As we close out the last issue of this newsletter for the year, we like to go back and review past issues to discover which stories generated the most interest, were clicked on most often, and generated the most feedback. Below you will find reprints of our most popular stories of 2018. We want to take this time to thank all of our readers, advertisers, and supporters for helping to make this year another great one. If you have a product you would like us to consider for review or have some exciting news to share, please contact us.

We wish you all a wonderful new year filled with all great things.

What is Your Personali-TEA?

How you take your tea says a lot about you, so put the kettle on… here is ELLE's definitive guide to people based on their tea type:


Smart, witty and direct—you love to connect with new people and are always seeking out experiences that pull you out of your comfort zone. You don't easily tolerate fools and can't stand anyone who doesn't speak their mind. Your bucket list activities include bungee jumping and skydiving (you're a complete adrenaline junkie), and you're willing to give anything a go at least once. You can sometimes come across a little blunt to those who don't know you, but you are extremely accepting of people and never pretentious.


If you take your English Breakfast Tea or Earl Grey with milk, you're most likely to be organized and well-prepared. You have never pulled an all-nighter to complete a school, university or work task because you never had to (life goals). You're not vain but you take pride in your appearance and always look well-presented. Tea-time can be enjoyed on-the-go but you prefer to drink your cuppa when you have time to savor the moment. High teas are your thing and your daily tea intake lies between three and seven, depending on your schedule. You know exactly what you want in life, and you won't stop until you get it.


You never take anything for granted and are very content with where you are in life. You love leading a balanced lifestyle and being outdoors—ocean swims are among your list of favorite things. You enjoy reading and watching documentaries and are both book and street smart. While green is your go-to tea of choice, you don't mind the occasion fruity infusion or peppermint tea. As a friend, you're reliable and trustworthy and always enjoyable to be around. You genuinely care about what is happening in your friends' lives and never miss a birthday.


All your friends would call you the sweet one but you know that you can bring the sass when it's needed. You're an extremely loyal friend but once someone breaks your trust, you find it difficult to forgive. You are empathetic and not one to sit back and watch others talk badly about someone. Your quick wit gives you instant charisma, and you can hold conversation with almost anyone. Although your passion is one of your strong suits, it also means that you can be stubborn at times (apologizing is no easy feat).


Creative, clever and sensitive—the fruity tea drinker radiates positive energy and happiness. You're popular and love your nights out, and believe that regularly treating yourself is a crucial component of self-love. While you can often get carried away, your spontaneity creates incredible opportunities for you that most people can only dream of. You are your toughest critic but overall have a great outlook on life, seeing it as one glorious and exciting adventure.


Always ready for the next challenge, the Oolong sipper loves to travel and see new things. Always full of energy and curiosity, you are a goal-setter and go-getter. You're a born leader and like to set the trends rather than follow them. While you're well-read and informed, you know there is still so much more to see.


So, how did Elle magazine’s editors do predicting your personality?  Such a fun, quick exercise.  Bottom line…whether you are creative or critical, active or apologetic…tea is a treasure to be savored.  Make time for tea!


Using Coffee Grounds in Your Garden

Coffee grounds are an excellent garden helper when directly applied or used in compost. They have a 20 to 1 ratio of nitrogen to carbon, which makes them ideal for helping grow plants such as tomatoes. Here are a few ways to use them in your garden.

Add to the compost. Coffee grounds are able to speed up the decomposing process in compost. Add two teaspoons of lime for every 5 kilograms of coffee grounds. Don't use more than a quarter of the heap as coffee grounds and keep the size of the heap small.

Add grounds to plants that need a pH between 3.0 and 5.0. The addition of coffee grounds to hydrangeas is good for blue blooms. Blueberries, cranberries, and citrus fruits also like coffee added to their soil. Other coffee-loving plants include camellias, gardenias, rhododendrons, and vireyas.

When adding coffee grounds directly to your garden as a mulch and soil conditioner, add a pinch of lime. This ensures that the pH is adequately balanced.

Coffee grounds can also be used to deter pests. Slugs and snails are not fond of coffee grounds sprinkled around plants.



Wearable Keepsakes Made from Broken China

For most people an antique china plate, cup or saucer that’s been chipped, cracked or broken might be trash. But for Mary-Ann Wood it’s treasure. Wood is the owner of a business called DinnerWear Jewelry that uses designs cut from these fractured unfortunates and turns them into unique costume jewelry pieces, mostly necklaces, earrings, lariats and brooches.

“The jewelry pieces I craft aren’t just one-of-a-kinds and beautiful, they carry great sentimental value to the wearer,” Wood said. “They are worn, shared and passed on. The fact that each piece has been made by hand from a china piece that’s probably been in the family for years or even generations only makes it that much more special. It’s very gratifying for me and the customer.”

Wood works out of a spacious studio in Franklin, Mass., with hours by appointment, and is fast coming up on her 20th year in business, the last three of which have been dedicated full-time to DinnerWear Jewelry. Prior to that she split her time between jewelry design and the longtime family picture framing business, begun by her mother and father in 1968 and closed in 2015.

Now, she has a loyal following, mostly the result of the arts and crafts fairs and other events she attends in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the region. Her fan base will only get bigger with the launch of a website,, that’s attracting new business. An expanded menu now features alternative bridal bouquets and men’s jewelry, mainly tie tacks and cuff links.

The idea for repurposing old, degraded china pieces into lovely wearable jewelry (that is also often a family heirloom) is one that developed over time. “Many children are fascinated with fancy dinnerware and tea sets, and I was no exception,” Mary-Ann said. “I always wanted to help set the table for Sunday and holiday dinners with grandmother’s ‘best china’ and silver.”

It was then, as child, that she started her own personal collection of china. It should be noted that Mary-Ann grew up in a nurturing, art-filled environment. Her father, before he went into picture framing, was an engineer who helped build the New England Aquarium, among other projects. Her mother was a watercolorist who produced art and taught art classes at the framing studio.

Her father did work with leaded glass windows and passed on to his daughter an appreciation for glass and the skills to become an artisan. “Dad taught me how to solder at age 13,” Wood said. “He was quite the craftsman. He repurposed all the marbles at the aquarium, which had been installed in error, and re-sold them to the gift shop, where they were retailed as marine objects.”

Inspired by her father, Mary-Ann became a glass artist, a pastime she pursued on the side while helping run the picture framing business, but over time she found glasswork to be tedious and time-consuming. “Plus it was a crowded field,” she pointed out. “Everybody was making these wonderful mosaics and other glass creations. I wanted something new, but I didn’t know what.”

Wood was born with a keen eye for geometry and the way things fit together, as well as an appreciation for beautiful and artistic creations. “I’ve always been fascinated by working with tools, and I’ve always wanted to repurpose things,” she said. “I’d buy vintage clothing that was way too large, for example, and cut it down into something I could wear that had my stamp.”

So the interest and the talent was there from an early age, and it evolved over time with regard to her china collection. “In later years I started to play with cups and saucers in a different way,” she said. “I had a lot of broken pieces, and I hated the thought of just throwing them away. I wanted to do something with the pretty designs on them. That’s what led to my Eureka moment.”

Through much trial and error, Wood taught herself how to cut the plates, carving out the bits she liked most. Not satisfied with just making broken-looking shards, she concentrated on enhancing the intricate details of each pattern. “I was hooked on the challenge,” she said, but in the end, she was still just sitting there with lovely little designs cut from china. “Now what?” she wondered.

And so was born the idea of designing china pieces into wearable jewelry, in 1998. “My work has become more refined over the years, and my jewelry selection has grown,” she said. “I strive to add new items to the collection, keeping it fresh. I’m always hunting for new patterns. I look for variety in floral motifs and color themes and I try to represent as many countries as possible.”

The process of turning a chipped or cracked piece of china into a beautiful, wearable jewelry item is, understandably, a precise and painstaking task. It’s one that involves many tools, each one serving a specific purpose for cutting different materials. These include saws, grinders, files and drills. It’s slow and delicate work. Each piece is cleaned in-between steps of hand-carving.

Final detailing enhances each piece before it becomes jewelry. And then – voila! – the end result: a treasured piece of jewelry that the user can not only appreciate for its beauty and significance as a family heirloom, but actually wear, literally wrapping oneself in personal family history. “I call it bringing the past into the present,” Mary-Ann remarked, “and who can’t appreciate that?”

Wood said it took her about a year and a half to develop her own style, “the free-form carving of the shapes”, and she’s entirely self-taught. One of her first notions was to create mosaics, but she said there were thousands of artisans already doing it, plus she decided glass just wasn’t for her.

At any given time there are around 350 pieces in online inventory and inventory for shows. At times she runs across a teacup or cup and saucer that’s simply too beautiful and intact to cut. Those she offers for sale through an online business, Visitors to the site are then re-directed to Etsy, with whom she partners, to browse and make a purchase.

Mary-Ann does a lot of bridal and wedding parties. DinnerWear jewelry makes a great gift for the mother of the bride or an accent item pinned to the bride’s bouquet. She’s also ventured into custom bridal bouquets, an alternative to traditional fresh-cut flowers. Her bouquets have flowers fashioned from family china, carved from the floral patterns on the plates, often with a jewelry piece, pearl or crystal in the center.

Wood gets helpful assistance from her husband, Mark, who goes with her to the crafts fairs and shows, setting up and tearing down the DinnerWear Jewelry display booths. Caity, her right-hand assistant, has the technical know-how that’s led to a substantial Facebook following. She updates the website, social media and Etsy listings, helps with promotions and manages things while Mary-Ann’s away. A part-time helper, Lisa, helps out at fairs and shows and pitches in at the studio, on an as-needed basis. “I don’t know what I’d do without their support,” Wood said.

The prices for custom-made pieces are quite reasonable. They start at $78 for a pendant and $95 for earrings. “I use a lot of Swarovski crystal in my designs, so obviously the cost for those pieces is going to be higher,” Wood said. But when one stops to consider what they’re actually buying – a gorgeous family keepsake in the form of wearable jewelry – well, that’s priceless.

For more information, or to make a purchase, please visit

Photos by: DinnerWear Jewelry


The Best Coffee in the World Comes From Rwanda

After rounds of blind tastings by an international independent jury of top culinary and coffee experts, illycaffè, the global leader in high-quality, sustainably grown coffee, announced that coffee beans grown by Rwanda's Ngororero Coffee Washing Station, represented by Ms. Philotée Muzika, were designated "Best of the Best" in the third annual 2018 Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award (EIICA). The award winner was chosen from among the world's top lots from the 2017/2018 harvests in nine countries, whose growers attended a gala at the Rainbow Room last night. A separate "Coffee Lover's Choice" award, presented by United Airlines, was also conferred to Ms. Muzika on behalf of Ngororero Coffee Washing Station.

Alongside Rwanda, coffee beans from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India and Nicaragua were chosen to compete as finalists, following intensive analysis at illy's Quality Lab at its Trieste, Italy headquarters. All nine finalists, spanning four continents, are ingredients in the legendary illy blend, celebrated for decades for its unparalleled richness, complexity and consistency.

"It is an honor and a pleasure to recognize Ngororero Coffee Washing Station and Ms. Muzika for their achievement, and that of all of our finalists, who are focused on producing the highest-quality coffee through sustainable methods," said Andrea Illy, Chairman of illycaffè. "This week celebrates an even greater theme, and that is the enormous dedication, pride and talent of the world's 25 million coffee-growing families, who fill our cups, and replenish our souls, every day."

Prior to the award gala, emceed by Ted Allen, host of Food Network's Chopped, Chopped Junior and The Best Thing I Ever Ate, a panel of tasting, culinary and coffee experts from around the world took on the task of choosing this year's "Best of the Best" bean, based on criteria including aromatic richness/complexity, balance/elegance and aroma intensity/strength. The jury was comprised of:

  • Mark Pendergrast (Jury Mentor): a best-selling American author, Pendergrast is known throughout the coffee community for his books Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our World, and Beyond Fair Trade: How One Small Coffee Company Helped Transform a Hillside Village in Thailand.
  • Owen Dugan: Dugan is Features Editor at Wine Spectator, widely regarded as the leading magazine for wine enthusiasts. He is considered to be among the world's foremost experts in viniculture, bringing him naturally to his role as expert coffee juror.
  • Alfio Ghezzi: Ghezzi is Executive Chef of Locanda Margon in the Trentino territory of Italy. Under his leadership, Locanda Margon became the first restaurant in the region to receive two Michelin stars, the first in 2011, the second five years later.
  • Peter Giuliano: Giuliano is Chief Research Officer at Specialty Coffee Association, one of coffee's leading industry associations. He has held nearly every conceivable job in coffee, from roaster to cupper to buyer, and is former co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee.
  • Kerri Goodman: Goodman is owner and publisher of CoffeeTalk Media. She has more than 25 years' experience in the coffee industry and in coffee non-profit endeavors. She specializes in helping to make lasting and profitable connections among professionals in all facets of the industry.
  • Antonia Klugmann: Klugman is among the most sensational rising stars of the northern Italian culinary scene. After apprenticing with numerous chefs, her own restaurant, L'Argine a Vencó, was soon awarded a Michelin star after opening in 2014.
  • Sunalini Menon: Menon is Asia's first female professional in the field of coffee tasting, also known as coffee cupping. She has been called "Asia's first lady of coffee." Formerly, Menon was director of quality control for the Coffee Board of India, and founder of her own company, Coffee Labs, in Bangalore.
  • Niko Romito: Romito is a widely acclaimed Italian chef who runs the restaurant Reale in Castel di Sangro, the two Spazio bistros in Milan and Rome, and every Bulgari Hotel restaurant around the world. In just seven years, Romito earned a remarkable three Michelin stars, and is regarded as a true culinary visionary.
  • Adam Sachs: Sachs is the former Editor-in-Chief of SAVEUR. Before joining SAVEUR, he wrote about food and other subjects for publications including GQ, Bon Appétit, and Details. He is a three-time James Beard Journalism Award winner.
  • Ernesto Velasquez: Velasquez, an expert coffee taster, is a second-generation coffee producer hailing from San Antonio in Honduras. He is a strong advocate for maximizing profits for coffee growers worldwide to ensure they receive fair prices on the global market.

The "Coffee Lover's Choice" award, presented by illycaffè CEO Massimiliano Pogliani on behalf of illy partner United Airlines, was determined by a demanding jury of its own: over 1,500 discerning visitors to flagship illy cafè locations in Kuala Lumpur, London, Milan, Paris and San Francisco, and at special events in Athens and New York City, all of whom tasted coffee prepared from the same beans as for the expert jury.

"It all starts with the unique illy blend, developed consistently year after year, that gives us deep knowledge of the coffee origins combined with our direct trade model that works closely with coffee growers to produce the highest quality Arabica beans," said Pogliani. "Next year, we plan to continue expanding our Authors' Notes program, an exclusive experience for illy fans that centers around tasting and purchasing the nine finalist coffee lots from the 2018 awards at our illy cafè shops."

Twenty-seven grower representatives from the nine finalist countries, many visiting New York City for the first time, also participated in a coffee-specific seminar hosted by Chairman Illy and representatives from the ICO and UNIDO at the United Nations that covered topics including growing practices, business management and climate change.


What is your Tea IQ? Can You Pass the Test?

The folks over at WebMD have posted an online quiz, The Truth About Tea.  Take the quiz (click here) and see how you do.  As part of the quiz, you’ll find questions and answers to the following questions.

Is drinking tea good for your health?

What health benefits can be derived from drinking tea?

What is the best way to consumer tea to get the most antioxidant benefits?

How long should you steep tea to get the best health benefits?

Is green tea good for kids?

Take the quiz, learn something new…


Yummiest Coffee Ice Creams

Jolene Thym has a tough job, she’s a writer for the Bay Area News Group, and recently got a rather chilly assignment:  Find the yummiest coffee ice creams.  After “scooping” (intentional journalism/ice cream pun), her findings were recently shared in The Mercury News, one of the Bay Area New Group’s papers. 

“Great coffee ice cream starts with bold, expertly brewed, high-quality coffee. The results should be creamy, rich and pleasantly sweet, with coffee as the first and last flavor on your palate. Texture is entirely negotiable, as some of the best flavored versions are grainy due to tasty coffee grounds or espresso fudge in the mix, while others are more like ice milk,” writes Thym.  Here’s a summary of her findings on best coffee ice creams and the blandest bores. Nutrition details are based on ½-cup servings.

McConnell’s Turkish Coffee
This crazy-tasty ice cream, blended with crushed espresso beans, offers powerful flavors. It’s heaven for picky drinkers, who want only the very best cup of coffee. Those sensitive to caffeine should resist this as an evening treat. 260 calories, 19 g fat, 18 g protein. $7.99 a pint at Raley’s. (4 stars)

Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz!
Chunks of grainy espresso-bean fudge tucked into rich, velvety coffee ice cream makes for an impressive double-punch of flavor. 250 calories, 16 g fat, 24 g sugar. $4.99 for a pint at Safeway. (4 stars)

Tillamook Stumptown Cold Brew Coffee Ice Cream
Fans of ultra-creamy ice creams will fall for this luxurious, bold coffee version. This is a great pick for an elegant dessert. 210 calories, 14 g fat, 19 g sugar. $5.19 (on sale for $3.50) for 15.5 ounces at Raley’s. (4 stars)

Three Twins Milk Coffee
Huge coffee flavor and the light, fresh texture of ice milk make this an irresistible spoonful. 200 calories, 13 g fat, 17 g sugar. $4.99 for a pint at Safeway. (3½ stars)

Vice Cream Higher Grounds
This decadent bite is highlighted by crispy cookie bits and a swirl of mocha fudge. The coffee flavor is pleasant, if a bit overshadowed by the chocolate. 280 calories, 14 g fat, 24 g sugar. $5.49 for a pint at Safeway. (3 stars)

So Delicious Cold Brew Coffee
Thumbs-up for minimal sugar and fresh, bold coffee flavor in this coconut milk-based treat, but this ice cream is definitely a coconut-coffee flavor experience. 150 calories, 8 g fat, 15 g sugar. $6.49 per pint at Whole Foods. (3 stars)

O Organics Mochaccino
Great coffee flavor and a pleasant level of sweetness yield tasty results, although the coffee bean bits are too big and chewy. 210 calories, 13 g fat, 19 g sugar. $4.99 for a pint at Safeway. (2½ stars)

New Barn Organic AlmondCreme Organic Coffee Bean
Those who can’t have cow’s milk may enjoy this deep brown mix with coffee bean flecks, but the almond flavor quashes the coffee. 170 calories, 7 g fat, 15 g sugar. $6.99 for 14 ounces at Safeway. (1½ stars)

Humphry Slocombe Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee
Those who don’t care much for coffee should opt for this chicory-root version. The ultra-fresh cream is a win, but it doesn’t taste like coffee. 170 calories, 10 g fat, 17 g sugar. $8.99 for a pint at Whole Foods. (1½ stars)

Safeway Signature Reserve Colombian Cold Brew Caramel
This icy, uber-sweet mix has the bitter finish found in black coffee, but it lacks the nutty note of well made, good-quality coffee.  220 calories, 16 g fat, 26 g sugar. $4.99 for 14 ounces. (1½ stars)

Haagen Dazs Coffee Ice Cream
Coffee is clearly an afterthought here. It’s certainly edible, but ultimately disappointing with barely-detectible coffee flavor. 240 calories, 16 g fat, 20 g sugar. $4.99 for 14 ounces at Whole Foods. (1 star)

Straus Family Creamery Organic Coffee
Made with decaf coffee, this extremely creamy, marshmallow-like mix has a fruity note, but it fails to deliver more than a hint of coffee flavor. 240 calories, 15 g fat, 19 g sugar. $5.19 for a pint at Raley’s. (1 star)

Source:  The Mercury News