Today there are 21 missions in California. During a recent trip to the Paso Robles wine country, I was especially looking forward to touring Mission San Miguel, the 16th mission founded by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen in 1797 – a visit that ultimately did not disappoint. The magnificent red brick bell tower has withstood the erosion of natural forces in solitude and suggests, or reaffirms, that time – an illusion – can stand still. The site and vicinity possess a wondrous aura that is perpetually desolate, virgin, and quixotic.
The set of cups displayed at the mission museum, made from shells of abalone and other shellfish, were colored with a mixture of cactus juice and pigments – an ingenious method that prevented the dye from peeling off and fading. Wine was always produced onsite, cocoa was also a popular beverage, and for special occasions, the friars enjoyed a glass of brandy. When I asked museum curator via phone if the seashell cups were ever used to drink tea, herbal tea perhaps, Mr. Warren indicated that the only tea consumption-related record dated from a time when early Chinese immigrants stayed at the mission – a very interesting piece of history indeed!
Wine tasting in Paso Robles was especially memorable, not only because of the region’s eclectic wineries, but also because of its sumptuous landscape of verdant, rolling hills, invoking yearning for and memories of Tuscany. Daou Vineyards and Pear Valley Vineyards score high points!
Unlike Mission San Miguel and the wineries, the dinner at a supposedly chic local establishment did disappoint. I was excited to see tea-smoked duck breast on the entrée menu, but that excitement ceased when I found salt to be the dish’s dominant flavor.
How unfortunate that U.S. missionaries didn’t bring tea into their lives. As you know, early monk in the East used tea to aide in their meditation practice. It provided an alert yet calm presence which prevented them from falling asleep during their meditation practice. Perhaps you should encourage them to try it in ernest. It seems to fit in so well with the ambiance of the mission and the contemplative live style of the inhabitants. One day it can be recorded that Ifang introduced tea to them in 2012:)
Michelle, I wonder if at the missions the living conditions, perhaps not life style, varied notably centuries ago. I hope to visit Mission San Antonio as recommended by Mr. Warren soon.
I wonder what beverage were they having back in the old days, other than plain water. Maybe tea was only available to the riches and famous?!