Tea Tasting

What is it about tea parties? How do little girls and even little boys know about them? Right? How many of you have sat through a tea party with a collection of dolls and such fine edibles as leaves and sand and rocks pretending all the while that you are at the finest of establishments?

Since my early days of plastic teapots and muddy tea, I’ve taken tea at the Savoy London and at Brown’s Hotel. I graced Betty’s Tea Room once or twice and thought for a while that Darjeeling was my best friend. In short, I love a good tea party.

I can’t claim to organize anything nearly as posh as these establishments. But what fun to taste tea with a group of friends and a wide variety of tea!

Edibles:

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Scone bites
I used the Women’s Bean Project Denver Tea Room Cream Scone Mix from Trade As One to make tiny bite-sized scones, which I placed in a little plastic dish and topped with Strawberry Jam from The Cherry Hut. A dollop of whipped cream on top makes a delightful and light twist on the tea room tradition.

IMG_7145Berries in a tiny cup with a pinch of lemon zest and a taste of mascarpone are super refreshing and a great way to cleanse the palate.

IMG_7149 IMG_7146Melba toast with a spoonful of brie and apricot jam looks like little eggs but packs in the flavor.

I like to taste the gamut of teas when I do a tasting so we all get a sense for the nuances between greens, whites, oolongs, and blacks.

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My recommendations are:
Pai Mu Tan (white), Jade Cloud (green), Formossa Oolong, and Lover’s Leap (black). To round it all out and if there is time, I end with the tea that isn’t tea – our Compassion Spice rooibos. It finishes so well as it is comforting and calming.

With fall here and the holidays creeping up, now is a great time to break out the fancy china and plan a tea tasting with your friends!

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Olympics and the Temporary

Oh Olympic fever is taking hold! The excitement is building! Opening Ceremonies are on today and I’m thinking about how to best view them and what foods to have at the ready. As I’m typing this, I have a window open to USA Today’s online Olympics coverage where a clock is ticking down the time until the Opening Ceremonies. It’s not long now!

Next to the clock is an article about Michael Phelps in relation to his housing in the Olympic Village.  (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/london/swimming/story/2012-07-25/michael-phelps-ryan-lochte-share-suite-in-village/56485516/1) The Olympic Village is of course the temporary housing for all of the athletes and is meant to be cozy, a good place to relax, and designed to encourage friendly camaraderie with athletes from around the world. According to the article, Phelps has a single room in a four-bedroom suite he shares with six other swimmers including his rival Ryan Lochte. Apparently, the village has no air conditioning (and after having lived in London for a year I question why it would need air conditioning) but “athletes use rotating fans of the kind familiar in college dorms.” And then the article finishes off with: “Phelps said his room ‘is about the size of a closet. … You walk in, and I’m not joking you, my room is probably about that wide.’ And here he spreads his arms and then tucks his elbows in, to indicate his room is not as wide as his famous wingspan. ‘I have, like, a bed, a nightstand, a dresser,’ he said, ‘and that’s about all I got.’”

Doesn’t it just pull on your heart strings? After three very successful Olympics, shouldn’t Mr. Phelps be entitled to something more posh for his fourth and last?

“Temporary” is the key word here. The Olympic Village is home for roughly two weeks. Temporary.

Two of my Compassion Tea friends, Chris and Jack, are currently flying to South Africa where they will be visiting our partner in serving, Dawn Faith Leppan at the 1000 Hills Community Helpers clinic in the Valley of 1000 Hills. While they are visiting, they will be making a trip to Claremont Camp near Inchanga. According to Ms. Leppan, Claremont Camp was created “in 2007 [when] the local municipality identified a squatter camp near Claremont, on the outskirts of Durban, and it was planned that this population would receive government subsidized housing in Inchanga. In the interim they were moved to temporary housing structures adjacent to the land where the subsidized housing would be developed.” That was in 2007. Five years later, the population still lives in the temporary housing, which consists of  “6 rows of pre-fabricated temporary housing units with 60 rooms per row.” The estimated population is 2500 people of all ages. Ms. Leppan has described the camp as a place of high unemployment, high rates of alcohol and substance (mostly marijuana) use, and highly dangerous for several reasons.

1.     There are communal toilets but they are “blocked and littered with excrement.”

2.     The municipality supplies water but the connections are broken creating a “wet area which is a breeding ground for disease as well as wasting valuable water.”

3.     The camp has electricity… in the form of wires snaking across the ground, open connections and uninsulated wires exposed to physical contact. Ms. Leppan writes, “There have been several incidents of children and adults being shocked by electricity.”

4.     There is no safe place for the disposal of garbage so the camp is littered making it dangerous for children and animals and serving as another breeding ground for disease.

5.     HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and tuberculosis rage in this camp where people are over-crowded and there is little privacy.

For more information about the camp, read the blog from 1000 Hills regarding their initial visit to the camp: http://1000hch.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-story-of-inchanga-camp/

Ms. Leppan and her staff have set up a weekly mobile clinic at the camp in order to provide much needed medical care on-site including supplying contraception, training on how to live more healthy, and creating support groups for patients with chronic illnesses. They serve 40 to 50 patients a week at the clinic and are securing food for the roughly 200 families in need of food. Currently, they have enough to cover 60 families.

This is a slightly different temporary housing situation than Mr. Phelps’ closet-sized bedroom. And it is much less temporary. Thankfully, Ms. Leppan is making headway in improving conditions. Yet, this gives another insight into why waiting for government organizations to take action is not effective planning. CompassioNow and Compassion Tea both understand the necessity of grassroots efforts of support for organizations already operating in rural Africa. So, what can you do to help?

1.     Donate directly to CompassioNow on their website: www.compassionow.org.

2.     Purchase a tea membership through Compassion Tea (www.compassiontea.com/memberships). 100% of after-tax profits go directly to CompassioNow and on to people like Ms. Leppan.

The situation in Africa is proving to be anything but temporary. Together we can make it more temporary!

A Wink and a Nod

One day, two clean-cut young men dressed in stark white, freshly pressed shirts and black dress pants rang my doorbell. As I opened the door, they asked if I had received Jesus as my Savior and would I mind if they came in and shared the Gospel according to the Mormon Church with me. People have all kinds of reactions to door-to-door solicitors and preachers, most of which are less than hospitable. Most of the time, my inclination is to get rid of the person as quickly as possible without being outright rude. But these two were a bit interesting. Yes, I have accepted Jesus as my Savior, so really the literature they were holding out should be saved and used perhaps at a house down the way where Jesus is a curse word rather than a name of holy praise. One pushed further. “Do you believe God has sent prophets to our world even today?”

Now that was a great question! There is an overriding sense in Western culture that God is dead. Burning bushes, seas opening up for people to cross over, staffs turning into snakes and back again, flaming altars quenched by rains that appear out of nowhere after a lengthy drought… those are the stories of a time so long ago it almost feels irrelevant. It certainly feels antiquated and archaic. God just doesn’t appear to His people anymore, let alone send people into the world to prophesy.

When these two young men showed up at my door, I was beginning an eye-opening process whereby God was opening my eyes to the ways in which He does work in the world minute-by-minute, second-by-second, behind the scenes, covertly arranging and mystifying the person willing to look. At the beginning of this process, God had introduced me to a woman, a very good friend, who dreamed dreams, saw God in places I would never have thought to look, and who boldly and uncompromisingly preached God’s Gospel. Did I believe at that point that God sends prophets into the world even today? Yes. It was fun to see the faces of those two men when I jumped into my own experience with a prophet of today. Yep. There wasn’t much else they could say or do except invite me to join them at church someday.

Willing to look for God in my world, I am now seeing Him everywhere! One of my favorite places to look is in creation. When the white moon hangs over the brilliantly green ridgeline in the abundantly blue sky, my heart soars in praise of His creativity and goodness. But God is unlimited and even when we try to limit Him because of our own smallness, He shows up in big ways. If you are willing to look.

For example, this blog has been writing itself in my head for the past week. On Friday, Joni Eareckson Tada emailed this as her daily devotional.

“Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:3 (NKJV)

It’s time for the NBA basketball finals. When Ken and I went to a playoff game in the Los Angeles Staples Center, we sat in the cheap seats-up so high in the stadium we had a difficult time seeing the basketball players on the court. They looked so small. But then I glanced at the towering jumbo screen above the court. What a difference! We could see every player up close. Even facial expressions!

The screen magnified what was already there. The magnification didn’t actually make the players bigger, they just seemed bigger to our eyes. Every aspect of each player could be enjoyed. Here’s my point: When we “magnify” the Lord, we make the God who looks small in the world’s eyes seem…huge! No, we could never change anything about Him. He’s the same “size” He has always been. We can’t make Him any more grand or great or powerful than He already is. We just “enlarge” Him before the world’s eyes so they can see Him up close.

As Christians, our lives are a little like that jumbo screen. Through our actions and attitudes, we enable others to see God better. When we let the Lord showcase His grace and power in our lives, when we display His peace and patience and joy in our daily attitudes and circumstances, then we truly are magnifying Him.

The world has such a diminished impression of God. He appears so insignificant to so many. Most people don’t even take notice of him. This is why the world needs to see the true details about who God actually is. They need to see Jesus, in His love, His strength, His majesty, and His tender care.”

God knew what was on my heart; He probably put it there! Here’s a wink and a nod that I’m on the right track. Because we put limitations on God, have reduced Him to archaic and antiquated, we also don’t look for Him. But believe me, He is still showing up!

The Compassion Tea team believes that God is our CEO. That is one of the founding principles of our company. We invite Him to join every activity we have whether it be our weekly meeting or while we are preparing for a large event. We believe He comes and directs our paths. This week, He has led us down some amazing roads and reminded us of people He has put in our paths before who might be resources of information and aid to us. We only see a few puzzle pieces at the moment, but knowing that God sees the whole completed puzzle before us is enormously calming. He will reveal each piece as it becomes relevant to our road, to our puzzle. And we are so excited by the possibilities for outreach and compassion.

Let me relay one way God showed up for us recently. The first weekend in June was the big World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. If you follow us on Facebook, you know that some of our team attended. Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom had recently been to London for business. While there, they had the opportunity to purchase a special tea produced by the East India Company and picked from a bush HRH Prince Philip planted in 1954 in Sri Lanka. Only 500 caddies of this tea were produced and numbered. Ed and Wendy presented this gift to Anne and Lee Kennedy, Compassion Tea’s dynamic president and spouse who have done so much for the company, while in Las Vegas at the Expo. The number of this particular caddy? 85. Because they are willing to look for God, Ed and Wendy asked if anyone could come up with a special significance to that number. Lee did. “We have 85 memberships as of today!” A wink and a nod from God. When Lee and Anne returned home, membership 86 came in!

I think the world sometimes scoffs at Christians who look for God to show up and who see His influence. Happen stance, coincidence, fortune, magic, science, “miracle of modern medicine,” astrology are all ways the world today explains God showing up. Let’s call it what it is, people. God’s got a wink and a nod for you, too. Will you catch it?