpected news so expect a pleasant surprise. This was followed by a house, a duck and a fish which mean security, money coming in and good things from overseas respectively. Having won big on your court case you’re now set up for life and free to gallivant off around the globe in pursuit of whatever nice things you may hear about. Remember that you’re rich and surrounded by scandal so whatever you do, do it in style.

At the bottom of the cup (along with the Christmas tree crumbs) was a ship, a train, a map, a shark and a mouse. The first three mean journeys and change, the shark is a warning to be on the look out for danger and the mouse is theft. This can only mean bandits! Or possibly pirates or train robbers, either way send your valuables on ahead and prepare for excitement on your voyage. You could always hire security with your new wealth but there’s no romance in that. Keep an eye open for attractive masked scoundrels and feel free to get hijacked for the holidays.

In summary December seems to be the month for bad behaviour, opportunistic windfalls, a jet set lifestyle and absolutely no unwanted consequences. Not exactly a quiet stay at home Christmas but not a bad end to the year!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Seagull showing up with good news

Seagull showing up with good news

November for me is a month of bonfires and fireworks so there is no better tea to help me see what it holds in store than a smokey cup of lapsang souchong served in the most garishly colourful mug I can find. My initial impressions of the month therefore are that it will be delicious but in extremely poor taste.

The first symbols I found to steer us through November were a seagull, a drum and a door stop. Birds are an omen of good news (to be expected from overseas with a seagull) and the drum can mean a change of job so if you’ve applied for work abroad you can expect success. Doors predict strange occurrences so a door stop to hold it open it should mean an unusual month. If you’re a fan of the quiet life you might want to think twice about accepting any job offers that come via airmail but the rest of us can prepare for adventure!

Next I was able to make out a heart, a ladder, a raven and a keyhole. The heart means love and the ladder predicts a promotion so this is the month for sleeping with the new boss. However the raven means bad news and the key hole is a warning about the dangers of curiosity so this is not the month to ask about the new boss’ past or try to snoop in locked drawers. Remember that this is a month of weirdness, you’ll need to balance the increase in salary on offer against the time you may have to spend repressing traumatic discoveries (there are also potential ethical dilemmas but the tea isn’t concerned with those at present).

Moving on I found a smiley face, a squirrel and an egg. The smiley face means happiness, the squirrel is prosperity after a hard time, and the egg means success. Hang in there. How much of a hard time the squirrel is referring to probably depends on what you found in the back of your boss’ wardrobe (I knew you’d look, don’t say I didn’t warn you!) but don’t worry. You may have moved far from home and your boss may have turned out to be deeply disturbing but it seems that things will work out in the end.

Black tea

Black tea

Finally there was a table, a star and a scythe. The table is a social gathering, the star is good health, happiness and a festive image at this time of year and the scythe is danger. This sounds like an office Christmas party to me. Don’t go. These things are disastrous at the best of times and you’re in a strange land and know things that no one should have to know about your boss. You don’t need my awesome psychic powers to see that this is a bad idea.

So in summary, November will be a month full of exciting career opportunities in exotic lands with only the most minor of mentally scarring setbacks. Stick with it for an exciting time but for the love of god don’t go to the Christmas party.      

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Cadbury Golden Crisp

Cadbury Golden Crisp

October is traditionally a month of spookyness and candy related mayhem full of child like fun and laughter. What could possibly go wrong? A cup of ghostly white tea seemed appropriate to the season and harboured the following dark portents of impending doom…

At the top of the cup there was a lollipop, an axe and some kind of weird looking elf creature. Continuing on I could see a man standing facing me, a moth, a stapler and a rabbit. Further down I found a jug, a harp, a leaf and a set of bellows. Finally at the bottom of the cup there was a bull, a microscope, a snake and a cross.

A lollipop around Halloween seems innocuous enough but it’s followed by and axe which means overcoming difficulties so we’re probably looking at a trick rather than a treat. The weird-looking gremlin thing is probably the source of the trouble, the tea is warning of dark forces rising this Halloween. Beware of children with surprisingly realistic Halloween costumes, they are most likely satanic imps of chaos. I recommend barricading the door and lowering candy to any genuine trick of treaters from an upstairs window.

The man standing near the handle of the cup means a visitor, a moth is a symbol of night-time and dreams, the stapler isn’t a well-known mystical omen but we’ll take it as work related and a rabbit is the need for bravery. So we have a symbol of a boring job, the arrival of a dreamy stranger and a need for some new-found courage. If that isn’t the set up for a good Halloween story I don’t know what is. Given the juxtaposition of the other symbols with the humdrum of the stapler you can expect this to be a sudden and dramatic change. Look out for handsome men being thrown through your office window by demonic forces or dragging you in to supply cupboards to hide from the creature of the night. It will be up to the two of you to make a stand against whatever unspeakable nightmares are prowling the dark in search of blood and candy.

A jug is an increase in importance, a harp means the course of true love running smoothly and a leaf is good fortune but the bellows means plans going wrong. Romance isn’t going to be a problem this month, even battling the forces of darkness can’t ruin the mood. Other things are likely to go awry though so expect the unexpected and stay on your guard. Try to look on the bright side, if the power suddenly goes out try think about how romantic it will all be in candle light and not about all of the unseen shadowy horrors. Make the most of the time with your fellow survivor and remember that blind, screaming panic is unattractive.

Finally we come to the bull, which is a confrontation, a microscope, meaning the need for careful scrutiny and planning, the snake, representing an enemy and the cross which is a symbol for sacrifice. We seem to have reached the dramatic final stand between you and the forces of evil. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be easy. Beware of rushing in unprepared, the consequences of failure could be grave for all the world. The cross suggests you may have no choice but to go down in a blaze of glory dragging the unholy menace with you.

Allow me to thank you in advance for your noble sacrifice, ridding the world of unspeakable evil and turning Halloween back in to a night of fun and frivolity.

Good luck, god speed and a happy Halloween to you all.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Jasmine Dragon Tears green tea

Jasmine Dragon Tears green tea

So quickly we reach September and the end of Summer.  If your year is flying by as fast as mine, then predicting the future may feel a little redundant — just blink and it’s here. Still, having been given such awesome psychic gifts, it would be irresponsible of me not to use them. It’s always helpful to know what might be coming our way, so here are the insights I gained from this month’s cup of jasmine green tea.

The first symbols I found were a rocking horse, a lion, a table, and a butterfly. Horses are symbols of love and romance so a rocking horse could be childhood sweethearts, lions are influential friends, a table is a social gathering and butterflies are fickleness and loss of money. Now, we could take this to mean a cheating spouse and an expensive divorce, but this was an optimistic tasting tea so let’s look for a happier interpretation. If you find yourself invited to the same party as someone you’ve been admiring from afar for a while, then the host could be playing matchmaker. Expect success, but be warned that your crush may turn out to be a bit of a financial liability.

Magnifying GlassNext, I could make out a campfire, a saxophone, and a magnifying glass. Fire is achievement, the saxophone tells of a passionate affair with a musician, and the magnifying glass is a warning against exaggeration. Now, I’m not saying that all musicians like to brag, but the magnifying glass might be a warning that your new sweetheart isn’t quite the musical genius they believe they are. Think twice before helping to finance the tour.

Finally, in the bottom of the cup for September, I found a tree, a key, a balloon, a question mark, and a submarine with a periscope. The tree is change for the better, the key is new opportunities, and the balloon is short term difficulties. Combined with the question mark and the periscope, this means some very careful research from a safe vantage point is needed before you take advantage of new developments. Things with the musician will be fun while they last, but you’ll quickly get tired of driving the band around and will be ready to move on to someone slightly more solvent. Be careful not to just jump on the next potential suitor that comes along. The tea seems to recommend some careful observation before pursuing anything new.

Try to keep it below stalking level.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What's in store for you in August?

What's in store for you in August?

As August begins, it is once again time to tear open the tea bag of time and gaze in awe upon the leaves of destiny to see what may be revealed to us. While preparing this month’s mystical brew, a lovely chocolatey Keemun black tea, I scalded myself with the water, dropped the teaspoon and spilled tea everywhere. It was certainly an ominous start. So it was with some trepidation that I peered into the cup to instantly see a huge spider. Being something of an arachnophobe, this did not settle my frame of mind, but it turns out that spiders actually can mean luck with regards to money. They can also be a symbol of secrecy, but I’ll try to look on the positive side of that one.

Having calmed myself down enough to look back to the leaves, I saw a monkey, a square, a boomerang and a shark. The monkey can be a warning to think before you act, a square is for protection, the boomerang is, obviously enough, things returning to you, and the shark means to look out for trouble. We seem to have quite a lot of ominous animal symbols this month, so clearly it’s not the best time to visit the zoo. If you do get caught in some kind of freak plague or stampede, be careful when choosing your hiding place and, if you’re cruel to animals this month, expect swift retribution.

Keemun Panda China Black Tea

Keemun Panda China Black Tea

Following that fairly dramatic warning, there were two bells, a bicycle and a snail. Bells mean you will soon hear news, bikes can be a symbol of a bad day and a feeling of isolation, and a snail is a warning to proceed slowly. When the reports reach you as to which direction the impending zoological menace is approaching from, don’t just rush out of the door and jump in the saddle — you will clearly end up stranded somewhere unfortunate. Take your time, gather a group and choose an escape vehicle with more than two wheels.

Having made it to the bottom of the cup, I found a basket, a clenched fist, the mathematical symbol for division, a butterfly, and an arrow pointing away from the handle. A basket means abundance, most probably referring to the abundance of wild animals soon to be bearing down on your location. The fist means an argument, so I think we can take the symbol for division to be literal; it is likely that some of your party will strike out on their own after a disagreement. The leaves don’t say whether they make it to safety or not but, as nothing else seems to be looking good this month, I wouldn’t risk going with them.

A butterfly can be fickleness and the loss of money, effectively cancelling out any good vibes from our spider, which now just means secrecy, so you can expect a government cover up once the rabid beasts have dispersed. The arrow pointing in that particular direction means having to tell someone bad news, probably that their loved ones have been trampled during a foolhardy escape attempt.

In summary, August is likely to be fraught with danger and filled with arguments as you desperately try to survive an improbable scenario about which no one will believe you afterwards.

Have a great summer everyone!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Editor’s note: This article is presented for entertainment purposes only. As of the posting date, there are numerous travel warnings for Egypt, issued by the U.S. Department of State, Canada, the UK, and other countries.

Gunpowder tea pre-leafreading

Gunpowder tea pre-leafreading

Once again it is time to complete the ancient magical and arcane rite of ‘a sit down and a nice cup of tea’ to see what insights may be revealed in the future for the month of July.

First unearthed in the remains of a very enjoyable cup of gunpowder green was a triangle, two pyramids, a cube and a smile. The triangle was pointing upwards which means an unexpected event with a positive outcome, the pyramids are a sign of solidity and success, the cube is a symbol of safety and comfort and the smile is, obviously enough, for happiness. Clearly we’re off to a very good start. July will be a month of shocking developments turning out well, a good month for adventuring. Safe adventuring and pyramids aren’t usually things you’d associate with each other so there could be a rare opportunity here.

Looking further around the cup I found a fish, a tie, a doll and a horn. A fish is good things coming to you from overseas, the tie is work, the doll is play, and the horn is abundance. It’s summer holiday time and you can expect many good things from your trip abroad. Egypt might be a particularly good choice if you want to take advantage of some of the earlier hints in this month’s reading.

Towards the bottom of the cup there was a bowl, a duck and a daschund. The bowl can represent a new interest, the duck means gaining money and as for the dachshund, a dog means a friend, so if you have any particularly tall friends, then now is the time to let them talk you into trying new things. Raiding pyramids can, for example, be very profitable; it all depends on the type of friend you ask.

Finally, there was an inkwell and a shepherd’s crook, which respectively mean a letter and authority. The crook is also a common Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol representing rulers or governors. This could mean that you will be receiving important documents or, in another context, it could theoretically be a warning to pay particular attention to any writing you might find on the tombs of ancient rulers — curses, warnings, that kind of thing.

In summary, the tea leaves are forecasting a happy and profitable month in which trying new things will pay off and during which undead mummys and elaborate ancient booby traps are likely to be at a minimum.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Shop online

Shop online

Tea plantations provide us humans with the second most popular drink on the planet, but they are popular with other species of critters for different reasons. Tea plantations globally are host to 1,031 species of arthropods alone, not to mention the thousands of other insect, plant and animal species that have made themselves at home there. Tea plants aren’t harvested in their entirety and have to be nurtured to continue producing high quality tea, so the plantations are a source of continuous shelter and food, with soil that is well fertilised and cared for in areas that are often relatively nutrient poor.

When wild species begin to exploit the tea plantations and their many attractions too successfully we end up with pest species, a major problem for any agricultural crop. The problem of pest control becomes more complicated when you realise that the specific species affecting a crop changes depending on the time of year, current climate and age of the plantation itself. It’s all a bit of a headache, and it isn’t surprising that some farmers choose to use the pesticides which can rid them of the most pests with the fewest applications, a topic of much debate in recent years.

Tea plantations are teeming with life, and it doesn’t take a large shift in farming practice to make them even more so. There will always be species that are happy to put up with our “strange ways” in order to call the plantations home. They are fascinating habitats, but the study of their ecology is primarily carried out for commercial reasons, with the challenges of pest control as the main focus. Tea plantations have so much more to offer the enquiring mind. More and more tourists are visiting tea gardens and gaining an appreciation of these unique habitats. The lucky ones will have the chance to see some fantastic, yet dangerous if approached, wildlife.

In Africa, tea bushes are sometimes grazed by passing rhinos and elephants. In India, tigers can be seen crossing plantations as they make their way between areas of forest. In China, there are remote tea gardens that share their habitat with the rare and beautiful clouded leopard, and the sight of monkeys around the tea bushes has given rise to the urban myth of a variety of tea picked only by primates due to the precarious location of the trees.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Deluxe Tea Chest - Natural Cherry Finish

Deluxe Tea Chest - Natural Cherry Finish

Since I nagged you all about proper tea storage for an entire article, I think it’s only fair to point out some of the compensations of responsible tea leaf stewardship. While the less virtuous amongst us will have a cupboard full of boring boxes and packaging, we who care for our beverages can choose to use a tea caddy instead.

The first tea caddies seen in Europe made their way over from China, as did all of the earliest tea table accoutrements, and were made of porcelain or glazed pottery. They were attractive, ornamental things for the tables of the upper classes who were the first tea drinkers. As tea became a drink for the masses, cheap, functional caddies became a household must for the days when tea was bought by weight instead of in pre-packaged boxes. Wood was the most common material, though there was always a place for expensive, ornamental versions fit to sit along side the silver tea pots and fine china of posh tea tables. Tea caddies often came with different compartments for different types of tea, and for the true enthusiasts tea chests were used for the storage of huge volumes of tea.

As tea became cheaper and more readily available, people became less concerned with carefully storing and preserving it and tea caddies were used less and less. Today, they are more of a collectors item than a kitchen must have, and I think that’s a real shame. If you’re willing to look, tea caddies can be found in every shape and size and offer another opportunity to customise and personalise your tea drinking.

It may seem strange to go to the trouble of buying a box for a product that already comes in one, but a tea caddy isn’t in danger of degrading like a cardboard box and they’re more airtight. They really will offer better protection for your tea and they’re pretty as well! If you’re reading this blog, then you’re probably well on your way from being a tea drinker to being a real enthusiast. Treat yourself to a tea caddy as a great bit of kit for a wonderful new hobby, so when you find a tea that you think deserves special care, you can treat it like the luxury it is.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

16oz Flavor Protective Tea Canister

16oz Flavor Protective Tea Canister

For many people tea is a drink of convenience analogous to instant coffee. You take a bag out of a box, pour on boiling water, remove the bag and go about your daily business. Tea has been marketed this way so successfully that leaf tea and tea bags are now two completely different products, one of which is an easy everyday drink and the other a complicated luxury requiring time and equipment.

It is easy to forget that, even in its cheapest and most convenient form, tea is nothing more or less than the carefully dried leaves of a plant and, just like any other plant matter, it breaks down over time. Given the wrong conditions, you eventually end up with dust or leaf litter, fit for nothing but compost.

You wouldn’t expect a product that was historically stored in bricks and tossed around on ocean voyages to be particularly fragile to the ravages of the average store cupboard but, if you want to get the absolute best out of your tea, then you do need to think about proper storage. Tempting as it is to just leave teas in the box they came in out on the kitchen counter, just a little bit more thought will dramatically extend the lifespan of your tea.

Your first step towards proper tea care is to try to exclude heat and light which accelerate the rate at which your tea degrades. Also, look out for moisture and strong odour, both of which can be absorbed by tea leaves, damaging them and changing their flavour. Thinking about where all of these problem conditions can be found in the average home you can see that a kitchen counter is one of the worst possible homes for a box of tea.

The best place for your leaves is in an airtight container in a cool cupboard. Green tea is more prone to deterioration than black tea and, if you live in a hot climate, then careful refrigeration is a good idea.

It’s a quick and easy thing to transfer your tea into a suitable container and find it a good home, and I urge you to do it. If not, those wonderful flavours will start to disappear, cup by cup. When you find a tea worth savouring, look after it properly, and you can savour it for months to come.

For more tea storage tips, see Ins and Outs of Tea Storage Containers and other articles on this blog.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I am an enthusiastic, if deeply inept, practitioner of several different arts and crafts. I enjoy baking, making all my own greetings cards, and doing terrible things with papier maché. My most successful creative endeavours tend to fall within the realms of knitting and crochet. I have a lot of enthusiasm and a real talent for making lumpy scarves. Luckily, it isn’t that hard to make a tea cosy; even when they’re not that pretty, they tend to be functional. They give the tea table an endearingly homey feel and you can really see that I’ve tried my best!

Teapot & Cozy Special - New Styles Available!

Teapot & Cozy Special - New Styles Available!

The first recorded use of a tea cosy was in 1867. They rose in popularity along with afternoon tea, and so their success can be attributed to that legendary tea time trend setter, Anna Maria the Duchess of Bedford. Prior to the fashion for tea as a genteel social event, the only objective for a pot was to hold tea. Now, however, they were there to be talked over, to be the centrepiece of afternoons worth lingering over, and to justify gossip sessions that would invariably continue long after the tea would normally be stone cold.

To cater for these extended tea times, either teapots had to become better insulators (which would have involved some very unfashionable bulking up, not at all suitable for an elegant lady’s table) or they were going to need some assistance. Tea cosys were the obvious answer, and another tea table accessory was born.

The joy of tea cosys is that they are incredibly adaptable and can be personalised in innumerable ways to suit every taste and fashion. They are cheap and easy to make, being of a basic ‘bag with two holes in it’ design, which even I have been able to master. They can be embroidered or quilted and are wonderfully simple to knit. Some people make beautiful versions just by varying the colours they use, others manage to incorporate entire stuffed animals into the design.

They are basically pull overs for you teapot and there is something very, well, cosy about them! You can find them cheaply and easily in the shops but if you’ve got the time why not try making your own? You can be safe in the knowledge that your teapot will wear it with pride no matter how it turns out.

See more information on how to Keep Your Tea Cozy.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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