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The Secrets of Tea were revealed on June 22

by Joan Whitely

The “secrets” of tea are now out of the bag, ever since tea expert Louise Carruth shared some high points of tea history, botany, and hospitality at “Secrets of Tea,” a Friends fundraiser held June 22 at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas.

tea cup

Carruth is the founder and head of Little Candle Tea Company. She is an expert in tea: its history, its properties, and its proper preparation. In Carruth’s words, Little Candle focuses “on selling quality teas and tisanes, and keeping our customers well-informed about the teas we drink.”

“Secrets of Tea” guests enjoyed tasting four types of tea as well as shopping for Carruth’s tea products. Attendees could also shop for Friends’ Nevada-themed note cards and the organization’s gently used jewelry and handbags. Some also participated in the event’s best-hat contest. The Friends also raffled several baskets flowing over with goodies from tea accessories to beauty products.

tea accessories
Little Candle tea accessories for sale

hat contest finalists
Hat contest finalists

The event, which drew about 75 attendees, resulted in gross receipts of about $1,500 for the Friends, who will use proceeds to continue improving community access to the museum, and adding to the museum’s stock of educational “traveling trunks,” which are essentially trunks containing genuine artifacts and high-quality models that are delivered to schools.

tea room
The tea-tasting room

But Carruth’s tea lesson was the main focus. Here are some of the highlights of her informative, humorous talk.

Herbal teas of the desert

Carruth began by taking a local approach and talking about the herbs of the desert. Herbs are not considered true teas (explained later), but the infusion of certain plants did provide healthful benefits for people of the desert. The most popular herbal teas of the desert came from the honey mesquite, pinyon pine, ephedra and silver sage plants.

pinyon pine
The Pinyon pine, a common desert herb for drinking or grinding into meal for eating

Some easy tea tips

First off, tea does not impose an either-or situation on people who love coffee, said Carruth, who’s been drinking coffee since about age 5. In her own case, she drinks coffee as a wake-up beverage in the morning, but switches to tea for the day. She also urged listeners to experiment with drinking their tea sans sugar or dairy, in order to appreciate the leaf’s subtleties.

Next, don’t expect to experience the best in tea if you’re using an old-fashioned teabag product, in which the bag contains only tea “dust,” or small particles from tea leaves. Proper tea drinking involves steeping actual tea leaves in boiled water.

Unlike steeping with the old-style bag, steeping actual leaves yield more flavor. You can actually steep leaves three or four times in the boiled water without losing flavor. Thankfully, in response to increasing consumer sophistication, some high-end tea vendors package full tea leaves in their tea bags.

Now, don’t think that you need to create a rolling boil in the water for the best tea. Rather, Carruth advised, just let the water reach the start of a boil - with small bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot - and then transfer it swiftly to the desired vessel for steeping.

Types of true tea

Louise Carruth explained various terms from the tea world. Technically, “herbal” teas are not true teas, since the leaves, stems, roots, bark or buds in an herbal infusion come from plants other than the tea plant, whose scientific name is Camellia sinensis. But this plant can be subdivided into cultivars, which are comparable to grape varietals in the wine world.

tea plantation
Tea Plantation of the Camillia Senensis bush

She also introduced the audience to the basic categories of tea, which arise from how the tea leaves are processed.

Black tea undergoes the most processing. The tea leaves are picked, withered, and then rolled to release enzymes. Then they are spread out for further mixing with oxygen. Finally they are exposed to flame to lead to strong flavors and typically deep colors.

black tea
English breakfast tea, a very popular blended black tea

Oolong tea - whose leaves are grown only in Southeastern China and Taiwan - is only partially oxidized. That is, the leaves are lightly scratched to bring out the oils, and then pan fired. Oolong falls, thus, somewhere between black and green tea.

oolong tea
Oolong tea

Green or white teas are not oxidized at all, but simply dried after harvesting.

green tea
Tropical Fruit Sencha, a Japanese-style green tea

Leaves of any of the tea categories can then be blended with tea leaves of another type, or with non-tea ingredients including grains of rice, mint or other leaves, fruits or fruit-flowers, or nuts. Blending creates almost limitless tea flavors.

Neon helped Las Vegas and Strip glitter at night

by Joan Whitely

Neon - the art of electrifying gases captured inside glass tubing to create rich colors - has been a part of Las Vegas since the 1920s. Its heyday was in the 1950s through 1960s. But now that the latest casino signs incorporate video technology, it’s a good thing Las Vegans have The Neon Museum to keep us aware of our neon heritage.

Few large neon pieces remain on the Las Vegas Strip today, speaker Derek Weis pointed out at the Friends’ general meeting on June 18. Lucky the Clown, installed at Circus Circus in 1976, is the oldest, though the Flamingo Hotel’s flashing pink-red feather plume, and the Paris’ hot-air balloon are other rare examples.

But in contrast to the decline of neon, the 13-year-old Neon Museum is flourishing, according to Weis, its manager of education.

On its downtown campus, at 770 Las Vegas Blvd. North, it recently installed the giant guitar sign that once stood at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe. And in early 2020 the museum expects to open new gallery and office space in a building that used to house the Las Vegas Reed Whipple Cultural Center, across the street from its seashell-shaped headquarters and boneyard.

neon museum
The Neon Museum today

The Neon Museum Museum came to be in 1996 after several phenomena converged: Local skyscraper casinos were jettisoning their old neon, the YESCO sign company’s “boneyard” was filling up with old neon signs, and a now-bygone local arts group called the Allied Arts Council was strenuously lobbying for the preservation of the old signs. Soon after the museum launched,, the owner of the outmoded La Concha Motel on the Strip offered to donate its landmark lobby - which resembled the top half of a fluted giant clamshell - to the new museum.

neon boneyard
The boneyard

The Hacienda Horse and Rider sign, which stands now on Fremont Street. It’s from the 1956 Hacienda Hotel. It was made into a functioning piece of public art by The Neon Museum when it opened in 1996.

The La Concha Motel’s lobby was created by Paul Revere Williams, a famous African-American architect who also designed the still-standing Guardian Angel Cathedral on the Las Vegas Strip. Various celebrities stayed at the motel including Ronald Reagan, Ann-Margret and Muhammad Ali. The motel opened in 1961 and closed in 2004.

la concha sign
La Concha sign

The Stardust Hotel, which opened in 1958, underwent many revisions to its signs. The postcard view was shot either in late 1960s or early 1970s. the sign remnants in the boneyard date from the final sign on the building, when it was imploded in early 2007.

stardust postcard
Postcard of the Stardust

Friends of NSMLV JAG volunteers honored at Western High School Ceremony

This year, Donna Harper, the Education Liaison from the Friends of the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas (NSMLV), attended the Graduation Awards Ceremony for the Western High School Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) held on May 10th. The (JAG) program at Western High School has collaborated with the Friends for several years.

jag logo

JAG is a state-based national non-profit organization, over 30 years old, dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who have serious barriers to graduation and/or employment. They have helped over one million young people stay in school through graduation, pursue post-secondary education, and secure quality entry-level jobs leading to career advancement opportunities.

The theme for the evening, The Oscars, received underwriting by the Venetian. The celebrating students wore tuxedos and evening gowns, looking their best for friends, family, staff, and community supporters.

JAG grads
JAG graduates

The Friends presented royal blue cords to 29 Seniors who worked at the Museum over the past two years for such Friends events including the fundraisers "Day of the Dead," the Barnes and Noble bookfairs, and "This Museum Rocks," as well as Family Events such as "Dinosaur Days." Throughout the evening graduates were identified as first time high school and/or college-bound graduates in their families. The graduates spoke about their daily struggles and their rise from having failing grades to becoming honor students. They expressed gratitude to their families and the JAG program for being instrumental in navigating their way.

The evening ended with students and staff recognizing the community partnerships that helped JAG students reach their goals. The ceremony also honored Harper for sponsoring collaborative opportunities.

This inspiring event highlighted and supported the ambition, resilience, and positivity in these students. Provided with that support, along with good teaching, and approachable role models, these students will make a positive impact in the world.

Friends Interns Exhibit Work at UNLV Graphic Design Capstone Event

Three of our Friends of NSMLV interns participated in the Bachelor of Science degree program in Graphic Design & Media at UNLV. The program takes a holistic approach to learning and practice. During the last semester of study in the program, the graduating students take part in the Capstone course, where the students bring their design concepts to life. It is both a degree requirement, and a rite of passage. This year's event was titled "Mainframe," and our own three interns: Jorge Llontop, Miranda Melton, and Kalie Stramaglio, all had great entries.

Members of the Friends board attended this event. It consisted of a two-minute oral presentation by each student, followed by an exhibition of their work. The projects were diverse and creative, and covered topics that were important to their individual experiences.

Here is a showcase of what our interns presented.

Jorge Llontop's project entitled, "ZURDO," meaning left-handed in Spanish, addresses left-handed discrimination that still exists today. Jorge's stationary brand represents "the school supply brand with no limits, where handedness is not a binary characteristic but rather it exists along a range of being strongly left-handed to being strongly right-handed. The best part about ZURDO products is that they are not only usable by lefties, but by everyone."

jorge's project
Jorge Llontop's project ZURDO

Miranda Melton's project, "Oh My Dog" reflects her love of animals. It addresses that "dogs are abandoned by their owners at high rates often being left with strangers, in shelters, or on the streets." Miranda's project "is dedicated to providing new dog owners with information and products they need in order to take care of their dog."

miranda's project
Miranda Melton's project Oh My Dog

Kalie Stramaglio developed her project with an aim to "make people take an interest in recycling and sustainable living. With the plan to design an app to act as a main educational hub for recycling information, accompanied by a recycling starter kit for a more eco-friendly lifestyle, RECYCLR was born."

Kalie Stramaglio's project RECYCLR

Congratulations to a job well done by our graduating interns and thanks to UNLV for giving us an exciting look into the education of future generations!

Intern Spotlight: Miranda Dawn Melton

Miranda Dawn Melton, age 22, was born in Prescott, Arizona but moved to Las Vegas as an infant. Her family originally hailed from England and Poland. She attended Las Vegas Academy of the Arts for high school. She began high school as a Spanish major, but switched to the newly-offered graphic design degree program. Miranda ultimately graduated with a double major in Spanish and Graphic Design In fact,she was a member of the first graduating class at LVA in graphic design. Now, at at UNLV, Miranda will graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design and Media with a minor in Marketing.

Miranda Dawn Melton

A career goal of Miranda's is to either become a publication designer or a social media marketer. She would like to work in a field where she can combine her knowledge of graphic design and marketing. Another goal is to eventually achieve a master's degree in digital marketing. Outside of school, Miranda enjoys bowling (she starts her first league in June), traveling, and digital illustration.

Miranda at Capstone, with museum graphic designer Wes Southerland

During her internship at NSMLV, Miranda stated: "The other interns and I worked on a lot of projects together, whether it was giving critiques, or helping to put together documents. Personally, I helped work on the bookmark that contained summer class information, the Helen Herr label, Spanish label translations, and creating the style guide for the Friends of the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas rebrand. I have learned a lot about professional work through this internship, which I can apply to beginning my career as a graphic designer."

Miranda shared that the Museum was the best place she could have chosen to have a Graphic Arts internship. She has a passion for learning about history, and being able to combine that with graphic design was "such an amazing experience for me. I also really appreciate how kind the NSMLV team has been."

All events held at the museum and are free with paid admission or membership. No registration required unless otherwise noted. Friends general meetings are the 3rd Thurs. of month. The museum is at 309 S. Valley View Blvd., inside Springs Preserve, LV 89107
Sat July 6 1-5 pm Summer Family Program: Nevada Artists See some works by local artists and try out some artistic techniques yourself! Museum event for children
Sat July 13 1-5 pm Summer Family Program: Building Nevada From Hoover Dam to Hyperloop, we'll explore the past, present, and future of Nevada engineering feats. Museum event for children
Thu July 18 6-7 pm Friends General Meeting Guest speaker will be Jessica Samuelson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who works in visitor education at the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. She will speak on migratory bird species that pass through Nevada, including those that stop off at Pahranagat Lake and spots in and around Las Vegas. Friends event
Sat July 27 1-5 pm Summer Family Program: Silver State Stories Come sit by the campfire and hear some stories about Nevada. You might even get inspired to write your own story! Museum Event for Children

To see the complete schedule for the year, please go to our Events page.

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