Tea for Texas: A Guide to Tearooms in the State Review


Original Cookbook Review by

Texas Tea Time

his month we will be doing something a little different. I was asked to review a book, Tea for Texas - A Guide to Texas Tea Rooms. I have read the book, tried some of the recipes and found it most worthy of sharing.

Written by Lori Torrance, Tea for Texas takes us on a tour that stretches from the Panhandle to the Houston coast and allows the reader to almost feel as though she has visited these places, tasted the delightful dishes and sipped the warm, sometimes cold, brewed beverages.

As Ms. Torrance points out and anyone from Texas knows, we Texans love our tea. Though the British most likely do not approve of our methods for preparing their beloved beverage, we have developed some traditions of our own when it comes to tea.

In the Hill Country, the perfect cup of tea is prepared by placing cold, filtered water in a teakettle. Bring it to a full boil, but remove before it comes to a rolling boil as over boiling will flatten the taste. Pour one cup into a clay teapot. Swish it around and then pour it out. This will heat the pot properly. Place loose tea in the pot (1/2 to 1 teaspoon for each cup to be made). If making more than six cups, add an additional teaspoon "for the pot." Put the boiling water in the pot, pour a little of the water off to "rinse the tea leaves," and infuse for exactly three minutes. For green tea, infuse for 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 minutes with the lid off. Shake the pot to let the leaves settle. Decant the tea into a warmed serving pot. If the tea is a two-water tea, it can be used a second time, but never drink tea that has been left over night; it has adverse physical affects.

Rinse the teacups with hot water. If you take your tea with milk, add it to the cup before pouring the tea. This will keep a fine porcelain cup from cracking. Never use cream because it curdles. If sugar is desired, add it after the milk, and then pour the tea. Keep the teapot warm with a tea cozy.

For the not so proper but still acceptable cup of tea, let the cold tap run for a while, then fill the teakettle. Boil water until it sprays the wall behind your stove, then pour one cup into the clay pot. Swish it around and then pour it out. This will heat the pot properly. Place loose tea in the pot (1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup to be made). Place the boiled water in pot and brew for 3 to 5 minutes. Use less time for less caffeine. Do not brew longer for darker tea; add more tea leaves instead. Decant the tea into a second serving pot.

For the eminently more practical cup of tea, place cold tap water in a teakettle to boil. Boil water until the whistle blows reminding you that you have left the kettle on. Place loose tea in pot (1 teaspoon for each cup to be made). Place boiled water in the teapot. Brew until you have dug out your year-old Girl Scout cookies hiding in the back of your freezer and strain the tea into a cup.

A cup of tea for the Modern Age: Nuke cold tap water in the microwave on the popcorn setting. Throw a tea bag into the cup. Remove the tea bag when the bottom of the cup is no longer visible. Throw the used tea bag into an old mug on the counter to be used for your next facial.

At Addison at the Garden Tea Room, the house tea is peach. The menu consists of a light and delightful garden salad, chef salad, tuna salad sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, turkey, ham and cheese, gourmet grilled cheese, pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches. Variations of this menu can be enjoyed in tearooms across the state.

Hmmm, no mention of desserts? Unfortunately, this book just could not accommodate recipes for all of the menus, but the author might do well to think about desserts for future publications.

Next, we discover some practical applications for tea. The author suggests soaking one's tired tootsies in a cool peppermint tea bath. One may also apply green or black tea bags to puffy eyes, but she warns not to use cranberry tea or you may end up with eyes redder than you started out with! Green or chamomile tea in bath water can lead to a super relaxing soak, and gray hair can even be dyed with black tea boosting your henna's color variation. Tea leaves in the refrigerator can absorb odors, and cold used tea bags clean mirrors and glass very effectively.

I found the menu at the Unicorn in League City to be quite appealing: the Newcastle Garden Salad, sandwiches including the Duchess, the Windsor, the Bismarck, the Nottingham, the Lancaster and the Kings Delight. Though many of the tearooms have similar menus, no two are exactly alike, and throughout the regions of Texas, local twists are added to old favorites such as baked potatoes filled with honey ham, asparagus and hollandaise sauce. Unfortunately this article cannot do complete justice to the Tea Rooms of Texas, nor to Tea for Texas. To delve further into this charming, witty, guide to tea and tea rooms, I suggest sipping a hot cup of tea while you browse. You will even get a few chuckles.

I have gotten some great menu ideas for my next tea party which happens to be scheduled for tomorrow with my lovely young daughter. I am now anxiously looking forward to visiting some of these tearooms with her.

Until then, we can reflect on Eleanor Roosevelt's quote:

Women are like tea bags. We don't know our true strength until we are in hot water.

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Tea for Texas: A Guide to Tearooms in the State
284 pages
Taylor Trade Publishing 2000-08-01
Purchase Book on Amazon.Com