"The time has come to sip and speak,"
Giraffe and I agreed;
"of people, places, accomplishments
and tasks before us."

Giraffe inclined her graceful neck to me,
"To speak of Life and Tea."

[paraphrased w/the utmost respect to Lewis Carroll]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Make Her Smile

Imagine that you had always thought of yourself as pretty. Now imagine, if you can, that you received the diagnosis of "dry mouth disease" and nearly all of your teeth fell out. Imagine that you went from being a social butterfly to being a social recluse for the last two years. Your family cannot yet afford the dental work you need.  You can't bear to see family from out-of-state over the holidays.  You have to let your husband handle all the teacher meetings and any other activities of your children, because you are simply too embarrassed to go out in public.

This experience was told to our friend Kymm McLean of Who's the Fairest, in a private message in response to Kymm's Facebook post inviting people to tell her something beautiful about themselves. Kymm wished to spark a dialog in which people would be inspired to see and speak of themselves in a positive light.  But then Kymm heard from this person who just needed someone to listen.

Kymm's heart went out to this responder who asked for nothing but a shoulder and an ear, and Kymm decided to spearhead a fundraiser to help bring about the dental work that responder needs to Make Her Smile.  Kymm has lined up one of her clients who is a prominent cosmetic dentist:  Dr. Kathryn Sudikoff, DMD, to take the responder's case, and Dr. Sudikoff will charge only for the lab fees involved. Kymm set up a Go Fund Me campaign plus began taking donations via PayPal.  Kymm has other clients and colleagues donating makeup applications and haircuts and hair stylings and all manner of services for which some portion of their fees will go to Kymm's fundraiser to Make Her Smile.

The woman's plight and Kymm's drive to do something about it touched our hearts, too, and KTeas has figured out two ways in which we can help Kymm's fundraising efforts.

1)   Keeping it simple:  You explore www.KTeasOnline.com 
  and what we have to offer and make a purchase.  Be sure to write (type) in the Comments/Notes field on the order form and KTeas will donate 30% of the retail total of your purchase to Make Her Smile.
You can type in simply "Make Her Smile" or #MakeHerSmile.
You can type in Kymm's name.
You can just type us a little note telling us you want your purchase to count toward the campaign to help the lady who has lost her teeth.
And if "30%" seems a little too abstract, we'll illustrate:  let's say your purchase totals $25 retail, before shipping & handling and so on.  KTeas will donate 30% of that $25, or $7.50 to Kymm's Make Her Smile campaign.  If you think that doesn't sound like much, imagine if 30 people purchased $25 or more: then KTeas will donate $225 or more to Kymm's fundraising drive!

2)   Make her and someone else in your life smile!  Easter, Mother's Day, Wedding season are all approaching . . . perfect occasions for giving Gift Baskets!  Why not give a Tea-inclusive Gift Basket by working with KTeas and Southern Charm Gift Baskets [check out the website or download the app to be inspired by what you can create]
  to customize your perfect gift basket for any occasion?!
Here's how you can save $10 on a beautiful custom-built tea-inclusive gift basket valued at $40 or more:

First, make a donation at Kymm's Make Her Smile campaign at GoFundMe or donate via PayPal to whos_the_fairest@yahoo.com.---Or, if you prefer to send Kymm a check or present her with the cash so no percentage is taken out (as will happen with the sites), private-message Kymm on Facebook or email her directly at the email address given for PayPal to work out with her how to donate directly.
Next, contact KTeas, perhaps using the Contact Form, and show us something that shows you donated. Perhaps a link to the GoFundMe page showing your donation down the right side. Or, if you choose to donate directly, arrange something with Kymm to get some note or receipt to show us you donated.
Then, work with KTeas and Southern Charm Gift Baskets to decide which KTeas products you want to include in your gift basket and what other delightful contents Southern Charm can provide to make the perfect gift.
You will have to email us KTeasOnline@gmail.com and info@SouthernCharmGB.com to work out the particulars because we have not yet figured out how to tie our websites together for this kind of task.

Finally, when the perfect gift is completed and ready to deliver and make someone smile, KTeas will pay $10 of the gift's total cost for you, because you donated to Kymm's cause.

So won't you help us Make Her Smile?

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Silence of Three Parts - In Tribute to Patrick Rothfuss

It was the deep of night, and the second book in the series had come to an end.  The house lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.  
  The most obvious part was a vast, echoing quiet made by things that were lacking.  If it had been daytime, there might be children playing amongst the neighborhood houses outside. Their shouts and calls of joy might have reached inside to coax the silence away like a housebound child escaping her prison of afterschool homework. If there was a book club meeting, there might have been the comforting sound of teapot and tea spoon clinking against teacup and the pleasant chattering of members discussing the book to shoo away the silence like pestering hens. If there had been the soft sussuration of pages turning … but no, of course there were no pages turning.

Inside the house, the cats roamed in their nocturnal wanderings.  For a time, they had curled up by their human, the reader, creating this second part of silence in their stillness. But the calling of their natures prevailed, and presently they made the rounds of their domain on noiseless pads of feet. As cats are wont, they slipped between the molecules of air and effortlessly floated onto favorite perches with nary a sound, lending a stealthy silence to the larger echoing one.  They made an amalgam of sorts, a counterpoint.

The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened long enough, you might begin to feel it in the darkness that had descended as the reader could not resist turning page after page. It was in the circle of lamplight that surrounded the reader in the comfy reading chair and the small table with now-empty teacup and saucer and tea spoon resting on it next to the chair arm. And it was in the hands of the reader who held the now closed book, staring at the back cover unseeingly, her mind casting about aimlessly in an abyss now that there was no more to read.

The house and the comfy chair and the teacup were hers, though it could be argued the cats were not hers but rather she was theirs, just as the third silence was hers. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, holding the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a reader awaiting the release of the third book.

====  I am a newcomer to avid Patrick Rothfuss, The Kingkiller Chronicle fandom.    I would imagine I am not the first to have been inspired to pay homage to these incredible stories in this fashion, but I have not been around in the Patrick Rothfuss fandom universe long enough to have seen such tributes by others.  I apologize if it seems as if I am only copying others’ tributes.  I suppose I should also confess that I have not been reading physical books and turning pages, but rather have been reading the saga by way of audiobook expertly narrated by Nick Podehl,   whose narration I can only believe has enhanced the already-enthralling experience! Furthermore, I have not, in actuality, finished the second book—I have just begun it. It was when I slipped in the first CD of the second book     ---in the bright of day, I might add, though at least I am indeed reading/writing as the season is nearing autumn's end---and listened to Nick Podehl reading Prologue: A Silence of Three Parts, that this composition occurred to me, complete with references to turning pages. So I apologize for any affront unintentionally given and offer up this tribute to the magnificent storytelling of Patrick Rothfuss.

Monday, December 31, 2012

May You Always

May You Always

As the holiday bells ring out the old year, and sweethearts kiss,
And cold hands touch and warm each other against the year ahead,
May I wish you not the biggest and best of life,
But the small pleasures that make living worthwhile.

Sometime during the New Year, to keep your heart in practice,
May you do someone a secret good deed and not get caught at it.
May you find a little island of time to read that book and write that letter
And to visit that lonely friend on the other side of town.

May your next do-it-yourself project not look like you did it yourself.
May the poor relatives you helped support remember you when they win the lottery.
May your best card tricks win admiring gasps and your worst puns, admiring groans.
May all those who told you so, refrain from saying, “I told you so.”

May all the predictions you’ve made for your first-born’s future come true.
May just half of those optimistic predictions that your high school annual made for you come true.
In a time of sink or swim, may you find you can walk to shore before you call the lifeguard.
May you keep at least one ideal you can pass along to your kids.

For a change, some rainy day, when you’re a few minutes late,
May your train or bus be waiting for you.
May you accidentally overhear someone saying something nice about you.
If you run into an old school chum,
May you both remember each other’s names for introductions.
If you order your steak medium rare, may it be so.
And, if you’re on a diet,
May someone tell you, “You’ve lost a little weight”, without knowing you’re on a diet.

May that long and lonely night be brightened by the telephone call that you’ve been waiting for.
When you reach into the coin slot, may you find the coin that you lost on your last wrong number.
When you trip and fall, may there be no one watching to laugh at you or feel sorry for you.

And sometime soon, may you be waved to by a celebrity,
Wagged at by a puppy,
Run to by a happy child,
And counted on by someone you love.
More than this, no one can wish you.

Happy Holidays

Recorded by Harry Harrison
Written by Larry Marks, Dick Charles
(I hope the link works in the title: found a YouTube audio of this piece. Appropriate since it was originally done on the radio.  And I heard a few "May you"s in the recording that weren't in the text form I saved a few years ago!)

Finishing with a wonderful quote discovered just this evening:

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Happy New Year, dear giraffe, and everyone else, and may those words you place on those blank pages prove good words for you and yours.

Fast the way the old year passes ...

Another year passes already, my dear Giraffe.  How do you suppose this New Year will be rung in and observed around the globe? 

I must confess, I’m not sure what we’ll do even as the Eve swiftly approaches.  For many years we’ve had a shrimp ring on NYE, while whiling away the evening until the stroke of midnight.  We have well over a decade of photos from those first seconds after the ball drops in Times Square of us clinking glasses of sparkling apple cider or some juice and drinking to the New Year beside the TV with its Times Square festivities.  But somehow it just won’t be the same without Dick Clark.  I did laugh at the little sign shared around Facebook that read something like “Dick Clark is gone. We can no longer ring in the New Year. Well-played, Mayans, well-played.”, but it was a bittersweet laughter. 

(On a side note, dear Giraffe, I am in good humor over the fact that we “survived” the Mayan End of the World! Actually, as you well know, I never did fear the world would actually end on Dec. 21.  I don’t doubt that the Mayans, as many other ancient peoples, were highly accurate and very advanced in their calculations, but I know of two explanations right off the top of my head that have nothing to do with the world ending in disaster and destruction. 

( (a)  I’ve been given to understand that If you look at the Mayan Calendar as a whole, it depicts huge Cycles in the universe, stemming back to Beginning of Time as the Mayans understood it.  21 Dec. 2012 simply marked the end of some epoch they foresaw far off into their future, not the end of the world, not even the end of the world as we know it.  We of the modern day may simply have not found or not recognized where they took up recording the following epoch. 

( (b) The Mayan calendar may have ended abruptly for the simple reason that the civilization ended and so no one was projecting into the future anymore.  I’m not saying it ended overnight, but the struggles of the members of the civilization to deal with invasions and possibly natural disasters and massacres and whatever else contributed to the end of the civilization might well have distracted those who were dong the calculating and recording.  Either way: no more Mayan calendar, yet no end of the world.)

Not only is Dick Clark absent, but until just a few years ago, those photos were taken on a film camera for which I had a remote control, which made it so easy to take the pictures at the right moment: When I set the camera up on the tripod, I left the date-stamp feature so that the first photo would be taken at:
1  00:00  (representing the 1st at 00:00am).
Then I would run over to the tripod, switch the datestamp to read: 1-1-xx (whatever year it now was), and run back to those of us gathered in front of the TV so we could clink glasses again and the timestamp on the photo would be dated January 1, xxxx. 

Even after I got my first digital camera, I would make sure I had film to use in the film camera on NYE, and then of course I had to use up the roll of film quickly to get it developed.  Finally, one year I discovered on NYE that I had the film in the camera still from the preceding NYE, had never finished the roll and last year’s NY’s shots were still in it. 

After that, I used the digital camera.  I never remembered to search for a remote that would work on the digital camera throughout the year, so I ended up simply using the timer feature, which was a little harder to manage since I had to run back and get my glass of bubbly and get into position with it---oh, and smile---in the few seconds the timer provided.  Only a few years ago, we had guests for NYE who had been NYE guests in the past, so they knew of the tradition and took part.  Something odd happened that NY's with the timer:  we were standing there holding our glasses touching and waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  It didn’t go off.  Okay, I must’ve done it wrong, but there was still time in the first minute of the year.  I ran over, hopped up on the chair that allowed me to look down on top of the camera on the tripod, where the controls were, carefully set the timer again, making sure it was set on the 3 rapid shots in a row in case I didn’t get into position in time, at least there would be 2 more chances before it was done taking pictures  . . .  and it didn’t go off. 

We finally gave up on it and just clinked our glasses and toasted each other---and the camera began taking pictures.  So that we are laughing uproariously as the first pictures of that year are taken.

Last year, we had acquired our first smartphones with cameras, and I had an Android tablet for the first time.  We decided to play around with our new devices on NYE.  We quickly realized that we didn’t have convenient stands or tripods for the phones or the tablet … well, the tablet’s case did form a stand, but we weren’t sure it would point the camera in the right direction or at the needed angle,  so it was all an experiment.  We pretty much just held the phone out to try to get us clinking glasses that way, and we made a short video of us doing a chorus line in front of the TV with the fireworks and so on after the ball dropped. 

This year, as I said, I don’t know what we’re going to do.  Never did actually look for such a thing as a remote control for the camera in the phone or the tablet, and just as always happened with the digital camera, here it is NYE, midnight only hours away, and I’m realizing I need to figure out how we’re going to set up the photography. 

Yesterday, as we drove back from visiting family out-of-state, with more family having joined us from all over the country, I actually got to do some catching up, thanks to my smart phone and ::gasp!:: internet access.  I got to catch up by scrolling back on Facebook, and even more amazing: I got to follow links that were shared and actually read the articles or blogs to which the links linked.  ::more gasps:: 

One such blog entry I was thus led to dealt with New Year’s traditions:  a lovely restaurant we’ve discovered near us: Carlos CafĂ© Cuban Restaurant, presented with the caption “New Year’s Eve Cuban Crazy!” a link to a blog called My Big, Fat, Cuban Family, in particular to a Dec. 31 blog entitled “Cuban New Year’s Eve Traditions”.  . . . I found it very entertaining, we already do the sparkling cider thing, and I’m tempted to give Cuban superstitions traditions a try.  Don’t know if I could manage to continue my tradition of photographing the New Year’s advent as we try all those things, but I did pick up some grapes at the store today . . .

Oh, and apologies for the TMI, but the blog’s closing remarks reminded me of having heard over the years of the superstition/tradition of wearing red underwear when ringing in the New Year, so I have my red undies on, already!  Furthermore (and here’s where it really gets TMI), the bra is one that I am able to wear again, thanks to losing nigh unto 65 pounds in 2012 after finding Dr. Matthew of Signature Wellness who took me seriously that there was something wrong and who found about 5 things wrong and helped me begin correcting them!   So all in all, definitely a good way to celebrate / observe the positive aspects of the year that is passing and beginning the next year full of hope!

I do hope, my dear giraffe, that people will share what they do to ring in the New Year.  I also hope that everyone will keep in mind the adage that what you do on New Year’s Day will have an impact on what you’ll be doing for the year. 

In light of that adage, and in view of the difficult year this has been for by far the majority, my wish is that everyone will Keep the Faith, whatever Faith they observe and practice.  And as part of that, that they will resolve to try to help others bolster their Faith, even when it differs from one’s own. 

---And Read.  Read on New Year’s Day and throughout the year! I love one of those shared signs on Facebook that reads:   “Books are a hard-bound drug with no danger of an overdose. I am a happy victim of books.” 

. . . Oh, and Tea:  Drink lots of tea on New Year’s Day and throughout the year!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Our Town for Thanksgiving

"ThanksGiving is good but ThanksLiving is better!" Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Giraffe. I believe that gratitude quote is attributed to Matthew Henry.  Earlier this week I drove by a sign that read that and looked it up, I thought it was so excellent a sentiment for Thanksgiving.

Something else perfect for the Thanksgiving Day Holiday:  Ever since I saw the high school production our children were in or on production crew of Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town", . . .  

Our Town: A Play in Three Acts (Perennial Classics)
by Thornton Wilder by Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Paperback ~ Release Date: 2003-09-23

List Price: $13.99
Our Price: $2.99
Buy Now

. . . I have felt that "Our Town" is the perfect accompaniment to the sentiment and purpose of Thanksgiving. What a magnificent time to reflect on our lives and what we all-too-often appreciate in our lives without ever expressing that appreciation, whether to the people in our lives who we appreciate, or simply acknowledging aloud that we appreciate something in our lives or some aspect of our lives.

As many folks do, I'm sure, I have some traditions for the Christmas holiday season that revolve around movies or at least holiday entertainment programs. I consider it a "must" to see the original "Miracle On 34th Street". for example, as well as Jimmy Stewart's "It's a Wonderful Life"; let's not forget "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" ("It's a holly, jolly Christmas ...!"), --oh, and of course the 1/2-hour animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". . . . But I'd never had in mind a must-see movie for Thanksgiving, until "Our Town". It turns out there are DVDs of "Our Town": movies or at least filmed stage performances like this one:

Thornton Wilder's Our Town, Two Historic Productions on Two DVD
by Mastervision
Starring:Spalding Gray Hal Holbrook
DVD ~ Release Date: 2005-10-20
DVD ~ Release Date: 2005-10-20

List Price: $59.95
Our Price: $46.99
Buy Now
I now have a Thanksgiving movie to watch and the book. The story is perfect for a day dedicated to Being Grateful: for our country, for our families, for our friends. 

The message of "Our Town", one of gratitude for each minute of our lives, is not unlike the Tea Ceremony of Japan. Surprised, my friend? The Tea Ceremony has become so stylized and ritualized, but the root of all of it is Slowing Down, taking note of the details of your environment and appreciating them, Appreciating and Honoring your Guests, as well as the Tea that you are preparing. . . . 

Dearest Giraffe, if you wonder how I can say "Our Town" and the Tea Ceremony and Thanksgiving all "go together", consider these moments toward the end of Act 3:

Emily has passed away and her spirit in the graveyard has realized it is possible to "go back", to view--indeed, to relive days and moments of her life. The other spirits discourage her, insisting it's not wise. When Emily insists that she will not choose a moment that will cause her pain, that she will choose a happy day---one spirit admonishes: "No!--At least, choose an unimportant day. Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough."

. . . Emily persists, choosing the day of her 12th birthday. Emily is there, viewing her fellow townspeople and her beloved family for only minutes before she bursts out, first about her parents:
"I can't bear it. They're so young and beautiful. Why did they ever have to get old? Mama, I'm here. I'm grown up. I love you all, everything.--I can't look at everything hard enough."

. . . In another few moments, as Emily's spirit observes her mother bustling about the normal morning routine, not even stopping for the fact that it's Emily's birthday, Emily's spirit cries out unheard to her mother,
"Oh, Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. ... But, just for a moment now we're all together. Mama, just for a moment we're happy. Let's look at one another."

. . . After just a bit more of the mere start of her 12th birthday happens right before her gaze, Emily's spirit cries:
"I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another." She breaks down in sobs, then continues: "I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed." 

"All that was going on and we never noticed."  Still brings tears to my eyes.  I must be careful not to get tears in my morning cup of tea--My Morning Cup of Gratitude, of ThanksLiving, as I contemplate making "Our Town" a part of our Thanksgiving tradition . . . and better yet, just resolve from now on to Notice.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Magic of Tea to Transport

Ah, ::sighs::. Hoped to see the movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" for Mother's Day. Previews and commercials and snatches read from articles like this brief remark from the Chicago Sun Times:

A tea-time tonic ...

all point to this movie being my cup of tea in more ways than one. However, the delightful-sounding movie does not appear to be playing in our area the weekend.

However, as enchanting as that movie sounds, it has proven not the only video epitome of my cup of tea to materialize in recent days. Storytelling and its power, particularly as relates to Tea, or Tea to Storytelling, did make an impact when I watched the DVRed "Harry's Law" episode "Class War" (aired 06 May 2012). One of the stories in "Class War" revolved around Adam and Phoebe taking on the case of a British gentleman: Tony Trafford, who once upon a time was an art thief who, at age 17, stole a Rembrandt without even knowing it was a Rembrandt, and now, some 20 years later, the painting has been recovered and the theft traced to Tony, who is facing extradition back to Britain though he's led an exemplary life in the States since that time----and now owns a neighborhood Tea Shoppe!

What a hoot it was when the gangster types made their way into the Shoppe while Adam and Phoebe were talking to Trafford, and one gangsta' said, "Need some more of that white stuff: my friend here is feeling poorly."---and it turns out "white stuff" = White Ayurvedic Chai Tea!

The story about the rhino charge and pointing to the rhino head on the wall to back up his story was priceless! Wouldn't be surprised to learn that the rhino head was on the wall when he acquired the Shoppe, so he might as well come up with a story to go with it!  Makes me think of a James Norwood Pratt session at the World Tea Expo a couple of years back wherein Norwood Pratt spoke of the Romance of Tea.  Norwood Pratt's contention was that we do ourselves and our clients a dis-service in getting away from the Story of Tea, that the Story of Tea is as much a part of the Tea Experience as is an appreciation for the nuances of Tea or the Science of Tea.  The story of the rhino may not have had anything to do with Tea in itself, but the fact that the one fellow brought his friend to the Shoppe to hear the story brings home the importance to the Mystique of Tea and the Tea Experience of Storytelling.

That storyline in "Class War" did not stop there.  You may recall, dear Giraffe, that a little over a year ago, I posted something on Facebook referring to an episode of "The Forgotten" in which a character said:

Emma always fixed us teas from all over. She said it was our way to travel the world.

I was enchanted by the idea. It put into words what I had long held only at the stage of feelings. The notion also tied in with another of our favorite books:  Lisa Boalt Richardson's The World In Your Teacup. The entire book is basically on that premise of traveling the world via tea and tea culture in each locale.  Tea Culture often includes stories.

Thus, I was thoroughly enchanted by Adam's closing remarks regarding why Trafford should not be expedited, because of the benefit he brings to his community through his Tea Shoppe.  I loved it so much, I had to watch it over and over again before I could bring myself to delete the recording.  As a result, I am able to share those remarks with you:

. . . We didn't help the neighborhood, we helped to displace it. That's what Gentrification is: it's a pretty word for an ugly business. It takes existing neighborhoods and obliterates them to make room for the affluent.

On Weston Street where Mr. Trafford's Tea Shoppe is, where all these people live, there's no Pottery Barn, no Jamba Juice, there's not even a lousy bookstore. What there is is a lot of poverty. The people that live there, these people: they don't get to travel, or take fancy vacations or fly to exotic destinations, but they can go to a little tea shop.

And there, a man will serve them tea, and take their imaginations on the most incredible journeys. This man. He's transported all these people all over the world without ever leaving their neighborhood.

You might not think that counts for much, but you listen to these people: he makes them smile. He fills their hearts and minds with wonder---even a little magic sometimes. Where so many businesses, mine included, displace neighborhoods, he enriches his.

He gives back to his neighbors every dingle day. How many of us do that?

The crime in question took place 20 years ago. It's been solved. The painting has been retrieved. Victims have been made whole---perhaps even moreso given the appreciation of the Rembrandt. If you take my client from this neighborhood, these people will never be made whole. They'll lose their safaris, their trips to Machu Picchu. They won't get to see the turtles on the Galapagos. They'll never visit Stonehenge, they'll never get to learn the taste of the warm Guinness in Dingle, or look into the eyes of a charging rhino.

You cannot begin to imagine what you'll be taking from them. This is a poor community. Not a lot of laughter or joy or even hope. But inside that tea shop, there's all of that. And I'm sorry, but if you really can't get that, maybe you need to take time out from your busy life and go have a cup of tea.

And that, dear Giraffe, is the power and the magic of tea, to transport us, our souls, on so many levels.


A Special Tea on Mother's Day

Literally: a Special tea. This Mother's Day, we lingered over a pot of tea made from a sample shared with us by the Glenburn Estates folks. When Glenburn sent us a sample of their 2012 First Flush Spring Leaf Darjeeling Tea, picked 20 March 2012, they kindly included a sample, enough for one teapot, of a Special Harvest, picked 14 March 2012.

The packet is marked "First Flush Tea - Special" and is a Glenburn Darjeeling FTGFOP1 grade of clonal*. The "Special" designation can also be indicated by an S at the beginning of the grade:  SFTGFOP1.  That alphabet soup means:  Special finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe, or the very best FOP. The 1 at the end tends to indicate just a shade better-quality leaf than the same grade without the 1. Of course, the grading terms are used to identify only appearance and size of leaf.  It is impossible to truly determine if a tea is good or not without without tasting it. The leaf appearance and size grading terms came about to help buyers for large interests in selecting uniform batches of tea according to whatever purpose to which the buyer's superiors wanted to put the tea.

But Oh Myyy, dear giraffe, this tea was good, indeed!  Sadly, we most likely won't be carrying this Special First Flush: the price is pretty special, as well. I don't recall the exact quote, but I'm thinking $100 per kilogram might not be too far off the mark---unless it is far less than the actual wholesale cost!

It is a true shame, I must say, if we cannot carry and share this tea.  First Flush Spring Leaf Darjeeling Tea is a black tea, yet steeped for 3 minutes as per Glenburn's recommendation, it produces an almost yellow liquor much like green tea's. "Sunny caramel" came to mind: sunshine somehow penetrating caramel and lighting it up from inside.  The scent is vegetal, as first flush tea is wont to be, but I did not find it unpleasantly so (and I do confess to not caring for the grassy scent and taste of many green teas--many folks do like that, and more power to them, tea is hugely a matter of individual taste--which makes my remark about it not being unpleasantly vegetal all the more significant).

Ed perhaps said it best, taking notes almost as he spoke:

Vegetal on the nose with a natural sweetness. On the tongue: a smoky, tangy, bold floral that tells you this is a Darjeeling black tea. No bitterness - don't need to add milk or sweeteners to this one.

We savored this teapot, lingering until it was too late in the day to have more caffeine by making another teapot from the same leaves.  Yet the steeped leaves had a robust, earthy aroma to them that indicated there was still substantial flavor left in them to give over to hot water.  However, we couldn't keep the infused leaves until tomorrow--like any food, they could "keep" only so long. In an effort to extend our experience with this Special tea, we did steep the leaves a second time, double strength (meaning only half the water for the amount of leaves) and added the second steeping to lukewarm water (only half-again as much as we steeped the leaves in) to cool before refrigerating to serve over ice (which will melt and dilute it, which is why it doesn't have the full usual amount of water for the amount of leaves) tomorrow.  It will be interesting to see how the delicate First Flush tea holds up to being chilled.

(*At some later time, dear giraffe, we'll get into the fact that in the present, most of the tea bushes planted are clones found to be especially suited to local conditions, according to James Norwood Pratt's Tea Dictionary .  In addition, some other time we will cover matters like what "Pekoe" is and how "Orange" does not mean the color or the fruit, but most likely refers to Holland's royal family, the "House of Orange". There are numerous sources of details for all that information, including  Jane Pettigrew's & Bruce Richardson's The New Tea Companion: A Guide To Teas Throughout the World.)