Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ribbon Tank and Chinese ChrysanthemumTea

Thank you so much for the lively discussion on the Blog Cafe! I enjoyed hearing everyone's views on organic food/farming and came to the conclusion that freshness probably is the biggest factor influencing taste and we are darn lucky to live in a country that has conventional farming capable of feeding the masses at an affordable cost.

Summer Ribbon Tank

I'm still recovering from the time difference (15 hours) and the jet lag so haven't been knitting much. Instead, I'm going to share a project I knit a few years ago (but never blogged) that is a great Summer project. It's a simple tank knit with a ribbon yarn.

Ribbon yarn is comfortable to wear and creates a nice drape to the fabric. A simple shell tank is easy to knit in this yarn and your local knit shop can help you calculate your gauge and dimensions. I added the flowers to jazz up this tank and Betty at Binding Off used tuck stitches to embellish her stylish Tuck Stitching Summer Top.

Particulars: Personal pattern; ribbon yarn (can't recall brand but a nylon blend) Note: Larissa (Stitches in Play) left a comment and I thought I should clarify that the ribbon yarn I used was slightly serrated. I believe this helped the fabric have a nice bounce and hold together well, giving it something like a slight felting effect similar to what happens with Shetland wool. I added a picture of the ribbon on my Ravelry notebook [here] so you can see what I'm talking about; US 7 needles. Simple tank design: single ribbing at the bottom and double crochet to finish armholes and neckline.

Chinese Tea Series: Chinese Chrysanthemum Flower Tea

I discovered in China, to my chagrin, that I didn't know as much about tea as I thought I did. China is a "tea culture" and Chengdu has 20 millions residents and only slightly fewer Tea Houses. Some are elegant and others don't offer much beyond rickety chairs and a wobbly table. The picture below is the roof of one of the prettier ones we visited (although not in the traditional style).

The Tea Houses primarily serve herbal tea which is brought to your table as a scoop of loose herbs dumped into your glass with hot water sloshed in. There are no scones or cakes, which was a disappointment. I have to admit, though, that the Chinese teas are not well suited to sweet pastries. Rather, the fruits and nuts served in small condiment dishes suit them better, unless you are hungry. I'm not going to apologize for having a healthy appetite, I'll just say that a small dish of sunflower seeds for a table to share either requires that one use restraint or adopt a brazen attitude.

The women in China (at least in the tea houses) primarily drink Chrysanthemum Flower Tea (pictured above) whereas the men generally drink Jasmine Flower Tea. I was told that the women believe the Chrysanthemum Tea enhances beauty, and Chengdu is a city where that seems to matter. I was struck by the number of Chinese people who told me that Chengdu is known for having the most beautiful women in China. I drank lots of the Chrysanthemum Flower tea while there (and am currently drinking copious amounts) and I'm still waiting for the miraculous beauty benefits.

The Chinese put great store by their herbs and your selection of tea can be revealing. Steve, of course, is never one for conforming and instead of drinking Jasmine Tea like other men he chose a passion flower tea, to the amusement of the tea house attendant, and my slight embarrassment.

Chrysanthemum Flower Tea: A full bodied cooling tea. This tea is best brewed in glass or ceramic/porcelain to avoid taint to the flavor. The water should be very hot but not boiling and your glass can be refilled with hot water many times before the flowers lose their flavor. Because the flowers float this tea is served with a straw for sipping. This tea usually has wolf berries added (the red pods seen above) and rock sugar is sometimes added as a sweetener. Both the Chrysanthemum flower and Wolf berry are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Recommendations for Stories set in China

The White Pagoda, by Fay Angus. I am sorry to say that I've not read this story..... yet it is written by a dear family friend who has written many inspirational books. The Angus family were a huge part of my childhood and while I knew my Auntie Fay had written a book about her time in a concentration camp in China, I was too young when it came out to have read it. I'll read it now with great interest. I borrowed this review off Amazon: The White Pagoda by Fay Angus is a quick, interesting read. Set in the Shanghai of the 1930's, Angus gives a brief look into the foreign culture of pre-war china that continues through her time in a Japanese concentration camp during WWII. She explores her childhood and adolescence in an environment very different from that of most American teenagers. I would recommend this book, particularly to teenage girls, as a brief glimpse into the life of a girl growing up in another time and another culture. A good introduction to studying Asia during the second world war.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I loved this story which gives a fascinating glimpse into the culture and time surrounding the binding of girl's feet in rural China.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. A classic. If you've not read this book yet, it's time. The characters in this story are so richly drawn you are unlikely to ever forgot them.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon This is a movie (make sure to get the English dubbed version) which will take you into the mysterious life of the Chinese warriors. The story is poignant and the scenery is stunning.

Until next time, be well, love well, and this Summer try experimenting with different types of teas!

P.S. I will also be writing about green tea and traditionally brewed black Chinese tea for those interested.


betty said...

Hi -- thanks for the reference to my blog, and actually great minds must think alike, because I've been contemplating doing a top with 2 or three flowers on one side of a V-neck -- sort of like these embellished Ts you see in a lot of shops.

Hmmm .. I like the jasmine teas more than the Chrysanthemum teas. I wonder what that says about me.

Andrea said...

I read Peony in Love last year and have Snow Flower and the Secret Fan on my list for this summer. I've been wanting to read The Good Earth for some time as well. It's really interesting the different "meanings" behind what kind of tea you drink in China.

CelticCastOn said...

sooo interesting about the tea. Love to hear about the black tea too. Does it taste good or does it have a perfumed taste?
How did Simcha make out?

Channon said...

What fun! I'm off to brew some of that chamomille citrus we both love. I am fascinated by sipping through a straw around pretty flowers.

The tank is lovely! I've never knitted with ribbon yarn but it looks so light and comfortable.

t does wool said...

Claudia...that top is are brilliant. and I love that you had a beautiful time away...Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is one of my favorite books!!
thanks for all the info...xx

subliminalrabbit said...

yum, i LOVE your tea reports! hope the rest of your trip was as fun as the tea houses!

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

I had to share this cute story I received from one of my Flickr buddies, Melissa, who blogs at: (

I read your blog and have to share a chrysanthemum tea story with you. Many years ago when I worked in the ER a co-worker from Hong Kong would drink this 'mysterious' tea everyday. It was in tea bag form and had Chinese characters on the packet explaining what it was. She swore by its healing benefits and that it was perfect to drink when you were feeling under the weather. So, one day at work I started feeling sick and thought that I would have to go home, something I was loathe to do. Nurses are notorious for working when we are sick. Anyway, Kathy told me in no uncertain terms that I was to drink her tea. She had a very heavy accent which always got heavier when she was excited. "Drink it now!" she commanded. So I did and really and truly started to feel amazingly better in about 10 minutes and felt fine the rest of the day. We had a joke between us that her 'special' tea was filled with opium and I thought, wow, this is great opium tea lol. She then confessed that it was chrysanthemum flower tea. I will always marvel at Chinese herbal medicine although secretly I still think it was opium tea hee hee.

Thank you Melissa, for giving me permission to share your story and for all of your comments. I'm often told the comments are an enjoyable part of the blog, and, mostly, I simply enjoy hearing from you and getting to know you!

Willow said...

Thank you for sharing the information about the teas. I shall check with the local tea shop All Things Tea and see if the owner has chrysanthemum tea :)

Tracy said...

Hi, Claudia! Glad to have you back here... and posting on knitting and tea again! Very much enjoyed your impression on taking tea in China! And seeing a bit of where you were in Chengdu. That tea house looks so pretty. I love herbal teas, so wouldn't mind trying them all. Funnily enough I prefer jasmin tea over chyrsanthemum tea... but if the chyrsanthemum is supposed to ehnance beauty... ;o) Your ribbon tank is so lovely--that blue is gorgeous. Your addition of flowers dresses is up so well. Hope you're feeling back on track soon... Jet-lag and time difference do need to time to get over. Happy Days ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

The Chrysanthemum tea looks so beautiful in it's glass! I've had Jasmine teas like that before - how funny that the drinks are "gendered".

Sounds like you had a wonderful vacation - welcome back!

Rebekah said...

I'm going to have to find some Chrysanthemum Tea and put the beauty thing to the test! Maybe if I drink it while I knit my knitting will just be all the more beautiful.

I bet Simcha is soooo happy you are home.

Can't wait to hear more about your trip.

Renee said...

What a wonderful post! I love herbal teas, but haven't ever had chrystanthemum.

Gorgeous knit, the colour is stunning.

Oh, book list -- double thank you!! Love reading recommended books.

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

I have some shy readers - LOL

I'm going to pass along these tidbits emailed to me from "a friend" and fellow Topanga resident:

Lisa See who wrote "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" grew up in Topanga Canyon (where I live now) and went to Topanga elementary school. Her mother, Carolyn See, was also an author and wrote "Golden Days" a book about life in Topanga Canyon after a nuclear holocaust. Sounds like a light reading - LOL

raining sheep said...

Welcome back. I love that photo with the umbrellas - It makes me think of a hexagon vintage crochet blanket in candy colors :) I love Chrysanthemum tea! I have read 'Snowflower and the Secret Fan'. It was such a fantastic, touching book. I loved it. And of course, I adored Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon - I actually own that movie.

Larissa said...

Thanks for sharing your tank top. i need to try knitting with ribbon yarn again - my last projects was way too sheer but a smaller needle and tighter gauge would've fixed that. Your trip to Chins sounds exciting! Please share about some of the places you visited - i want to live vicariously through you! I must try chrysanthemum tea - it'll be a change for the spicy chai teas i usually drink - and now i am fascinated by all the claims of healing properties! Enjoy your week and rest up.

amanda said...

Well it sure is pretty tea! Glad you got the chance to try it in style!

Knitting Out Loud said...

Wonderful post!!!
I love your tea descriptions and book recommendations and can't wait for more info on your trip!

Michelle (Northernstar28) said...

I will have to try that Chrysanthemum on the double! :) I need all the help I can get! I love the tank and that colour just sings on you. I had been wanting to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for a while now. I will have to try to fit it in.

Anonymous said...

I love your ribbon's timeless! All my older knits looks so dated!

I've not tried chrysanthemum tea but it'll be on my list of new things to try...I had no idea my sister was cured of her ills by it! lol

And wonderful book recommendations... I'll be checking out my library to see which ones they have available.

Teddy Rose said...

The tank looks really flattering on you.

Thanks for sharing some of your trip to China. The tea house with all of the umbrellas looks cool. I had no idea about the kinds of tea.

Monika said...

I've read two of your book recommendations, but it's been a while.
You don't need that chrysanthemum tea for beauty! :o)

Hilary said...

That is such a pretty, classic tank and the addition of the flowers is perfect! What a great use for ribbon gives the simple tank a cool texture and looks so light and easy to wear. I'm so glad you blogged this!!

I loved reading about your Chinese tea house experiences -- thank you for sharing! I am now dying to try the Chrysanthemum flower tea...though I'd have to force myself to drink it and not just stare at it and take pictures. The flowers floating around are so pretty!

And, oh my goodness, that photo of the roof with the parasols is amazing.

knittingdragonflies said...

Looking forward to hearing about the teas!
Love the top. This is the weather for it. And the flower on the side gives it just enough personality.
I envy your trip. The photos are pretty.
Take care

Bubblesknits said...

I love that tank! The color really suits you, too. :)

Very interesting about the types of tea they drink in China. The only herbal tea I've found that I like is Jasmine, but then, I've never tried the Chrysanthemum.