“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
– William Arthur Ward
It’s been a whirl-wind since November 1st, when our Holiday Events kicked-off! This year we added on 13 (in addition to our weekly markets) which is more than we’ve ever participated in! So many people found us in more than one location. Lots of our regulars stocked up and shared wonderful words of encouragement like, “Please, never stop selling tea!”
If you followedPearl Fine Teasaround the DC Metro Area this holiday season or shopped with us online – We thank you from the bottom of our tea-infused hearts for supporting micro-businesses like ours!
All of the positive feedback and TeaLove we receive keeps us going and makes it all worth while. For us, tea is a magical daily necessity and if we can share that and make people happy, well then… that’s really all there is.
Whatever holiday tradition you celebrate, even if you just spend a quiet day alone, we hope it’s warm, cozy, full of love and includes endless pots of tea!
Our gratitude to and for YOU, our tea-loving customers and supporters expands far beyond the known universe!
Aside from all the rituals and celebrations that have been enjoyed since the dawn of time, it means that when we wake up tomorrow morning it will be seconds lighter. The darkness is now behind us and it’s only a matter of time for Spring and light to arrive.
I wrote a blog post on Yule / Winter Solstice last year and you can read it hereto learn about some different ways people celebrate the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere, which includes food and drink! Lots of spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves – and fruits like apples and oranges are often part of the celebration.
I couldn’t think of a better way to close out the2018 Tea Giving Eventthan with our Marché de Noel! Each year we celebrate and offer a Christmas Market Blend. This year it was French and we celebrated Strasbourgwhich is near the German border.
Nothing says “Christmas” like a tea blended with traditional warming spices and dried fruit. The 2018 blend is a black tea base with dried apples, orange peel, cinnamon and a touch of clove. There is a natural sweetness to it that is pleasantly surprising – which means you don’t need to add sugar. Bonus!
25 Days of Tea went by quickly! It started on Tuesday Nov 27th (#GivingTuesday) and is now complete on Dec 21st: Winter Solstice. Perfect synchronicity. I hope you learned something that you didn’t know before about a particular tea or blend, and that you were able to take advantage of the discount to enjoy a favorite or try something new!
Ok a little off-key, but what matters is that we are bringing back and kicking off our 25 Days of Tea Giving today – on Giving Tuesday!
If you are a regular TeaLove / Pearl FineTeas follower, then you may remember the original version of this from 2016 called 25 Days of Tea where we spotlighted and discounted a different tea each day leaving up to Christmas Day. In 2017, we called it Tea Kindness and gave a discount weekly. In 2018, we’re back to tea giving daily with discounts from today until Dec 21st – the last Friday before Christmas.
Kicking off Day 1 with one of our most recent and beloved tea blending endeavor: The Francis! Tea Blend. Francis caught our attention on Instagram in early summer and we’ve been smitten ever since. The backstory on this micro kitten is heart warming and you can read about it here on the latest feature on The Dodo. He’s also all over our Instagram page.
About The Francis! Blend: Long whiskery green tea leaves, tiny flowers that open slowly, small bits of crystalized ginger, dried ginger and granulated honey, with a micro-hint of orange citrus created in honor of our favorite micro-kitten! Fresh and bright with a touch of sweetness – with a slight zing from the ginger linger on the palate for a long while… A healthy green tea blend that brings about spontaneous happiness.
• Aroma: Earthy, sweet, floral, ginger
• Liquor (liquid): Light pale yellow
• Flavor profile: Easy, gingery, hints of citrus and honey
• Brewing recommendation: 175° Fº / 1-3 minutes
• Caffeine: Yes.
If you are interested in giving the Francis! Blend a try and supporting a wonderful cause, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas teashopand use code: GIVETEA1 at checkout and enjoy 20% Off this Blend – Today only.
We’re already donating 10% but are upping it to 20% today on Giving Tuesday! Thank you for supporting us so we may support others!
In honor of this last Friday before Christmas, and our 4 installment of Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness, we bring to you the mother of all spices: CINNAMON!
Cinnamon is quite frankly: magic. Aside from the immense healing properties (and there are many) its ability to curb a raging sweet tooth is legendary. But did you know about its rich and interesting history?
Cinnamon dates back to Chinese writings as early as 2,800 B.C and is still known as kwai in Cantonese
Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon during the embalming process
The Old Testament references it as an ingredient in anointing oil
In the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote off 350 grams of cinnamon as being equal in value to over five kilograms of silver, about fifteen times the value of silver per weight
The West has the Ancient world of Arab traders for bringing it with them when they traveled to Europe
Cinnamon was the Arab merchants’ best-kept secret until the early 16th century and to maintain a monopoly and justify its high price, the traders told stories and tales for buyers about how the spice was obtained:
“One such story, related by the 5th-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, said that enormous birds carried the cinnamon sticks to their nests perched high atop mountains that were insurmountable by any human. According to the story, people would leave large pieces of ox meat below these nests for the birds to collect. When the birds brought the meat into the nest, its weight would cause the nests to fall to the ground, allowing the cinnamon sticks stored within to be collected.”
Stories like that remind me of the tales told about certain teas like Monkey Picked Oolong and how Monks sent trained monkeys out to the tallest tea bushes to pick leaves. This clearly did not happen, but the idea was to show how difficult it was to obtain this product and that it was a luxury item. (That’s early ancient branding and marketing strategy at its finest.)
In 1518, Portuguese traders discovered cinnamon bark in Ceylon which is known today as Sri Lanka. They took over the kingdom of Kotto and took control of the cinnamon trade for about 100 years. It wasn’t until the Ceylon kingdom of Kandy allied with the Dutch in 1638 to overthrow the Portuguese occupiers. The Dutch ended up defeating the Portuguese, took control of Ceylon and the cinnamon monopoly for the next 150 years. Enter the British in 1784 and their victory in the 4th Anglo-Dutch War, and by 1800, cinnamon was sort of downgraded and no longer a rare commodity.
That’s a lot of fighting and history – over the bark of a tree.
Cinnamon trees are small evergreens that can grow to a height of 66 feet and contain aromatic bark and leaves. The tree bark is often peeled, dried, ground into powder, or rolled into strips. It is used in both sweet and savory foods.
There are typically 2 types of commercial cinnamon on the market today: Ceylon (Sri Lankan), Cassia (Indonesian and Vietnamese.) Cassia is the the cheaper variety and what is usually sold in grocery stores to use in cooking, baking etc… The more expensive cinnamon from Sri Lanka is more milder and sweeter and very, very, very good in tea.
The health and healing properties of cinnamon are long, but here are 5 important benefits:
High in antioxidants called polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids – compounds which work to fight oxidative stress in the body especially as we age.
Anti-inflammatory properties which may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, brain function decline, lowers swelling and inflammation, beneficial for pain management, soreness, and PMS.
Heart Health protection by reducing several common risks to heart disease like high cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure. Cinnamon also increases blood circulation and advances bodily tissue’s ability to repair itself after it’s been damaged. This includes heart tissue which is in need of regeneration in order to fight heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke.
Diabetes management. Helps lower blood sugar levels and also can improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin. It has been shown to decrease the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a high-sugar meal, which is especially important for those with type 2 diabetes.
Fights viruses and infections by defending the body from illnesses since its naturally anti-microbial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral.
Superfood? Probably! Super tasty? Without a doubt!
And it’s the feature of our 4th week of our Random Act of (Tea) Kindness initiative this month. Just in time for the Christmas holiday which is only (3 days away) please enjoy 22% OFF both our Cinnamon Orange Spice Black Tea and our Cinnamon Rooibos (Caffeine-Free).No discount code is required. Discount is automatically applied in your cart and is good from Dec 22nd thought Dec 27th!
Both teas have 3 types of cinnamon blended with orange peel and some sweet clove. You won’t need a drop of sugar in either of these teas. They are naturally sweet and 100% sugar free. Pairs perfectly with christmas cookies, desserts and general snuggling by the fireplace. We’ve also “heard” that a shot of brandy in either cuppa takes this to a whole new level.
This is our last post before Dec 25th so for those of you that celebrate…
Welcome to the best day of the year:
WINTER SOLSTICE or YULE!
Love this day because it means quite simply that… We made it! Starting tomorrow we are seconds closer to longer days and the light. (Be sure to check out our 4th week of RATK tomorrow as well.) But before we get into how we celebrate the darkest day of the year, here is a bit of information for those of you who may not be aware of the history of Winter Solstice and Yule, and how its related to modern day Christmas traditions.
The word ‘solstice’ comes from two Latin words: sol which means SUN and sistere means “to stand still.” To the ancients standing on Earth and looking up at the sky, it appeared that the sun stood still at this time of year. This is longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and is celebrated for the renewal of the sun – which is promised.
Yule, pronounced EWE-elle, is when the darkness of this part of the year finally recedes and gives way to the light. Literally, the very next morning at sunrise we are seconds closer to longer days. It’s a rebirth, and also gorgeous reminder that we are all connected to a larger network, nature, renewal and the cycle of change.
Some ancient customs and rituals around Yule/Winter Solstice include:
Ancient Ireland: Celts celebrated Meán Geimhridh during the Winter Solstice each day from Dec 19 -23rd by creating a sacred room or hallway at proper angles to catch the light.
Slavic countries (Russia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine etc): Believed in evil spirits and that they were at their apex on the shortest, darkest day of the year. “Darkness and the Black God defeated the sun on the Winter Solstice, after which a New Sun was born. The Old Sun, named Hors, was commemorated with a ritual dance.”
Asia: Chinese and other East Asians celebrate the Winter Solstice as well with the Donghi Festival– a time for rejoicing at the longer light hours to come, symbolizing an increase in positive energy (chi).
Nordic countries: Celebrates with a Yule Goat also known as Julbok. Thankfully, it isn’t a real animal and is typically made of straw. Its origins are rooted in mythology, but still adopted as part of modern Christian tradition. Most Christmas traditions are rooted deep in ancient Yule rituals, many coming from the Vikings. “Even the Christmas tree goes back to pre-Christian times. The Vikings decorated evergreen trees with pieces of food and clothes, small statues of the Gods, carved runes, etc., to entice the tree spirits to come back in the spring.”
Ancient Romans: The Saturnalia was the most popular holiday of the Roman year, was designated a holy day, or holiday, on which religious rites were performed, and described as one of “the best of days” (Poems, XIV). A time when a “whole mob has let itself go in pleasures” (Epistles, XVIII.3). It was an occasion for celebration, visits to friends, and the presentation of gifts, particularly wax candles (cerei), perhaps to signify the returning light after the solstice, and sigillaria.
England: We can’t talk about Winter Solstice without mentioning one of the most famous celebrations on the planet which takes place at Stonehenge. The ancient ruins of the Druids and Pagans who would gather there to chant, dance and sing through the night waiting for the sun to rise through the monolithic stones. Many people still travel there today to experience and take part in this magical tradition.
Germany: Evidently it was devout Christians from 16th century Germans who get all the credit for starting the tradition of having a decorated Christmas tree brought into their homes. Some say it was Martin Luther, who added lighted candles to a tree because he was in awe of the bright light from the stars above twinkling amidst evergreens. He wanted to recreate what he saw, so he put up tree in this main living area with lighted candles attached to branches by wires.
“The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings.
Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans. [And] After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. Also around this time, English author Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The story’s message-the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind-struck a powerful chord in the United States and England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday. The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s. Christmas provided families with a day when they could lavish attention-and gifts-on their children without appearing to “spoil” them.
As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.”
It’s widely known that the early years of Christianity designated Easter as the main holiday and the birth of Jesus wasn’t celebrated at all. It wasn’t until around the 4th century that Pope Julius I decided to create a holiday for his birth and chose December 25. It was called the Feast of the Nativity, and that custom made its way and spread to Egypt in 432, on to England by the 6th century and all the way to Scandinavia by the 8th century.
Fascinating to learn how these ancient rituals influenced modern day Winter Solstice, Yule and Christmas and that we are left with one thing that connects them all: food and drink. Sharing food is particularly meaningful during solstice as it represents faith in the return of the sun and the harvest. It’s also the a beloved part of the Christmas tradition.
Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb’s wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples) are a few of the foods associated with Yule. With the prevailing constant being some version of mulled wine. Natural Living listed some traditional beverages for Winter Solstice, Yule Christmas and even New Years:
Gluhwein: This drink originated in German-speaking countries. It is a red wine heated with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. Romainians call it vin fiert, in Moldova it is izvar, Italy it is vin brule, and in Latvia it is karstvins.
Glogg: This drink originated in the Nordic countries and was also called glug. It is red wine mixed with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, bitter orange and sugar and sometimes with vodka, akvavit or brandy. It is usually served with raisins, blanched almonds and gingerbread.
Navegado: This is a mulled wine from Chile. It is heated with cinnamon sticks, orange slices, cloves, sugar with raisins and almonds added.
Wassail: This drink is a mulled cider from Germanic countries. The word wassail comes from waes haeil, which means “be healthy”. The historical wassail drinks were more of a mulled beer or mead. They made it by mixing sugar, ale, nutmeg and cinnamon in a bowl which was then heated. They topped it with slices of toast which they called sops. The wassail bowl looked like a goblet and was made out of wood. Later the drink became associated with apples and the song was sung around the apple tree for the next year’s harvest. A-wassailing was going door to door, singing and asking (demanding?) the drink from the household, usually the rich in the town.
Hypocras: Another mulled wine heated with spices such as cinnamon, ginger, grains of paradise and long pepper. This drink was named after Hippocrates. Hypocras became more popular after the crusades until its popularity waned during the 18th century.
Eggnog: This drink was developed backed in the 1700’s in Europe. It was mixed with eggs and warm milk and served in a wooden mug called a noggin. Traditionally it was mixed with Sherry or Brandy. George Washington loved eggnog and he crafted his own recipes!
So today Dec 21, 2017 at 11:28am, we welcome Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere – the darkest day of the year. Though it made be the official start of Winter, it’s also the end of darkness and the dawn of light! How can that be bad?
For those of you interested in connecting with nature today and and preparing for the closure of the year, there are some rituals you can preform that are simple and easy to do:
• Try to stay away from electronics today. (yikes!)
• Try a meditation at sunrise and sunset. Ideally outside if the weather supports it.
• Smudge yourself and your home to purify, or to clean out negative thoughts. You can light dried rosemary, sage and lavender and walk around your home allowing the smoke to waft and purify the space.
• Leave a gift for nature such as sliced fruit such as sliced apples and seed for the birds, and other creatures.
• Try making and sipping a Winter-Solstice-Yule-Christmas Decoction (Tea):
3-4 cups filtered water (depending on desired strength)
½ an (organic) apple, peeled
2 whole cinnamon sticks (Sri Lankan)
½ inch chunk of fresh organic ginger, peeled
½ tsp (organic) orange zest
Optional: cloves or star anise or caraway seeds
A few (organic) raisins
Local honey if sweetness is desired
Place all ingredients into a pot and simmer slowly for about 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for another 10 minutes or so. Strain into a cup or mug. Add a few raisins and honey if desired. If you prefer to make this into a Glogg, spike it with dash of brandy then sip by candlelight, relax and direct your thoughts to gratitude for having a roof over your head, people to love, for being loved, and for knowing that the darkness is over and tomorrow we are given the gift of more light.
A cute cartoon came through my news feed on Facebook from RandomActsofKindness.org. If you aren’t familiar with them, it’s worth checking out. I’ve seen posts from them before, but this one? I loved best. Probably because it shows a cute mini-monk sipping tea with his beloved cat friend–also sipping tea. So happy. So peaceful. So comforting. In one little cartoon.
I’m a huge fan of small things and Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) overall. I’ve seen and experienced first hand what it does for the person on the receiving end – as well as the person initiating the kindness. Always a win-win. I also believe in the Number 1. And that 1 person, 1 thought, 1 step, 1 action can make a big difference. Even just sitting with someone over a simple cup of tea can have tremendous impact.
2017 was a milestone for Pearl Fine Teas. It marked a decade in the world of tea. We just kept going 1 step at a time…. 1 sip at a time… and woke up in July celebrating our 10 year Anniversary. This business has brought a lot of joy from so many people… even strangers (some who have become friends.) There have been many kindnesses bestowed along the way and I hope I’ve been paying it forward under my little 100 sq ft TeaTent each week.
Last year I blogged 25 Days of Tea leading up to Christmas Day. This year starting Friday December 1st and every Friday until Dec 29th, we’ll feature a tea, a holiday discount and offer a weekly Random Act of (Tea) Kindness. We’ll choose someone from our Twitter,Facebook, Instagram or from our E-mail sign up list to receive a free 25gram bag of one of our most popular loose leaf teas.
If you haven’t signed up on our website for specials and news, you can click here. Be sure to follow us on social media – especially on Fridays! And… if you feel inspired to participate in a Random Act of (Tea) Kindness, use the hashtag #PFTeaKindness and tag us so we can see how you are changing lives one small, random act at a time!