One of the very first tea blogs I stumbled upon in the midst of creating my own was Teaspoons & Petals. It happened when I was searching for tea related items on Etsy and, at the time, the blogger behind T&P, Alexis Siemons, created an original haiku teaware line inspired by jazz music. With my love and history of pairing jazz with tea time, Alexis officially had my attention! While that line has been sold out for a few years now, today, Alexis focuses on teaching tea classes and developing tea programs and recipes for tea companies and restaurants. At the tea table, she shares her tea infusing techniques, gives us a peak at her tea space and we take a stroll down memory lane discussing her earlier moments with tea.
The kettle is on and I can hear it about to sing. What tea are you going to steep for us today?
Considering that there is snow shifting about with winter winds just outside by window, I am reaching for a roasted oolong (particularly Te Company’s Tristar ’05 Vintage Oolong Tea) that hugs your taste buds. It reminds of sitting in an aged leather chair by a crackling fire.
Your steeped stories and photography are a perfect representation of your passion for tea. How did you initially become interested in tea?
Thanks for the kind words! I feel honored that I have the chance to share my tea experiences and connect with fellow tea lovers thanks to the wonders of social media. Throughout my life, tea has always been a special sip. My very first tea memories are of my mother sipping her cup of tea outside on Saturday mornings when the world was still quiet (it was her time and I would simply just watch from within the house and let her soak in the peace). For that reason alone, I have always turned to tea when I needed quiet, peaceful moments. In 2008 I happened to pass a tea shop in Philadelphia while I was seeking a topic for a blog (as my passion for writing was calling me to the blog world that was still novel at that point in time). Prior to this tea shop visit, my tea world had only included a simple bag of black tea. As you could imagine, I was whisked into a world of aromas, origins and tastes that would propel me to learn more about share about my findings on the blog. Within a few weeks, tea companies from around the world began sending me tea and literature about their tea cultures, and I was smitten with this marvelous world and determined to pursue my passion.
How do you decide on what tea to pair with or infuse in certain recipes that you create for Teaspoons & Petals and others?
My kitchen is the heart of my home and eating is an adventure. So, whenever I am tasting a dish at a restaurant or at my table I always consider if it certain flavors remind me of a tea or would be balanced by a tea (whether paired or included in the dish). I’m always exercising my taste buds! And then if I am particularly intrigued, I head into the kitchen and test pairings and recipes to see if any are a fit. I often read about wine and beer pairings in food publications to see if they might share similarities with a certain tea that could be a replacement. My favorite general food pairing is tea and cheese. It’s the gateway to appreciating tea as a pairing or as an ingredient. You can simply buy wedges of cheese, steep a few favorite pots and find what fits. It’s a wonderful way to leap into the culinary world of tea.
It’s also a good excuse to indulge in some fabulous cheese! Let’s say you can only choose a few teas to have forever. Which ones can you not live without?
While I can fall deeply in love with just about any premium tea, I often crave:
luscious, floral taiwanese oolong teas (particularly bao zhong)
medium roasted wuyi oolongs (spice notes of rou gui is for special occasions) or inherent cedar, baked fruit notes of Ruby Oolong
bright, vegetal umami-rich matcha sips
vegetal, fresh, yet subtly sakura sweet notes of Shincha Machiko (which is fleeting and prized)
With your impeccable taste in tea and all of the tea related work in your life, you must have a dreamy tea space.
Tea has a place in almost every room in my home. While I’ve managed to organize and contain my collection of cups, pots, and spoons in most cabinets, I have purposely placed treasures on bookshelves, tables and mantles. In my kitchen, the back wall of cabinets are devoted to tea and teaware. I recently went through my entire tea collection and organized it by tea type on each shelf (while still sharing tea with friends that filled a dining room table hah). In my office, I’ve placed treasured cups on a mantle and tucked within a glass box you’ll find my very first tea set and tea treasures that belonged to my grandmother. In terms of daily use, I rotate through a variety of pots (glass, ceramic, yixing, gaiwan) and cups to treat myself to new experiences each day.
Black, Green, Yellow, White, Oolong or Puerh?
Hot, Iced or Cold?
Teapot, Infuser or Gaiwan?
Teapot (yixing particularly)
Straight, Sweetened or Latte?
Cheese or Chocolate pairing?
Who has been your greatest teacher in tea?
James Norwood Pratt and the incredible tea community that I feel honored to call my friends.
Find Alexis Siemons:
ABOUT THIS SERIES: Tea tells stories and when connected with humans, more are created. That’s where the idea for this blog series, At the Tea Table, originated. With this series, The Cup of Life asks tea lovers around the world to take us inside their tea lives to share their favourite steeps, spaces, routines and more. Meet some of your fellow tea drinkers here.