Time for a safe and delicious road trip to Seagrove NC, to take in the gorgeous scenery along the way and stop for Tea with Seagrove Potters. I’ve written about this great event and these Seagrove pottery studios before and wanted to update you with this rewrite which now includes all the 2022 details.
This biannual celebration and tour of six Seagrove studios takes place on Saturday March 12, 2022. Find more info and a map to each of the studios here; Then, keep reading… Below, you will find everything you need to brew a “proper cup” of your own.
Time to have a tea party, and it doesn’t hurt that the weather is going to be perfect. Six Seagrove NC pottery studios have teamed up to bring you this stellar event.
This is Just Your Cup of Tea
It’s a progressive tea party with stops along the way at Blue Hen Pottery, 247 West Main Street, Seagrove NC 336-653-9551; Thomas Pottery 1295 S. NC Hwy 705, Seagrove, NC, 336-879-4145; Dean & Martin Pottery, 7739 Nathan Lane, Seagrove, NC, 336-879-0683; Eck McCanless Pottery, 6077 Old US Hwy 220, Seagrove, NC, 336-873-7412; From the Ground Up, 172 Crestwood Rd., Robbins, NC, 910-464-6228; and Red Hare Pottery, 191 Barken Haller Lane, Seagrove, NC, 336-465-6584 or 336-879-9855
Plus, on this trip you not only get to meet the craftsmen and women and hear more about their passion for pottery – you get to sip, sample and shop… all the components that promise you’ll have a Tea-riffic time.
Both Carriage House Tea and The Table Farmhouse Bakery are located in Asheboro NC, you may remember I told you about both of these delicious stops to eat and drink locally in this Asheboro roadtrip post.
For recipes featuring From the Ground Up’s fabulous fermenting Jars and Eck McCanless Pottery Mugs – check out this post on recipes inspired by places in the Heart of North Carolina.
Steeped (pun intended) in Tradition
Seagrove NC is the handmade Pottery Capital of the United States. You can meet the 70-plus makers in their own individual studios just about any time of the year. Many can trace their family’s Seagrove potters heritage back eight or nine generations. As you drive the country backroads in and around Seagrove NC, just look for “Studio Open” signs as your invitation to stop and see all each individual studio has to offer.
In brewing the perfect pot of tea its important to start with the perfect pot – and don’t forget the perfect tea cup. The Seagrove Potters can make this first step easy. Find pieces you love. It doesn’t have to be a set, sometimes its fun to mix and match and start a collection from several different Seagrove studios.
What pottery pieces do have to be, are things that tickle your fancy. Pottery is from the earth and holding it or sipping from it is a tactile science. Wrapping your fingers around that special cup of your go-to beverage or pouring from your favorite pitcher or tea pot, should make you feel good. So, enjoy the experience. Pick pottery pieces up and try them on for size.
The group of Seagrove Potters hosting this annual tea party will have lots for you to choose from and I know you will find several treasures, that you can’t wait to get home!
Now, lets think about the water. Tap water is fine as long as it doesn’t have any sort of residual taste; but spring water or filtered water will be better.
Start with a kettle you can put on the stove – save your beautiful Seagrove potters teapots for serving. Fill the pot with cool or cold water, remembering that filtered is best. Place the kettle on the burner and bring to a boil.
Warm the pot before the tea
First step: Fill your Seagrove Potters teapot of choice with hot water. This process will preheat the serving pot before you brew the tea. Swirl the hot water in the Seagrove pot and when the pot is warm, pour the water out.
Standard measurement for loose tea to water is a ratio of one teaspoon per cup. You can use the same ratio for teabags, or you can stretch that to one tea bag for every 2 cups of water. If you like a stronger brew, don’t use more tea. Instead, select a deeper, richer, darker leaf and perhaps steep for a longer time. Which ever tea variety you select, place the tea or tea bag in the warm pot before you pour in the water.
You will find a wonderful selection of loose teas and tea bags at Carriage House Tea in Asheboro NC . Carriage House is partnering with participating Seagrove Potters for this progressive tea party. So, the tea you taste at each of the Seagrove stops all comes from Carriage House. When you taste something you enjoy, take note and then plan to stop and pick some teas to bring home to enjoy as well. Or, think outside the proverbial tea bag, and purchase several varieties…blending them together once you get home.
When you reach the boiling point
As soon as the water in the kettle comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. Give the water just a minute to calm; then pour the hot water over the loose tea in the pot. Give the tea in the pot a single stir; cover and allow the tea to steep.
Steeping times are based on personal taste and the type of tea you are using. In general, smaller leaves will brew more quickly ( say 2-3 minutes) and larger leaves will take a little longer ( set the timer for 3-5 minutes). if you are using an aged tea, ask about brewing times when you make your purchase, sometimes if a dark or vintage tea steeps too long, the taste will become bitter.
Just tip me over and pour me out…
Okay, so, show of hands… how many of you out there got the “I’m a Little Teapot” reference with that last subhead. Cheers for you if you did. The song brings back memories of an early tap dance recital for me, but that’s probably best left for another post.
Meantime, follow the lyrics of the song for he next step. It’s exactly what you are going to do. To serve your perfect pot of tea, place a tea strainer over each cup as you pour the tea from the pot. Or use one of the Seagrove Potters teapots with the built in strainer (see where I point this out in the video) and you can skip that last step. Pour the whole pot out into cups at one time, as tea is best when it is freshly brewed.
If you are not going to use the whole pot at one time then pour the remaining tea into another Seagrove pottery tea pot, so you can separate the tea from the steeped leaves. For the best results, warm that pot in advance with hot water, before adding the strained tea, or cover it up with a tea cozy to keep it hot to enjoy just as much in a second pour.
Chill the Summer Away with a homemade Iced Tea
I, like many of you, enjoy a cup of hot tea all year through, but many prefer to enjoy their tea iced. Not so many years ago, Sun Tea became a thing. It a was a trendy summer seasonal practice – a way to brew tea without having to heat the stovetop.
The idea was a marketing sensation and all it required was tea and a large glass jar with a lid. The lid kept any little bugs out of the tincture; while the sun warmed the water through the clear glass to slowly “brew” the tea.
Truth is, the sun will warm liquid in any sort of vessel and you don’t really need the jar with a lid. Any covering – like plastic wrap or a clean linen dish towel – will do the trick. Problem is the sun isn’t warm enough. The less than desirable temp of the sun warmed water is apparently a haven for bacteria – the kind you don’t want to drink. So while the homespun concept of sun tea makes you feel good, drinking it may not.
But don’t fret, if you love iced tea and don’t want to heat the stove top this summer season – make overnight refrigerator tea. Using a Seagrove pottery pitcher makes serving your iced tea as pretty as it is easy. And once out of the fridge, it will stay cold longer.
Bonus points for the fact that the chilled pottery pitcher and pottery drinkware, keep the tea cold for a longer time period than any glass or plastic. Double bonus points if you chill your pottery drinkware. With a cold vessel, you don’t have to use as much ice and the tea doesn’t eventually get watered down.
Simple add tea and water to your favorite Seagrove Potters pitcher – using the same tea to water ratio you would for hot tea, Cover the pitcher with its hand-crafted lid if it has one, or cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-6 hours. Strain the tea as you would for hot tea, pouring it in pottery tumblers or your favorite glasses. Add ice if you would like. If you’d rather not both with loose leaves in your refrigerator tea, then use several individual tea bags or put your favorite loose tea into a large cheesecloth bag. Tie the bag to seal and steep your tea in a bag you can use over and over again. Just shake the used loose tea leaves in your yard – they make for great compost – and then rinse out and wash the bag to use another time.
Sweet Iced Tea
Some call it the wine of the South, and for many asking for iced tea to be unsweetened is an oxymoron. After all isn’t all iced tea sweet? Not so much any more, which makes brewing your own to ice an even better idea.
You may sweeten freshly brewed hot tea with sugar or honey or the sweetener of your choice. I suggest organic sugar or local honey. But know hat granulated sugar and local honey don’t dissolve as well in iced tea as they do in hot., so sweeten ( if you must) before you ice it down.
For already iced or refrigerated tea, I find it best to make it unsweetened and then offer a simple syrup, honey syrup or even an elderberry syrup to guests if they want to sweeten things up. The local syrups I wrote about in this post from Alley Twenty Six in Durham NC are perfect for sweetening up a pot or cup of your favorite tea.
That formula is one cup of water to one cup of sugar or honey. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer until it thickens to a maple syrup consistency. Or try using an organic maple syrup to sweeten your tea – the one in this post has a North Carolina footprint and its delicious!
Don’t WaiT-oolong to drink and enjoy…
While I’ll take responsibility for the teapot song reference, the credit for the oolong tea pun here goes directly to my husband, my own personal punster, Tom Billotto.
Point is, like hot tea, iced tea is best consumed when it is fresh. Make a new batch every 2-3 days. If the tea starts to take on an off flavor, just pour it out and start a new batch.
Also, this seems a good time to mention, that particularly with iced teas you should think about blending. Mix a lighter finished tea with fresh fruit juice, sliced cucumbers, or in the summer even fresh carved local watermelon balls or sliced local peaches. The addition of fruit will shorten the life of the tea, but will also result in wonderful combinations of flavor.
For a fun summer treat, make a concentrated batch of refrigerator tea with a rich black tea leaf. Sweeten it with honey or a honey syrup and then serve it over a scoop of ice cream. Top the glass off with a bit of local whole milk. This tea-timed play on a classic coffee affogato is an ice cream float like you have never had before! Just imagine sipping it by the spoonful out of a well crafted Seagrove potters mug!
Stovetop Iced Tea in a Seagrove Potters Pitcher
If you need iced tea in a hurry, you can still make it homemade. Boil the water as you would for hot tea. Instead of putting the tea in a Seagrove potters tea pot, place it in the bottom of a Seagrove potters pitcher. Remember to adjust the amount of tea to the amount of water it will hold. For ease and convenience, use several individual tea bags or make a large bag with your own cheesecloth.
When the water boils, take it off the heat. Wait a minute and then fill the pottery pitcher halfway full. Yes, only halfway. Allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes or so. Remove the tea bags. The tea should still be warm, so add sweetener now if you would like. With the warm tea you can use real sugar or local honey as opposed to a simple syrup. Stir until your source for sweet is dissolved. Now add cold filtered or bottled water to fill the pitcher. Cover with the pitcher lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours to chill the tea and the pottery pitcher. If you chill your pottery glasses, then you will find you will use less ice and can enjoy your tea without diluting it.