A Farewell For Now

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Dearies, Kat just gave me the most exciting news! We’re going on a trip around the world! Apparently she’s been planning this trip for quite some time, but kept it as a surprise. We’re going to see some amazing tea-growing regions! Isn’t it thrilling? We are going to tour though India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, and Japan! We may even get to Africa! Oh I’m so excited that I can hardly sit still in my saucer. I’m going to learn so much more about tea! How it’s grown, processed, and sold! It’s the trip of a lifetime.

If you’re wondering how a fragile tea cup will travel, don’t worry! Kat will wrap me up very well, and she even has a special velvet-lined box for me. I feel positively royal! Lately I’ve been longing for my travel days with dear old Char, and I’m so delighted that I’ll get to have all new adventures with her granddaughter Kat. I think this time around things will look quite different! It’s been a very long time since I’ve left the house, let alone travelled to a far-away place.

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Of course, this means the blog may be quiet for a while. I won’t have access to our computer since we’ll be out and about. I am sad that the blog will go dark for a while. I’ll certainly miss all of you dear readers very much! I cherish our twitter conversations! But thank you so much for being loyal followers and reading all I have to say about tea. It’s been a pleasure to share with you. I do hope we can connect again soon. This is farewell for now, but I hope to see you all when we get back! Take care Dearies, and happy sipping.

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Behind The Leaf: Scented Teas

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We’ve been enjoying a particular type of tea these days. A tea that melts the snow and warms our hearts. These special teas are scented teas. Have you tried Jasmine tea before? If so, you’ve had a scented tea. These are teas that have flowers added to the pure leaves, and are allowed to absorb the heavenly floral aroma. These steeped teas impart a gorgeous floral aroma to the air while they brew. Scented teas are only flowers and tea- not any other added flavors. It can take a few weeks to scent tea naturally with layers of flowers. It is a delicate process that takes patience. They are a bit harder to find but worth the hunt.

 Scented teas are not all created equal. It’s not easy to find just the right balance of flowers to tea. You don’t want to overpower the tea, just enhance it. Finding that balance takes a tea master. Scented green teas are most common but you can also find scented black and oolong teas. A few of our favorites are:

Jasmine: it’s easy to find Jasmine tea, but finding a tea scented just with jasmine blossoms is a bit more challenging. Make sure you’re not getting a tea scented with added aromas or oils. Jasmine tea was invented in China during the Song dynasty. Quite a long time ago.

 Rose- if you love roses as much as we do, why not try it as a tea? The soft, soothing rose flavor is immensely pleasing. Perfect for a quiet afternoon with a few French macarons on the side. Quite a sophisticated cup!

 Chrysanthemum- this delicately sweet tea is subtle and delicious. The flavor is reminiscent of honey and also has a mild herbaceous note. This tea is supposed to have quite a few medicinal benefits as well, but we like to drink it just for the taste and for how relaxed we feel afterwards. This is a tea you can typically find at Chinese restaurants, along with Jasmine tea.

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I love floral teas all year round and especially love them in the wintertime. That gentle floral flavor brings the hope of spring, even on the coldest, most blustery day.

 Other scented teas will contain flowers such as chamomile, and hibiscus. These can also be found as herbal blends, and not necessarily scented teas. But the possibilities are endless, and finding new and interesting scented teas is such fun!

 You should brew your scented teas just like you would the pure tea it comes with (ex: the temperature for green tea, if your base is green). We love using small glass teapots for scented teas, as you can see the beautiful flower petals dancing along with the leaves. It makes for a much more enjoyable experience. Watching those vibrant petals just brings the warm spring sunshine indoors.

Indian Flavors In Tea

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When the temperatures dip below freezing, Kat and I always look for teas that are not just warm, but feel cozy and comforting on the inside. Each sip needs to be like wrapping a warm cashmere blanket around your shoulders. Who wouldn’t want to be warm inside and out while the icicles drip and snow falls?

 Kat has found some zesty teas from Tea India that she started drinking for Diwali and hasn’t stopped since. The delicious flavors are part of Indian cuisine and culture. Spices in the masala chai such as cardamom, ginger, pepper, and cinnamon are perfect for this time of year. They warm the body and wake up the palate. Kat likes to add a touch of sugar and a few drops of milk to round out the chai experience. With added milk and sugar, this tea brings me back to my days of traveling through India with Char. We sampled so many cups of masala chai. Sweet, spicy, and delicious. Everyone had their own unique recipe and it was so much fun to try them all! The Tea India version is a hearty cup that Kat has started enjoying in the mornings, to wake her up and get her ready for a chilly day ahead.

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The ginger tea is another Indian staple that Kat likes to keep on hand. The zingy flavor is great alone, or with a touch of honey and milk to calm the spice a bit. Ginger is delicious and also good for helping with digestion. Kat loves it as an early-afternoon break as it’s quite reviving! The spicy flavor also goes perfectly with a sweet snack.

 Cardamom tea is another popular Indian tea flavor. Kat’s friend Sima drinks this tea every day. She says it tastes just like the cardamom chai her mother used to make. Cardamom has a unique flavor that is lovely if you’re looking for an Indian spiced tea but you don’t want anything too spicy. This tea has a pure cardamom flavor without anything but black tea added to it.

 You can use these teas as they are, or add milk and your favorite sweetener. You can even use the ginger or cardamom as a base and add even more delicious flavors to them.

You can find these tasty teas at your local Indian grocery store, or head on over to amazon.com to buy them online.

January is Hot Tea Month!

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Dearies, did you know that January is Hot Tea Month? That’s right, we get to celebrate our favorite warm beverage all month long! Of course, we celebrate tea in little ways every day. But Kat is planning tea parties, a tea tasting, and a make-your-own tea bag party in January to show her love for her favorite beverage.

 If you’d like to try and make your own tea bags, you can check out my previous post here. Kat is going to have all kinds of loose teas and herbs out on a table for her friends to blend and make their own tea bags. We’ll have lively music and of course some nibbles as well. Isn’t it a fun idea? Guests get to go home with all of their teabags and can remember the party every time they steep up a cup. If you’re looking for more fun tea party ideas, don’t forget to check out my pinterest page!

 She’s also thinking of hosting a black tea tasting party. She’ll have black teas from all over the world, including China, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and India. This is such a fun way to learn the nuances of tea based on region. You can do it with any type of tea. Just pick a category and find as many different teas as you can, grown in as many places as possible. Set up multiple pots with cups for everyone. You can taste each tea side by side and talk about the similarities and differences. Give everyone a little notebook and pen for writing tasting notes. Kat is thinking of doing a green tea tasting next!

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Another way Kat is celebrating hot tea is by highlighting some of her favorite teas she drinks every day. These are the workhorse teas that don’t get as much recognition as their fancy counterparts. A tea she reaches for every day is a lovely mild green by Harris Tea. This is a dependable, tasty tea that brews up consistently delicious every time. She keeps a box at work, and there are bags of it in her purse. She is never without it! She also keeps their decaffeinated black tea on hand for late day sips. She’ll brew up a cup with a squeeze of lemon and teaspoon of honey for a soothing cup that reminds her of her grandma Char. My Dear Char used to always give her a little decaf tea with honey and lemon when she was visiting. Kat most enjoyed slurping up the tea with the honey spoon. Kat often serves this decaf tea to her niece Camille, and together they are making their own special memories over a warm cup of tea. If you are interested in trying this tea and don’t live near one of the local grocery stores that carries it, you can purchase it online through Amazon.

 My dearest tea friends, how are you celebrating Hot Tea Month? Get creative! Its a great reason to highlight all of your favorite teas! I’m tipping my cup to all of you tea lovers out there. Happy sipping!

DIY: Tea Ice Cubes

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Dearies, I’m sure you’re reading the title of this post thinking we’re crazy. Iced tea in the wintertime? Well, it’s true! If you are a regular reader of the blog you’ll know I’ve recommended iced tea in the colder months before. It actually helps us think about summertime and sunny weather! Since it’s been particularly cold and grey these days, Kat has decided to throw a little iced tea party for her friends. It helps bring a little warm sunshine to our hearts.

A trick I’ve mentioned before is to add herbs and herbal teas to the ice cubes to make deliciously flavored iced teas. But another fun idea is to add steeped tea to the ice cubes too, which will make sure the teas you serve aren’t watered down. You could use the same tea you’re serving, or even use complimentary teas for added flavor!

One of my favorite combinations is to use a nice strong Assam tea as the iced tea base, and then add an ice cube made out of Earl Grey tea. The lovely bergamot flavor slowly melts into the iced tea and creates a lovely sipping sensation.

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To create the Earl Grey tea ice cubes, we like to make sure the tea flavor is good and strong. To do this, we use 2 teabags per 1 cup of water. Boil the water, add your teabags and steep for 10 minutes. Allow the tea to fully cool and then pour into the ice cube trays. Put in the freezer, and allow to fully freeze. Viola! Ice cubes ready for your iced teas whenever you need them!

Our favorite Earl Grey of the moment is Newman’s Own Organic Earl Grey. It is the perfect combination of smooth, slightly earthy black tea and tangy, citrusy bergamot. I’m quite the Earl Grey critic, I’ve had it all over the world, in all sorts of variations. And I must say, this is a very pleasing cup. Easy to prepare and quite delicious. Kat’s father loves a good strong cup of Earl Grey, and she keeps a box of this in the cupboard just for him. Can’t say that I blame him. It’s one of the world’s most popular teas for a good reason!

 

Behind The Leaf: Silver Needles White Tea

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Dearies we’ve talked about white tea before. This is such a delicate, delicious, beautiful tea. I know we’ve mentioned that there are two main types of white tea, White Peony (Bai Mu Dan) and Silver Needles (Bai Hao Yin Zhen). Silver Needles is the more delicate tea with more fuzzy white buds. I thought it would be fun to focus a little bit more on this tea, since it’s so special.

Silver Needles is grown in the Fujian province of China. It is more costly than other white teas because only the young fuzzy buds are picked. The tea plant used is called Da  Bai, which means ‘large white’. Makes sense, right?

I like to drink Silver Needles in the wintertime, mostly because it’s quite soothing. Everything from the sweet and hay-like aroma to the fuzzy tactile experience of the dry leaves is pure comfort. This tea is comprised only of young, tender fuzzy tea buds. The buds are picked early in the spring, and still have that downy fuzz attached. This is what gives the tea the silvery appearance.

This tea is plucked, then withered and dried. There is a slight oxidation process happening since it’s not steamed immediately like green tea. This is why the leaves are silvery and not a more grassy appearance.

The taste of silver needles is going to be subtle, soothing, smooth and sweet. Notes of honey and slight vegetal notes can also be present. The hay-like aroma of the dry leaves can also be found in the brew.

This is quite a delightful tea that could be enjoyed in the morning or early afternoon. Kat prefers it in the late morning, as she likes a tea that’s a bit bolder first thing. But don’t be fooled by that mellow taste Dearies- there is still a good amount of caffeine in white tea.

To prepare this tea, make sure the water is below boiling. You don’t want to scald the delicate leaves, so using water around 167°F is appropriate. Steeped for about 5 minutes, your cup will be a light golden color, with a beautiful sheen to it if it’s fresh. You can steep this up in a small teapot or a gaiwan.

Dearies, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Bai Hao Yin Zhen! Please feel free to ask me if you have any questions.

Books About Tea

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Dearies it’s been so cold lately, all Kat wants to do is stay home, curl up and read a good book. Can you blame her? I certainly can’t. I always make sure to add a nice warm cup of tea to accompany her reading. The other day I noticed just how many tea books she has on her shelf! It made me wonder, do all of your lovely readers have favorite tea books too? If you are interested in starting a tea book collection, here are a few that Kat and I recommend:

The Art and Craft of Tea by Joseph Wesley Uhl: This is one of Kat’s newest favorites. The book has bold graphics, and gorgeous photos. It gives information on tea from all around the world and even has wonderful tea-centric recipes to make at home. This book has great information on tea growing, processing, and drinking all around the world.

The Ultimate Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt. Mr. Norwood Pratt is one of the most interesting and important living tea experts. This book combines beautiful prose, tea history, tea facts, and tea drinking culture from around the world. It’s a lovely book to pick up and read something new and interesting each time you open it.

Tea: History, Terroir, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand, Jasmin Desharnais, and Hugo Americi- This has been Kat’s trusty tea handbook for years. This book has detailed explanations about all the tea growing regions. Learn all about how tea is cultivated, and processed. It gets into detail on the importance of terroir- the climate, soil, and unique characteristics of each tea growing region- and how this changes the taste of the tea. This is a perfect book for the tea lover that wants to deepen their knowledge.

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There are also books that specialize in types of tea. For example if you’d like to learn more about Puer, you should try Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic by Jinghong Zhang. Puer is a very different variety of tea, and this book will take you through how it’s processed, where it is grown, and give you lots of interesting historical facts. A must for anyone that wants to learn more about puer!

For something tea related but a fun fiction read, you can try the Tea Shop Mystery series by Laura Childs. This mystery series centers around a charming tea shop in Charleston, South Carolina and the vivacious owner.

Enjoy your book and tea reading, Dearies! It’s the perfect time of year to cozy up

Tropical Teas For Winter

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As we head in to the chilliest and darkest of the winter days, Kat is trying to keep things warm and cheerful.  I’ve suggested ways to get cozy with tea in previous posts, and we’re always thinking up ways to get creative. Recently I overheard Kat’s friend Stacie talking about her trip to Hawaii, where she had the most delicious tropical fruits. I started dreaming about a tropical beach paradise, and then it hit me- why not bring the tropical flavors to the teacup, and create a warm and cheerful atmosphere?

I started thinking about Kat’s favorite warm-weather fruits such as mango, papaya, and pineapple. These are flavors that can be found in many tea blends to bring a feel of island breezes to a freezing cold day. I started rounding up tea pairings such as a papaya herbal tea to pair with coconut macaroons, and pineapple green tea with toasts spread with mango chutney. So many possibilities! Kat even downloaded a tropical playlist filled with Caribbean and Hawaiian music.

Dried tropical fruits are easy to find, and you can blend them up and steep in boiling water for a delightful treat. We also love adding ginger for a bit of a zing. You can add these flavors to your favorite green or black tea as well, for an extra boost of tea. Right now we’re adding a few pieces of dried papaya to a bag of green tea and a little knob of ginger. Steep for about 8 minutes and add a dash of honey. That sunshine will be beaming on your face in no time at all!

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I’ve been helping Kat brew up some of her own tropical blends, and have also found a few of our old favorites that contain her favorite beachy flavors. Right now a box of HEB Mango Black tea is in our heaviest rotation. Kat picks up a box of this tea every time she visits family in Texas. She always makes a trip to the store to stock up! Kat likes to describe this tea as ‘Juicy mango deliciousness’. It’s a wonderful combination of malty black tea and sweet mango. A few sips of this tea and you’ll imagine the snow melting away. We keep this tea on hand all year long for iced sips in the summer and images of fresh tropical flowers in the winter.

Dearies, what are your tea tricks to keep the nasty winter chills at bay? Do you have your own tropical blends that you whip up? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

Functional Teas

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Dearies, lately Kat and her friends have been talking about functional teas. Now, being a teacup I’m not always up to date on the latest popular trends. But I try to keep my ears open and listen to what the younger folk are doing. Curious about functional teas, I took to the laptop and did a bit of research. It turns out these are teas with herbs for added benefit to the body. I’ve been learning quite a bit about these teas!

There are functional tea blends for just about anything you need. Feeling under the weather? Try a tea with Echinacea, vitamin C, and lemon. Having trouble with digestion? Try a tea with licorice root and magnolia bark. Ginger is great for many things, particularly for digestion. I’ve actually written about ginger before, I just love it for everything. It’s relaxing, delicious, and good for the tummy. Check out a previous post to get you started!

Kat has been drinking quite a bit of lavender tea lately. This functional tea is great if you need to relax. It smells divine, like sitting in a lush French field dotted with beautiful purple lavender. She originally started drinking lavender because it helped her relax and relieve stress. She has recently learned it’s also good for promoting sleep and helps to uplift your mood! She adds a touch of honey to her lavender tea for an extra dose of soothing goodness. Kat also drinks Chamomile, which is also known for helping with sleep and relaxation. After a particularly stressful day both of these herbs have been super helpful. She’ll even mix both teas together for a delicious way to unwind.

Kat has started using this organic detox green tea from Full Circle Organic. A friend recommended it when Kat said she wanted to take some time to cleanse her body after eating a bit too much around the holidays. It’s hard to get back on track after such indulgent festivities, isn’t it? Being more mindful of her nutrition, exercise, and a little help from this tea, she’s feeling much more like herself. This tea contains organic green tea, dandelion root, and schizandra berries, all things that are supposed to help cleanse the body. Why not get a little extra help in jumpstarting the process? This tea is the perfect way. This tea can be found in various grocery stores such as Tops, Coborns, Price Chopper, HyVee, Big Y and more.

Dearies don’t forget that I’m a teacup, not a doctor. So please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions about these teas. Have you tried any functional teas? I’d love to learn about what you’ve had, and your experience with them.

 

 

DIY Matcha Hand Cream

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It’s been so cold and dry lately, Kat has been complaining about her skin being dry and itchy. I thought it would be fun to create a lotion that she could easily whip up, something that would soothe her dry skin and contain one of her most favorite teas.

Dearies I found many confusing cream recipes online that involved quite a few hard to find ingredients. I’ve created a recipe that’s a little bit easier to handle and creates a very effective cream!

You’ll need a few ingredients for this cream, but they can easily be found online. Here’s what you need:

Tippy’s Soothing Matcha Hand Cream

1 tbps Matcha Powder

½ cup Coconut Oil

½ cup Shea Butter

Essential oil (we like jasmine, mint, lavender, or almond).

Note: Make sure you sift the matcha well-you don’t want clumps in your hand cream!

The first thing you need to do is melt the coconut oil. We do this on the stove, using a double boiler. Don’t have one? Just boil a cup of water in a small pan and then nestle a heat-proof bowl over the pan (make sure it’s the right size to be supported by the sides of the pan). This will gently melt your coconut oil. Once it’s melted, whisk in the matcha powder until it’s completely combined. Then add the shea butter and mix until everything is melted and well combined. Once combined, remove from the heat and add about 10 drops of essential oil. Allow to cool until you can handle the bowl. Put it in the fridge and allow to fully cool. The mixture will become quite solid at this point. Once it’s cool, put it in a stand mixer, and mix until it becomes light and fluffy. Once it’s at a texture you like, you can scoop it into individual airtight containers. We like to use little jars with screw-top lids.

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If you’re feeling productive you can whip up a large batch and put into decorate jars for friends. It’s such a thoughtful wintertime gift. Dearies I hope you enjoy this recipe! It’s the perfect way to keep your skin glowing all winter long!