PARIS, Pa. - More than 40 women enjoyed a formal tea at the Paris Presbyterian Church's Gathering Place Coffee Shop Nov. 6 as "The Tea Lady" Diane Shoup spoke about making a good cup of tea and using tea as a ministry.
"This allows me to take two things I enjoy a lot - the Lord and tea - and I get to put them together," said Shoup. "It's a blessing."
Shoup said those making tea should never bring water to a full boil, but rather a simmer. Shoup said 180 degrees is optimal and recommended using a kitchen thermometer to check water temperature. Shoup also recommended using filtered water to make tea.
Diane Shoup, 'The Tea Lady,' held a formal tea recently at The Gathering Place Coffee Shop, where she spoke about seeking out opportunities to offer hospitality to others and tea as an outreach. -- Summer Wallace-Minger
Powdered leafs don't allow as much vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to leach into the tea as whole-tea varieties do, and a tea should only be steeped as long as recommended on the packaging. Further steeping doesn't make the tea stronger, but more bitter.
"With the powdered teas, they (vitamins and minerals) aren't escaping into your tea cup," she said. "You only need to steep it for two to seven minutes, depending on the tea."
Shoup recommended against making tea by leaving tea in water for long periods of time, noting it doesn't make full-flavored tea and it may encourage bacterial growth.
"You need hot water to release the flavor, minerals and antioxidants," she said.
Tea should not be stored in a refrigerator or freezer, as the leaves could become moist, but somewhere dark and cool. Shoup recommended sealing the tea in plastic bags, noting that, if the tea had an air-tight seal, it will stay fresh for a long time.
Many things can affect the taste of a tea, from where it is grown and what kind of soil and weather it grows in to what plants are growing nearby. Even a black or green tea might have a fruity flavor if grown near the right bushes and plants.
Shoup also spoke about hospitality in ministry, noting that hospitality is a gift both to the host and the guests. She quoted Romans 12:9-21 - "share with the Lord's people who are in need; practice hospitality."
Hospitality doesn't have to be an invitation into one's home, but also can be unexpected acts of kindness to others, even strangers. She asked those in attendance to stay aware for opportunities to practice hospitality, to always be listening for God's prompting to practice hospitality.
"When you're out doing errands, shopping, be alert," she said.
Hospitality doesn't have to be elaborate, but it should be given cheerfully and not grudgingly.
"If you do that, you have spoiled the gift for yourself, the blessing for yourself, even if your guests don't know," she said.
Shoup recommended covered-dish dinners and inviting an eclectic mix of people to gatherings as good ways to practice hospitality.
"Don't be afraid to have a mixed group of people," she said. "Think outside the box when it comes to hospitality, when it comes to sharing God's love."
Shoup spoke about her "friendship basket," a basket in which she keeps everything she needs for tea for two - from placemats, faux flowers and candles or tea lights to tea cups and saucers. When planning a visit, Shoup adds tea and snacks. She often keeps inspirational or prayer books in the basket.
A "friendship basket" ministry is one in which those participating visit those who are ill, elderly or shut-ins - anyone in need of companionship - and shares tea and prayers with them.
"It's a wonderful way to do missions for church," she said. "Thank you for inviting me and allowing me to share hospitality and tea with you."
The Paris Presbyterian Church women prepared the meal and desserts, and the Burgettstown Community Library loaned the church tea pots and cups. Shoup provided door prizes and favors.
Shoup is available to give presentations on tea and tea as a ministry to civic and church organizations. For information, visit her Facebook page by searching "Diane Shoup."
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)